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Letter from Whitmel Hill to Thomas Burke
Hill, Whitmel, 1743-1797
Volume 14, Pages 1-4

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[From Executive Letter Book.]


The pleasantries enjoyed in conversation, when together, invite me to renew those pleasures by keeping up a regular correspondence with you during your stay at Congress. Permit me then to look back to my journey, on which I wrote you twice, the last from Richmond, which I make no doubt you have received. I have therefore only to mention that the Friday after leaving you I was at my home, so that I performed the journey in about seven and a half days, a ride scarcely performed before in so short a time. So much for riding Post to advantage, a very slim excellence, except among the Southern Gentlemen, when the excellence of the horse compensates for the deficiency of his master. Being at Home eight days, my Duty had me to wait on our Assembly. They met at Smithfield, a rascally hole for such business. The Assembly called on me to know whether I thought there was any probability of their having their Continental Troops sent to our assistance. I answered that the Delegates had pointed out the absolute necessity there was for those troops being sent to the Southward, when it was forcibly opposed and asserted that the enemy could not possibly mean to prolong the Campaign in the Southern States, but by way of diversion. This now, however, seems to be found erroneous. I told them that perhaps a formal application from the State, with the notoriety of the necessity, might induce Congress to grant us the aid. I likewise advised the Application to Congress for money, and instanced the sums granted to Pennsylvania and South Carolina, and as our militia

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are always carried out of their own State to action, where our currency will not be received, our men, with their pockets full of money, must starve for the little comforts of life which are absolutely necessary in a camp.

Therefore I hope you will forcibly urge the grant of the money if they mean to protect this part of the Continent, if not, desire them to declare so, that we may know what ground we are on. I think when the money is sent for, should the Treasury be hard run, it would be well to send on the one-half immediately and the remainder in two or three weeks after. It will be attended with greater expense, but want of the money here may justify it. The assembly have determined to fill their Continental Battalion, though I assured them it was my wish never to see a man sent from this State to the North of Virginia, which they approved of, but are so sensible of the insufficiency of our Militia Exertions, that they deem the completion of their regular Regiments essential to the Salvation of the Southern States. Our Assembly and People are really zealous and determined in the cause, but I must confess that Congress stands very low with them, particularly our Speculative Gentry who met with heavy losses on the disclosure of the important secret, &c.

I must not omit informing you that Gov. Reed's Bull against Gen. Arnold being forwarded to Gov. Caswell, he laid the same before the Assembly, who unanimously agreed not to suffer it a Reading, viewing it as a glaring instance of Tyranny unpractised before among civilized people. Mr. Reed may be assured this was the reception his dogma met with among our freemen.

The rapid progress of the Enemy to Charles Town must have reached you before this, and I must confess, except some miraculous intervention that Metropolis must fall to a merciless Enemy. I really sympathise with the Inhabitants for the distresses that surround them on all sides. While the Enemy are laying all waste before them, and carrying off large droves of their Slaves, a very considerable number of them are brought into this State and sold.

I am much inclined to believe that if Charles Town submits, the whole State of South Carolina falls with it, and then our disarmed State becomes a victim of easy conquest, merely for want of proper Arms: our men are numerous and willing, but their

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means of Defence most deplorable. We have been last week alarmed by the Enemy landing at Portsmouth, and marching immediately to Suffolk which they laid in Ashes with a very large quantity of W. and J. Goods, Pork, &c. They have swept off great numbers of their Slaves and captured many of the principal Inhabitants, particularly ladies, whom they drag on board their Ships with unrelenting hearts. Certainly some Demon inspires them with additional cruelties. Our Militia in this part of the Country were all collected immediately, and with a bleeding heart I admired their good intentions, but my private sentiments were despair, from the miserable appearance of their Arms. My God; how negligent have we been in providing means for our Defence, while every man has been pushing with so much keenness in pursuit of gain. This I cannot censure as I know it constitutional.

Why did not Congress press Laurens for his copy of the Letter that he might be a little disgraced? but why do I mention Disgrace? Is he not callous to any sense of shame? I think his character much more pitiable than any other in Congress, as for Adams and Lee, they have Designs and great objects in view, but our Southern Champion is duped by their flattery, an artillery which he cannot oppose.

You cheer my drooping spirits much in one paragraph of your Letter, with respect to foreign Intelligence, but in another of an after date, you discourage my expectations—in short, whenever the happy day comes, it will be unexpected. I know the whole Country is worn out with the War, and should you lose the question on Ultimatum, I would advise your Return as likewise a member to each dissenting State, that the same might be referred to said States. For the consequence is too fatal if neglected until France, unwilling to involve herself in an expensive War for our extravagant wishes, and at the same time great offers proposed to her from Britain, I say under these circumstances, our situation might be desperate indeed: and nothing but an early and manly conduct in the dissenting States can prevent.

I wrote you about a fortnight past, informing you of some steps taken by our last Assembly. Lest that Letter should miscarry, I will mention to you, that the Salary of Delegates being increased to £5000, our State will make application for a sum of money which I hope will be granted, as our exertions for the defence of

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South Carolina must be assisted by advance, from the Continental treasury, or we cannot possibly procure the necessary supplies, neither will our Currency be taken in that State or Virginia.

As to attendance on Congress the next appointment, we shall see each other before that takes place, when we may consult our inclinations on that head. Indeed I am somewhat of opinion by the great increase of salary that some other person has it in contemplation to offer,—this however is only my conjecture. I shall launch in about six days the finest Brig, that I believe is in America,—I mean the swiftest sailor; it is a great word but I believe it a fact. My little Schooner has come in, a few days past; Goods are much higher here, than when I left Philadelphia.

I am with Great Esteem,
Sir, your obed't Serv't,

My compliments to our Countrymen.