William Kennon to General Lee

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WILLIAM KENNON TO GENERAL LEE.

[Read December 31, 1776: Referred to Mr˙ Hooper, Mr˙ Heyward, and Mr˙ Harrison.]

North-Carolina, Halifax, December 7, 1776.

SIR: The magazines you ordered are accordingly formed,

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and from a conversation of yours with Mr˙ Southerland, my agent at Cross Creek, and your letter to General Moore, I judged it to be your wish that I should form magazines in Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. I immediately prepared for doing so, in such manner as I thought best from so imperfect a knowledge of your desires, and found occasion often to regret that you had not sent for me from Cross Creek to have met you on the road, or have wrote me a line; however, I have done what I believe will answer your design, and in such a way as must meet your approbation, since the Continent will be at no expense unless the provisions should be used; for things are laid in on such terms as to produce more than prime cost and charges, either by shipping to the West-Indies or selling to the merchant exporters.

I am just returned from the southern line of Georgia, and have formed magazines on the Altamahau, on the head of Ocgechey, at Augusta, and about forty miles above Savannah. In this State I' ve formed them so as to answer the service here, or transport to Virginia, at an easy rate, according to orders. Such provisions as I' ve laid in for Virginia and North-Carolina will, by a circumstance worth the attention of the Congress, be very dear, which is the vast number of commissaries, contractors, or purchasers, appointed by the imprudence of the Virginians, and the want of integrity of the North-Carolinians; for they, in order to enhance the price of provisions, by raising of which most in this Congress live, appointed so many competitors in the purchase that I am now paying double at least to what I did a few days ago; for there are now nine Commissaries in this State, of separate interests, with a number from Virginia; and the people here are combining to advance it to a most exorbitant height; and unless there is a single purchaser appointed for your district, which must chiefly be furnished from North-Carolina with pork and beef, the Continent will suffer one hundred per cent˙ in all the meat used by the troops. This, sir, I hope will deserve your particular attention, and that I shall hear from you as soon as your arduous situation will admit. I am not courting the place of Commissary-General of your district, though it would be acceptable to me, but it is my duty to lay before you, sir, this extraordinary and improper expense, as I wish the business done by me should be in a way the least burthensome to the State. There are variety of reasons which might be urged against the measure of so great a number of Commissaries; but one good reason is enough for Government: the exorbitant increase in the price of provisions by thirty or forty purchasing competitors. Would any private gentleman of the Congress, having occasion for twenty thousand barrels of beef and pork, to be bought up at one certain market, employ a single factor or agent to execute that trust; or would he order thirty different agents to purchase up the provisions, maintain each of them as bidders on each other at vendue, and risk beside the want of their knowledge and integrity? Too many fingers in the publick purse will endanger the State of North-Carolina, and the Congress, as far as in them lays, should prevent it.

This will be delivered you by Captain Allen, who can explain this, and every other matter, to your satisfaction. These Commissaries are now insisting to march to Charlestown with their different regiments: and I need not tell you, sir, what an effect such a competition will have at that market, already the highest on the globe; but can be lowered by the quantity of provisions in this State, provided the purchase is left to one upright, industrious, deserving man.

Your letter to Mr˙ Harrison, Paymaster in Virginia, was forwarded in a few days after date express by me, but no answer received. I am this day sending for the hundred thousand dollars mentioned therein, which I hope to receive. If I do not, Captain Allen will inform you, and you will order it from Philadelphia by immediate express, as I am in great want, having borrowed large sums from private people, who have some time expected payment. It would be also necessary for me to have a further credit on the Continental Treasury, and I am ready to enter into any security, if any should be required; and as to the hundred thousand, if it is necessary, I will give security for that sum also before it is paid me at Charlestown; in which case, it may be sent to the commanding officer, with direction as to the security. I have the fullest confidence that should Mr˙ Harrison decline sending this hundred thousand dollars you

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will order it, so that I shall receive at least that sum in two months from this date. In the mean time, I shall horrow on the credit of this expectation. I have also purchased a quantity rum and osnabrigs, the latter of which the nakedness of the soldiers induced me to do. I have devoted my whole time to the service of you and your district, and shall on all occasions prove to you my desire of being serviceable to the Continent; but I wish not to be interrupted by injurious competitions, which can answer no other purpose but increase the price of provision to an intolerable height, and introduce confusion in the camp by a variety of agents.

I some time ago wrote by post from Wilmington, and lately sent you two letters, one from Mr˙ Bryan and the other from Hispaniola, which I hope you have received.

I have the honour to be, sir, with all duty and respect, your most obedient servant,

WILL˙ KENNON.