Congress receives the Committee Report on General Washington’s November 8th Letter. John Adams admits that yes 1) there are differences of opinions and interests across the land, but 2) we must remember that we are in “the Most Critical Moment, We have yet seen.” We must seek unanimity. And 3) the delegates are overwhelmed by working fifteen hour days.
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
The Congress elected 3 field officers for the Battalion raising in Pennsylvania, when
Resolved, That Monday next be assigned for the appointment of an Adjutant and Quarter Master for the 2d Battalion, raised in New Jersey, and an adjutant and quarter master for the Battalion raised in Pennsylvania.
Resolved, That Tuesday be assigned for the consideration of the memorials of the Teaholders in New York and Philadelphia.
Ordered, That nine accounts be paid.
The Congress resumed the report of the Committee on General Washington’s letter, and the same being debated by paragraphs, was agreed to as follows:
Committee Report on General Washington’s November 8th Letter [Edited]
The Committee to whom so much of the letter from General Washington to the president of the Congress dated the 8th Instant as relates to the disposal of the vessels and cargoes belonging to the enemy, which shall fall into the hands of or be taken by the inhabitants of the united colonies and so much of the report of the committee of Congress, which lately went to the Camp at Cambridge as related to that subject, were referred, have examined the matter and directed the same, as it appears to them, together with the resolutions of the Committee thereupon to be reported as follows.
Whereas, it appears to your Committee from undoubted information, that many vessels which had cleared at the respective custom houses in these colonies, agreeable to the regulations established by acts of the British parliament, have in a lawless manner, without even the semblance of just authority, been seized by his majesty’s ships of war, and carried into the harbor of Boston and other ports, where they have been riffled of their cargoes, by orders of his majesty’s naval and military officers, there commanding, without the said vessels having been proceeded against by any form of trial, and without the charge of having offended against any law.
It further appears to your Committee that orders have been issued in his majesty’s name, to the commanders of his ships of war, “to proceed as in the case of actual rebellion against such of the sea port towns and places being accessible to the king’s ships, in which any troops shall be raised or military works erected,” under color of which said orders, the commanders of his majesty’s said ships of war, have already burned and destroyed the flourishing and populous town of Falmouth, and have fired upon and much injured several other towns within the United Colonies, and dispersed at a late season of the year, hundreds of helpless women and children, with a savage hope that those may perish under the approaching rigors of the season, who may chance to escape destruction from fire and sword, a mode of warfare long exploded amongst civilized nations.
It also appears to your Committee, that the good people of these colonies, sensibly affected by the destruction of their property, and other unprovoked injuries, have at last determined to prevent as much as possible a repetition thereof, and to procure some reparation for the same, by fitting out armed vessels and ships of force. In the execution of which commendable designs, it is possible that those who have not been instrumental in the unwarrantable violence above mentioned may suffer, unless some laws be made to regulate, and tribunals erected competent to determine the propriety of captures: Thereupon your Committee came to eight resolutions.
[Editor’s Note. See Journal for the content of the Resolutions, how the captured goods shall be divided among the “officers and men” of the American navy, and which parts of the Resolutions were sent back to the committee for further consideration].
Congress then considered the rules for the American Navy, &c., and postponed further consideration until Monday.
Adjourned to ten o’Clock on Monday.
John Adams to Joseph Hawley
We cannot Suddenly alter the Temper, Principles, opinions or Prejudices of Men. The Characters of Gentlemen in the four New England Colonies, differ as much from those in the others, as that of the Common People differs, that is as much as several distinct Nations almost. Gentlemen, Men of Sense, or any Kind of Education in the other Colonies are much fewer in Proportion than in N. England. Gentlemen in the other Colonies have large Plantations of slaves, and the common People among them are very ignorant and very poor. These Gentlemen are accustomed, habituated to higher Notions of themselves and the distinction between them and the common People, than We are…. An Alteration of the Southern Constitutions, which must certainly take Place if this War continues will gradually bring all the Continent nearer and nearer to each other in all Respects. But this is the Most Critical Moment, We have yet seen. This Winter will cast the Die. For God’s Sake therefore, reconcile our People to what has been done, for you may depend upon it, that nothing more can be done here-and I should shudder at the Thought of proposing a Bounty. A burnt Child dreads the fire….
After taking a great deal of Pains with my Colleague your Friend Mr Cushing, I could not get him to agree with the rest of Us in writing a joint Letter, nor could I get him to say what opinion he would give if it was moved in Congress. What he has written I know not. But it is very hard to be linked and yoked eternally, with People who have either no opinions, or opposite Opinions, and to be plagued with the opposition of our own Colony to the most necessary Measures, at the same Time that you have all the Monarchical Superstitions and the Aristocratical Domination, of Nine other Colonies to contend with.
John Adams to Mercy Warren
You know Madam, that I have no Pleasure or Amusements which has any Charms for me. Balls, Assemblies, Concerts, Cards, Horses, Dogs, never engaged any Part of my attention or Concern. Nor am I ever happy in large and promiscuous Companies. Business alone, with the intimate unreserved Conversation of a very few Friends, Books, and familiar Correspondences, have ever engaged all my Time, and I have no Pleasure no Ease in any other Way. In this Place I have no opportunity to meddle with Books, only in the Way of Business. The Conversation I have here is all in the ceremonious, reserved, impenetrable Way. Thus I have Sketched a Character for myself of a morose Philosopher and a Surly Politician, neither of which are very amiable or respectable, but yet there is too much truth in it-and from it you will easily believe that I have very little Pleasure here, excepting in the Correspondence of my Friends, and among these I assure you Madam there is none, whose Letters I read with more Pleasure and Instruction than yours. I wish it was in my Power to write to you oftener than I do, but I am really engaged in constant Business of seven to ten in the Morning in Committee, from ten to four in Congress and from Six to Ten again in Committee. Our Assembly is scarcely numerous enough for the Business. Every Body is engaged all Day in Congress and all the Morning and evening in Committees. I mention this Madam as an Apology for not writing you so often as I ought and as a Reason for my Request that you would not wait for my answers….
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.