Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: July 16, 1776

July 16, 1776

Fortifying New Jersey and New York with arms and personnel is a top priority for Congress. Samuel Adams and Benjamin Rush are relieved that every colony has now endorsed the Declaration, but John Alsop of New York resigns in protest. Jefferson announces the arrival of the Articles of Confederation for consideration. He and John Adams are trapped between love of family and love of country.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Sundry letters were laid before Congress and read.

Resolved, That the letter from General Washington be referred to the Board of War:

Resolved, That the letter from Samuel Blackden be referred to the deputy commissary general in the northern department.

Resolved, That General Washington be granted more discretionary power in the New Jersey campaign.

The Board of War brought in a report on military appointments, including captains, paymasters, which was approved.

Congress rejected a request from Rowland Chambers to be appointed pay master to the Jersey troops at New York; such an appointment would interfere with the duty of the pay master general, within whose department it properly lies:

That General Schuyler be directed to take every possible precaution to cleanse the army, under his command, from the infection of the small pox:

That it be recommended to the provincial convention of Pennsylvania, now sitting, to take such measures as they may judge proper and necessary, for procuring as much lead as possible for the supply of the flying camp:

That six commissioners be appointed by Congress, three for New York and three for the northern army to audit the accounts of the commissary general, quartermaster general, and director general of the hospital, and all other accounts of the army; the

That General Washington be informed, that the bounty granted by the resolution of Congress of June 26th, was intended as a general regulation, and to extend to all such men, now in the continental service, and all others, who will enlist for the term of three years, to be computed from and after the expiration of the term of their present enlistment.

Chose three new members of the continental service and ordered them to the flying camp in New Jersey.

Resolved, That General Washington be desired to call to his assistance, at New York, two thousand of the men who have marched into New Jersey to form the flying camp; and that the convention of New Jersey be requested immediately to supply their places with an equal number of the militia of that state: that letters be written to the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey, setting forth the situation of our affairs in the New York department, and pressing them immediately to comply with the requisition of Congress of the 3d of June:

That the situation of our army at New York be pointed out to the state of Connecticut; and that it be earnestly recommended to that state, immediately to send all the militia thereof, which can be spared, into New York, to reinforce the army there, and continue in service until the proportions requested of the several states arrive.

The Congress proceeded to the election of a commissary of military stores.for the flying camp. Benjamin Flower, was elected.

A letter from Samuel Chase dated July 8th, and Mr. Mentges, be referred to the delegates of Pennsylvania and Maryland.

A petition from Captain Benedict was presented to Congress, and read; [Whereupon,]

Resolved, That a copy be sent to General Schuyler, and that he settle the accounts of Captain Benedict or to inform Congress of the reasons why payment ought to be withheld.

Resolved, That Henry Wisner be empowered to employ a proper person to manufacture gun flints.

Adjourned to nine o’clock tomorrow.

Samuel Adams to James Warren

There is no Necessity of my troubling you with a long Epistle at present, for my very worthy Friend and Colleague [Elbridge Gerry] who kindly takes the Charge of this will fully inform you of the State of Affairs here. He will tell you some things which I have often wished to communicate to you, but have not thought it prudent to commit to Writing.

Our Declaration of Independence has already been attended with good Effects. It is fortunate beyond our Expectation to have the Voice of every Colony in favor of so important a Question.
I enclose you the Form of a Constitution which the Convention of Virginia have agreed upon for that Colony. It came to my hand yesterday by the Post, and I spare it to you, although I have not had time to peruse it. I suppose there are other Copies in Town.

John Alsop to the New York Provincial Congress

Yesterday our President read in Congress a resolve of your Honorable Body, dated 9th instant, in which you declare New-York a free and independent State. I can’t help saying that I was much surprised to find it come through that channel. The usual method, hitherto practiced, has been for the Convention of each Colony to give their Delegates instructions to act and vote upon all and any important question.

And from the last letter we were favored with from your body, you told us that you were not competent or authorized to give us instructions on that grand question, nor have you been pleased to answer our letter of the 2d instant, any otherwise than by your said resolve, transmitted to the President. I think we were entitled to an answer.

I am compelled, therefore, to declare that it is against my judgment and inclination. As long as a door was left open for a reconciliation with Great Britain, upon honorable and just terms, I was willing and ready to render my country all the service in my power, and for which purpose I was appointed and sent to this Congress; but as you have, I presume, by that declaration closed the door of reconciliation, I must beg leave to resign my seat as a Delegate from New-York, and that I may be favored with an answer and my dismission.

[Editor’s Note. The New York Convention, on July 22nd, did “cheerfully accept” his resignation]

Benjamin Rush to Patrick Henry [Governor of Virginia]

I congratulate you less upon the acct. of your late honorable Appointment than upon the declaration of the freedom & independence of the American colonies. Such inestimable blessings cannot be too joyfully received, nor purchased at too high a price. They would be cheaply bought at the loss of all the towns & of every fourth, or even third man in America. I tremble to think of the mischiefs that would have spread through this country had we continued our dependence upon G Britain twenty years longer. The contest two years ago found us contaminated with British customs, manners & ideas of government. We begin to be purified from some of them. In particular we dare to speak freely & justly of royal & hereditary power. In a few years we shall vie I hope for wisdom with the Citizens of Athens. But our Virtue will I hope know no bounds. The Conduct of our Militia upon a late Alarm from New York gives me reason to think we may make any thing we please of Americans….

Have you not violated a fundamental principle of liberty in excluding the clergy from your Legislatures? I know their danger in a free government but I would rather see them excluded from civil power by custom than by law….

Thomas Jefferson to Richard Henry Lee

I am sorry the Convention of Virginia did not accept my resignation here.  The state of Mrs. Jefferson’s health obliges me to persist in it. I hope you will be here before the 11th of August when I propose going: otherwise the colony will be unrepresented. Indeed, I wish you would come immediately. The confederation is just brought in and the plan of alliances will be reported today. [Editor’s Note. See July 18] The former is in every interesting point the reverse of what our country would wish. You can never be absent at a time so interesting to your country. [Editor’s Note.  By “country” read Virginia] I make no doubt it will be long in its passage through the Committee so that you may be here in time to attack it in the house from Alpha to Omega.

John Adams to Abigail Adams

I am informed that you were about taking the Small pox, with all the Children. It is not possible for me to describe, nor for you to conceive my Feelings upon this Occasion. Nothing, but the critical State of our Affairs should prevent me from flying to Boston, to your Assistance….

I can do no more than wish and pray for your Health, and that of the Children. Never-Never in my whole Life, had I so many Cares upon my Mind at once. I should have been happier, if I had received my Letters, before Mr. Gerry went away this Morning, because I should have written more by him…. I am very anxious about supplying you with Money. Spare for nothing, if you can get Friends to lend it you. I will repay with Gratitude as well as Interest, any sum that you may borrow. I shall feel like a Savage to be here, while my whole Family is sick at Boston. But it cannot be avoided. I cannot leave this Place, without more Injury to the public now, than I ever could at any other Time, being in the Midst of scenes of Business, which must not stop for anything….

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.