Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: November 29, 1775

November 29, 1775

Congress deliberates 1) the Committee Report on The Downham Newton Petition concerning trade, and 2) the Draft of the Letter to the Agents. Richard Henry Lee reflects on Lord Dunmore’s “curious proclamation” of November 7, 1775. Thomas Jefferson writes that “I think I speak the sentiments of America. We want neither inducement nor power to declare and assert a separation.” Both are optimistic that America will be independent and that Canada will join the union.

Link to date-related documents

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

A letter from General Schuyler, containing an account of the continental troops, under General Montgomery, having taken possession of Montreal on the 12th was read.

The Committee to whom the petition of Downham Newton was referred, recommended resolutions concerning his proposed trade to assist Providence Island.

Resolved, That Downham Newton should be permitted to export on board his vessel, on the terms proposed in his petition, such provisions of flour and pork as he shall think proper.

Resolved, That Downham Newton shall on or before the 15th of February import into the port of Newbern in North Carolina and deliver to the commanding officer of the continental troops good muskets and bayonets or gunpowder.

Resolved, That the executing the above business and taking the bond from Downham Newton be referred to the Committee who brought in the foregoing report.

Ordered, That the Committee take measures for securing and bringing away powder from Providence and have the powder brought to Philadelphia.

Resolved, That Robert Morris be added to the foregoing Committee.

Congress then considered the report of the Committee on the state of the treasury.

The Committee appointed to prepare a draft of a letter to the Agents, brought in the same, which was read and agreed to as follows:

Draft of the Letter to the Agents

The manner in which the last dutiful petition to his Majesty was received and the subsequent proclamation are considered by Congress as further proofs of those malignant councils, that surround the sovereign and distract the British Empire. It is however happy for mankind that ministers can form destructive plans with much more facility than they can execute them. The enclosed printed detail of the operations in Canada this campaign will sufficiently evince what little success is likely to attend ministerial exertions for bringing the Catholics of Canada and the savages of the wilderness to war on the defenseless women and children of unoffending America. The Canadians are much too liberal to be made instruments in the black design of enslaving their brethren and the Indians with their usual sagacity have by the firmest treaties accepted and pledged themselves to observe the neutrality which Congress desired.

Neither General Gage nor his successor has yet been able to penetrate into the Country. The British Men of War, indeed, that formerly with so much glory supported the interest and the honor of the nation, have with a wanton barbarity and inhumanity that would disgrace savages, have burned the flourishing but defenseless town of Falmouth in the Colony of Massachusetts bay and have frightened many of the weaker sex with their children from other places on the sea coast. It grieves us exceedingly to see the British arms employed in such a manner and for such purposes; but we hope the spirit and virtue of a sensible nation will soon be exerted to procure justice for the innocent oppressed colonies and to restore harmony and peace to the British Empire. There is nothing more ardently desired by North America than a lasting union with Great Britain on terms of just and equal liberty; but as men and as descendants of Britons the good people of these colonies will rely to the last on heaven, and their own virtuous efforts for security against the abusive system pressed by administration for the ruin of America and which if pursued must end in the destruction of a great Empire.

The intelligence now sent is, Gentlemen, to prevent the nation’s being imposed upon by misrepresentations and to guard against mistakes that may probably arise from wanting a true state of facts. We cannot suppose that a brave and sensible people will be prevented by proclamation from furnishing North America with such advice and assistance as the laws permit and justice to an oppressed people demands.

Ordered, That a fair copy of the above be made, signed by the president and forwarded to the Agents.

Resolved, That a Committee of Five be appointed for the sole purpose of corresponding with our friends in Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world. The members chosen: Benjamin Harrison, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Johnson, John Dickinson, and John Jay.

The Committee appointed to take into their consideration the proclamations, which lately appeared in the papers, brought in their report, which was read, and ordered to lie on the table for the perusal of the members.

Adjourned to ten o’Clock tomorrow.

Richard Henry Lee to Catherine Macaulay

As a good Christian properly attached to your native Country, I am sure you must be pleased to hear that North America is not fallen, nor likely to fall down before the Images that the King hath set up. After more than ten years abuse and injury on one side, of modest representation on the other; Administration at length determine to try if the sword cannot affect, what threatening Acts of Parliament had in vain attempted; that is, the ruin of the just rights and liberty of this great Continent. Lexington, Concord, and Bunkers Hill opened the tragic scene; and clearly proved to the whole world that N. America had no reliance but on its own virtue in Arms….

No doubt is entertained here, but that this Congress will be shortly joined by Delegates from Canada, which will then complete the union of 14 provinces. Thus have the evil machinations of an unprincipled Administration been turned greatly to the honor and security of the people they meant to ruin. The proclamation that followed the receipt of so humble a petition has determined the Councils of America to prepare for defense with the utmost vigor both by Sea & Land….

The last Post produces a proclamation from Lord Dunmore declaring Liberty to the Slaves and proclaiming the Law martial to be the only law in that Colony-And all this he says is done “in virtue of the power and authority to me given by his Majesty!” Is it possible that his Majesty could authorize him thus to remedy evils which his Lordship himself had created? I would have enclosed you a copy of this curious proclamation, had I not feared it would too much increase the size of this packet….

The enclosed printed papers will shew you Madam how successful the cause of liberty has been in Canada. No doubt is entertained of Quebec & Governor Carleton having fallen into the hands of General Montgomery & Colonel Arnold.

Thomas Jefferson to John Randolph

I have it in my power to acquaint you that the successes of our arms have corresponded with the justice of our cause. Chambly and St. John’s have been taken some weeks ago, and in them the whole regular army in Canada except about 40. or 50. men. This day we receive certain intelligence that our General Montgomery is received into Montreal: and expect every hour to be informed that Quebec has opened it’s arms to Colonel Arnold who with 1100 men was sent from Boston up the Kennebec and down the Chaudiere river to that place. He expected to be there early this month. Montreal acceded to us on the 13th. and Carleton set out with the shattered remain[s] of his little army for Quebec where we hope he will be taken up by Arnold. In a short time we have reason to hope the delegates of Canada will join us in Congress and complete the American Union as far as we wish to have it completed….

It is an immense misfortune to the whole empire to have a king of such a disposition at such a time. We are told and everything proves it true that he is the bitterest enemy we have. His minister is able, and that satisfies me that ignorance or wickedness somewhere controls him. In an earlier part of this contest our petitions told him that from our king there was but one appeal. The admonition was despised and that appeal forced on us. To undo his empire he has but one truth more to learn, that after colonies have drawn the sword there is but one step more they can take. That step is now pressed upon us by the measures adopted as if they were afraid we would not take it. Believe me Dear Sir there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a Union with Gr. Britain than I do. But by the god that made me I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British parliament propose and in this I think I speak the sentiments of America. We want neither inducement nor power to declare and assert a separation. It is will alone which is wanting and that is growing apace under the fostering hand of our king. One bloody campaign will probably decide everlastingly our future course; I am sorry to find a bloody campaign is decided on.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.