Letter from Whitmel Hill to Thomas Burke
Hill, Whitmel, 1743-1797
Volume 15, Pages 56-58
HON. WHITMEL HILL TO DR. BURKE.
Philadelphia, August 20th, 1780.
Dr. Mr. Burke.
Your favours of 18th of June and 1st of July have reached me, and am sorry for your misfortune of foundering in a Marsh, but hope you have met with no other Injuries on your journey. I now write you, supposing you to be devoted to Mars, and at the head of some victorious Party warm in pursuit of their fugitive Enemies. This opinion is grounded on Intelligence rec'd at this place two days past, by a Flag of Truce in 8 days from Charles Town, who assert that the curr't Report of the Day at Charles Town is that our Army has gained very decisive advantages in several Actions they have had with the British, and that they are retiring with all possible speed to Charles Town. If this be true, I hope the chastisement the So. Carolinians have rec'd from their new Masters will only have a tendency to make Soldiers of them, and oblige them to make that resistance as becomes every American in the present Contest; I hope, too, that our distrest Militia, who have been obliged to rescue that Country from the Dominion of Britain, will claim to themselves some compensation for their Services, which compensation they will seize on and bring home to their ruined Families. This plundering I should not generally encourage, but in the present instance I think it justifiable, and wish from my heart it may be put into Execution. I observe what you say relative to the supplies being called from Virginia, and the cause you suppose to be the occasion of such a blunder, (viz.,) the Committee at Camp; this Committee is at length dissolved, as Experience convinced Congress that they daily engaged them in Quarrels with the Army instead of correcting any of the Abuses they were intended to inspect; they brought about the resignation of Genl. Green as Q. M. General, which Resignation was accompanied with a disrespectful Letter to Congress, and was very
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near bringing about his total Dismission. T. Pickering is appointed to fill his place. How the Department will be conducted in future we cannot say, but have been told by the Committee at Camp that if Genl. Green was dismissed our Army must immediately disband. Congress have for once had firmness enough to persist. What Evils may ensue we cannot tell; as yet we have experienced no uncommon one. Our Finances are much in the situation you left them; for a few Days we have a few thousands in the Treasury, but it is as suddenly exhausted. However, we are in daily expectation of the new Emissions being bro't from the Eastern States to the Treasury. How they will circulate at par wt. Specie when the present Continental bills are cast at 75 for one, I leave you to guess. The States have all adopted the plan, except the three Southern ones, and I suppose on the next meeting of our Assembly they will come into it. Congress has a few days past rec'd dispatches from Mr. Jay, as late as 27th May, in which he is very particular & satisfactory. He gives us room to hope that our Draughts on him will be answered, but informs us that they call on him to contract for Repayment in some special manner, for which purpose he calls on us for particular Instructions. He is informed by the Spanish Minister that his Master is particularly determined with respect to the Navigation of Mississippi & wishes to limit our western Boundary far short of that River. In this he urges special Instructions, which he is determined to act by literally. The Minister hopes it may be possible to influence his Master to grant the navigation of the River wt. certain restrictions as to Contraband Articles, &c., but this is matter of doubt. He informs us that no Treaty can effectually take place till these matters are more fully explained by Congress. He mentions that the Division that prevailed in Congress soon after he came to the chair had reached that Court, and had tended much to lessen the reputation of Congress; that the people of that country are generally averse to the Americans, not believing it possible that the Roman Catholic Religion was ever tolerated in America, much less placed equal to any other Sectary, but that he believed the Ministry were well attached to the Cause. The aid expected from France when you left us arrived at Rhode Island 12th July, consisting of 8 ships of the Line & 4 Frigates, with 5,000 Men on board. A few Days after Admiral Graves arrived at N. Y. wt. 6 ships
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of the Line, and on being joined by Admiral Arbuthnot wt. the ships of war at N. Y. proceeded to block up the French Fleet in R. Island, which they have effected, and for the present suspend the intended operations against N. Y. However, we have daily expectation of the arrival of a 2nd Aid of ships & Men from France, so as to give us a decided Superiority by Sea. Should no accident befal this Aid, we make no doubt of effecting the Reduction of N. Y. before the Campaign is closed.
Gen. Washington's Army at this time consists of more than 25,000 Men, so that, could we obtain the Superiority by Sea, I believe the business would be easily settled.
Congress has ordered the Virg. Troops, as fast as completed, to join the Southern Army, and we have been fortunate enough to procure Bills of Exchange for 100,000 Dollars in Specie, to be sent to the aid of the Military chest in the Southern Department. This is all we can hope for at the present; in fact, they appear very averse to granting Aid to us, so that we must rely greatly on our own Resources.
Miss Hart enjoys a good share of Health, but seems much Dejected since your Departure, and wishes to return home. I encouraged her to persist in her Education, particularly her Musick. I believe Mrs. Bordeau is rather too strict with yr. Young Ladies is the principal reason of her uneasiness; I shall supply her occasionally with pocket money, and have her to see Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Hill frequently, as we are now become Housekeepers, finding it not so agreeable at Mrs Jones' as we could wish. I have to solicit your return to this place by the 1st. of Nov., or if you decline it, urge Mr. Sharpe to be here by that time, as there is an absolute necessity for my leaving this by the 10th of that month to return home. Mr. Jones and Lady, Mrs. Hill and self join in Compts. to Mrs. Burke and your self,
And am, Dr. Sir,
Yr. most sincerely,