Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: June 17, 1775

June 17, 1775

The Committee of Three Report a Draft Commission for the General.   Congress supports the General “with their lives and fortunes.” George Washington writes about his “inexpressible concern” that he is not worthy of the appointment while John Adams believes the “Appointment will have a great Effect, in cementing and securing the Union of these Colonies.”

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Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

The committee appointed to draught a commission to the general, reported the same, which, being read by paragraphs and debated, was agreed to and is as follows:

The Committee of Three Report a Draft Commission for the General

The delegates of the United Colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of New-Castle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; To George Washington, Esq.

We, reposing special trust and confidence in your patriotism, valor, conduct, and fidelity, do, by these presents, constitute and appoint you to be General and Commander in chief, of the army of the United Colonies, and of all the forces now raised, or to be raised, by them, and of all others who shall voluntarily offer their service, and join the said Army for the Defense of American liberty, and for repelling every hostile invasion thereof: And you are hereby vested with full power and authority to act as you shall think for the good and welfare of the service.

And we do hereby strictly charge and require all Officers and Soldiers, under your command, to be obedient to your orders, and diligent in the exercise of their several duties.

And we do also enjoin and require you, to be careful in executing the great trust reposed in you, by causing strict discipline and order to be observed in the army, and that the soldiers be duly exercised, and provided with all convenient necessaries.

And you are to regulate your conduct in every respect by the rules and discipline of war, (as herewith given you,) and punctually to observe and follow such orders and directions, from time to time, as you shall receive from this, or a future Congress of these United Colonies, or committee of Congress.

This commission to continue in force, until revoked by this, or a future Congress.

By order of the Congress.

Ordered, That the Report be fairly transcribed, signed by the president, and attested by the secretary, and delivered to the General.

The Congress declares that they will maintain and assist him, and adhere to him, the said George Washington, with their lives and fortunes in the same cause.

The Congress then proceeded to the choice of the Officers in the army by ballot

Resolved, that this congress will on Monday resolve itself into a committee of the whole to take into consideration the state of America.

Adjourned till Monday next at 9 o’Clock.

George Washington to Martha Washington

My Dearest, I am now set down to write to you on a subject which fills me with inexpressible concern–and this concern is greatly aggravated and increased when I reflect upon the uneasiness I know it will give you.  It has been determined in Congress, that the whole army raised for the defense of the American Cause shall be put under my care, and that it is necessary for me to proceed immediately to Boston to take upon me the Command of it.  You may believe me my dear Patsy, when I assure you in the most solemn manner, that, so far from seeking this appointment, I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it, not only from my unwillingness to part with you and the family, but from a consciousness of its being a trust too great for my capacity and that I should enjoy more real happiness and felicity in one month with you, at home, that I have the most distant prospect of reaping abroad, if my stay were to be seven times seven years.  But as it has been a kind of destiny, that has thrown me upon this service, I shall hope that my undertaking of it is designed to answer some good purpose….

John Adams to Abigail Adams

I can now inform you that the Congress have made Choice of the modest and virtuous, the amiable, generous and brave George Washington Esquire to be the General of the American Army, and that he is to repair as soon as possible to the Camp before Boston.  This Appointment will have a great Effect, in cementing and securing the Union of these Colonies. The Continent is really in earnest in defending the Country…. I begin to hope We shall not sit all Summer.

I hope the People of our Province, will treat the General with all that Confidence and Affection, that Politeness and Respect, which is due to one of the most important Characters in the World. The Liberties of America, depend upon him, in a great Degree….

I have found this Congress like the last. When We first came together, I found a strong Jealousy of Us, from New England, and the Massachusetts in Particular. Suspicions were entertained of Designs of Independency–an American Republic–Presbyterian Principles –and twenty other Things. Our Sentiments were heard in Congress, with great Caution–and seemed to make but little Impression: but the longer We sat, the more clearly they saw the Necessity of pursuing vigorous Measures. It has been so now. Every Day We sit, the more We are convinced that the Designs against Us, are hostile and sanguinary, and that nothing but Fortitude, Vigour, and Perseverance can save Us.

But America is a great, unwieldy Body. Its Progress must be slow. It is like a large Fleet sailing under Convoy. The fleetest Sailors must wait for the dullest and slowest. Like a Coach and six–the swiftest Horses must be slackened and the slowest quickened, that all may keep an even Pace….

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.