Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: May 23, 1775

May 23, 1775

John Duane reports that the twin issues of common defense and reconciliation occupy the attention of Congress.  Benjamin Franklin offers some practical advice, and William Hooper reflects on New Yorkers, Quakers, and Nova Scotia.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole and Samuel Ward reported that the Committee of the whole had made further progress but desired “leave to sit again.”

Resolved, that this Congress will again resolve itself into a committee of the whole to take into farther consideration the state of America.

Adjourned until tomorrow at 9 o’Clock.

John Duane’s Notes for a Debate in Congress

The subject of our debate divides itself into two general heads.

1st. A vigorous preparation for our common defense–for Sir, I wish we may never part with the idea that every hostile measure on our part is undertaken for and shall be conducted to our own self-preservation: and that however injured and provoked the desire of conquest, of independence and much less of revenge may be banished from every American breast.

Let this be ever considered as a family quarrel, unnatural, disgraceful and ruinous into which we are innocently plunged by intolerable oppression, and which we are sincerely disposed to appease and reconcile, whenever the good providence of God shall put it in our power, consistent with the preservation of our just rights. This loyal and benevolent sentiment which to the honor of injured Americans under all her grievances so universally prevails will open the next head of debate viz.

2dly. Whether any means of reconciliation are left in our power which we can propose with a prospect of success, and a just regard to our invaded rights. Many are the reasons which ought to induce us while we are preparing vigorously for the last appeal to open a door for reconciliation.

Benjamin Franklin to Humphry Marshall (Philadelphia Botanist)

I think, with you, that the non-importation and non-exportation, well adhered to, will end the controversy in our favor. But, as Britain has begun to use force, it seems absolutely necessary that we should be prepared to repel force by force, which I think, united, we are well able to do.

It is a true old saying, that make yourselves sheep and the wolves will eat you: to which I may add another, God helps them that help themselves.

William Hooper to Samuel Johnston (North Carolina Revolutionary)

The close attention which I am compelled to pay to the business of the congress scarce gives me an opportunity to pay my duty to my friends. As we meet at 9 o’Clock in the morning and set till 4 in the Afternoon you will readily conceive that the little leisure we have is not sufficient for the common functions of life & exercise to keep us in health…. The strict secrecy which is enjoined upon the members leaves us at large to communicate nothing worthy attention, that happens within the Walls of the State House. Let it suffice that the most perfect harmony subsists among the Members, the Character of the New Yorkers is no longer suspicious, they take a forward and an active share in the Opposition, all ranks of people amongst them are embarked in the common cause and are sacredly resolved to preserve the Cargo or perish with the ship.

The few Tories amongst them are silent, the cry of liberty is irresistible. The Clergy who are never happy but when dabbling in faction have met a just reward for their misguided Zeal & have been compelled, (6 of them) to seek protection on board a Kings Ship. Rivington follows their fortunes, & his printing Shop which forged Calumny and sedition for the whole Continent is shut up. New York must now become the seat of War, the Taking of Ticonderoga will convert the attention of Government to that Quarter so the N Yorkers will not long be suffered to be indifferent Spectators of its operations. Believe me, I do not think they wish to be….

This City has taken a deep share in the Infection which is so generally diffused thro’ the Continent. Men Women & Children feel the patriotic glow, & think every man in a state of Reprobation beyond the power of heavenly mercy to forgive, who is not willing to meet death rather than concede a tittle of the congress creed. Quakerism has received a shock from which it will never recover. An attempt to restrain the other Sects in their spirited conduct has only shown the weakness of their efforts & the insignificancy of their numbers when in competition with those who think & act differently from them. Their Testimony to their eternal dishonor, accompanied with the proceedings of the New York Assembly gave encouragement to Administra [tion] to adopt the present compulsory measures, which at this Hour we all lament. For certain it is till those got to hand the plan prepared by Administration was conciliatory….

Resolve has passed the Congress and ordered to be published. That no vessel shall be suffered to load for Newfoundland, St John’s, Nova Scotia to supply the British fishery there or anywhere along the Coast of America. This is much to be noticed, it is a just retaliation for restraining the American fishery.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.