Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: May 18, 1776

May 18, 1776

The war effort in Virginia and Canada receives considerable attention, the Secret Committee is busy, New York ponders what to do, John Adams is fed up with the dawdling about reconciliation or independence, and Josiah Bartlett takes his seat.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

A letter from General Washington, and three letters from the commissioners in Canada, of the 6th, 8th and 10th, were received were read.

Resolved, That the committee, to whom the letter from the commissioners of the 1st, &c. were referred, be augmented to eight; and that the above letters be referred to them. The additional members chosen were Robert Morris, James Duane, Richard Henry Lee, Edward Rutledge, and Robert Livingston.

The committee to whom was referred the consideration of General Lee’s letters of the 19 of April and 7th of May, brought in their report, which was agreed to.

Resolved, That General Lee’s overall strategy for defending Virginia be approved and that Congress co-operate and aid him to render effectual his laudable endeavors to establish the rights and liberties of the good people of this Continent.

That a continental Hospital be established in Virginia, and a director be immediately appointed by Congress.  William Rickman was elected director and chief physician of the hospital.  That the director be empowered to nominate the surgeons and apothecary. That the mates be appointed by the surgeons, and that the number of the mates be diminished as circumstances will admit; for which reason, the pay is fixed by the day, that they may only receive pay for actual service.

Resolved, That it be recommended to the convention of Virginia, to raise a battalion of riflemen, on the same terms as the other battalions raised in that colony; to be taken into the pay of the continent, when armed and accordingly mustered.

A petition from Joseph Trumbull, commissary general, was presented to Congress, read and sent to the committee on the treasury.

A motion for regulating the price of salt was sent to a committee of four: Robert Morris, Robert R. Livingston, Elbridge Gerry, and John De Hart.

The Secret Committee having informed Congress of the arrival of one of the vessels fitted out at the expense of the continent, with a quantity of cash,

Resolved, That the Secret Committee be directed to give orders for sending the cash, with all convenient dispatch, to the commissioners of Congress in Canada.

The Secret Committee laid before Congress a letter from Mr. Langdon and, after being read, it was referred to the Committee of Secret Correspondence, and that Committee was directed to apply to the Marine Committee for the use of one or more of the continental fleet in the French West Indies.

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock on Monday.

James Duane to John Jay

You know the Maryland Instructions and those of Pennsylvania. I am greatly in doubt whether either of their Assemblies or Conventions will listen to a Recommendation the preamble of which so openly avows Independence & Separation. The lower Counties will probably adhere to Pennsylvania. New Jersey you can form a good Judgment of from the Reception this important Resolution has met with. The orators of Virginia with Colonel Henry at their Head are against a Change of Government. The Body of the People, Colonel Nelson, on whose Authority you Hint, thinks are for it. The late Election of Deputies for the Convention of New York sufficiently proves that those who assumed clandestine power & gave Laws even to the Convention & Committees were unsupported by the people. There seems therefore no Reason that our Colony should be too precipitate in changing the present mode of Government. I would wish first to be well assured of the Opinion of the Inhabitants at large….

But, above all, let us see the Conduct of the middle Colonies before we come to a Decision. It cannot injure us to wait a few weeks: the Advantage will be great, for this trying Question will clearly discover the true principles & the Extent of the Union of the Colonies. This, my dear Sir, is a delicate Subject on which I cannot enlarge at present.

John Adams to James Warren

We have been laboring here to procure you Some assistance, and have obtained a Vote, that the 5 Battalions now with you be filled up, and three Additional ones raised, two in Massachusetts, one in Connecticut. A Major General and Brigadier are to go to Boston. You must not hesitate at any Thing for your own Defense.  New York and Canada will take an infinite Expense. We did our best, but could procure no more at present. If an Impression should be made on you, the Continent will interpose, but they never will believe it until it takes Place.

This Day has brought us the Dismals from Canada.  Defeated most ignominiously. Where shall We lay the blame? America duped and bubbled with the Phantom of Commissioners, has been fast asleep and left that important Post undefended, unsupported. The Ministry have caught the Colonies, as I have often caught a Horse, by holding out an empty Hat, as if it was full of Corn or as many a Sportsman has shot Wood cocks, by making an old Horse Stalk before him, and hide him from the sight of the Bird. Nothing has ever put my Patience to the Trial so much as to see Knaves imposing upon Fools, by such artifices.  I wash my Hands of this Guilt. I have reasoned, I have ridiculed, I have fretted, and declaimed, against this fatal Delusion, from the Beginning. But a Torrent is not to be impeded by Reasoning nor a Storm allayed by Ridicule. In my situation, although I have not and will not be restrained from a Freedom of Speech yet a Decorum must be observed, and ever has been by me….

I am and have been these twelve Months, fully of your opinion that We have nothing to depend upon for our Preservation from Destruction, but the kind Assistance of Heaven to our own Union and vigorous Exertions. I was ripe therefore for as explicit Declarations as Language could express Twelve Months ago. But the Colonies separately have neglected their Duty, as much as the Congress, and We cannot march faster than our Constituents will follow us.

Josiah Bartlett to Mary Bartlett

Yesterday afternoon I arrived here in good health, after a very fatiguing Journey.…. When I got to New York on Tuesday I found that General Sullivan and all the New Hampshire Regiments were Marched off for Canada, the two last Regiments had been gone about a fortnight. … The Congress have Sent out a General Recommendation to all the Colonies to take up a new form of Government.

You Desired me to write you how much forwarder the Spring was this way than with us; the people all the way as I Came Complain of the Backwardness of the Spring till this week. At the South part of Connecticut last Monday the apple trees were in full Blossom, peach trees & Cherry trees out of the Blossom: from New York to this City the trees all out of the Blossom & Cherries of Some Bigness, the winter Rye Eared out to its full height.…. I shall now Constantly write to you Every week.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.