Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: May 31, 1776

May 31, 1776

Congress responds to the regular flow of letters, petitions, and committee reports. Elbridge Gerry points out that the colonies cannot remain both independent and dependent; he is in favor of independence. Samuel Chase is in a gloomy mood.

Link to date-related documents.

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

A letter of May 22 from Esek Hopkins, Commodore of the continental fleet, enclosing the proceedings of two courts martial on John Hazard, commander of the sloop Providence, and Abraham Whipple, commander of the Columbus, was laid before Congress, and read.  Resolved, That the letter be referred to the committee appointed on May 8th concerning the instructions given to Commodore Hopkins.

A May 21 letter from Jonathan Trumbull, Junior, deputy pay master general, was read.

A petition from Hugh King, on behalf of himself and others, was presented to Congress, and read.

Resolved, That an order be drawn on the treasurers, in favor of Brigadier General Mifflin, quartermaster general, for the sum of 50,000 dollars to enable him to pay for tents, entrenching tools, and sundry other articles, for the use of the continental army.

The Committee of Conference brought in a further report, which was read.  The Committee urged that 1) lead be sent to General Schuyler as soon as possible, 2) the various Committees of the united Colonies in which there are any lead mines, inform Congress with all convenient Dispatch the State and Condition of the mines in their respective colonies, 3) General Schuyler increase the number of Bateaus to two hundred and 4) that four of the Prisoners taken at St. John’s, who then enlisted in the continental Army, be dismissed the Service and returned to their Corps at Lancaster.

Resolved, That it be referred to the committee of the whole Congress.

Resolved, That John Connolly, John Smith, and Allan Cameron, prisoners in the Philadelphia jail, who are represented to be in a dangerous state of health, be permitted to walk two hours a day in the prison yard, in company and under the inspection of at least two guards.

Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole to further consider the report of the Committee of Conference; and, after some time, Benjamin Harrison reported that the committee have decided some sundry resolutions; but, not having gone through the report, want to continue their discussions.

Resolved, That this Congress will, tomorrow, again resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to consider the report of the Committee of Conference.

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock tomorrow.

Elbridge Gerry to Joseph Palmer

I think the Colonies cannot long remain an independent depending People, but that they will declare themselves as their Interest & Safety have long required, entirely separated from the prostituted Government of G Britain.

The principal object of our Attention at this important Time I think should be the Manufacturing Arms, Lead & Clothing, & obtaining Flints, for I suppose since the Measures adopted by North Carolina & Virginia that there cannot remain a Doubt with our Assembly of the propriety of declaring for Independency & therefore that our Thoughts will be mostly directed to the Means for supporting it. Powder & Cannon are so successfully manufactured that if the Spirit continues with sufficient Encouragement for the Manufacturers I think We may be sure of full Supplies. 

Samuel Chase to Philip Schuyler

Our affairs here grow every Hour more gloomy. On yesterday there was a Meeting of our Generals & greater part of our field officers. They resolved to make a Stand as long as possible…. At 12 o’Clock, Genl. Thompson, Colonels Sinclair & Maxwell, & Allen went off. We have at Sorel but 1100 effective Men. General Arnold is gone about an Hour ago to attack Forster & take Care of our Troops at Montreal. To our other Distresses We have no Lead or Ball & no Medicine, though 1300 Sick of the Small pox….

We are informed 16,000 foreign Troops are on their passage for America, 12,000 to N. England, 4,000 to Canada. This is confirmed by a Letter from Bilboa, & by a Captain arrived at N. Haven.  The Tories in Montreal gave out the same Intelligence some Time past. I beg You will give Us the utmost Dispatch over the Lakes, as I wish to be at Congress as soon as possible.

It is a Million to a Shilling that General Thomas will die, General Wooster leaves this place this Day. General Arnold is first in Command until General Sullivan arrives. I esteem &c respect both those Gentlemen, but neither of them are competent to the Supreme Command. 

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.