Silas Deane Online

S. Deane to Elizabeth Deane
August-September 1774

… Wednesday morning. An express arrived from N. York, confirming the acct of a rupture at Boston. All is in confusion. I cannot say that all faces gather paleness, but they all gather indignation, and every tongue pronounces revenge. The bells toll muffled, and the people run as in a case of extremity, they know not where nor why. The Congress met, and opened with a Prayer made by the Rev. Mr. Deshay [Duché] which it was worth riding one hundred miles to hear. He read the Lessons of the day, which were accidentally extremely applicable, and then prayed without book about ten minutes so pertinently, with such fervency, purity and sublimity of style and sentiment, and with such an apparent sensibility of the scenes and business before us, that even Quakers shed tears. The thanks of the Congress were most unanimously returned him by a select honorable committee. We are just now formed into Committees, and our business is laid out, which, as we mean to go to the bottom, nothing but Gen. Gage and a greater force than he has at Boston will prevent our sitting some time.

I will now give you the character of the Delegates, beginning at South Carolina, as they are the Southernmost. Mr. Lynch is a gentleman about sixty, and could you see him, I need say nothing more. He has much the appearance of Mr. Jam. Mumford, deceased; dresses as plain, or plainer; is of immense fortune, and has his family with him. He wears the manufacture of this country; is plain, sensible, above ceremony, and carries with him more force in his very appearance than most powdered folks in their conversation. He wears his hair strait, his clothes in the plainest order, and is highly esteemed. With him are two brothers, Mr. Rutledge, Sr. and Jr., of independent fortune, ingenious, but impetuous in the Cause they are engaged in; the eldest, I judge, of my age; his lady, and a son of Jesse’s age, is with him. They lodge at the next door. The younger brother is a tolerable speaker, equally zealous. He married Mr. Gadsen’s daughter, who as I told you lodges with us. Mr. Gadsen leaves all New England Sons of Liberty far behind, for he is for taking up his firelock and marching direct to Boston; nay, he affirmed this morning, that were his wife and all his children in Boston, and they were there to perish by the sword, it would not alter his sentiment or proceeding for American Liberty; by which you may judge of the man, when I add that he is one of the most regularly religious men I ever met with. Col. Middleton is the only remaining member for that Province whom I have not characterized. He appears very modest; he said but little hitherto; is, I judge, fifty years of age, and of a very slender thin habit; but is in high esteem by this acquaintance.

Virginia comes next, but that must be the business of a future hour.
This evening I spent at Mr. Roberto’s [Roberdeau’s], a gentleman of fortune, who married Mr. Bostwick’s daughter. She is a most amiable woman, and often reminded me of the late Mrs. Adam Babcock, whom she greatly resembles. Both she and he are too zealous Presbysterians for me, which is all the fault I find with them. They gave Mr. Murray a very indifferent character, but not as to morals.

Thursday morning. We are all in the greatest anxiety; that of a most cruel suspense as to the certainty of the Boston rupture, as no fresh intelligence has as yet arrived. Though entirely in health, yet to shake off a lassitude gathering on me, I rode out this morning in company with Miss Levy who lodges here, five miles south of this city, before breakfast. This is perfectly fine, both the natural soil and the improvements; and she was able to give me the names of the owners of the different seats we pass’d by, which was a entertaining as the morning air was refreshing. I wished often you could have taken a seat with us, and admired the country and prospects. A river on each side of us, the Delaware and Schuylkill, at about three miles distance; the former full of larger topsail vessels at anchor or under sail, and the latter winding through a fine intervale meadow full of cattle fattening for market, for in these meadows they feed all the beef for the city. B. Deane sets out in the morning, so shall close my journal this evening.

3 P.M. Having promised to wait on Mr. Marshall, my kind friend before mentioned, at 4 o’clock, I have only time to add that to our joy Putnam’s blundering story is contradicted, and that every thing as yet wears the most favorable aspect which zeal and unanimity can promise us. My friends must content themselves with my expensive tarry, for to settle the rights and ascertain the privileges of a Continent like this is a work of time, and serious beyond the conception of a bystander. You will read this in full circle, and the bearer must explain it.

My love to all, Sally Hannah, Hetty, Jesse, &c., &c.
I am most affectionately, yours,
Silas Deane.


Philadelphia, Sept. 8th, 1774.
Turn to the Morning Service in the prayer book, for the 7th day of the month, - Psalm 35th, I think it is.

As Doc. Turner goes in the morning, I close my letter with adding, that the bells of the city are now ringing a peal of joy on acct of the news of Boston’s having been destroyed, being contradicted.

Friday morning, Sept. 9th. Barzillai will not set out untill to-morrow or Monday, and on the whole I find my letter will reach you as early by him as by Doc. Turner; and it being of such a miscellaneous composition, I am unwilling it should pass through too many hands, lest curiosity should overcome delicacy in the passage, and the consequence be a misconstruction of my sentiments.

It gives me some uneasiness to think that you will be disappointed by this post, that is, this week’s post, but you will not blame me when you receive this budget and find I have wrote to you every day, and oftener. Yesterday afternoon, my Friend Marshall call’d on Friend Deane, and Brother, &c., and waited on us to what is called the Bettering House, in other words a poor house; the particular description of which must omit, and say only that it vastly exceeds all of the kind in America put together and, I guess, equals in its excellent institutions any thing in Europe. It has ample room for five hundred lodgers. There are about three hundred in it, old and young, from the poor old mortal expiring with age to the foundling pick’d up in the streets but the night before perhaps. All is neat and clean; even the rooms of the sick, and the walks and yard are very airy and lightsome; the yard and garden very spacious. Here all that can labour are put to it, and what they earn goes into the common stock. Here are about fifty looms, wheels, &c., &c., in proportion; and those that can work at no trade mend clothes and clean rooms, fetch and carry, as we may say, for those that do labour. This house, I judge, must have cost forty thousand pounds, and the annual support of it amounts to about two thousand. Here are two schools for the poor children, and nothing that serves at once to alleviate the wants and distresses of age, sickness and poverty is unattended to. It put me in mind, at entering the house and meeting some poor old women at the door who seemed as rejoiced at seeing my friend at if he were their son, of the line of Pope,

“ Where Age and Want sat smiling at the gate.”

All this is done by private donation, and chiefly by the people called Quakers, among whom the Marshalls are some of the first; yet, as if these people determined to outdo all the rest of the world, they never permit any of their own poor to be sent here, but support them in a neat house by themselves, which is provided with gardens, but too much in the center of the city, occasioned by it being built early; whereas the Bettering House stand without the city in the fields. Returning, we took a view of a more melancholy scene, a prison now erecting, the construction of which is most curious. It is one hundred ninety feet in length, besides two wings of one hundred twenty feet each. This, I say, is a more melancholy scene, as it gives more gloomy ideas to view the punishments prepared for the wicked than provisions for the relief of the unfortunate and the miserable. I write as I view things; and as you will preserve this budget, after shewing it to J. Webb, &c., will explain it on my return, more at large.

The following is a list of the Congress in the order they stand:

For New Hampshire-Col. Fulsome, Maj. Sullivan.

Massachusetts-Hon. Mr. Cushing, Mr. Samual Adams, Mr. John Adams, Mr. Robert T. Paine.

Rhode Island-Hon. Mr. Ward, Hon. Mr. Hopkins.

Connecticut-Hon. Eliphalet Dyer, Mr. S. Deane, Hon. Mr. Sherman.

New York-Mr. P. Livingston, Mr. Isaac Low, Mr. John Jay, Mr. John Alsop, Col. Floyd.

New Jersey-Mr. Wm. Livingston, Mr. De Hart, Mr. Crane, Mr. Smith, Mr. McKinsey.

Pennsylvania-Hon. Joseph Galloway, Mr. Mifflin, Mr. Biddle, Mr. Morton, Mr. Ross, Mr. Rhoads, Mr. Humphreys.

Lower Counties- Hon. Cesar Rodney, Mr. McKean; Mr. Read.

Maryland-Mr. Tilghman, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Goldsborough, Mr. Paca, Mr. Chase.

Virginia-Hon. Peyton Randolph, President; Col. Washington, Col. Bland, Col Harrison, Mr. Henry, Mr. Pendleton, Mr. Charles Henry Lee.

South Carolina-Mr. Lynch, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Gadsden, Col. Middleton, Mr. Rutledge, Jr.

Charles Thompson Secretary.

Two Committees are now out, and when they report I shall be able to judge better of our business. The one is to ascertain our Rights, enumerate the violations of them, and recommend a proper mode of Redress. The other, to take a view of all those Acts of the British Parliament which affect our Trade and Manufactures. I am in the latter Committee, which I must attend directly.

Coll. Conn. Hist. Society, II., 163.


To Mrs. Elizabeth Deane
My Dear,-Barney supp’d with us last night, and set out this morning at five. By him you will receive our proceedings to the time of his departure. The family we lodge in here consists of a widow lady, turned of forty as I judge, genteel and sensible; has been handsome, and is still comely. She has a daughter, her eldest child, lately married to a Lieutenant in the Regiment here, one Mr. Trist, who lodges with us. She has also two sons, that are one at apprentice with a merchant, the other at school. This is the standing family, but every room is now full. Two more gentlemen from Charlestown, So. Carolina, and a sick gentleman from Jamaica lodge here. The two former arrived last evening; the latter, poor man, has been here some time, and will probably never more remove but by the help of others to his last lodgings-the Grave. I have not seen him. The officer here is much to be pitied. His commission is his principal dependence. He loves this country; he loves his young wife, who is very deserving and who is a warm Daughter of Liberty; yet [he] is ordered this morning to be ready to march in the afternoon for Boston. This is really affecting, and my passions are too sensible of soft impressions to view the struggle between duty (so called), interest, and honor military on the one hand, and affection and an honest regard and tenderness on the other. As we have all dined and supp’d together on a free footing at the same table, he seems the nearer to us; and our repeatedly asserting that the troops at Boston would be cut off if they attempted any thing against that town and province, gives him and his connections the most uneasy and melancholy apprehensions. Could he get rid of his commission on any terms short of ruining himself, he would gladly do it.

The troops here which are to assist in reducing New England and all America, amount to one hundred and eighty, of which sixty are old, worn-out invalids, unable to march as far as Boston in six weeks, were they to have the plunder of the town for their asking, and the rest disaffected to the unnatural employ. It is a doubt with me whether the people here will let them march. Had blood been shed by the soldiery at Boston, there would have been no doubt at all, for these soldiers in that case would before this have been disarmed and dispersed; but it is dangerous to begin hostility but on the most urgent occasion and, indeed, absolute necessity. I design to view them when on their march.

I gave you the character of the South Carolina delegates, or rather a sketch. I will now pursue the plan I designed. Mr. Randolph, our worthy President, may be rising of sixty, of noble appearance, and presides with dignity. Col. Harrison may be fifty; an uncommonly large man, and appears rather rough in his address and speech. Col. Washington is nearly as tall a man as Col. Fitch, and almost as hard a countenance; yet with a very young look and an easy, soldierlike air, and gesture. He does not appear above forty-five, yet was in the first actions in 1753 and 1754 on the Ohio, and in 1755 was with Braddock, and was the means of saving the remains of that unfortunate army. It is said that in the house of Burgesses in Virginia, on hearing of the Boston Port Bill, he offered to raise and arm and lead one thousand men himself at his own expense, for the defence of the country, were there need of it. His fortune is said to be equal to such an undertaking. Col. Bland is a plain, sensible man, deeply studied into and acquainted with the antiquities of Virginia and of this Continent in general; has wrote several very sensible pieces on the subject, and is a tolerable speaker in public, as is Col. Washington, who speaks very modestly and in cool but determined style and accent. Mr. Pendleton is a lawyer of eminence, of easy and cheerful countenance, polite in address, and elegant if not eloquent in style and elocution. Mr. Henry is also a lawyer, and the completest speaker I ever heard. If his future speeches are equal to the small samples he has hitherto given us, they will be worth preserving, but in a letter I can give you no idea of the music of his voice, or the highwrought yet natural elegance of his style and manner. Col. Lee is said to be his rival in eloquence, and in Virginia and to the southward they are styled the Demosthenes and Cicero of America. God grant they may not, like them, plead in vain for the Liberties of their Country. These last gentlemen are now in full life, perhaps near fifty, and have made the Constitution and history of G. Britain and America their capital study ever since the late troubles between them have arisen.

Sunday. We dined yesterday with Mr. Wharton, a plain, hospitable Quaker family of great connections in this City and on this Continent, as well as in Europe, but I think has as much of the Serpent as the Dove in his composition. He treated us with the utmost politeness and carried us in his coach after dinner to his country seat, and about ten miles south of this City, to view the country, which is fine and rich almost beyond comparison. The industry of this city exceeds anything you can have an idea of. The Delaware naturally overflowed at every tide a large tract of land on which consequently nothing grew but alders and rushes. This they enclosed with a dyke for miles in length, and by keeping the tide out have made it the richest meadow I ever saw. It is said to contain fifty thousand acres. I honestly owned beat to Mr. Wharton, for though I have seen as good land in Wethersfield, I never saw such an extent of it. This morning we set out to look up Mr. Deshay [Duché], but being unwell, he only read prayers, and Mr. White preached. After dinner we went to Mr. Sproat’s, but finding that neither Mr. Sproat nor Mr. Spencer preached, but an indifferent old gentleman, I pushed on and heard Mr. Coombs, who is called a rival to Mr. Deshay, and at evening heard Mr. Spencer who is a very sensible good preacher.

Monday. This day as usual was spent on Committees; Tuesday we dined with Mr. Smith, a merchant of this City, and on Wednesday and Thursday attended our business. Friday we had a grand entertainment at the State House. Sammy Webb must describe it About five hundred gentlemen sat down at once, and I will only say there was a plenty of every thing eatable and drinkable, and no scarcity of good humor and diversion. We had, besides the delegates, gentlemen from every province on the Continent present.

Saturday. I send the Resolves of this day, which are applauded to the skies by the inhabitants of this city, so will say nothing more about them. When I shall return is as uncertain as it was on my first entering the city. I arm myself with patience, and determine not to desert the cause. I hope your health returns. J. Webb says it does, but I had rather see it under your own hand. Mr. Revere sets out in the morning early, and by him I send this letter which brings me to Sunday evening; having heard Mr. Deshay in the morning, and a Highland parson just imported the last week from the mountains of North Scotland this afternoon. I saw Wm Goddard here, but he looks dejected, and I thought did not much choose being seen in public. He most certainly engaged two potent adversaries when he differed with Galloway and Wharton. My most affectionate regards to all of both families, and to the neighborhood.

I am, my dear, your most affectionate husband,
Silas Deane.

P.S. I shall possibly write again before I return, but not so lengthy, as I am really hurried, and have many more engagements than I wish for, though they are agreeable; am engaged to dine out every day this week, once with Mr. Dickinson, and once with a Quaker just married. You will begin to suspect we do nothing else, but I assure you it is hard work. We meet at nine and sit until three, by which time we are unable to do anything but eat and drink the rest of the day.

Love to all. S.D.


[Philadelphia] Monday evening, 11 o’clock,
19th Sept., 1774.
I tell you on the other page that I shall not be so particular in my future letters. I shall not have time, for the business of the Congress having been at Committees, and the Committees I was upon having the least difficulty, has given me time to scribble; but as both Committees are now ready to report, we shall attend night and day until we get through or adjourn. I believe we shall adjourn until May next, but this is out door talk. If we do, I hope you will then have an opportunity of seeing this City, which I do think is a healthy one, and my countenance shows it, for every one of my Quaker friends I meet tells me, “Thee lookest very well, Friend Deane.”

Coll. Conn. Hist. Society, II.,179.


To Mrs. Elizabeth Deane
My dear,-My last by S. Webb, brought me down to Tuesday of this week, the 22nd, when he left us, much regretted by the younger lodgers in the family, and I assure you not a little miss’d by a numerous, and I may add a very genteel, acquaintance in the City.

I told you in my last, that I could not in future be so particular, but as I gave you a sketch of the S. Carolina and Virginia delegates, and the North Carolina being now arrived, I will fill up the space by telling you there are three of them:-Mr. Hooper, Mr. Caswell, and Mr [Hewes]. The first is a Bostonian bred, and educated at Cambridge College, classmate with Jos. Trumbull; a lawyer by profession, ingenuous, polite, spirited, and tolerably eloquent. The other two are men of about forty, to appearance, of sedate and settled characters, well affected to the general Cause, but have not spoke as yet publicly.

On Tuesday we dined with Mr. Read, a gentleman of the law, very polite and sensible. He married the Boston agent Mr. Debert’s daughter, in London; and though small is of a most elegant figure and countenance. She is a Daughter of Liberty, zealously affected in a good Cause. On Wednesday we dined with Mr. Biddle, a Friend, lately married to a young lady in Rhode Island; he brought her home but last week; her name I think was Cornel, of a Friend family,- though indeed the younger and politer part of that profession in this city are not distinguishable, but in a very few particulars, from other people. Mr. Biddle was a young widower; is a peculiar friend to the New England people and seems to have even a great prejudice in their favor. It is not probable that a most beautiful young wife will alter his opinion. Mr. Galloway, Mr. Hooper, &c., dined with us, and yesterday we dined with the celebrated Pennsylvania Farmer, alias Mr. Dickinson, at his country seat, four miles from town, a description of which must be omitted until my return.

Our business, you begin to think, proceeds slow, but it is not in consequence of any divisions or altercations in the Congress, but from the vast, extensive, and lasting importance of the questions before us. I wish you could have come here with me. I think it is as healthy a place as any on the Continent, and otherways very agreeable. I fear I shall have too high an opinion of this City, it is so much to be preferred to New York, in point of civility and hospitality as well as frugality and economy; but the country round is vastly inferior to ours on Connecticut River, nor will any part, except the meadows I mentioned, bear any comparison with the towns of Middletown, Wethersfield, Hartford, &c. I expect a letter by to-morrow’s post, so will not add until I receive that.

Friday, 23rd Sept., 1774.

I am, &c.,
S. Deane.

Saturday evening. The post arrived, but no letters, save one word from J. Webb, and but one. Have an opportunity of sending this in the morning, therefore add, tho’ late at evening, that you or your friends for you must write me, more particularly. For here I have wrote into Connecticut more than one hundred pages, and can receive nothing in return, or what is worse than nothing, a perfect uncertainty as to your situation in point of health. Nothing but the business before us could detain me one moment, having seen and been acquainted with all I wish connected with in this City, either for curiosity or instruction; and to be detained three weeks longer is intolerable in thought. I will not therefore think of it,-but praying for your repose this evening and your happiness forever, subscribe,

Your most affectionate Husband,
Silas Deane.

P.S. Sally, Hannah, Jesse, &c., are in my remembrance.

[Addressed:] To Mrs. Elizabeth Deane,

Coll. Conn. Hist. Society, II., 184.


Descriptive Title: Document 9
Description: Continuation of Document 7, Part 3
Location: Connecticut Historical Society Museum
Copyright: Connecticut Historical Society Museum
Author/Creator: Silas Deane
Date Created: August- September 1774
Publisher: Connecticut Historical Society Museum
Editor: J. Hammond Trumbull
Subject: Describing the Delegates
Reaction: None


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