Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: July 8, 1775

July 8, 1775

The delegates discuss and approve four Petitions, Addresses, or Letters. (1) The Petition to the King (2) The Address to the People of Great Britain, (3) The Letter to the Lord Mayor of London, and (4) The Letter to Mr. Penn and the Colony Agents.  The Petition to the King is signed by 59 delegates.  (The other three are signed by John Hancock alone.) Note the tone of reconciliation in the Petition: a) the acceptance of obedience to “King and Country”and b) the encouragement of the King to exercise his prerogative over the dangerous laws of a disloyal Parliament. Jefferson is critical of the Signers. “Congress gave a signal… of their great desire not to go too fast for any respectable part of our body.”

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

The Congress met according to adjournment.

(1) The Petition to the King [Edited]

To the King’s most Excellent Majesty:

Most gracious sovereign,

We, your Majesty’s faithful subjects of the colonies…entreat your Majesty’s gracious attention to this our humble petition.

The union between our Mother country and these colonies, and the energy of mild and just government, produced benefits so remarkably important, and afforded such an assurance of their permanency and increase, that the wonder and envy of other Nations were excited, while they beheld Great Britain rising to a power the most extraordinary the world had ever known.

Her rivals, observing that there was no probability of this happy connection being broken by civil dissensions, and apprehending its future effects, if left any longer undisturbed, resolved to prevent her receiving such continual and formidable accessions of wealth and strength, by checking the growth of these settlements from which they were to be derived….

At the conclusion, therefore, of the late war [1763], the most glorious and advantageous that ever had been carried on by British arms, your loyal colonists having contributed to its success, by such repeated and strenuous exertions, as frequently procured them the distinguished approbation of your Majesty, of the late King, and of Parliament, doubted not but that they should be permitted, with the rest of the empire, to share in the blessings of peace, and the emoluments of victory and conquest….[But] they were alarmed by a new system of statutes and regulations adopted for the administration of the colonies, that filled their minds with the most painful fears and jealousies; and, to their inexpressible astonishment, perceived the dangers of a foreign quarrel quickly succeeded by domestic dangers, in their judgment, of a more dreadful kind….

We shall decline the ungrateful task of describing the irksome variety of artifices, practiced by many of your Majesty’s Ministers, the delusive pretenses, fruitless terrors, and unavailing severities, that have, from time to time, been dealt out by them, in their attempts to execute this impolitic plan, or of tracing, through a series of years past, the progress of the unhappy differences between Great Britain and these colonies, which have flowed from this fatal source.

Your Majesty’s Ministers, persevering in their measures, and proceeding to open hostilities for enforcing them, have compelled us to arm in our own defense, and have engaged us in a controversy so peculiarly abhorrent to the affections of your still faithful colonists, that when we consider whom we must oppose in this contest, and if it continues, what may be the consequences, our own particular misfortunes are accounted by us only as parts of our distress.

Knowing to what violent resentments and incurable animosities, civil discords are apt to exasperate and inflame the contending parties, we think ourselves required by indispensable obligations to Almighty God, to your Majesty, to our fellow subjects, and to ourselves, immediately to use all the means in our power, not incompatible with our safety, for stopping the further effusion of blood, and for averting the impending calamities that threaten the British Empire….

We are persuaded your Majesty would ascribe any seeming deviation from reverence in our language, and even in our conduct, not to any reprehensible intention, but to the impossibility of reconciling the usual appearances of respect, with a just attention to our own preservation against those artful and cruel enemies, who abuse your royal confidence and authority, for the purpose of effecting our destruction….

We solemnly assure your Majesty, that we not only most ardently desire the former harmony between her and these colonies may be restored, but that a concord may be established between them upon so firm a basis as to perpetuate its blessings, uninterrupted by any future dissentions, to succeeding generations in both countries, and to transmit your Majesty’s name to posterity, adorned with that signal and lasting glory, that has attended the memory of those illustrious personages, whose virtues and abilities have extricated states from dangerous convulsions, and, by securing happiness to others, have erected the most noble and durable monuments to their own fame.

We beg leave further to assure your Majesty, that notwithstanding the sufferings of your loyal colonists, during the course of the present controversy, our breasts retain too tender a regard for the kingdom from which we derive our origin, to request such a reconciliation as might in any manner be inconsistent with her dignity or her welfare. These, related as we are to her, honor and duty, as well as inclination, induce us to support and advance; and the apprehensions that now oppress our hearts with unspeakable grief, being once removed, your Majesty will find your faithful subjects on this continent ready and willing at all times, as they ever have been, with their lives and fortunes, to assert and maintain the rights and interests of your Majesty, and of our Mother country.

We, therefore, beseech your Majesty, that your royal authority and influence may be graciously interposed to procure us relief from our afflicting fears and jealousies, occasioned by the system before mentioned, and to settle peace through every part of your dominions, with all humility submitting to your Majesty’s wise consideration whether it may not be expedient for facilitating those important purposes, that your Majesty be pleased to direct some mode, by which the united applications of your faithful colonists to the throne, in pursuance of their common councils, may be improved into a happy and permanent reconciliation; and that, in the meantime, measures may be taken for preventing the further destruction of the lives of your Majesty’s subjects; and that such statutes as more immediately distress any of your Majesty’s colonies may be repealed.

For by such arrangements as your Majesty’s wisdom can form, for collecting the united sense of your American people, we are convinced your Majesty would receive such satisfactory proofs of the disposition of the colonists towards their sovereign and parent state, that the wished for opportunity would soon be restored to them, of evincing the sincerity of their professions, by every testimony of devotion becoming the most dutiful subjects, and the most affectionate colonists.

That your Majesty may enjoy a long and prosperous reign, and that your descendants may govern your dominions with honor to themselves and happiness to their subjects, is our sincere and fervent prayer.

The Congress resumed the Consideration of the Address to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, which debated by paragraphs, was approved and ordered to be printed.

John Hancock

New Hampshire (1) John Langdon

Massachusetts (4) Thomas Cushing, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine

Rhode Island (2) Stephen Hopkins, Samuel Ward

Connecticut (3) Elipht Dyer, Roger Sherman, Silas Deane

New York (9) Philip Livingston, James Duane, John Alsop, Francis Lewis, John Jay, Robert R Livingston Jr., Lewis Morris, William Floyd, Henry Wisner

New Jersey (3) William Livingston, John De Hart, Richard Smith

Pennsylvania (5) John Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, George Ross, James Wilson, Charles Humphreys, Edward Biddle

Delaware (3) Cæsar Rodney, Thomas Mc. Kean, George Read

Maryland (5) Matthew Tilghman, Thomas Johnson Junior, William Paca, Samuel Chase, Thomas Stone

Virginia (5) Patrick Henry Junior, Richard Henry Lee, Edmund Pendleton, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Jefferson

North Carolina (2) William Hooper, Joseph Hewes

South Carolina (5) Henry Middleton, Thomas Lynch, Christian Gadsden, John Rutledge, Edward Rutledge

(2) The Address to the People of Great Britain [Edited]

The Twelve United Colonies, by their Delegates in Congress, to the Inhabitants of Great Britain.

Friends, Countrymen, and Brethren!

By these, and by every other appellation that may designate the ties, which bind us to each other, we entreat your serious attention to this our Second Attempt to prevent their dissolution.  Remembrances of former friendships, pride in the glorious achievements of our common ancestors, and affection for the heirs of their virtues, have hitherto preserved our mutual connection; but when the friendship is violated by the grossest injuries; when the pride of ancestry becomes our reproach, and we are no otherwise allied than as Tyrants and Slaves; when reduced to the melancholy alternative of renouncing your favor or our Freedom; can we hesitate about the choice?  Let the Spirit of Britons determine.

In a former Address we asserted our Rights, and stated the Injuries we had then received.  We hoped, that the mention of our Wrongs would have roused that honest Indignation which has slept too long for your Honor, or the Welfare of the Empire. But we have not been permitted to entertain this pleasing expectation.  Every Day brought an accumulation of Injuries, and the Invention of the Ministry has been constantly exercised, in adding to the Calamities of your American Brethren.

After the most valuable Right of Legislation was infringed; when the Powers assumed by your Parliament, in which we are not represented, and from our local and other Circumstances cannot properly be represented, rendered our Property precarious; after being in many instances divested of those Laws, which were transmitted to us by our common Ancestors, and subjected to an arbitrary Code, compiled under the auspices of Roman Tyrants; after those Charters, which encouraged our Predecessors to brave Death and Danger in every Shape, on unknown Seas, in Deserts unexplored, amidst barbarous and inhospitable Nations, were annulled; when, without the form of Trial, without a public Accusation, whole Colonies were condemned, their Trade destroyed, their Inhabitants impoverished; when Soldiers were encouraged to embrue their Hands in the Blood of Americans, by offers of Impunity; when new modes of Trial were instituted for the ruin of the accused, where the charge carried with it the horrors of conviction; when a despotic Government was established in a neighboring Province, and its limits extended to every of our frontiers; we little imagined that any thing could be added to this black Catalogue of unprovoked Injuries: but we have unhappily been deceived, and the late Measures of the British Ministry fully convince us, that their object is the reduction of these Colonies to Slavery and Ruin….

We could wish to go no further, and, not to wound the Ear of Humanity, leave untold those rigorous Acts of Oppression, which are daily exercised in the town of Boston, did we not hope, that by disclaiming their Deeds and punishing the Perpetrators, you would shortly vindicate the Honor of the British Name, and re-establish the violated laws of Justice.

That once populous, flourishing and commercial Town is now garrisoned by an Army sent not to protect, but to enslave its Inhabitants. The civil Government is overturned, and a military Despotism created upon its Ruins. Without Law, without Right, Powers are assumed unknown to the Constitution. Private Property is unjustly invaded. The Inhabitants, daily subjected to the Licentiousness of the Soldiery, are forbid to remove in Defiance of their natural Rights, in Violation of the most solemn Compacts. Or if, after long and wearisome Solicitation, a Pass is procured, their Effects are detained, and even those who are most favored, have no Alternative but Poverty or Slavery. The Distress of many thousand People, wantonly deprived of the Necessaries of Life, is a Subject, on which we would not wish to enlarge….

To what are we to attribute this Treatment? If to any secret Principle of the Constitution, let it be mentioned; let us learn, that the Government, we have long revered, is not without its Defects, and that while it gives Freedom to a Part, it necessarily enslaves the Remainder of the Empire. If such a Principle exists, why for Ages has it ceased to operate? Why at this Time is it called into Action? Can no Reason be assigned for this Conduct? Or must it be resolved into the wanton Exercise of arbitrary Power? And shall the Descendants of Britons tamely submit to this?–No, Sirs! We never will….

Our Enemies charge us with Sedition. In what does it consist? In our Refusal to submit to unwarrantable Acts of Injustice and Cruelty? If so, shew us a Period in your History, in which you have not been equally Seditious.

We are accused of aiming at Independence; but how is this Accusation supported? By the Allegations of your Ministers, not by our Actions. Abused, insulted, and contemned, what Steps have we pursued to obtain Redress? We have carried our dutiful Petitions to the Throne. We have applied to your Justice for Relief. We have retrenched our Luxury, and withheld our Trade.

The Advantages of our Commerce were designed as a Compensation for your Protection: When you ceased to protect, for what were we to compensate?

What has been the Success of our Endeavors? The Clemency of our Sovereign is unhappily diverted; our Petitions are treated with Indignity; our Prayers answered by Insults. Our Application to you remains unnoticed, and leaves us the melancholy Apprehension of your wanting either the Will, or the Power, to assist us.

Even under these Circumstances, what Measures have we taken that betray a Desire of Independence?…

Let not your Enemies and ours persuade you, that in this we were influenced by Fear or any other unworthy Motive. The Lives of Britons are still dear to us. They are the Children of our Parents, and an uninterrupted Intercourse of mutual Benefits had knit the Bonds of Friendship. When Hostilities were commenced, when on a late Occasion we were wantonly attacked by your Troops, though we repelled their Assaults and returned their Blows, yet we lamented the Wounds they obliged us to give; nor have we yet learned to rejoice at a Victory over Englishmen.

As we wish not to color our Actions, or disguise our Thoughts, we shall, in the simple Language of Truth, avow the Measures we have pursued, the Motives upon which we have acted, and our future Designs.

When our late Petition to the Throne produced no other Effect than fresh Injuries, and Votes of your Legislature, calculated to justify every Severity; when your Fleets and your Armies were prepared to wrest from us our Property, to rob us of our Liberties or our Lives; when the hostile Attempts of General Gage evinced his Designs, we levied Armies for our Security and Defense. When the Powers vested in the Governor of Canada, gave us Reason to apprehend Danger from that Quarter; and we had frequent Intimations, that a cruel and savage Enemy was to be let loose upon the defenseless Inhabitants of our Frontiers; we took such Measures as Prudence dictated, as Necessity will justify. We possessed ourselves of Crown Point and Ticonderoga. Yet give us leave most solemnly to assure you, that we have not yet lost Sight of the Object we have ever had in View, a Reconciliation with you on constitutional Principles, and a Restoration of that friendly Intercourse, which, to the Advantage of both, we till lately maintained….

It has been said, that we refuse to submit to the Restrictions on our Commerce. From whence is this Inference drawn? Not from our Words, we have repeatedly declared the Contrary; and we again profess our Submission to the several Acts of Trade and Navigation, passed before the Year 1763, trusting, nevertheless, in the Equity and Justice of Parliament, that such of them as, upon cool and impartial Consideration, shall appear to have imposed unnecessary or grievous Restrictions, will, at some happier Period, be repealed or altered. And we cheerfully consent to the Operation of such Acts of the British Parliament, as shall be restrained to the Regulation of our external Commerce, for the Purpose of securing the commercial Advantages of the whole Empire to the Mother Country, and the commercial Benefits of its respective Members; excluding every Idea of Taxation internal or external, for raising a Revenue on the Subjects in America, without their Consent.

It is alleged that we contribute nothing to the Common Defense. To this we answer, that the Advantages which Great Britain receives from the Monopoly of our Trade, far exceed our Proportion of the Expense necessary for that Purpose. But should these Advantages be inadequate thereto, let the Restrictions on our Trade be removed, and we will cheerfully contribute such Proportion when constitutionally required.

It is a fundamental Principle of the British Constitution, that every Man should have at least a Representatives Share in the Formation of those Laws, by which he is bound. Were it otherwise, the Regulation of our internal Police by a British Parliament, who are and ever will be unacquainted with our local Circumstances, must be always inconvenient, and frequently oppressive, working our wrong, without yielding any possible Advantage to you.

A Plan of Accommodation (as it has been absurdly called) has been proposed by your Ministers to our respective Assemblies. Were this Proposal free from every other Objection, but that which arises from the Time of the Offer, it would not be unexceptionable. Can Men deliberate with the Bayonet at their Breast? Can they treat with Freedom, while their Towns are sacked; when daily Instances of Injustice and Oppression disturb the slower Operations of Reason?

If this Proposal is really such as you would offer and we accept, why was it delayed till the Nation was put to useless expense, and we were reduced to our present melancholy Situation? If it holds forth nothing, why was it proposed? Unless indeed to deceive you into a Belief, that we were unwilling to listen to any Terms of Accommodation. But what is submitted to our Consideration? We contend for the Disposal of our Property. We are told that our Demand is unreasonable, that our Assemblies may indeed collect our Money, but that they must at the same Time offer, not what your Exigencies or ours may require, but so much as shall be deemed sufficient to satisfy the Desires of a Minister and enable him to provide for favorites and dependents. A Recurrence to your own Treasury will convince you how little of the Money already extorted from us has been applied to the Relief of your Burthens. To suppose that we would thus grasp the Shadow and give up the Substance, is adding Insult to Injuries.

We have nevertheless again presented an humble and dutiful Petition to our Sovereign, and to remove every imputation of Obstinacy, have requested his Majesty to direct some Mode, by which the united Applications of his faithful Colonists may be improved into a happy and permanent Reconciliation….

Yet conclude not from this that we propose to surrender our Property into the Hands of your Ministry, or vest your Parliament with a Power which may terminate in our Destruction. The great Bulwarks of our Constitution we have desired to maintain by every temperate, by every peaceable Means; but your Ministers (equal Foes to British and American freedom) have added to their former Oppressions an Attempt to reduce us by the Sword to a base and abject submission. On the Sword, therefore, we are compelled to rely for Protection. Should Victory declare in your Favour, yet Men trained to Arms from their Infancy, and animated by the Love of Liberty, will afford neither a cheap or easy Conquest. Of this at least we are assured, that our Struggle will be glorious, our Success certain; since even in Death we shall find that Freedom which in Life you forbid us to enjoy….

Notwithstanding the Distress to which we are reduced, we sometimes forget our own Afflictions, to anticipate and sympathize in yours. We grieve that rash and inconsiderate Councils should precipitate the destruction of an Empire, which has been the envy and admiration of Ages, and call God to witness! that we would part with our Property, endanger our Lives, and sacrifice everything but Liberty, to redeem you from ruin.

A Cloud hangs over your Heads and ours; before this reaches you, it may probably burst upon us; let us then (before the remembrance of former Kindness is obliterated) once more repeat those Appellations which are ever grateful in our Ears; let us entreat Heaven to avert our Ruin, and the Destruction that threatens our Friends, Brethren and Countrymen, on the other side of the Atlantic.

Ordered, That the Address be published and a number of them sent by Mr. Penn to England.

(3) The Letter to the Lord Mayor, &c.,

My Lord,

Permit the Delegates of the people of twelve ancient colonies, to pay your Lordship, and the very respectable body of which you are head, the just tribute of gratitude and thanks, for the virtuous and unsolicited resentment you have shown to the violated rights of a free people.  The city of London, my Lord, having in all ages, approved itself the patron of liberty, and the support of just government, against lawless tyranny and oppression, cannot fail to make us deeply sensible of the powerful aid, our cause must receive from such advocates. A cause, my Lord, worthy the support of the first city in the world, as it involves the fate of a great continent, and threatens to shake the foundations of a flourishing, and, until lately, a happy empire.

North America, my Lord, wishes most ardently for a lasting connection with Great Britain on terms of just and equal liberty; less than which generous minds will not offer, nor brave and free ones be willing to receive.

A cruel war has at length been opened against us, and whilst we prepare to defend ourselves like the descendants of Britons, we still hope that the mediation of wise and good citizens, will at length prevail over despotism, and restore harmony and peace, on permanent principles, to an oppressed and divided empire.

Ordered, That the above Letter be fairly transcribed, and signed by the president, and sent by Mr. Penn.

(4) Letter to Penn and Agents [Edited]

The unjust and cruel system of colony administration has occasioned the meeting of another Congress.

We have again appealed to the justice of our sovereign for protection against the destruction which his Ministers meditate for his American subjects.  This Petition to his Majesty you will please, Gentlemen, to present to the King with all convenient expedition, after which we desire it may be given to the public. We likewise send you our second application to the equity and interest of our fellow subjects in Great Britain, and also a Declaration setting forth the causes of our taking up arms: Both …be immediately put to press, and communicated as universally as possible.

The Congress entertain the highest sense of the wise and worthy interposition of the Lord Mayor and Livery of London, in favor of injured America.  They have expressed this, their sense, in a letter to his Lordship and the livery, which we desire may be presented in the manner most agreeable to that respectable body.

You will oblige us, Gentlemen, by giving the most early information to the Congress, and to the speakers of our respective assemblies, of your proceeding in this business, and such further intelligence as you may judge to be of importance to America in this great contest.

Adjourned until Monday at 9 o’Clock.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.