Second Continental Congress: October 12, 1775
October 12, 1775
Congress resolves itself into a Committee of the Whole and spends most of the day debating the state of the trade of the Colonies. John Adams provides a report of the debate with independence or reconciliation as the backdrop. John Hancock writes to the New Jersey Provincial Assembly about the Congressional resolutions for raising two battalions and for the subsistence of the troops.
Link to date-related documents
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
The Congress considered the report of the Committee respecting the billeting of soldiers, &c.
John Penn, one of the delegates for North Carolina produced his credentials, which were read and approved. He replaced Richard Caswell whom Congress had appointed Treasurer of the Southern District of North Carolina.
The Committee of Claims reported three claims and Congress approved the payment.
Ordered, That the president transmit to the Convention of New Jersey a certified copy of the resolutions for raising two battalions and for the subsistence of the troops.
Resolved, That a similar recommendation issue to the Assembly or Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania to raise one battalion on the same terms as those ordered to be raised in New Jersey, and to be officered in like manner.
Congress resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole, to take into their further consideration the state of the trade of the confederated Colonies, and after some time spent therein, the president resumed the chair, and Samuel Ward reported, from the Committee that not having come to any resolution, wished to continue sitting.
Resolved, That this Congress will, tomorrow, resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into their further consideration the state of the trade.
Adjourned to 9 o’Clock tomorrow.
John Adams’s Notes of Debates
Report, on Trade, considered in a Committee of the Whole.
Lee. It has been moved to bring the debate to one Point, by putting the Q. whether the Custom houses shall be shut up, and the officers discharged from their several Functions. This would put N. York, N.C., lower Counties and Georgia upon the same Footing with the other Colonies. I therefore move that the Custom Houses be shut, and the officers discharged. This will remove Jealousies and Divisions.
Zubly. The Measure, We are now to consider, extremely interesting. I shall offer my Thoughts. If We decide properly, I hope We shall establish our Cause-if improperly, We shall overthrow it, altogether.
1st Proposition. Trade is important. We must have a Reconciliation with G.B. or the Means of carrying on the War. An unhappy day when We shall….
2d Thing necessary that We have Arms and Ammunition. We must have Money….
Whether We can raise a Navy is an important Question. We may have a Navy-and to carry on the War We must have a Navy. Can We do this without Trade? Can we gain Intelligence without Trade. Can We get Powder without Trade? Every Vessel you send out is thrown away. New England where the War is may live without Trade. Money circulates there-they may live. Without Trade our People must starve. We cannot live. We cannot feed or clothe our People. My Resolution was that I would do and suffer any Thing rather than not be free. But I resolved not to do impossible Things.
If We must trade… we must trade with G. Britain. Is it practicable. Will it quit cost. Will it do more hurt than good. This is breaking our Association. Our People will think We are giving Way and giving all up. They will say one mischievous Man has over set the whole Navigation. I speak from Principle. It has been said here that the Association was made in terrorem.
Gadsden. 2ds. Lees Motion, and affirms that We can carry on Trade from one End of the Continent to the other.
Deane. Custom house Officers discharged! Were they ever in our Pay, in our service. Let them stand where they are. Let this Congress establish what Offices they please. Let the others die. I think that all the Colonies ought to be upon a footing. We must have Trade. I think We ought to apply abroad. We must have Powder and Goods. We can’t keep our People easy without.
Lee. The Gentleman agrees that all ought to be upon a Footing. Let him shew how this can be done without shutting the Customhouses.
Jay. This should be the last Business We undertake. It is like cutting the Foot to the shoe, not making a shoe for the Foot. Let Us establish a System first. I think We ought to consider the whole, before We come to any Resolutions. Now Gentlemen have their Doubts whether the Non Exportation was a good Measure. I was last Year, clear vs. it. Because the Enemy have burned Charlestown, would Gentlemen have Us burn N. York? Let us lay every Burden as equal on all the Shoulders that We can. If Providence or Ministry inflict Misfortunes on one, shall We inflict the same on all? I have one Arm sore-why should not the other Arm be made sore too? But Jealousies will arise. Are these reasonable? Is it politic? We are to consult the general Good of all America. Are We to do hurt to remove unreasonable Jealousies. Because Ministry have imposed hardships on one, shall We impose the same on all. It is not from affection to New York, that I speak. If a Man has lost his Teeth on one side of his Jaws, shall he pull out the Teeth from the other that both sides may be upon a Footing? Is it not realizing the Quarrel of the Belly and the Members? The other Colonies may avail themselves of the Custom houses in the exempted Colonies.
Lee. All must bear a proportional share of the Continental Expense. Will the exempted Colonies take upon themselves the whole Expense…. The Gentleman exercised an Abundance of Wit to show the Unreasonableness of Jealousies. If this ministerial Bait is swallowed by America another will be thrown out.
Jay. Why should not New York make Money, and New Jersey not. One Colony can clothe them.
McKean. I have 4 Reasons for putting the favored Colonies upon a footing with the rest. 1st. is to disappoint the Ministry. Their design was insidious. 2. I would not have it believed by Ministry or other Colonies that those Colonies had less Virtue than others. 3. I have a Reconciliation in View, it would be in the Power of those Colonies, it might become their Interest to prolong the War. 4. I believe Parliament has done or will do it for us, i.e. put us on the same footing. I would choose that the exempted Colonies should have the Honor of it. Not clear that this is the best Way of putting them upon a Footing. If We should be successful in Canada, I would be for opening our Trade to some Places in G.B., Jamaica, &c.
J. Rutledge. Wonders that a Subject so clear, has taken up so much Time. I was for a general Non Exportation. Is it not surprising, that there should so soon be a Motion for breaking the Association. We have been reproached for our Breach of Faith in breaking the Non Importation. I have the best Authority to say that if We had abided by a former Non Importation, We should have had redress. We may be obliged hereafter to break the Association, but why should We break it before We feel it. I expected the Delegates from the exempted Colonies would have moved to be put upon the same footing. Don’t like shutting the Custom Houses and discharging the Officers- but moves that the Resolution be, that People in New York, North Carolina. Georgia and lower Counties don’t apply to the Custom house.
Zubly. I look upon it the Association altogether will be the Ruin of the Cause. We have 10,000 fighting Indians near us. Carolina has already smuggled Goods from Georgia.
Chase. I will undertake to prove that if the Reverend Gentleman’s Positions are true and his Advice followed, We shall all be made Slaves. If he speaks the Opinion of Georgia I sincerely lament that they ever appeared in Congress. They cannot, they will not comply! Why did they come here? Sir We are deceived. Sir We are abused! Why do they come here? I want to know why their provincial Congress came to such Resolutions. Did they come here to ruin America. That Gentleman’s Advice will bring Destruction upon all N. America. I am for the Resolution upon the Table. There will be Jealousies, if N.Y. and the other exempted Colonies are not put upon a footing….
Houstoun. Where the Protection of this Room did not extend, I would not set very tamely.
Chase. I think the Gentleman ought to take offence at his Brother Delegate.
Wythe. Agrees with the Gentleman from New York that We don’t proceed regularly. The Safety of America depends essentially on a Union of the People in it. Can We think that Union will be preserved if 4 Colonies are exempted. When New York Assembly did not approve the Proceedings of the Congress it was not only murmured at, but lamented as a Defection from the public Cause.
Sherman. Another Argument for putting [Editor’s Note. The sentence is unfinished but probably Sherman is suggesting a continuation of the discussion tomorrow].
John Hancock to the New Jersey Provincial Convention
Some late intelligence, laid before Congress, seems to render it absolutely necessary, for the protection of our liberties and safety of our lives, to raise several new Battalions, and therefore the Congress have come into the enclosed resolutions, which I am ordered to transmit to you. The Congress have the firmest confidence that, from your experienced zeal in this great cause, you will exert your utmost endeavors to carry the said resolutions into execution with all possible expedition.
The Congress have agreed to furnish the men with a hunting-shirt, not exceeding the value of one dollar and one-third of a dollar, and a blanket, provided these can be procured; but these are not to be made part of the terms of enlistment.
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.