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better care may be taken of the sick; and various other minor improvements. The general aspect of our affairs has nothing that ought to discourage us; and the misfortunes of the army should lead us to make greater exertions."*
The measures indicated in the foregoing letter were recommended to congress in a report of the committee made on the third of October. After a discussion and delay of several days, resolutions were passed in conformity to its principal provisions. Additional clothing was promised to the noncommissioned officers and soldiers, who would engage in service during the war; the states were required to have their levies completed by the 10th November; a greater regard to the character of the officers was enjoined in their appointment; the general and regimental hospitals were new organized, a commissariate general of clothing was established, general Mifflin appointed quarter-master-general, and the sum of three hundred thousand dollars advanced for the articles which he had reported to be wanting in his department.
These measures were scarcely arranged and the confidence of the people revived in some degree by the activity and perseverance which they indicated, when on the 17th of the same month the finances demanded the renewed attention of congress, and Mr. Gerry was appointed chairman of a committee “ to bring in a plan for the better regulating the treasury board.”
* At this visit to camp Mr. Gerry accompanied some of the general officers on a reconnoitring party. In order to take a nearer view they left their horses in a hollow, and went on foot to a piece of high ground on which it would have been imprudent to appear on horseback. The enemy discovered them. A shot from a cannon cut the tree at which Mr. Gerry's horse was fastened, and he left his master to take care of himself. The party narrowly escaped being made prisoners.
Business of more pressing emergency prevented any great improvement in the details of this department. Disaster continued to shroud the American arms. A powerful and victorious enemy were crowding on them, and exhibiting superiority of discipline and knowledge in the art of war, as well as an overwhelming disparity of force. Philadelphia was threatened, and congress quitted that city for Baltimore on the twelfth of December.
In no wise discouraged by successive misfortunes congress under the influence of that inflexibility of purpose, by which its prominent members were distinguished, never for a moment despaired of the commonwealth.
They resorted to the source of all power for aid to their struggling fortunes, and directed the observance of a day of solemn fasting and prayer. Nor did they ask the assistance of Heaven without doing what they could to deserve it. Their own power was exerted in manly efforts to check the sweeping tide which was threatening them. With a generous confidence in the sincerity of the popular will to accomplish the great objects of the
contest, and a well placed reliance on the enduring patriotism of the illustrious commander of their armies, they did in effect appoint him dictator for six months, with authority to take the most speedy and effectual means to raise sixteen battalions of infantry, three thousand light horse, three regiments of artillery and a corps of engineers; to take whatever he might want for the use of the army, to arrest such as refused to receive the continental money or were otherwise disaffected to the American cause, with other equivalent powers, which it would have been safe at no other time to have intrusted to any man, and to no other man at any time than to the virtuous Washington.
New commission as Delegate from Massachusetts....... Letter of Ro
bert Treat Paine......... Committee of Congress sent to Camp...... Letter of General Washington.......of General Warren ........Another Committee of Congress sent to Camp.
The disasters of the army of the United States in the latter part of 1776 had in some degree been relieved by the brilliant affairs of Trenton and Princeton, and congress returned to Philadelphia on 4th March 1777.
The commission of the delegates from Massachusetts was renewed by a vote of that state, and two gentlemen already distinguished for their attachment to the cause of the people, Mr. James Lovell and Mr. Francis Dana, added to their number.
Mr. Gerry continued assiduously at his post in congress during the whole of the year, and in the alternation of good and ill fortune, which successively attended the arms of his country, maintained in her councils the same equanimity of mind, and exerted himself to animate others with that steady resolution by which alone the great objects of the controversy could be accomplished.
It was not however in the military department only that causes of anxiety were continually recurring. To support an army, means were required novel in their character and oppressive in their operation, and devices were resorted to for the purposes of immediate effect, which the statesmen of the day were compelled to adopt, not as most wise in themselves, but as the best which the condition of the people would permit.
Mr. Paine, one of the delegation, had a recess from his duty in congress in the early part of the year, and from a nearer point of observation thus describes some matters of interest in the state of Massachusetts.
MR. PAINE TO MR. GERRY.
Boston, APRIL 12, 1777. MY DEAR Sir, I have before me your kind letter of February 14th, and have delayed writing merely because I was in expectation of collecting something solid and decisive respecting some public measures, but matters seem to be worrying on at a strange rate; the regulating act, though framed with the greatest care and good intentions, and though called for by almost every body, is now reprobated by many and obeyed by few. Many that are supposed good judges in the mercantile way tell
you, " that if silver and gold were passing instead of