Second Continental Congress: July 31, 1775
July 31, 1775
Congress accepts The Committee of Four Report rejecting Lord North’s Motion of Reconciliation. Six great accomplishments of the session of Congress compiled.
Link to date-related documents.
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
The Congress debated, paragraph by paragraph, the Report of the Committee on Lord North’s February 1775 Motion in the House of Commons for reconciliation with the colonies. North was not willing to reintroduce William Pitt’s failed attempt in the British Parliament to secure colonial self-government. Instead, North’s Conciliatory Resolution proposed that in exchange for contributing to the common defense etc., a colony would be granted limited relief from paying taxes. Congress rejected this proposal as violating an established right and privilege to raise revenue. The Congressional Report was written by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Richard Henry Lee.
[According to the editors of the Journals, this report was not entered upon the Journals]
Report on Lord North’s Motion [Edited]
That the colonies of America are entitled to the sole and exclusive privilege of giving and granting their own money: that this involves a right of deliberating whether they will make any gift, for what purposes it shall be made, and what shall be its amount; and that it is a high breach of this privilege for anybody of men, extraneous to their constitutions, to prescribe the purposes for which money shall be levied on them, to take to themselves the authority of judging what shall be a sufficient levy of their conditions circumstances, and situations, and of determining the sufficiency or insufficiency of any the levy proposed amount of the contribution to be levied….
To propose therefore as this resolution does that the monies given by the colonies shall be subject to the disposal of parliament alone, is to propose that they shall surrender give away relinquish this right of enquiry; and to put it in the power of others to render their gifts ruinous in proportion as they are liberal….
That as the colonies possess a right of appropriating their gifts, so are they entitled at all times to enquire into their application, to see that they be not wasted among the venal and corrupt for the purpose of undermining the civil rights of the givers, nor yet be diverted to the support of standing armies, inconsistent with their freedom and subversive of their quiet. To propose, therefore, as this resolution does, that the monies given by the colonies shall be subject to the disposal of parliament alone, is to propose that they shall relinquish this right of inquiry, and put it in the power of others to render their gifts ruinous, in proportion as they are liberal.
We are further of opinion That the proposition contained in this resolution is uncandid, unequal, unreasonable, and insidious….
Desirous and determined, as we are, to consider, in the most dispassionate view, every seeming advance towards a reconciliation made by the British reflect, what would have been the sacrifice to men of free spirits, had even fair terms been proffered, as these of insult and defiance. A proposition to give our money, when accompanied with large fleets and armies seems addressed to our fears rather than to our freedom. Let Britons our brethren of Britain reflect with what patience they would they have received articles of treaty from any power on earth when sent by such messengers plenipotentiaries the hands of borne by on the point of a bayonet by military plenipotentiaries? on the point of a bayonet.
We think that the attempt alike unaccountable and unnecessary and unaccountable to raise upon us by force or by threats our proportional contributions to the common defense, when all know, and themselves acknowledge we have ever freely and fully given those contributed whenever called upon as to contribute in the character [of] freemen should be is one among a plain proof, among many others that not the obtaining this but the reducing to their absolute dominion was not the ultimate end of Parliamentary object of parliament….
We are of opinion it is not just that the colonies should be required to oblige themselves to other contributions, while Great Britain possesses a monopoly of their trade. This of itself lays them under heavy contribution. To demand, therefore, additional aids in the form of a tax, is to demand contribution by way in the form of a tax is to demand the double of their equal proportion. We conceive no reason If we are to contribute proportionably equally with the other parts of the empire, let us equally with them enjoy like them equal rights of free commerce with the whole world. But while the restrictions on our trade shut up to us the resources of wealth we cannot bear it is it unjust we should be expected to bear all other burthens equally with those to whom are under no restriction have every resource is open?
We conceive that the British parliament has no right to intermeddle with our provision for the support of civil government, or administration of justice. That the provisions has been made in such manner as to we have already we have made are such as please ourselves, they answer the substantial purposes of government and of justice, and other purposes than these should not be answered. We do not mean to burthen that our people shall be burthened with heavy and oppressive taxes to provide sinecures for the drones of creation ministerial partisans the idle or wicked under color of providing for a civil list. But while parliament pursue their unmolested their plan of civil government within their own jurisdiction we also hope to pursue ours also without molestation.
The double of their equal proportion: if we are to contribute equally with the other parts of the empire, let us equally with them enjoy free commerce with the whole world. But while the restrictions on our trade shut to us the resources of wealth, is it just we should bear all other burthens equally with those to whom every resource is open?
We conceive that the British parliament has no right to intermeddle with our provisions for the support of civil government, or administration of justice. The provisions we have made, are such as please ourselves, and are agreeable to our own circumstances: they answer the substantial purposes of government and of justice, and other purposes than these should not be answered. We do not mean that our people shall be burthened with oppressive taxes, to provide sinecures for the idle or the wicked, under color of providing for a civil list. While parliament pursue their plan of civil government within their own jurisdiction, we also hope to pursue ours without molestation.
We are of opinion the proposition is altogether unsatisfactory, because it imports only a suspension of the mode, not a renunciation of the pretended right to tax us: because, too, it does not propose to repeal the several Acts of Parliament passed for the purposes of restraining the trade, and altering the form of government of one of our colonies: extending the boundaries and changing the government of Quebec; enlarging the jurisdiction of the courts of Admiralty and vice-Admiralty; taking from us the rights of trial by a jury of the vicinage, in cases affecting both life and property; transporting us into other countries to be tried for criminal offences; exempting, by mock-trial, the murderers of colonists from punishment; and quartering soldiers on us in times of profound peace. Nor do they renounce the power of suspending our own legislatures, and of legislating for us themselves in all cases whatsoever….
Upon the whole
This proposition seems to have been held up to the world to deceive them it into a belief that the colonies are unreasonable there was no matter in dispute between us but the single circumstance of the mode of levying taxes, which mode as they are so good as to give up to us, of course that the colonies are unreasonable if they are not thereby perfectly satisfied: whereas in truth our adversaries not only still claim a right of demanding ad libitum and of taxing us themselves to the full amount of their demands if we do not fulfill their pleasure, which leaves us without any thing we can call property, but what is of more importance and what they keep in this proposal out of sight as if no such point was in contest, they claim a right of altering all our charters and established laws which leaves us without the least security for our lives or liberties. the proposition seems also calculated the exercise of indiscriminate legislation over us.
[The editors of the Journal note that In his “Autobiography” Jefferson wrote: “On the 22d. of July Dr Franklin, Mr. Adams, R. H. Lee and myself, were appointed a committee to consider and report on Ld. North’s conciliatory resolution. The answer of the Virginia Assembly on that subject having been approved I was requested by the committee to prepare this report, which will account for the similarity of feature in the two instruments.” Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Ford), I, 18. This first form of the report was probably submitted on July 25, and laid on the table. The original of this draft report is in the Jefferson Manuscripts in the Library of Congress, Fifth Series, Vol. VIII, No. 5.]
By order of the Congress,
Philadelphia, July 31, 1775.
Resolved, That John Langdon, John Adams, Stephen Hopkins, Silas Deane, George Clinton, Stephen Crane, Benjamin Franklin, Caesar Rodney, Thomas Johnson, Patrick Henry, Joseph Hewes, Christopher Gadsden, and Lyman Hall, “be a Committee in the recess of Congress, to make enquiry in all the colonies, after virgin lead, and leaden ore, and the best methods of collecting, smelting, and refining it…[and]..to inquire into the cheapest and easiest methods of making salt in these colonies.
Congress took into consideration the state of trade after September 10th, and after some debate, it was postponed to a future day.
On motion made, Resolved, That when the Congress adjourns for recess, it be adjourned to meet at Philadelphia.
Two petitions were laid before the Congress respecting disputes between the people of Connecticut and Pennsylvania on lands lying between the east and west branches on the waters of Susquehannah, and the same being read,
Ordered, to lie on the table for the perusal of the members.
Two petitions, one from sundry merchants in New York, the other from sundry merchants in Philadelphia, respecting the sale of Teas imported before the late association, were laid before the Congress.
Ordered, To lie on the table.
Resolved, That when the Congress adjourns for recess, it be adjourned to meet at Philadelphia.
Adjourned until tomorrow at 8 o’Clock.
Six Great Objects before the Congress or Actions Taken by the Congress May 17 through July 31, 1775, Compiled by Ward.
1st. The Establishment of sufficient Armies to defend the Country from the Attacks of the ministerial Troops; For this Purpose A Commander in Chief & other General officers were appointed; An Army of 22000 Men stationed in the Massachusetts Bay, 5000 Men stationed in the Province of N. York, Declaration &c Articles of War, A Fast ordered, Measures taken for supplying them with Provisions & warlike Stores: A good Quantity of Powder was purchased & ordered to the Camp.
A Resolution that any Vessels bringing Powder into the colonies should receive the Amount thereof in Provisions or anything else they wanted notwithstanding the former Non Importation & Non exportation. Agreement. All the salt Petre & Brimstone in the united Colonies ordered to be purchased & forwarded to the nearest Powder Mills.
Encouragement given for making salt Petre.
For defraying the Expenses of this War Bills emitted to the Amount of 3000000 Dollars Two joint Treasurers appointed: by whom all the Colonies or private Persons except the Armies, who have done any continental Service are to be paid. See separate Schedule for each Colony’s Proportion.
For distressing our Enemies see the Resolutions relative to Bills of Exchange, Provisions to Nantucket &c.
2d. The obtaining a happy Reconciliation with & a Petition to the King, an Address to the People of England, and Address to the People of Ireland a Letter to the Lord Mayor of London a Letter to the Assembly of Jamaica.
3rd. The putting the united Colonies into a proper State of Defense: Militia Bill; several Colonies supplied with Powder & provincial Congress of North Carolina impowered to raise 1000 Men if necessary at the continental Expense.
4th. The Security of our Frontiers.
Letter to the People of Canada.
Indians divided into three Departments.
Commissioners appointed for each with Presents Talks & Belts of Wampum.
5th. For conveying Intelligence throughout the Continent.
A Postmaster General appointed with full Powers to appoint Deputies Riders &c with Orders to establish weekly Posts from Georgia to Nova Scotia And if the Profits do not defray the Expenses the several Colonies to make up their Proportion.
6th. Observations on the Resolutions of the Comm[ons] & the two Acts of Parliament to restrain &c. Number of Inhabitants in the Several Colonies & Proportion of each Colony in redeeming the 3000000 Dollars emitted subject to a Revision.
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.