Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: February 15, 1776

February 15, 1776

Congress makes a number of decisions concerning 1) the situation in Canada, 2) arms and money for New Jersey battalions and 3) fortifications and troops in New York. Robert Morris expresses how events moved Americans from a position of loyalty and reconciliation to actually entertaining the thought of independence. Americans did not start out “aiming at Independency.”

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Letters from General Lee, dated February 11, General Schuyler, February 4, and from General Wooster in Montreal, January 27, received by Colonel Ritzema, were read and that the same committee to whom the letters received yesterday were referred, be directed to confer with Colonel Ritzema, and report to Congress.

Congress turned to the situation in Canada.  Resolved 1) That the Secret Committee deliver arms to Colonel Maxwell’s battalion so that they may immediately proceed to Canada, 2) That a committee of three (two of whom to be members of Congress) be appointed–Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase, and Charles Carroll, of Carrollton (who was not a member of Congress)—be chosen “to proceed to Canada, there to pursue such instructions as shall be given them by Congress.”  Also, that Charles Carroll  invite John Carroll (the future first Catholic Bishop in the United States) to accompany the committee to Canada, to assist them in such matters as they shall think useful.  

The Committee of Claims reported a number of claims due. Ordered, they be paid.

The Congress debated and recommitted the report from the committee of the whole.  Resolved, That Congress will, tomorrow morning, to take into consideration the propriety of opening the ports, and the restrictions and regulations of the trade of these colonies after March 1, 1777.

Adjourned to 9 o’Clock tomorrow.

Robert Morris to Robert Herries (British Tobacco Merchant)

It seems almost too late in the present unhappy dispute to trouble you with political Opinions, especially as the determinations in the Parliament now Sitting will probably fix the whole complexion of the War; but we can assure you thus much, if any terms of reconciliation are offered, that the Congress ought to accept, they will be embraced. None but terms fit for Freemen will be thought admissible either by the Congress, Committees or People at large, and should Great Britain prefer the destructive War She has plunged herself & this Country into; for the sake of the Shadow when She promised the Substance, to the idea of doing justice to her Colonial Subjects, we really dread the Consequences to both Countries. In the event She will most undoubtedly lose this Territory, And probably fall a prey hereafter to Some of her powerful Neighbors & Rivals.  

America has long been charged by her Enemies in England with aiming at Independency.  The charge was unjust, but we now plainly see, that the burning of Towns, seizing our Ships, with numerous acts of wanton barbarity & Cruelty perpetrated by the British Forces has prepared Men’s minds for an Independency, that were shocked at the idea a few weeks ago. This you may depend on, and should this Campaign open with furious Acts of Parliament, you may bid adieu to the American Colonies. They will then assuredly declare for Independency, and if they once make such pretensions they have no doubt of being able to support them, even without the assistance of Foreigners….Surely the People of England [will not] permit such Arbitrary & Tyranical Measures to be pursued by their Rulers as must in their consequences destroy their immediate Interests, and in the end ruin the Nation. For our part we do most sincerely pray that such terms of reconciliation may be held out as can be accepted on this side. We are happy to know there is a disposition to receive such, and we believe this to be the only line that can possibly save the two Countries from the most ruinous Consequences….

In short nothing can save or serve the true Interest of Great Britain but holding out just & equitable Terms before it is too late.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.