Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: May 16, 1776

May 16, 1776

Congress continues to manage the war effort through Committees. John Adams proclaims that “the Gordian Knot was cut asunder.” James Duane, on the other hand, opposes the Preamble to the Resolutions to the Colonies to become independent states. Thomas Jefferson arrives in Philadelphia and writes to Thomas Nelson about the importance of constitutional building in Virginia.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

A letter from the commissioners of Congress in Canada, dated Montreal, May 1, and a letter from General Schuyler, May were referred to the committee appointed to prepare medicine chests:  William Livingston, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams.

Resolved, That the president write to General Washington, requesting that he come to Philadelphia as soon as possible in order to consult with Congress such measures as may be necessary for the carrying on the ensuing campaign.

Resolved, That George Morgan, Esqr. be empowered to draw for a sum not exceeding six thousand dollars, to pay for the goods he is ordered to purchase, and for defraying incidental charges; the same to be paid out of the ten thousand dollars voted for the commissioners of Indian affairs in the middle department.

Captain Richard Butler, by accepting the office of agent in the middle department of Indians, lost the opportunity of being appointed a captain in the continental Service. Resolved, That the Congress will, as soon as possible, compensate for that disappointment to him, by some promotion in their service.

The Congress proceeded to the election of a Major General–Horatio Gates–and Brigadier General Thomas Mifflin–in the continental Army.

Resolved, That James Duane be added to the standing committee for Indian affairs.

Resolved, That the Secret Committee sell powder to Joseph Carson and Joseph Donaldson. That the general assemblies of Massachusetts and Connecticut raise additional battalions.

Several committees to whom various letters had been referred delivered their reports. Resolved, That General Washington be authorized to fill up Vacancies in the Army by issuing Commissions to such officers under the rank of Field officers, as he shall think proper… informing the Congress once every month of such appointments, which shall be deemed good and valid, unless disapproved of by Congress on such Information.

The committees recommended That there be a Commissary for Prisoners appointed for each of the three Departments, to superintend and take the Direction and supplying of such Prisoners, as have already fallen, or may hereafter fall into our hands during the Course of the War, as nearly conformable as the Circumstances of this Country will admit of, to the Custom of England and France other civilized Nations.

Resolved, that there be raised for the service of the united Colonies, one Battalion of Germans.

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock on Saturday.

John Hancock to George Washington

I do myself the Honor to enclose you several Resolutions passed by the Congress, to which I beg Leave to refer you. The Congress being of Opinion, that it is necessary, as well for your Health, as the public Service, that you should embrace the earliest opportunity of coming to Philadelphia, have directed me to write to you, and request, that you will repair to Philadelphia as soon as you can conveniently, in order to consult with Congress, upon such Measures as may be necessary for the carrying on the ensuing Campaign.

John Adams to Joseph Palmer

We have Spent a Number of Days in considering the State of Boston and the Massachusetts, and after all I don’t know whether you will think We have done enough…. The Story of Such formidable Numbers of foreign Mercenaries, I conjecture to be chiefly Puff, but yet there may be Some Truth in it. If you should be invaded, the Militia will do their Duty. If an Impression should be made, and the Enemy make a Lodgment again with you, Congress will maintain a Standing Army, if it can be raised to oppose them, but the Continental Expenses are so enormous as to raise the most alarming Apprehensions in the Minds of all, and Gentlemen are very reluctant to raising Forces where there is not an actual Enemy to oppose….

Yesterday the Gordian Knot was cut asunder…. If such a Resolution had been passed twelve Months ago, as it ought to have been, and it was not my fault that it was not, how different would have been our Situation? The Advantages of such a Measure were pointed out, very particularly Twelve Months ago, but then We must petition and negotiate, and the People were not ripe. I believe they were as ripe then, as they are now.

James Duane to John Jay

Yesterday, my dear Friend, was an important day, productive of the Resolutions of which I enclose you a Copy. I shall not enter into particulars. The Resolution itself first passed and then a Committee was appointed to fit it with a preamble. Compare them with each other and it will probably lead you into Reflections which I dare not point out. I hope you will relieve me soon as I am impatient to visit my Friends; & look upon Business here to be in such a Train that I can well be spared.

Commissioners to Canada to Philip Schuyler

The army here is suffering from want of Provisions particularly Pork. None, or next to none, is to be procured in Canada. For God sake send off Pork; or our troops will be greatly distressed for want of provisions, and may mutiny & desert to the enemy.

Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Nelson

I arrived here last Tuesday after being detained hence six weeks longer than I intended by a malady…. I enclose a vote of yesterday on the subject of government as the ensuing campaign is likely to require greater exertion than our unorganized powers may at present effect.  Should our [Virginia] Convention propose to establish now a form of government perhaps it might be agreeable to recall for a short time their delegates. It is a work of the most interesting nature and such as every individual would wish to have his voice in. In truth it is the whole object of the present controversy; for should a bad government be instituted for us in future it had been as well to have accepted at first the bad one offered to us from beyond the water without the risk and expense of contest…. I shall be glad to receive Conventional as well as public intelligence from you. I wish much to see you here, yet hope you will contrive to bring on as early as you can in convention the great questions of the session.

P.S. In the other colonies who have instituted government they recalled their delegates leaving only one or two to give information to Congress of matters which might relate to their country particularly, and giving them a vote during the interval of absence.

John Hancock to the Massachusetts Assembly

By the best Intelligence from Europe it appears, That the British Nation have proceeded to the last Extremity, and have actually taken into Pay a Number of foreign Troops; who, in all Probability, are on their Passage to America at this very Time.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.