Letter from Oliver Wolcott to Roger Newberry


Philadelpa 4t June 1776

Your kind favour of the 20t came safe. Nothing gives Me more pleasure than Letters from my Freinds. They would out of meer Charity Write oftner to Me, if they knew the Satisfaction which it gave Me. If I do not always [make] a speedy Acknowledgment I hope it will not be imputed to any Want of Inclination to do it.

I am glad to be informed by you that People seem determined in supporting the mighty Cause upon the Decision of which the Fate of this and future Generations depend. Your Observations that a Regard ought to be had to the Expectations of the People are just, and as the Appeal is made to them as to the Justice and Propriety of publick Measures, any Information to one who must think that his Services in some good Degree must depend upon an Observance of popular Opinions, will be advantagious not for the Reason for which this kind of Knowledge is often Sought for a personal Account, but to prevent him from adopting ineffectual and consequently pernicious Measures. You can easily conceive that in this long extended Continent Very different Customs prevail but I trust that there will be no further Augmentation in the Officers Wages, indeed I am sure there will not, tho’ some of the Southern Colonies have enlarged them at a colonial Expence.

The Prisoners have been treated by us with great Indulgence, I see by the papers what has been done with McKay and Skeene. You will observe a Code of Laws published for the Regulation of Prisoners which if duly attended to, I hope will be effectual.

You Mention to Me the hard Fate of Col Enos. I believe his Character from what I had before heard, had suffered unjustly. Dr. Smith an ill Natured Man, in his Oration on the Death of Genl. Montgomerry, went out of the way to asperse him. He had not the Thanks of the Congress for his performance, nor was it published at their Desire. Col Enos’ Freinds made this as one objection against his Sermon, that he had Scandalisd a man who had been Acquitted by a Court Martial. I [receive] the Hartford Paper Very unsteadily (I know not for what Reason); if you will send one to me enclosed, in which his Case is stated I will comply with Your and his Request.

By every Intelligence you perceive that the Decision of the present Controversy must be made by the Sword only. This, together with the untoward State of our Affairs in Canada has induced the Congress greatly to enlarge their Milatary Force by calling in the Aid of the Militia to serve till the first of December, six Thousand of which are proposed to be sent to Canada, 750 Men from N Hamshire, 2000 from Massachusetts, 1500 from Connecticut and 750 from N York forming 6 Battalions, under 2 provincial General Officers from Connecticut and Massachusetts, the whole Appointment &c by their Assembly. Canada is a Very important Object, our possession of that Country is Very necessary, and I am sorry our Affairs there have not been more regarded. This measure therefore hope will be tho’t necessary tho’ I can conceive a dificulty in carrying it into Execution—but We must exert ourselves this summer, as every Thing which is Amiable in life, We may Suppose in a good Degree depends upon the Events of it. If We can hold out this Season without having any deep Impressions made upon Us, I hope it may go near to End the Controversy, and may a most merciful God grant that this may be the Case. The Other Method for Strengthening our Army in N York and for the Security of the Middle Colonies may be best, but I can claim but Very little Honor in promoting it. To be sure I think the Requisition upon our Colony is unreasonable and I apprehend cannot be complyed it. The Plan adopted is this, to Send 2000 Men from Massachusetts, I mean Militia, 5500 from Connecticut, 3000 in New York and 3300 from the Jerseys, these for the N York Station, to be under provincial Genl. Officers, one from Connecticut, to serve till the I st Decr. and under the Genl. of the Army—for Pensilvania &c a flying Camp of 10,000 to be raised, 6000 Pensilvania, 3400 Maryland and 600 Delaware to serve as above. I will not trouble you with a detail of my Reasons why I do not Approve of this measure in its Latitude. I agree that We must exert every Nerve, but I fear this Scheme Will not improve our Strength for a general defence-but as in such a Vicissitude of affairs it is difficult to form Opinions which may be relied upon and as Mine is pretty Singular in this Case, and as Genls. Washington, Gates and Mifflin who are here have recommended it, it becomes on many Accounts improper for me publickly to censure the Measure, tho I imagine the Colony will. I told the Congress they might be absolutely Assured that the above Number of men could not be sent from our Colony. I tho’t it impolitick to ask of a People an Exertion which they were incompetent to; it gave offences and carryed with it an Idea of Desperation. We could not absolutely say where Assistance might be most Wanted; perhaps at R Island, every Man would fight when the War was bro’t near him, but would reluctantly be drawn into such a length of service especially such Numbers. I told them that I had heard the Colony had it in consideration to raise a Battalion for their own Defence and that I hop’d they would do it and that it would be taken into continental Pay &c. I think such a Battalion should in the present Exigency be raised, and they might as occasioned required, to be employed if necessary on acco. of an attack agt other Colonys but as no direction of that kind has been given We could not Very Seriously ask for Such an Establishment. I find I am running along with telling you my own opinion instead of other Peoples, but as I observed, tho I think We must Submit to the fullest Exertion this Summer, yet our People are so Situated as that they can from their Homes go and afford Succor either to the Eastward or Westward when Attackd and I think that would be better than to carry them all to one place. I think about half that Number as directed taken thro might have been sufficient—the Report called for eight more Regiments. I hope no mans Heart will fail under the present tryals. I am most sincerely sorry for the distresses of my Country but let a man Consider that every thing which he holds dear is at Stake. That a Conquest by our Enemies ensures Slavery and Misery thro endless Generations. Is this a Patrimony which We must leave our Children? God Forbid! No he who sitteth in the Heavens, who holds Empires in his hands, who holds the Tyrant Worms of this earth, in utter dirision, he will Crush the Power of the Oppressor, he will Vindicate the Cause of the righteous, he will preserve his People like a Flock, and by the Arm of his Power make them to know their Almighty Deliverer—While the Malice of the oppressor shall cease and he who fears not the Justice of God shall perish for ever. I firmly believe this Country will be saved. Let us take up the Resolution of Joab, play the Man for the Cities of our God; and let God do as it pleases him. Upon looking back I find I have wrote a long and incoherent letter, but this is a Priviledge in Writing to a Friend to Say any thing as it occurs to the mind I trust your Prudence with it, as well as Candor. This Colony Jurisdictions I hope will get all established. This I think is extremely Necessary. For News refer you to the Prints. My best Compliments to Mrs. Newbery, Dr Wolcott, his Family, and my Friends. I am Sir, with true Regard, your most humble Servant and Kinsman,

Oliver Wolcott

P.S. In a few days an Address to the Colonies will be published.