Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: July 23, 1776

July 23, 1776

The Board of War is busy and Congress continues discussing the Articles of Confederation.  Benjamin Rush speaks for the first time and bids farewell to the “cobweb doctrine of reconciliation,” and William Whipple praises the egalitarian impact of the Declaration of Independence.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Sundry letters were received, and read, including two from General Washington of the 21st and 22d, with three papers enclosed.

Resolved, That the letters from General Washington, and a letter from Brigadier General Mercer of the 20th, be referred to the Board of War.

Resolved, That the report of the committee on the cartel entered into between Brigadier General Arnold and Captain Foster, and the resolutions passed, be published.

The Board of War provided 1) a sympathetic, but non-obligatory, report about the many worthy officers who served in Canada who are currently unemployed 2) entire support for the discretionary powers given to General Washington 3) encouragement for the appointment of Dr. David Griffith in the third Virginia regiment.

The Committee of Claims reported that reimbursement is due to seven people.

Ordered, That the said accounts be paid.

Resolved, In order to hasten the march of the troops, that several county committees in Pennsylvania, be empowered to muster the troops that shall march from their several counties, and to draw for one month’s pay on Mr. James Mease, pay master, and that they certify the muster rolls, and send the receipts to the pay master for the moneys that shall be so advanced.

Resolved, That a member be added to the Board of Treasury, in the room of one absent: George Clymer.

The Congress, agreeable to the order of the day, resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into their farther consideration the articles of confederation; and, after some time, Benjamin Harrison reported, the committee have made farther progress in the matter to them referred, but they have not finished their work.

Resolved, That this Congress will, tomorrow, again resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into their farther consideration the Articles of Confederation.

A petition from sundry Canadians was presented to Congress, read, and referred to the Canada committee.

The Marine Committee recommended that Richard Palmes be captain of marines.

Adjourned to 9 o’Clock tomorrow.

Benjamin Rush to Julia Rush

I am happy in finding that my appointment in Congress gives you so much pleasure. I believe it has operated in the manner You expected upon some of my Old friends. I spoke for the first time this day. About ten minutes upon a question that proved successful. I felt that I was not thundering like Cato in the Uttica of our committee of inspection. The Audience is truly respectable. Dr. Franklin alone is enough to confound with his presence a thousand such men as myself. I hope however in a little time to experience the same freedom & confidence in speaking that I Observe in other members. I find even our illustrious body is marked with features of human nature. We can talk nonsense now & then as well as our neighbors. This reconciles me to myself….

John Adams to Abigail Adams

I don’t know how I can better entertain you, than by giving you some Idea of the Character of this Dr. Rush. He is a Native of this Place, a Gentleman of an ingenious Turn of Mind, and of elegant Accomplishments. He has travelled in England… afterwards travelled in France…. He has published several Things upon Philosophy, Medicine, and Politicks, in this City. He is a Lecturer in the College here, in some Branch of Physic or surgery, and is a Member of the American Philosophical Society. He has been sometime a Member of the City Committee and was last Week appointed a Delegate in Congress for this Place, in the Room of one, who was left out. He married last Winter, a young Lady, daughter of Mr. Stockton of New Jersey, one of the Judges of the Supreme Court of that Government, and lately appointed a delegate in this Congress.

Benjamin Rush to Charles Lee

The declaration of independence has produced a new era in this part of America. The Militia of Pennsylvania seem to be actuated with a spirit more than Roman…

The Tories are quiet-but very surly. Lord Howe’s proclamation leaves them not a single filament of their cobweb doctrine of reconciliation. The spirit of liberty reigns triumphant in Pennsylvania. The Proprietary gentry have retired to their Country Seats, and honest men have taken the Seats they abused so much in the government of our Stat

The papers will inform you that I have been thrust into Congress. I find there is a great deal of difference between sporting a sentiment in a Letter or over a glass of wine upon politics, & discharging properly the duty of a Senator. I feel myself unequal to every part of my new Situation except where plain integrity is required….

I think the Declaration of independence will produce union and new exertions in England in the same ratio that they have done in this country.

[Rush was elected to Congress by the Pennsylvania Convention on July 20th]

Joseph Hewes to Samuel Purviance, Jr.

I received your favor per Mr. Hughes and immediately went with him to a member of Committee for the Cannon Contracts, they have agreed with him for a large quantity of Cannon. My ill state of health has prevented me from attending much to business lately and has obliged me for some time past to make an excursion or two into the Country. I propose to return to North Carolina shortly where I mean to retire from public business for a month or two. I have laid your accounts before the marine Committee and shall see that they are properly settled.

Francis Hopkinson to Samuel Tucker?

I have further to request that the House would be so good as to furnish their Delegates with printed Copies of your new Constitution, & with such other Ordinances & Regulations as you may pass from Time to Time. We should likewise be glad of a Copy of that part of your Minutes which ascertains what Number of Delegates shall represent the Province in Congress. I am told you have made one Delegate sufficient for this Purpose; but as I have no good Authority for this opinion & was the other Day the only member from Jersey attending in Congress, I was in great Doubt as to the Propriety of giving my vote. [The New Jersey Congress on June 2 endorsed a quorum requirement of one out of the five delegates elected]

William Whipple to Joshua Brackett

A Resolution for confiscating West India Property, has been some time prepared, but Congress has been so extremely engaged they have not yet passed it. [Editor’s Note. See July 24th]

What is Mr. King’s reason for not accepting his appointment [as a county court justice]? Is it that he is doubtful? If that is the case I think it a pity he should ever be noticed hereafter. It’s high time that everyone declared on one side or the other. He that is unwilling to take an active part with us ought to be looked upon as an Enemy & treated accordingly….

The army at New York are I believe well prepared for the Enemy. Lord Howe will meet a very warm reception if he thinks proper to make an attack. He has sent two flags ashore at York, with Letters directed to George Washington Esquire; but the General refused to receive them, they not being properly addressed: which conduct is highly approved by Congress…. He also wrote a friendly letter to Dr. Franklin, to which the Good old Doctor has made a very suitable reply. Matters go on much better since we have got rid of that phantom reconciliation; but we have still much to do. I hope due circumspection will be observed in each of the United States and that everyone who has a hand in this Glorious Revolution, will consider that the Happiness of future Generations, as well as the present, depend on their doings.

William Whipple to John Langdon

I would fain have the Marine matters settled before I leave this. I therefore think it will be the latter end of August before I shall be able to enjoy that Satisfaction, which have battered myself would be much earlier….

Our late Successes at the Southward is almost a Ballance for our misfortunes in Canada considered Continently. Must refer you to the papers for News. I hope the bravery of the Carolinians will inspire the Yankees with new courage and not let it be said that they have transferred the whole of that virtue to their Southern brethren.
This Colony and New Jersey are all alive. The associates are all gone from this City. Men of fortune don’t think themselves too good to march in the character of private soldiers and I hope won’t be ashamed to face the enemy. Colonel Dickinson and all the other Colonels have marched with their battalions. In short the declaration of Independence has done wonders.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.