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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

From John Wilcocks
Wilcocks, John RTP
Sir, Philada. 13th March 1777

I1 have a Cause depending before the Superior Court of Massachusetts Government on a rehearing order’d by the General Assembly respecting the Condemnation of the Ship Alfred. The Honble. Mr. Derby2 & Mr. Russell3 conduct this matter on my behalf & are possess’d of all the Evidence & Vouchers to assert my claim to the Ship & her freight. If you are so far disengag’d that you will undertake my Cause in conjunction with Mr. Whetmore4 who is already retain’d I Shall think myself happy in having your Services. The above mention’d Gentlemen will wait upon you with the Papers & do every thing proper on the Occasion. I am Sir Your most humble Servt.

John Wilcocks

RC ; internal address: “Honble. Robert-Treat Payne Esqr.”


John Wilcocks of Philadelphia, merchant, through his attorney, petitioned the Massachusetts General Court, Jan. 2, 1777, for a trial “at the next Superior Court, &c. in the middle-district, of the justice of the capture of the ship Alfred, and her appurtenances (lately taken by the private armed vessel called the Retaliation) which were at the last Maratime Court for the said district, decreed to be forfeited to the captors, &c.” The General Court ordered Wilcocks to notify Nathan Leach of Beverly, one of the owners of the brigantine Retaliation, and require him to show cause why the petition should not be granted (Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts, 52 pt. 2:210).


Richard Derby, Jr. (1736–1781), see above.

360 3.

Probably Thomas Russell (1740–1796), a prominent Boston merchant who represented his native Charlestown in the state legislature and also served on the council (Wyman, Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown, 834).


William Wetmore (1749–1830), a 1770 graduate of Harvard, was admitted to the bar in 1774. He was representing Salem in the General Court at this time, but after the war divided his time between Boston, where he practiced law and later sat on the bench, and Maine, where his second wife’s family, the Waldos, controlled much real estate ( Sibley’s Harvard Graduates , 17:447–451).

From Ephraim Keith, Jr.
Keith, Ephraim Jr. RTP
Sir! Bridgwater 14th March. 1777

Agreably to your Directions I enquired of Mr. Jarvis concerning some Copper belonging to the Continent. He told me that he had about 15 C. which he had orders to convey to Springfield which he should do as soon as the Roads were passable, but at the same time he signify’d that he had no objection to the Copper’s being brought to this Furnace, provided that you, or any person properly impowered woud. order it to be stop’d. I am with the profoundest Esteem Sir your obedt. & hule. Sert.,

Ephm. Keith junr.

N.B. The Copper is to be sent to Taunton.

RC ; addressed: “To R. Treat Payne Esqr. Taunton”; endorsed.

From Owen Biddle
Biddle, Owen RTP
Dear Sir, Philada: 29th: March 1777

I received your favour & am much obliged to you for the communication of the mood by which your Smiths attempted to make the forged Iron Cannon &c. In return shall endeavour to give you a detail of our proceedings in that department, which has not been less successfull in the quality than with you—but for want of proper persons to have the care and direction of the Cannon foundery & forgery the business has been much neglected & at this day little is done at it. Mr. Wheeler has finished his 4 pdr. It is well executed for the first and bore proof and many times fireing since, and our Military Gentlemen are much pleased with it—but this is the only One that is made of this kind, and no work yet establishd 361for that purpose yet I am in hopes Congress will not neglect it as I am informd they have order’d the Board of War, to contract for 100 pe. of 3 & 6 prs. of forged Iron. Your method is not so well approved of by Mr. Henry & Mr. Wheeler as our own, being of opinion they are more manageable in junks than in staves hooped. Mr. Byers returnd here after a long absence, and we have employ’d him at our foundery lately under the direction of Mr. Loxley, and after some difficulty he has got the furnace to do very well, and it contains a sufficient quantity of Mettal for a 12 pdr. He has cast 2 Howitze’s 5 1/2 In: diameter 3 Six pounders and one 12 pounder. They have been proved with 2/3 the weight of the ball, and appear sound & good. Mr. Loxleys moulds are many of them indifferent and some unfit for use. That we have to make a new set this occasions some delay but we are in hopes the works will be prosecuted with diligence in future. We are fully convinced from the Experiments we have made with Wood that it may do with out Sea Coal by enlarging our fireplace, but so long as Sea Coal can be had it is preferable to it. The Mettal you were desirous of being inform’d about has in part been recoverd and the whole Stock, both Continental & of this State ammounts to about 12,000 tot. exclusive of our own Bells which will hardly escape the fiery furnace should they be wanted. I have much regretted your absence from this City as the Ordinance board were without you inadequate to their appointment and I have never heard of any measures being taken by them to promote this very important business. My worthy friend Rittenhouse1 and myself have had it much at heart, and offer’d our service to the Committee of Congress to promote it,—but never had a proper authority from them. The return of Congress to this City will give new vigour to all the Military preparations and should we be able to repulse our Enemies again and keep a quiet possession of the City for a few Months I have hopes that a sufficient field train will be prepared. We have had a large importation of Arms into this port from france this week on Acct. of Congress viz. 6800 Stand, and 1500 Lgun locks.

While this ardous contest continues it is my desire to be able to devote the small talents I am possessed of for the benefit of my bleeding Country, and hope to be supported in it by the bright example of our Seniors and fellow patriots both with you & at home.

With sincere wishes for your happiness and success in your exertions for the defence of your Country I remain Yr. freind & humble Servt.,

Owen Biddle 362

N.B. This goes by Mr. Benjamin Poultney my brother-in Law. Should he need your assistance you would oblige me by granting it to him in the prosecution of his business—as above yr.,


RC ; addressed: “The Honble. Robert Treat Paine Esqr. at Beverly or Boston. fav:d by Benjn: Poultney Esqr.”; endorsed.


David Rittenhouse (1732–1796), astronomer, instrument maker, and mathematician, was at this time serving in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and as engineer for the Philadelphia Committee of Safety, of which he later became president. After the war he was professor of astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania and in 1791 succeeded Benjamin Franklin as the president of the American Philosophical Society [ DAB ].