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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

To Joseph Palmer
RTP Palmer, Joseph
Philadelphia, May 11, 1776.

NOT having heard from you so long, nor seen your name mentioned in a gubernatorial capacity, I am led to think either that you are unwell, or on public business abroad. I have wrote you several long letters, particularly March 7th, 16th, and April 2d and 14th,1 some of which I fear you have not received, as they were on such practical subjects as I think you would have taken some notice of. I have laboured exceedingly to establish certain important manufactures, without which speculation would be a phantom. I think we shall not want cannon—four furnaces make them good, as large as 18 pounders; and 24 pounders have been made, but have not as yet stood proof; the manufacturers say they are sure of success. Exceeding good muskets are made here and I suppose with you, but what comes of them I can’t find out, for it is certain that a great many of our troops are unarmed, and we are not able to get arms for them. I have made great inquires about this matter, and have been always told that every man who could work at the business was employed. I wish to know if that be the case with you, and what the price of muskets is. Our musket committee have been able to make but two contracts for making muskets, but I hope our endeavours have set others a going. The congress was appointed to promote the good of the whole, but this can’t be done without knowing the circumstances of all the parts; but as I wish the salvation of my country, I know nothing of our colony but what I find out by accident. I write letters of inquiry in vain. I hope we shall be more regular in doing business for the future, or we shall need leading-strings again.2

Original not located; printed in the New-York Review and Atheneum Magazine 2(1826):447–448 .

206 1.

Only a portion of Paine’s Apr. 2 letter to Palmer, printed above, has been found. The letter he refers to on Mar. 7 was actually written the day before (see above).


Later in the month, RTP set off with Clement Biddle for a tour of various manufactories in the area, including the Continental powder mill on French Creek, the Warwick Furnace, the Reading Furnace, saltpetre works run by John Mears in Reading, Colonel Grubb’s furnace, glassworks in Manheim, and a grinding-and-boring mill for gun barrels in Lancaster (RTP Diary, May 23–29).

From David Cobb
Cobb, David RTP
Boston May 17th 1776 My Dear Sir,

Its probable before this that you have been acquainted of my removal from Taunton to this Town, with an Intention to persue the business of my profession: the reasons for this sudden Moenuvre I must give you at some future time, as I mean to improve this oppertunity for a Letter of Intelligence, only observing that I am like the rest of Old Sinners, always beging pardon for past Offences & promising reformation for the future.

This morning one of the Continental Privateers commanded by one Muckford, took a large Ship, 280 Tons burthen, off the Lighthouse, six weeks out from Cork, laiden with 75 Tons of Gun powder, 1000 stands of Carbines compleat & a large quantity of other Military Stores. The perticulars I can’t inform you; as the Ship was coming up, about Noon, the back way, commonly call’d Broad Sound, she got aground on the flats at high water, since which all the Boats of the Town have been imploy’d in unlaiding her & most of the powder is now secure (11 o’Clock at night) in the Magazine back of the Common. She is guarded to night by 4 Privateers & 300 of the Troops. The Kings Ships lay in King-Road within sight of the Prize.1 We have turn’d our Fast into a Thanksgiving. Pray appoint another next Month; we shall have more powder Ships upon the Coasts.

The Fortifycations around the Harbour now go on grandly. We have a fine Fort on Fort Hill almost finish’d, mounting 20 peices of Cannon, another on Noddles Island mounting as many, a third on Dorchester point with 12 peices of Cannon and they are now at work on the Castle where they have already 12 peices of Cannon mounted. The Inhabitants of the Town have generously subscribed in Work & Money to the amount of 400 Johannes’s, by which means the Works on Noddles Island have been cheifly erected.


Mr. Joseph Russell, with whom I at present live, wou’d be much oblig’d if you cou’d by your influence, either at the Congress or with the Council of this provence, obtain any post for him in the way of his business as Auctioneer, such as the Marshall of the Admiralty. He has wrote to Mr. Collins on the subject, who will speak to you about it. I desire it as a Friend you wou’d not forgit him.

I heard from Taunton yesterday when your Family and Friends were all well. Mr. Greenleaf & most of his Family are come to Town. Dr. Whitworth & son2 are in prison for Toryism and Male practices.

As I have now the Weekly oppertunity of the post, I hope in some measure to compensate for my past neglect, but if I do not, you must still believe me to be your most sincere Friend and Obliged Humble Servant,

David Cobb

I intended to have sent this Letter by Mr. Glover of Philadelphia, but he went out of Town sooner than I expected, which obliges me to improve the post.

RC ; addressed: “The Honble. Robt. Treat Paine Esqr. At Philadelphia pr. post”; endorsed; postal stamps: “BOSTON” “20 MA.”


The schooner Franklin (James Mugford, commander) took the ship Hope (Alexander Lumsdale, master) with a cargo of 1000 carbines, five gun carriages, 10,000 sand bags and 1,500 barrels of gunpowder. On May 19, Mugford was killed in an encounter with a British transport ship (Naval Documents of the American Revolution, 5:133, 161–162). See also David Cobb to RTP, May 20, 1776 (below).


On Apr. 6, 1776, a few weeks after the evacuation of the town by British troops, the General Court ordered the arrest of Dr. Miles Whitworth (c.1715–1778) and his son Charles (1753–c.1800), among a number of other Loyalists living in Boston, “which are or may be complained of having Designs to act, or having acted against the Rights of this or the other United Colonies, or of having in any Manner aided, abetted or assisted the Enemies of the United Colonies, &c.” They were at first released on bail but were committed to Boston jail on May 3. Abigail Adams thought that Dr. Whitworth along with his colleague Dr. James Lloyd “both ought to be transported.” The House of Representatives rejected Dr. Whitworth’s renewed bail petition on June 12, 1776, and apparently moved the prisoners out of town. On Aug. 31, they were ordered from Weston to the town of Harvard, because his presence was “attended with pernicious consequence by increasing that fire of Toreyism.” (Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts, 51, pt. 3:89; John Rowe, Diary, Mass. Hist. Soc., 2144, 2150; Abigail Adams to John Adams, Apr. 14, 1776, in Adams Family Correspondence , 1:379; Massachusetts Acts & Resolves, 19:530).