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1777.That it has been a common practice with the enemy, on a prisoner's being first captured, to keep him three, four* or even five days without a morsel of provisions of any kind, and then to tempt him to inlist to save his life :— That there are numerous instances of prisoners of war perishing in all the agonies of hunger from their severe treatment:—That being generally stripped of what clothes they have when taken, they have suffered greatly for the want thereof during their confinement/' This ill treatment of the American prisoners, though it shortens the lives of numbers, tends only to lengthen the war, by irritating the people at large, among whom it is quickly repotted.
Let us now quit the military for the civil department, though with respect to dates we must be retrograde. oa. On Wednesday October the 29th, Mr. president Han39*' cock closed the business of the morning by taking leave of congress in the following speech—" Gentlemen, Friday last completed two years and five months since you did me the honor of electing me to fill this chair. As I could never flatter myself your choice proceeded from any idea of my abilities, but rather from a partial opinion of my attachment to the liberties of America, I felt myself under the strongest obligations to discharge the duties of the office, and I accepted the appointment with the firmest resolution to go through the business annexed to it in the best manner I was able. Every argument conspired to make me exert myself, and I endeavoured by industry and attention to make up for every other deficiency.—As to my conduct both in and out of congress in the execution of your business, it is improper for me to fay any thing. You are the best
judges* But I think I shall be forgiven, if I say I have 1777* spared no pains, expence, or labor, to gratify your wishes, and to accomplish the views of congress.—My health being much impaired, I find some relaxation absolutely necessary, after such constant application; I must therefore request your indulgence for leave of absence for two months.—But I cannot take my departure, gen* tlemen, without expressing my thanks for the civility and politeness I have experienced from you. It is impossible to mention this without a heartfelt pleasure.—If in the course of so long a period as I have had the honor to fill this chair, any expressions may have dropped from me that may have given the least offence to any member, as it was not intentional, so I hope his candor will pass it over.—May every happiness, gentlemen, attend you both as members of this house and as individuals; and I pray Heaven, that unanimity and perseverance may go hand in hand in this house; and that every thing which may tend to distract or divide your councils, may be for ever banished."
"The congress in the afternoon ordered, "That the secretary wait on the president, and request him to furnish the house with a copy of the speech with which he took leave of congress." When the secretary laid it before them, the Friday following, one of the New York delegates introduced an answer he had prepared, which breathed too much the soothing air of servility, and possessed too small a portion of republican independency, and was therefore rejected. But it was moved, "That the thanks of congress be presented to John Hancock, esq; for the unremitted attention and steady impartiality which he has manifested in discharge of the
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«777* various duties of his office as president since his election to the chair on the 24th day of May 1775." Previous to the determination of this motion, it was moved, " to resolve as the opinion of congress, that it is improper to thank any president for the discharge of the duties of that office." The South Carolina delegates being divided, and the New Jersey delegate not voting, the states were equally divided, four and four. The question being then put on the first motion, and these delegates voting in the affirmative, it was accordingly carried six against sour.
When Mr. Hancock was first elected in consequence of Mr. Peyton Randolph's being under a necessity of returning to Virginia, it was expected that as soon as the latter repaired again to congress, the former would resign. Of this he was reminded by one of his Massachusetts brethren, when Mr. Randolph got back, but the charms of presidency made him deaf to the private advice of his colleague, and no one could with propriety move for his removal that the other might be restored. In the early stage of his presidency he acted upon republican principles; but afterward he inclined to the aristocracy of the New York delegates, connected j himself with them, and became their favorite. He at length fell in so fully with their plans, that a Rhode Isiand delegate lectured him upon it, and told him that he had forgotten the errand on which he was sent to congress, and advised him to return to his constituents. "1 :iis versatility in political sentiments, though it cha• grined, did not surprise his Massachusetts brethren; for they-remembered, that at a certain period, he was uponj the point of joining the tory club at Boston, (as it was
called) whereby he alarmed the liberty party most amaz-1777. ingly, and obliged them to exert all their influence to prevent so dangerous and mortifying an event.
In the chair he so acquitted himself, that a member of congress wrote in May, when it was thought he would return to the Massachusetts—" This letter will go by president Hancock, for whose absence from congress I am much concerned, though his great fatigue and long attendance entitle him to some relaxation. How we shall do without him I know not, for we have never yet put in a chairman, on a committee of the whole house, that could in any measure fill his place. He has not only dignity and impartiality, which are the great requisites of a president of such a body, but has an alertness, attention and readiness to conceive of any motion and its tendency, and of every alteration proposed in the , course of a debate, which greatly tends to facilitate and expedite business." .The chair is known to be his fort. As chairman of a committee, or any other body, he presides with much advantage to himself; but it has been and is observed, that the number at the head of whom he is, whether many or few, makes a wide difference in him: when great, he appears to be in his own element, and all is animation; if small, it is otherwise. This is common to public characters, especially where there is a fondness for popularity.
"Congress proceeded to the election of a president; Nov. and the ballots being taken, the honorable Henry Lau- l' rens was elected." He i:S a South Carolina delegate, a gentleman of a large estate and of an approved character. He was in England when the troubles were coming forward, and upon learning the intentions of ministry,
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1777. returned with a fixed determination to risk all in the cause of his country and liberty. Gen. Washington has pointed out to him gen. Greene,'as the most suitable person in his judgment to succeed in the chief command of the American army, in case he himself should be taken off by death or in any other way. Nov. Colonel Wilkinson, who brought the dispatches from 3" gen. Gates, attended and delivered a message from him to congress in the following words, "I have it in charge from major gen. Gates, to represent to the honorable congress, that lieut. gen. Burgoyne at the time he capitulated, was strongly intrenched on a formidable post with twelve days provision; that the reduction of fort Montgomery and the enemy's consequent progress up the Hudson's river, endangered our arsenal at Albany, a reflection which left gen. Gates no time to contest the capitulation with lieut. gen. Burgoyne, but induced the necessity of immediately closing with his proposals, hazarding a disadvantageous attack, or retiring from his position for the security of our magazine; this delicate situation abridged our conquests, and procured lieut. gen. Burgoyne the terms he enjoys. Had our attack been carried against lieut. gen. Burgoyne, the dismemberment of our army must necessarily have been such as would have incapacitated it from further action. With an army in health, vigor and spirits, major gen. Gates now waits the commands of the honorable congress." Beside thanking Gates, Lincoln, Arnold, and the rest of the officers and troops under his command, the congress resolved the next day, that a medal of gold should be struck in commemoration of the convention, and in