Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: October 20, 1775

October 20, 1775

Congress 1) approves “the McPherson letter” drafted by a Committee of Three to be sent to George Washington and 2) continues to debate “the state of the trade of the confederated Colonies.”  John Adams summarizes the debate in which at least twelve delegates express their views on foreign trade and using economic policy as a tool of political diplomacy.

Link to date-related documents

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

The Committee appointed to prepare a letter to the General, to be sent by Captain McPherson reported the same, which was read and agreed to.

Letter to General Washington carried by Captain McPherson

Sir: Captain John Macpherson having informed the Congress, that he had invented a method, by which with their leave, he would take or destroy every ministerial armed vessel in North America, they appointed Governor Hopkins, Mr Randolph and Mr J Rutledge to confer with him on the subject, for he would not consent to communicate the secret to any but a committee and you. These Gentlemen reported, that the scheme in theory appeared practicable, and that though its success could not be relied on without experiment, they thought it well worth attempting on the fleet in and about Boston harbor, their destruction being an object of the utmost consequence. The Congress have therefore directed Captain Macpherson to repair immediately to Cambridge. They recommend this Matter to your particular attention and request, that if you view it in the light, which the Committee did you will give him all the support and assistance in your power and furnish him with everything which he may require for this service.

Resolved, that an order be drawn on the treasures in favor of Captain J. Macpherson to defray the expenses of his journey to the camp.

Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole to take into 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 that the committee had taken into consideration the matter referred to them, but not having come to a conclusion desired him to move for leave to sit again.

Resolved, Congress will tomorrow again resolve itself into a committee of the whole to take into their further consider the state of the trade of the confederated Colonies.

Adjourned to 10 o’Clock tomorrow.

John Adams’s Notes of Debates

[Editor’s Note.  At least twelve delegates–Deane, Gadsden, Chase, Zuby, Deane, Dyer, Jay, Lee, Wythe, Randolph, Stone, Rutledge–revisit using import and export policy as a major tool of political diplomacy and preparation for war.]

John Adams to James Warren

Can The Inhabitants of North America live without foreign Trade?

Samuel Adams to William Heath (Brigadier General)

The Affairs of our Country are at this Moment in the most critical Situation. I wait with the utmost Impatience, to hear from General Schuyler and Colonel Arnold. I was going to say that all depends upon their Success. If they do all that is in their Power, it will be as much as their Country can in Reason expect from them. Mortals cannot command Success. I wish, if it be practicable, that our Army would make some bold push upon the Rebels, but I trust to the Wisdom of our Generals. While I am writing (in the Lobby) I am informed that a Ship is just arrived from London. If I shall hear any important News before I shall be obliged to close this Letter I will insert it….I am now in haste and can add no more than that I am your affectionate Friend.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.