Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: February 17, 1776

February 17, 1776

Congress continues their deep involvement in specifics, such as appropriate troop behavior, adequate shoes and clothing, military procurements, officer appointments, and financial support for the war effort in New York and Quebec.  And creating more committees!  John Adams introduces a “measure of opening the ports, &c. labored exceedingly, because it was considered as a bold step to independence.”  He adds that the Journal does not record this measure. Robert Morris enlists the help of Colonel Lee to “establish an Independent Empire.”

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Resolved, That a standing committee of 5–James Duane, Thomas Nelson, Elbridge Gerry, Richard Smith, and Thomas Willing–be appointed “for superintending the treasury.”

Resolved, That a committee of three–John Adams, George Wythe, and Roger Sherman– prepare instructions for the committee appointed to go to Canada. 

Resolved, That Congress will, on Tuesday next, consider the propriety of opening the ports, and the restrictions and regulations of trade, after the first of March next.1

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock on Monday.

John Adams’s Autobiography

This measure of opening the ports, &c. labored exceedingly, because it was considered as a bold step to independence. Indeed, I urged it expressly with that view, and as connected with the institution of government in all the States, and a declaration of national independence. The party against me had art and influence as yet, to evade, retard, and delay every motion that we made. Many motions were made, and argued at great length, and with great spirit on both sides, which are not to be found in the Journals. When motions were made and debates ensued in a committee of the Whole House, no record of them was made by the secretary, unless the motion prevailed and was reported to Congress, and there adopted. This arrangement was convenient for the party in opposition to us, who by this means evaded the appearance, on the Journals, of any subject they disliked.

Robert Morris to Charles Lee

I have been half or two-thirds blind for three weeks past, owing to a cold and inflammation in my eyes, which thank God, I have now nearly got the better of, by abstinence, exercise, a few doses of salts and a good deal of patience, probably this cure would have been effected much sooner, but unluckily I was harassed the whole time by much public business, of which I do assure you, more than one man’s share falls to my lot….

I have long considered the possession of Canada as essential to the welfare of the United Colonies, and still continue to think so; and after the unfortunate check of our Troops at Quebec attended with so capital a loss as that of Montgomery (whose name is recorded in the annals of Fame, there to stand in conspicuous characters until time shall be no more) I repeatedly revolved in my mind who should be his successor….

It was moved in Congress that you should be appointed to the command in Canada….  I hope it will not be long before we are happy enough to hail you the Conqueror of Quebec….

If by our own Force of Conduct, we establish an Independent Empire, notwithstanding the utmost exertions of Britain, there is not a Nation in Europe, but will be glad to treat and trade with us on our own terms.  Therefore I think it best to persevere in our own measures, and depend on our strength, which I believe is quite sufficient; and if so, we shall ever after hold respectable consequence in the World….

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.