Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: November 15, 1775

November 15, 1775

Congress receives news of the surrender of St. John’s, responds to a petition and a memorial, and postpones consideration of the Pennsylvania-Connecticut border dispute.  Based on “nature and experience,” John Adams provides a sketch of a form of government consistent with the preservation of liberty, and  Silas Deane writes to John Trumbull: “You must congratulate Me, on my Dismission from the Congress, when you consider that the happiest Time for a Man to die, is at that Moment, when he is highest in the Esteem of the World he leaves, and quite resigned to his Fate in the Next.”

Link to date-related documents

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

An Express having arrived with an account of the surrender of fort St. John’s, the letters from General Schuyler and General Montgomery were read.

On motion made, Ordered, That an order be drawn on the treasurers for Captain Thomas Price and his rifle company.

The Committee to whom the petition from Jasper Griffin, and the petition from Murray, Sansom and company and others, were referred, brought in their report, as follows:

That your committee on the memorial of Jasper Griffin, are of opinion, that the examination of the facts, set forth in that memorial, ought to be referred to the committee of observation, for Guilford, and that the same being sufficiently proved, the schooner Betsey, mentioned in said memorial, ought to be permitted to proceed on her voyage, with the cargo purchased and provided for her before the 10th day of September last, the master and owner of the vessel previously making oath, that they will use their best and utmost endeavors, that the said Cargo shall be landed in some foreign port.

On the memorial of Murray, Sansom and company, Jacob Watson, and Frederick Rhinelander, of the city of New York, your Committee having examined as far as they could, into the conduct of the parties concerned, find no ground to suspect that the owners of the cargo intended it should be landed or disposed of in any other manner than set forth in the said memorial, but your Committee think there are just grounds to suspect, that William Barron, the master of the ship Peggy, would not be very solicitous to prevent the cargo, which might be useful to the ministerial army, from falling into the possession of the men of war, he having been before taken in the same ship, in Rhode Island, with a cargo from Chesapeak Bay, for Europe, nor can your Committee approve the conduct of the Owner of the Ship who continued the captain afterwards.

Your Committee suggests that another master ought to be appointed to the said ship, who shall be approved by the committee of Norwich, and that the time of her sailing, as well as her tract be appointed by that committee, and the master sworn to use his best endeavors to prevent the said ship falling into the possession of any men of war or cutter, and to pursue as far as he can, the orders of the said committee in navigating the said ship, on which terms your Committee are of opinion, the said ship ought to be permitted to proceed with her cargo.

The said report being read, was accepted and agreed to.

A proposal made by Nathaniel Sackett for making a quantity of salt petre was read,

Resolved, That the same be referred to the salt petre Committee.

The report on the differences between the people of Connecticut and Pennsylvania, also the appointment of a Brigadier General be postponed till to Morrow.

Order of the day renewed,

Adjourned to ten o’Clock tomorrow.

John Adams to Richard Henry Lee

The Course of Events, naturally turns the Thoughts of Gentlemen to the Subjects of Legislation and Jurisprudence, and it is a curious Problem what Form of Government, is most readily & easily adopted by a Colony upon a Sudden Emergency. Nature and Experience have already pointed out the Solution of this Problem, in the Choice of Conventions and Committees of Safety. Nothing is wanting in Addition to these to make a complete Government, but the Appointment of Magistrates for the due Administration of Justice.

Taking Nature and Experience for my Guide I have made the following Sketch,  which may be varied in any one particular an infinite Number of Ways, So as to accommodate it to the different Genius, Temper, Principles and even Prejudices of different People.

A Legislative, an Executive and a judicial Power, comprehend the whole of what is meant and understood by Government. It is by balancing each one of these Powers against the other two, that the Effort in human Nature towards Tyranny can alone be checked and restrained and any degree of Freedom preserved in the Constitution.

In Adopting a Plan, in some Respects Similar to this, human Nature would appear in its proper Glory asserting its own moral Dignity, pulling down Tyrannies, at a single Exertion and erecting Such new Fabrics, as it thinks best calculated to promote its Happiness.

John Adams to Samuel Osgood

New England, as you justly observe is the Nursery of brave and hardy Men, and has hitherto Stemmed the Torrent of Tyranny, and must continue to do it, but the other Colonies are making rapid Advances in the military Art, and We must be cautious that we don’t hold our own Heads too high, and hold up invidious Distinctions. The other Colonies are capable of furnishing good Soldiers, and they Spare no Pains to emulate New England herself.

You observe that no Tory Province has been So contemned as ours. There may be some ground of Complaint, but have not our People aimed at more Respect than was their due? No other Colony I am fully sensible could have borne the shock as ours has done and it is possible that this Circumstance may have made our People expect more than their due.

It is certainly true that some of our Southern Brethren have not annexed the Same Ideas to the Words Liberty, Honor and Politeness that we have; but I have the Pleasure to observe every day that We learn to think and feel alike more and more.
I am Sorry that the Committee did not dine with General Ward, but am convinced there was no unfriendly Design. The Gentlemen politely told me that the only disagreeable Circumstance in their Journey was that they had not Time to cultivate an Acquaintance with Gentlemen in Camp and at Watertown, as they earnestly wished.

Silas Deane to John Trumbull

You must congratulate Me, on my Dismission from the Congress, when you consider that the happiest Time for a Man to die, is at that Moment, when he is highest in the Esteem of the World he leaves, and quite resigned to his Fate in the Next. And when I seriously assure You, without Vanity, that I could never expect, or wish, to stand fairer, or have greater influence in this, or any future Congress, than what I enjoy, at this Moment, & have for sometime past, And assure you I am quite resigned, to retire, and share the Fate, of my Country as an individual….

At the Committee from Seven until Ten in the Morning breakfast in the Chamber, from Ten To four often until five in Congress, from Seven until Ten in the Evening again at Committee…. This must Therefore be my excuse for not writing as I actually had not one hour I could call my Own, nor should I have this but for a severe rain which prevents my going out….

I wish they may be as happy in the Change, as I am, Though I must tell you I fear they will greatly suffer in their Accomplishments, as they will have no one at that Board…. Mr. Sherman never saw the inside of the Chamber of Accounts since the Board was established, Nor has Colonel Dyer. They can neither of them Therefore know anything of the matter. I have a good Opinion of the Abilities of Wolcott, Huntington, & Hosmer, Though I think they are not altogether parliamentary, or Congressional, but as to Williams I conceive him to be one of the most conceited, ignorant, & fractious puppies that ever attempted to act in the political Character, & he knows my Sentiments, & many others, for I have ever spoke freely….

I go for Philadelphia Tomorrow.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.