Thomas Rodney to Caesar Rodney.
. .Allen's Town, in Jersey, December 30, 1776
. On the 25th inst. in the evening, we received orders to be at Shamony ferry as soon as possible. We were there according to orders in two hours, and met the rifle-men, who were the first from Bristol; we were ordered from thence to Dunk's Ferry, on the Delaware, and the whole army of about 2ooo men followed as soon as the artillery got up. The three companies of Philadelphia infantry and mine were formed into a body, under the command of Captain Henry (myself second in command), which were embarked immediately to cover the landing of the other troops.
We landed with great difficulty through the ice, and formed on the ferry shore, about zoo yards from the river. It was as severe a night as ever I saw, and after two battalions were landed, the storm increased so much, and the river was so full of ice, that it was impossible to get the artillery over; for we had to walk loo yards on the ice to get on shore. Gen. Cadwallader therefore ordered the whole to retreat again, and we had to stand at least six hours under arms first to cover the landing and till all the rest had retreated again and, by this time, the storm of wind, hail, rain and snow, with the ice, was so bad that some of the infantry could not get back till next day. This design was to have surprised the enemy at Black Horse and Mount Holley, at the same time that Washington surprised them at Trenton; and had we succeeded in getting over, we should have finished all our troubles. Washington took 1000 prisoners, with 6 pieces of fine artillery, and all their baggage in Trenton.
The next night I received orders to be in Bristol before day; we were there accordingly, and about 9 o'clock began to embark one mile above Bristol, and about 3 o'clock in the afternoon got all our troops and artillery over, consisting of about 3ooo men and began our march to Burlington-the infantry, flanked by the rifle-men, making the advanced guard. We got these about 9 o'clock and took possession of the town, but found the enemy had made precipitate retreat the day before, bad as the w Bather was, in a great panic. The whole infantry and rifle men were then ordered to set out that night and make a forced march to Bordentown (which was about 11 miles), which they did, and took possession of the town about 9 o'clock, with a largb quantity of the enemy's stores, which they had not time to carry off. We stayed there till the army came up; and the general, finding the enemy i but a few miles ahead, ordered the infantry to proceed to a town called Croswick's, four miles from Bordentown, and they were followed by one of the Philadelphia and one of the New England battalions.We got there about 8 o'clock, and at about l0 (after we were all in quarters) were informed that the enemy's baggage was about ~ 6 miles from us, under a guard of 300 men.
Some of the militia colonels applied to the infantry to make a forced march that night and overhaul them. We had then been on duty four nights and days, making forced marches, without six hours of sleep in the whole time; whereupon the infantry officers of all the companies unanimously declared it was madness to attempt, for that it would knock up all our brave men, one of whom had yet gave out, but every one will suppose were much fatigued....
The enemy have fled before us in the greatest panic that ever was known; we heard this moment that they have fled from Princeton, and that they were hard pressed by Washington. Never were men in higher spirits than our whole army is; none are sick, and all are determined to extirpate them from the Jersey, but I believe the enemy's fears will do it before we get up with them. The Hessians, from the general to the common soldier, curse and imprecate the war, and swear they were sent here to be slaughtered; that they never will leave New-York again till they sail for Europe. Jersey will be the most whiggish colony on the continent: the very Quakers declare for taking up arms. You cannot imagine the distress of this country. They have stripped every body almost without distinction even of all their cloths, and have beat and abused men, women and children in the most cruel manner ever heard of.
We have taken a number of prisoners in our route, Hessians and British, to the amount of about twenty. It seems likely through the blessing of Providence that we shall retake Jersey again without the loss of a man, except one Gen. Washington lost at Trenton. The enemy seem to be bending their way to Amboy with all speed, but I hope we shall come up with the Princeton baggage yet, and also get a share of their large stores at Brunswick. I hope, if I live, to see the conquest of Jersey, and set off home again in two weeks. Some of my men have complained a little, but not to say sick; they are all now well here.
To Brigadier General Caesar Rodney
Lord Stirling did me the favr of sending to me your letter of the 8th Inst. to him, mentioning your Chearfullness to continue in Service (tho’ your Brigade had returned home) and waiting my determination on that head.1
The readiness with which You took the Field at the period most critical to our Affairs—the Industry you used in bringing out the Militia of the Delaware State—and the Alertness observed by You in forwarding on the Troops from Trenton—reflect the highest Honour on your Character, and place your Attachment to the Cause in a most distinguished Point of View—They claim my sincerest Thanks, and I am happy in this Opportunity of giving them to You—Circumstanced as You are, I see no necessity in detaining You longer from yr family & Affairs, which no doubt demand yr presence & attention—You have therefore my leave to return. I am Yr most Obedient Servant
P.S. From the Enemy’s Manoeuvres of late, especially their reinforcing Brunswic, I fear yr Militia will be wanted again—You will therefore be pleased to keep them in readiness, till I call for them.
1 . For Rodney’s letter to Lord Stirling of 8 Feb. 1777 informing him that the last of the Delaware militia had passed through Trenton two days earlier on their way home, see Ryden, Rodney Letters description begins George Herbert Ryden, ed. Letters to and from Caesar Rodney, 1756–1784 . Philadelphia, 1933. description ends , 175–76. Rodney previously had written to Stirling on 2 Feb. to renew his earlier offers to stay at Trenton or to join his brigade (see ibid., 173–74).
Rodney, Thomas. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. New York: Da Capo Press, 1974.
revised by Michael Bellesiles
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History of Caesar Rodney
Caesar Rodney, Delaware's most well-known personality, was born near Dover in 1728 and died in Dover in 1784.Rodney had 80 miles to ride and only a half a day to complete a journey which normally took 30 hours. He arrived just as the voting session was about to begin. When the vote from Delaware was asked for, Read voted nay, McKean voted aye, and Rodney, still in his riding clothes and wearing spurs, rose and said: "As I believe the voice of my constituents and of all sensible and honest men is in favor of independence, my judgement concurs with them I vote for independence."
Caesar Rodney became the General in charge of the Delaware forces until 1778 when he was elected the first President of Delaware. After his term, he was elected as a state legislator and served for two years, until his death from the cancer in 1784 at th e age of 56. Caesar Rodney was buried on his farm near Dover. In 1934 Caesar Rodney was chosen to represent Delaware in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.
In an era of social justice, we recognize that the legacy of key figures throughout our country&rsquos history can be complicated. Our namesake is no different. We embrace the significant contributions to the formation of our great nation that Caesar Rodney is famous for, while simultaneously acknowledging his participation in the morally reprehensible institution of slavery. Our intent is to celebrate those contributions that significantly led to the formation of the United States of America, and to provide a more comprehensive representation of our namesake, thus providing a platform that does not marginalize the experiences or perceptions of anyone. This decision is one that we know will not make everyone happy, but we also know it is fair to everyone!
Caesar Rodney - (1728 - 1784)
Caesar Rodney, the first of the delegation from Delaware, was a native of that state, and was born about the year 1730. His birth-place was Dover. The family, from which he was descended, was of ancient date, and is honorably spoken of in the history of early times. We read of Sir Walter De Rodeney, of Sir George De Rodeney, and Sir Henry De Rodeney, with several others of the same name, even earlier than the year 1234. Sir Richard De Rodeney accompanied the gallant Richard Coeur de Lion [Richard the Lion Heart] in his crusade to the Holy Land, where he fell, while fighting at the siege of Acre.
In subsequent years, the wealth and power of the family continued to be great. Intermarriages took place between some of the members of it, and several illustrious and noble families of England. During the civil wars, about the time of the commonwealth, the family became considerably reduced, and its members were obliged to seek their fortunes in new employments, and in distant countries. Soon after the settlement of Pennsylvania by William Penn, William Rodney, one of the descendants of this illustrious family removed to that province and after a short residence in Philadelphia, settled in Kent, a county upon the Delaware. This gentleman died in the year 1708, leaving a considerable fortune, and eight children, the eldest of whom is the subject of the following sketch. Mr. Rodney inherited from his father a large landed estate, which
Popular Caesar Rodney quotes
Founding Father Quote #1450
and let me tell you that it is Honorable for a man to be punctual in the discharge of every public trust. Caesar Rodney: letter to Thomas Rodney, Oct 9th 1775
Founding Father Quote #1449
We shall know more of this Matter before long, till when I am Convinced the Congress will not Riseâ€” Whether they may then or not I cannot now pretend to sayâ€”However I do know that they are heartily tiredâ€”and so am I. Caesar Rodney: letter, July 27th, 1775 - Philadelphia
Founding Father Quote #1447
That it is the indispensable duty of all the colonies not only to alleviate the unexampled distresses of our brethren of Massachusetts Bay, who are suffering in the common cause of America, but to assist them by all lawful means in removing their grievances, and for the re-establishing their constitutional right, as well as those of all America, on a solid and permanent foundation. Caesar Rodney: letter, Aug 2, 1774 to George Read
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Note: The annotations to this document, and any other modern editorial content, are copyright © Princeton University Press. All rights reserved.
American Revolutionary War
Throughout the American Revolutionary War, Caesar Rodney served as Brigadier General of Delaware&rsquos militia.
He was one of the few delegates to the Continental Congress that had earlier military experience. During the Revolution, Rodney was promoted to Major-General of the Delaware militia by George Washington.
Here he served until the Battle of Brandywine which resulted in the State President of Delaware, John McKinly, being captured by the British and George Read relieving himself of duties to poor health and exhaustion.
These events placed Caesar Rodney and Thomas McKean back into the Continental Congress.
Rodney replaced McKinly as President of Delaware and reignited Delaware&rsquos passion for the revolution.
His natural charisma allowed him to influence much of Delaware&rsquos politics and his relentless devotion to the cause changed Delaware&rsquos political landscape.
Rodney began enforcing his authority and confiscating loyalist property and began scouring Delaware for supplies to help the Continental Army. The men of Delaware went on to fight bravely and distinguish themselves in the Battle of Monmouth but was nearly destroyed when Gates fled the field at the Battle of Camden.
By the end of 1781, Rodney had stabilized Delaware. The coast still had to deal with loyalist privateers, but incidents were lower than it had been before.
His health began to take a serious decline and he was forced into resignation shortly after the siege of Yorktown.
Trenton Thomas Rodney to Caesar Rodney. - History
Genealogy was once a kind of titular idol held in great veneration. The biographer made it his first stepping-stone--one of the main pillars of his superstructure. In countries where the iron sceptre of monarchy is still swayed--where titles of honor create lineal dignity without regard to merit--where blood is analyzed by political chemistry and all the precipitants are rejected but the carbonate of noble and royal pedigree--where the crown descends upon a _non compos mentis_ incumbent with the same certainty that it reaches a man of good intellect--genealogy is still measurably the criterion by which to determine the importance and weight of character.
As light and intelligence shed their benignant rays upon mankind the deference paid to this titular phantom will be diminished. Where rational liberty reigns triumphant merit alone creates dignity. The man is measured by his actions--not by the purple fluid in his veins or conduct of his relations. In our free country genealogy is a matter of curiosity--not of veneration. The son of a coal cracker or cobbler can rise to the highest station within the gift of the people by the force of talent and merit. I am aware that the aristocracy of wealth is a noxious weed that spreads its deleterious branches through our cities and large towns but not yet so widely and luxuriant as to prevent merit and genius from acquiring a rapid and healthful growth. In times of danger and peril its power will be lessened in the same ratio that these increase. In an atmosphere purely republican it withers and dies.
But few families in these United States can trace their ancestors so far back as the Rodneys of Delaware. They came into England with the Norman queen Maud [Matilda] in 1141 and were among the bravest military chieftains who led in the Norman conquest. At all subsequent periods they were prominent in directing the destinies of Britain. To those who are conversant with the history of the various periods of public commotion in that kingdom--the name of Sir Walter de Rodney is familiar, with many others of the same lineage. They were able in council and war. They were conspicuous in the civil, military and naval departments and received the highest honors that could be awarded to their rank by kings and queens. They were marked for magnanimity and liberal views.
Under the auspices of William Penn William Rodney came to Philadelphia who was a branch of this ancient family. He was the son of William Rodney of England and settled in Kent, Delaware. His mother, Alice, was the daughter of Sir Thomas Cæsar a wealthy English merchant. William Rodney left one son, Cæsar, who was the father of the subject of this biographette. This son was born at Dover, Kent county, Delaware in 1730. He received a good education and inherited a large real estate from his father. He possessed a strong and penetrating mind, firmness of purpose, decision of character, an abundant share of keen wit and good humor, a large stock of experimental intelligence and practical knowledge with discretion to know how, when and where to bring these important qualities into action. With endowment's like those Mr. Rodney spread his canvass to the popular breeze and commenced his voyage of public life. His cabin stores were purely republican and liberal in quantity.
In 1758 he became high sheriff of his native county and discharged his duties in a manner that gained for him the confidence and esteem of the citizens generally. At the expiration of his term he was appointed a Justice of the Peace and a judge of the lower courts. In October 1762 he took his seat in the Legislature at Newcastle and became an active and influential member. He was one of the committee that prepared the answer to the message of the governor and was on other important committees. At the close of the session he was put in possession of the great seal to be affixed to the laws that had been passed at that term.
When the rights of the Colonies were infringed by assumptions of arrogated power on the part of mother Britain, Mr. Rodney was among the first who took a bold stand in favor of justice. He was a member of the Congress that convened at New York in 1765 to remonstrate against the Stamp Act and other threatened innovations upon the privileges of the Colonies that had been long enjoyed and were guarantied by the social compact between the king of Great Britain and his "dutiful and most loyal subjects in America." After the Stamp Act was repealed Messrs. Rodney, M'Kean and Read were appointed a committee to prepare an address to the king expressive of the joy produced throughout the Colony by this event. It is substantially the same as those prepared by the other Colonies and shows clearly the feelings of loyalty that pervaded the people at that time. The following is the body of the address.
"We cannot help glorying in being the subjects of a king that has made the preservation of the civil and religious rights of his people and the established constitution the foundation and constant rule of government and the safety, ease and prosperity of his people his chiefest care--of a king whose mild and equal administration is sensibly fell and enjoyed in the remotest part of his dominions. The clouds which lately hung over America are dissipated. Our complaints have been heard and our grievances redressed--trade and commerce again flourish. Our hearts are animated with the warmest wishes for the prosperity of the mother country for which our affection is unbounded and your faithful subjects here are transported with joy and gratitude. Such are the blessings we may justly expect will ever attend the measures of your Majesty pursuing steadily the united and true interests of all your people throughout your wide extended empire assisted with the advice and support of a British Parliament and a virtuous and wise ministry. We most humbly beseech your Majesty graciously to accept the strongest assurances that having the justest sense of the many favors we have received from your royal benevolence during the course of your majesty's reign and how much of our present happiness is owing to your paternal love and care for your people. We will at all times most cheerfully contribute to your majesty's service to the utmost of our abilities when your royal requisitions, as heretofore, shall be made known--that your majesty will always find such returns of duty and gratitude from us as the best of kings may expect from the most loyal subjects and that we will demonstrate to all the world that the support of your majesty's government and the honor and interests of the British nation are our chief care and concern, desiring nothing more than the continuance of your wise and excellent constitution in the same happy, firm and envied situation in which it was delivered to us from our ancestors and your majesty's predecessors."
With the feelings expressed in this address the conclusion is irresistible that nothing but the most cruel oppression's could have driven the American people to a revolution. A similar expression of feeling was sent to the king from all the Colonies.
"Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad."
So with the British ministry--they were madly bent on reducing their American brethren to unconditional subjection and after a short interval commenced a system of oppression upon a broader, bolder scale. Again the people appealed to their king--but appealed in vain. Mr. Rodney was upon the committee that prepared a second address to his majesty just before the Revolution in the following language:
"The sense of our deplorable condition will, we hope, plead with your majesty in our behalf for the freedom we take in dutifully remonstrating against the proceedings of a British Parliament--confessedly the wisest and greatest assembly upon earth. But if our fellow subjects of Great Britain, who derive no authority from us, who cannot, in our humble opinion, represent us and to whom we will not yield in loyalty and affection to your majesty, can, at their will and pleasure, of right give and grant away our property--if they can enforce an implicit obedience to every order or act of theirs for that purpose and deprive all or any of the Assemblies on this continent of the power of legislation for differing with them in opinion in matters which intimately affect their rights and interests and everything that is dear and valuable to Englishmen--we cannot imagine a case more miserable--we cannot think we shall have the shadow of Liberty left. We conceive it to be an inherent right in your majesty's subjects, derived to them from God and nature--handed down by their ancestors--confirmed by your royal predecessors and the constitution, in person or by their representatives, to give and to grant to their sovereign those things which their own labor and their own cares have acquired and saved and in such proportions and at such times as the national honor and interest may require. Your majesty's faithful subjects of this government have enjoyed this inestimable privilege uninterrupted, from its first existence till of late. They have at all times cheerfully contributed to the utmost of their abilities for your majesty's service as often as your royal requisition was made known and they cannot, but with the greatest uneasiness and distress of mind, part with the power of demonstrating their loyalty and affection for their beloved king."
Addresses similar to this were laid before the king from all the Colonies and from the Congress of 1774. The struggle between loyal affection and a submission to wrongs was truly agonizing. This affection and the physical weakness of the Colonies are proof strong as holy writ that British oppression was raised to the zenith of cruelty. The history of the American Revolution should be a striking lesson in all future time to those in power not to draw the cords of authority too tightly. It affords a cheering example to all persons to resist every encroachment upon their liberty.
In 1769 Mr. Rodney was chosen speaker of the Assembly of Delaware and continued to fill the chair for several years with honor and dignity. Among other things he introduced an amendment to a bill relative to slaves, prohibiting their importation into the Colony. So ably did he advocate this humane proposition that it was lost only by two votes. The same philanthropic feeling was increasing through the states until England, by her emissary Dr. Thompson, sowed the seeds of abolition broadcast in our country for the express purpose of dissolving our UNION and of destroying the only republic Europe fears. Digging around the roots of a decaying tree often revives it. Honest men may err.
As the specks of war began to concentrate Mr. Rodney became one of the most active opposers of British tyranny. Excepting a short interval he was a member of Congress from 1774 to 1776 and took a conspicuous part in the general business and discussions of that august body. In his own province he had much to do. The royal attachments were deeply rooted. It required greater exertions to thwart the intrigues of foes within than to repel the attacks of enemies without. In addition to his duties of speaker of the Delaware Assembly and member of Congress those of brigadier-general of militia devolved on him. His numerous messages to his legislature and letters to his officers urging them to decisive action manifested great industry, clearness of perception, firmness of purpose and patriotic zeal. He was in favor of the Declaration of Independence from its first inception. The day previous to the final decision upon this important measure he was in Delaware devising means to arrest the career of certain Tories in the lower end of the province. Mr. McKean informed him by express of the approaching crisis. He immediately mounted his horse and arrived at Philadelphia just in time to dismount and enter the hall of Congress and give his vote for LIBERTY and affix his name to that bold instrument that dissolved allegiance to England's king and created a compact of freemen.
In the autumn of 1776 the Tories defeated his election to Congress. With increasing zeal he entered the field of military operations. He repaired to Princeton soon after the brave Haslet and Mercer fell, fighting for the cause of justice and freedom. He remained with the army two months and received the approval of Washington expressed in the following letter written from Morristown, N. J. on the 18th of February 1777.
"The readiness with which you took the field at the period most critical to our affairs--the industry you used in bringing out the militia of Delaware State and the alertness observed by you in forwarding troops to Trenton--reflect the highest honor on your character and place your attachment to the cause in the most distinguished point of view. They claim my sincerest thanks and I am happy in this opportunity in giving them to you."
On his return he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court organized under the new order of things. He declined serving believing he could be more useful in some other sphere. About that time an open insurrection broke out in Sussex County in his State. He immediately repaired to the scene of insubordination and quelled it with only the appearance of force. At the time the British were preparing to march from the Chesapeake to the Brandywine he was stationed south of the American army for the purpose of throwing his force between the enemy and their shipping. In the field and in the legislative hall he was alike active.
In December 1777 he was again elected to Congress. The legislature of his State being in session he concluded to remain until it rose. Before its adjournment he was elected President of Delaware which prevented him from serving in the national legislature. His services in his new station were of great importance. His exertions in raising supplies for the army were of the most vigorous character--especially during the winter and spring of 1779 when the troops were often on half allowance and the magazines so bare that it seemed impossible to sustain the army a single week. During the four years he directed the destinies of Delaware he had many refractory spirits to manage--many difficult questions to decide that brought into useful action his prudence, wisdom and firmness. Upon his own matured judgment he relied. So well did he balance the scales of justice that he gained the admiration of his friends and the approval of his enemies. The affairs of the State were never in better hands.
Mr. Rodney was remarkably fond of a good joke if inoffensive and chaste. He often exhibited brilliant displays of wit but was extremely careful of personal feelings. When in Congress Mr. Harrison had often called Virginia the Dominion of the Colonies. When threatened with invasion by the enemy he asked immediate aid to protect her from the approaching foe. When he sat down Mr. Rodney rose with assumed gravity and apparent sympathy and assured the gentleman that the _powerful Dominion_ should be protected--"Let her be of good cheer--she has a friend in need--_Delaware_ will take her under protection and insure her safety." The portly Harrison and the skeleton Rodney both enjoyed the hit which convulsed the other members with laughter.
In view of the great amount of business performed by Mr. Rodney and his proverbial cheerfulness and playful good humor the reader will be astonished to learn that he was afflicted with a cancer upon his nose from his youth which spread over one side of his face and compelled him to wear a bandage over it for many years before his death. It so reduced his flesh that he was a walking skeleton. It terminated his active and useful life in 1783. He met death with calm submission and Christian fortitude and died rejoicing in the bright prospects that were dawning upon the country he dearly loved and had faithfully served.
Mr. Rodney was naturally of a slender form with an animated countenance, easy and polished manners and very agreeable and gentlemanly in his intercourse. From his writings he appears to have held religion in high veneration and practiced the purest morals--producing the fruits of righteousness in richer abundance than many who make loud pretensions to piety but do not prove their faith by their works. He was liberal, kind, benevolent and so strongly sympathetic that he was obliged to avoid scenes of physical suffering if possible. He could not endure to be in the room of a dying friend or relative. The poor, the widow, the orphan, his relatives and friends, his country--all deeply mourned the loss of CAESAR RODNEY.
Caesar Rodney, a Delaware Delegate in the Continental Congress, to Thomas Rodney, July 27, 1775
By a Veshel arrived about an hour ago, from Bristol, We have a London paper informing us of the Arrival of the Veshel that Went Express from the people of Boston to London Giving them an Accot of the Battle of Lexington ー upon the Spreading of this News there, the Ministry (it seems) published in the papers that they had Recd no accounts from America by this many people were lead to discredit the accounts brought by the Massachusetts Express ー However, Arthur Lee (now an Alderman) publishes imediately in the papers that all those who doubted the truth of the News ー Might Repair to the Mantion House, Where the Depositions taken relative to the Lexington Affair were deposited for their perusal and Satisfaction When the Ship left Bristol the News was generally Credited, However She left there too Soon to know much of the Effect it had on that Side the Water ー We Shall know more of this Matter before long, till When I am Convinced the Congress Will not Rise ー Whether they may then or not I Cannot now pretend to Say ー However I Do know that they are heartily Tired ー and so am I Your [&c.]
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