Congress receives a letter from the Provincial Convention of Massachusetts dated May 16, 1775 and signed by President Joseph Warren. John Adams writes that “Our Debates and Deliberations are tedious,” and Benjamin Franklin addresses the question of the religious rights of a Quaker in times of war.
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
Letter from the Provincial Convention of Massachusetts [Edited]
Resolved, That Doctor Benjamin Church be ordered to go immediately to Philadelphia and deliver to the president of the Honorable American Congress there now sitting, the following application to be by him communicated to the members thereof: and the said Church is also directed to confer with the sd. Congress, respecting such other matters as may be necessary to the defense of this colony and particularly the state of the army therein.
That system of colony administration, which in the most firm, dutiful and loyal manner has been in vain remonstrated against by the representative body of the united colonies, seems still, unless speedily and vigorously opposed by the collected wisdom and force of all America to threaten ruin and destruction to this continent.
For a long time past, this colony has, by a corrupt administration in Great Britain and here, been deprived of the exercise of those powers of Government, without which a people can be neither rich, happy or secure. The whole continent saw the blow pending, which if not warded off, must inevitably have subverted the freedom and happiness of each colony; the principles of self defense, roused in the breasts of freemen by the dread of impending slavery, caused to be collected the wisdom of America, in a Congress composed of men, who through time must in every land of freedom be revered among the most faithful assertors of the essential rights of human nature….
The prospect of deciding the question between our Mother country and us, by the sword, gave us the greatest pain and anxiety; but we have made all the preparation for our necessary defense that our confused state would admit of; and as the question equally affected our sister colonies and us, we have declined though urged thereto by the most pressing necessity to assume the reins of civil government, without their advice and consent; but have hitherto borne the many difficulties and distressing embarrassments necessarily resulting from a want thereof.
We are now compelled to raise an Army, which with the assistance of the other colonies, we hope under the smiles of heaven, will be able to defend us and all America from the further butcheries and devastations of our implacable enemies.–But as the sword should in all free states be subservient to the civil powers and as it is the duty of the Magistrates to support it for the peoples necessary defense, we tremble at having an army (although consisting of our countrymen) established here without a civil power to provide for and control them.
We are happy in having an opportunity of laying our distressed state before the representative body of the continent, and humbly hope you will favor us with your most explicit advice respecting the taking up and exercising the powers of civil government, which we think absolutely necessary for the Salvation of our country and we shall readily submit to such a general plan as you may direct for the colonies, or make it our great study to establish such a form of government here, as shall not only most promote our advantage but the union and interest of all America.
As the Army now collecting from different colonies is for the general defense of the right of America, we wd. beg leave to suggest to yr. consideration the propriety of your taking the regulation and general direction of it, that the operations may more effectually answer the purposes designed.
The above letter referring to Doct. Church, on motion, agreed that he be introduced.
The president laid before the Congress Letters from the conventions of Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, a letter from Governor Trumbull, all which were read.
Resolved, That there be a strict policy to prevent the provision of “necessaries of any kind” for the use of the British army or navy in Massachusetts and North America.
Ordered, That the above resolves be immediately published.
Resolved, that this Congress will to tomorrow resolve itself into a committee of the whole to take into their further consideration the state of America.
Adjourned till to Morrow at 9 o’Clock.
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Our Debates and Deliberations are tedious, from Nine to four, five, and once near Six. Our Determinations very slow–I hope sure. The Congress will support Us, but in their own Way. Not precisely in that Way which I could wish, but in a better Way than We could well expect, considering what a heterogeneous Body it is.
Benjamin Franklin to Nathaniel Seidel
I am much obliged by your kind Congratulations on my Return; and I rejoice to hear that the Brethren are well and prosper. I am persuaded that the Congress will give no Encouragement to any to molest your People on Account of their Religious Principles; and though much is not in my Power, I shall on every Occasion exert myself to discountenance and prevent such infamous Practices. Permit me however to give a little Hint in point of Prudence. I remember that you put yourselves into a good Posture of Defense at the Beginning of the last War when I was at Bethlehem; and I then understood from my much respected Friend Bishop Spangenberg, that there were among the Brethren many who did not hold it unlawful to arm in a defensive War. If there still [are] any such among your young Men, perhaps it would not be amiss to permit them to learn the military Discipline among their Neighbors, as this might conciliate those who at present express some Resentment; and having Arms in Readiness for all who may be able and willing to use them, will be a general Means of Protection against Enemies of all kinds. But a Declaration of your Society, that tho’ they cannot in conscience compel their young Men to learn the use of Arms, yet they do not restrain such as are so disposed, will operate in the Minds of People very greatly in your Favor. Excuse my Presumption in offering Advice, which indeed may be of little Value, but proceeds from a Heart filled with Affection and Respect for a Society I have long highly esteemed, and among whom I have many valuable Friends.
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.