Not Fifty People In The Whole Colony Ever Expected Any Blood Would Be Shed

in by Warren

 “Committee of Donations

Cambridge, May 15, 1775.

Dear Sir, – I received your very kind letter, enclosing a bill of exchange of four hundred and twenty dollars, in favor of the distressed poor of Boston, upon Mr. Rotch, which I shall take the first opportunity of sending to him, not doubting but it will be duly honored. The sympathy which you discover to have, both in our sufferings and successes in opposing the enemies to the country, is a fresh proof of that benevolence and public spirit which I ever found in you. I rejoice that our friends in Philadelphia are united, and that all are at last brought to see the barbarous scheme of oppression which Administration has formed. We are all embarked in one bottom: if one colony is enslaved, she will be immediately improved as an engine to subdue the others. This our enemies know, and for this cause they have used ,every art to divide us one from the other, to encourage every groundless prejudice, which they could hope to separate us. Our arch-traitor, Hutchinson, has labored hard in this service. He seems to have fully adopted old Juno’s maxim, – Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo.”

I send you a few extracts from some of his letters, which have fortunately fallen in my hands. I likewise send you a pamphlet containing the regulations for the army. You are kind enough to say, that our friends in Philadelphia will assist with whatever they can, when hey know our wants, which fills us with a lively sense of the generosity of your colony. To say the truth, we are in want of almost every thing, but of nothing so much as arms and ammunition; for, although much time has been spent in procuring these articles, yet the people never seemed in earnest about the matter until after the engagement of the 19th ult. : and I verily believe, that the night preceding the barbarous outrages committed by the soldiery at Lexington, Concord, &c., there were not fifty people in the whole colony that ever expected any blood would be shed in the contest between us and Great Britain.

The repeated intelligence I received from the best authority, of the sanguinary, malicious temper of the present Administration, together with a perfect knowledge of the inhumanity and wickedness of the villains at Boston who had the ear of General Gage, compelled me to believe that matters would be urged to the last extremity.

Any assistance, of what kind soever, that can be afforded us by our sister colony, in this all-important struggle for the Freedom of America, will be received with the warmest gratitude.  For particulars relative to our publick affairs I refer you my very intimate friend Doctr Church a member of our Congress with a state of this Colony respecting civil Government in him you will find a polite Gentleman, a good Companion & a Person of fine understanding.

I am, dear sir, with much regard and esteem, your most humble servant,

Joseph Warren.

To Joseph Reed, Esq  Philadelphia

: of the Extracts of Mr. Hutchinsons Letters which promised you & [    ] I had not time to take off, but have sent a Number to Mr. Saml Adams who will gladly communicate them to you if you think them worth your perusal.—”

Source:  Ms letter Joseph Warren to Joseph Reed dated May 15, 1775. In Gratz Collection of Generals of the Revolution, Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, transcribed by me from a facsimile of the original.  Transcriptions also appear in Richard Frothingham, Life and Times of Joseph Warren. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1865, pp. 486-487;  and William. B Reed and Joseph Reed, Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, Military Secretary of Washington. 2 vols. Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1847, Vol. I, p. 104 in a shortened version.

Commentary:  In his biography of Warren, Richard Frothingham omitted the laudatory introduction of Dr. Benjamin Church on the latter’s special mission to the Continental Congress.  It is the sole instance I have found of an abridgement changing meaning within Frothingham’s meticulous biography and other writings.  Frothingham’s general practice of reproducing full texts of source documents renders his work a durable scholarly source which has outlasted his 19th century hagiographic and triumphalist interpretive framework.

This omission, combined with Paul Revere’s later recollections written to Jeremy Belknap in 1798, might lead one to believe that Joseph Warren harbored suspicions of Benjamin Church’s patriotism.  On the contrary, this unabridged letter to Joseph Reed on behalf of “my intimate friend Dr. Church” reflects full confidence in the context of a sensitive mission to the Second Continental Congress. If Warren did want to get him out of the way of Siege of Boston operations following Church’s misdirection of General Thomas on May 10, 1775, it appears that it was not on the grounds of any serious suspicion of Church’s disloyalty. 

Warren’s candor concerning the true state of military capabilities, and his engaging personality surmounting the formality of the pen, won many friends among Patriot leaders.

This letter may have contributed to Joseph Reed’s determination to come to Massachusetts to personally commit his “life, fortune, and sacred honor” to the American cause. Within months Reed became a member of George Washington’s staff in Cambridge and one of his closest confidantes. By 1777 the relationship became strained over General Charles Lee’s criticism of Washington’s leadership during the New York campaign, and Reed’s participation in that correspondence.

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