Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: July 21, 1775

July 21, 1775

Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Articles of Confederation forms “a firm League of Friendship” for “The United Colonies of North America” in order to secure the Common Defense, General Welfare, and the “Security of their Liberties and Properties.” But 1) How much power should the colonies retain?  2) What is an acceptable relationship between representation and taxation?” Franklin’s Plan  proposes that representation and taxation be based on population. 

Article 13, the final Article, contains two options.  Despite the message of perpetual union, the final Article suggests that the “perpetual union” shall “continue firm till the Terms of Reconciliation proposed in the Petition of the last Congress to the King are agreed to.”  If these terms are met, then “the Colonies shall return to their former Connection and Friendship with Britain.  But on Failure thereof this Confederation is to be perpetual.”  The second option is the possible extension of the union. “Every Colony from Great Britain upon the Continent of North America” can apply for membership in the Association.  And the North American Continent includes the West India Islands, Quebec, Bermuda, Florida, and Ireland!

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Read the Reports from the Committees appointed to prepare an Address to the Inhabitants of Jamaica, and an Address to the Inhabitants of Ireland.

Resolved, That Richard Bache, Stephen Paschal, and Michael Hillegas, be appointed to superintend the press, and to have the oversight and care of printing the bills of Credit ordered to be struck by this Congress.

Resolved, Willie Jones, of North Carolina, be the fifth commissioner of Indian Affairs in the Southern Department.

James Wilson received further instructions.

Samuel Ward reported that the Committee of the Whole had come to certain resolutions, which he read, but “desired leave to sit again.”

Benjamin Franklin presented a Sketch of the Articles of Confederation  “and perpetual Union” which would be 1) proposed by the current Congress then 2) agreed to by the Provincial Assemblies and 3) then ratified by the delegates elected to the next Congress. 

[Editor’s Note. The King and Parliament, as well as the English Constitution and British heritage, are no longer appealed to redress grievances; it was up to the delegates selected at various levels of government to represent what James Madison would call “the deliberate sense of the community” or what Jefferson would call “the expression” of “The United Colonies of North America.”  They were not yet “The United States of America,” but the delegates are not that far away from making the final break from Britain.]

Benjamin Franklin’s Sketch of the Articles of Confederation

Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union, entered into agreement proposed by the Delegates of the several Colonies of New Hampshire, &c &c, in general Congress met at Philadelphia, May 10, 1775.

Art. I. The Name of this Confederacy shall henceforth be The United Colonies of North America.

Art. II. The said United Colonies hereby severally enter into a firm League of Friendship with each other, binding on themselves and their Posterity, for their common Defense and Offence, against their Enemies for the Security of their Liberties and Properties, the Safety of their Persons and Families, and their common and mutual and general Welfare.

Art. III. That each Colony shall enjoy and retain as much as it may think fit of its own present Laws, Customs, Rights, and Privileges, and peculiar Jurisdictions within its own Limits; and may amend its own Constitution as shall seem best to its own Assembly or Convention.

Art. IV. That for the more convenient Management of general Interests, Delegates shall be annually elected in each Colony to meet in General Congress at such Time and Place as shall be agreed on in each the next preceding Congress. Only where particular Circumstances do not make a Deviation necessary, it is understood to be a Rule, that each succeeding Congress be held in a different Colony till the whole Number be gone through, and so in perpetual Rotation; and that accordingly the next Congress after the present shall be held in the at Annapolis in Maryland.

Art. V. That the Power and Duty of the Congress shall extend to the Determining on War and Peace, to sending and receiving ambassadors, and entering into Alliances, [the Reconciliation with Great Britain;] the Settling all Disputes and Differences between Colony and Colony about Limits or any other cause if such should arise; and the Planting of new Colonies when proper.

The Congress shall also make and propose such general Regulations Ordinances as though necessary to the General Welfare, particular Assemblies from their local Circumstances cannot be competent to; viz. such as may relate to those that may relate to our general Commerce; or general Currency; to the Establishment of Posts; and the Regulation of our common Forces. The Congress shall also have the Appointment of all General Officers, civil and military, appertaining to the general Confederacy, such as General Treasurer, Secretary, &c.

Art. VI. All Charges of Wars, and all other general Expenses to be incurred for the common Welfare, shall be defrayed out of a common Treasury, which is to be supplied by each Colony in proportion to its Number of Male Polls between 16 and 60 Years of Age; the Taxes for paying that proportion are to be laid and levied by the Laws of each Colony. And all Advantages gained at a common Expense.

Art. VII. The Number of Delegates to be elected and sent to the Congress by each Colony, shall be regulated from time to time by the Number of such Polls returned; so as that one Delegate be allowed for every [5000] Polls. And the Delegates are to bring with them to every Congress, an authenticated Return of the number of Polls in the respective Provinces which is to be annually triennially taken for the Purposes above mentioned.

Art. VIII. At every Meeting of the Congress One half of the Members returned exclusive of Proxies be necessary to make a Quorum, and Each Delegate at the Congress, shall have a Vote in all Cases; and if necessarily absent, shall be allowed to appoint any other Delegate from the same Colony to be his Proxy, who may vote for him.

Art. IX. An executive Council shall be appointed by the Congress out of their own Body, consisting of [12] Persons; of whom in the first Appointment one Third, viz. [4], shall be for one year, [4] for two Years, and [4] for three Years; and as the said Terms expire, the Vacancy shall be filled by Appointments for three Years, whereby One Third of the Members will be changed annually. And each Person who has served the said Term of three Years as Counsellor, shall have a Respite of three Years, before he can be elected again. The Appointments to be determined by Ballot. This Council (of whom two thirds shall be a Quorum,) in the Recess of the Congress is to execute what shall have been enjoined thereby; to manage the general continental Business and Interests to receive Applications from foreign Countries; to prepare Matters for the Consideration of the Congress; to fill up [Pro tempore] general continental Offices that fall vacant; and to draw on the General Treasurer for such Monies as may be necessary for general Services, & appropriated by the Congress to such Services.

Art. X. No Colony shall engage in an offensive War with any Nation of Indians without the Consent of the Congress, or great Council above mentioned, who are first to consider the Justice and Necessity of such War.

Art. XI. A perpetual Alliance offensive and defensive, is to be entered into as soon as may be with the Six Nations; their Limits to be ascertained and secured to them; their Land not to be encroached on, nor any private or Colony Purchases made of them hereafter to be held good; nor any Contract for Lands to be made but between the Great Council of the Indians at Onendaga and the General Congress. The Boundaries and Lands of all the other Indians shall also be ascertained and secured to them in the same manner; and Persons appointed to reside among them in proper Districts, who shall take care to prevent Injustice in the Trade with them, and be enabled at our general Expense by occasional small Supplies, to relieve their personal Wants and Distresses. And all Purchases from them shall be by the General Congress for the General Advantage and Benefit of the United Colonies.

Art. XII. As all new Institutions are Subject to may have Imperfections which only Time and Experience can discover, it is agreed, That the General Congress from time to time shall propose such Amendments of this Constitution as they may be found necessary; which being approved by a Majority of the Colony Assemblies, shall be equally binding with the rest of the Articles of this Confederation.

Art. XIII. Any other and every Colony from Great Britain upon the Continent of North America and not at present engaged in our Association shall may upon Application and joining the said Association be received into this Confederation, viz. [Ireland] the West India Islands, Quebec, St. Johns, Nova Scotia, Bermudas, and the East and West Floridas; and shall thereupon be entitled to all the Advantages of our Union, mutual Assistance and Commerce.

These Articles shall be proposed to the several Provincial Conventions or Assemblies, to be by them considered, and if approved they are advised to impower their Delegates to agree to and ratify the same in the ensuing Congress. After which the Union thereby established is to continue firm till the Terms of Reconciliation proposed in the Petition of the last Congress to the King are agreed to; till the Acts since made restraining the American Commerce and Fisheries are repealed; till Reparation is made for the Injury done to Boston by shutting up its Port; for the Burning of Charlestown; and for the Expense of this unjust War; and till all the British Troops are withdrawn from America. On the Arrival of these Events the Colonies [shall] return to their former Connection and Friendship with Britain: But on Failure thereof this Confederation is to be perpetual.

The committee appointed to devise ways and means to protect the trade of these colonies, brought in their report, which was read.

The committee appointed to devise ways and means to protect the trade of these colonies, brought in their report, which was read. [Editor’s Note. This report concerning the closing of customs houses, the restraint of trade with Britain, and yet supporting the “freedom of commerce” is often attached to Franklin’s Sketch on the Articles.  It is a Response to the “Act of Parliament of Great Britain, for restraining the Trade of the Confederate Colonies.”

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.