1779-06-30 Lead Mine Failing

The Dispatch

DANIEL ROBERDEAU TO JOHN JAY, PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS

 Philadelphia, June 30th, 1779

 Sir –

When I undertook the work of furnishing the public with lead, of which I gave repeated encouragement to the Hon’ble the Congress of ample supplies, I did not foresee that the defence of the whole western frontier of this state where the works were seated would have depended on me alone, except the aid of a small company under Capt. Plater for a very few weeks, and about twenty new Continental Troops whose time of service has long since expired, otherwise I should not have so overrated my abilities as to have undertaken the arduous task, especially as my feeble efforts have been opposed to part of a great system of war devised by a potent enemy rather than to the ordinary incursion of the savages, their instruments. Having begun, the ambition of succeeding or rather the shame of being defeated in my design, together with the feelings of humanity for my suffering species, prompted me forward to the building of one of the strongest forts in this state at two hundred and fifty one pounds expence out of my own pocket, besides the labour contributed by the inhabitants I called to my aid, and a few militia ordered out on the occasion, this has afforded me the high satisfaction of providing an asylum to the distressed inhabitants men, women & children who have twice resorted to the accommodations within the fort of fifty two cabbins provided for their reception, and will fully repay the labors & expence I have been at should I fail of any reimbursement.

 After raising large works and a sufficient quantity of ore to pay every expence and to reward _____?ly the undertaking I have the mortification to inform Congress thro you that I am brought to my ne plus ultra as I cannot procure hands to labour in so exposed a situation, and the number remaining thro intimidation are reduced to three, without any protection, as I am within these three days informed, by the Manager in person who has also retired.

 Thus lived out with fruitless endeavours my feeble efforts being insufficient, it is my duty to inform Congress that without they take the works up they will in all probability in a few days be lost to the public by falling into other hands who mindful more of private than public benefit, may make a once intended benevolent design of a supply of lead to our Army, at a moderate expence, on account of the shortness of the land carriage, being only nine miles from the works to the waters of Juniata, I say may make it a fresh engine of extortion, as the price on the spot is enormous. The last post from Maryland brought me intelligence of a treaty of sale by one of the owners, which was only delayed for my answer. I have forbid it until this application was made and that I have reported next post as well from principles of gratitude &c. for the supplies furnished from the public stores, as for the reputation of a sale to the public rather than to any individual, which also comprehends my original purpose. Nor do I mean or will suffer any higher demand from the public than from the individual. I have applied to the board of war for an account of the supplies furnished me, and the labours of some Continental workmen in carrying on the Work which was not charged at any price being, as I am informed, entirely blank in the public books, I request these blanks may be filled up at the original cost to the states, as was designed by congress, when the assistance of the board of war was ordered to the __? undertaking, which they can and have certified has not failed thro any lack of endeavour in me for the public service. I beg I may be excused this freedom viz. length of address. I am

Sir

Yr most ob & very huml ser

 

Daniel Roberdeau