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The Life of Gouverneur Morris

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Asia itself.  Several families instantly began to remove their effects from the city.  As soon as the Committee of Safety came together, they resolved, that, in consequence of the alarm into which the inhabitants were thrown by the confident reports of the approach of General Lee, with a considerable body of troops, they were of opinion ‘that it might occasion great difficulties and inconveniences to the residents of the city, should any body of forces arrive for active service, and it would tend to the peace and happiness of the inhabitants, for the Committee to obtain some information on the subject.’  A letter was in consequence immediately written to General Lee, dated in Committee of Safety, January 21st, 1776, from which the following are extracts.

‘The inhabitants of this city are much alarmed at various confident advices of your destination, with a considerable body of forces for active service here.  Confident, however, as those advices may appear to people without doors, we cannot readily credit them, as we conceive it most probable, that were you preparing to execute any plan of that kind, it would be preceded by some intimations to us on the subject of Continental Congress; General Washington, or yourself.  We therefore should not have troubled you with this application, had it not been to procure such information from you, as may enable us in a prudent use of it to allay the fears of our inhabitants, who, at this inclement season of the year, will continue, as they have already begun, to remove their women and children, and which, if continued, may occasion hundreds to perish for want of shelter.’

The Committee then proceed to state, that a want of powder is an inseparable bar to their making any active defence, that they have sent to foreign ports several adventures for purchasing powder, but without success, and that they are daily pushing similar adventures to the West Indies.

‘The ships of war give no interruption to our vessels, despatched on these adventures, a favor we cannot expect, should hostilities begin, and even should we be fortunate enough to

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From The Life of Gouverneur Morris: With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers; Detailing Events in the American Revolution, The French Revolution, and in the Political History of the United States, by Jared Sparks, Volume 1, Boston: Gray & Bowen, 1832, p 76. Some minor edits may have been made, but an attempt has been made to preserve the original spelling. Although some effort has been made to correct the limitations of OCR technology, if you find an error please report it to


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