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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

Extract from the Minutes of the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
Friday, March 1, 1776

A letter from James Mease, commissary, with sundry queries, relative to his conduct as commissary, on which he requests the directions of Congress, was read:1

Resolved, That it be referred to a committee of three. The members chosen, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Paine, and Mr. Hewes.

Printed in Journals of the Continental Congress, 4:180.


Richard Smith had noted in his diary as early as Jan. 26 that a committee was “chosen to examine Commissary Lowrey & Mease’s Fees of One and a Quarter per Cent it being suggested to be extravagant” Letters of Delegates to Congress, 3:157). This follow-up committee was appointed more than a month later, but when it brought a report to Congress on Mar. 18, the report was tabled (Journals of the Continental Congress, 4:211), and Mease continued his work as commissary.

James Mease, a member of the Committee of Safety for Philadelphia, was appointed commmissary for Pennsylvania Continental troops in January 1776. He was clothier general to the Continental Army from January 1777 until that department was reorganized in 1779 (The Papers of George Washington: Revolutionary War Series, 8:5).

To Joseph Palmer
RTP Palmer, Joseph
Philadelphia, March 6th, 1776.

I have written Mr. Cushing a long letter on cannon foundery, which you will see. I am desirous to have cannon founding set up our way if we have ore.

Thus, my friend, you find a lawyer, whose business is scientific, labouring through a long detail of the mechanism of cannon foundery; let not this surprise you, for if cannon are the ultima ratio, surely a discourse on them must be chopping logic.

In search of true freedom in vain do we roam, To hold it for ever we must find it at home.

America never can support her freedom till we have a sufficient source of arms and ammunition of all species among ourselves, and the more these sources are distributed among the colonies, the greater the security of external and internal peace. In pursuance of this idea, I am of a com­173mittee who are labouring to push saltpetre and gunpowder making through all the colonies, and are also devising methods to establish a regular and extensive manufacture of muskets, and hope soon to exhibit.

* * * * * *1

When I began, I intended to have answered some of your political observations, but having exerted myself so much on the sine qua non, you will neither doubt my orthodoxy, nor expect my answers, till I have taken breath from writing, and you from reading.

Thomas Cushing

Original not located; reprinted from the New-York Review and Atheneum Magazine 2(1826):400.


Ellipsis in the printed transcript.