The Committee on Claims is particularly active, and Congress continues the debate over the Articles of Confederation that began on July 22. John Adams takes Notes on the debate and proposes a system of delegate rotation.
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
A memorial of Samuel Holden Parsons, Connecticut, was presented to Congress, read, and referred to a committee of three: Thomas Jefferson, James Wilson, and Roger Sherman.
A memorial from sundry officers who served in Canada, and are now unemployed, was read, and referred to the Board of War.
Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into further consideration, the Articles of Confederation. Benjamin Harrison reported that the committee have made progress in the consideration of the Articles of Confederation, but have not completed their work.
A letter of the 23rd, from General Washington, enclosing a letter from Governor Trumbull, was referred to the Board of War.
The Committee of Claims reported, that there are 15 claims due.
Ordered, That the said accounts be paid.
Resolved, That this Congress will, tomorrow, resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take the Articles of Confederation into further consideration.
Adjourned to 9 o’Clock tomorrow.
John Adams to John Avery ( Deputy Secretary of the Massachusetts General Court)
I find myself under a necessity of applying to the honorable the General Court for leave to return home. I have attended here so long and so constantly, that I feel myself necessitated to ask the favor on account of my health, as well as on many other accounts. I beg leave to propose to the honorable Court, an alteration in their plan of delegation in Congress, which, it appears to me, would be more agreeable to the health and convenience of the members, and much more conducive to the public good, than the present. No gentleman can possibly attend to an incessant round of thinking, speaking, and writing, upon the most intricate, as well as important concerns of human society, from one end of the year to another, without trying both his mental and bodily strength. I would therefore humbly propose, that the honorable Court would be pleased to appoint nine members to attend in Congress–three or five at a time. In this case, four or six might be at home at a time, and every member might be relieved once in three or four months. In this way you would always have members in Congress who would have in their minds a complete chain of the proceedings here, as well as in the General Court; both kinds of which knowledge are necessary for a proper conduct here. In this way, the lives and health, and, indeed, the sound minds, of the delegates here, would be in less danger than they are at present, and, in my humble opinion, the public business would be much better done. This proposal, however, is only submitted to the honorable body, whose sole right it is to judge of it. For myself, I must entreat the General Court to give me leave to resign, and immediately to appoint some other gentleman in my room.
[Editor’s Note. The Massachusetts House discussed Adams’s request and proposal on August 26th. Adams left Congress on October 13]
John Adams, Notes of Debate on The Articles of Confederation
Art. 14. of the Confederation.
Terms in this Article, equivocal and indefinite.
Jefferson. The Limits of the Southern Colonies are fixed…. Moves an Amendment, that all Purchases of Lands, not within the Boundaries of any Colony shall be made by Congress, of the Indians in a great Council. Sherman seconds the Motion….
Chase. The Intention of this Article is very obvious, and plain. The Article appears to me to be right, and the Amendment wrong. It is the Intention of some Gentlemen to limit the Boundaries of particular States. No colony has a Right to go to the S[outh] Sea. They never had-they can’t have. It would not be safe to the rest. It would be destructive to her Sisters, and to herself.
Jefferson. What are reasonable Limits? What Security have We that the Congress will not curtail the present Settlements of the States. I have no doubt, that the Colonies will limit themselves.
Wilson. Every Gentleman has heard much of Claims to the South Sea. They are extravagant. The Grants were made upon Mistakes. They were ignorant of the Geography. They thought the S. Sea within 100 Miles of the Atlantic Ocean. It was not conceived that they extended 3000 Miles. Ld. Cambden considers the Claims to the South Sea, as what never can be reduced to Practice. Pennsylvania has no Right to interfere in those claims. But she has a Right to say, that she will not confederate unless those Claims are cut off. I wish the Colonies themselves would cutt off those Claims….
Chase moves for the Word deputies, instead of Delegates, because the Members of the Maryland Convention are called Delegates, and he would have a Distinction. Answer. In other Colonies the Reverse is true. The Members of the House are called deputies. Jefferson objects to the first of November. Dr. Hall moves for May, for the time to meet. Jefferson thinks that Congress will have a short Meeting in the Fall and another in the Spring. Hayward thinks the Spring the best Time. Wilson thinks the fall-and November better than October, because September is a busy Month, everywhere. Dr. Hall. September and October the most sickly and mortal Months in the Year. The Season is forwarder in Georgia in April, than here in May. Hopkinson moves that the Power of recalling Delegates be reserved to the State not to the Assembly, because that may be changed.
Each Colony shall have one vote.
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.