Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: January 2, 1776

January 2, 1776

Richard Smith notes “A thin Congress today, not more than 30 Members.” Congress, nevertheless, 1) issues a Declaration to General Howe, and 2)  requests “that the Assemblies, conventions, or committees, or councils of safety… transmit to this Congress, copies of all the petitions, memorials, and remonstrances, which have been, by the respective colonies, presented to the throne, or either house of parliament, since the year 1762, and that they also inform the Congress, whether any and what answers were given to them.”

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

The Committee of claims reported, that there are two claims due. Ordered, That the above be paid.  Resolved, That Josiah Bartlett be appointed one of the Committee of Claims, in place of John Langdon and Samuel Adams in place of Thomas Cushing, who have leaves of absence.

Resolved, That General Schuyler be directed to have Brigadier General Prescot, lately made prisoner by the continental forces in Canada, taken into custody, and be safely and securely kept until the further orders of this Congress.

The Congress took into consideration the report of the Committee on the petition of Captains Paddock and Coffin, and after debate,

Resolved, That the petition be not granted.

The committee on the state of New York brought in their report, which was read.

Whereas it has been represented to this Congress, that divers honest and well-meaning, but uninformed people in these colonies, have, by the art and address of ministerial agents, been deceived and drawn into erroneous opinions respecting the American cause, and the probable issue of the present contest:

Resolved, That it be recommended to the different committees, and other friends to American liberty, in the said colonies, to treat all such persons with kindness and attention; to consider them as the inhabitants of a country determined to be free, and to view their errors as proceeding rather from want of information than want of virtue or public spirit; to explain to them the origin, nature and extent of the present controversy; to acquaint them with the fate of the numerous petitions presented to his Majesty, as well by assemblies as Congresses, for reconciliation and redress of grievances: and that the last from this Congress, humbly requesting the single favor of being heard, like all the others, has proved unsuccessful; to unfold to them the various arts of administration to ensnare and enslave us, and the manner in which we have been cruelly driven to defend, by arms, those very rights, liberties and estates, which we and our forefathers had so long enjoyed unmolested in the reigns of his present Majesty’s predecessors. And it is hereby recommended to all conventions and assemblies in these colonies, liberally to distribute among the people, the proceedings of this and the former Congress, the late speeches of the great patriots in both houses of parliament relative to American grievances, and such other pamphlets and papers as tend to elucidate the merits of the American cause, the Congress being fully persuaded that the more our right to the enjoyment of our ancient liberties and privileges is examined, the more just and necessary our present opposition to ministerial tyranny will appear.

And, with respect to all such unworthy Americans, as, regardless of their duty to their Creator, their country and their posterity, have taken part with our oppressors, and, influenced by the hope or possession of ignominious rewards, strive to recommend themselves to the bounty of administration, by misrepresenting and traducing the conduct and principles of the friends of American liberty, and opposing every measure formed for its preservation and security,

Resolved, That it be recommended to the different Assemblies, conventions and committees or councils of safety in the United Colonies, by the most speedy and effectual measures, to frustrate the mischievous machinations, and restrain the wicked practices of these men: And it is the opinion of this Congress, that they ought to be disarmed, and the more dangerous among them, either kept in safe custody, or bound with sufficient sureties to their good behavior.

Resolved, That it be recommended to all the United Colonies, to aid each other (on request from their respective Assemblies, conventions, committees, or councils of safety and county committees) on every emergency, and to cultivate, cherish and increase the present happy and necessary union, by a continual interchange of mutual good offices.

And whereas the execrable barbarity, with which this unhappy war has been conducted on the part of our enemies, such as burning our defenseless towns and villages, exposing their inhabitants, without regard to sex or age, to all the miseries which loss of property, the rigor of the season, and inhuman devastation can inflict, exciting domestic insurrections and murders, bribing the savages to desolate our frontiers, and casting such of us as the fortune of war has put in their power, into jails, there to languish in irons and in want, compelling the inhabitants of Boston, in violation of the treaty, to remain confined within the town, exposed to the insolence of the soldiery, and other enormities, at the mention of which decency and humanity will ever blush, may justly provoke the inhabitants of these colonies to retaliate.

Resolved, That it be recommended to them, to continue mindful that humanity ought to distinguish the brave, that cruelty should find no admission among a free people, and to take care that no page in the annals of America be stained by a recital of any action which justice or Christianity may condemn, and to rest assured that whenever retaliation may be necessary or tend to their security, this Congress will undertake the disagreeable task.

Resolved, That the Assemblies, conventions, or committees, or councils of safety, be requested forthwith to transmit to this Congress, copies of all the petitions, memorials, and remonstrances, which have been, by the respective colonies, presented to the throne, or either house of parliament, since the year 1762, and that they also inform the Congress, whether any and what answers were given to them.

Message to Lord Howe

When necessity compelled us to take arms against Great Britain in defense of our just rights, we thought it a circumstance of some comfort that our enemy was brave and civilized. It is the happiness of modern times that the evils of necessary war are softened by refinement of manners and sentiment, and that an enemy is an object of vengeance in arms and in the field only. It is with pain we hear that Mr. Allen and eleven others taken with him while fighting bravely in their country’s cause, are sent to Britain in irons, to be punished for pretended treasons; treasons too created by one of those very laws whose obligation we deny, and mean to contest by the sword…. We have ordered Brigadier General Prescot to be bound in irons, and to be confined in close jail, there to experience sufferings similar to those corresponding miseries with those which shall be inflicted on Mr. Allen….

Adjourned to ten o’clock tomorrow.

Richard Smith’s Diary

A thin Congress today, not more than 30 Members. [Editor’s Note. But a sufficient number to conduct business.]

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.