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THE years from 1765 to 1783 were the most heroic years of Philadelphia’s early history. Many of the men and women of the generation then on the scene had been prepared by their ancestors’ eighty years of struggle with the sternest sort of pioneer conditions to face the tormenting difficulties that confronted them. Already the city had the traditions of the stormy Atlantic voyage, of carving out a home in the wilderness, of enduring cold and hunger, of fashioning an enduring government out of nothing, of extending a helping hand to others. Boys and girls who had listened to parents and grandparents as they told of the deeds that ennobled the past were made ready for the time when they, too, would be called upon to do, to dare, and to bear for their country far more than even the most devoted of them could have thought beforehand would be either demanded or possible.

There were of course those who were ready to yield without a struggle to the requirements of their oppressors; there are always people of that stamp. There were also those whose profound religious conviction was that resistance to oppression is sin; they were representatives of that staunch, conservative body of Friends who had helped to make Philadelphia what it was and who are to-day among the city’s most devoted people. But fortunately there were also heroic men like Franklin and Morris and Matlack, Rittenhouse, Muhlenberg, and Rush, as well as loyal women like Deborah Franklin and Mrs. Morris, who would not yield an inch in their determination to stand back of the colonies, and later the states, in the long struggle for freedom.

There were weeks and months and years of utter darkness when reason told them that their struggle was hopeless. But their hearts told them to press on with grim determination even when prospects were most gloomy and when a disastrous end seemed certain. They were true to the best that was in them, these hundreds of men and women who stood by the country even when General Washington himself felt compelled to say, “I think the game is pretty nearly up.” The women bade their sons and their husbands godspeed as they went to join the army, they economized in wonderful ways that there might be supplies for the absent, they were proud to wear homespun and home- dyed clothing so as to help relieve the destitution of the army. The men toiled and planned and suffered, persisting in a course that seemed to promise nothing but disaster, always hoping against hope that gloom would yield to glorious daybreak.

And they had their reward. They won the freedom that has been treasured by those who have followed after, and they have transmitted to a later generation the spirit of self-sacrificing determination that nothing shall stand in the way of freedom for America and the world.

The Pennsylvania Gazette of October 31, 1765, printed, between heavy black rules, an announcement that indicated the depth of feeling over the Stamp Act; one of the most trying of the long series of oppressive measures that stirred the colonies to anger against Great Britain:

“We are sorry to be obliged to acquaint our Readers, that as the most UNCONSTITUTIONAL ACT that ever these Colonies could have imagined, to wit, the Stamp Act, is feared to be obligatory upon us, after the First of November ensuing (the FATAL To-MORROW) the Publishers of this Paper, unable to bear the burthen, have thought it expedient to stop a While, in order to deliberate, whether any methods can be found to elude the Chains forged for them, and escape the insupportable Slavery, which, it is hoped, from the just Representations now made against the Act, may be effected.  — Mean while, we most earnestly request every Individual of our Subscribers, many of whom have been long behind hand, that they would immediately discharge their respective Arrears, that we may be able not only to support ourselves during the Interval, but be better prepared to proceed again with the Paper, whenever an opening appears for that Purpose, which we hope will be soon.”

"Proclaim liberty throughout the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof" — Leviticus xxv, 10)

No one was so active as was Benjamin Franklin in efforts to bring about the repeal of the Stamp Act, yet he was compelled to know that he was misunderstood and suspected by the patriots of his home city when he was doing his best for them. While he was in England working day and night in the interest of his friends at home, there were hot heads in Philadelphia who accused him of being too friendly with England, and who even declared at times that they would visit their wrath on his wife. A letter written to him by Mrs. Franklin on September 22, 1765, told of their threatenings:

“Something has been said relative to raising a mob in this place. I was for nine days kept in a continual hurry by people to remove, and Sally was persuaded to go to Burlington for safety; but on Monday last we had very great rejoicings on account of the change of the ministry, and a preparation for bonfires at night, and several houses threatened to be pulled down. Cousin Davenport came and told me that more than twenty people had told him it was his duty to be with me. I said I was pleased to receive civility from anybody, so he staid with me some time; towards night I said he should fetch a gun or two, as we had none. I sent to ask my brother to come and bring his gun also . . . I said when I was advised to remove, that I was very sure you had done nothing to hurt anybody, nor had I given offense to any person at all, nor would I be made uneasy by anybody, nor would I stir or show the least uneasiness; but if anyone came to disturb me I would show a proper resentment.

“ . . . It is Mr. Saml. Smith that is setting the people mad by telling them that it was you that had planned the Stamp Act, and that you are endeavouring to get the Test Act brought over here . . .”

A few weeks later the loyal wife sent to Franklin the message, “Numbers of your good friends desire their love to you, almost all Philadelphia, for it is but a very few that don’t like you.”

All Philadelphia was aroused. “The subject now is the Stamp Act,” Sarah Franklin, later Mrs. Bache, wrote . . . “The Dutch talk of the stampt ack, the negroes of the tamp; in short, everybody has something to say.”

During the height of the excitement Robert Morris was one of a committee appointed to learn from the shopkeeper who had been asked to sell the stamped paper whether he intended to offer it to the citizens. After some pressure the man replied that he would not do the work until the people asked him to do so.

The agitation and the excitement lasted many months. On October 31, 1765, Jacob Hiltzheimer said in his diary, “My newspaper was delivered this morning, being the last before the Stamp Act goes into force.”

And it was May 20, 1766, before he was able-to record the repeal, “To-night the citizens in general illuminated their houses for the repeal of the Stamp Act.”

Opposition to the Stamp Act brought about unity of effort and purpose between colonies which had long been pulling in different directions. In 1765, New York joined Philadelphia in the Non-Importation agreement, which was one of the first of the acts of protest against the attitude of the mother country’s measures of oppression. For five years New York and Pennsylvania alike were faithful to the pledge, but in July, 1770, there was resentment among the merchants of Philadelphia because New York importers had written urging Philadelphia to join them in ordering goods from London. At a town meeting a letter was ordered sent to the New York merchants, expressing sorrow that they had taken a measure that could not but be prejudicial to their own liberties as well as the liberties of all America. Warning was given:

“To posterity and to your country you must answer for the step you have now taken. . . You have certainly wrecked that union of the colonies on which their safety depends, and will thereby strengthen the hands of our enemies, and encourage them to prosecute their designs against our common liberty. We cannot forbear telling you, that however you may colour your proceedings, we think you have, in the day of trial, deserted the cause of liberty and your country.”

A third outstanding series of events of the days preceding the outbreak of the Revolution had to do with the tea ships whose cargoes were looked upon as messengers of oppression, because of the tax. Indignation was bitter, and plans were laid to see that no tea was unloaded on the docks, and that, if possible, no tea ship should be brought by the pilots within the Capes or up the Delaware. When, in December, 1773, one ship did manage to reach Chester, a meeting was held at the State House, and it was agreed that the vessel should be required to return forthwith to England. And on March 1, 1775, Christopher Marshall referred to another incident in the campaign:

“Early this morning departed these parts, universally lamented by the friends of slavery, but to the joy and satisfaction of the lover of freedom, that baneful and detested weed, East India TEA, whose return is never desired or wished for by the true sons of American liberty.”

The tea tempest was still going on when the First Continental Congress met in Carpenter’s Hall in September, 1774. On the second day of the session Jacob Duché, assistant rector of Christ Church and St. Peter’s, then looked upon as one of the most ardent of the patriots, entered the hall by invitation and read the morning service of the Church of England, while his clerk read the responses. Later he made an extemporary prayer, of which John Adams wrote to his wife, “Dr. Cooper himself never prayed with such fervor, such ardor, such earnestness, and pathos, and in a language so elegant and sublime.”

This was the first of Duché’s many outstanding services in the cause of liberty which led to his selection as chaplain by the congress of 1776. In this position he served with acceptance until October, when he resigned, giving the excuse of ill health, though some of his friends felt that the real reason was the growing influence of Lord Howe. At any rate, when the British troops entered Philadelphia in 1777, he prayed for the king in Christ Church, in spite of the resolution of the vestry, taken when he himself was present, that such prayers should be omitted. Unfortunately his faintheartedness went still further. He wrote a letter to Washington, urging him to renew his allegiance to England. Washington showed his fine spirit when he wrote concerning the message to Francis Hopkinson, whose sister was Mrs. Duché, “I am still willing to suppose that it was rather dictated by his fears than by his real sentiments.”

Not long afterward Duché went to England, and the country never saw him again.

The intensity of the feeling against England in the city was shown in the July following the session of the Congress at which Duché made his famous prayer, by a letter which Franklin sent to William Strahan of London, whom he had been accustomed to address affectionately as “Straney.” This famous letter read:

“Mr. Strahan,

“You are a member of Parliament, and one of that Majority which has doomed my Country to Destruction. You have begun to burn our towns, and murder our People. Look upon your hands! They are stained with the Blood of your Relations. You and I were long Friends. You are now my Enemy, and

I am
“B. Franklin.”

By this time hundreds of loyal Philadelphians had banded together to resist the British forces that must inevitably come against them. They were not disturbed by the thought that their numbers were comparatively few, or that their equipment was woefully inadequate. With the same high courage that had led their ancestors to leave their comfortable homes in England to brave the unknown perils of the new land, they quickly decided to be ready for any emergency. The spirit that animated them is illustrated by the experience of David Claypoole, descendant of John Claypoole, emigrant of 1683, and brother of the third husband of Betsy Ross, who is said to have made the first American flag at her house in Arch Street. He wrote in 1826:

“An elder Brother and myself, then 19 years old, Converted our fowling Pieces into Muskets, by the addition of bayonets and iron ram-rods; and providing ourselves with the necessary accoutrements, &c, at our own expence, — were amongst the first to enrol ourselves as Privates in Captain [afterwards General] Mifflin’s Company of Infantry in the city of Philadelphia.”

Now that war seemed inevitable, Congress turned to another of the Philadelphians on whom that body never called in vain, Robert Morris. He was asked to suggest methods of procuring money for war purposes. This was the beginning of the task that occupied him to the close of the war. Neglecting his own business he devoted himself to the country, advancing funds of his own, securing loans, responding to the clamorous calls of General Washington, to whom the state refused to send the sums for which they were asked. All this he did though Congress had persisted in taking a step that he thought was not the wisest possible. But he was ready to serve his country, and the reason he gave himself:

“I think the individual who declines the service of his country because its Councils are not conformable to his ideas, makes but a bad subject; a good man can follow, if he cannot lead.”

There were many who, like Robert Morris, did not vote for the Declaration of Independence, but who, like him, signed the document when it was passed against their better judgment.

The adoption of the Declaration at a time when everything looked favorable to the Colonies would have been a brave deed. But it must always be remembered, to the eternal honor of the heroic signers, that the stand was taken when disaster after disaster had overtaken the arms of the Colonists. Abraham Clark, a member of Congress, realized the force of this fact when he said, in a letter written on July 4, 1776, “In times of danger and under misfortune true Courage and Magnanimity can only be ascertained.”

From a painting by Robert edge Pine and Edward Savage,
in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

Four days after the signing of the Declaration on August 2, 1776, Mr. Clark wrote another letter which showed his devotion:

“As to my title, I know not yet whether it will be honourable or dishonourable; the issue of the war must settle it. Perhaps our Congress will be exalted on a high gallows. We were truly brought to the case of the three lepers; if we continued in the state we were in, it was evident we must perish; if we declared Independence we might be saved — we could but perish . . . Nothing short of the power of God can save us. . I think an interposing Providence hath been evident in all the events that necessarily led us to what we are . . . independent states.”

John Adams was another of that little body of brave men who made Independence Hall and Philadelphia famous by their stand for the Declaration. To his wife he told of his feelings:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore.

“ . . . I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure it will cost to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means. And that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.”

William Ellery, one of the heroes of that day, showed his realization of the seriousness of the step taken when he wrote to his brother that it was “One Thing for Colonies to declare themselves independent, and another to establish themselves in Independency.”

With what joy loyal residents of Philadelphia heard the pealing of the State House bell as it sent out the tidings that the Declaration was a fact. This bell bore the prophetic inscription, written in 1751 by Isaac Norris speaker of the Assembly, when he ordered it from England:

“Proclaim Liberty throughout the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof. Levit. xxv. 10”

The man who ordered the bell did not live to see his unconscious prophecy fulfilled; he died ten years before the glorious day. ‑

More than a year passed before the average resident of Philadelphia realized the seriousness of the step taken by Congress, for the theater of war was in other sections of the country. There were so many disasters elsewhere that Thomas Paine spoke the famous words:

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

When, later in 1776, the near approach of the enemy to the city caused a panic not only among the people but in Congress — which voted to adjourn to Baltimore  — there were those who tried to say, “Steady!” John Adams was not ready to yield to panic; he pleaded, “Let America exert her own strength, let her depend on God’s blessing.”

Many of the people fled to the country. Society was disorganized. One woman who is known only by the initials “H. T.” told of her experiences at the time:

“Where shall we go; how shall we ever get out of town? was the universal cry. Carriages of every description were few, and all were anxiously sought

Wealthy residents kept a one-horse chaise, but what was this to the conveyance of a whole household? A coach was here and there kept by the high order, but these were not in requisition; they belonged chiefly to the officers of the royal government who, fearing no violence from their brethren had determined to abide the result.

“But great was the scramble among the scanty state of means. Happy was he, who could procure a market wagon, or a milk cart, to bear off his little ones; my family, together with that of a friend . . . were stowed, women, children and servants . . more than a score, into a small river craft called a wood-flat, whose smoky cabin did not permit the ladies with infants in their arms, to sit quite upright. The smoke, however, was intolerable, and we girls, whose young hearts shrank from no inconvenience or danger, made our beds with blankets upon the deck; from this enviable station we were driven by a heavy fall of snow, into the hold of the boat, where we slept soundly on the few tables and chairs which our hurry had enabled us to carry with us. Innumerable were the hardships, and much would you wonder, could I tell you what the scattered Philadelphians endured at this trying season; thankful if they could find a hut or a barn in any region of security. Sometimes, those who had never spoken together in the city would meet in their wanderings, and then all distinctions of rank were forgotten, and they were a band of brothers . . .”

Of course there were those who were too patriotic to leave the city. They were on hand to heed the call of the Council of Safety made on December 2, 1776, that “the shops be shut up, that the schools be broken up, and the Inhabitants engaged solely in providing for the defence of the City, at this time of extra Danger.”

Fortunately Washington was able to drive back across New Jersey the British whose approach had put the city in a panic. His operations, however, would have been impossible if Robert Morris had not responded to his frantic appeal for money by sending fifty thousand dollars of his own funds.

The first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence was one of the notable days in Philadelphia during the Revolution. Thanksgiving for the freedom of the city from invasion found expression in a great festival. George Bryan, member of Congress, gave another reason for the extent of the celebration as encouraged by the authorities. In a letter to his wife — whom by the way, he called his “lover, partner and friend” — he said, “We were willing to give the idea of rejoicing full swing; the spirits of the Whigs must be kept up.” Congress adjourned in order to dine together at the City Tavern. The armed vessels and guard boats on the Delaware were dressed in the colors of all nations, and in the afternoon the crews manned the rigging, and many salutes of thirteen guns were fired. The wharves were lined by great crowds of shouting people. A military parade followed. In the evening the windows of most of the houses were illuminated with candles, though, as John Adams remarked, a “few surly houses were dark.” The almost continual ringing of the bells, bonfires and fireworks, were other features of a celebration that led Adams to say, “Had General Howe been here in disguise, or his Master, this show would have given them the heartache.”


Not many days passed, however, before General Howe was heard from in such a way that the Tories took heart and the Whigs began to tremble for the safety of the city. The British commander had sailed from Sandy Hook and an invasion was feared. Anxiety increased when word came that the army had been landed at Head of Elk, not one hundred miles from the city.

September 10 brought an urgent appeal from the Supreme Executive Council, signed by President Thomas Wharton, Jr., and Timothy Matlack, secretary, in which all persons were told of the necessity of exerting themselves to crush the foe, “now in the bowels of our Country.” By the help of heaven, the proclamation said further, it was hoped that the insulting foe would be cut off from all means of escape.

Reluctantly the Council, whose secretary was one of the “Fighting Quakers” who were among the country’s stoutest defenders, took other measures that they had considered before but had postponed. There were many residents in the city who were lukewarm in their devotion to the cause of liberty, and it was feared that they might give aid and comfort to the enemy. David Rittenhouse was asked to make out a list of these. Of the forty whose names appeared in the list, some were warned not to communicate with the enemy, and not to go far from their homes. About twenty-seven were sent to the Masonic Lodge for safekeeping. 

From this place of confinement the prisoners, most of whom were Friends, wrote a protest against their detention as “illegal, unjust, arbitrary and contrary to the rights of mankind.” At the same time they applied for a writ of habeas corpus. The writ was granted when the party was on the way to Virginia, under guard, but, by authority of the Assembly, the writ was disregarded, and the journey to Virginia was resumed, though the prisoners had been informed that they could have their liberty if they would take the oath of allegiance and make certain promises.

In the diary of Robert Morton, a sixteen-year-old Friend, was recorded a lament that shows the intensity of feeling at this deportation that the Council deemed necessary:

“O Philada. my Native City, thou that hast heretofore been so remarkable for the preservation of thy Rights, now sufferest those who were the Guardians, Protectors, and Defenders of thy Youth and who contributed their share in raising thee to thy present state of Grandeur and magnificence with a rapidity not to be parallelled in the World, to be dragged by a licentious mob from their near and dear connections, and by the hands of lawless power, banished from the country unheard, perhaps nevermore to return, for the sole suspicion of being enemies of that cause in which thou art now engaged . Alas, the day must come when the Avenger’s hand shall make thee suffer for thy guilt, and thy rulers shall defer thy fate.”

The attitude of many of those who remained in the city may be seen from the entry in Morton’s diary on September 26, 1777:

“Lord Cornwallis . . marched into this city . . . to the great relief of the inhabitants who have too long suffered the yoke of arbitrary Power; and who testified their approbation of the arrival of the troops by the loudest acclamations of joy.”

On the same day Elizabeth Drinker wrote in her journal;

“Well! here are ye English in earnest; about 2 or 3000 came in through Second street, without opposition or interruption — no plundering on ye one side or ye other. What a satisfaction would it be to our dear absent friends could they but be informed of it; our end of ye Town has appeared the greater part of this day like ye first day of ye week.”

It is interesting to trace the change in the sentiments of those who looked so complacently on the coming of the invaders. To their surprise and indignation they soon found that the presence of the soldiers in the city did not mean comforts for them, with entire freedom from all annoyance. There was quartering in the house and the seizure of property, and there was interference with the customary manner of life that is almost inevitable where an invader has possession, no matter how careful the officers may be to keep discomforts at a minimum.

On December 15, Mrs. Drinker began to open her eyes to the bitter truth. “Ye officers and soldiers are quartering themselves upon ye Families generally,” she wrote. “One with his Family is to be fixt at J. Howells. I am in daily expectation of their calling upon us. They were much frightened last night at Isaac Catheralls by a soldier who came into ye House, drew his Bayonet on Isaac, and behaved very disorderly.” On December 19 a major came to her, suggesting that he would like to stay at her house. She told him that she and her sister, being lone women, expected to be excused. He said he feared not; that he thought it would be well for her to take him in, since he was conscious that he had some of the qualities that would make him suitable. “I am straitened how to act, and yet determined,” she wrote, after his departure. “I may be troubled with others much worse . . . but while I can keep clear of them, I intend to so do. They have markd ye doors of Houses against their consent, and some of ye inhabitants have looked out for officers of reputation (if any such there be), to come into their Families, by way of protection, and to keep off others.”

The English sympathizers had further reasons for apprehension. She told how Owen Jones’s family had been ill-used, by an officer who wanted to quarter himself, with many others, upon them. “He drew his sword, used every abusive language, and had ye Front door split in pieces.” Another neighbor complained that she was no longer allowed to use her own front door; the soldiers made her and her family use the alley.

Mrs. Drinker managed to hold out until December 30, when the officer came to the house, bringing with him a servant, two horses and two cows..

Phoebe Pemberton, who lived at The Plantation, on the Schuylkill, on the present site of the United States Naval Hospital, tried to curry favor with the officers so as to be sure of protection from the men, but in November, 1777, she felt obliged to write to Lord Howe:

“. . . Being possessed of two small farms, near the city, on one of which there is a small piece of wood, Intended for Firing for myself and children, with a few of the Inhabitants, some of whom are not able to pay for it, but have constantly partook of My beloved Husband’s bounty, by supplying them in the Winter season with a small quantity, which I shall be rendered incapable of doing, as the soldiers are taking away and say they did by permission of the General’s secretary. The Tenants of these places have informed me that they must be obliged to leave their Habitations, being stript of their Hay, Vegetables, &c, on which they depended for a Living.”

In the spring of 1778 there was rivalry among some of the officers as to who should occupy The Plantation as his summer residence. Finally Mrs. Pemberton was constrained to promise it to one of them. But when summer came, he and the entire army, were far away.

Philadelphia was not much more popular with some of the British officers than the invading force was with the people. One of them wrote, on January 18, 1778:

“If the Honourable Count Penn should surrender to me the whole country for my patent, on condition that I should live here during my life, I would scarcely accept it. And this is the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey, which so many before us have praised.”

While the British were living so comfortably in Philadelphia the Continental troops were freezing and starving at Valley Forge, a day’s march from the City. The heroism displayed by Washington and his men during that memorable winter is one of the most glorious things in our history. The efforts to secure supplies to them did not meet with much success, though there were many patriots who were glad to make the greatest sacrifices in their behalf. In these days when the cause of liberty was in temporary shadow, there were women who devoted care and thought to the needs of the soldiers. A paper has been preserved, prepared by one who is known simply as “An American Mother.” She wrote her “Idea as to Forwarding Presents of the American Women.” Evidently, however, the message was prepared at a more favorable time than when an enemy was at the threshold, for she began:

“If we enjoy any tranquillity, it is the fruit of your watchings, your labours, your dangers. If I live happy in the midst of my family; if my husband cultivates his field, and reaps the harvest in peace; if, surrounded with my children, I myself nourish the youngest, and press it to my bosom, without being afraid of seeing myself separated from it, by a ferocious enemy; if the house in which we dwell . . . is safe at the present time from the hands of these incendiaries, it is to you that we owe it. And shall we hesitate to evidence to you our gratitude? Shall we hesitate to wear a cloathing more simple; hair dressed less elegant, while at the price of this small privation, we shall deserve your benedictions. Who, amongst us, will not renounce with the highest pleasure, those vain ornaments, when she shall consider that the valiant defenders of America will be able to draw some advantage from the money which she may have laid out in these, that they will be better defended from the rigours of the seasons. . . . The time is arrived to display the same sentiments which animated us at the beginning of the Revolution, when we renounced the use of teas. . . rather than receive them from our persecutors . . . when our republican and laborious hands spun the flax, prepared the linen, intended for the use of our soldiers. . . .”

(From the original in the Library Company of Philadelphia)
(Fairmount Park)

Having said these things, which sound much as if they came from the patriotic heart of a woman of to‑day, she outlined her plan for securing and sending money to the camp, which should be used for the purpose of adding extras to the necessary supplies the government was supposed to furnish.

At the very time when, at Valley Forge, there was intense suffering among the American soldiers, the invaders were drawing on Philadelphia for supplies to

make a success of the great festival, the Meschianza, in honor of the departure for England of General Howe and some of his associate officers. It has been said that this was the “most elaborate celebration ever held in America up to that time,” May 18, 1778. Major André was one of the two men in charge of the wonderful decorations.

Elizabeth Drinker’s account is more satisfactory than the elaborate record of Major André:

“This day may be remembered by many from ye scene of Folly and Vanity . . . Ye parade of Coaches and other Carriages, with many Horsemen, thro’ the Streets, towards ye Northern Liberties; where great numbers of ye Officers and some women, embarked in three Galleys and a number of boats, and passed down ye River, before ye city, with Colors displayed, and a large Band of Music, and ye ships in ye Harbor decorated with Colors, which were saluted by ye Cannon of some of them. It is said they landed in Southwark, and proceeded from ye waterside to Joseph Wharton’s late dwelling, which had been decorated and fitted up for this occasion in an expensive way, for this Company, to Feast, Dance and Revel in. On ye River Sky-Rockets and other Fire-Works were exhibited after night.

“How insensible do these people appear, while our Land is so greatly desolated, and death and sore destruction has overtaken, and now impends over so many!”

It has been said that Margaret Shippen and her sister danced at the ball which lasted until four o’clock in the morning. But this has been denied. Their father, Edward Shippen, refused to allow them to be present, not for patriotic reasons, but because of the immodesty of the costumes which Major André had planned for them.

A month after the Meschianza, the British departed as swiftly as they had come. “Last night it was said there were 9000 of ye British Troops left in Town; 11,000 in ye Jerseys,” Elizabeth Drinker’s comment began. “This morning when we arose there was not one Red-Coat to be seen in Town, and ye encampment in the Jerseys also vanished. Col. Gordon and some others had not been gone a quarter of an hour before ye American Light Horse entered ye city — not many of them, but they were in and out all day.”

July 4, the second anniversary of Independence, was so close that an early outlet was given to the people for their joy. Most of the city joined in the celebration, though there were many who were not so glad. Elizabeth Drinker, one of them wrote: “A great fuss this evening . . . firing of Guns, Sky-Rockets, &c. Candles were too scarce and dear to have an illumination, which perhaps saved some of our windows.”

General Benedict Arnold, who was placed in charge of the troops in the city immediately on the American re-occupation, took advantage of the opportunity thus presented to press his courtship of Margaret Shippen with great ardor. The extravagence of the establishment he maintained at this time was one of Edward Shippen’s reasons for looking with disfavor on him as a son-in-law.

A glance at Arnold’s household accounts for 1778-1779 shows that Mr. Shippen’s fears were not without cause. Here are a few items:

Steward’s bill                                             £ 114.11.  7
Ham                                                                41
Cheese                                                             4.  9.  4
2 Pipes Wine                                             1000.

20 Loaves Sugar                                         274.
26 lb. Green Tea                                          195.
Table Furniture                                             160.12.  0
Almonds & Raisins                                         14.  5.  0
Market expenses, July to February 20...  1363.10.10

Prices were already becoming so high that there was no room for extravagence. The city was flooded with Continental currency, and the evils which Robert Morris had predicted when he opposed the first issue were becoming apparent. On March 1, 1778, one dollar “hard money” brought $1.75 in bills; on September 1, 1778, the ratio was 1 to 4; on March 1, 1779, 1 to 10; September 1, 1779, 1 to 18; March 18, 1780, 1 to 40; December 1, 1780, 1 to 100; May 1, 1781, 1 to from 200 to 500. No wonder Samuel Adams paid five hundred dollars for a hat, that shoes cost one hundred and twenty-five dollars a pair, that even a fish-hook cost half a dollar, and that William Ellery, member of Congress, during the winter of 1779 and 1780, paid for board to Mrs. Miller on Arch Street, between Fourth and Fifth streets, $300 per week for himself and his servant, an amount which became much greater in the spring of 1780.

Edward Shippen seriously considered removing to Lancaster because, while “the common articles of life, such as are absolutely necessary for a family,” were not much higher in Philadelphia than in Lancaster, the style of life his fashionable daughters had introduced, and their dress, threatened to bankrupt him. “The expense of supporting my family now will not fall short of four or five thousand pounds per annum, an expense insupportable without’ income,” he wrote. But he was able to revise his plan, for his generous fellow citizens, who recognized real worth in spite of the failure to be entirely loyal to the cause of liberty, asked him to take a judicial office which afterwards opened the way for an associate Justiceship of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

A vain attempt to limit prices was proposed. A committee of merchants was to fix the cost of the necessaries of life. These prices were to be reduced every few weeks until they were low enough. On May 25, 1779, a town meeting was held to take the vote of the people as to the plan. This was held in the State House Yard, amid great excitement. There were those who thought the attempt would succeed, and there were many more who scoffed at it. Among the hopeful ones were the “many families . . . without bread” of whom Mrs. Franklin wrote to her husband. One of the doubters, Joseph Stansbury, wrote some satirical verse about the meeting of which stanzas were:

“And now the State House yard was full
 And orators so fierce, so dull,
    Appeared upon the Stage,
 But all was riot, noise, disgrace.
 And freedom’s sons through all the place
    In bloody frays engage.

“Sagacious Matlack strove in vain

 To pour his sense in Dutchman’s brain
    With every art to please
 Observed, “that as the Money fell  
 Like Lucifer, to Coward Hell
    Tho’ swift, yet by degrees
 So should it rise, and goods should fall,
 Month after month, and one and all
    Would be as cheap as ever.

A committee was appointed to carry out the purpose of the meeting, but it is unnecessary to say that they did not succeed; this was not the way to attack the problem. Eighteen months later, however, they were still persisting in their vain plan. Mrs. Drinker told, on November 23, 1780, of a meeting of merchants, which “came to a resolve that the Continental money (which now passed at upwards of 100 for one) should pass at 75, and that debts &c should be paid at that rate.” They “appointed men to go round the city to ye Inhabitants with a paper to sign, to ye above effect — those who refuse are to be held up to ye Populace as enemies to the country.”

The wiser method of attacking the high cost of living, economy and abstinence, was emphasized by Benjamin Franklin in letters to his daughter, Sarah.

On January 17, 1779, Sarah wrote to her father in France, telling him of her desire to return to the Minister [she did not say of what country] eight yards of flannel which he had given her. She suggested further that she would have great pleasure in wearing anything her father chose to send her, and in bragging to others of her father’s taste. Then she told of various social affairs which she had been attending.

In his reply, dated in June, the father gently rebuked her for what he felt was lack of patriotism, in sending for “long black pins and lace and feathers.”

“This disgusted me as much as if you had put salt on my strawberries . . . The spinning, I see, is laid aside, and you are to be dressed for the ball; you seem not to know, my dear daughter, that of all the dear things in the world idleness is the dearest, except mischief . When I began to read your account of the high prices of goods . . . I expected you would conclude with telling me, that everybody as well as yourself was grown frugal and industrious; and I could scarce believe my eyes, in reading forward, that there never was so much pleasure and dressing going on; and that you yourself wanted black pins and feathers from France, to appear, I suppose, in the mode! This leads me to imagine, that perhaps it is not so much that the goods are grown dear as that the money is grown cheap, as everything else will do when excessively plenty . .

“The war, indeed, may in some degree raise the price of goods, and the high taxes which are necessary to support the war may make our frugality necessary and, as I am always preaching that doctrine, I cannot, in conscience or in decency encourage the contrary by my example, in furnishing my children with foolish modes and luxuries. I, therefore, send all the articles you desire that are useful and necessary, and omit the rest; for, as you say, you should ‘have great pride in wearing anything I send, and showing it as your father’s taste!’ I must avoid giving you an opportunity of doing that with either lace or feathers. If you wear your cambric ruffles as I do, and take care not to mend the holes, they will come in time to be lace; and feathers my dear girl, they may be had in America from every cock’s tail.”

(From the painting by James Peale, in Independence Hall)

The man who perhaps was most responsible for the growing love of luxury in Philadelphia led Margaret Shippen to the altar on April 8, 1779. Her dream of happiness did not continue long, for less than eighteen months passed before his messenger, Major André, was caught in the attempt to carry to the British the plans of West Point, of which at the time Arnold was commander. Philadelphia’s opinion of the traitor was shown in a parade on September 30. Of this Mrs. Drinker gave spirited account:

“On the seventh day last was exhibited and paraded through the streets of this City a ridiculous figure of Genl. Arnold, with two faces, and the Devil standing behind him pushing him with a pitchfork At ye front of ye cart was a large Lanthorn of green paper, with a number of inscriptions setting forth his crime. Several hundred men and boys with candles in their hands — All in ranks; many Officers, ye Infantry, men with Guns and Bayonets, Tag, Rag, &c, somewhere near ye Coffee House They burnt ye Effigy . . .”

Mrs. Arnold was allowed to return to the city for a time, but at the request of the Council she left soon afterward, and went with her husband to England.

The preservation of the city from the results of Arnold’s treason must have been in the Council’s mind when they called on the people to observe Thursday, December 7, 1780, as a day of thanksgiving. On that day they asked that prayer be offered to God

“to lead our forces by land and sea to victory, to take our illustrious ally under his special protection, and favour our joint councils and exertions for the establishment of speedy and enduring peace.”

At that time the darkness was being dispelled and the heroic men and women of the city who had remained steadfast to the country through failure as well as through success, rejoiced in the prospect of an early peace. On October 22, 1781, the prospect seemed quite rosy, for on that day an express brought the tidings of the surrender of Lord Cornwallis. But during the fifteen months that elapsed before the tidings came that the preliminary treaty had been signed there was much call for patient endurance. Finally, on February 13, 1783, a broadside was distributed through the city with the glad announcement:

“By a gentleman just arrived in the city from New Jersey, we have received his Britannic Majesty’s Speech to Both Houses of Parliament.”

In this speech, which had been brought by the Brigantine Peggy in nineteen days from Tortola, the King had made the statement:

“I did not hesitate to go the full length of the power vested in me, and offered to declare them [the American Colonies] FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.”

The joy in Philadelphia was unconfined. Bells rang, boys shouted, people in the streets greeted one another with a hearty handclasp and with shining eyes, and women who had sacrificed more than could be measured for their country met over their tea cups to discuss the glad news which meant that to so many of the homes of the city fathers and sons would soon come once more. And those who could not look forward to the return of loved ones whom they had sent to suffer with Washington rejoiced also — they were glad that their sacrifice had not been made in vain.

Later came the word telling of the King’s Proclamation, dated February 14, 1783, in which was ordered the cessation of hostilities. This was printed in London by the very William Strahan to whom, in 1775 Franklin had sent the famous “I am yours” letter.

What a Fourth of July they had in 1783! Jacob Hiltzheimer told of one of the events of the day:

“In the afternoon a triumphal car . . attended by a number of boys and girls dressed in white, was paraded through the streets of the city, this being the memorable day independence was declared.”

Less than two months after this historic celebration, on September 3, 1783, the definitive treaty of peace was signed, and as soon as Philadelphians heard of this they breathed a sigh of glad relief. On receipt of the news Mrs. Bache wrote to her father:

“Most earnestly have I wished for the definitive treaty to arrive, and Congress to find a meeting place, that they might then have time to recall you . . . The treaty, I am told, is come, but where Congress will settle, no one can say . Your old friend, General Gates, told me they were all splitting and separating, that no man in the world could hoop the barrel but you, and that you were much wanted here.”

For more than two years Congress, which was acting under . the loosely drawn. Articles of Confederation, a temporary document which had not been ratified by ten states until July, 1778, had been a wandering body. It could not compel the states to obey its will, and could not even force the attendance of its own members. Frequently no more than twenty of them were present. The body was losing the respect of the mass of the people.

But there were still patriots in Philadelphia who were sure that the day of better things would dawn, and they were waiting for the opportunity to show their loyalty by helping to usher in America’s brighter day.

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