Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: July 20, 1776

July 20, 1776

Good news from South Carolina on the war front, Pennsylvania selects nine delegates to Congress. Franklin, on behalf of Congress, responds to Lord Howe’s peace offer, Charles Carroll believes “every man’s eyes must now be open,” John Adams and Samuel Adams write that it is too late for reconciliation.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Resolved, That the letter from General Lee, with the papers enclosed, which were received and read yesterday, be referred to the Board of War.

Resolved, That the thanks of the United States of America be given to Major General Lee, Colonel William Moultrie, Colonel William Thompson, and the officers and soldiers under their command, who, on the 28th of June last, repulsed, with so much valor, the attack which was that day made on the state of South Carolina, by the fleet and army of his Britannic majesty:

A petition and memorial of Monsieur Pelissier was presented to Congress, read, and referred to the Board of War.

The committee appointed to settle a cartel for the exchange of prisoners, brought in their report, which was read and postponed until Monday.

Resolved, That the commander in chief in each department be empowered to negotiate an exchange of prisoners. [See July 22nd]

Resolved, That this Congress will on Thursday next resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole, to take into consideration the plan of treaties.

Resolved, That the plan of treaties be printed for the use of the members, under the restrictions and regulations prescribed for printing the plan of confederation; and that, in the printed copy, the names of persons, places and states, be omitted.

Resolved, That Brigadier General Lewis be directed to forward to South Carolina, the whole five tons of powder sent to him for the use of Virginia and South Carolina.

Resolved, That part of the ten thousand dollars voted for the commissioners of Indian affairs in the middle department, be advanced to Mr. James Wilson, to be forwarded to the commissioners appointed to attend the treaty at Pittsburg.

Resolved, That 210 dollars be advanced to the captain of the guard, to defray the expenses of escorting the prisoners from New Jersey to the place of their destination.

The Board of War brought in a report, was considered and resolutions passed.

A letter of the 19th, from General Washington, enclosing sundry papers; and, a letter of the 13th, from Governor Trumbull, with a list of the cannon at New London, were laid before Congress and read.

Resolved, That the deputy quarter master general [for the flying camp,] supply necessaries for the use of the Maryland troops.

The delegates of Pennsylvania produced credentials of a new appointment, which were read as follows:

In Convention for The State of Pennsylvania, Saturday, July 20, 1776.

The House chose Benjamin Franklin, George Ross, George Clymer, Robert Morris, James Wilson, John Morton, Benjamin Rush, James Smithy and George Taylor.

Resolved, That Colonel Haslet be ordered immediately to march with the troops under his command to Philadelphia and to wait the further order of Congress.

Resolved, That 200,000 dollars be sent to the deputy pay master general for Virginia.

The convention of Pennsylvania recommended field officers for the battalion to be raised for the defense of the western frontiers. Congress elected four officers.

Congress approved The Committee of Claims report that reimbursements are due to thirteen people.

Resolved, That Benjamin Franklin may, if he thinks proper, send an answer to the letter he received from Lord Howe.

The committee appointed to devise ways and means for increasing the flying camp, brought in their report, which was read, considered, and resolutions passed.

Adjourned to 9 o’Clock on Monday.

Benjamin Franklin to Lord Howe (British Commander and Peace Negotiator)

The Official Dispatches to which you refer me, [July 18] contain nothing more than what we had seen in the Act of Parliament, viz. Offers of Pardon upon Submission; which I was sorry to find, as it must give your Lordship Pain to be sent so far on so hopeless a Business.  Directing Pardons to be offered the Colonies, who are the very Parties injured, expresses indeed that Opinion of our Ignorance, Baseness, & Insensibility which your uninformed and proud Nation has long been pleased to entertain of us; but it can have no other Effect than that of increasing our Resentment….

Long did I endeavor with unfeigned and unwearied Zeal, to preserve from breaking, that fine & noble China Vase the British Empire: for I knew that being once broken, the separate Parts could not retain even their Share of the Strength or Value that existed in the Whole, and that a perfect Re-Union of those Parts could scarce even be hoped for. Your Lordship may possibly remember the Tears of JOY that wet my Cheek, when, at your good Sister’s in London, you once gave me Expectations that a Reconciliation might soon take place. I had the Misfortune to find those Expectations disappointed, & to be treated as the Cause of the Mischief I was laboring to prevent….

The well founded Esteem, and permit me to say Affection, which I shall always have for your Lordship; makes it painful to me to see you engaged in conducting a War, the great Ground of which, as expressed in your Letter, is, “the Necessity of preventing the American Trade from passing into foreign Channels.” To me it seems that neither the obtaining or retaining of any Trade, how valuable so ever, is an Object for which Men may justly Spill each others Blood, that the true and sure means of extending and securing Commerce is the goodness and cheapness of Commodities, & that the profits of no Trade can ever be equal to the Expense of compelling it, and of holding it, by Fleets and Armies. I consider this War against us therefore, as both unjust, and unwise; and I am persuaded cool dispassionate Posterity will condemn to Infamy those who advised it; and that even Success will not save from some degree of Dishonor, those who voluntarily engaged to conduct it. I know your great Motive in coming hither was the Hope of being instrumental in a Reconciliation; and I believe when you find that impossible on any Terms given you to propose, you will relinquish so odious a Command, and return to a more honorable private Station.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton to Charles Carroll, Senior

I arrived here last Tuesday evening….I am appointed one of the War office. We meet at 8 in the morning & at 7 in the Evening. The house meets at 9 and generally sits till three.  Judge now what time I have to myself….

Howe brings a declaration offering pardon to those who will lay down their arms & return to their duty. This seems a preliminary condition. It is treated with contempt & indignation by every good & honest American. I believe every man’s eyes must now be open. The blindest & most infatuated must see, & I think, detest the perfidy & Tyranny of the British Court, Parliament & Nation. It is remarkable that even these harsh terms of Submission & pardon have not been offered to the New England Governments.  They, I suppose, must expect no mercy.

John Adams to Abigail Adams

We had Yesterday, an express from General Lee, in Charlestown, South Carolina, with an Account of a brilliant little Action between the Armament under Clinton, and Cornwallis, and a Battery on Sullivan’s Island. Which terminated very fortunately for America….

I will likewise send you, by this Post, Lord Howes Letter and Proclamation, which has let the Cat out of the Bag. These Tricks deceive no longer. Gentlemen here, who either were or pretended to be deceived heretofore, now see or pretend to see, through such Artifices….

Samuel Adams to Samuel Cooper (Boston Clergyman)

I have the Pleasure of informing you, that the Continental Troops under the Command of Major General Lee, have triumphed over the British Forces in South Carolina the particulars of which you have in the enclosed Paper….Yesterday Circular Letters with enclosed Declarations from Lord Howe to the late Governors of New Jersey & the Colonies Southward as far as Georgia, were laid before Congress. As they were ordered to be published, I have the opportunity of transmitting a printed Copy of them for your Amusement. There were also Letters from London to private Persons probably procured if not dictated by the British Ministry and written with a manifest Intention to form a Party here in favor of his Lordship, to induce People to believe that he is a cordial Friend to America, and that he is empowered to offer Terms of Accommodation acceptable to the Colonists. But it is now too late for that insidious Court to play such Tricks with any reasonable Hopes of Success. The American States have declared themselves no longer the Subjects of the British King….

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.