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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

From Joseph Palmer
Palmer, Joseph RTP
Watertown Novr: 1st 1775 Dear Sir,

I have had so much drugery (signing Bills &c.) to do, that I have not had opportunity to write to any of our Friends at the Congress, & have supposed you wou’d receive from the Officers very frequent accounts of our public affairs; this will not excuse the Comtee. of Court for their neglect, but we have been overwhelmed with business, & that may be some excuse.

The affair of Petre, does not succeed to our wishes; but we go on making experiments, & hope we shall get into the best method: at Connecticutt they succeed better, as we are told, & a Comtee. is going thither to obtain all the knowlede they have. At Newbury, as I hear, they are seting up large works, under the direction of Mr. Peck, who has made some very good Petre.

Mr. G— has no appointment yet, which will provide for a Family, but I hope some opening will soon appear for his advantage; he has certainly exerted himself much, & deserves to be noticed.

Just now one Mr. Phips of Sherburne brot. about 1/2 Peck Petre, made by himself; says that there is much labour attending the Process, but no other difficulty attending it; & speaks very encourageing of the Manufr.1 Also just now passed a Resolve for 7/ Lmo. per lb.2 ‘till June next, for all the S P made in the Colony. Phipp’s S P is not refined, & is said to appear better than any other that has been inspected, but it snaps too much: However, according to Doctr. Shaw,3 the refining is a plain simple process, & the common salt seperates from the S P in the Operation. Shaw speaks from experimts. made by himself abt. the year 1733.

I must write a few Lines to our other Friends, & have not time to write much of any matter to any One.

11th. By Our Armed Vessels, Boats, & Wrecks, we have possession of 8 or 10 of the Enemies Cargoes lately. One from Ireland brot us the Budget now sent to the Congress by Mr. Revere; this will probably give you some trouble; but I hope that Your Plan was ripen’d for such an event4; No one can now have any thing to hope or fear from a favourable reception of the Petition last sent: But my hopes now rise in favor of liberty; & it lies with your Congress to set us free, free from a Charter which has been a curse to our Fathers as well as us. I weep, I deeply mourn being seper­107ated from G B, but I think it looks as if we must be forever seperated. If She calls in foreign aid to Shackle us, may not we seek for help, from both God & Man, in such a righteous cause.

Adieu my dear Sir, & believe me to remain your Sincere Frd.

J: Palmer

J. Adams, W. Cushing, W. Read, R. T. Paine, & N. P. Sargeant, Judges of Superior Court; but do not know whether any accept the appointmt. or not.


RC ; addressed: “The Honble: Robert-Treat Paine Esqr: Philadelphia”; endorsed.


Jedediah Phips appeared at the House of Representatives on Nov. 1 to announce his “important Improvements in the Manufacture of Salt-Petre” and “his entire readiness to communicate every Discovery he had made.” The House hired Phips for six weeks to join with its committee (composed of Dr. William Whiting, Dea. Baker of Bolton, and Capt. John Peck) to go to Newburyport “and use his utmost Efforts ... to make further Improvements in the Art of manufacturing said Commodity” (Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts, 51, pt. 1:218–219).


Seven shillings legal money per pound.


Probably Dr. Peter Shaw in Elementa Chemiæ (2d ed.; London, 1741), which is cited in RTP’s 1768 catalogue of his library as “Shaw’s Institute of Chymestry 2 Vols.”


This probably refers to the intercepted letters from Ireland mentioned by Edward Rutledge. “We find by them that Adminstration are determined at all Events to attempt the Reduction of America, that Boston will be made strong by 22 or 25000 Men in the Course of this Winter & the Spring—that Lord Kinmare has added to the King’s Bounty that of 10/6 per Man for all who shall inlist under Major Roche—that the City of Corke has followed the Example but more extensively, that Lord Bellamount has the Direction of the Recruiting parties in that part of the Kingdom—that the Roman Catholic Priests have been applied to to stimulate their Flocks against us, which they have promised to do, if the Regiments to be raised be officer’d by Gentn. of their religious persuasion— in short that all the Powers of Hell are to be let loose upon us” (Rutledge to Thomas Bee, Nov. 25, 1775, printed in Letters of Delegates, 2:390).

Extract from the Minutes of the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
Thursday, November 2, 1775

The Congress, taking into consideration the letters from General Schuyler and Genl. Montgomery,1 and Mr. Walter Livingston,2


Resolved, That a Committee of three be appointed to repair to the northward, to confer with Genl. Schuyler, and pursue such instructions as may be given them in charge by the Congress.3

The members chosen, Mr. Langdon,4 Mr. Paine, and Mr. Dyer.

That a Comee. of five be appointed to draw up instructions for the foregoing comee.

The members chosen Mr. Lynch,5 Mr. Jay,6 Mr. Lee, Mr. Deane,7 and Mr. J Adams.

Printed in the Journals of the Continental Congress, 3:317.


Gen. Richard Montgomery (1738–1775) served in Canada with the British Army during the Seven Years’ War. Frustrated by his inability to purchase a major’s commission, Montgomery sold his captain’s commission in 1772 and moved to New York. He served in the Provincial Congress of 1775 and was appointed brigadier general by the Continental Congress on June 22. Generals Schuyler and Montgomery were ordered to lead an invasion of Canada, which was the subject of this committee’s investigation. On Sept. 16 Schuyler removed himself from command in favor of Montgomery, and on Nov. 11, Montgomery seized the city of Montreal. On Dec. 31, Montgomery was killed during an attack on Quebec ( ANB ).


Walter Livingston (1740–1797) was a delegate to the New York Provincial Congress in 1775 and to the Continental Congress (1784, 1785). He was commissary of stores and provisions for New York and for the northern department of the Continental Army in 1775 and 1776. In 1785 he was appointed as commissioner of the U.S. Treasury ( Biographical Directory of the American Congress ).


Eliphalet Dyer declined this committee assignment because of an “indisposition,” and Robert R. Livingston was appointed in his stead (Journals of the Continental Congress, 3:317, 339). The choice of the committeemen did not meet with general approval. On Dec. 12, Gen. Charles Lee wrote to Richard Henry Lee that “inter nos, I think it might have been better chosen. Payne has certainly not the mannieres—which, according to Lord Chesterfield, and my observation, are so requite to captivate the French” (The Lee Papers. Collections of the New-York Historical Society [1871], 1:228).

The committee departed for Ticonderoga on Nov. 12 with instructions to exert its “utmost endeavours to induce the Canadians to accede to a union with these colonies” and send delegates to Congress (Journals of the Continental Congress, 3:340). On the day they left, Gen. Richard Montgomery captured Montreal, and while en route the committee learned that St. Johns was also taken and heard a false report that Benedict Arnold had entered Quebec.

Despite working against weather that was “equal to Midwinter” (RTP Diary, Nov. 19, 1775), the committee reached Albany on Nov. 21 and Ticonderoga on Nov. 28. They reported to Congress on the New York-built fortifications and met with General Schuyler a number of times over the course of a week before returning to Albany without venturing into Canada because of the advancing winter. They did not have an opportunity to meet with General Montgomery, who was busy besieging Quebec, but wrote to him “to inform the Canadians of the Sentements of Congress, when he should find a proper Opportunity to Communicate them and to pave the way” for another committee. However, Montgomery was never able to fulfill that suggestion as he was killed at the storming of Quebec on Dec. 31. The committee report, written in Langdon’s hand and signed by RTP and Langdon, detailed their discussions with Schuyler and observations on the state of the army, appeared in the Journals of the Continental Congress, 3:446–452.

109 4.

John Langdon (1741–1819), a Portsmouth, N.H., merchant, was a delegate from his province to the Continental Congress, and later served as governor and as a Democratic-Republican federal senator.


Thomas Lynch (1727–1776), a South Carolina planter, was a member of the house of assembly regularly from 1751 onwards, a delegate to the First and Second Provincial Congresses and the Stamp Act Congress, and a member of the Continental Congress (1774–1776). Lynch was unable to sign the Declaration of Independence because of illness and died later in the year while en route home.


John Jay (1745–1829), a New York lawyer and graduate of King’s College, served in the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1776. Then he returned to New York to assist in drafting the state’s constitution and was appointed chief justice of the state but resigned in order to return to the Continental Congress as its president (1778–1779). Jay was minister to Spain and then one of the commissioners for the peace treaty with Great Britain. Upon his return to America he served as secretary of foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation and upon the adoption of the Constitution became the first chief justice of the United States ( DAB ).


Silas Deane (1737–1789), a 1758 graduate of Yale, represented Connecticut in the Continental Congress (1774–1776) until he was sent to France in March 1776, first as a secret political and financial agent, and in September of that year as ambassador with Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee. He was recalled by Congress in 1778 and investigated for financial misconduct ( DAB ).