Second Continental Congress: December 21, 1775
December 21, 1775
Maryland selects two more delegates. Congress authorizes the production and distribution of war supplies. Richard Smith reports the brief discussion over whether General Washington should be ordered to “storm or bombard” Boston. Josiah Bartlett looks out for the ship building interests in New Hampshire and the common defense of the United Colonies.
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Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
Ordered, That an authentic copy of the resolution passed yesterday, relative to the disputes between the people of Connecticut and Pennsylvania, be transmitted to the contending parties.
The Convention of Maryland having added two new members to their delegates—Robert Alexander and John Rogers–one of them attending–produced the credentials of their appointment, which were read. Maryland’s quorum was now three and the appointment were to be effective until March 25th, 1776.
Congress considered the report of the Committee on the applications for offices, &c. and after a debate, resolved several issues including provisions such as haversacks, canteens, coats, kettles, drums, and medicine chests.
Congress then resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration that part of the report of the Committee of Conference, relative to Boston, and after some time spent thereon, the president resumed the chair, and Samuel Ward reported, that the Committee had taken into consideration the matter referred to them, but not having come to any resolution, desired leave to sit again.
Resolved, That this Congress will, as soon as they meet, unless public dispatches prevent, tomorrow morning, resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into their consideration, the report of the Committee of Conference, relative to the attack on Boston.
Resolved, That the Committee appointed to confer with Major Preston–Thomas M’Kean, Richard Henry Lee, and Samuel Adams– be a committee to consider what allowance should be made to support the officers who are prisoners.
Resolved, That Monsr. Regonville, a Canadian prisoner at Trenton, be permitted to come to Philadelphia, and there wait the orders of Congress.
Adjourned to 10 o’Clock tomorrow.
Richard Smith’s Diary
The Journal read & several Parts to be omitted as usual. Mr. Rogers took his Seat as a Delegate for Maryland, Mr. John Penn from North Carolina had been here some Time. McKean made report from the Committee on General Schuyler’s Letters, it was partly considered & some Articles agreed to. By Ballot Dr. Holmes was chosen Surgeon & Mr. Halstead Quarter Master to the two Battalions (Lord Stirling’s & Maxwell’s) just raised in New Jersey. The Congress resolved itself into a Grand Committee.
Governor Ward in the Chair, to consider Whether to order the General to storm or bombard Boston in Answer to part of his Dispatches, it was made a Question Whether the Continent should indemnify the Losers. The General says he can, if it is a hard Winter, destroy the Fleet & Army there; at any Rate he can bombard & ruin the Town when he pleases. The Chairman desired Leave to sit again….
The grateful Acknowledgments of the Congress ordered to Montgomery, Arnold & Easton. A New York Battalion which had returned Home & quitted their Officers ordered to be filled up. Wilson offered a Resolve importing that no more Connecticut People should settle at Wyoming till the Title of the Lands was adjudged, an Amendment offered that no Pennsylvanians should settle there was voted out….Further Consideration of Wilson’s resolve was adjourned.
Josiah Bartlett to the New Hampshire Committee of Safety
It is proposed that one or 2 persons well Skilled in Ship building, of approved Integrity, be forthwith appointed to provide the materials, Employ workmen, oversee the Business, to keep Exact & Regular accounts of the whole, to Draw on the Marine Committee of Congress for money to Cary on the Business, and to be accountable to said Committee; for all which they will be handsomely Rewarded.
As the Ship Building business is out of my sphere I am unwilling to nominate the Said overseers. I am therefore Directed by Said Committee to Desire you immediately to Consider of proper overseers, also of a proper place for Building said vessel, both for safety & convenience of Materials & workmen. She will be about 700 tons; an Exact Draught will be sent forward in a few Days. In the meantime it will be necessary for the overseers to Buy up without loss of time Every necessary for Building & fitting out [said] Ship and what Can’t be had in our Colony must [be] notified to The Marine Committee at Philadelphia [so] they may provide it. The Marine Committee consists of one Delegate from Each Colony.
You will take Care to name Such Suitable persons [so that] our ship may be as well Built, as Soon & as cheap [as] any of the colonies and that as soon as the draught of the ship Shall arrive they may be ready [. . .] on the Business immediately.
Four vessels are purchased by the Congress and are now ready for Sea. One Carries 20 guns, the others less. The Ships that are to be Built are 5 of 32 guns, 5 of 28 Do., 3 of 24 Do., one to be Built New H., 2 Massachusetts, 2 Rhode Island, one Connecticut, two New York, four Pennsylvania, one Maryland.
I hope you have Received mine enclosing the vote of Congress Concerning our Civil government though I [have] Received no account of it.
Editor of the Journal of Congress on John Dickinson’s Notes for a Speech
This document is apparently John Dickinson’s notes for a speech delivered during the debates of December 21-22, 1775, on the question whether Congress should authorize an attack on Boston even if the assault should result in the city’s destruction. The debate was the last in a series stimulated by the report of the Committee of Conference that met with Washington at Cambridge on October 18-24, which led Congress to pass resolutions on a wide range of topics between November I and December 2. In the course of those proceedings, however, Congress had deferred action on “that part of the report . . . respecting Boston,” and when the subject was resumed on December 12 the delegates were again unable to reach agreement. The matter was postponed to the following day, but it was not until December 21-22 that Congress finally concluded debate over an attack on Boston.
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.