2 pages, folio, creases expertly repaired." />
12 June 2008
HANCOCK, John. Autograph letter signed ("J. H."), as Governor of Massachusetts, to Captain George Little, Boston, 8 July 1782. 2 pages, folio, creases expertly repaired.
HANCOCK ORDERS THE PRIVATEER "WINTHROP" TO SAIL "AGAINST THE ENEMIES OF THESE UNITED STATES" AND TO SEND ANY PRIZES BACK TO BOSTON
A fine wartime autograph letter ordering Captain Little to take "the arm'd Sloop Winthrop, belonging to this CommonWealth," at "the first favorable weather & proceed with the Sloop...to Sea upon a Cruise for the protection of the Sea Coast against the Enemies of these United States, whose Vessells if not Superior to you in Force you will use your best Endeavours to Take, Sink, or Destroy, & should you be so fortunate as to Take any Prizes you will send them into the Port of Boston...You will be particularly careful not to Fall in the way of a Superiour Force, but avoid as much as possible even the Hazard of being Captur'd....If Circumstances admit you may Continue your Cruise Four Weeks, at the Expiration of which time you will Return to Boston...You will embrace every opportunity to give me information of your proceedings, & of every material Occurrence that takes place. I recommend the greatest Frugality & attention that the Provisions & Stores be not unnecessarily expended or Lost. You will be careful that the Resolutions of the Common Wealth with Respect to Arm'd Vessels be strictly adher'd to, & good order & proper Discipline be preserv'd on board the Winthrop..."
Little signs an endorsement (the text in Hancock's hand): "The foregoing I acknowledge to be Copy of my order rec'd from the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which I engage strictly to comply with." (This suggests the letter was a duplicate which Hancock sent for the purposes of obtaining Little's signed complianc.) The Winthrop cruised the Maine coast for two months, capturing five prizes, including two privateers. Its crew included Edward Preble, who later won fame fighting the Barbary pirates. Hancock's letter shows the state of vigilant preparedness that Americans maintained in the tense period between the victory at Yorktown and the final peace treaty with Great Britain. Hancock and others feared the British might resort to a nautical guerilla warfare, harassing American shipping and making the nation's commercial if not political independence unsustainable. An unusual letter documenting the commissioning of privateers--by states--as an adjunct naval force.
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