Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: April 16, 1776

April 16, 1776

Congress plods on with the daily grind. John Adams and Samuel Adams agree that the hope for reconciliation with Britain is ridiculous. “The Story of Commissioners is a Bubble.” “This is all amusement.” Independence, they agree, is the solution.  But aren’t we already independent (J. Adams) or do we need to declare independence (S. Adams)?  John Adams discusses with Mercy Warren what he really thinks is important: what form of government should be adopted?

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Congress received three letters: 1) from Commodore E. Hopkins, Commander of the fleet from New London, of the 9th, enclosing a list of the cannon and stores brought from Providence; 2) from the committee of Baltimore, of the 14th, enclosing copies of intercepted letters; and 3) from General Thomas, of the 8th.

Ordered, That the secretary publish an extract of Commander Hopkins letter.

Congress, considered the letter from the committee of Baltimore, and the papers enclosed, came to the following resolutions:

Credible information suggests that Robert Eden, governor of Maryland, has lately carried on a correspondence with the British ministry, highly dangerous to the liberties of America;

Resolved, That the council of safety of Maryland immediately seize the person and papers of Governor Eden and without delay, conveyed safely to Congress; and that copies of the intercepted letters from the Secretary of State, be enclosed to the said council of safety.

Resolved, That the council of safety of Maryland be requested to secure the person and papers of Alexander Ross and that the papers be sent safely to Congress.

The Committee of Claims reported that payments are due to six persons.

Ordered, That the above be paid.

Resolved, That the Secret Committee be directed to supply the inhabitants of Monmouth county in New Jersey with 500 flints.

A letter from H. Beaumont, surgeon to the 26 regiment, of the 15th was laid before Congress, read, and referred to the Committee on Prisoners.

Resolved, That a monetary reward be given to Messrs. Price and Haywood in consideration of their extraordinary services in Canada.

Whereas much inconvenience may be derived to the public from committees, others than the committees of safety in each colony, on the public post roads, stopping and opening the mails, and detaining letters from the constitutional post; It is therefore,

Resolved, That no committee but the council or committee of safety in each colony, or such person as they shall, on extraordinary occasions, authorize, should stop the constitutional post, open the mail, or detain any letters therefrom.

Resolved, That the president request Commodore Hopkins to send a complete list and state of the stores taken and brought from Providence, and, in case he should have left New London, that Governor Trumbull order a list of the stores left at New London by Commodore Hopkins.

Resolved, That the cannon and such other of the stores as are not necessary for the fleet, be landed and left at New London, and that such of the cannon and wheels as Governor Trumbull shall direct, may be employed for the defense of that harbor, during the pleasure of the Congress.

John Adams to Mercy Warren

I know of no Researches in any of the sciences more ingenious than those which have been made after the best Forms of Government nor can there be a more agreeable Employment to a benevolent Heart. The Time is now approaching, when the Colonies will find themselves under a Necessity of engaging in Earnest in this great and indispensable Work. I have ever Thought it the most difficult and dangerous Part of the Business Americans have to do, in this mighty Contest, to continue some Method for the Colonies to glide insensibly, from under the old Government, into a peaceable and contented Submission to new ones. It is a long Time since this opinion was conceived, and it has never been out of my Mind, my constant Endeavour has been to convince Gentlemen of the Necessity of turning their Thoughts to these Subjects….

The Form of Government, which you admire, when its Principles are pure is admirable indeed. It is productive of everything, which is great and excellent among Men. But its Principles are as easily destroyed, as human Nature is corrupted. Such a Government is only to be supported by pure Religion, or Austere Morals. Public Virtue cannot exist in a Nation without private, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics. There must be a positive Passion for the public good, the public Interest, Honor, Power, and Glory, established in the Minds of the People, or there can be no Republican Government, nor any real Liberty. And this public Passion must be superior to all private Passions…. Is there in the World a Nation, which deserves this Character. There have been several, but they are no more. Our dear Americans perhaps have as much of it as any Nation now existing, and New England perhaps has more than the rest of America. But I have seen all along my Life, Such Selfishness, and Littleness even in New England, that I sometimes tremble to think that, although We are engaged in the best Cause that ever employed the Human Heart, yet the Prospect of success is doubtful not for Want of Power or of Wisdom, but of Virtue.

The Spirit of Commerce… it is much to be feared is incompatible with that purity of Heart, and Greatness of soul which is necessary for an happy Republic…. While this is the Case there is great Danger that a Republican Government would be very factious and turbulent there. Divisions in Elections are much to be dreaded. Every Man must sincerely set himself to root out his Passions, Prejudices and Attachments, and to get the better of his private Interest. The only reputable Principle and Doctrine must be that all Things must give Way to the public.

This is very grave and Solemn Discourse to a Lady. True, and I thank God, that his Providence has made me Acquainted with two Ladies at least, who can bear it.
I think Madam, that the Union of the Colonies, will continue and be more firmly cemented. But We must move slowly. Patience, Patience, Patience! I am obliged to invoke this every Morning of my Life, every Noon, and every Evening.
It is Surprising to me that any among you should flatter themselves with an Accommodation. Every Appearance is against it, to an Attentive observer. The Story of Commissioners is a Bubble. Their real Errant is an Insult. But popular Passions and Fancies will have their Course, you may as well reason down a Gale of Wind.

John Adams to James Warren (Ex Paymaster General of the Continental Army)

You Say the Sighs for Independence are universal. You say too, what I can scarcely believe that Moderation and Timidity are at an End. How is this possible? Is Cunning at an End too-and Reserve and hinting against a Measure that a Man dare not oppose directly or disapprove openly. Is trimming at an End too? and Duplicity? and Hypocricy? If they are I give you Joy sir of a group of Tyrants gone. But I have not yet Faith in all this. You deal in the Marvelous like a Traveler. As to the Sighs, what are they after? Independence? Have we not been independent these twelve Months, wanting three days?

Have you Seen the Privateering Resolves? Are not these Independence enough for my beloved Constituents? Have you seen the Resolves for opening our Ports to all Nations? Are these Independence enough? What more would you have? Why Methinks I hear you say we want to complete our Form and Plan of Government. Why don’t you petition Congress then for Leave to establish such a Form as shall be most conducive to the Happiness of the People? But you say why don’t the Southern Colonies Seize upon the Government? That I can’t answer. But by all We can learn, they are about it, everywhere. We want a confederation you will say. True. This must be obtained. But we are united now they say- and the difference between Union and confederation is only the same with that between an express and implied Contract.
But we ought to form alliances. With Whom? What alliances?…

Why don’t your Honors of the General Court, if you are so unanimous in this, give positive Instructions to your own Delegates, to promote Independency? Don’t blame your Delegates until they have disobeyed your Instructions in favor of Independency.

John Adams to Joseph Ward

You seem to wish for independence. Do the resolves for privateering and opening the ports satisfy you, if not let me know what will? Will nothing do, but a positive declaration that we never will be reconciled upon any terms? It requires time to bring the Colonies all of one mind, but time will do it.

Samuel Adams to James Warren

I perfectly agree with the Major Hawley in his opinion of the Necessity of proclaiming Independency. The Salvation of this Country depends upon its being done speedily. I am anxious to have it done. Every Days Delay tries my Patience. I can give you not the least Color of a Reason why it is not done. We are told that Commissioners are coming out to offer us such Terms of Reconciliation as we may with Safety accept. Why then should we shut the Door. This is all Amusement. I am exceedingly disgusted when I hear it mentioned. Experience should teach us to pay no Regard to it….

They are now doing it and will continue to do it, until we break the Band of Connection and publicly avow an Independence. It is Folly for us to suffer ourselves any longer to be amused. Reconciliation upon reasonable Terms is no Part of their Plan; The only Alternative is Independence or Slavery. Their Designs still are as they ever have been to subjugate us. Our unalterable Resolution should be to be free….

One of our moderate prudent Whigs would be startled at what I now write. I do not correspond with such kind of Men-you know I never overmuch admired them. Their Moderation has brought us to this Pass, and if they were to be regarded, they would continue the Conflict a Century. There are such moderate Men here, but their Principles are daily going out of Fashion. The Child Independence is now struggling for Birth. I trust that in a short time it will be brought forth, and in Spite of Pharaoh all America shall hail the dignified Stranger.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.