The committee system at work. John Adams’s Diary records the spirited debate over 1) Lord Dunmore 2) the need for powder 3) the status of the Association, and 4) reconciliation or independency? Samuel Ward records the work of Congressional Committees. John Adams writes “That a great Revolution, in the affairs of the World, is in the Womb of Providence, Seems to be intimated very Strongly, by many Circumstances.”
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
Two letters from General Schuyler, dated Ticonderoga, 25 and 28 September, with enclosures, were read.
On motion made,
Resolved, That the continental Treasurers to collect for continental bills, a quantity of silver and gold, for the use of the army in Canada.
Resolved, That the several provincial Assemblies or Conventions, and councils or committees of safety, arrest and secure every person in their respective colonies, whose going at large may endanger the safety of the colony, or the liberties of America.
Ordered, That an authentic Copy of the above be transmitted by the delegates to the appropriate persons in their respective colonies.
Resolved, That the Committee appointed by this Congress for the importation of powder, export, agreeable to the continental Association, as much provisions or other produce of these colonies, as they shall judge expedient for the purchase of arms and ammunition.
The Congress took into consideration the letter from New York, respecting the fortifications ordered to be erected on Hudson’s River and, after some debate,
Resolved, That a Committee of three be appointed to take the letter into consideration and report tomorrow morning their opinion of the answer to be sent to the Convention of New York.
The following were chosen: John Morton, Silas Deane, and Robert R. Livingston.
The Committee appointed to prepare a plan for intercepting the vessels coming out with arms and ammunition brought in their report, which was read and Ordered, To lie on the table, for the perusal of the members.
Resolved that the consideration of the resolve submitted by the delegates of Rhode Island, which was referred to this day, was put off until tomorrow.
Adjourned till tomorrow at 9 o’Clock.
John Adams’s Notes of Debates
Chase. I don’t think the Resolution goes far enough. Lord Dunmore has been many Months committing Hostilities vs. Virginia, and has extended his Piracies to Maryland. I wish he had been seized, by the Colony, Months ago. They would have received the Thanks of all North America….
Lee. I wish Congress would advise Virginia and Maryland to raise a Force by Sea to destroy Lord Dunmore’s Power. He is fond of his Bottle.
Zubly. I am sorry to see the very threatening Condition that Virginia is likely to be in. I look on the Plan We heard of yesterday to be vile, abominable and infernal-but I am afraid it is practicable. Will these Mischiefs be prevented by seizing Dunmore. Seizing the King’s Representatives will make a great Impression in England, and probably Things will be carried on afterwards with greater Rage. I came here with 2 Views. One to secure the Rights of America. 2. A Reconciliation with G. Britain.
Dyer. They can’t be more irritated at home than they are. They are bent upon our Destruction. Therefore that is no Argument vs. seizing them. Dunmore can do no [more?] Mischief in Virginia-his Connections in England are such that he may be exchanged to Advantage.
Johnson. Dunmore a very bad Man. A defensive Conduct was determined on, in the Convention of Virginia. I am for leaving it to Virginia. We ought not to lay down a rule in a Passion. I see less and less Prospect of a Reconciliation every day. But I would not render it impossible…. Five or six Weeks will give Us the final Determination of the People of G. Britain. Not a Governor in the Continent has the real Power, but some have the Shadow of it. A Renunciation of all Connection with G.B. will be understood by a step of this Kind. 13 Colonies connected with G.B. in 16 Months have been brought to an Armed Opposition to the Claims of G.B. The line We have pursued has been the Line We ought to have pursued. If what we have done had been proposed two Years ago, 4 Colonies would not have been for it.
Lee. If 6 Weeks may furnish decisive Information, the same Time may produce decisive destruction to Maryland and Virginia. Did We go fast enough when We suffered the Troops at Boston to fortify?
Zubly. This is a sudden Motion. The Motion was yesterday to apprehend Governor Tryon. We have not yet conquered the Army or Navy of G.B. A Navy, consisting of a Cutter, rides triumphant in Virginia. There are Persons in America who wish to break off with G.B. A Proposal has been made to apply to France and Spain-before I agree to it, I will inform my Constituents. I apprehend the Man who should propose it would be torn to pieces.
Wythe. It was from a Reverence for this Congress that the Convention of Virginia, neglected to arrest Lord Dunmore. It was not intended suddenly, to form a Precedent for Governor Tryon. If Maryland have a Desire to have a Share in the Glory of seizing this Nobleman, let them have it….From seizing Clothing in Delaware, seizing the Transports &c., the Battles of Lexington, Charlestown, &c., every Man in Great Britain will be convinced by Ministry and Parliament that We are aiming at an Independency on G.B. Therefore We need not fear from this Step disaffecting our Friends in England. As to a Defection in the Colonies, I can’t answer for Maryland, Pennsylvania, &c. but I can for Virginia.
Johnson. I am not vs. allowing Liberty to arrest Lord Dunmore- there is Evidence that the Scheme he is executing was recommended by himself. Maryland does not regard the Connection with G.B. as the first good.
Stone. If We signify to Virginia, that it will not be disagreeable to us, if they secure Lord Dunmore, that will be sufficient.
Lewis moves an Amendment, that it be recommended to the Council of Virginia, that they take such Measures to secure themselves, from the Practices of Lord Dunmore, either by seizing his Person, or otherwise as they think proper.
Hall. A Material Distinction between a peremptory order to the Council of Virginia, to seize his Lordship, and a Recommendation to take such Measures as they shall judge necessary, to defend themselves against his Measures.
Motion to export Produce for Powder.
Sherman. I think We must have Powder, and We may send out Produce for Powder. But upon some Gentlemen Principles We must have a general Exportation.
Paine. From the observations some Gentlemen have made I think this Proposition of more Importance than it appeared at first. In Theory I could carry it further, even to Exportation and Importation to G.B. A large Continent can’t Act upon Speculative Principles, but must be governed by Rules. Medicines, We must have-some Clothing, &c. I wish We could enter upon the Question at large, and agree upon some System.
Chase. By the Resolution We may send to G.B., Ireland and W. Indies.
Lee. Suppose Provisions should he sold in Spain for Money, and Cash sent to England for Powder.
Duane. We must have Powder. I would send for Powder to London, or anywhere. We are undone if We shan’t [have] Powder.
Dean. I hope the Words “Agreeable to the Association” will be inserted. But I would import from G.B. Powder.
R. R. Livingston. We are between Hawk and Buzzard. We puzzle ourselves between the commercial and warlike opposition.
Rutledge. If Ammunition was to be had from England only, there would be Weight in the Gentleman’s Argument…. I would let the Association stand as it is, and order the Committee to export our Provisions consistent with it.
Lee. When a Vessel comes to England vs. our Association, she must be observed and watched. They would keep the Provisions, but not let us have the Powder.
Deane. I have not the most distant Idea of infringing the Association.
Duane. The Resolution with the Amendment amounts to nothing. The Committee may import now consistent with the Association. I apprehend that by breaking the Association We may import Powder, without it not. We must have Powder. We must fight our Battles in two or three Months, in every Colony.
Samuel Ward’s Diary
Committee for Importation of Powder to export aggregable to the continental Association as much Provisions or other Produce of these Colonies as they shall judge expedient for the Purchase of Arms & Ammunition. A Committee appointed to consider of the Fortifications ordered to be erected on Hudson’s River. Farther Report of the Committee for concerting a Plan for intercepting certain [vessels] read. Ordered that the Congress resolved into a Committee of the whole to take into their Consideration the State of the Trade.
John Adams to Josiah Quincy (Massachusetts Political Leader)
That a great Revolution, in the affairs of the World, is in the Womb of Providence, Seems to be intimated very Strongly, by many Circumstances: But it is no Pleasure to me to be employed in giving Birth to it. The Fatigue, and Anxiety, which attends it are too great. Happy the Man, who with a plentiful Fortune, an elegant Mind and an amiable Family, retires from the Noises, Dangers and confusions of it. However, by a Train of Circumstances, which I could neither foresee nor prevent, I have been called by Providence to take a larger share in active Life, during the Course of these Struggles, than is agreable either to my Health, my Fortune or my Inclination, and I go through it with more Alacrity and Cheerfulness than I could have expected. I often envy the Silent Retreat of some of my Friends. But if We should so far succeed as to secure to Posterity the Blessings of a free Constitution, that alone will forever be considered by me as an ample Compensation for all the Care, Fatigue, and Loss that I may sustain in the Conflict….
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.