Autograph letter signed ("Wm Hooper"), 3 1/2 pages (14 7/8 x 9 1/4 in.; 378 x 237 mm) on a bifolium (watermarked posthorn in shield | d & c blauw), [New York, 6 February 1776]. to Joseph Hewes and John Penn ("My dear friends," at Philadelphia), docketed on final page "Wm Hooper | No date"; reinforced at central horizontal fold, a few tiny holes at intersecting folds, some light soiling. Half purple morocco slipcase, chemise.
Letters of Delegates, ed. Smith, 3:208–210
Finding Sir Henry Clinton in New York Harbor, evidently bound for the North Carolina coast, Hooper implores Hewes and Penn "that no stone should be left unturned to protect in that province the friends to the American Cause."
Hooper, a native of Boston and graduate of Harvard, left Congress for the month of February in order to visit his mother in Cambridge. During the journey he stopped at New York City, from where he filed this remarkable report to his fellow North Carolina delegates in Philadelphia. "Upon my arrival here I found that the Mercury Man of War with General Clinton on board, and a Transport under his convoy had come into this Harbour on Saturday last. This occasioned much Speculation & late last evening their destination remained a secret. It is now confessed & it is generally believed, for my own part I have not the least doubt of the fact that Genl Clinton is on his way to North Carolina. The particulars as far as we have been able to obtain information of them are these, that 7 Regiments are to embark on the first day of December from Great Britain from thence to proceed to Hampton Road there to wait till Genl Clinton joins them with the small body of troops which he carries with him from Boston & When with the Advice of Govr Dunmore [of Virginia] they have settled the plan of operations, they are to proceed to North Carolina to make an impression into that & the adjacent Colonies. Genl Clinton says that three Transports sailed with him from Boston having on board 200 light armed Troops, that they left him in a Snow Storm of[f] Sandy Hook. His object in coming in here is probably to confer with Govr Tryon & carry off what ordinance stores he can pillage from hence. We have just received information that the Men of War have dispatched their Barges to Turtle Bay to possess themselves of some Cannon Shot which are there. Genl Lee sends a party to oppose them."
Hooper is concerned that North Carolina be warned of—and reinforced for—the impending attack, fearing that otherwise Loyalists led by the deposed royal governor, Josiah Martin, will rally to Clinton. "It will immediately occur to you that it is necessary that our Constituents should be informed of this new Maneuvre, that their best efforts may be exerted to defeat the purposes of it. When I consider the defenceless State of No. Carolina arising from a want of Arms & Ammunition, the divided sentiments of the people, the effect it might have upon the Highlanders & Regulators if Governour Martin supported with a body of Troops should introduce himself amongst them, I am importunate that no stone should be left unturned to protect in that province the friends to the American Cause. I need say nothing to stimulate you to contribute every thing in your power, I do not affect to dictate, I beg leave to hint to you that it will be prudent immediately to send off an Express to Edenton with the Intelligence I herewith afford you, & thereby to recommend to them to call as soon as may be the Provincial Congress to take such measures under their Sanction as may prevent the cause of America, so far as N. Carolina is concerned in support of it, going to total destruction." Although Hewes confided in an 11 February letter to Samuel Johnston that Hooper's "anxiety ... has induced him to paint things in the Strongest colours," he and Penn did dispatch a letter to the North Carolina Council of Safety conveying Hooper's information on 13 February (Letters of Delegates 3:230, 3:250).
Hooper recommends that the Provincial Congress immediately make several provisions for the defense of North Carolina (appointing officers, drilling militia, obstructing river navigation at Cape Fear and Newbern, obtaining cannon and gunpowder) before issuing a dramatic summation: "In a Word I think everything is now at stake with us, & unless the whole force of our province is called forth—farewell to all our Struggles for freedom. We must be satisfied to sit down the Spectators of the Triumphs of our Enemies over our dearest rights & privileges, condemned to abject Slavery, as the reward of our successless virtue. May Heaven avert it."
Such is the urgency that Hooper feels for conveying this intelligence to the Provincial Council sitting at Edenton that he suggests that one or more of the colony's Continental delegates ought to return home. The letter makes clear that Hooper's trepidation is due in part to his concern that North Carolina still contains strong pockets of support for the British crown. In the event, after returning to Philadelphia, Hooper joined John Penn for the eighteen-day ride to North Carolina, where they attended the Provincial Congress that passed the Halifax Resolves (see following lot).
Apologizing for his hurry, Hooper appends a series of postscripts, reporting that "Col. Harrison says the Mercury mounts 26 Guns"; speculating that General Clinton is receiving useful information about North Carolina from New York governor William Tyron, who had previously been governor of North Carolina; revealing that William Alexander's regiment is expected shortly to reinforce General Charles Lee; and relaying a private message to James Duane, New York delegate to the Continental Congress: "My love to him & God have mercy on his Tory City."
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale