Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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Page 4

Robert Treat Paine


Philadelphia, June 10th, 1775.

   My very dear Sir,

   I cannot express to you the surprise and uneasiness I received on hearing the congress express respecting the want of gunpowder; it was always a matter that lay heavy on any mind; but the observation I made of your attention to it, find your alertness and perseverance in everything you undertake, and your repeatedly expressing it as your opinion that we had probably enough for this summer's campaign, made me quite easy. I rely upon it that measures are taken in your parts of the continent to supply this defect. The design of your express will be zealously attended to, I think. I have seen one of the powder mills here, where they make excellent powder, but have worked up all the nitre; one of our members is concerned in a powder mill at New-York, and has a man at work making nitre. I have taken pains to inquire into the methods Dr. Franklin has seen salt-petre works at Hanover and Paris; and it strikes me to be as unnecessary, after a certain time, to send abroad for gunpowder, as for bread; provided people will make use of common understanding and industry; but for the present we must import from abroad. Major Foster told me, at Hartford, he suspected he had some land that would yield nitre; pray converse with him about it. Dr. Franklin's account is much the same as is mentioed in one of the first of the American magazines; the sweeping of the streets, and rubbish of old buildings, are made into mortar, and built into walls, exposed to the air, and once in about two months scraped and lixiviated, and evaporated; when I can describe the method more minutely I will write you; meanwhile, give me leave to condole with you the loss of Colonel Lee. Pray remember me to Colonel Orne, and all other our worthy friends. Pray take care of your important health, that you may be able to stand stiff as a pillar in our new government.

   I must now subscribe, with great respect and affection,

Your humble servant,
R. T. Paine.

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