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you have no time to lose. France waits for nothing but a declaration of your independence, to revenge the injuries they sustained from Britain in the last war. But I forbear to reason any further with you. The decree has finally gone forth: Britain and America are distinct empires. Your country teems with patriots, heroes, and legislators, who are impatient to burst forth into light and importance. Hereafter, your achievements shall no more swell the pages of British history. God did not excite the attention of all Europe -of the whole world-nay, of angels themselves, to the present controversy, for nothing. The inhabitants of Heaven long to see the ark finished, in which all the liberty and true religion of the world are to be deposited. The day in which the Colonies declare their independence, will be a jubilee to Hampden, Sidney, Russell, Warren, Gardiner, Macpherson, and the other heroes who have offered themselves as sacrifices upon the altar of liberty. It was no small mortification to me, when I fell upon the Plains of Abraham, to reflect that I did not expire, like the brave General Wolfe, in the arms of victory. But I now no longer envy him his glory. I would rather die in attempting to obtain permanent freedom for a handful of people, than survive a conquest which would serve only to extend the empire of despotism. A band of heroes now beckon to me: I can only add, that America is the theatre where human nature will soon receive its greatest military, civil, and literary honours.
Friday, March 8, 1776.
LORD STIRLING TO COLONEL WARD.
Head-Quarters, New-York, March 8, 1776.
DEAR SIR: I write this letter to you in the utmost confidence of secrecy, and therefore no man but yourself is to see it. It is absolutely necessary to prevent the present communication between the Ship Phenix, which lays off the west end of Long-Island, below the Narrows, and the people of that part of Long-Island; but more especially to take or destroy a certain Frank James, a pilot, who now assists Captain Parker, commander of the Phenix, in decoying and taking vessels of great importance to the cause we are engaged in. There are some other pilots serving him in the same way, whose names I am not informed of, but are well known to the bearer, Mr. Christopher Duyc-kinck, who, with three or four other guides, will attend you for the purpose hereinafter mentioned.
I must desire you will pick out of your regiment two of the most alert officers, and two parties of about twenty men each, to be supplied with twenty rounds of ammunition, and three days provision, and order them to proceed with the guides, to the place they will show them, to conceal themselves as much as possible from the people of the country, and to take such stations as are most proper for effecting the purposes above-mentioned; and to take and secure or destroy those pilots, or any persons belonging to the man-of-war. It will be best that the two parties march from your quarters to-morrow evening, a littlebefore moon-rising, so that they may arrive at their station before daylight; and it will be absolutely necessary that the officers of each party consult with, and put the utmost confidence in, the guides assigned them. When the parties have taken their stations, they, if possible, should prevent any boats from leaving the shore, without firing, or by any means alarming the men-of-war or the country; and the shortest way of effecting this will be, for single men about daylight to examine the shore, and with their hatchets to cut a hole or two in the bottom of all the small boats they find there, and to remove to some secret place their oars, paddles, or sails. You will see the necessity of this matter being conducted with conduct, secrecy, and alertness, and I doubt not you will choose your men accordingly.
I am your most humble servant,
To Colonel Ward, Long-Island.
LORD STIRLING TO PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
[Read March 11, 1776.]
New-York, March 8, 1776.
SIR: I now send you the two returns I mentioned to you in my last; also, copies of three letters I wrote to the Convention of New-Jersey, at the request of General Lee; but as that Convention broke up last Saturday, before they could possibly have received either of the letters, and as they have now no Committee of Safety sitting, I have little hopes of any attention being paid to those letters, unless Congress would request Mr. Tucker, the President, to call a meeting of the Committee of Safety, and to keep sitting while the publick safety so necessarily requires it.
General Lee left this place yesterday evening, and I suppose will be at Philadelphia before this reaches you. The arduous task which has devolved on me, is almost too much for me, with the little assistance I have; yet the Congress may be assured I shall do everything in my power to carry on the service.
The two regiments here from Connecticut will not be prevailed upon to stay longer than the 25th instant. When they are gone, there will not be above five hundred men fit for service. Five thousand will be too few, I am afraid, properly to defend this place. The Third Battalion of New-Jersey Troops, I am told, is near complete. I shall direct Colonel Dayton to hold them in readiness to march to this place as soon as I know this is their destination.
March 9.It was yesterday confidently reported that a large fleet was seen on the coast, coming into Sandy-Hook; but I have now reason to believe there is no truth in it.
I am your most humble servant,
To the Honourable John Hancock, Esq.
New-York, March 2, 1776.
DEAR SIR: Every hour furnishes new reasons to convince us that all intercourse between the inhabitants of this Continent and the men-of-war of Great Britain should immediately cease. This has induced General Lee to direct me to inform you that he thinks it will be of great importance to the publick cause that all communication should be cut off between any part of the Province of New-Jersey and Staten-Island, on the one part, and the men-of-war which now are, or hereafter may be, within Sandy-Hook, or any ship or vessel that has any connection with them, on the other part; and, in order the better to effect this for the present, he thinks it will be highly necessary that about four hundred Minute-men from New-Jersey be stationed on Staten-Island, near the watering place; who, besides the above purposes, should keep a constant vigilant lookout towards the sea, and inform the General of every arrival of ships, or motion of the men-of-war that may happen. This part of the service would be much facilitated if a few light-horse were employed to bring the intelligence by the way of Bergen Point and Paulus Hook. This party on Staten-Island would also effectually guard the Kills, and also the interior country, which is now open to the insult of a single barge. One company would be useful at and near Paulus Hook; one or two at Amboy; and two or three, or four, in Monmouth County, to guard the coast from Shrewsbury Inlet to the mouth of Raritan, in which should be included a party of light-horse on the Highlands of Never-sink.
The objects all these parties should most particularly have in view, are, to prevent any intercourse of the kind between the ships-of-war and the shore; to prevent the former from receiving wood, water, provision, or any refreshment whatever; and to give the General intelligence of every motion of the enemy, or appearance of ships at sea. If vessels laden with provisions are indiscriminately permitted to leave New-Jersey, they will, by the extraordinary price given by the commanders of the men-of-war and Governour Tryon, be allured to give them every refreshment they can want; yet it may be necessary that this place be supplied with provision from New-Jersey. It will, therefore, be requisite that the Congress of New-Jersey do commit the management of this matter to vigilant men whom they can depend upon.
I am, sir, your most humble servant,
To Samuel Tucker, Esq., President of the Congress, of New-Jersey, at New-Brunswick.