Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: August 1, 1776

August 1, 1776

The Board of War is busy. The debate over Article XI of the Articles of Confederation–the issue of representation of people, states, property–continues and then postponed.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Resolved, That letters from Brigadier Generals Mercer and Roberdeau of July 30th be referred to the Board of War.

The Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole and further considered the Articles of Confederation; and, after some time, John Morton reported that the committee have not come to a conclusion.

Resolved, That this Congress will, tomorrow, again resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into further consideration the Articles of Confederation.

Letters and papers from 1) General Washington, July 30th, 2) General Schuyler, July 20th and 3) Colonel Lewis Dubois, July 17th were referred to the Board of War.

The Board of War reported the draft of a letter in response to General Washington which was agreed to, transcribed, signed by the president, and forwarded.

The Board brought in a further report concerning Colonel John Brown and Colonel James Easton.

Resolved, That Ludwick Karcher be paid for “victualling the militia passing through Philadelphia to the flying camp.”

Adjourned to 9 o’Clock tomorrow.

John Adams’ Notes of Debates

Hooper. North Carolina is a striking Exception to the general Rule that was laid down Yesterday, that the Riches of a Country are in Proportion to the Numbers of Inhabitants. A Gentleman of 3 or 400 Negroes, don’t raise more corn than feeds them. A Laborer can’t be hired for less than £24 a Year in Mass. Bay. The neat profit of a Negro is not more than 5 or 6£ per Annum. I wish to see the day that Slaves are not necessary. Whites and Negroes cannot work together. Negroes are Goods and Chattels, are Property. A Negro works under the Impulse of fear-has no Care of his Master’s Interest.

Dr. Franklin moves that Votes should be in Proportion to Numbers.

Mr. Middleton moves that the Vote should be according to what they pay.

Sherman thinks We ought not to vote according to Numbers. We are representatives of States not Individuals…. The Vote should be taken two Ways. Call the Colonies and call the Individuals, and have a Majority of both.

Dr. Rush. The principal one is that the Consent of every State is necessary. The other that the Members are obliged to consult their Constituents upon all Occasions….
We are now a new Nation. Our Trade, Language, Customs, Manners don’t differ more than they do in G. Britain….

If We vote by Numbers Liberty will be always safe…. We have been too free with the Word Independence. We are dependent on each other-not totally independent States….When I entered that door, I considered myself a Citizen of America.

Dr. Witherspoon. Representation in England is unequal. Must I have 3 Votes in a County because I have 3 times as much Money as my Neighbor. Congress are to determine the Limits of Colonies.

Governor Hopkins. A momentous Question. Many difficulties on each Side. 4 larger, 5 lesser, 4 stand indifferent…. The disinterested Coolness of these Colonies ought to determine. I can easily feel the Reasoning of the larger Colonies. Pleasing Theories always gave Way to the Prejudices, Passions, and Interests of Mankind…. It can’t be expected that 9 Colonies will give Way to be governed by 4. The Safety of the whole depends upon the distinctions of Colonies.

Dr. Franklin. I hear many ingenious Arguments to persuade Us that an unequal Representation is a very good Thing. If We had been born and bred under an unequal Representation We might bear it. But to set out with an unequal Representation is unreasonable.  It is said the great Colonies will swallow up the less. Scotland said the same Thing at the Union.

Dr. Witherspoon. Rises to explain a few Circumstances relating to Scotland. That was an incorporating Union, not a federal. The Nobility and Gentry resort to England.
In determining all Questions, each State shall have a Weight in Proportion to what it contributes to the public Expenses of the United States.

[Editor’s Note. This is a continuation of the debate of July 30 on Article 11 of the Articles of Confederation. See Adams’ Notes of Debates, July 30, 1776.  Note the three dimensional nature of the representation issue: people, states, and property]

Benjamin Rush’s Notes for a Speech in Congress

Equal representation the foundation of liberty. To face the effects of unequal representation would be to point out the principal cause of the downfall of liberty in most of the free States of the world…. We are now One people- a new nation-our Interests, language & trade not more divided than they are among the people in Britain who with a Better form of government might have been happy & free under one complete System of Laws forever.

Our variety of interests is an Advantage to us- had our produce or manufactures between the same in our colony, more reason for jealousy-but the variety of both in every State points out that heaven intended us for one people. Colony distinctions should be lost here. …A majority of the people, not states, will determine questions out of doors, and wherever we go contrary to their sentiments they will resent it-perhaps with arms. Already the States & people have divided upon the subject of independence. Bad consequences from it perceived-perhaps not fully known. Perhaps they will be known & felt in the course of the present war….

Sir I am alarmed at the consequences of the mode of voting proposed in this article. If we vote by numbers I maintain that we cannot deposit too much of our liberty & safety in the hands of the Congress. They cannot be put out to better interest anywhere. Here colony factions may be destroyed-here the Aristocratic will cease to pant for a title-or to complain of the inequality of mankind. But if we vote by colonies I maintain that we cannot deposit too little in the hands of the Congress. The Scheme is big with ruin, not only to one but to all the colonies….

Sir, some of the colonies have lost sight of their true situation by being too familiar with the word independence. When confed[erate]d Sir, they are independent states, but in their separate capacity, as they are defendant states, They cannot exist without each other. (Still however they are free and) Our weakness, & strength of enemies, &c require it. Their dependence differs from former dependence on the crown of &c, in their still retaining their freedom.

The Congress interferes with no internal legislature, & each colony has a voice in proportion to the services it renders the states….

I might mention the advantages of voting by numbers. If any exclusive advantages from it will induce Colonies to cultivate the arts of population-to reform, & perfect their governments, to destroy religious establishments & to keep down arbitrary power of every kind….

I shall not say I will not sign the confederacy if we vote by numbers-but I will say that every man who does, signs the death warrant of the liberties of America.
Propose a plan-every 5000 a member; when the congress amounts to above 100, increase the proportion of people who are to send a member. This is not the most perfect that can be wished; is certainly much better than the worst that can be contrived.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton to Charles Carroll Senior

We are engaged in very important business. I am in hopes justice & true policy will at last prevail over distinct & separate interests. If it should not, I will predict that a confederation formed on partial & interested views will not be lasting….

I hope to be with you the 11th instant. This place is insupportably hot. As there will not be a representation, even if I should not be chosen into Convention I shall return home. Mr. Chase desires to be remembered to all the family.

Abraham Clark to James Caldwell (Chaplain, New Jersey Regiment)

Our Congress have now under Consideration a Confederation of the States. Two Articles give great trouble, the one for fixing the Quotas of the States towards the Public expense-and the other whether Each state shall have a Single Vote or in proportion to the Sums they raise or the number of Inhabitants they contain. I assure you the difficulties attending these Points at Times appear very Alarming. Nothing but Present danger will ever make us all Agree, and I sometimes even fear that will be insufficient.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.