Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO FRANCIS HOPKINSON AND JOHN WHARTON, OF THE NAVY BOARD. 1 - The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778)
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TO FRANCIS HOPKINSON AND JOHN WHARTON, OF THE NAVY BOARD. 1 - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VI (1777-1778).
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TO FRANCIS HOPKINSON AND JOHN WHARTON, OF THE NAVY BOARD.1
Skippack Road, 27 October, 1777.
The more I reflect upon the evil, that may arise from the enemy’s possessing themselves of our unfinished frigates up the Delaware, the more convinced I am of the indispensable obligation we are under to prevent it effectually. If no other method could be devised, I should be for absolutely burning them; but scuttling and sinking them, with or without ballast, as those, who are best acquainted with the difficulties of raising them in either state at this season, may determine, will in my judgment answer the end. We all know that the enemy have made one vigorous (though unsuccessful) effort to dispossess us of our forts, and drive off our vessels, which defend the chevaux-de-frise in the river; we know, also, that, besides having the Delaware frigate, they are busily employed in preparing two other large armed vessels at the city. If, in addition to these, they should by surprise or force obtain the frigates above Bordentown, and bring the whole in aid of their ships in a general attack upon our little fleet (thus surrounded) we may, but too easily without the spirit of divination, foretell the consequences. Their destruction will be certain and inevitable.
At present these frigates are of no use to us, while the hands are greatly wanted. Considered therefore in this point of view simply, the measure proposed, in my opinion, is highly expedient; and under the prevailing sentiment, that the enemy cannot hold Philadelphia, unless their shipping get up, it appears absolutely necessary. The fatal consequences, which may result from suffering the frigates to fall into the enemy’s hands, are too obvious to need more arguments to prove them; and when it is considered of how little importance they are to us in their present situation, prudence requires that they should be so disposed of as to be hereafter useful, and put out of the way of being destroyed by the enemy or being rendered serviceable to them.
Upon the whole, I take the liberty of delivering it as my clear opinion, that the frigates ought to be immediately and with the utmost secrecy sunk, either with or without ballast, (so as to make it next to impossible to raise them, without men’s diving either to unlade or fix their purchases,) and that their crews should be sent down to the fleet below, where sailors are exceedingly wanted.1 If I have stepped out of the line of my duty to make this request, I am persuaded you will excuse it when I add, that the good of the service, not only in my judgment but in that of others, absolutely requires it to be carried into execution. I have the honor to be, &c.
[1 ]When the Congress retired from Philadelphia to York, the Navy Board remained behind, and continued chiefly at Bordentown in New Jersey, where their services could be more immediately rendered in managing the concerns of the Continental shipping in the Delaware.
[1 ]Congress interfered, and directed that the frigates be lightened as much as possible, “and either run into some adjacent creek or hauled as high upon shore as may be without ballast, and a battery constructed with the guns of the Washington on the most convenient ground to cover the frigates from the enemy; that the frigates should be charged properly with combustibles, and a careful watch employed under a vigilant officer to burn them rather than suffer them to fall into the hands of the enemy; and lest this should fail, that a sufficient number of small craft should be sunk in the channel below the frigates, effectually to obstruct the enemy from moving them down the river if they should happen to gain possession of them, and a battery be constructed in the most convenient manner to cover the obstructions and prevent the enemy from removing them; that all the vessels of whatever kind should be run up as high above the batteries aforesaid as possible, and the most effectual precautions taken immediately on the approach of the enemy.”—Journals of Congress, 4 November, 1777. A copy of this resolution was sent to Washington for his approval, and is considered in his letter of November 10th.