Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: May 15, 1775

May 15, 1775

Eight additional delegates arrive, five of whom are from New York.  Congress creates the first committee: provide for the defense of New York without jeopardizing reconciliation. Benjamin Franklin writes that “Britain has found means to unite us.”

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Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Henry Wisner, Philip Schuyler, George Clinton, Lewis Morris and Robert R. Livingston from New York, James Wilson, from Pennsylvania and Robert Goldsborough present. Samuel Ward from Rhode Island also arrived.

Resolved, That Congress will tomorrow resolve itself into a committee of the whole to take into consideration the state of America.

The City and County of New York having through the delegates of that Colony, applied to Congress for their advice how they ought to conduct themselves with regard to the troops expected there.

Resolved, That it be recommended for the present to the inhabitants of New York, that if the troops, which are expected should arrive, the said Colony act on the defensive so long as may be consistent with their safety and security: that the troops be permitted to remain in the barracks, so long as they behave themselves peaceably and quietly, but that they be not suffered to erect fortifications or take any steps for cutting off the communication between the town and country; and that if they commit hostilities or invade private property, the inhabitants should defend themselves and their property and repel force by force; that the warlike stores be removed from the town; that places of retreat in case of necessity be provided for the women and children of New York; and that a sufficient number of men be embodied and kept in constant readiness for protecting the inhabitants from insult and injury.

Resolved, that a committee be appointed to consider what posts are necessary to be occupied in the Colony of New York, and by what number of troops it will be necessary they should be occupied guarded.

Resolved, That George Washington, Thomas Lynch, Samuel Adams, and the delegates from New York, be the committee for the above service, and that they be desired to report as speedily as possible.

Resolved, that only if the British troops “commit hostilities or invade private property,” then the inhabitants “should defend themselves and their property and repel force by force.”  Otherwise, New Yorkers should not do anything to make reconciliation impossible.

“Resolved, that a committee be appointed to consider what posts are necessary to be occupied in the Colony of New York.”  George Washington, Thomas Lynch, Samuel Adams, and the New York delegates were appointed to a committee to consider the issue and report back as soon as possible.

Benjamin Franklin to Jonathan Shipley

I arrived here well the 5th. after a pleasant Passage of 6 Weeks. Imet with a most cordial Reception, I should say from all Parties, but that all Parties are now extinguished here. Britain has found means to unite us. I had not been here a Day before I was unanimously elected by our Assembly a Delegate to the Congress, which met the 10th and is now sitting…. A War is commenced, which the youngest of us may not see the End of. My Endeavors will be if possible to quench it; as I know yours will be: but the Satisfaction of Endeavoring to do good, is perhaps all we can obtain or effect.

[Editor’s Note. On May 15 1775, Benjamin Franklin thanked Edmund Burke for his March 22, 1775, defense of the American position in a speech given in the British Parliament which was reprinted widely in America: “All People here feel themselves much obliged by your endeavors to serve them.  I hear your proposed Resolves were negatived by a great majority; which was denying the most notorious truths; and a kind of rational lying, of which they may be convicted by their own Records. The Congress is met here, pretty full….We dined together on Saturday, when your health was among the foremost.”]

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.