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to prevent the spare arms from being carried off, as the act of the committee did not authorize the troops taking any other arms than such as they carried on their backs.
“While I was making this explanation to the Major, David Matthews, Esq., came up and accosted me in the following words : 'I am surprised, Mr. Willet, that you will hazard the peace and endanger the lives of our citizens when you know that the committee has directed that the troops shall be permitted to depart unmolested.' As Mr. Matthews was a Tory and zealous supporter of the measures of the British Government, his presence or opinion could have no influence with me, and I very unhesitatingly assured him . . . that, considering the bloody business which had taken place among our brethren in Massachusetts, whom we were bound by ties of honor as well as interest to support, I deemed it my duty to prevent these arms from being used against them, and conceived that it would be much more reputable for us to employ them in the defence of our injured country,
“While this question was agitating with the Major and the Mayor, [Matthews,] Mr. Gouverneur Morris made his appearance, and, to my great astonishment, joined the Mayor in opinion. Mr. Morris's situation was very different from that of the Mayor's. He was a Whig of very respectable connections and young, of brilliant talents. To be opposed by Mr. Morris staggered me — And I doubt whether all my zeal and enthusiasm would have supported me had it not been for the arrival at that critical moment of John Morin Scott, who was an influential member of the committee, and whose reputation for talents was as great as any in the city. He came up just as I was repeating to Mr. Morris the reasons of my conduct, and exclaimed in a loud voice: You are right, Willett; the committee has not given them permission to carry off any spare arms.' By this time the throng of people around us had greatly increased and were pressing in on every side. . Mr. Scott's opinion was scarcely proclaimed when I turned the front cart to the right and directed the cartman to drive up Beaver Street; the other carts, which were loaded with arms, were made to follow."
At the suggestion of Scott, Willett jumped in one of the carts and announced to the soldiers that if they were ready to aid in
the bloody business the patriots were ready to meet them “in the sanguine field,” but if any of them felt a repugnance to the work of shedding their countrymen’s blood they would be protected. One redcoat came forward and was received with great cheers.
The carts, accompanied by the continual huzzas of the people, were thereupon turned back, and, making their way through Beaver Street and upon the Broad Way, deposited their chests in a ball alley at the corner of John Street. These arms were afterward used by the first troops raised in New York by the Committee.
The forbearance of the British Major on this occasion has always been a cause of great surprise. It was perhaps due to his sympathy with the American cause, as shortly after he resigned his commission.
No doubt the advice of the sage and patriotic Morris in this instance was eminently proper, but as sometimes happens the rash and audacious deed of Willett bore good fruit and rendered his name and his service immortal.
During the Revolutionary War, Willett became one of the most efficient officers in the American army. Subsequently he occupied the position of Sheriff, and in 1807 was Mayor of the City.
Sheriff and Willett Streets were both named in his honor. He died at the ripe old age of ninety, and was buried in a coffin made of pieces of wood collected by himself from various Revolutionary battlefields. — ALBERT ULMANN, in the New York Times — Saturday Review.
[See page 105] As many seem to identify privateering with piracy, a word on the subject may not be inopportune.
According to the law of nations, when one power has declared war against another, all the subjects of the one are enemies to the subjects of the other, and consequently the subjects of one power may not properly complain of hostile acts done by those of the adverse power, even though such acts should not have been specially commanded by the power. Usually, however, unsanctioned inimical acts have been practically condemned by nearly all civilized nations, for, although not looked upon as piracy, yet they would be irreg
ular. The universal rule is that, except in case of self-defence, only those regularly enrolled by their respective powers should take part in warfare. To the sovereign power it belongs to make war, and in doing so it may employ what means it sees fit. It may limit itself to its own resources, or it may
make use of those of others, either by land or sea; it may employ only its public vessels, or it may avail itself of vessels belonging to private persons; and in doing the latter, the fact of giving them a commission forms of such forces in respect to the navy what would compare with a volunteer force in respect to the regular army, for in both of these cases the commissions they bear make of them servants of the State. To guard against the abuses incident to piracy, such sea forces are subject to certain regulations.
Unprepared as were the colonies for warfare on land, to a greater degree were they so by sea. Warfare against the French, Spanish, and Indians had necessarily imparted to the colonists a certain degree of experience and discipline, but never having entered into contest with these foes on the sea, they had consequently no advantage whatever. Far easier was it for them to raise an army, and to drill it on firm land which had been their basis in every operation since their advent, than to build and equip vessels, and perform evolutions on such an unstable and unaccustomed element as water. Subjects also could be found more ready to rise up and equip themselves to defend their hearth-fires than to leave them to the mercy of their enemy
and forth to meet such of them as were already considered masters of the sea.
The origin of the United States navy dated only from 1775, in which year Congress authorized two cruisers to be built, the one carrying ten, the other fourteen guns ; soon after, fifteen other vessels were authorized to be built, carrying from twenty to thirty-six guns, — the colonies of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland bearing the expense of their construction. On December 22, 1775, Esek Hopkins and Paul Jones were appointed, respectively, commander-in-chief and lieutenant ; there was also appointed a corps of naval officers. By October, 1776, the infant navy numbered twenty-six vessels, mounting 536 guns, and with this ineffectual armament, the colonies were to meet the superior force of Great Britain,
until such time as the French Aleet came to assist them in their efforts. They were utterly unable to succeed in combined operation against the British, as in the very few encounters they had, the colonists came off conquered ; consequently the sea-coast was at the mercy of the oppressors.
Seeing the necessity of enlarging their force, Congress gladly granted letters of marque to any well-known patriots who should be venturesome enough to undertake the work of assisting their country on the sea. Without these letters of marque such vessels would have been treated, when captured, as ordinary pirates. The instructions issued by Congress to all privateers during the Revolution were as follows:
" I. You may by force of arms attack, subdue, and take all ships and other vessels belonging to the inhabitants of Great Britain, on the high sea, or between high water and low water marks, except ships and vessels bringing persons who intend to settle and reside in the United States; or bringing arms, ammunition or warlike stores to the said colonies, for the use of such inhabitants thereof as are friends to the American Cause, which you shall suffer to pass unmolested, the commander thereof permitting a peaceable search and giving satisfactory information of the contents of the ladings and the destination of the voyages.
“II. You may by force of arms subdue and take all ships and other vessels whatsoever carrying soldiers, arms, gunpowder, ammunition, provisions, or any other contraband goods to any of the British armies or ships of war employed against the colonies.
“III. You shall bring such ships and vessels as you shall take, with their guns, tackle, apparel, furniture and lading, to some convenient port ora port of the united Colonies, that proceedings may thereupon be had in due form before the courts which are or shall be then appointed to hear and determine causes civil and maritime.
“IV. You or one of your chief officers shall bring or send the master and pilot and one or more principal person or persons of the company of every ship or vessel by you taken, as soon after the capture as may be, to the Judge or Judges, of such court as aforesaid to be examined upon oath and make answer to the interrogatories which may be propounded touching
the interest or property of the ship or vessel and her lading, and at the same time you shall deliver or cause to be delivered to the Judge or Judges all Passes, Sea Briefs, Charter-Parties, Bills of Lading, Lockers, Letters and Documents, and Writings found on Board, proving the said Papers by the Affidavit of yourself, or of some other Person present at the Capture, to be produced as they were received, without Fraud, Addition, Subtraction, or Embezzlement.
« V. You shall keep and preserve every Ship or Vessel and Cargo by you taken until they shall by Sentence of a Court properly authorized be adjudged lawful Prize, not selling, wasting, or diminishing the same or breaking the Bulk thereof, not Suffering any such Thing to be done.
“ VI. If you or any of your Officers or Crew shall in cold blood, kill or maim, or, by Torture or otherwise, Cruelly, inhumanly, and contrary to common usage and the Practice of civilized nations in war treat any Person or Persons surprised in the Ship or Vessel you shall take, the offender shall be severely punished.
“VII. You shall by all convenient Opportunities, send to Congress written accounts of the Capture you shall make, with the number and names of the Captives, Copies of your Journal from time to time, and Intelligence of what may occur or be discovered concerning the Design of the Enemy and the Destinations, motion and Operation of their Fleets and armies.
“ VIII. One third, at least of your whole company shall be Land men.
“ IX. You shall not ransom any Prisoners or Captives, but shall dispose of them in such manner as the Congress, or if that be not sitting in the Colony whither they shall be brought, as the General Assembly, Convention or Council or Committee of Safety of such Colony shall direct.
“X. You shall observe all such further instructions as Congress shall hereafter give, in the promise you shall have notice thereof.
“ XI. If you shall do anything contrary to these instructions or to others hereafter to be given, or willingly suffer such things to be done, you shall not only forfeit your commission and be liable to an Action for Breach of the Condition of your Bond,