1779-07-03 Lead Mine Failing Response

The Dispatch

BOARD OF WAR TO JOHN JAY, PRESIDENT OF CONTINENTAL CONGRESS

War Office, July 3, 1779

Sir,

The Board have taken into consideration General Roberdeau’s letter of the 30th ult. Referred to them from Congress the 2d ___? relative to the lead mine in Sinking Spring Valley. We had once formed sanguine expectation of a large supply of lead from this mine, and we are satisfied that General Roberdeau’s strenuous exertions (which were really made on the most promising appearances of success) have not been wanting to fulfil them. We on our part have afforded him every assistance in our power. He must have expended large sums of money in the undertaking as it was altogether voluntary & at his own risk he undoubtedly expected a full compensation in the sale of the lead, at the same time that he should furnish the state with a supply on moderate terms.* But see no reason for reimbursing to him any part of the expences he has incurred. Even the fort we conceive is attended with local advantages only, and at most to concern the State of Pennsylvania. We can only regret, as well for the sake of General Roberdeau as the public, that his zealous attempts have been so fruitless.

In regard to the purchase of the present proprietary right to the mine, & the works they have erected, we beg leave to refer Congress to the inclosed copy of a letter from William Henry Esq. of Lancaster, who at our as well as Gen’l Roberdeau’s request visited them last spring, on purpose to investigate the nature of the mine & put the works in order for producing lead. Mr. Henry is well known to be a competent judge in the case, and from his report we cannot but be decided in our opinion – that it is not expedient to purchase the lead-works in Sinking Spring valley for the use of the United States. – Even were the mine a rich ore, we should despair of the public’s reaping any benefit from it if worked at its expence, when the attempt has not succeeded in the hands of a private man so able & assiduous as Gen’l Roberdeau.

We have the honour to be

With the greatest respect,

Your Excellency’s

Most obed’t servants,

By order of board,

Tim Pickering

 

Mem. Gen’l Roberdeau desires this report may not be sent to Congress, nor any report made apparent on the subject of his letter before mentioned.

*We exceeding regret the disappointment as well for the sake of Genr’l Roberdeau and the public.