John Penn – My First Wish Is That America May Be Free
The letter from John Penn below is to Thomas Person who was appointed as a brigadier-general of the militia in 1776. I appreciate the way Mr. Penn give his case that “to prevent our enemies from landing and penetrating into the Country” they need to quickly “raise four or five Battalions”.
Mr. Penn points our that Britain is “forming alliances [against] us” and “must we not do something of the like nature?” He see that if we do not form alliances and start trade with other nations our economy will suffer.
He warns “Will not our paper money depreciate if we go on emitting?” We are facing this again today. The federal government is emitting money in stimulus and bailouts. Some problems are not new ones. We need to learn the lesson and make the hard and wise choices.
Mr. Penn is somber about the fact that “The consequence of making alliances is perhaps a total separation with Britain.” But in the same sentence he says, “without something of that sort we may not be able to provide what is necessary for our defence.” This is testament to the belief that the revolutionary war was a defensive war.
Mr. Penn’s “first wish is that America may be free.” His second wish is for “harmony with Britain” but only if it is “upon Just and proper terms.”
Also, Mr. Penn writes a PS to this letter stating that he is enclosing a pamphlet called “Common Sense”. “Common Sense” was written by Thomas Paine.
John Penn to Thomas PersonPhiladelphia, Feby. 14th, 1776
. . . . I have the pleasure to assure you that our Province stands high in the opinion of Congress. The readiness with which you marched to Virginia and South Carolina hath done you great credit. It will be necessary to keep up a certain number of Battalions in the Southern Colonies, to be ready to prevent our enemies from landing and penetrating into the Country. Those that are not raised in our Province, will be in Virginia, So. Carolina or Georgia. From our situation it is thought they could easier and sooner assist their Brethren than from any other part. . . . . Could you raise four or five Battalions in the whole? If you can and approve of the measure let us know immediately, but in this matter exercise your own prudence; you are better judges than I can be. Our dispute with Britain grows serious indeed. Matters are drawing to a crisis. They seem determined to presevere and are forming alliances agt us. Must we not do something of the like nature? Can we hope to carry on a war without having trade or commerce some where? Can we ever pay any taxes without it? Will not our paper money depreciate if we go on emitting? These are serious things and require your consideration. The consequence of making alliances is perhaps a total separation with Britain and without something of that sort we may not be able to provide what is necessary for our defence. My first wish is that America may be free; the second that we may be restored to peace and harmony with Britain upon Just and proper terms. If you find it necessary that the convention should meet sooner than May let us know of it as I wish to return at that time. I have been very sick for two or three days but am getting well again. I beg you will remember me to my Friends and amDear sir, Your mo: obt servant,
I send you a pamphlet called “Common Sense”, published here abt a month ago.Edmund Cody Burnett. Letters of Members of the Continental Congress, Volume 1. The Carnegie Institution of Washington. 1921
John Penn, (nephew of Edmund Pendleton and cousin of Nathaniel Pendleton), a Delegate from North Carolina; born near Port Royal, Caroline County, Va., May 17, 1741; was educated under private tutors; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1762 and commenced practice in Bowling Green, Caroline County, Va.; moved to Granville County, N.C., in 1774; elected to the Provincial Congress which met in Hillsboro, N.C., in August 1775; Member of the Continental Congress 1775-1780; a signer of the Declaration of Independence; one of the three representatives from North Carolina to ratify the Articles of Confederation on behalf of the state; member of board of war in North Carolina in 1780; receiver of taxes for North Carolina in 1784; resumed the practice of law; died near Williamsboro, Granville County, N.C., September 14, 1788; interment on his estate in Granville County, N.C.; reinterment at Guilford Battle Grounds, near Greensboro, N.C., in 1894.