The New Jersey delegates present the “Accomodation” proposal on taxation offered by the British House of Commons. The response of Congress was to1) pass four resolutions on behalf of the common defense and 2) yet want a peaceful reconciliation. John Adams and Samuel Ward write about the hazards ahead.
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
A Delegate from New Jersey laid before the Congress information from the Journals of the provincial Assembly, dated May 20, 1775, together with a resolution of the Commons of Great Britain, dated February 20, 1775 which were read. The latter contained “a Plan formed for the Accommodation of the unhappy Differences between our Parent State and the Colonies; which Plan, under the present Circumstances, this House could not comply with and adopt, and yet this House being desirous of making Use of all proper Means to effect a Reconciliation, do recommend it to their Delegates to lay the same Plan before the Continental Congress, for their Consideration.”
Copy of a Resolution of the House of Commons, Feby 20, 1775.
Resolved, That when the governor, council and Assembly, or general Court, of any of his Majesty’s provinces, or colonies, in America, shall propose to make provision according to the condition, circumstances, and situation of such province or colony, for contributing their proportion to the common defense, (such proportion to be raised under the authority of the general court, or general assembly of such province or colony, and disposable by parliament) and shall engage to make provision also for the support of the civil government, and the administration of Justice, in such province or colony, it will be proper, if such proposal shall be approved by his Majesty, and the two houses of Parliament, and for so long as such provision shall be made accordingly, to forbear, in respect of such province or colony, to levy and duty, tax or assessment, or to impose any further duty, tax, or assessment, except only such duties as it may be expedient to continue to levy, or to impose, for the regulation of commerce, the not produce of the duties, last mentioned, to be carried to the account of such province, or colony, respectively.
Ordered, That the above be referred to the committee of the whole.
Congress resumed consideration of the addition proposed yesterday, Resolved, that the following addition be made:
Resolved, that it be recommended to the Congress aforesaid to persevere the more vigorously in preparing for their defense, as it is very uncertain whether the earnest endeavors of the Congress to accommodate the unhappy differences between G. Britain and the colonies by conciliatory Measures will be successful.
Ordered, That the above resolves respecting New York be transmitted by the president to the Congress of New York, and that it be recommended to keep them secret.
John Jay, Samuel Adams, and Silas Deane selected to be a committee to prepare a letter to the people of Canada.
The Congress then resolved themselves into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the state of America; after some time spent therein, Samuel Ward reported from the committee, that they had come to certain resolutions respecting the state of America, which he was desired to report, but not having finished the business referred to them, requested “leave to sit again.”
The report from the committee being read, the Congress adopted Four Resolutions:
1. That his Majesty’s most faithful subjects, in these colonies, are reduced to a dangerous and critical situation, by the attempts of the British Ministry to carry into execution, by force of arms, several unconstitutional and oppressive acts of the British parliament for laying taxes in America; to enforce the collection of those taxes, and for altering and changing the constitution and internal police of some of these colonies, in violation of the natural and civil rights of the colonists.
2. Hostilities being actually commenced in the Massachusetts bay, by the British troops, under the command of General Gage, and the lives of a number of the inhabitants of that colony destroyed, the town of Boston having not only been long occupied as a garrisoned town in an enemy’s country, but the inhabitants thereof treated with a severity and cruelty not to be justified even towards declared enemies; large re-inforcements too being ordered and soon expected, for the declared purpose of compelling these colonies to submit to the operation of the said acts; Resolved, therefore, that for the express purpose of securing and defending these colonies, and preserving them in safety against all attempts to carry the said acts into execution by force of arms, these colonies be immediately put into a state of defense.
3. But, as we most ardently wish for a restoration of the harmony formerly subsisting between our Mother country and these colonies, the interruption of which must, at all events, be exceedingly injurious to both countries, Resolved, that with a sincere design of contributing by all the means in our power, not incompatible with a just regard for the undoubted rights and true interests of these colonies, to the promotion of this most desirable reconciliation, an humble and dutiful petition be presented to his Majesty.
4. Resolved, That measures be entered into for opening a Negotiation, in order to accommodate the unhappy disputes subsisting between Great Britain and these colonies, and that this be made a part of the petition to the King.
The Congress agreed that the resolutions respecting New York be entered unanimously and inserted after the above.
The Congress then resolved itself into a committee of the whole to take into their farther consideration the State of America; and after some time spent therein, Samuel Ward reported that they had proceeded farther in the business, but not having come to a conclusion, requested “leave to sit again.”
Adjourned till to Morrow at 9 o’Clock.
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Our business is more extensive, and complicated–more affecting and hazardous. But our Unanimity will not be less. We have a Number of new and very ingenious Members.
Samuel Ward to Samuel Ward, Jr. (Rhode Island Army Captain)
Remember my dear Son that besides Bravery, Prudence, Wisdom & Oeconomy are necessary when your Country calls for your Life; risk it freely but never wantonly or foolishly expose yourself or your Men, let Sobriety Temperance & Virtue direct your whole Conduct as you have never been much exposed be as careful as your Duty will admit of your Health, be extremely careful of your Men see as much as possible in Person that they have good Provisions & every Comfort their State will admit, compel them to be clean to dress their Provisions well & suffer as little Debauchery & Drunkenness to take footing amongst them as possible; you can recollect so many Instances of Armies being destroyed by the Negligence or Imprudence of the Generals or other officers that I doubt not but you will as much as possible see that all under You do their Duty at all Times particularly when on Guard….
Samuel Ward to Henry Ward (Provincial Secretary of Rhode Island)
Congress is very full & that the greatest Harmony subsists….It is agreed to put every Colony in a good State of Defense….
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.