Journals of the Continental Congress

Second Continental Congress: September 23, 1775

September 23, 1775

A Committee of Five to Purchase Woolens is created. John Adams discloses the “degrees of Corruption” in the tortuous debate over the creation of the Committee.

Link to date-related documents

Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]

On motion made, Resolved, That a Committee be appointed to purchase a quantity of woolen goods for the use of the army, to the amount of five thousand pounds sterling.

That the woolens be controlled by the quarter masters general of the continental armies, and sold to the private soldiers of the armies, at prime cost and charges, including a commission of five per cent to the quarter masters for their trouble.

That the Committee on Woolens consist of five: Francis Lewis, John Alsop, Thomas Willing, Silas Deane, and John Langdon.

The Committee of Accounts produced two recs for money receipts of companies marching to Boston in the continental service.

Ordered, That they be paid by the Committee.

Ordered, That the Committee appointed to devise ways and means of supplying the Army with Medicines, buy a parcel of Drugs from Mr. Rapalje at the prime cost.

Adjourned till 9 o’Clock on Monday next.

John Adams’s Diary

I walked, a long Time this Morning, backward and forward, in the Statehouse Yard with Paca, McKean and Johnson. McKean has no Idea of any Right or Authority in Parliament. Paca contends for an Authority and Right to regulate Trade, &c.
Dyer and Serjeant of Princeton, spent the Evening here. S. says that the Irish Interest in this City has been the Support of Liberty.

John Adams’s Notes of Debates

Samuel Adams moved, upon Mifflin’s Letter, that a Sum be advanced from the Treasury for [Thomas] Mifflin and [William] Barrell.
Mr. E. Rutledge wished the Money might be advanced upon the Credit of the Qr. Mr. General. Wished that an Enquiry might be made whether Goods had been advanced. If so, it was against the Association.
Lynch wished the Letter read. S. Adams read it.
Jay Seconded the Motion of E. Rutledge that a Committee be appointed to enquire if Goods are raised vs. the Association.
Gadsden wished the Motion put off. We had other Matters of more importance.
Willing Thought that Goods might be purchased upon four Months Credit. We should not intermix our Accounts.
Paine. We have not agreed to cloth the Soldiers, and the Qr. Mr. Genl has no Right to keep a Slop Shop any more than any Body else. It is a private Matter. Very indigested Applications are made here for Money.
Deane. The Army must be clothed, or perish. No preaching vs. a Snow Storm. We ought to look out, that they be kept warm and that the Means of doing it be secured.
Lynch. We must see that the Army be provided with Clothing. I intended to have moved this very day that a Committee be appointed to purchase woolen Goods in this City and N. York, for the use of the Army.
E. Rutledge. I have no objection to the Committee. I meant only that the poor Soldiers should be supplied with Goods and Clothing as cheap as possible.
Lewis. Brown of Boston bought Goods at N. York and sent them up the North River, to be conveyed by Land to Cambridge.
Dyer. Wanted to know whether the Soldiers would be obliged to take these Goods. Goods cheaper in York than here.
Sherman. The Sutlers, last War, sold to the Soldiers who were not obliged to take any Thing. Many will be supplied by Families with their own Manufacture. The Qr. Mr. General did not apply to Congress, but to his own private Correspondents.
Deane. The Soldiers were imposed on by Sutlers last War. The Soldiers had no Pay to receive.
Lynch. A Soldier without Clothing is not fit for Service, but he ought to be clothed, as well as armed, and we ought to provide as well as it can be done, that he may be clothed.
Nelson. Moved that 5000£ st. be advanced to the Qr. Mr. Genl. to be laid out in Clothing for the Army.
Langdon. Hoped a Committee would be appointed. Sherman liked Nelson’s motion with an Addition that every Soldier should be at Liberty to supply himself in any other Way.
Reed. Understood that Massachusetts Committee of Supplies had a
large Store that was very full.
Sherman. For a Committee to enquire what Goods would be wanted for the Army, and at what Prices they may be had and report.
Gadsden. Liked that best.
Johnson. Moved that the Sum might be limit ed to 5000£ st. We don’t know what has been supplied by Mass., what from Rhode Island, what from N. York, and what from Connecticut.
S. Adams. Liked Nelson’s Motion.
Ward. Objected to it, and preferred the Motion for a Committee. Nelson. The Qr. Mr. is ordered by the General to supply the Soldiers, &c.
Paine. It is the Duty of this Congress to see that the Army be supplied with Clothing at a reasonable Rate. I am for a Committee. Qr. Mr. has his Hands full.
Zubly. Would it not be best to publish Proposals in the Papers for any Man who was Willing to supply the Army with Clothing, to make his offers.
Harrison. The Money ought to be advanced, in all events. Content with a Committee.
R. R. Livingston.
Willing. Proposed that We should desire the Committee of this City, to enquire after these Goods and this will lead them to an Enquiry, that will be beneficial to America. Chase. The City of Philadelphia has broke the association by raising the Price of Goods 50 per Cent. It would not be proper to purchase Goods here. The Breach of the Association here is general, in the Price of Goods, as it is in N. York with Respect to Tea. If We lay out 5000£ here we shall give a Sanction to the Breaches of the Association. The Breach is too general to be punished.
Willing. If the Association is broke in this City, don’t let us put the Burden of Examining into it upon a few, but the whole Committee. N. York have broke it, entirely. 99 in 100 drink Tea. I am not for screening the People of Philadelphia.
Sherman. I am not an Importer, but have bought of N. York Merchants for 20 years, at a certain Advance on the sterling Cost.
R. R. Livingston. Thought We ought to buy the Goods where they were dearest, because if We bought them at N. York where they were cheapest, N. York would soon be obliged to purchase in Philadelphia where they are dearest and then the loss would fall upon N. York. Whereas in the other Way the Loss would be general.
Jay. We had best desire the Committee of this City to purchase the Quantity of Goods at the Price stated by the Association and see if they were to be had here at that Price.

This Debate terminated in a Manner that I did not foresee. A Committee was appointed to purchase 5000£ worth of Goods, to be sent to the Qr. Mr. &…sold to the Soldiers at first Cost and Charges. Qr. Mr. to be allowed 5 Pr. Cent for his Trouble.

Mr. Lynch, and Colonel Nelson and Colonel Harrison indulged their Complaisance and private Friendship for Mifflin and Washington so far as to carry this. It is almost impossible to move any Thing but you instantly see private Friendships and Enmities, and provincial Views and Prejudices, intermingle in the Consultation. These are degrees of Corruption. They are Deviations from the public Interest, and from Rectitude By this Vote however, perhaps the poor Soldiers may be benefited, which was all I wished, the Interest of Mr. Mifflin being nothing to me.

Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.