Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: October 4, 1775

October 4, 1775

John Adams summarizes the confusing debates in Congress sitting as a committee of the whole “to take into consideration the state of trade of these Colonies.” The status of the Association of 1774, the feasibility of controlling and encouraging trade, the implications for securing gunpowder, and the possibility of reconciliation? 

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Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Congress approved the Committee of Claims Report on claims due to the Committee of Bedford County.

An additional Instruction was given to the Committee appointed to confer with the General, which was ordered to be transcribed, and added to the former.

Permission granted for the Sloop Bentham with a parcel of sea stores to proceed to South Carolina.

Congress resolved itself into a Committee of the whole, to take into consideration the state of the trade of the thirteen Colonies, and, after some time spent therein, the president resumed the chair, and Samuel Ward reported that the Committee request permission to continue their deliberations.

Resolved, That this Congress will, tomorrow, resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole, to take into further consideration the trade of the 13 Confederated Colonies.

Adjourned to 9 o’Clock tomorrow.

John Adams’s Notes of Debates [Edited]

[Editor’s Note. Much of the debate concerned should exports be permitted from New York, North Carolina, Georgia, and Delaware.]

Johnson. I should be for the Resolutions about Imports and Exports, standing, till further order.…. I am for the Report standing, the Association standing.

J. Rutledge. The Question is whether We shall shut our Ports entirely, or adhere to the Association. The Resolutions we come to, ought to be final.

Lee. N. Carolina is absent. They are expected every Hour. We had better suspend a final Determination. I fear our determination to stop Trade will not be effectual.

Willing. N.C. promised to put themselves in the same situation with other Colonies. N. York have done the same. Our Gold is locked up, at present. We ought to be decisive. Interest is near and dear to Men. The Committee of Secrecy find Difficulties. Merchants dare not trade.

Deane. Sumptuary Laws, or a Non Importation were necessary, if We had not been oppressed. A Non Export was attended with Difficulty. My Colony could do as well as others. We should have acquiesced in an immediate Non Export or a partial one. Many voted for it as an Object in Terrorem. Merchants, Mechanics, Farmers, all call for an Establishment….We cannot get ammunition without allowing some Exports, for The Merchant has neither Money nor Bills, and our Bills will not pass abroad.

R. R. Livingston. We should go into a full Discussion of the Subject. Every Gentleman ought to express his Sentiments. The 1st Q. is how far we shall adhere to our Association-What advantages we gain, What Disadvantages we suffer by it. An immediate Stoppage last year would have had a great Effect: But at that time the Country could not bear it. We are now out of Debt, nearly….We have nothing to fear but Disunion among ourselves…. Ammunition cannot be had unless We open our Ports. I am for doing away our Non Exportation Agreement entirely. I see many Advantages in leaving open the Ports, none in shutting them up. I should think the best way would be to open all our Ports….

Johnson. Never had an Idea that We should shut out Export. Agreement closer than it is at present. If We leave it as it is, We shall get Powder by Way of N. York, the lower Counties and N. Carolina. In Winter our Merchants will venture out to foreign Nations….

J. Rutledge. We ought to postpone it, rather than not come to a decisive Resolution.

Lee. We shall be prevented from exporting if British Power can do it. We ought to stop our own Exports, and invite foreign Nations to come and export our Goods for Us. I am for opening our Exportations to foreigners farther than We have.

Willing. The Gents favorite Plan is to induce foreigners to come here. Shall We act like the Dog in the Manger, not suffer N.Y. and the lower Counties and N. Carolina to export because We can’t. We may get Salt and Ammunition by those Ports. Can’t be for inviting foreigners to become our Carriers. Carriage is an amazing Revenue. Holland and England have derived their maritime Power from their Carriage….

Lee. The End of Administration will be answered by the Gentns. Plan. Jealousies and Dissensions will arise and Disunion and Division. We shall become a Rope of Sand.

Zubly. The Q. should be whether the Export should be kept or not.

Chase. I am for adhering to the Association and think that We ought not to determine these Questions this day. Differ from R. Livingston, [who holds that] our Exports are to be relaxed except as to Tobacco and Lumber. This will produce a Disunion of the Colonies. The Advantage of cultivating Tobacco is very great. The Planters would complain…. I can’t agree that N.Y., the lower Counties and N. Carolina, should carry on Trade. Upon giving a Bond, and making Oath, they may export. I am vs. these Colonies trading according to the restraining Act. It will produce Division…. To say you will trade with all the World, deserves Consideration.  I have not absolutely discarded every Glimpse of a Hope of Reconciliation. Our Prospect is gloomy. I cant agree, that We shall not export our own Produce. We must treat with foreign Nations upon Trade. They must protect and support Us with their Fleets. When you once offer your Trade to foreign Nations, away with all Hopes of Reconciliation.

E. Rutledge. Differs with all who think the Non Exportation should be broke, or that any Trade at all should be carried on….

R. R. Livingston. Not convinced by any Argument…. We cant make Contracts for Powder, without opening our Ports. I am for exporting where B. will allow Us, to Britain itself. If We shut up our Ports, We drive our Sailors to Britain. The Army will be supplied, in all Events.

Lee makes a Motion for 2 Resolutions.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.