James Duane captures a debate sparked by a February 9th letter from Washington to Hancock. Since voluntary “enlistments go on slowly,” Washington proposed “that a bounty ought to be given.”
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
Two letters from General Washington, dated February 9 were received, read, and referred to a committee of the whole. Samuel Ward reported that the committee had not come to a conclusion, and “desired him to move for leave to sit again.” Congress will consider the letters tomorrow.
Congress debated the claim that there were insufficient troops and arms available to defend New York. Ordered Colonel Wayne to get “his battalion ready; and that, as fast as he can get a company properly equipped, he cause it immediately to march to New York.”
Resolved, That the president write to the convention of New York, and request information on what that body has done to raise “the four battalions recommended to be raised in that colony for the defense of the same.”
Adjourned to 10 o’Clock tomorrow.
James Duane’s Notes of Debates
S. Adams. Never has been proposed to enlist soldiers during the war, never tried. Moves that we take into consideration the lengthening the time of enlistment.”
Elbridge Gerry. Militia have no desire to be called in frequently. Men must engage under officers from other Colonies which they dislike.
Roger Sherman. Long enlistment is a state of slavery. There ought to be a rotation which is in favor of liberty.
John Adams. If General means that none Should enlist but during the war, he is against it-But (says) nothing against any enlisting in that manner who may choose it. People in New England averse to giving large pay to officers. He has no doubt but many decline enlisting in expectation of a bounty. As much danger from the aristocratic part as in N. E. from the democratic. In favor of the proposition for raising men during the war, but not to depend upon it, as men must be averse to it-war may last 10 years.
James Wilson. Difficulties on every side. No troops ever raised in a more glorious cause or more essential to themselves. Liberty, property and safety of their wives and children. Yet our troops the most expensive of any that were ever raised; and not under these circumstances to be had to man the lines. Something then must be done.
The General proposes the enlisting troops during the war. Objection. Dangerous to have standing army
Samuel Chase. Does not agree to give a particular sum to the New England Colonies. The officers threaten to throw up their commissions unless the pay was advanced.
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.