Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: June 4, 1776

June 4, 1776

Congress continues to manage the war effort, John Hancock informs several state conventions that “Our Affairs are hastening fast to a Crisis,” John Adams gives advice on the formation of state governments, and both Robert R. Livingston and Oliver Wolcott write that the fate of America will be determined “by the sword only.”

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Resolved, That Joseph Swift, Junior be paid in full for aiding Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase, and Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, commissioners in Canada.

Resolved, That it be recommended to the assemblies and conventions of the colonies, requested to supply or furnish militia by the resolutions of yesterday, to take particular care that the militias come provided with arms, accoutrements, and camp kettles.

A letter of May 3 from William Palfrey, paymaster general, was laid before Congress, read, and referred to the committee to whom were referred the letters of May 21.

A letter of the May 31 from John Macpherson was read, and referred to George Read and Thomas McKean, who are directed to confer with Macpherson.

A petition from Colonel Turbutt Francis, was read, and referred to a committee of seven: Joseph Hewes, Benjamin Harrison, William Livingston, George Wythe, Robert R. Livingston, Thomas Lynch, and Carter Braxton.

Resolved, That the Secret Committee be directed to deliver the muskets lately imported, to Colonel Shee, for the use of his battalion.

Resolved, That Captain [Herman] Allen be permitted to withdraw his petition on behalf of the inhabitants of the New Hampshire grants.

Resolved, That the committee of safety of Pennsylvania be empowered to negotiate for an exchange of prisoners.

Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, considered the report of the Committee of Conference and, after some time spent, Benjamin Harrison reported that the committee have come to some further resolutions.

Resolved, That further consideration be postponed till tomorrow.

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock tomorrow.

John Hancock to Certain Colonies [The Conventions of New Hampshire, The Assembly of Massachusetts Bay, Governor Trumbull, Convention of New York, Convention of New Jersey, Assembly of Delaware, and Convention of Maryland]

Our Affairs are hastening fast to a Crisis; and the approaching Campaign will in all Probability determine forever the Fate of America.  Such is the unrelenting Spirit which possesses the Tyrant of Britain and his Parliament, that they have left no Measure unessayed, that had a Tendency to accomplish our Destruction. Not satisfied with having lined our Coasts with Ships of War to starve us into a Surrender of our Liberties, and to prevent us from being supplied with Arms & Ammunition, they are now about to pour in a Number of foreign Troops; who from their Want of Connections and those Feelings of Sympathy which frequently bind together the different Parts of the same Empire, will be more likely to do the Business of their Masters without Remorse or Compunction.

By the best Intelligence from Canada it appears, that our Affairs in that Quarter wear a melancholy Aspect.  Should the Canadians & Indians take up Arms against us (which there is too much Reason to fear) we shall then have the whole Force of that Country to contend with, joined to that of Great Britain, & all her foreign auxiliaries. In this Situation what Steps must we pursue?….

The Militia of the United Colonies are a Body of Troops that may be depended upon. To their Virtue their Delegates in Congress, now make the most solemn Appeal. They are called upon to say, whether they will live Slaves, or die Freemen….

In short on your Exertions at this Critical Period, together with those of the other Colonies, in the Common Cause, the Salvation of America now evidently depends. Your Colony, I am persuaded, will not be behind hand. Exert therefore every Nerve to distinguish yourselves. Quicken your Preparations, and stimulate the good People of your Government…and you will be able to lead them to Victory, to Liberty & to Happiness.

John Adams to Hugh Hughes

I am very glad Mr J[ay] is with you, and hope he will be of great Service there but will he not be for making your Governor and Councilors for Life or during good Behavior. I should dread such a Constitution in these perilous Times, because however wise and brave and virtuous these Rulers may be at their first appointment, their Tempers, and Designs will be very apt to change, and then they may have it in their Power to betray the People, who will have no Means of Redress. The People ought to have frequently the opportunity, especially in these dangerous Times, of considering the conduct of their Leaders, and of approving or disapproving. You will have no safety without it.

[On May 29 the General Committee of Mechanics of New York sent a petition to the New York Provincial Convention urging them to instruct the New York delegates in Congress “to cause these United Colonies to become independent of Great Britain.”]

John Adams to Richard Lee [Member of the Virginia Convention, 1775-76]

Is it not a little remarkable that this Congress and your Convention [Virginia] should come to Resolutions so nearly Similar, on the Same day, and that even the Convention of Maryland should, in that critical Moment, have proceeded so far as to abolish the oaths of allegiance, notwithstanding that Some of their other Resolves are a little eccentric?

Your Resolution [May 15 Resolution on Independence] is consistent and decisive, it is grounded on true Principles which are fairly and clearly stated, and in my humble opinion the Proviso which reserves to yourselves the Institution of your own Government is fit and right, this being a Matter of which the Colonies are the best Judges, and a Privilege which each Colony ought to reserve to itself. Yet after all I believe there will be much more Uniformity in the Governments which all of them will adopt than could have been expected a few Months ago.

Robert R. Livingston to John Jay

We have received an answer of the King to the livery of London, which I hope will be productive of very good affects since it takes away all hopes of accommodation & shows that nothing less will do them than absolute submission. It comes in very happy time for this place, in which the people were very unfortunately divided between the advocates for the old & new government.  I learn from the paper the steps you have taken to collect the sentiments of the people, I wish to be with you a while, but do not know whether it is absolutely necessary, & I am unwilling to leave this till it is. I hope you are laying the foundation for a better form than I have yet seen, & inculcating the proper principles you cannot begin too early to point out both men & measures.

Oliver Wolcott to Roger Newberry (Connecticut Military Officer)

By every Intelligence you perceive that the Decision of the present Controversy must be made by the Sword only. This, together with the untoward State of our Affairs in Canada has induced the Congress greatly to enlarge their Military Force by calling in the Aid of the Militia to serve till the first of December, six Thousand of which are proposed to be sent to Canada….

I am most sincerely sorry for the distresses of my Country but let a man Consider that everything which he holds dear is at Stake. That a Conquest by our Enemies ensures Slavery and Misery through endless Generations. Is this a Patrimony which We must leave our Children? God Forbid! No he who sitteth in the Heavens, who holds Empires in his hands, who holds the Tyrant Worms of this earth, in utter derision, he will Crush the Power of the Oppressor, he will Vindicate the Cause of the righteous, he will preserve his People like a Flock, and by the Arm of his Power make them to know their Almighty Deliverer-While the Malice of the oppressor shall cease and he who fears not the Justice of God shall perish forever. I firmly believe this Country will be saved….

P.S. In a few days an Address to the Colonies will be published.  [Editor’s Note. See the Congressional Resolve of May 29 “that an animated address be published to impress the minds of the people with the necessity of their now stepping forward to save their country, their freedom and property.”]

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.