Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: July 17, 1776

July 17, 1776

Congress passes resolves for 1) the better administration of the military hospital system and 2) its own internal conduct, including a change in the quorum requirement from seven states to nine. Sam Adams and John Adams encourage the war effort.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Resolved, That the Secret Committee be directed immediately to deliver salt petre to Mr. Mease, and then on to Colonel Moylan, quarter master general.

Sundry letters and papers were laid before Congress, and read: 1) The convention of New York, July 12th, referred to the Board of War; 2) Brigadier General Wooster; 3) Carpenter Wharton, of July 15th; 4) Richard Ellis of July 11th.

The Board of War, to whom the letter of General Washington of July 14 was referred, brought in a report, which was considered. Whereupon,

Resolved, That General Washington, in refusing to receive a letter said to be sent from Lord Howe, addressed to “George Washington, Esquire” acted with a dignity becoming his station; and, therefore, this Congress do highly approve the same; and do direct, that no letter or message be received, on any occasion whatsoever, from the enemy, by the commander in chief, or other, the commanders of the American army, but such as shall be directed to them in the characters they respectively sustain.

[Editor’s Note. This was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, July 27th, 1776.]

Resolved, That the Board of War be directed to inquire into the conduct of Captain Gamble, since he was made prisoner of war, and report to Congress.

The Congress considered, and approved, with the exception of one paragraph, the extensive report of the committee on the memorial of the director general of the American hospital for the better administration of the Army hospitals, staff, and medical system generally.  Regular reports to be made to Congress.

Congress approved appointments in the German battalion and the flying camp.

Resolved, That it be earnestly recommended to the convention of New Jersey, to cause all the stock on the sea coast, which they shall apprehend to be in danger of
falling into the hands of the enemy, to be immediately removed, and driven back into the country to a place of safety.

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to revise the journals, and direct what part of it ought to be published: Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Lynch, and Francis Hopkinson.

Resolved, That the Secret Committee appointed on July 11th, apply to the convention of Pennsylvania, now sitting, and request them to appoint a select committee of their body, to confer with them on a matter of importance relating to their colony.

A petition from Jean Baptiste de Vidal, of Canada, was presented to Congress, and read:

Resolved, That a committee of five inquire into the character of a petitioner, and all others in similar circumstances, applying for relief, and report to Congress: Benjamin Rush, William Paca, Thomas Heyward, Samuel Chase, and George Walton.

Resolved, That John Adams, Benjamin Harrison, and Robert Morris, be a committee to resolve the confiscation property issues of the subjects of Great Britain, and particularly the inhabitants of the British West Indies, taken on the high seas.

The Congress took into consideration the report of the committee on the rules and orders for the government of this house; Whereupon,

Resolved, That the following [Twelve] rules be observed:

  • 1. So soon as nine Colonies [states] are present in the house, the Congress proceed to business.
  • 2. No member shall depart from the service of the house, without permission of the Congress, or order from his constituents.
  • 3. No member shall read any printed paper in the house during the sitting thereof, without leave of the Congress.
  • 4. When the house is sitting, no member shall speak or whisper to another, so as to interrupt any member who may be speaking in the debate.
  • 5. Every member, when he speaks, shall rise from his seat, and address himself to the chair, and when he has finished, shall sit down again.
  • 6. No member shall speak more than twice in any one debate, without leave of the house.
  • 7. When two members rise together, the president shall name the person to speak.
  • 8. No motion shall be debated, until the same be seconded.
  • 9. When a motion shall be made, and seconded, it shall be reduced to writing, if desired by the president or any member, delivered in at the table, and read by the president, before the same shall be allowed to be debated.
  • 10. When a motion is made and seconded, the matter of the motion shall receive a determination by the question, or be laid aside, by general consent, or postponed by the previous question, before any other motion be received.
  • 11. If a question in a debate contain more parts than one, any member may have the same divided into as many questions as parts.
  • 12. No person shall be appointed to any office of profit, unless he shall have the consent of seven colonies [states,] nor shall any ballot be counted, unless the person for whom the ballots shall be given, be first named to the house, before the balloting be gone into.

Adjourned to 9 o’Clock tomorrow.

Samuel Adams to James Warren

By this Express the General Assembly will receive the most earnest Recommendation of Congress to raise & send with all possible Speed the 2000 Men requested of them for New York above a Month ago. There never was a more pressing Necessity for their Exertions than at present. Our Army in N Y consists of not more than half the number of those which we have reason to expect will in a very short Time be ready to attack them. And to this let me add that when we consider how many disaffected Men there are in that Colony, it is but little better than an Enemies Country….

John Adams to Joseph Ward

The Small Pox is really the most formidable Enemy We have to contend with, in the whole Train-and I cannot but rejoice at the Resolution of my Countrymen to Subdue this Enemy first. It is a great Satisfaction to see that no Dangers dismay, no Difficulties discourage, the good People of America.

You ask when will America take Rank as a Nation? This Question was answered before it was put, but it Seems the answer had not reached Boston. Before now you are satisfied I hope. What would you have next?

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.