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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Cornelius Harnett to Richard Caswell
Harnett, Cornelius, 1723-1781
March 20, 1778
Volume 13, Pages 385-386

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[From MS. Records in Office of Secretary of State.]

York Town, 20th March 1778.

Dear Sir:

I have been laid up with the Gout which has prevented my writing to your Excellency for some time past, having had it in my right hand. Nothing has as yet been Determined on in Congress relative to calling out the Militia of No. Carolina. The Army remains still at Valley Forge, & we have been for some time alarmed with the Great Scarcity of flesh to feed them. My friend Burke thinks this an Artificial Scarcity. In this, we differ much in opinion, as I am convinced the want is real, as we have not been able as yet, to lay up any Magazines of Provisions, & have had only sufficient to supply the immediate wants of the Army; I am firmly of Opinion if we fail at all in the Vigour of our Operations, it will be owing to this circumstance; & by that means I fear the war may be prolonged, and our Army reduced to the necessity of carrying on a defensive war only. I hope I may be mistaken, many Gentlemen think I am. The Provisions not coming on as fast as we wish, may perhaps be owing to the badness of the weather, which has rendered the roads almost impassable. How my collegue (Penn) will get on, I know not. He is the bearer of this & I beg leave to refer you to him for further information in regard to Congress Matters. General Washington has it much at heart to Open the Campaign with Virginia before the Enemy can possibly receive reinforcements.

Our Committee are not yet arrived from Camp, but are daily expected. It is expected they will, on their arrival, Open a New field for Congress.

I intend to set off on my return home some time towards the Middle of April. I shall then have been ten months from my family, and as our Assembly pay their Delegates so very Liberally, I have neither expectation or wish to return again, as I am convinced there will be many Candidates for the Honorable imployment; I am not one, tho' I shall think it my Duty to serve my Country to the best of my poor abilities, either with or without pay.

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I suppose the Gen. Assembly will be adjourned before my return. I am sorry they had not Continued their Present Delegates until they were relieved by Others. This might have prevented our State from being unrepresented in Congress for two or three months at least, which must be the case as matters now stand.

Virginia has empowered her Delegates to ratify the Confederation. The Members from Massachusets have also private Letters informing them that their State has also done it; I do not hear of any other States doing it as yet. Connecticut wish the Quota to be fixed by the number of people in each State; every Other Objection of theirs has little weight.

Every Member of Congress seems to wish for a Confederacy except my good friend Burke, who laughs at it as a Chimerical Project; it does not strike me in that point of view. I think that unless the States Confederate A door will be left open for Continental Contention & Blood shed, and that very soon after we are at peace with Europe. I heartily wish I may be Mistaken. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect

Your Excellency's Most obed. & very hum. Servt.

P. S. Upon enquiry I find the Delegates from the several States have power to ratify the Confederation, but are to endeavor to get some Alterations made if possible. Mr. Penn will give Your Excellency further information on this subject. The Gen. Assembly of N. York have agreed unanimously & have by Commission empowered their Delegates. As I have been informed some aspersions have been thrown out to the Prejudice of Mr. Penn, I must in justice to that Gentleman's Character assure your Excellency that his Conduct as a Delegate and a Gentleman has been worthy & disinterested.

Your Honb. &c. &c. &c.