Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: March 19, 1776

March 19, 1776

Congress continues to direct the war effort through the committee system.  Most of the day is spent on “the memorial from the merchants, traders, and others,” etc.  John Adams shares his revised thoughts about Tom Paine’s Common Sense with Abigail.  And Francis Lightfoot Lee thinks that the King and Parliament “have effectually decided the question for us, whether or not we should be independent.”

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Resolved, That Monsieur Dohicky Arundel be appointed a captain of artillery in the continental service.  And That General Lee be directed to set on foot the raising a company of artillery, and it be recommended to the convention or committee of safety of Virginia, to appoint the other officers of said company of artillery.

A letter from col. Dayton, of the 15th, was presented to Congress, read and referred to the committee on procuring muskets.

A letter from Mr. Tucker, President of the convention of New Jersey, of the 17, was presented to Congress, and read.  As a result, Congress resolved that Captain Wolverton and his company be “taken into the service of the United Colonies.”

A letter from Colonel Belestre, [a Canadian prisoner,] of the 16th, and sundry letters from Cameron and Smith, were read referred to the committee on prisoners.

Resolved, That the Secret Committee be directed to supply the Brig Lexington, Captain Barry, with one ton of powder.

Ordered, That the committee to whom was referred the state and situation of the prisoners at Trenton, report thereon as soon as possible.

Resolved, That funds be sent to General Washington and to General Schuyler.

The committee appointed to prepare instructions, &c. to the commissioners going to Canada, brought in a draught of further instructions, and of a commission, which were read.

Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole to consider further the memorial from the merchants, traders, and others, inhabitants of Philadelphia, the memorial of Edmund Custis, the letter from the committees of Accomac and Northampton, and the petition of Joseph Blewer and Daniel Robinson.  “After some time spent thereon,” Benjamin Harrison reported that the committee had agreed to sundry resolutions. Congress also agreed to them.  [See the Journal, March 23, 1776.]

A committee of three– George Wythe, John Jay, and James Wilson–was appointed to draw up a declaration [preamble] for the resolutions, and report back to Congress.  Moreover, that the Committee must insert a clause stating “that all seamen and mariners on board of merchant ships and vessels, taken and condemned as prize, shall be entitled to their pay, according to the terms of their contracts, until the time of the condemnation”

The committee to whom the letters and papers from Mr. Mease, were referred, delivered their report, which was read and Ordered to lie on the table.

Resolved, That William Whipple be appointed a member of the Marine Committee, and of the Committee for receiving the applications and examining the qualifications of gentlemen who apply for offices in the continental service.

The committee to whom the letters from General Washington, of the 14th and 26th of February, and the letter from Lord Stirling, of the 25th, of the same month, were referred, delivered their report which was read and considered.

Resolved, That the value of the passage boat, York, be made good to Michael Kearney, Junior.

Congress elected Richard Henry Lee to the Secret Committee to replace the absent Josiah Bartlett.

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock tomorrow.

John Adams to Abigail Adams

You ask, what is thought of Common Sense.  Sensible Men think there are some Whims, some Sophisms, some artful Addresses to superstitious Notions, some keen attempts upon the Passions, in this Pamphlet.  But all agree there is a great deal of good sense, delivered in a clear, simple, concise and nervous Style. His Sentiments of the Abilities of America, and of the Difficulty of a Reconciliation with G.B. are generally approved. But his Notions, and Plans of Continental Government are not much applauded.  Indeed this Writer has a better Hand at pulling down than building….

Richard Smith’s Diary

The Committee of the Whole went through the Articles on Privateers and they were referred to George Wythe and Two others [John Jay and James Wilson] to prepare a Preamble.  Vacancies in several Committees were filled up…

A Ton of Powder was ordered for the Vessel of War here & ready to go down to guard Delaware Bay.  Sundry public Letters read & some of them Committed.  Johnson threw out for Consideration the Propriety of establishing a Board of Treasury, a War Office, a Board of Public Accounts and other Boards to consist of Gentlemen not Members of Congress. The Draught of a Commission to Dr. Franklin, Chase and Carrol was brought in & some additional Instructions.

In the Evening, S. Adams, Wilson & myself spent an Hour with General Prescott at the New Tavern.  He was open & free, endeavored to justify everything by the Commands of Carlton & explained at large his Complaints.

Francis Lightfoot Lee to Landon Carter (Richmond County Committee)

Our late King & his Parliament having declared us Rebels & Enemies, confiscated our property, as far as they were likely to lay hands on it; have effectually decided the question for us, whether or not we should be independent….

I can’t think we shall be injured by having a free trade to all the world…[nor]  that we shall suffer any disadvantage by having our Legislatures uncontrolled by a power so far removed for us, that our circumstances can’t be known; whose interest is often directly contrary to ours; and over which we have no manner of control….

But my dear Colonel, I am so fond of peace that I wish to see an end of these distractions upon terms that will secure America from future outrages, but from all our intelligence I really despair….We need not expect any other alternative, than slavery or separation.  Is it not prudent therefore, to fit our minds to the state that is inevitable?

Richard Henry Lee to John Page (Virginia Lieutenant Governor)

I hope and wish that both the Committee of Safety and Convention would immediately establish public works for making common Salt.  

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.