Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: June 21, 1776

June 21, 1776

The Board of War informs Washington about their intention to bring greater efficiency and accountability to military administration, John Adams writes that “there is some diversity of sentiment” concerning a declaration of independence, and Benjamin Franklin explains his absence from Congress.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Resolved, That General Washington be directed to permit Brigadier General Wooster to return to his family in Connecticut.

Resolved, That the commanding officer of the Delaware battalion, be directed to send a proper guard, with the powder ordered to Colonel Fleming’s regiment, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Resolved, That an order for 300,000 dollars be drawn on the treasurers, in favor of the Delegates of South Carolina, for the use of the continental battalions ordered to be raised in that colony; the said delegates to be accountable:

The Committee of Claims reported, that there are four monetary claims due, including provisions and liquor for 24 Indians while at the state house. Ordered, That the accounts be paid.

The Board of War and Ordnance, to whom was referred the case of the officers who served last winter in Canada, brought in a report, which was taken into consideration:

Resolved, That the convention of New York be requested to set on foot the raising another regiment on continental establishment, to serve for three years, or during the war, unless sooner discharged by Congress; and that in forming said regiment, they commission such officers as served the last campaign in Canada, and have not been yet provided for:

That the said officers be informed that the commissions to be granted them, be on condition that they raise their companies to their full complement, or nearly thereto, and that their commissions be withheld from them until the said condition be complied with:

That it be recommended to the said convention to make suitable provision for Major Dubois, with whose good conduct Congress are well satisfied, and that they return his [name,] with the names of the other field officers, for the approbation of Congress.

That a commission of lieutenant colonel be given to Major John Vischer, in Colonel John Nicholson’s regiment, in the New York forces.

The Congress resumed consideration of the report from the committee of the whole:

Resolved, That General Washington be directed to order an enquiry to be made into the causes of the miscarriages in Canada conduct of the officers heretofore employed in the Canada department; that the said enquiry be made at such times and places as, in his judgment, shall be most likely to do justice, as well to the public as to the individuals; and that the result of the said enquiry, together with the testimonies upon the subject, be transmitted to Congress: that, moreover, all officers accused of cowardice, plundering, embezzlement of public monies, and other misdemeanors, be immediately brought to trial: And whereas, Congress is informed that an opinion has prevailed that officers resigning their commissions are not subject to trial by a court martial for offences committed previous to such resignation, whereby some have evaded the punishments to which they were liable, it is hereby declared that such opinion is not just.2

Adjourned to 9 o’Clock on Monday.

Board of War to George Washington

The Congress having thought proper to appoint us to the Board of War & Ordinance, we do ourselves the Honor to transmit you the foregoing Extracts from their Proceedings establishing a War Office for the more speedy & effectual Dispatch of military Business. You will perceive, on Perusal of the Extracts, that it will be necessary for you forthwith to furnish the Board with an exact State of the Army thereto. You will therefore be pleased, as speedily as possible, to give the necessary Directions for true & accurate Returns to be made to you, so as to enable you to give the Board the proper Information. As much depends on reducing into Method the Business recommended to our Notice, we beg you will forward all Measures conducive to this desirable Purpose by every Means in your Power. It is expected that in future, monthly Returns be regularly transmitted to the War Office that Congress may frequently have a full & general Knowledge of the true Situation of their Military Affairs without which it will be impossible to conduct them with Propriety & Success. We must further request that you will keep up a constant & regular Correspondence with us that we may cooperate with you in such Measures as may tend to advance the Interest of America in general & the particular Department committed to your Care. You will be pleased in the Returns of the several Regiments to mention the Colonies in which they were raised, the Times when & the Periods for which the Men were enlisted as it will be necessary for us to have sufficient Notice of these Matters that Congress may keep up the Army to its full Compliment.

John Adams, Benjamin Harrison, Roger Sherman, James Wilson, and Edward Rutledge.

John Adams to Zabdiel Adams (Minister and Cousin)

I am fully with you in Sentiment, that although the Authority of the Congress founded as it has been, in Reason, Honor, and the Love of Liberty, has been sufficient to govern the Colonies, in a tolerable Manner, for their Defense and Protection: yet that it is not prudent, to continue very long in the same Way. That a permanent Constitution should be formed, and foreign Aid, obtained. In these Points and thus far the Colonies, and their Representatives the Congress are extremely well united.

But concerning a Declaration of Independency there is some Diversity of Sentiment. Two Arguments only, are urged with any Plausibility against such a Measure. One is that it will unite all the Inhabitants of Great Britain against us. The other, that it will put us too much in the Power of foreign States. The first has little Weight in it, because the People of Great Britain, are already as much united against us, as they ever are in anything, and the Probability is, that such a Declaration would excite still greater Divisions and Distractions among them. [See John Dickinson’s Notes for a Speech in Congress, June 8-10, 1776] The second has less Weight still, for foreign Powers already know that We are as obnoxious to the British Court as We can be. They know that Parliament have in effect declared Us independent, and that We have acted these thirteen Months, to all Intents and Purposes as if We were so….

I assure you, sir, that your Employment, in investigating the Moral Causes of our Miseries, and in pointing out the Remedies, is devoutly to be wished. There is no station more respectable; nor any so pleasant and agreeable. Those who tread the public Stage, in Characters the most extensively conspicuous, meet with so many Embarrassments, Perplexities, and Disappointments, that they have often reason to wish for the peaceful Retreats of the Clergy…. Who would not wish to exchange the angry Contentions of the Forum, for the peaceful Contemplations of the Closet. Where Contemplations prune their ruffled Wings and the free Soul looks down to pitty Kings? Who would not Exchange the discordant Scenes of Envy, Pride, Vanity, Malice, Revenge, for the sweet Consolations of Philosophy, the serene Composure of the Passions, the divine Enjoyments of Christian Charity, and Benevolence?

Statesmen my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand…. The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a greater Measure, than they have it now, They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies. You cannot therefore be more pleasantly, or usefully employed than in the Way of your Profession, pulling down the Strong Holds of Satan.

Benjamin Franklin to George Washington

I think it is not certain [that the mighty force we are threatened with] will ever arrive; & I see more certainly- the Ruin of Britain if she persists in such expensive distant Expeditions, which will probably prove more disastrous to her than anciently her Wars in the Holy Land.

I return General Sullivan’s Letter enclosed. Am glad to find him in such Spirits, and that the Canadians are returning to their Regard for us. I am just recovering from a severe Fit of the Gout, which has kept me from Congress & Company almost ever since you left us, so that I know little of what has passed there, except that a Declaration of Independence is preparing.

Elbridge Gerry to John Wendell

I fully agree in the Opinion You enjoy of the Lords protest & of their Intention in publishing the same. In this Way & by inserting in newspapers the Substance of their Debates, have the Opposition in both Houses pointed out to America the Line of Conduct proper for her to pursue since the Commencement of the present Contest by the Stamp Act, & by comparing these with Events We shall find that the Colonies have judiciously improved the salutary Hints.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.