Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Morris, Robert (1734-1806) to William Whipple

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC06532 Author/Creator: Morris, Robert (1734-1806) Place Written: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 5 August 1777 Pagination: 3 p. : docket ; 23.5 x 19 cm.

Summary of Content: Morris, a Continental Congressman, discusses naval affairs with Whipple, chairman of the Congressional Marine Committee. Refers to a recent motion in Congress authorizing the Marine Committee to halt the construction of several ships of war. Since the motion was carried, relates that a stop will be put on the construction of a ship in the Connecticut River. Refers to Mr. Shaw (possibly Nathaniel Shaw, a Connecticut shipowner, merchant, and Continental agent) and Captain Chew (possibly Samuel Chew). Mentions the ships Alfred, Ranger (Captained by John Paul Jones), and Raleigh (Captained by Thomas Thompson). States "you know it had always been my opinion that our ships should go where the Enemy are weak [?] not Cruise on our own Coasts to expose our Weakness and then to be constantly taken from us. Jones has order to go for Europe I will try for similar orders for the Raleigh and send them to you but in the mean time pray let Capt Thompson go & take some prizes out of the Jamaica Fleets." Reports that British General William Howe "with 230 sail of ships appeared at our Capes a few days ago," then sailed out of sight. Docleted by Whipple.

Background Information: Signer of the U.S. Constitution. Morris played a vital role in civil administration pertaining to the Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War.

Full Transcript:
Philada August 5th. 1777
My Dr Sir
I have had the pleasure to receive your obliging favours of the 8th & 21st July, and as I lately introduced a motion in Congress ...to authorize the Marine Committee to stop the building of such of the ships of War ordered by Congress as they shou'd think improper to be carried on at the present [struck: illegible] I read that part of your first letter relatives to the ships in Connecticut River the gentln of that Country did not seem to relish it much but the motion was carried and I supposed we shall soon put a stop to the building the Ship now on the stocks in that River. Mr Shaw as wrote respecting his Money and I shall reply but wish you had mad a bargain with him for it, I fancy he wants [2] a high advance on it, I note what you say of Cap Chews intended Brigrs and doubt not one word of it. I hope the Alfred is gone on a Cruise the orders he waited for were those intended for [illegible] Expedition which being totally baffled by one accident or other, they were never sent, & the Eastern Navy board will I hope send all the ships cruising when there is not special orders for other purposes. I like well your Idea of sending the Ranger & Raliegh to Europe you know it has always been my opinion that our ships shou'd go where the enemy are weak & not cruise on our own Coasts to expose our weakness, and then to be constantly taken from us, Jones has orders to go for Europe I will try, for similar orders for the Raleigh and send them [3] to you but in the mean time pray let Capt Thompson go stake some prizes out of the Jamaica Fleet. Genl Howe with 230 Sail of Ships appeared at our capes a few days ago, but suddenly they put about & steered N.N.E. [text loss] Course with a fair wind went out of sight and we have neither seen or heard of them since, pray take care of yourselves they meditate a heavy blow somewhere. With much esteem & regard I remain
Dr Sir
Your Obedt Hble servt
Robt Morris
My Complts to Capt Jones & Capt Thompson I whish them much success -
Wm Whipple Esqre Portsmouth

[docket]
R. Morris Esq
5 Aug 1777
See More

People: Morris, Robert, 1734-1806
Whipple, William, 1730-1785
Shaw, Nathaniel, 1735-1782
Chew, Samuel, 1750-1778
Howe, William Howe, Viscount, 1729-1814
Jones, John Paul, 1747-1792
Thompson, Thomas, 1742-?

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Revolutionary WarMilitary HistoryNavyCongressContinental CongressConstructionMaritimePrivateeringCaribbeanGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsRevolutionary War General

Sub Era: The War for Independence

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources