Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: March 8, 1776

March 8, 1776

Congress selects field officers of the four battalions ordered to be raised for the defense of New York and continues to be involved in the 1) war effort in Canada as well as the 2) distribution of pork, 3) Melchior spat with Hancock and 4) disagreement between the Generals.  Samuel Adams’s letter, and Richard Smith’s Diary, show how perceived slights and actual rumors complicate the deliberative process.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Congress Ordered that Mr. Melchior be called in.

The particulars of the charge against Mr. Melchior were repeated to him. He assured the delegates that he did not remember having behaved with the disrespect mentioned, owing to the particular circumstances he happened to be under, and asked pardon of the Congress and president for his indecent behavior.  Ordered, That in consideration of Mr. Melchior’s former services, and his present concessions, he be dismissed from further attendance.

The Committee, to whom the several letters from Major General Lee, Major General Schuyler, Brigadier General Wooster, and Brigadier General Arnold were referred, brought in their report, which was taken into consideration; and whereupon,

Resolved, That the gentlemen who are appointed to go into Canada, be desired to inquire into the cause of the imprisonment of the officers of Militia, in that country and others, and take such measures for their enlargement or confinement, as are consistent with the principles of justice, and the safety of the United Colonies.

That the provisions made by General Lee and General Schuyler to supply the army in Canada with pork, the direction given by General Lee to have wheat ground into flour for their use, and his contract with the company of carpenters, be approved.

That when the articles specified, in the rations allowed to the prisoners of war, cannot be procured, the persons who supply them with other provisions, be recompensed.

That Indians be not employed as soldiers in the armies of the United Colonies until their tribes shall, in a national council, have consented thereunto, nor then, without express approbation of Congress.

That General Schuyler be directed to provide clothing etc., for the service in Canada.

That the committee of inspection and observation for the city and liberties of Philadelphia, be desired to collect all the gold and silver coin they can, to be exchanged for continental bills of credit for the service of Canada.

Resolved, That a committee of three– Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, and Lewis Morris–be appointed to inquire and report the best ways and means of supplying the army in Canada with provisions and necessaries.

Resolved, That an order be drawn on the treasurers, in favor of the committee for making of muskets, and bayonets, &c.

A letter from Colonel Hazen, dated 18 February, 1776, enclosing an account and estimate of the losses he has sustained, being received was read:

Resolved, That the letter be referred to George Wythe, Roger Sherman, Samuel Ward, and Samuel Adams, who are directed to examine and report on the said Account.

A letter from Governor Trumbull, dated 2 March, and a letter from General Lee, dated 5 March, 1776 were received and read.

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock tomorrow.

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Thomas is made a Major General and ordered to Canada. The general Expectation here is that the boldest Efforts of our Enemies will be made at Virginia and S. Carolina. I believe no such Thing. Boston, N. York and Quebec will be their Object….So many Things to do.

Samuel Adams to James Warren

I now sit down just to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 14th of February, and to mention to you a Matter which considered in itself may appear to be of small Moment but in its Effects may possibly be mischievous….

I have never mentioned Mr C[ushing] nor referred to his Conduct in any of them, excepting one to my worthy Colleague Mr A[dams]….I informed him of the side Mr C had taken in a very interesting Debate; and then I only observed that he had a Right to give his opinion whenever he thought himself prepared to form one.  [Editor’s Note. See Samuel Adams to John Adams, December 22, 1775]  Yet I have been told it has been industriously reported that Mr A and myself have been secretly writing to his Prejudice and that our Letters have operated to his being superseded.

So fully persuaded did some Gentlemen seem to be of the Truth of this Report, and Mr D[uane] of NY in particular whom I have heard express the warmest Affection for Mr C, that he appeared to be surprised to hear me contradict it. Whether this Report and a Belief of it induced the Friends of Mr C to open a charitable Subscription in Support of his Character I am not able to say….

Richard Smith’s Diary

The Field Officers of 4 New York Battalions were now elected by Ballot as usual. Isaac Melchior sent in a penitential Letter and attending according to Order was called in and acquainted by the President with the Particulars of the Charge against Him; he pretended Ignorance of the Words but begged Pardon of the President and of the Congress for his bad Behavior, whereupon he was dismissed without Punishment in Consideration of his late Military Services.

A Committee of 3–Gerry, L Morris and Wolcott– appointed to consider the best Methods of victualling the Canadian Army, a Report was agreed to on this Subject and on the Generals Letters by part whereof Peter Zabriskie is to be employed to convey Provisions to Albany, by another Article no Indian is to be employed in our Army without Leave of the Indian Nation in Council and without express Leave of Congress (this appeared to me a very absurd and impolitic Regulation).

A long Altercation followed on the first Article of a Report made by John Adams for reconciling the Differences between the Generals Schuyler and Wooster.  

Oliver Wolcott to Laura Wolcott

Congress will undoubtedly Sit for Some Time….

The Association is the only Restraint now on Trade. That may probably continue Materially the same for some Time. The People of this City are peculiarly Attentive to their Interest. The Expense of living at the same Rate or Manner We do at Litchfield is I believe at least six Times as dear.  I am in a House hospitable and kind, Neat and Virtuous, accommodations comfortable, but not in the high Way of Life-but am well Suited. Mr. Huntington has had the small Pox but for Near three Weeks has Attended the Congress-And I am happy in my Company.  Mr Sherman is well and talks of making a Short Visit home next Week.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.