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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Cornelius Harnett to Richard Caswell
Harnett, Cornelius, 1723-1781
August 31, 1779
Volume 14, Pages 201-203

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Philadelphia, August 31st, 1779.

Dr. Sir:

Since I had the honor of writing to your Excellency a few weeks ago, great changes have happened in the face of Political Affairs in Europe. The Court of London's refusing the Mediation of Spain brings the latter into an immediate Commencement of Hostilities, which, by the latest accounts received, (tho' not officially communicated as yet,) are already begun, and may perhaps be a means of continuing the War some time longer; should the Allies be successful this Campaign, perhaps Britain may be brought to reason, and agree to negotiate the next winter.

Sixty odd sail of large Vessels entering at Sandy Hook a few days ago makes it probable Arbuthnot's Fleet is arrived with

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Troops, some say 8,000, some 4,000 & others 3,000. The successes of the combined Fleets of France & Spain in the West Indies may oblige the Commander in Chief at New York to send strong reinforcements to the British Islands, which will help these States greatly. It is thrown out that the Enemy intend to carry on no more than a depredatory War against these States, for the present, laying aside the Idea of Conquest. It, therefore, no doubt behooves the several States to guard well their Sea coasts. Your Excellency will no doubt be particularly attentive to this circumstance. I would wish the State I have the honor to represent had been more attentive to the procuring Arms to put into the hands of our people. I fear should any attack be made upon us that we shall be exceedingly deficient in this useful Article for defence. Surely something is done at the mouth of Cape Fear River—a very small battery of heavy Cannon there would protect us (at least) from small Cruisers.

The Count De la Luzerne is not yet arrived from Boston. Mr. Gerard remains here until he comes, & then will proceed in a Frigate for France. The Count is represented as a Gentleman of great politeness, and a consummate Politician, connected with many of the first families of France. The two very Brilliant affairs at Stoney Point and Paulus' Hook shews that a spirit of Enterprise has taken possession of all ranks in the Army, and will no doubt make the Enemy very cautious in their movements hereafter.

It is impossible for a person at a distance to conceive the excessive prices every necessary of life is advanced to in this City. Congress seem determined to put a stop to further Emissions of money. I wish they may be able to accomplish this desirable object, and supply their Army; but many are apprehensive of the Consequences that may attend the measure.

We are informed that the N. England Expedition against Penobscot has failed, and that the Enemy has destroyed or taken the little fleet. This misfortune has been long expected; expeditions by Sea are dangerous while the Enemy's Fleets continue the command of that Element. I hope this affair is not so bad as represented. Congress have not as yet received the account from authority.

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I take the liberty to enclose a few newspapers, and have the honor to be, with great respect,

Your Excellency's Mo. ob. huml. Serv't,
Gov. Caswell.