Address to the Foreign Mercenaries

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In the Jefferson Papers (5th Series, X) is the following draft of an address,[1] in the writing of George Wythe: The words in brakcets were stricken out:

Draft text, May, 1776

The delegates of the thirteen united colonies of America to the officers and soldiers of

It is with no small pleasure, when in this first address we ever made to you we must call you enemies, that we can affirm you to be unprovoked enemies. We have not invaded your country, slaughtered wounded or captivated your parents children or kinsfolk, burned plundered or desolated your towns and villages, wasted your farms and cottages, spoiled you of your goods, or annoyed your trade. On the contrary, [many of] all your countrymen who dwell among us, were received as friends, and treated as brethren, participating equally with our selves of all our rights, franchises and privileges. We have not aided ambitious princes and potentates in subjugating you. We should glory [in] being [the] instrumental in [of] the deliverance of mankind from bondage and oppression. What then induced you to join in this quarrel with our foes, strangers to you, unconnected with you, and at so great a distance from both you and us? Do you think the cause you are engaged in just on your side? To decide that we might safely appeal to the judicious and impartial — but we have appealed to the righteous judge of all the earth, inspired with humble [hopes] confidence and well-grounded [confidence] hopes, that the lord of hosts will fight our battles, whilst we are vindicating that inheritance we own ourselves indebted to his bounty alone for. Were you compelled by your sovereigns to undertake the bloody work of butchering your unoffending fellow-creatures? [Cease to obey the] Disdain the inhuman office, disgraceful to the soldier. Did lust of conquest [tempt] prompt you? The victory, unattainable by you if heaven was not against us, which [you have] we know of no good reason you have to expect, or [you] we to dread, shall cost you more than the benefits derived from it will be equivalent to; since it will be disputed by those who are resolved inflexibly to live no longer than they can enjoy the liberty you are hired to rob them of, and who are conscious of a dignity of character, which a contempt of every danger threatening the loss of that blessing seldom fails to accompany. Were you tempted by the prospect of exchanging the land you left for happier regions,—for a land of plenty and abhorrent of despotism? We wish this may be your motive; because we have the means, and want not inclination, to gratify your desires, if they be not hostile, without loss to ourselves, perhaps with [out] less expense, certainly with more honour and with more advantage to you than victory can promise. Numberless germans and other foreigners settled in this country [and thriving under the influence of its mild gove] will testify this truth. To give you farther assurance of it, we have resolved,

Mistake not this for an expedient suggested by fear. In military virtue we doubt not americans will prove themselves to be second to none; their numbers exceed you and your [associates] confederates; in resources they now do or soon will abound. Neither suppose that we would seduce you to a treacherous defection. If you have been persuaded to believe, that it is your duty, or will be your interest [those] to assist those who prepare, in vain we trust, to destroy us; go on; and, when you shall fall into our hands, and experience less severity of punishment than ruffians, and savages deserve, attribute it to that lenity, which is never separate from magnanimity. But if, exercising your own judgments, you have spirit enough to assert that freedom which all men are born to, associate yourselves with those who desire, and think they are able to secure it, with all the blessings of peace, to you and your posterity.


  1. Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 4, May 16, 1776 - August 15, 1776, 111-112: Upon receiving copies of several treaties negotiated by George III with various German principalities for some 16,000 troops, Congress on May 21 appointed a committee to publish extracts of the treaties "and to prepare an address to the foreign mercenaries who are coming to invade America." The committee, consisting of John Adams, William Livingston, Richard Henry Lee, Jefferson, and Sherman, quickly distributed extracts of the treaties to various printers for publication but no address to the foreign mercenaries was ever submitted to Congress for action. On May 29, in anticipation that great exertions would be called for during the forthcoming campaign, a committee consisting of Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Edward Rutledge, and Wythe was appointed to prepare an address "to impress the minds of the people with the necessity of their now stepping forward to save their country, their freedom and property." As in the case of the former committee, no address from this committee was ever reported to Congress. However, the papers of Thomas Jefferson, DLC, contain two draft addresses in the hand of Wythe, that were undoubtedly prepared as a result of the appointment of these two committees, although Wythe was a member of only the second. Worthington C. Ford, the editor of the Journals of the Continental Congress, published Wythe's address "to the inhabitants of the... colonies" in a footnote to the journal entry for May 29, but he mistakenly associated the address "to the foreign mercenaries" with a committee appointed in August to stimulate desertions among the "Hessians" after they had arrived. See JCC, 4:369, 401-2, 5:707-9. The present entry, which seems clearly related to the assignment given to the committee appointed on May 21, is reprinted here in order to place it in the context of the events that inspired it. Although Wythe was not a member of this committee, it seems likely that he drafted it at Jefferson's request, perhaps when the two men were collaborating on the address being prepared by the second committee, a conjecture that would account for the presence of both documents in Jefferson's papers. In any event, since Wythe left Philadelphia for Virginia in mid-June and did not return until September, he could not have been involved in preparing the address to the "Hessians" drafted by Jefferson which Congress adopted on August 27. Finally, the wording of the present address so directly reflects the conditions Congress faced at the end of May it seems highly improbable that Wythe could have drafted it for any purpose other than as a response to Congress' resolution of May 21.