Second Continental Congress: July 1, 1776
July 1, 1776
The day of decision turns out to be the day of postponement: nine yes, two no (Pennsylvania and South Carolina), one divided (Delaware), and one abstention (New York). The Provincial Congress of New York wrote to the New York Delegates on June 11, informing them that they did not have the authority to vote for independence. Maryland removes restrictions. Thomas Jefferson reports, John Adams agonizes, and John Dickinson trembles.
Link to date-related documents.
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
A resolution of the convention of Maryland of 23 June,1776 was read.
Resolved, Unanimously, That the Instructions given by the Convention December last, (and renewed by the Convention in May,) to the Deputies of this Colony in Congress, be recalled, and the Restrictions therein contained, removed; and that the Deputies of this Colony, attending in Congress, or a Majority of them or of any three or more of them, be authorized and empowered to concur with the other United Colonies, or a Majority of them, in declaring the United Colonies free and independent States; in forming such further Compact and Confederation between them; in making foreign Alliances, and in adopting such other Measures as shall be adjudged necessary for securing the Liberties of America; and this Colony will hold itself bound, by the Resolutions of a Majority of the United Colonies, in the Premises; Provided, the sole and exclusive Right of regulating the internal Government and Police of this Colony be reserved to the People thereof.
The Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole and, after some time, Benjamin Harrison reported, that the committee agreed to the resolution, but “at the request of a colony,” was postponed until tomorrow.
A letter dated June 29 from General Washington was laid before Congress and read.
Resolved, That the letters this day be referred to the Board of War.
Resolved, That this Congress will, tomorrow, resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into their farther consideration the declaration respecting independence.
Adjourned to 9 o’Clock tomorrow.
John Adams to Samuel Chase
The vote of the Maryland Convention was laid before Congress this day, just as we were entering on the great debate; that debate took up most of the day, but it was an idle mispense of time, for nothing was said but what had been repeated and hackneyed in that room before a hundred times for six months past. In the Committee of the Whole, the question was carried in the affirmative, and reported to the House. A Colony desired it to be postponed until tomorrow, when it will pass by a great majority, perhaps with almost unanimity; yet I cannot promise this, because one or two gentlemen may possibly be found who will vote point blank against the known and declared sense of their constituents.
John Dickinson’s Notes for a Speech in Congress
Arguments against the Independence of these Colonies-In Congress.
The Consequences involved in the Motion now lying before You are of such Magnitude, that I tremble under the oppressive Honor of sharing in its Determination….
First Establish our governments & take the Regular Form of a State. These preventive Measures will show Deliberation, wisdom, Caution & Unanimity….Not only Treaties with foreign powers but among Ourselves should precede this Declaration. We should know on what Grounds We are to stand with Regard to one another.
Thomas Jefferson’s Recollections of the Proceedings in Congress in July 1776
On Monday the 1st of July the house resolved itself into a committee of the whole & resumed the consideration of the original motion made by the delegates of Virginia, which being again debated through the day, was carried in the affirmative by the votes of N. Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, N. Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, N. Carolina, & Georgia. S. Carolina and Pennsylvania voted against it. Delaware having but two members present, they were divided: the delegates for New York declared they were for it themselves, & were assured their constituents were for it, but that their instructions having been drawn near a twelvemonth before, when reconciliation was still the general object, they were enjoined by them to do nothing which should impede that object. They therefore thought themselves not justifiable in voting on either side, and asked leave to withdraw from the question, which was given them. The Committee rose & reported their resolution to the house. Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina then requested the determination might be put off to the next day, as he believed his colleagues, though they disapproved of the resolution, would then join in it for the sake of unanimity.
Thomas Jefferson to William Fleming
I wish you had depended on yourself rather than others for giving me an account of the late nomination of delegates. I have no other state of it but the number of votes for each person. The omission of Harrison and Braxton and my being next to the lag give me some alarm…. If any doubt has arisen as to me, my country will have my political creed in the form of a ‘Declaration &c.’ which I was lately directed to draw. This will give decisive proof that my own sentiment concurred with the vote they instructed us to give.
Your Colleagues Hall and Gwinn, are here in good Health, and Spirits, and as firm as you yourself could wish them.
John Adams’s Autobiography
No Member rose to answer him [Dickinson] and after waiting some time, in hopes that someone less obnoxious than myself, who had been all along for a Year before, and still was represented and believed to be the Author of all the Mischief, I determined to speak.
John Adams to Archibald Bulloch [President of Georgia]
There seems to have been a great Change in the sentiments of the Colonies, since you left us, and I hope that a few Months will bring us all to the same Way of thinking.
This morning is assigned for the greatest Debate of all. A Declaration that these Colonies are free and independent states, has been reported by a Committee appointed some weeks ago for that Purpose, and this day or Tomorrow is to determine its Fate. May Heaven prosper the new born Republic-and make it more glorious than any former Republics have been.
Your Colleagues [Lyman] Hall and [Button] Gwinn[ett], are here in good Health, and Spirits, and as firm as you yourself could wish them. Present my Compliments to Mr Houstoun. Tell him the Colonies will have Republics, for their Government, let us Lawyers and your Divine say what we will.
Josiah Bartlett to Nathaniel Folsom
I am glad to hear that Harmony Subsists in our colony in the Grand American Cause; we are now Come to the time, that requires harmony, to gather with all the wisdom, prudence, Courage, & resolution we are masters of, to ward off the Evils intended by our implacable Enemies. The utmost power of Britain will be Exerted I believe in a short time; if the Americans behave with their usual Spirit, I make no Doubt we shall Defeat them, and fully Establish our freedom. But if they all behave as it is said Major Butterfield & his men did in Canada to their Eternal Disgrace, Death, nay what is tenfold worse, unconditioned absolute Slavery will be our portion; But reason, faith, Enthusiasm or something tells me, this last can never be….
The whole Congress are unanimous for forming a plan of Confederation of the Colonies. A Committee of one from Each Colony, have been upon it for about a fortnight at all opportunities; last Saturday the Committee spent the whole Day on it, this Day after Congress we are to meet again when I Believe it will be fitted to lay before Congress. When the Congress will model it to their minds I know not. Before it is in force it will be laid before all the Legislatures of the Colonies and Receive their Sanction. It is a Business of the greatest importance as the future happiness of America will Depend on it in a great measure; and you may Easily see the Difficulty to frame it so as to be agreeable to the Delegates of all the Different Colonies & of the Colonial Legislatures also; for without the unanimous Consent of all it Cannot be Established….
The Resolve of our Colony with regard to our Conduct in the affair of Independency Came to hand on Saturday, very Seasonably, as that Question was agreeable to order this day taken up in a Committee of the whole House & every Colony fully represented; Thus much I can inform you that it was agreed to in Committee & I make no Doubt but that by next post I shall be able to send you a formal Declaration of Independency Setting forth the reasons &c….
John Adams to Samuel Chase
Your Favor by the Post this Morning gave me much pleasure (1) but the generous and unanimous Vote of your Convention, [June 28] gave me much more. It was brought into Congress this Morning, just as We were entering on the great Debate.
That debate took up the most of the day, but it was an idle Mispence of Time for nothing was Said, but what had been repeated and hackneyed in that Room before a hundred Times, for Six Months past.
In the Committee of the whole the Question was carried in the affirmative and reported to the House. A Colony desired it to be postponed until tomorrow.(3) Then it will pass by a great Majority, perhaps with almost Unanimity: yet I cannot promise this. Because one or two Gentlemen may possibly be found, who will vote point blank against the known and declared sense of their Constituents. Maryland, however, I have the Pleasure to inform you, behaved well: Paca, generously and nobly.
Alas Canada! We have found Misfortune and disgrace in that Quarter….
If you imagine that I expect this Declaration will ward off Calamities from this Country, you are much mistaken. A bloody Conflict We are destined to endure. This has been my opinion, from the Beginning. You will certainly remember my declared opinion was, at the first Congress, when we found that we could not agree upon an immediate Non Exportation, that this Contest would not be Settled without Bloodshed, and that if Hostilities Should once commence, they would terminate in an incurable Animosity, between the two Countries. Every political Event Since the l9th of April 1775 has confirmed me in this opinion.
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.