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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from John Penn to Samuel Ashe
Penn, John, 1740 or 1-1788
September 16, 1776
Volume 10, Pages 801-802

[From MS. Records in Office of Secretary of State.]
Letter from John Penn, Delegate in the Continental Congress, to the Council of Safety.

Phila, Sept 16th, 1776.

Dear Sir,

I wrote to you by Thomas Hayward, Esq., one of the Delegates of So: Carolina, that General Howe was in possession of Long Island as also the manner in which we left it. General Sullivan, who was made a prisoner on that occasion, was sent here lately by Lord Howe with a message that his Lordship was very desirous to converse with some of the members of Congress as private Gentn and that he would meet them as Mr Howe, that he had great powers from the King to negotiate a peace, tho' we were pursuaded that he only intended to throw the odium of carrying on the war on the Congress having no reason to believe that he had any such authority. Yet to counteract his design Doctr Franklin, John Adams & Edwd Rutledge, Esqrs, were directed to meet his Lordship not as private Gentn but as a Committee of Congress to know of him what his powers were if any he had to treat with the Congress on the Subject of Peace.

The Gentn had a conference with Lord Howe who owned that he had no terms to offer to America and was not at liberty to treat with any set of men who were Representatives of the People, that he had a right to converse with Individuals & represent to the King the substance of what passed. I hope this will have a good effect as it will satisfie the people at large that we have no alternitive for our safety but our spirit as Soldiers.

The Congress have left the sending two Battalions from No: Carolina with General Moore to New York altogether to the Council of Safety. I would not advise the sending them at any rate as it is too late in the year. I suspect General Washington will remove from New York into King's bridge so that the enemy will take possession of the Town, this, will be of no great consequence as it is nearly an Island & we shall be able to confine them in it.

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The Army under General Gates were recovering their health and spirits, we have also a considerable Fleet on lake Champlain.

The last letters we had from Martinique mention that there is great reason to expect a war between France & England will break out soon in consequence of the protection given to our Vessels.

I wish the Council of Safety would signifie their pleasure to your delegates about our being at the next Convention at Halifax, indeed my Friend we shall have very little to do in Congress of any great importance untill we know what reception the confederation plan will meet with in the different States. Hooper as well as myself would be glad to come, it is what has been done in these States; do leave it to us to determine; you may depend we will not leave the Congress if anything of consequence should require us to stay.

I am Dear Sir
Your Most Obdt Servt

Perhaps it would be better to direct that we should come.

Since we are to raise such a numbr of Battalions would it not be prudent to stop the officers of the neighbouring States from inlisting any more men in No: Carolina untill we have compleated our Quota.

Since writing the above I hear General Washington has removed from New York so that Lord Howe I suppose is there, it was prudent or otherwise he might have been surrounded.

J. P.