To the Honorable Henry Laurens January 14, 1779

To the Honorable Henry Laurens January 14, 1779



My anxiety for your personal safety has not only fixed a profound silence upon me, but prevents my asking you a great many questions, lest I should be the unwilling, unfortunate cause of new difficulties or fatal consequences to you, and in such a case I might indeed say, “’T is the survivor dies.

I omitted sending the enclosed in the morning as I intended. It will serve you to parry ill nature and ingratitude with, when undeserved reflections are cast upon me.

I certainly have some awkward natural feeling, which I never shall get rid of. I was sensible of a kind of shame at the Minister’s door to-day, lest any one should think I was going to solicit a pardon or a pension. When I come to you I feel only an unwillingness to be seen, on your account. I shall never make a courtier, I see that.

I am your obedient humble servant,


January 14, 1779.


For your amusement I give you a short history of my conduct since I have been in America —

I brought with me Letters of Introduction from Dr. Franklin. These letters were with a flying seal, that I might if I thought proper close them with a wafer. One was to Mr. Beache of this City the Terms of Dr. Franklin’s recommendation were “a worthy, ingenious, &c.” My particular design was to establish an Academy on the plan they are conducted in and about London which I was well acquainted with. I came some months before Dr. Franklin, and waited here for his arrival. In the mean Time a person of this City desired me to give him some assistance in conducting a magazine, which I did without making any bargain. The work turned out very profitable — Dr. Witherspoon had likewise a concern it. At the end of six months I thought it necessary to come to some contract. I agreed to leave the matters to Arbitration. The Bookseller mentioned two on his own part, Mr. Duchee your late chaplain, and Mr. Hopkinson — I agreed to them and declined mentioning any on my part. But the bookseller getting information of what Mr. Duchee’s private opinion was, withdrew from the Arbitration, or rather refused to go into it as our agreement to abide by it was only verbal. I was requested by several literary gentlemen on this City to undertake such a work on my own account, and I could have rendered it very profitable.

As I always had a taste to science, I naturally had friends of that Cast in England, and among the rest George Lewis Scot, Esq., thro whose formal Introduction, my first acquaintance with Dr. Franklin commenced. I esteem Mr. Scot as one of the most amiable characters I know of, but his particular Situation had been, that in the minority of the present King he was his Sub-preceptor, and from the occasional Traditionary accounts, yet remaining in the famility of Mr. Scot, I obtained the true character of the Present King from his childhood upwards, and you may naturally suppose, of the present Ministry. I saw the people of this Country were all wrong, by an Ill-placed confidence. After the breaking out of hostilities I was confident their design was a total conquest. — I wrote to Mr. Scott in May 75 by Capt. James Josiah, now in this City, I read the letter to him before I closed it. I used in it this free expression “Surely the Ministry are all mad, they never will be able to conquer America.” The reception which the last petition of congress met with, put it past a doubt that such was their design, on which I determined with myself to write the pamphlet Sense — As I knew the Time of the Parliament meeting, and had no doubt what sort of King’s speech it would produce, my contrivance was to have the pamphlet come out just at the Time the Speech might arrive in America, and so fortunate was I in this cast of Policy, that both of them made their appearance in this city on the same day.

The first edition was printed by Bell, on the recommendation of Dr. Rush. I gave him the pamphlet on the following conditions — That if any loss should arise I would pay it — and in order to make him industrious in Circulating it, I gave him one half the profits, if it should produce any. I gave a written order to Col. Joseph Dean, and Capt. Thos. Prior both of this City to receive the other half, and lay it out for mittens for the Troops that were going to Quebec. I did this to do honor to the Cause — Bell kept the whole, and abused me into the bargain — The price he set upon them was two shillings.

I then enlarged the Pamphlet with an Appendix and an address to the Quakers, which made it one-third bigger than before — printed 6,000 at my own expense, 3,000 by B. Towne, 3,000 by Cisy & Styner, and delivered them ready stitched and fit for sale, to Mr. Bradford at the Coffee House, and tho’ the work was thus increased, and consequently should have borne a higher price, yet, in order, that it might produce the general Service I wished, I confined Mr. Bradford to sell them at only One shilling each, or tenpence by the dozen — and to enable him to do this, with sufficient advantage to himself, I let him have the pamphlets at 8 1/2 Pennsylvania currency each.

The sum of 8 1/2 each, was reserved to defray the expence of Printing, Paper, Advertising, &c. and such as might be given away — The state of the account at present is that I am £39. 11. 0 out of Pocket, being the difference between what I have paid for printing, &c. and what I have received from Bradford. He has a sufficiency in his hands to balance with and clear me, which is all I aimed at, but by his unaccountable dilatoriness and unwillingness to settle accounts, I fear I shall be obliged to sustain a real loss exclusive of my Trouble —

I think the importance of that pamphlet was such that if it had not appeared, and that at the exact Time it did, that the Congress would not now have been sitting where they are. The light which that performance threw upon the Subject gave a turn to the Politics of America, which enabled her to stand her ground — Independance followed in Six months after it, although before it was published it was a dangerous doctrine to speak of, and that, because it was not understood. —

In order to accommodate that pamphlet to every man’s purchase, and to do honor to the Cause, I gave up the profits I was justly entitled to, which in this City only, would, at the usual price of Books produced me one Thousand Pounds, at that Time a day, besides what I might have made by extending it to other States — I gave permission, to the printers in other parts of this State, to print it on their own account — I believe the number of copies printed and sold in America was not short of 150,000 — and is the greatest sale that any Performance ever had since the use of Letters, exclusive of the great run it had in England and Ireland.

The doctrine of that Book was opposed in the Public News-papers under the Signature of Cato, who, I believe was Dr. Smith, and I was sent for from N. York to reply to him, which I did, and happily with success. My letters are under the signature of The Forester. It was likewise opposed in a Pamphlet signed Plain Truth, but the performance was too weak to do any hurt or deserve any answer —

In July following the Publication of Common Sense, the Associators of this State marched to Amboy under the Command of Gen. Roberdeau — the Command was large, yet there was no Allowance for a Secretary. I offered my Service voluntarily, only that my expences should be paid, and all the charges I put Gen. Roberdeau to was 48 dollars, although he frequently pressed me to make free with his private Assistance. After the Associators returned, I went to fort Lee, and continued with Gen. Greene till the Evacuation.

A few days after our Army had crossed the Delaware on the 8th of Dec.  1776. I came to Philadelphia on Public Service, and seeing the deplorable and melancholy condition the People were in, afraid to speak and almost to think, the public presses stopped, and nothing in Circulation but fears and falsehoods, I sat down, and in what I may call a passion of Patriotism wrote the first number of the Crisis. It was published on the 19th of December, which was the very blackest of times, being before the taking of the Hessians at Trenton. I gave that Piece to the Printer Gratis, and confined him to the Price of two Coppers which was sufficient to defray his charge —

I then published the 2d number, which being as large again as the first No. I gave it to him on the condition of his taking only four coppers each. It contained 16 pages. I then published the 3d Number containing 32 pages and gave it to the Printer, confining him to ninepence.

When the Account of the Battle of Brandywine got to this City, The People were again in a State of fear and dread, I immediately wrote the 4th No. It contained only four pages, and as there was no less money than 6th of dollars in general Circulation, which would have been too great a price, I ordered 4000 to be printed at my own private charge and given away.

The 5th No. I gave Mr. Dunlap, at Lancaster, he, very much against my consent, set half a crown upon it he might have done it for a great deal less —

The 6th and 7th Numbers I gave in the papers — The 7th No. would have made a Pamphlet of 24 pages and brought me in 3 or 4000 Thousand Dollars in a very few days, at the Price which it ought to have borne.

Monies received since I have been in America

Salary for 17 months at 70 Dollars per month 1190 dollars

For Rations and occasional assistance at Fort Lee 141 ditto

For defraying the expense of a Journey from East Town round

by Morriss when Secretary to the Indian, and

some other matters, about 140 or 145 dollars 145 ditto

Total of Public Money 1,476

In the spring 1776 some private gentleman, thinking it was too hard, that I should, after giving away my Profits, for a public good, be money out of pocket, on account of some expence I was put to — sent me by the hands of Mr. Christopher Marshall 108 dollars —

You have here Sir a faithful history of my services and my rewards —