Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: April 15, 1776

April 15, 1776

Congress continues the day to day operations of government. Samuel Adams is furious with the dithering of “Moderate Whigs.” Benjamin Franklin refers to “the vain Hope of Reconciliation.” John Adams worries about the divisions in New York causes the colony to not be in step with the rest of the country. Carter Braxton says the time is not ripe for separation: “Previous to Independence all disputes must be healed & Harmony prevail.”

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

A letter from General Washington, of the 4th enclosing a letter from Governor Cooke, and an account of the powder supplied the army at Cambridge, by the colony of Massachusetts, from the 10th of June; also, a letter from General Schuyler, of the 2d, with eight papers enclosed, being laid before Congress, and read.

Resolved, That these be referred to George Wythe, Benjamin Harrison, and Samuel Adams.

Resolved, That the intelligence received respecting the Indians, be kept secret.

The committee to whom the petition from the committee of Wallpack, &c. was committed, brought in their report, which was agreed to. The petitioners shall be directed to send Garret Broadhead to the nearest Indian settlement, in order to discover whether any uneasiness exists in that part of the country; and, why.

That a letter be written by the president of the Congress to General Schuyler, informing him of the apprehensions of the inhabitants on the western boundary of New Jersey from the Indians, and requesting him to inquire whether there be any foundation for such apprehensions.

The Congress, considered the report of the committee on the petition of John Secord.

Resolved, That it be again recommended to the settlers at Wyoming and the Susquehannah river, as well those under Pennsylvania as those under Connecticut, to cultivate harmony, to consider themselves as jointly interested in the event of the American cause, and not, by mutual acts of violence or oppression, to injure the union which subsists between all the colonies, and on which their welfare so much depends.

Resolved, That the Committee on fortifying ports, write in the name of the Congress to General Washington, and request him to send a proper person to examine such ports on the coast of New England, New York, and Delaware, as they shall direct, and report to Congress.

Resolved, That the Secret Committee be directed to supply the inhabitants of Monmouth county, in New Jersey, with 300 lb. of powder, they paying for the same.

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to bring in a Resolution, whereby persons resident, having property in America, who assist any of the enemies of these United Colonies in the captures of vessels or goods, may be made liable to make good the damages to the sufferers. The members chosen: Carter Braxton, John Jay, and George Wythe.

A petition from Moses Kirkland, a prisoner, was presented to Congress, read, and referred to the Committee on Prisoners.

The Congress resumed the consideration of the report of the committee on the ways and means of supplying the troops in Canada.

A petition from Thomas Learning, Junior on behalf of the committee of inspection of the county of Cape May, New Jersey, was presented and read, setting forth the defenseless state of that part of the country, and the advantages which the enemy may reap from it unless care is taken to prevent them, and praying for a supply of powder and lead, and that two companies of the continental forces may be stationed there.

Resolved, That the prayer of the petition be granted.

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock tomorrow.

Samuel Adams to Joseph Hawley (Massachusetts Political Leader)

I am perfectly satisfied with the Reasons you offer to show the Necessity of a public & explicit Declaration of Independency. I cannot conceive what good Reason can be assigned against it. Will it widen the Breach? This would be a strange Question after we have raised Armies and fought Battles with the British Troops, set up an American Navy, permitted the Inhabitants of these Colonies to fit out armed Vessels to cruise on all Ships &c belonging to any of the Inhabitants of Great Britain, declaring them the Enemies of the united Colonies, and torn into Shivers their Acts of Trade, by allowing Commerce subject to Regulation to be made by ourselves with the People of all Countries but such as are Subjects of the British King. It cannot surely after all this be imagined that we consider ourselves or mean to be considered by others in any State but that of Independence.

But moderate Whigs are disgusted with our mentioning the Word! Sensible Tories are better Politicians. They know, that no foreign Power can consistently yield Comfort to Rebels, or enter into any kind of Treaty with these Colonies till they declare themselves free and independent. They are in hopes that by our protracting this decisive Step we shall grow weary of War; and that for want of foreign Connections and Assistance we shall be driven to the Necessity of acknowledging the Tyrant and submitting to the Tyranny. These are the Hopes and Expectations of Tories, while moderate Gentlemen are flattering themselves with the Prospect of Reconciliation when the Commissioners that are talked of shall arrive. A mere Amusement indeed! When are these Commissioners to arrive? Or what Terms of Reconciliation are we to expect from them that will be acceptable to the People of America? Will the King of Great Britain empower his Commissioners even to promise the Repeal of all or any of their obnoxious and oppressive Acts? Can he do it? Or if he could, has he ever yet discovered a Disposition which shows the least Degree of that princely Virtue, Clemency?

I scruple not to affirm it as my Opinion that his heart is more obdurate, and his Disposition towards the People of America is more unrelenting and malignant than was that of Pharaoh towards the Israelites in Egypt. But let us not be impatient. It requires Time to convince the doubting and inspire the timid.

Benjamin Franklin to Josiah Quincy

You ask, “When is the Continental Congress by general Consent to be formed into a supreme Legislative, Alliances defensive & offensive formed, our Ports opened, and a formidable naval Force established at the Public Charge?” I can only answer at present that nothing seems wanting but that general Consent. The Novelty of the Thing deters some, the Doubt of Success others, the vain Hope of Reconciliation many. But our Enemies take continually every proper Measure to remove these Obstacles, and their Endeavors are attended with Success, since every Day furnishes us with new Causes of increasing Enmity, and new Reasons for wishing an eternal Separation; so that there is a rapid Increase of the formerly small Party who were for an independent Government.

John Adams to William Heath (Continental Army General))

The critical State of the Colonies, at this Time, is the Cause of my writing you, because Providence has now placed you in a situation where you have an opportunity of serving your Country in a civil and political Capacity no less essentially than in a military one.

There is nothing of more indispensable Importance in the Conduct of this great Contention, than that New York should go Hand in Hand with the rest of the Colonies both in Politics and War. The Number of the Tories, the Wickedness and Credulity of some People, & the Treachery of others, have hitherto prevented that Colony from exerting herself in this mighty Struggle in Proportion to her Strength and Weight.
If you compare the Exertions of Connecticut with those of New York you will easily see the Importance of having all the Powers of Government in the Hands of the Friends of the People.

It is now perhaps the most critical Moment that America ever saw. There is a Tide in the affairs of Men-and Consequences of infinite Moment depend upon the Colonies assuming Government at this Time. So convenient an opportunity may never again present itself as the present, while a powerful Army is there sufficient to overcome any turbulent opposition, and prevent every danger of Convulsion.

To exercise a Government under a King, who has published such a Proclamation and Signed such an Act of Parliament, to pray for his Salvation, temporal I mean-to take oaths of allegiance-to swear to keep his secrets-to swear to try Issues between our sovereign Lord the King and any Criminal at this Time, is such an Absurdity, such Immorality, such Irreligion that I am amazed it can be endured in any one Spot in America.

Governments must be assumed or Anarchy reign, and God knows the Consequences.
I must beg of you therefore, to endeavor to convince the Citizens of New York and the Inhabitants of the Province as opportunity presents, of the Necessity of this Measure. Depend upon it, you cannot do your Country a more important, a more essential Service.

I am well informed that Mr William Smith, Mr. Philip Livingston and I fear Colonel McDougal will retard and obstruct this Measure. I hope they will be persuaded to the Contrary, if they have not they may have hereafter the pleasing Reflection that they destroyed their Country. You must have seen the happy Fruits of this Measure in your own Province, so clearly, as to render it impertinent in me to point out the Benefits of it.

If Nine Months ago the Colonies had assumed Governments, they would have been infinitely better armed, trained, furnished with Ammunition, Salt Petre, Powder Works-they would have been rid of the Plague of Toryism-&c.

John Adams to Abigail Adams

We are Waiting it is said for Commissioners, a Messiah that will never come. This Story of Commissioners is as arrant an Illusion as ever was hatched in the Brain of an Enthusiast, a Politician, or a Maniac. I have laughed at it-scolded at it-grieved at it-and I don’t know but I may at an unguarded Moment have rip’d at it-but it is vain to Reason against such Delusions. I was very sorry to see in a Letter from the General that he had been bubbled with it, and still more to see in a Letter from my sagacious Friend Warren at Plymouth, that he was taken in too.

Carter Braxton to Landon Carter (Virginia Politician)

Independency & total Separation from Great Britain are the interesting Subjects of all ranks of Men & often agitate our Body. It is in truth a delusive Bait which Men inconsiderately catch at without knowing the hook to which it is affixed. It is an Object to be wished for by every American; when it can be obtained with Safety & Honor. That this is not the moment I will prove by Arguments that to me are decisive & which exist with certainty. Your refined notion of our public Honor being engaged to await the terms to be offered by Commissioners operates strongly with me & many others & makes the first reason I would offer. My next is that America is in too defenseless a State for the declaration having no Alliance with a naval Power nor as yet any Fleet of Consequence of her own to protect that trade which is so essential to the prosecution of the War & without which I know we cannot go on much longer. It is said by the Advocates for Separation that France will undoubtedly assist us after we have asserted the State, and therefore they urge us to make the experiment. best opportunity in the World being now offered them to throw off all Subjection & embrace their darling Democracy, they are determined to accept it….

Previous to Independence all disputes must be healed & Harmony prevail. A grand Continental League must be formed & a superintending Power also. When these necessary Steps are taken & I see a Coalition formed sufficient to withstand the Power of Britain or any other, then am I for an independent State & all its Consequences, as then I think they will produce Happiness to America. It is a true saying of a Wit- We must hang together or separately.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.