Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: May 13, 1776

May 13, 1776

Congress continues to rely on committees to conduct the day to day business. The controversial issue today, recorded in detail by John Adams, is the Preamble to the instruction to the colonies to create state governments.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

A letter from General Washington dated May 9 was laid before Congress, read and referred to the Committee on Qualifications.

Petitions were presented to Congress, read, and referred to the Committee on Prisoners.

A May 3 letter from George Morgan was read, and referred to the standing Committee on Indian affairs.

Resolved, That Mrs. Connolly, the wife of John Connolly have leave at proper seasons to visit her husband in jail.

The committee of Secret Correspondence laid before Congress a state of their proceedings.

The committee appointed to prepare a preamble to the resolution of Congress passed on May 10, presented a draft, which was read, and postponed till tomorrow.

A letter of May 4 from Edmund Pendleton, president of the committee of safety of Virginia, was laid before Congress, and read.

The Committee of Claims reported and Congress authorized the payments due.

Congress resumed the consideration of the report from the committee of the whole; and, after some debate, “at the request of a colony,” was postponed until tomorrow.

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock tomorrow.

John Hancock to George Washington

The Secret Committee have been so extremely engaged by a Multiplicity of Business, that they have not yet furnished me with the State of the Powder sent to the Eastward. In a few Days, I expect a Report will be made upon the whole of your Letters under the Consideration of Congress.  The Success of the application to the Committee of Safety of this Colony for Arms, is still unknown, as no Report has been made. As soon as I have it in my Power, I shall, with the greatest Pleasure, transmit you the Resolutions of Congress upon this and all other Occasions.

John Adams’ Notes of Debates [Edited]

Mr. Duane from N. York. Congress ought not to determine a Point of this Sort, about instituting Government. What is it to Congress, how Justice is administered. You have no Right to pass the Resolution-any more than Parliament has. How does it appear that no favorable Answer is likely to be given to our Petitions? Every Account of foreign Aid, is accompanied with an Account of Commissioners.

Samuel Adams. We have been favored with a Reading of the Instructions from N. York. I am glad of it. The first Object of that Colony is no doubt the Establishment of their Rights. Our Petitions have not been heard-yet answered with Fleets and Armies…. The Gentleman from N. York, Mr. Duane, has not objected to the Preamble, but this-he has not a Right to vote for it. We can’t go upon stronger Reasons, than that the King has thrown us out of his Protection. Why should We support Governments under his Authority?

Mr. Wilson. Was not present in Congress when the Resolution passed, to which this Preamble is proposed. I was present and one of the Committee, who reported the Advice to Mass. Bay. New Hampshire, Carolina and Virginia, had the same Advice, and with my hearty Concurrence.  The Claims of Parliament will meet with Resistance to the last Extremity. Those Colonies were Royal Governments. They could not subsist without some Government.  A Maxim, that all Government originates from the People. We are the Servants of the People sent here to act under a delegated Authority…. Some have been put under Restraints by their Constituents. They cannot vote, without transgressing this Line. Suppose they should hereafter be called to an Account for it. This Province has not by any public Act, authorized us to vote upon this Question.

This Province has done much and asked little from this Congress. The Assembly, largely increased, will [not] meet till next Monday. Will the Cause suffer much, if this Preamble is not published at this Time? If the Resolve is published without the Preamble. The Preamble contains a Reflection upon the Conduct of some People in America…. In this Province if that Preamble passes there will be an immediate Dissolution of every Kind of Authority. The People will be instantly in a State of Nature. Why then precipitate this Measure. Before We are prepared to build the new House, why should We pull down the old one, and expose ourselves to all the Inclemencies of the Season.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.