Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: October 5, 1775

October 5, 1775

Congress, after a spirited debate, supports the recommendation of the Committee of Three to instruct General Washington to intercept two ships bound for Canada. Silas Deane reports the complicated debate concerning the regulation of trade, the importance of 1763, and the September 10 deadline, in which at least 20 delegates participated.  John Adams marvels at the “novel and unexpected,” and Samuel Ward is pessimistic: “We ought to be prepared for the worst.”

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Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

Congress resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole, to further consider the state of the trade of the 13 confederated Colonies, and, after some time, the president resumed the chair, and Samuel Ward reported from the committee, that they had not come to any conclusion, and desired leave to sit again.

Resolved, That Congress will, tomorrow, resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take the state of the trade of the thirteen United Colonies into further consideration.

Resolved, That a Committee of three be appointed—John Adams, Silas Deane, and John Langdon–to prepare a plan for intercepting two vessels, which are on their way to Canada, loaded with “Arms and powder.” The Committee supported interception by vessels under the General’s command and direction, and to furnish him instantly with every necessary in their power, at the expense of the Continent, and with the assistance of neighboring colonies.

Adjourned till to Morrow at 9 o’Clock.

Samuel Ward to Henry Ward

I have seen a Number of Letters from Gentlemen of Character in England to Doctor Franklin…. I have also seen, and the general Tenor of all the Letters and the Captain’s Information is that the Ministry is determined at all Events to conquer America. The Dr. being asked whether his Intelligence was from Gentlemen who had frequently corresponded with him & whether their Advices generally were found true, he answered that it was generally good: being asked whether he thought they were a sufficient Foundation for America to proceed upon he answered He thought they were & that We ought to take all possible Care of ourselves. He observed that it was not certain; for that upon the Arrival of the Petition the Ministry might think best to relax a little but it was by no means to be trusted to. We ought to be prepared for the worst….

John Adams’s Notes of Debates

Gadsden. I wish we may confine ourselves to one Point. Let the Point be whether We shall shut up all our Ports, and be all on a footing. The Ministry will answer their End, if We let the Custom houses be open, in N.Y., N.C., the lower Counties and Georgia. They will divide us. One Colony will envy another, and be jealous. Mankind act by their feelings…..

Lee. I will follow Mr. Gadsden and simplify the Proposition, and confine it to the Q. whether the Custom houses shall be shut? If they are open, the excepted Colonies may trade, others not, which will be unequal. The Consequence Jealousy, Division and Ruin. I would have all suffer equally.

John Adams to William Heath (Brigadier General)

In the present State of America, which is so novel and unexpected, and indeed unthought of by Numbers of Persons in every Colony, it is natural to expect Misapprehensions, Jealousies and Misrepresentations in Abundance: and it must be our Care to attend them, and if possible explain what is misunderstood and state truly what is misrepresented.

It is represented in this City, by Some Persons, and it makes an unfriendly Impression upon Some Minds, that in the Massachusetts Regiments, there are great Numbers of Boys, Old Men, and Negroes, Such as are unsuitable for the service, and therefore that the Continent is paying for a much greater Number of Men, than are fit for Action or any Service. I have endeavored to the Utmost of my Power to rectify these Mistakes as I take them to be, and I hope with Some success, but still the Impression is not quite removed….

I must confess I had another View in giving you this Trouble which was to introduce to your Attention, Dr. Franklin, Mr. Lynch, and Colonel Harrison, a Committee from this Congress to consult with the General and with the New England Colonies, concerning a Plan for future Armies. Mr. Lynch is from S. Carolina, Colonel Harrison from Virginia, both Gentlemen of great Fortune, and respectable Characters, Men of Abilities and very Staunch Americans.

Silas Deane’s Diary

Mr. Read in favor of the Motion that some declaration ought to be made in the pacific Way.
That the Regulations, of Trade, for the present ought to be pass’d over. It is better for the present to Temporize.
Col. Dyer, for altering the Motion–but appears very confused.
Maj. Sullivan, that the Motion is not sufficiently explicit but that We ought to Speak out. Proposes an amendment. Mr. Lynch against the whole Clause, as 1763 will leave some of the worst Acts in force –the Rice being enumerated–The Hatt Act–The Act for extending Land in America to the payment of Debts–The Act of Wm & Mary, & the 5th of George 2d. extend the power of jurisdiction. of Admiralty invidiously. The Grievance of the Crown appointing Councellors to act as Legislators, in the respective Colonies, are he says all of them Grievances to be remonstrated against.
Mr. Adams, for the Motion. Says it does not imply, that We are to submit to all preceding Acts–but that We shall by such repeal be in the State We were in in 1763 as to harmony.
Mr. Low complains, that the Motion is not sufficiently explicit, that We ought to speak out, complains of being misapprehended, &, of being in a suspicious point of Light.
Col. Lee answers, and is at large for the Motion.
Col. Dyer again, (quite on one side of the Question) .
Mr. Adams senr. for the Amendment in part but proposes another.
Mr. Cushing strangely against it.
Mr. Lynch for it.
Mr. Jay, for the last amendment to appearance at first, but finally means to confound everything. Mr. Henry answers him and is severe on Mr. Jay.
Mr. Rutledge senr. against the Whole of the Motion, & thinks it ought to be totally rejected as Admiralty Courts were extended before the Year 1763, which are the most enormous of any Whatever, and that he will never be easy while that extension remains as it in effect is destroying all privileges in the destruction of Trial by Juries.
Mr. Henry & Mr. Rutledge dispute about the meaning of an Act of Parliament.
Mr. Cushing in support of his Motion.
Mr. Mifflin in support of the same.
Mr. Jay Up against the Motion.
Mr. Sherman, Up on Account of taking up the Grievances at large, & dropping the Motion.
Mr. Read explains himself as to some Expressions in his Speech.
Mr. Johnson, lengthy & in favor of the Motion.
Col. Lee makes a New Motion for an Amendment in the Instructions to the Committee–reads it and it is seconded. Mr. Payne, rather against the Motion, that We should be more explicit.
Mr. Low joins him.
Mr. Cushing, rather severe on the subject against New York.
Mr. Low answers him.
Mr. Adams, senr. replies.
Question called for. Mr. Jay rises to make Observations, and To Slip it by, asserting that the Amendment was just the same as the Motion. Col. Lee very severe & lengthy in his Reply.
Mr. Rutledge jr., makes a New Motion and gets it seconded by Mr. Jay.
Mr. Chase, prefers the first amendment–but is for forming Resolutions against all Acts of Parliament, & then to propose modes of Opposition .
Mr. Biddle, against being confined to the Year 1763.
Mr. Duane against including the Canada Bill in the Petition to the King.
Col. Lee answers him respecting the Canada Bill.
Mr. Lynch, in answer to Mr. Chase.

The Question put the Amendment Carried 6 to 5. Colonies. Pennsylvania divided & was not counted. The Colonies Stood thus N. Hampshire for New York No Phila: divide Massachusetts for New Jersey No Rhode Island do. 3 Counties No Connecticut do. Maryland No. Virginia do. S. Carolina No. N. Carolina do.

Mr. Adams, moves to bring on the Motion for Nonimportation of Flaxseed.
Mr. Galloway against the Motion, unless other Articles are Now enumerated otherwise it will not be a fair Method of proceeding.
Mr. Mifflin, says it is proper We first should say what Articles ought, or are Necessary to be prohibited.
Mr. Adams up again.
Majr. Sullivan against stopping the Article of Lumber.
Mr. Mifflin observes that Boards are as good for the Shipping of Sugar as Staves by making Boxes.
Col. Lee thinks that it is best to let, the Non Exp[ortatio]n agreement will be rested best on the general footing on Which it Now stands (viz) on the first of Sepr. next.
Gov. Ward speaking for it.
Col. Dyer against it without other Articles….

Mr. Adams, to put off the Question until tomorrow morning. Seconded.
Mr. Pain, spoke about the impropriety of using the word sacrifice & [c].
Mr. Lynch, for the Motion.
Mr. Gadsden, after much talk, Moved, that from & after the 10th September no remittances to be made to G Britain.
Seconded by Governor Ward.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.