Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: June 12, 1776

June 12, 1776

Congress selects a 13 member committee to draft the Articles of Confederation, a 5 member committee to draft a plan of treaties with foreign powers [John Dickinson elected to both], and creates a “A Board of War and Ordnance” Committee. John Adams advises “clear heads,” and “patience” in the formation of new governments and Oliver Wolcott writes that we are “in the midst of a great Revolution.”

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Congress settled an issue with the owners of privateers, elected Ebenezer Hancock as deputy pay master general for the eastern department, sent money for the use of the continental troops in the eastern department, and allowed rifle regiments to have a drummer and fifer to each company,

Resolved, That the Secret Committee be directed to deliver to Colonel Magaw, for the use of his battalion, the 191 arms sent up by Captain Berry.

The Congress then proceeded to the appointment of the committees.

Resolved, That the committee to prepare and digest the form of a confederation to be entered into between these colonies, consist of a member from each colony: New Hampshire, Josiah Bartlett; Massachusetts, Samuel Adams; Rhode Island, Stephen Hopkins; Connecticut, Roger Sherman; New York, Robert R. Livingston; New Jersey;    Pennsylvania, John Dickinson; Delaware, Thomas McKean; Maryland, Thomas Stone; Virginia, Thomas Nelson; North Carolina, Joseph Hewes; South Carolina, Edward Rutledge; Georgia, Button Gwinnett

Resolved, That the committee to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers, consist of five members: John Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Benjamin Harrison, and Robert Morris.

Congress considered the report of the committee on a war office.  Resolved, That “A Board of War and Ordnance,” committee be created to consist of five members.  That a secretary and one or more clerks, be appointed by Congress, with competent salaries, to assist the said board in executing the business of their department.

That it shall be the duty of the said board, to obtain and keep an alphabetical and accurate register of the names of all officers of the land forces in the service of the United Colonies, with their ranks and the dates of their respective commissions; and also regular accounts of the state and disposition of the troops in the respective colonies; for which purpose, the generals and officers commanding in the different departments and posts, are to cause regular returns to be made into the said war office.

That they shall obtain and keep exact accounts of all the artillery, arms, ammunition and warlike stores, belonging to the United Colonies, and of the manner in which, and the places where, the same shall, from time to time, be lodged and employed; and that they shall have the immediate care of all such artillery, arms, ammunition, and warlike stores, as shall not be employed in actual service; for preserving whereof, they shall have power to hire proper magazines at the public expense:

That they shall have the care of forwarding all dispatches from Congress to the colonies and armies, and all monies to be transmitted for the public service by order of Congress; and of providing suitable escorts and guards for the safe conveyance of such dispatches and monies, when it shall appear to them to be necessary:

That they shall superintend the raising, fitting out, and dispatching all such land forces as may be ordered for the service of the United Colonies:

That they shall have the care and direction of all prisoners of war, agreeable to the orders and regulations of Congress:

That they shall keep and preserve, in the said office, in regular order, all original letters and papers, which shall come into the said office by order of Congress, or otherwise, and shall also cause all draughts of letters and dispatches to be made or transcribed in books to be set apart for that purpose, and shall cause fair entries, in like manner, to be made, and registers preserved, of all other business which shall be transacted in the said office:

That before the secretary, or any clerk of the war office shall enter on his office, they shall respectively take and subscribe the following oath, a certificate whereof shall be filed in the said office:

I, A. B. do solemnly swear, that I will not directly or indirectly, divulge any matter or thing, which shall come to my knowledge, as (secretary) of the board of war and ordnance, for the United Colonies, (or clerk of the board of war and ordnance,) established by Congress, without the leave of the said board of war and ordnance, and that I will faithfully execute my said office, according to the best of my skill and judgment. So help me God.

That the said board of war be authorized to hire suitable apartments, and provide books, paper, and other necessaries, at the continental expense, for carrying on the business of the said office.

The committee to whom the several letters, from the commissioners in Canada, and Major General Schuyler, with the papers enclosed therein, were referred, brought in their report, which was read:

The commissioners to Canada also brought in a report in writing, which was read:

Resolved, That the said two reports be referred to the committee of the whole Congress.

Congress then resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the several reports referred; and, after some time spent thereon, Benjamin Harrison reported that the committee had not yet concluded it’s work.

Resolved, That this Congress will, tomorrow, again resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into their further consideration the reports referred to them.

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock tomorrow.

[Richard Smith from New Jersey resigned due to ill health]

John Adams to John Lowell (A Boston Lawyer)

The Defense of the Colony is the first object. The Second is the Formation of a Constitution. In this Business, I presume you will proceed Slowly and deliberately. It is a difficult work to achieve and the Spirit of Levelling, as well as that of Innovation, is afloat. Before I saw, the List of the new Election I was under fearful Apprehensions I confess. But my Mind is now at Ease, in this Respect. There are So many able Men in each House that I think they will have Influence enough to prevent any dangerous Innovations, and yet to carry any necessary and useful Improvements.

Some of you must prepare your stomachs to come to Philadelphia. I am weary, and must ask Leave to return to my Family, after a little Time, and one of my Colleagues at least, must do the same, or I greatly fear, do worse. You and I know very well the Fatigues of Practice at the Bar: But I assure you, this incessant Round of thinking and Speaking upon the greatest Subjects that ever employed the Mind of Man, and the most perplexing Difficulties that ever puzzled it, is beyond all Comparison more exhausting and consuming.

Our affairs in Canada are in a confused and disastrous situation. But I hope they will not be worse. We have made large Requisitions upon you. How you can possibly comply with them I know not: but hope you will do as much as you can.
We have no Resource left my Friend, but our own Fortitude, and the Favor of Heaven. If We have the first I have no doubt We shall obtain the last. And these will be Sufficient. All Ideas of Reconciliation, or Accommodation seem to be gone with the years before the Flood.

John Adams to Oakes Angier (A Former Student of Adams)

Your Country never Stood so much in need of Men of clear Heads and Steady Hearts to conduct her Affairs. Our civil Governments as well as military Preparations want much Improvement, and to this End a most vigilant Attention, as well as great Patience, Caution, Prudence and Firmness are necessary….

Let me recommend to you, an observation, that one of my Colleagues is very fond of, “The first Virtue of a Politician is Patience; the second is Patience; and the third is Patience.” As Demosthenes observed that Action was the first, second, and third Qualities of an orator. You will experience in public Life such violent, sudden, and unexpected Provocations, and Disappointments, that if you are not now possessed of all the Patience of Job, I would advise you to acquire it, as soon as possible.

Oliver Wolcott to Laura Wolcott

We seem at present to be in the midst of a great Revolution, which I hope God will carry us safe through with.  Pennsylvania Assembly last Saturday rescinded their Instructions to their Delegates, and they now say that they expect No Reconciliation.  Much Wisdom and Firmness are requisite to conduct the Various and most important Matters which are necessary to be determined upon. This year will probably be productive of great and most interesting Consequences. And my Wish is that the Supreme Ruler of the Universe would guide every public Measure.

By the Blessing of God I enjoy Health which demands my Gratitude. The Service is hard, and affords but little Time for Exercise, but I hope before next month is out to be upon my Return to my Family whom I do most sincerely Desire to see.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.