Congress deals with the protocol involved with the exchange of prisoners and continued to debate the Articles of Confederation. Hancock conveys Congress’s tribute to Colonel Lee, Josiah Bartlett is optimistic about the future given the good news on the war front, and the changes in Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland. But Robert Morris recommends listening to what Howe has to offer and is surprised that he has been re-elected to represent Pennsylvania in Congress.
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
A letter of the 20th, from the convention of New Jersey, and one of the 19th, from Ephraim Anderson, and a petition from Levi Allen, were read.
Resolved, That the letter from General Washington, received and read on Saturday be referred to the Board of War.
The Congress considered the report of the committee respecting an exchange of prisoners and issued guidelines.
The Congress resumed the consideration of the report of the committee of ways and means; and, after debate, the same was disagreed to.
The committee appointed to contract with Messrs. Hughes for one thousand tons of cannon, for the use of the United States. submitted their report which was agreed to.
Resolved, That the Board of Treasury be directed to 1) make immediate preparation for striking a farther sum of five millions of dollars in bills of credit and 2) reimburse the committee of Lancaster for keeping the public safe.
The Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the Articles of Confederation; and, after some time, the president resumed the chair, and Benjamin Harrison reported, that the committee have had under consideration the articles of confederation and made some progress, but have not come to a conclusion.
Resolved, That this Congress will, tomorrow, again resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to consider further the Articles of Confederation.
The Marine Committee recommended six appointments. Congress approved.
John Hancock to Charles Lee
It affords me the greatest Pleasure to convey to you, by their [Congress’s] Order, the most valuable Tribute which a free People can ever bestow, or a generous Mind wish to receive, the just Tribute of Gratitude for rendering important Services to an oppressed Country. [Editor’s Note. On July 19th, Congress received General Lee’s July 2nd letter to John Hancock describing the American victory at Sullivan’s Island on June 28.]
The same enlarged Mind, and distinguished Ardor in the Cause of Freedom, that taught you to despise the Prejudices which have enslaved the Bulk of Mankind, when you nobly undertook the Defense of American Liberty, will entitle you to receive from Posterity the Fame due to such exalted & disinterested Conduct.
That a Handful of Men, without the Advantage of military Experience, animated only with the sacred Love of Liberty, should repulse a powerful Fleet & Army, are Circumstances that must excite Gratitude & Wonder in the Friends of America, & prove a Source of the most mortifying Disappointment to our Enemies.
Josiah Bartlett to John Langdon
By the enclosed paper you will see the account of General Clinton and Sir Peter Parker’s defeat in South Carolina. The Virginians have likewise drove Lord Dunmore from Gwin’s Island with loss. These are agreeable events after our repeated crosses in Canada. Some of our Southern brethren seem much elated with their success; by all accounts the troops there behaved with incomparable bravery. I am sorry I can’t say the same of our troops in Canada…. We must at all events prevent their getting possession of New York and Hudson’s River which I believe is their principal view and by that way open a communication with Canada.
Lord Howe’s proclamation has now convinced everybody that no offers are to be made us but absolute submission. I think it very happy for America that Britain has insisted on those terms for had she proposed a Treaty and offered some concessions there would have been danger of divisions or at least of our not acting with unanimity and spirit as I think will now be the case.
The convention here [Pennsylvania] have taken on them the government of this Colony and have appointed delegates for Congress, men who will forward and not hinder spirited measures. In short there is a far greater harmony in carrying on spirited measures in Congress than heretofore. The conventions of even Maryland and New York seem now to be in earnest.
The confederation is now before a Committee of the whole. By reason of so much other business it goes on but slow; when it is laid before our Legislature brother Whipple expects to be at home and can inform them of some things they may want to be informed of concerning it. Our Court I hear is to set again the first of September.
Robert Morris to Joseph Reed
I am sorry to say there are some amongst us that cannot bear the thought of reconciliation on any terms. To these men all propositions of the kind sound like high Treason against the States and I really believe they would sooner punish a Man for this Crime than for bearing arms against us….
I think with you that if the Commissioners have any propositions to make they ought to be heard. Should they disclose powers different from what we imagine them to be Vested with, and an inclination to employ those powers favorably for America, it is our duty to attend to such offers, weigh well the Consequences of every determination we come to and in short to lay aside all prejudices, resentments and sanguine Notions of our own Strength in order that reason may influence and Wisdom guide our Councils. If the admiral & General are really desirous of a Conference I think & hope they will address our General properly. This may be expected if they have powers beyond granting pardons. If they have not it is Idle for them to solicit any intercourse as no good can possibly arise to them or their Cause from it, but on our parts I think good Policy requires that we should hear all they have to say.
I am not for making any Sacrifice of Dignity, but still I would hear them if possible, because if they can offer Peace on admissible terms I believe the great majority of America would still be for accepting it. If they can only offer Pardons & that is fully ascertained it will firmly Unite all America in their exertions to support the Independency they have declared and it must be obvious to everybody that our United Efforts will be absolutely necessary. This being the case why should we fear to Treat of Peace or to hear the Commissioners on that Subject. If they can offer terms that are advantageous & honorable for this Country, let us meet them. If they cannot We are not in a situation or temper to ask or receive pardons & all who don’t mean to stoop to this Ignominious submission will consequently take up their Arms with a determination to Conquer or die. If they offer or desire a Conference & we reject it, those who are already disatisfied will become more so and others will follow their example & we may expect daily greater disunion & defection in every part of these States. At least such are my apprehensions on this Subject.
I have uniformly Voted against & opposed the declaration of Independence because in my poor opinion it was an improper time and will neither promote the interest or redound to the honor of America, for it has caused division when we wanted Union, and will be ascribed to very different principles than those which ought to give rise to such an Important measure.
I did expect my Conduct in this great Question would have procured my dismission from the great Council but find myself disappointed for the Convention have thought proper to return me in the New Delegation, and although my interest & inclination prompt me to decline the Service yet I cannot depart from one point that first induced me to enter in the Public Line. I mean an opinion that it is the duty of every Individual to Act his part in whatever Station his Country may Call him to, in times of difficulty, danger & distress.
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.