Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: June 17, 1776

June 17, 1776

Various committees, including The Committee of War and Ordnance and the Committee to digest and methodize certain resolutions on the war effort, are hard at work. Josiah Bartlett writes about 1) the account of the Commissioners who have returned from Canada, 2) the decision by the Board of War concerning office holding, and 3) the debates within the drafting committee about the Articles of Confederation.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

A letter of the 7th of May from Brigadier General Armstrong, and a letter of the 6th of June from the committee of Albany, were laid before Congress, and read.

The Committee of War and Ordnance, to whom the letter of Governor Trumbull of June 10th, was referred, brought in their report, which was taken into consideration.

Resolved, That it be recommended to the governor and assembly of Connecticut, to send two battalions, one for Boston, and one for New York and Canada forthwith, as and that a battalion of militia be sent to Boston, instead of the one intended.

That blank commissions be sent to Governor Trumbull, for the officers of the battalion raised for New York; the present exigency requiring this measure, the same not to be drawn into precedent:

That 10,500 dollars be paid into the hands of the delegates of Connecticut, to be sent to that colony, to defray the expense of raising the said regiment:

That Governor Trumbull be informed, that Congress are of opinion, that the provision made by the late act of assembly of Connecticut, for the purpose of engaging one third of the militia on the sea coast, and one fourth in the interior part of that colony, for the defense thereof, and of the neighboring colonies, will, by no means, answer the object the Congress had in view by their resolution of the 3d of June; and request, that such steps be taken by the assembly of that colony, as shall seem to them most likely to carry into effect the said requisition.

Resolved, That commissions be granted to the officers appointed by the assembly of Connecticut for the regiment ordered to be raised in that colony, for the service of the continent.

Resolved, That the Secret Committee be directed to sell two tons of gun powder to the convention of New Jersey, for the use of their militia.

The committee appointed to digest and methodize the resolutions considered by the committee of the whole, having performed that service, delivered their lengthy report, which was taken into consideration.  This led to several policy changes concerning operations in Canada, the Indians, and the United Colonies.

Consideration of the remainder of the report be postponed till tomorrow.

The Committee to whom were recommitted the Cartel between Brigadier General Arnold and Captain Foster, for the exchange of prisoners, issued a detailed report along with recommendations.

The committee on the petition of Colonel Turbutt Francis reported, that they had met on the business referred to them; but that the Indians refused to be examined, or to give any evidence on the matter which prevented their proceeding. 

The Committee on Spies brought in their report, which was read and Ordered To lie on the table.

The committee to whom the letters from William Palfrey, paymaster general, of the 19 of May and 3d of June were referred, brought in their report, read and settled

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock tomorrow.

Josiah Bartlett to John Langdon

Dr Franklin, Mr Chase and Mr Carrol are returned from Canada; their account of the behavior of our New England officers and soldiers touches me to the quick. By their account never men behaved so badly-some regiments not having more than 100 men, when it was expected there were six times that number; stealing and plundering arms, ammunition, military stores &c and taking the battues and running off. One man it is said stole six guns and to conceal them broke the stocks to pieces, cut up a tent to make a knapsack to carry off the barrels, locks &c-and all is said to be owing to the officers. Unless our men behave better we shall lose all our former credit and be despised by the whole Continent. This is the account here; I pray God, it may not be so bad as is represented….

A Board of War is now appointed consisting of Mr J Adams, Mr Sherman, Col Harrison, Mr Wilson and E Rutledge. I have taken every opportunity to mention to the members the affair of the agency and am surprised to find all of them agreeing that no member of Congress ought to be appointed to any post of profit under the Congress; so that as you are a Member, I am sure it will not go down, and I am by no means willing you should resign your seat here. As the affair of the ship will soon be finished and Colonel Whipple will be for returning to his family, my opinion is that it will be best for you to come here as soon as you and Colonel Whipple can agree on it and that the affair of the Agency be in the meantime left open. When you are here you will be better able to determine on several affairs.

The affair of a Confederation of the Colonies is now unanimously agreed on by all the members of all the Colonies.  A Committee of one from each Colony are to draw up the articles of confederation or a Continental Constitution which when agreed on by the Congress will be sent to be confirmed by the Legislature of the several Colonies. As it is a very important business and some difficulties have arisen, I fear it will take some time before it will be finally settled. The affair of voting whether by Colonies as at present or other ways is not decided and causes some warm disputes….

Committee Debates the Creation of the Articles of Confederation [June 17 – July 1 1776]

[Editor’s Note.  Richard Henry Lee moved on June 7 “that a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.”  On June 11, Congress approved a committee to draft a plan and on June 12 selected one delegate from each colony to the committee.  (New Jersey did not meet their internal quorum requirement and thus not represented until Francis Hopkinson arrived on June 28.) The committee debated the Bartlett Draft and the Dickinson Draft between June 17 and July 1.

There was widespread agreement that there would be a “firm league of friendship” or “confederacy” between the colonies called “the United States of America,” to secure “their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare.” Also note the articulation of the privileges and immunities clause and the absence of the 3/5ths clause.  The sticking points were how extensive were the powers of Congress to be and should each state have one vote.  Dickinson left Congress about July 4. 

Reproduced below are excerpts from the working draft.  Points of contention are shown by the use of ( ) and [ ].The final draft was submitted to Congress on July 12.  See also Benjamin Franklin’s Proposed Articles of Confederation, July 21, 1775.  ]

Art 1st. The name of this Confederation shall be the “United States of America.”

Art 2nd. The Said Colonies unite themselves so as never to be divided by any act whatever (of the Legislature of any Colony or Colonies or of the In habitants thereof,) and hereby Severally Enter into a firm League of friendship with each other for their Common Defense, the Security of their liberties, & their mutual & General welfare, binding the said Colonies (all the inhabitants & their Posterity) to assist one another (with their lives & fortunes) against all force offered to or attacks made upon them or any of them on (pretense) [Account] of Religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever (and faithfully to observe & adhere to all and Singular the articles of this Confederation).

Art 3d. Each Colony shall retain & Enjoy as much of its present laws, rights & Customs as it may think fit and reserve to itself the Sole and Exclusive regulation & Government of its Internal Police (in all (articles) [matters] that shall not interfere with the articles (agreed upon by) [of] this Confederation)

Art 4th. No Colony or Colonies without the Consent of the (union) [United States assembled,] shall send any Embassy to or receive any Embassy from or Enter into any treaty [Convention] or Conference with the King or Kingdom of Great Britain or any foreign prince or State nor shall any Colony or Colonies nor any servant or servants [of the United States, or] of any Colony or Colonies accept of any present, Emolument, office or tittle of any kind whatever from the King or Kingdom of G.B. or any foreign prince or State (under any pretense whatever) nor shall the (union) [United States assembled] or any Colony grant any title of nobility (to any person whatsoever)….

Art 6th. The Inhabitants of Each Colony shall henceforth always have the Same Rights [Liberties] privileges [Immunities] & advantages in (all Cases whatever in the other Colonies which they now have) [the other Colonies, which the said Inhabitants now have, in all Cases whatever, except in those provided for by the next following Article.]

Art 7th. The Inhabitants of (all the united Colonies) [each Colony] shall Enjoy all the rights [Liberties] Privileges (&) Immunities [and Advantages] in trade, navigation & Commerce in (Every) [any other] Colony and in going to & from the Same [from and to any Part of the World,] which the natives of (Each) [such] Colony Enjoy; [Art. VIII]. Each Colony may assess or lay Such imposts or Duties as it thinks proper on importations (from,) or Exportations (to, the British Dominions or any foreign State, or the importation of the production or manufacture of Such Dominion, Kingdom or State from another Colony) Provided Such imposts or Duties do not interfere with any Stipulation in (any) treaties hereafter (made and) Entered into by the (whole Union) [United States assembled] with the King or Kingdom of G.B. or with any foreign prince or State.

Art (8th) [IX] No [standing] army or Body of forces shall be kept up by any Colony or Colonies in time of peace, Except such a number only as may be requisite to Garrison the forts necessary for the Defense of such Colony or Colonies, (nor shall this be done without the Consent of the Union); But Every Colony shall always keep up a well regulated & Disciplined Militia Sufficiently armed & accoutered, and shall provide & Constantly have ready for use, (a proper quantity of Public Stores of Ammunition, field pieces, tents & other Camp Equipage) [in public Stores, a due Number of Field Pieces and Tents, and a proper Quantity of Ammunition, and Camp Equipage.]….

Art (l0th) [XI]. All Charges of wars and all other Expenses that shall be incurred for the [common Defense, or] general welfare and allowed by the (union in General Congress) [United States assembled] shall be defrayed out of the Common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several Colonies in proportion to the Number of in Each Colony a true account of which [distinguishing the white Inhabitants] shall be triennially taken & transmitted to (Congress) [the Assembly of the United States]. The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid & Levied by the authority & Direction of the Legislature of the (respective) [several] Colonies [within the Time agreed upon by the United States assembled.]….

Art (12th) [XIV]. A perpetual alliance offensive & Defensive is to be Entered into by the (whole union) [United States assembled] as soon as may be with the Six nations & all other [neighboring] nations of Indians, their Limits [to] be ascertained, their lands to be Secured to them and not Encroached on, no purchases [of Lands, hereafter to be made of the Indians] by Colonies or private persons (hereafter to be made of them) before the Limits of the Colonies are ascertained to be (held Good) [valid:] all (Contracts for) [Purchases of] Lands not Included within those Limits where ascertained, to be made [by Contracts] between the (whole Union in General Congress met, and the Great Council of Indians for the General Benefit & advantage of all the united Colonies, persons to be appointed by the union to reside among the Indians in proper Districts who shall take Care to prevent injustice in the trade with them and shall be Enabled at the Common Expense of the united Colonies by occasional supplies to relieve their personal wants & Distresses) [United States assembled, or by Persons for that Purpose authorized by them, and the great Councils of the Indians, for the general Benefit of all the United Colonies.]

Art (14th) [XVI]. For the more Convenient management of the General Interest [of the United States], Delegates (shall) [should] be Annually appointed (by) [in such Manner as the Legislature of] Each Colony [shall direct,] to meet (in General Congress in) [at] the City of Philadelphia in the Colony of Pennsylvania until otherwise ordered by (Congress) [the United States assembled;] which meeting shall be on the first Monday of November [in] Every year, with a power reserved (in Each Colony to supersede the Delegates thereof) [to those who appointed the said Delegates, respectively to recall them or any of them] at any time within the year and to send new Delegates in their Stead for the Remainder of the year. Each Colony shall support its own Delegates in (Congress) [a Meeting of the States, and while they act as Members of the Council of State, herein after mentioned]….

The (Congress) [United States assembled] shall (not) [never] levy or impose any taxes or Duties Except in managing the post offices nor interfere in the internal Police of any Colony (or Colonies) any further than such Police may be (expressly) affected by [the Articles of] this Confederation (nor shall any alteration be at any time hereafter made in the terms of this Confederation, unless Such alteration be agreed to in General Congress by the Delegates of Every Colony of the union and be afterwards Confirmed by the Legislature of Every Colony.)

The (Congress) [United States assembled] shall never Engage the united Colonies in a war, [nor grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal in Time of Peace,] nor (Conclude) [enter into] any treaty or alliance (with any other power nor raise land or naval forces, nor agree upon the Coining specie & Emitting the Same or any other money or Bills of Credit unless the Delegates of Colonies freely Assent to the Same)….

Art [XX]. (Any & every other of the British Colonies on this Continent) [Canada] acceding to this confederation & entirely joining in the measures of the united colonies shall be admitted [into] and Entitled to all the advantages (& privileges) of this union. [But no other Colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such Admission be agreed to by the Delegates of nine Colonies.]

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.