Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to Robert Treat Paine
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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.10129 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: West Point, New York Type: Autograph letter Date: 22 August 1783 Pagination: 3 p. : docket ; 35 x 23.3 cm.
Knox, Commander at West Point, writes to Paine, Attorney General of Massachusetts. Informs Paine that he instructed General [Robert] Howe, in Philadelphia, to send two men to Boston (Paine requested their presence in Boston to serve as [witnesses]; refer to GLC02437.10128). Offers a stirring declaration regarding independence and the forging of a new nation: "I sincerely reciprocate your congratulations upon the happy termination of a doubtful conflict. The prize is indeed infinitely valuable; and has been obtained with small exertions in proportion to its high worth... There are men in America who would have added lustre to the brightest age of the human race but they do not constitute the multitude nor is it necessary they should provided the multitude could be charmed by the voice of wisdom - But whenâ€¦ Envy avarice, revenge and the other black passions insist upon holding the [reigns] of Governmentâ€¦ wisdom has no [illegible] of affairs... Prudence and caution did not effect the revolution. If we would have attended only to their dictates we should never have gone into it. Nor will timorous sentiments now establish an empire. The foundations of the new [fabrick] must be layed on the immutable principles of justice, or she will totter with every wind. The Wise, and the good of all Classes must unite, and by their magnanimity save their Country... An equal just, and energetic Government is the principal engine by which the manners of the people can be influenced - If the Laws are good & well enforced, property will be secure, industry stimulated and vice and idleness discouraged."
Westpoint 22 Augt 1783
Yesterday I had the honor to receive your favor of the 14 instant, and immediately directed that the men for whom you wrote should be sent to Boston. But upon examination it was heard That Phineas Austin and Robert Cormack were with a detachment of the [Army] [illegible] General Howe at Philadelphia Thomas Austin is here but so sick as to be unable to proceed directly. perhaps in one week he may be sufficiently strong to commence his journey. I have written to Genl Howe requesting him to forward the other Austin and Cormack to you, but the operation [struck: is so lengh] will require so much time that I can scarcely hope they will arrive in season for your purpose.
I sincerely [struck: upon] reciprocate your Congratulations upon the happy termination of a doubtful conflict. The [strikeout] [struck: benefits] prize is indeed infinitely valuable; and has been obtained with small exertions in proportion to its high worth. how happy an object should we be on the present moment [inserted: for the contemplation of mankind] were [struck: the [God] of] [inserted: on] prosperity [struck phrase] [inserted: ornamented with] the virtues of humanity, justice, and patriotism. But your letter and other information [struck: info contains] contain too just  a detail of the temper and disposition of the [illiberal] and unjust part of the community, to deceive ourselves with the belief of virtues which do not [struck: prevail] [inserted: exist] in an extensive degree - There are men who [struck: know they are passengers] in America who would have added lustre to the brightest [strikeout] [inserted: age] of the human race but [struck: it is not found] they do not constitute the multitude nor is it necessary they should provided the multitude could be charmed by the voice of wisdom - But [strikeout] [inserted: when [illegible]] Envy, avarice, revenge and the other black passions insist upon holding the reigns of Government Adeiu to happiness [struck: wisdom has little to do] [inserted: wisdom has no [illegible] [strikeout] of affairs. Perhaps she assumes the form of her [inserted: illegible] sister [strikeout] Prudence and [struck: going to sleep in some] [inserted: [take a sleepy doze in some] snug corner untill the tempest be [struck] past by. However Prudence and caution [struck: and] did not effect the revolution. If we had attended only to their dictates we should never have gone into it. Nor will will timorous sentiments now establish an empire. The foundations of the new fabrick must be layed on the immutable principles of justice, or she will totter with every [strikeout] wind [strikeout]. The Wise, and the Good of all Classes must unite, and by their magnanimity save their Country. hand and vice must be obliged to fly  [struck: A] [inserted: An equal] just, and energetic Government [struck: only can] is the principal [struck: means] [inserted: engine] by which the manners of the people can be influenced - [struck: If the laws are rigidly administered] If the Laws are good & well enforced, property will be secure, Industry stimulated and vice and idleness discouraged.
I beg your pardon [strikeout] I was running in to desquisitions [sic] upon a subject of which [struck: I was to be perhaps] [inserted: secluded as I am] amid the mountains [struck: which surround] I am not [struck: too well] [inserted: perhaps sufficieny [sic]] informed - I shall soon mix [struck: more generally] with my country men where perhaps I may obtain better materials, and [struck: for] imbibe a more favorable opinion, [struck: than I] of the dispositions than I am able to do at present.
To Robert Treat Paine Esqr
22 Augt 1783 -
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