Established Committees make their Reports and two new committees are created. Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant writes that “The Jersey-Delegates (will You believe it) are not in the sweetest Disposition with one another” over the “doctrines of Independency.” William Whipple interprets the resolutions opening American trade to all foreign countries as the penultimate step to independence. Concerning the arrival of Commissioners from Britain, John Jay suspects that “their Powers will be too limited, to promise us much from Negotiations.”
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
A letter from General Putnam, at New York, of the 7th, with sundry papers enclosed, and a letter from Captain Barry, were presented to Congress, and read.
Resolved, That an order be drawn on the treasurers in favor of Carpenter Wharton, commissary, for the use of the Pennsylvania battalions.
The Committee of Claims reported that there several claims were due.
Ordered, That the above accounts be paid.
Resolved, That two new members be elected for the cannon committee, in place of two who are absent: George Clinton and William Whipple were elected.
Resolved, That the Secret Committee supply the delegates of Maryland with one ton of powder, for the use of the inhabitants of the Eastern Shore.
Resolved, That the committee of safety of Pennsylvania, provide proper barracks or quarters for the continental troops, that may be, from time to time, in Philadelphia.
Resolved, That the commanding officer at New York discharge the militia of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut who are in the pay of the continent.
A petition from Eliphalet Dyer and William Williams, on behalf of Connecticut, was presented to Congress and read, setting forth, that their treasury is exhausted, and hoping that the Congress would advance some money.
Resolved, That the sum of 166,6662/3 dollars be advanced to Connecticut, on account of their advances for the service of the continent.
Captain White Eyes was called in, the speech was delivered to him, and the money paid.
Resolved, That it be recommended to the conventions and committees or councils of safety of Virginia and North Carolina, to provide for the maintenance and security of the prisoners in accordance with the regulations of Congress for the support of prisoners, and that the expense shall be defrayed by the continent.
Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to examine into the truth of the report respecting Governor Tryon’s exacting an Oath from persons going to Great Britain by the Packet, and to ascertain the fact by affidavits taken before a chief Justice, or other chief Magistrate. The committee chosen: John Jay, George Wythe, and James Wilson.
Information being given that Mr. Hewes, a prisoner, has been defrauded of a large quantity of goods,
Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to inquire into the truth of this matter, and report to Congress: The members chosen, Thomas M’Kean, Samuel Huntington, and James Duane.
The committee to whom the petition of John Secord was referred, brought in their report, which was read.
Resolved, That it be recommended to the several assemblies, conventions, and committees or councils of safety of the United Colonies, to use their best endeavors in communicating to foreign nations the resolutions of Congress relative to trade.
Adjourned to 10 o’Clock tomorrow.
Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant to John Adams
The Jersey-Delegates (will You believe it) are not in the sweetest Disposition with one another. Mr. D’Hart has gone home with an avowed Determination not to return without General Livingston & at the same Time has declared that he will offer himself as a Candidate for the Provincial Convention thinking that a more important post, in Order that he may control the mad Fellows who now compose that Body. He has signified the dangerous Disposition of Mr. Smith & another of his Colleagues; and all the great & the mighty ones in the Colony are preparing to make their last Stand against the Principle of levelling which prevails in it. Mr. Smith’s Health it seems will not admit of his Attendance, at least not very steadily.
In the meantime I have engaged to return whenever called upon by General Livingston & Mr. D’Hart; but rather believe they will not call upon me, though I have wrote to them requesting it, in Order that the Colony may not be unrepresented; though I fear it will be misrepresented if we attend. Whether to return without them is a Matter of some Doubt with me, especially since I have been told that some very pious People are circulating a Rumor that I have left Congress in Disgust at the Doctrines of Independency which are there advanced….
I wish People universally could have their Attention fixed to the Question of new & old Government instead of waiting for Deliverance from Congress. There is a Tide in Human things & I fear if we miss the present Occasion we may have it turn upon us. I declare boldly to People Congress will not declare Independence in Form; they are independent; every Act is that of Independence and all we have to do is to establish Order & Government in each Colony that we may support them in it. Could not this Idea be substituted in the place of Independence in the Controversy, which, as it is treated, is no determinate Object, brings nothing to an Issue.
William Whipple to Joshua Brackett
You’ll see by the late resolves of Congress how we go on, & that we are every day drawing nearer the important Question. You see trade is open to all foreign countries except Great Britain and its dependencies. One step more & the point is settled.
I hope the late act of the British Parliament will reconcile everybody to an eternal separation from a People abandoned to every vice & whose Rulers make cruelty & injustice the Guide of all their actions. Lord Mansfield’s Speech [House of Lords, December 20, 1775] points out what we are to expect from such Barbarians; for my part I see no alternative but Freedom or Slavery. Providence has kindly offered us our choice & shall we Hesitate which to accept I hope not. God forbid that an American should be animated with so Base a Soul as not to embrace the former with Eagerness.
John Jay to Alexander McDougall
I hope to see you sometime next Month unless the arrival of the Commissioners or some other extraordinary Event should detain me. [Editor’s Note. Jay left in May] As to those Gentlemen, I sometimes think their coming questionable, and should they arrive, I suspect their Powers will be too limited, to promise us much from Negotiations.
From the present Appearance of Things it is natural to suppose that the Sword must decide the Controversy-and with a View to that object our measures should in a great Degree be taken. The first Thing therefore in my opinion to be done is to erect good & well-ordered Governments in all the Colonies, and thereby exclude that Anarchy which already too much prevails.
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.