Defending the Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & the American Constitution
Sunday December 14th 2014

The Works of John Adams, vol. 3: Autobiography Continued

Photo or image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.The Works of John Adams, by Charles Henry Adams

Autobiography Continued


I have omitted some things in 1775, which must be inserted.1 On the eighteenth of September, it was resolved in Congress,—

“That a secret committee be appointed to contract for the importation and delivery of a quantity of gunpowder, not exceeding five hundred tons.

“That in case such a quantity of gunpowder cannot be procured, to contract for the importation of so much saltpetre, with a proportionable quantity of sulphur, as with the powder procured will make five hundred tons.

“That the committee be empowered to contract for the importation of forty brass field pieces, six pounders, for ten thousand stand of arms, and twenty thousand good plain double-bridled musket looks.

“That the said committee be empowered to draw on the treasurer to answer the said contracts, and

“That the said committee consist of nine members, any five of whom to be a quorum.

“The members chosen, Mr. Willing, Mr. Franklin. Mr. Livingston, Mr. Alsop, Mr. Deane, Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Langdon, Mr. McKean, and Mr. Ward.”

On the eighth of November, on motion,

Resolved, That the secret committee appointed to contract for the importation of arms, ammunition, &c., be empowered to export to the foreign West Indies, on account and risk of the Continent, as much provision or any other produce, (except horned cattle, sheep, hogs, and poultry) as they may deem necessary for the importation of arms, ammunition, sulphur, and saltpetre”*

On Wednesday, November 29th, it was

Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed for the sole purpose of corresponding with our friends in Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world, and that they lay their correspondence before Congress when directed.

Resolved, That Congress will make provision to defray all such expenses as may arise by carrying on such a correspondence, and for the payment of such agents as they may send on this service. The members chosen, Mr. Harrison, Dr. Franklin, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Dickinson, and Mr. Jay.”

This last provision for an agent, was contrived, I presume, for Mr. Deane, who had been left out of the delegation by the State, but instead of returning home to Connecticut, remained in Philadelphia soliciting an appointment under the two foregoing committees, as an agent of theirs, first in the West Indies, and then in France. Unfortunately Mr. Deane was not well established at home. The good people of Connecticut thought him a man of talent and enterprise, but of more ambition than principle. He possessed not their esteem or confidence. He procured his first appointment in 1774 to Congress by an intrigue. Under the pretext of avoiding to commit the legislature of the State in any act of rebellion, he got a committee appointed with some discretionary powers, under which they undertook to appoint the members to Congress. Mr. Deane being one, was obliged to vote for himself to obtain a majority of the committee. On the third of November, 1774, the representatives indeed chose Mr. Deane among others, to attend Congress the next May; but on the second Thursday of October, 1775, the General Assembly of Governor and Company left him out. On the 16th of January, 1776, the new delegates appeared in Congress.* To the two secret committees, that of commerce and that of correspondence, Mr. Deane applied, and obtained of them appointments as their agent. Dr. Franklin also gave him private letters, one to Dr. Dubourg of Paris, a physician who had translated his works into French, and one to Mr. Dumas at the Hague, who had seen him in England. With these credentials Mr. Deane went, first to the West Indies, and then to France. He was a person of a plausible readiness and volubility with his tongue and his pen, much addicted to ostentation and expense in dress and living, but without any deliberate forecast or reflection, solidity of judgment or real information. The manner in which he made use of his powers we shall see hereafter. I had hitherto, however, thought well of his intentions, and had acted with him on terms of entire civility.

Within a day or two after the appointment in Congress of the committee of correspondence, Mr. Jay came to my chamber to spend an evening with me. I was alone, and Mr. Jay opened himself to me with great frankness. His object seemed to be an apology for my being omitted in the choice of the two great secret committees, of commerce and correspondence. He said in express terms, “that my character stood very high with the members, and he knew there was but one thing which prevented me from being universally acknowledged to be the first man in Congress, and that was this; there was a great division in the house, and two men had effected it, Samuel Adams and Richard Henry Lee, and as I was known to be very intimate with those two gentlemen, many others were jealous of me.” My answer to all this was, that I had thought it very strange, and had imputed it to some secret intrigue out of doors, that no member from Massachusetts had been elected on either of those committees; that I had no pretensions to the distinction of the first man in Congress, and that if I had a clear title to it, I should be very far from assuming it or wishing for it. It was a station of too much responsibility and danger in the times and circumstances in which we lived and were destined to live. That I was a friend very much attached to Mr. Lee and Mr. Adams, because I knew them to be able men and inflexible in the cause of their country. I could not therefore become cool in my friendship for them, for the sake of any distinctions that Congress could bestow. That I believed too many commercial projects and private speculations were in contemplation by the composition of those committees, but even these had not contributed so much to it, as the great division in the house on the subject of independence and the mode of carrying on the war. Mr. Jay and I, however, parted good friends and have continued such without interruption to this day.*

There is a secret in this business that ought to be explained. Mr. Arthur Lee, in London, had heard some insinuations against Mr. Jay, as a suspicious character, and had written to his brother, Richard Henry Lee, or to Mr. Samuel Adams, or both, and although they were groundless and injurious, as I have no doubt, my friends had communicated them too indiscreetly, and had spoken of Mr. Jay too lightly. Mr. Lee had expressed doubts whether Mr. Jay had composed the address to the people of Great Britain, and ascribed it to his father-in-law, Mr. Livingston, afterwards Governor of New Jersey. These things had occasioned some words and animosities, which, uniting with the great questions in Congress, had some disagreeable effects.1 Mr. Jay’s great superiority to Mr. Livingston in the art of composition would now be sufficient to decide the question, if the latter had not expressly denied having any share in that address.

On Wednesday, June 12th, 1776, Congress “Resolved that a committee of Congress be appointed, by the name of a board of war and ordnance, to consist of five members, with a secretary, clerk,” &c., and their extensive powers are stated.* On the 13th, Congress having proceeded to the election of a committee to form the board of war and ordnance, the following members were chosen. Mr. John Adams, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Wilson, and Mr. E. Rutledge; and Richard Peters, Esq. was elected secretary. The duties of this board kept me in continual employment, not to say drudgery, from the 12th of June, 1776, till the 11th of November, 1777, when I left Congress forever. Not only my mornings and evenings were filled up with the crowd of business before the board, but a great part of my time in Congress was engaged in making, explaining, and justifying our reports and proceedings. It is said there are lawyers in the United States who receive five thousand guineas a year, and many are named who are said to receive to the amount of ten thousand dollars. However this may be, I don’t believe there is one of them who goes through as much business for all his emoluments, as I did for a year and a half nearly, that I was loaded with that office. Other gentlemen attended as they pleased, but as I was chairman, or as they were pleased to call it, president, I must never be absent.

On Thursday, October 5th, 1775, sundry letters from London were laid before Congress and read,† and a motion was made, that it be

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to prepare a plan for intercepting two vessels which are on their way to Canada, laden with arms and powder, and that the committee proceed on this business immediately.”

The secretary has omitted to insert the names of this committee on the journals, but as my memory has recorded them, they were Mr. Deane, Mr. Langdon, and myself, three members who had expressed much zeal in favor of the motion. As a considerable part of my time, in the course of my profession, had been spent upon the sea-coast of Massachusetts, in attending the courts and lawsuits at Plymouth, Barnstable, Martha’s Vineyard, to the southward, and in the counties of Essex, York, and Cumberland to the eastward, I had conversed much with the gentlemen who conducted our cod and whale fisheries, as well as the other navigation of the country, and had heard much of the activity, enterprise, patience, perseverance, and daring intrepidity of our seamen. I had formed a confident opinion that, if they were once let loose upon the ocean, they would contribute greatly to the relief of our wants, as well as to the distress of the enemy. I became therefore at once an ardent advocate for this motion, which we carried, not without great difficulty. The opposition to it was very loud and vehement. Some of my own colleagues appeared greatly alarmed at it, and Mr. Edward Rutledge never displayed so much eloquence as against it. He never appeared to me to discover so much information and sagacity, which convinced me that he had been instructed out-of-doors by some of the most knowing merchants and statesmen in Philadelphia. It would require too much time and space to give this debate at large, if any memory could attempt it. Mine cannot. It was, however, represented as the most wild, visionary, mad project that ever had been imagined. It was an infant, taking a mad bull by his horns; and what was more profound and remote, it was said it would ruin the character, and corrupt the morals of all our seamen. It would make them selfish, piratical, mercenary, bent wholly upon plunder, &c. &c.1 These formidable arguments and this terrible rhetoric were answered by us by the best reasons we could allege, and the great advantages of distressing the enemy, supplying ourselves, and beginning a system of maritime and naval operations, were represented in colors as glowing and animating. The vote was carried, the committee went out, returned very soon, and brought in the report in these words:

“The committee appointed to prepare a plan for intercepting the two vessels bound to Canada, brought in a report, which was taken into consideration; whereupon,

Resolved, That a letter be sent to General Washington, to inform him that Congress having received certain intelligence of the sailing of two north-country built brigs, of no force, from England, on the 11th of August last, loaded with arms, powder, and other stores, for Quebee, without convoy, which, it being of importance to intercept, desire that he apply to the Council of Massachusetts Bay for the two armed vessels in their service, and despatch the same, with a sufficient number of people, stores, &c. particularly a number of oars, in order, if possible, to intercept the said two brigs and their cargoes, and secure the same for the use of the continent, also any other transports, laden with ammunition, clothing, or other stores, for the use of the ministerial army or navy in America, and secure them, in the most convement places, for the purpose above mentioned; that he give the commander or commanders such instructions as are necessary, as also proper encouragement to the marines and seamen that shall be sent on this enterprise, which instructions are to be delivered to the commander or commanders, sealed up, with orders not to open the same until out of sight of land, on account of secrecy.

“That a letter be written to the said Honorable Council, to put the said 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.

“That the General be directed to employ the said vessels, and others, if he judge necessary, to effect the purposes aforesaid; and that he be informed that the Rhode Island and Connecticut vessels of force, will be sent directly to their assistance.

“That a letter be written to Governor Cooke, informing him of the above, desiring him to despatch one or both the armed vessels of the Colony of Rhode Island on the same service, and that he use the precautions above mentioned.

“That a letter be written to Governor Trumbull, requesting of him the largest vessel in the service of the Colony of Connecticut, to be sent on the enterprise aforesaid, acquainting him with the above particulars, and recommending the same precautions.

“That the said ships and vessels of war be on the continental risk and pay, during their being so employed.”

“Friday, October 6. The committee appointed to prepare a plan, &c. brought in a further report, which was read.

Ordered, to lie on the table for the perusal of the members.”

“Friday, October 13. The Congress, taking into consideration the report of the committee appointed to propose a plan, &c. after some debate,

Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted with all possible despatch for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruise eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct. That a committee of three be appointed to prepare an estimate of the expense, and lay the same before the Congress, and to contract with proper persons to fit out the vessel.

Resolved, That another vessel be fitted out for the same purposes, and that the said committee report their opinion of a proper vessel, and also an estimate of the expense.

“The following members were chosen to compose the committee. Mr. Deane, Mr. Langdon, and Mr. Gadsden.

Resolved, That the further consideration of the report, be referred to Monday next.

“Monday, October 30. The committee appointed to prepare an estimate, and to fit out the vessels, brought in their report, which, being taken into consideration,

Resolved, That the second vessel, ordered to be fitted out on the 13th instant, be of such a size as to carry fourteen guns and a proportionate number of swivels and men.

Resolved, That two more vessels be fitted out with all expedition, the one to carry not exceeding twenty guns, and the other not exceeding thirty-six guns, with a proportionable number of swivels and men, to be employed in such manner, for the protection and defence of the United Colonies, as the Congress shall direct.

Resolved, That four members be chosen and added to the former committee of three, and that these seven be a committee to carry into execution, with all possible expedition, as well the resolutions of Congress, passed the 13th instant, as those passed this day, for fitting out armed vessels.

“The members chosen, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Hewes, Mr. Richard Henry Lee, and Mr. John Adams.

This committee immediately procured a room in a public house in the city, and agreed to meet every evening at six o’clock, in order to despatch this business with all possible celerity.

On Thursday, November 2d, Congress

Resolved, That the committee appointed to carry into execution the resolves of Congress, for fitting out four armed vessels, be authorized to draw on the continental treasurers from time to time for as much cash as shall be necessary for the above purpose, not exceeding the sum of one hundred thousand dollars, and that the said committee have power to agree with such officers and scamen as are proper to man and command said vessels; and that the encouragement to such officers and scamen be one half of all ships of war made prize of by them, and one third of all transport vessels, exclusive of wages.

On the 8th of November, Congress

Resolved, That the bills of sale, for the vessels ordered to be purchased, be made to the continental treasurers or those who shall succeed them in that office, in trust nevertheless for the use of the Continent or their representatives in Congress met.

On the 10th of November, Congress

Resolved, That two battalions of marines be raised, consisting of one colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors, and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present war between Great Britain and the Colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the first and second battalions of American marines, and that they be considered as part of the number which the continental army before Boston is ordered to consist of.

“Ordered that a copy of the above be transmitted to the General.

On the 17th of November,

“A letter from General Washington, enclosing a letter and journal of Colonel Arnold, and sundry papers being received, the same were read, whereupon,—

Resolved, That a committee of seven be appointed to take into consideration so much of the General’s letter as relates to the disposal of such vessels and cargoes belonging to the enemy, as shall fall into the hands of, or be taken by, the inhabitants of the United Colonies.

“The members chosen, Mr. Wythe, Mr. E. Rutledge, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. W. Livingston, Dr. Franklin, Mr. Wilson, and Mr. Johnson.

“Thursday, November 23. The committee, for fitting out armed vessels, laid before Congress a draught of rules for the government of the American navy, and articles to be signed by the officers and men employed in that service, which were read, and ordered to lie on the table for the perusal of the members.

“Saturday, November 25. Congress resumed the consideration of the report of the committee on General Washington’s letter, and the same being debated by paragraphs, was agreed to as follows.

“Whereas, it appears from undoubted information that many vessels which had cleared at the respective custom-houses in these Colonies, agreeable to the regulations established by Acts of the British Parliament, have in a lawless manner, without even the semblance of just authority, been seized by His Majesty’s ships of war and carried into the harbor of Boston and other ports, where they have been rifled of their cargoes, by orders of His Majesty’s naval and military officers there commanding, without the said vessels having been proceeded against by any form of trial, and without the charge of having offended against any law.

“And whereas orders have been issued in His Majesty’s name, to the commanders of his ships of war, ‘to proceed as in the case of actual rebellion against such of the seaport towns and places, being accessible to the King’s ships, in which any troops shall be raised, or military works erected,’ under color of which said orders, the commanders of His Majesty’s said ships of war have already burned and destroyed the flourishing and populous town of Falmouth, and have fired upon and much injured several other towns within the United Colonies, and dispersed at a late season of the year hundreds of helpless women and children, with a savage hope that those may perish under the approaching rigors of the season, who may chance to escape destruction from fire and sword; a mode of warfare long exploded among civilized nations.

“And whereas the good people of these Colonies, sensibly affected by the destruction of their property, and other unprovoked injuries, have at last determined to prevent as much as possible a repetition thereof, and to procure some reparation for the same, by fitting out armed vessels and ships of force; in the execution of which commendable designs it is possible that those who have not been instrumental in the unwarrantable violences above mentioned may suffer, unless some laws be made to regulate, and tribunals erected competent to determine the propriety of captures. Therefore, Resolved,

“1. That all such ships of war, frigates, sloops, cutters, and armed vessels, as are or shall be employed in the present cruel and unjust war against the United Colonies, and shall fall into the hands of, or be taken by, the inhabitants thereof, be seized and forfeited to and for the purposes hereinafter mentioned.

“2. That all transport vessels in the same service, having on board any troops, arms, ammunition, clothing, provisions, or military or naval stores, of what kind soever, and all vessels to whomsoever belonging, that shall be employed in carrying provisions or other necessaries to the British army or armies or navy, that now are, or shall hereafter be, within any of the United Colonies, or any goods, wares, or merchandises, for the use of such fleet or army, shall be liable to seizure, and with their cargoes shall be confiscated.”1

I have been particular in transcribing the proceedings of this day, November 25th, 1775, because they contain the true origin and foundation of the American navy, and as I had at least as great a share in producing them as any man living or dead, they will show that my zeal and exertions afterwards in 1798, and 1799, and 1800, at every hazard, and in opposition to a more powerful party than that against me in 1775, was but a perseverance in the same principles, systems, and views of the public interest.

On Tuesday, November 28th, the Congress resumed the consideration of the rules and orders for the navy of the United Colonies, and the same being debated by paragraphs were agreed to as follows.* They were drawn up in the marine committee, and by my hand, but examined, discussed, and corrected by the committee. In this place I will take the opportunity to observe, that the pleasantest part of my labors for the four years I spent in Congress from 1774 to 1778, was in this naval committee. Mr. Lee, Mr. Gadsden, were sensible men, and very cheerful, but Governor Hopkins of Rhode Island, above seventy years of age, kept us all alive. Upon business, his experience and judgment were very useful. But when the business of the evening was over, he kept us in conversation till eleven, and sometimes twelve o’clock. His custom was to drink nothing all day, nor till eight o’clock in the evening, and then his beverage was Jamaica spirit and water. It gave him wit, humor, anecdotes, science, and learning. He had read Greek, Roman, and British history, and was familiar with English poetry, particularly Pope, Thomson, and Milton, and the flow of his soul made all his reading our own, and seemed to bring to recollection in all of us, all we had ever read. I could neither eat nor drink in these days. The other gentlemen were very temperate. Hopkins never drank to excess, but all he drank was immediately not only converted into wit, sense, knowledge, and good humor, but inspired us with similar qualities.

This committee soon purchased and fitted five vessels; the first we named Alfred, in honor of the founder of the greatest navy that ever existed. The second, Columbus, after the discoverer of this quarter of the globe. The third, Cabot, for the discoverer of this northern part of the continent. The fourth, Andrew Doria, in memory of the great Genoese Admiral, and the fifth, Providence, for the town where she was purchased, the residence of Governor Hopkins, and his brother Ezek, whom we appointed first captain. We appointed all the officers of all the ships. At the solicitation of Mr. Deane, we appointed his brother-in-law, Captain Saltonstall.

Sometime in December, worn down with long and uninterrupted labor, I asked and obtained leave to visit my State and family. Mr. Langdon did the same. Mr. Deane was left out of the delegation by his State, and some others of the naval committee were dispersed, when Congress appointed a committee of twelve, one from each State, for naval affairs, so that I had no longer any particular charge relative to them; but as long as I continued a member of Congress, I never failed to support all reasonable measures reported by the new committee.

It is necessary that I should be a little more particular, in relating the rise and progress of the new government of the States.

On Friday, June 2d, 1775,*

“The President laid before Congress a letter from the Provincial Convention of Massachusetts Bay, dated May 16th, which was read, setting forth the difficulties they labor under for want of a regular form of government, and as they and the other Colonies are now compelled to raise an army to defend themselves from the butcheries and devastations of their implacable enemies, which renders it still more necessary to have a regular established government, requesting the Congress to favor them with explicit advice respecting the taking up and exercising the powers of civil government, and declaring their readiness to submit to such a general plan as the Congress may direct for the Colonies, or make it their great study to establish such a form of government there as shall not only promote their advantage, but the union and interest of all America.

This subject had engaged much of my attention before I left Massachusetts, and had been frequently the subject of conversation between me and many of my friends,—Dr. Winthrop, Dr. Cooper, Colonel Otis, the two Warrens, Major Hawley, and others, besides my colleagues in Congress,—and lay with great weight upon my mind, as the most difficult and dangerous business that we had to do; (for from the beginning, I always expected we should have more difficulty and danger, in our attempts to govern ourselves, and in our negotiations and connections with foreign powers, than from all the fleets and armies of Great Britain.) It lay, therefore, with great weight upon my mind, and when this letter was read, I embraced the opportunity to open myself in Congress, and most earnestly to entreat the serious attention of all the members, and of all the continent, to the measures which the times demanded. For my part, I thought there was great wisdom in the adage, “when the sword is drawn, throw away the scabbard.” Whether we threw it away voluntarily or not, it was useless now, and would be useless forever.1 The pride of Britain, flushed with late triumphs and conquests, their infinite contempt of all the power of America, with an insolent, arbitrary Scotch faction, with a Bute and Mansfield at their head for a ministry, we might depend upon it, would force us to call forth every energy and resource of the country, to seek the friendship of England’s enemies, and we had no rational hope, but from the Ratio ultima regum et rerum-publicarum. These efforts could not be made without government, and as I supposed no man would think of consolidating this vast continent under one national government, we should probably, after the example of the Greeks, the Dutch, and the Swiss, form a confederacy of States, each of which must have a separate government. That the case of Massachusetts was the most urgent, but that it could not be long before every other Colony must follow her example. That with a view to this subject, I had looked into the ancient and modern confederacies for examples, but they all appeared to me to have been huddled up in a hurry, by a few chiefs. But we had a people of more intelligence, curiosity, and enterprise, who must be all consulted, and we must realize the theories of the wisest writers, and invite the people to erect the whole building with their own hands, upon the broadest foundation. That this could be done only by conventions of representatives chosen by the people in the several colonies, in the most exact proportions. That it was my opinion that Congress ought now to recommend to the people of every Colony to call such conventions immediately, and set up governments of their own, under their own authority; for the people were the source of all authority and original of all power. These were new, strange, and terrible doctrines to the greatest part of the members, but not a very small number heard them with apparent pleasure, and none more than Mr. John Rutledge, of South Carolina, and Mr. John Sullivan, of New Hampshire.

Congress, however, ordered the letter to lie on the table for further consideration.

On Saturday, June 3d, the letter from the convention of the Massachusetts Bay, dated the 16th of May, being again read, the subject was again discussed, and then,

Resolved, That a committee of five persons be chosen, to consider the same, and report what in their opinion is the proper advice to be given to that Convention.”

The following persons were chosen by ballot, to compose that committee, namely, Mr. J. Rutledge, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Jay, Mr. Wilson, and Mr. Lee. These gentlemen had several conferences with the delegates from our State, in the course of which, I suppose, the hint was suggested, that they adopted in their report.

On Wednesday, June 7th,

“On motion, Resolved, That Thursday, the 20th of July next, be observed throughout the twelve United Colonies as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; and that Mr. Hooper, Mr. J. Adams, and Mr. Paine, be a committee to bring in a resolve for that purpose.

“The committee appointed to prepare advice, in answer to the letter from the Convention of Massachusetts Bay, brought in their report, which was read and ordered to lie on the table for consideration.

“On Friday, June 9th. the report of the committee on the letter from the Convention of Massachusetts Bay being again read, the Congress came into the following resolution.

Resolved, That no obedience being due to the Act of Parliament for altering the charter of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, nor to a Governor or Lieutenant-Governor who will not observe the directions of, but endeavor to subvert, that charter, the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of that Colony are to be considered as absent, and their offices vacant; and as there is no Council there, and the inconveniences arising from the suspension of the powers of government are intolerable, especially at a time when General Gage hath actually levied war, and is carrying on hostilities against his Majesty’s peaceable and loyal subjects of that Colony; that, in order to conform as near as may be to the spirit and substance of the charter, it be recommended to the Provincial Convention to write letters to the inhabitants of the several places, which are entitled to representation in Assembly, requesting them to choose such representatives, and that the Assembly when chosen do elect Counsellors; and that such assembly or Council exercise the powers of government, until a Governor of His Majesty’s appointment will consent to govern the Colony according to its charter.

“Ordered, That the President transmit a copy of the above to the Convention of Massachusetts Bay.”

Although this advice was in a great degree conformable to the New York and Pennsylvania system, or in other words, to the system of Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Duane, I thought it an acquisition, for it was a precedent of advice to the separate States to institute governments, and I doubted not we should soon have more occasions to follow this example. Mr. John Rutledge and Mr. Sullivan had frequent conversations with me upon this subject. Mr. Rutledge asked me my opinion of a proper form of government for a State. I answered him that any form that our people would consent to institute, would be better than none, even if they placed all power in a house of representatives, and they should appoint governors and judges; but I hoped they would be wiser, and preserve the English Constitution in its spirit and substance, as far as the circumstances of this country required or would admit. That no hereditary powers ever had existed in America, nor would they, or ought they to be introduced or proposed; but that I hoped the three branches of a legislature would be preserved, an executive, independent of the senate or council, and the house, and above all things, the independence of the judges. Mr. Sullivan was fully agreed with me in the necessity of instituting governments, and he seconded me very handsomely in supporting the argument in Congress. Mr. Samuel Adams was with us in the opinion of the necessity, and was industrious in conversation with the members out of doors, but he very rarely spoke much in Congress, and he was perfectly unsettled in any plan to be recommended to a State, always inclining to the most democratical forms, and even to a single sovereign assembly, until his constituents afterwards in Boston compelled him to vote for three branches. Mr. Cushing was also for one sovereign assembly, and Mr. Paine was silent and reserved upon the subject, at least to me.

Not long after this, Mr. John Rutledge returned to South Carolina, and Mr. Sullivan went with General Washington to Cambridge, so that I lost two of my able coadjutors. But we soon found the benefit of their cooperation at a distance.

On Wednesday, October 18th, the delegates from New Hampshire laid before the Congress a part of the instructions delivered to them by their Colony, in these words:—

“We would have you immediately use your utmost endeavors to obtain the advice and direction of the Congress, with respect to a method for our administering justice, and regulating our civil police. We press you not to delay this matter, as its being done speedily will probably prevent the greatest confusion among us.”

This instruction might have been obtained by Mr. Langdon, or Mr. Whipple, but I always supposed it was General Sullivan who suggested the measure, because he left Congress with a stronger impression upon his mind of the importance of it, than I ever observed in either of the others. Be this, however, as it may have been, I embraced with joy the opportunity of haranguing on the subject at large, and of urging Congress to resolve on a general recommendation to all the States to call conventions and institute regular governments. I reasoned from various topics, many of which, perhaps, I could not now recollect. Some I remember; as,

1. The danger to the morals of the people from the present loose state of things, and general relaxation of laws and government through the Union.

2. The danger of insurrections in some of the most disaffected parts of the Colonies, in favor of the enemy, or as they called them, the mother country, an expression that I thought it high time to erase out of our language.

3. Communications and intercourse with the enemy, from various parts of the continent could not be wholly prevented, while any of the powers of government remained in the hands of the King’s servants.

4. It could not well be considered as a crime to communicate intelligence, or to act as spies or guides to the enemy, without assuming all the powers of government.

5. The people of America would never consider our Union as complete, but our friends would always suspect divisions among us, and our enemies who were scattered in larger or smaller numbers, not only in every State and city, but in every village through the whole Union, would forever represent Congress as divided and ready to break to pieces, and in this way would intimidate and discourage multitudes of our people who wished us well.

6. The absurdity of carrying on war against a king, when so many persons were daily taking oaths and affirmations of allegiance to him.

7. We could not expect that our friends in Great Britain would believe us united and in earnest, or exert themselves very strenuously in our favor, while we acted such a wavering, hesitating part.

8. Foreign nations, particularly France and Spain, would not think us worthy of their attention while we appeared to be deceived by such fallacious hopes of redress of grievances, of pardon for our offences, and of reconciliation with our enemies.

9. We could not command the natural resources of our own country. We could not establish manufactories of arms, cannon, saltpetre, powder, ships, &c., without the powers of government; and all these and many other preparations ought to be going on in every State or Colony, if you will, in the country.

Although the opposition was still inveterate, many members of Congress began to hear me with more patience, and some began to ask me civil questions. “How can the people institute governments?” My answer was, “By conventions of representatives, freely, fairly, and proportionably chosen.” “When the convention has fabricated a government, or a constitution rather, how do we know the people will submit to it?” “If there is any doubt of that, the convention may send out their project of a constitution, to the people in their several towns, counties, or districts, and the people may make the acceptance of it their own act.” “But the people know nothing about constitutions.” “I believe you are much mistaken in that supposition; if you are not, they will not oppose a plan prepared by their own chosen friends; but I believe that in every considerable portion of the people, there will be found some men, who will understand the subject as well as their representatives, and these will assist in enlightening the rest.” “But what plan of a government would you advise?” “A plan as nearly resembling the government under which we were born, and have lived, as the circumstances of the country will admit. Kings we never had among us. Nobles we never had. Nothing hereditary ever existed in the country; nor will the country require or admit of any such thing. But governors and councils we have always had, as well as representatives. A legislature in three branches ought to be preserved, and independent judges.” “Where and how will you get your governors and councils?” “By elections.” “How,—who shall elect?” “The representatives of the people in a convention will be the best qualified to contrive a mode.”

After all these discussions and interrogatories, Congress was not prepared nor disposed to do any thing as yet. They must consider farther.

Resolved, That the consideration of this matter be referred to Monday next.

Monday arrived, and Tuesday and Wednesday passed over, and Congress not yet willing to do any thing.

On Thursday, October 26th, the subject was again brought on the carpet, and the same discussions repeated; for very little new was produced. After a long discussion, in which Mr. John Rutledge, Mr. Ward, Mr. Lee, Mr. Gadsden, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Dyer, and some others had spoken on the same side with me, Congress resolved, that a committee of five members be appointed to take into consideration the instructions given to the delegates of New Hampshire, and report their opinion thereon. The members chosen,—Mr. John Rutledge, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Ward, Mr. Lee, and Mr. Sherman.

Although this committee was entirely composed of members as well disposed to encourage the enterprise as could have been found in Congress, yet they could not be brought to agree upon a report and to bring it forward in Congress, till Friday, November 3d, when Congress, taking into consideration the report of the committee on the New Hampshire instructions, after another long deliberation and debate,—

Resolved, That it be recommended to the Provincial Convention of New Hampshire, to call a full and free representation of the people, and that the representatives, if they think it necessary, establish such a form of government, as in their judgment will best produce the happiness of the people, and most effectually secure peace and good order in the Province, during the continuance of the present dispute between Great Britain and the Colonies.

By this time I mortally hated the words, “Province,” “Colonies,” and “Mother Country,” and strove to get them out of the report. The last was indeed left out, but the other two were retained even by this committee, who were all as high Americans as any in the house, unless Mr. Gadsden should be excepted. Nevertheless, I thought this resolution a triumph, and a most important point gained.

Mr. John Rutledge was now completely with us in our desire of revolutionizing all the governments, and he brought forward immediately some representations from his own State, when

“Congress, then taking into consideration the State of South Carolina, and sundry papers relative thereto being read and considered.

Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed to take the same into consideration, and report what in their opinion is necessary to be done. The members chosen, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Bullock, Mr. Hooper, Mr. Chase, and Mr. S. Adams.

On November 4th,

“The committee appointed to take into consideration the State of South Carolina, brought in their report, which being read,” a number of resolutions passed, the last of which will be found in page 235 of the Journals, at the bottom.

Resolved, That if the Convention of South Carolina shall find it necessary to establish a form of government in that Colony, it be recommended to that Convention to call a full and free representation of the people, and that the said representatives, if they think it necessary, shall establish such a form of government as in their judgment will produce the happiness of the people, and most effectually secure peace and good order in the Colony, during the continuance of the present dispute between Great Britain and the Colonies.

Although Mr. John Rutledge united with me and others, in persuading the committee to report this resolution, and the distance of Carolina made it convenient to furnish them with this discretionary recommendation, I doubt whether Mr. Harrison or Mr. Hooper were, as yet, sufficiently advanced to agree to it. Mr. Bullock, Mr. Chase, and Mr. Samuel Adams, were very ready for it. When it was under consideration, I labored afresh to expunge the words “Colony,” and “Colonies,” and insert the words “State,” and “States,” and the word “dispute,” to make way for that of “war,” and the word “Colonies,” for the word “America,” or “States,” but the child was not yet weaned. I labored, also, to get the resolution enlarged, and extended into a recommendation to the people of all the States, to institute governments, and this occasioned more interrogatories from one part and another of the House. “What plan of government would you recommend?” &c. Here it would have been the most natural to have made a motion that Congress should appoint a committee to prepare a plan of government, to be reported to Congress and there discussed, paragraph by paragraph, and that which should be adopted should be recommended to all the States. But I dared not make such a motion, because I knew that if such a plan was adopted it would be, if not permanent, yet of long duration, and it would be extremely difficult to get rid of it. And I knew that every one of my friends, and all those who were the most zealous for assuming governments, had at that time no idea of any other government but a contemptible legislature in one assembly, with committees for executive magistrates and judges. These questions, therefore, I answered by sporting off hand a variety of short sketches of plans, which might be adopted by the conventions; and as this subject was brought into view in some way or other almost every day, and these interrogatories were frequently repeated, I had in my head and at my tongue’s end as many projects of government as Mr. Burke says the Abbé Sieyes had in his pigeon-holes, not however, constructed at such length, nor labored with his-metaphysical refinements. I took care, however, always to bear my testimony against every plan of an unbalanced government.

I had read Harrington, Sidney, Hobbes, Nedham, and Locke, but with very little application to any particular views, till these debates in Congress, and the interrogatories in public and private, turned my thoughts to these researches, which produced the “Thoughts on Government,” the Constitution of Massachusetts, and at length the “Defence of the Constitutions of the United States,” and the “Discourses on Davila,” writings which have never done any good to me, though some of them undoubtedly contributed to produce the Constitution of New York, the Constitution of the United States, and the last Constitutions of Pennsylvania and Georgia. They undoubtedly, also, contributed to the writings of Publius, called the Federalist, which were all written after the publication of my work in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Whether the people will permit any of these Constitutions to stand upon their pedestals, or whether they will throw them all down, I know not. Appearances at present are unfavorable and threatening. I have done all in my power according to what I thought my duty. I can do no more.

About the sixth of December, 1775, I obtained leave of Congress to visit my family, and returned home. The General Court sat at Watertown, our army was at Cambridge, and the British in Boston. Having a seat in Council, I had opportunity to converse with the members of both houses, to know their sentiments, and to communicate mine. The Council had unanimously appointed me in my absence,1 without any solicitation or desire on my part, Chief Justice of the State. I had accepted the office because it was a post of danger, but much against my inclination. I expected to go no more to Congress, but to take my seat on the bench. But the General Court would not excuse me from again attending Congress, and again chose me a member, with all my former colleagues, except Mr. Cushing, who I believe declined, and in his room Mr. Gerry was chosen, who went with me to Philadelphia, and we took our seats in Congress on Friday, February 9th, 1776. In this gentleman I found a faithful friend, and an ardent, persevering lover of his country, who never hesitated to promote, with all his abilities and industry, the boldest measures reconcilable with prudence. Mr. Samuel Adams, Mr. Gerry, and myself, now composed a majority of the Massachusetts delegation, and we were no longer vexed or enfeebled by divisions among ourselves, or by indecision, or indolence. On the 29th of February, 1776, William Whipple, Esq. appeared as one of the delegates from New Hampshire, another excellent member in principle and disposition, as well as understanding.

I returned to my daily routine of service in the board of war, and a punctual attendance in Congress, every day, in all their hours. I returned, also, to my almost daily exhortations to the institution of Governments in the States, and a declaration of independence. I soon found there was a whispering among the partisans in opposition to independence, that I was interested; that I held an office under the new government of Massachusetts; that I was afraid of losing it, if we did not declare independence; and that I consequently ought not to be attended to. This they circulated so successfully, that they got it insinuated among the members of the legislature in Maryland, where their friends were powerful enough to give an instruction to their delegates in Congress, warning them against listening to the advice of interested persons, and manifestly pointing me out to the understanding of every one. This instruction was read in Congress.1 It produced no other effect upon me than a laughing letter to my friend, Mr. Chase,2 who regarded it no more than I did. These chuckles I was informed of, and witnessed for many weeks, and at length they broke out in a very extraordinary manner. When I had been speaking one day on the subject of independence, or the institution of governments, which I always considered as the same thing, a gentleman of great fortune and high rank arose and said, he should move, that no person who held any office under a new government should be admitted to vote on any such question, as they were interested persons. I wondered at the simplicity of this motion, but knew very well what to do with it. I rose from my seat with great coolness and deliberation; so far from expressing or feeling any resentment, I really felt gay, though as it happened, I preserved an unusual gravity in my countenance and air, and said, “Mr. President, I will second the gentleman’s motion, and I recommend it to the honorable gentleman to second another which I should make, namely, that no gentleman who holds any office under the old or present government should be admitted to vote on any such question, as they were interested persons.” The moment when this was pronounced, it flew like an electric stroke through every countenance in the room, for the gentleman who made the motion held as high an office under the old government as I did under the new, and many other members present held offices under the royal government. My friends accordingly were delighted with my retaliation, and the friends of my antagonist were mortified at his indiscretion in exposing himself to such a retort. Finding the house in a good disposition to hear me, I added, I would go further, and cheerfully consent to a self-denying ordinance, that every member of Congress, before we proceeded to any question respecting independence, should take a solemn oath never to accept or hold any office of any kind in America after the revolution. Mr. Wythe, of Virginia, rose here, and said Congress had no right to exclude any of their members from voting on these questions; their constituents only had a right to restrain them; and that no member had a right to take, nor Congress to prescribe any engagement not to hold offices after the revolution or before. Again I replied, that whether the gentleman’s opinion was well or ill founded, I had only said that I was willing to consent to such an arrangement. That I knew very well what these things meant. They were personal attacks upon me, and I was glad that at length they had been made publicly where I could defend myself. That I knew very well that they had been made secretly and circulated in whispers, not only in the city of Philadelphia and State of Pennsylvania, but in the neighboring States, particularly Maryland, and very probably in private letters throughout the Union. I now took the opportunity to declare in public, that it was very true, the unmerited and unsolicited, though unanimous good will of the Council of Massachusetts, had appointed me to an important office, that of Chief Justice; that as this office was a very conspicuous station, and consequently a dangerous one, I had not dared to refuse it, because it was a post of danger, though by the acceptance of it, I was obliged to relinquish another office,—meaning my barrister’s office—which was more than four times as profitable. That it was a sense of duty, and a full conviction of an honest cause, and not any motives of ambition, or hopes of honor, or profit, which had drawn me into my present course. That I had seen enough already in the course of my own experience to know that the American cause was not the most promising road to profits, honors, power, or pleasure. That on the contrary, a man must renounce all these, and devote himself to labor, danger and death, and very possibly to disgrace and infamy, before he was fit in my judgment, in the present state and future prospects of the country, for a seat in that Congress. This whole scene was a comedy to Charles Thomson, whose countenance was in raptures all the time. When all was over, he told me he had been highly delighted with it, because he had been witness to many of their conversations, in which they had endeavored to excite and propagate prejudices against me, on account of my office of Chief Justice. But he said I had cleared and explained the thing in such a manner that he would be bound I should never hear any more reflections on that head. No more, indeed, were made in my presence, but the party did not cease to abuse me in their secret circles on this account, as I was well informed. Not long afterwards, hearing that the Supreme Court in Massachusetts was organized and proceeding very well on the business of their circuits, I wrote my resignation of the office of Chief Justice, to the Council, very happy to get fairly rid of an office that I knew to be burdensome, and whose emoluments, with my small fortune, would not support my family.

On the 9th of February, the day on which Mr. Gerry and I took our seats for this year, sundry letters from General Washington, General Schuyler, Governor Trumbull, with papers inclosed, were read, and referred to Mr. Chase, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Penn, Mr. Wythe, and Mr. Rutledge.

On the 14th of February, sundry letters from General Schuyler, General Wooster, and General Arnold, were read, and referred, with the papers enclosed, to Mr. Wythe, Mr. J. Adams, and Mr. Chase. On the same day,

“Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the report of the committee on the regulations and restrictions under which the ports should be opened after the first day of March next, and, after some time spent thereon, the President resumed the chair, and Mr. Ward reported, that the committee had taken into consideration the matter referred to them, but not having come to a conclusion desired leave to sit again, which was granted for to-morrow.”

On the 15th of February,

“Sundry other letters, from General Lee, General Schuyler, and General Wooster, were referred to the committee to whom the letters received yesterday were referred.

“On the same day, Congress took into consideration the report from the committee of the whole House, and, after debate, resolved that it be recommitted.

Resolved, That Congress will to-morrow morning resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the propriety of opening the ports, and the restrictions and regulations of trade of these Colonies, after the first of March next.”

Friday, February 16,

“Agreeably to the order of the day, the Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the propriety of opening the ports, &c.

“After some time spent, Mr. Ward reported, that, not having come to a conclusion, the committee asked leave to sit again; granted.”

Saturday, February 17,

“The committee to whom the letters from Generals Arnold, Wooster, Schuyler, and Lee, were referred, brought in their report, which was agreed to in the several resolutions detailed in the Journal of this day.*

“Same day, Resolved, That Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Wythe, and Mr. Sherman, be a a committee to prepare instructions for the committee appointed to go to Canada.

Resolved, That Congress will, on Tuesday next, resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the propriety of opening the ports,” &c.

This measure, of opening the ports, &c. labored exceedingly, because it was considered as a bold step to independence. Indeed, I urged it expressly with that view, and as connected with the institution of government in all the States, and a declaration of national independence. The party against me had art and influence as yet, to evade, retard, and delay every motion that we made. Many motions were made, and argued at great length, and with great spirit on both sides, which are not to be found in the Journals. When motions were made and debates ensued in a committee of the whole House, no record of them was made by the secretary, unless the motion prevailed and was reported to Congress, and there adopted. This arrangement was convenient for the party in opposition to us, who by this means evaded the appearance, on the Journals, of any subject they disliked.1

On Monday, February 19th, Congress attended an oration in honor of General Montgomery, and the officers and soldiers who fell with him.

On Tuesday, February 20th, and on Wednesday, February 21st, means were contrived to elude the committee of the whole House.

Thursday, February 22,

“Two letters from General Washington were referred to a committee of the whole House. Accordingly Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, and after some time Mr. Ward reported, that the committee had come to no conclusion; and Congress resolved, that to-morrow they would again resolve themselves into a committee of the whole, to take into their further consideration the letters from General Washington.

“Friday, February 23. Resolved, That Congress will on Monday next resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the letters from General Washington.

Monday, February 26th, arrived, and

“A letter from General Lee was referred to Mr. McKean, Mr. John Adams, and Mr. Lewis Morris, but no resolution of Congress into a committee of the whole.

“On Tuesday, February 27. The order of the day was renewed, but nothing done.

“Wednesday, February 28. The committee to whom the letters from General Lee, &c. were referred, brought in their report. Resolved, That the consideration of it be postponed till to-morrow.”

Thursday, February 29.

“A letter of the 14th, from General Washington, inclosing a letter from Lord Drummond to General Robinson, and sundry other papers, were read. Agreeable to the order of the day, the Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the letter from General Washington of the 9th instant, and the trade of the Colonies after the first of March; and after some time, Mr. Ward reported that the committee, not having come to a conclusion, desired leave to sit again; granted.

Resolved, That this Congress will, to-morrow, resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into further consideration the letter from General Washington, and the trade of the Colonies.”

The very short sketch, which is here traced, is enough to show that postponement was the object of our antagonists; and the Journals for those days will show the frivolous importance of the business transacted in them, in comparison of the great concerns which were before the committees of the whole House. There was, however, still a majority of members who were either determined against all measures preparatory to independence, or yet too timorous and wavering to venture on any decisive steps. We therefore could do nothing but keep our eyes fixed on the great objects of free trade, new governments, and independence of the United States, and seize every opening opportunity of advancing step by step in our progress. Our opponents were not less vigilant in seizing on every excuse for delay; the letter from Lord Drummond, which seemed to derive importance, from the transmission of it by General Washington, was a fine engine to play cold water on the fire of independence. They set it in operation with great zeal and activity. It was, indeed, a very airy phantom, and ought not to have been sent us by the General, who should only have referred Lord Drummond to Congress. But there were about head-quarters some who were as weak and wavering as our members; and the General himself had chosen, for his private confidential correspondent, a member from Virginia, Harrison, who was still counted among the cold party. This was an indolent, luxurious, heavy gentleman, of no use in Congress or committee, but a great embarrassment to both. He was represented to be a kind of nexus utriusque mundi, a corner stone in which the two walls of party met in Virginia. He was descended from one of the most ancient, wealthy, and respectable families in the ancient dominion, and seemed to be set up in opposition to Mr. Richard Henry Lee. Jealousies and divisions appeared among the delegates of no State more remarkably than among those of Virginia. Mr. Wythe told me that Thomas Lee, the elder brother of Richard Henry, was the delight of the eyes of Virginia, and by far the most popular man they had; but Richard Henry was not. I asked the reason; for Mr. Lee appeared a scholar, a gentleman, a man of uncommon eloquence, and an agreeable man. Mr. Wythe said this was all true, but Mr. Lee had, when he was very young, and when he first came into the House of Burgesses, moved and urged on an inquiry into the state of the treasury, which was found deficient in large sums, which had been lent by the treasurer to many of the most influential families of the country, who found themselves exposed, and had never forgiven Mr. Lee.1 This, he said, had made him so many enemies, that he never had recovered his reputation, but was still heartily hated by great numbers. These feelings among the Virginia delegates were a great injury to us. Mr. Samuel Adams and myself were very intimate with Mr. Lee, and he agreed perfectly with us in the great system of our policy, and by his means we kept a majority of the delegates of Virginia with us; but Harrison, Pendleton, and some others, showed their jealousy of this intimacy plainly enough at times. Harrison consequently courted Mr. Hancock and some other of our colleagues; but we had now a majority, and gave ourselves no trouble about their little intrigues. This is all necessary to show the operation of Lord Drummond’s communication. I have forgotten the particulars, but he pretended to have had conversation with Lord North; talked warmly of Lord North’s good will and desire of reconciliation, but had no authority to show, and no distinct proposition to make.2 In short, it was so flimsy a veil, that the purblind might see through it. But yet it was made instrumental of much delay and amusement to numbers.

Friday, March 1,

Resolved, That this Congress will to-morrow resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the letter of General Washington, of the 14th, with the papers inclosed.

Resolved, That the memorial from the merchants of Montreal, be referred to a committee of five. Mr. Wilson, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. W. Livingston, Mr. L. Morris, and Mr. Tilghman.”

Tuesday, March 5,

“Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the letter from General Washington, of the 14th of February, and the papers inclosed, and after some time the President resumed the chair, and Mr. Harrison reported, that the committee have had under consideration the letters and papers to them referred, but have come to no resolution thereon.

Resolved, That the letter from General Washington, so far as it has not been considered by the committee of the whole, be referred to the committee to whom his other letters of the 24th and 30th of January were referred.

“Wednesday, March 6. A letter from General Washington, of the 26th of February, was read. Resolved, That it be referred to the committee to whom his other letters are referred. The order of the day renewed.

“Thursday, March 7. The order of the day was renewed.

“Friday, March 8. No order of the day. The committee to whom the letters from Generals Schuyler, Wooster, and Arnold, were referred, brought in their report.

“Saturday, March 9. The committee appointed to prepare instructions for the commissioners going to Canada, brought in a draught, which was read.

“Monday, March 11. Congress took into consideration the instructions to the commissioners going to Canada. Postponed.

“Tuesday, March 12. Postponed again.”

Wednesday, March 13. Although the system had been so long pursued to postpone all the great political questions, and take up any other business of however trifling consequence, yet we were daily urging on the order of the day, and on this day we succeeded.

“Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the memorial of the merchants, &c. of Philadelphia, &c. the letters from General Washington, the state of the trade of the Colonies, &c. Mr. Ward reported no resolution. Leave to sit again.”

Thursday, March 14. The state of the country so obviously called for independent governments, and a total extinction of the royal authority, and we were so earnestly urging this measure from day to day, and the opposition to it was growing so unpopular, that a kind of evasion was contrived in the following resolution, which I considered as an important step, and therefore would not oppose it, though I urged, with several others, that we ought to make the resolution more general, and advise the people to assume all the powers of government. The proposition that passed was,—

Resolved, That it be recommended to the several Assemblies, Conventions, and Committees or Councils of Safety, of the United Colonies, immediately to cause all persons to be disarmed, within their respective Colonies, who are notoriously disaffected to the cause of America, or who have not associated and shall refuse to associate to defend by arms these United Colonies against the hostile attempts of the British fleets and armies, and to apply the arms taken from such persons in each respective Colony, in the first place, to the arming the continental troops raised in said Colony; in the next, to the arming such troops as are raised by the Colony for its own defence; and the residue to be applied to the arming the associators; that the arms when taken be appraised by indifferent persons, and such as are applied to the arming the continental troops be paid for by the Congress, and the residue by the respective Assemblies, Conventions, or Councils or Committees of Safety.

Ordered, That a copy of the foregoing resolution be transmitted, by the delegates of each Colony, to their respective Assemblies, Conventions, or Councils or Committees of Safety.”

This resolution and order was indeed assuming the powers of government in a manner as offensive as the measures we proposed could have been; but it left all the powers of government in the hands of Assemblies, Conventions, and Committees, which composed a scene of much confusion and injustice, the continuance of which was much dreaded by me, as tending to injure the morals of the people, and destroy their habits of order and attachment to regular government. However, I could do nothing but represent and remonstrate; the vote as yet was against me.

Friday, March 15,

“Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the State of New York, and, after some time, the President resumed the chair, and Mr. Harrison reported that the committee have come to certain resolutions.”

These may be seen in the Journal, and relate wholly to the defence of New York.

This is the first appearance of Mr. Harrison as chairman of the committee of the whole. The President, Mr. Hancock, had hitherto nominated Governor Ward, of Rhode Island, to that conspicuous distinction. Mr. Harrison had courted Mr. Hancock, and Mr. Hancock had courted Mr. Duane, Mr. Dickinson, and their party, and leaned so partially in their favor, that Mr. Samuel Adams had become very bitter against Mr. Hancock, and spoke of him with great asperity in private circles; and this alienation between them continued from this time till the year 1789, thirteen years, when they were again reconciled. Governor Ward was become extremely obnoxious to Mr. Hancock’s party, by his zealous attachment to Mr. Samuel Adams and Mr. Richard Henry Lee. Such, I supposed, were the motives which excited Mr. Hancock to bring forward Mr. Harrison.

Although Harrison was another Sir John Falstaff, excepting in his larcenies and robberies, his conversation disgusting to every man of delicacy or decorum, yet, as I saw he was to be often nominated with us in business, I took no notice of his vices or follies, but treated him, and Mr. Hancock too, with uniform politeness. I was, however, too intimate with Mr. Lee, Mr. Adams, Mr. Ward, &c. to escape the jealousy and malignity of their adversaries. Hence, I suppose, the calumnies that were written or otherwise insinuated into the minds of the army, that I was an enemy to Washington, in favor of an annual election of a General, against enlisting troops during the war, &c. &c.; all utterly false and groundless.

Saturday, March 16,

“Mr. W. Livingston brought in a proclamation for a fast on the 17th of May.

“Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, according to the standing order of the day. Mr. Harrison reported no resolution.”

Tuesday, March 19,

“The order of the day again. Mr. Harrison reported that the committee have come to sundry resolutions, which they directed him to lay before Congress. The report of the committee being read,

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to draw a declaration pursuant to said report, and lay the same before Congress. The members chosen, Mr. Wythe, Mr. Jay, and Mr. Wilson.”

Mr. Wythe was one of our best men; but Mr. Jay and Mr. Wilson, though excellent members when present, had been hitherto generally in favor of the dilatory system.

Resolved, That it be an instruction to the said committee to receive and insert a clause or clauses, that all seamen and mariners on board of merchantships and vessels taken and condemned as prizes shall be entitled to their pay, according to the terms of their contracts, until the time of condemnation.”

Wednesday, March 20. Congress resumed the consideration of the instructions and commission to the deputies or commissioners going to Canada, and agreed to them as they appear in the Journals. In these we obtained one step more towards our great object—a general recommendation to the States to institute governments. Congress recommended to the people of Canada to set up such a form of government as will be most likely, in their judgment, to produce their happiness; and pressed them to have a complete representation of the people assembled in Convention, with all possible expedition, to deliberate concerning the establishment of a form of government, and a union with the United Colonies. It will readily be supposed that a great part of these instructions were opposed by our antagonists with great zeal; but they were supported on our side with equal ardor, and the acceptance of them afforded a strong proof of the real determination of a majority of Congress to go with us to the final consummation of our wishes.

Thursday, March 21. There are three resolutions which I claim.1

These resolutions I introduced and supported, not only for their intrinsic utility, which I thought would be very considerable, but because they held up to the view of the nation the air of independence.

Friday, March 22,

“Congress took into consideration the declaration brought in by the committee, and, after debate, the further consideration of it, at the request of a Colony, was postponed till to-morrow.”

Saturday, March 23. The Congress resumed the consideration of the declaration, which was agreed to as follows.

“Whereas the petitions of the United Colonies to the King, for the redress of great and manifold grievances, have not only been rejected, but treated with scorn and contempt, and the opposition to designs evidently formed to reduce them to a state of servile subjection, and their necessary defence against hostile forces actually employed to subdue them, declared rebellion; and whereas an unjust war hath been commenced against them, which the commanders of the British fleets and armies have prosecuted, and still continue to prosecute, with their utmost vigor, and in a cruel manner, wasting, spoiling, and destroying the country, burning houses and defenceless towns, and exposing the helpless inhabitants to every misery, from the inclemency of the winter, and not only urging savages to invade the country, but instigating negroes to murder their masters; and whereas the Parliament of Great Britain hath lately passed an act, affirming these Colonics to be in open rebellion, forbidding all trade and commerce with the inhabitants thereof, until they shall accept pardons, and submit to despotic rule, declaring their property, wherever found upon the water, liable to seizure and confiscation, and enacting that what had been done there, by virtue of the royal authority, were just and lawful acts, and shall be so deemed; from all which it is manifest, that the iniquitous scheme, concerted to deprive them of the liberty they have a right to by the laws of nature and the English constitution, will be pertinaciously pursued. It being, therefore, necessary to provide for their defence and security, and justifiable to make reprisals upon their enemies, and otherwise to annoy them, according to the laws and usages of nations, the Congress, trusting that such of their friends in Great Britain, (of whom it is confessed there are many entitled to applause and gratitude for their patriotism and benevolence, and in whose favor a discrimination of property cannot be made,) as shall suffer by captures, will impute it to the authors of our common calamities, do declare and resolve as followeth, to wit:—

Resolved, That the inhabitants of these Colonies be permitted to fit out armed vessels, to cruise on the enemies of these United Colonies.

Resolved, That all ships and other vessels, their tackle, apparel, and furniture, and all goods, wares, and merchandises, belonging to any inhabitant or inhabitants of Great Britain, taken on the high seas, or between high and low water mark, by any armed vessel fitted out by any private person or persons, and to whom commissions shall be granted, and being libelled and prosecuted in any court erected for the trial of maritime affairs, in any of these Colonies, shall be deemed and adjudged to be lawful prize; and after deducting and paying the wages which the seamen and mariners, on board of such captures as are merchant ships and vessels, shall be entitled to, according to the terms of their contracts, until the time of the adjudication, shall be condemned to and for the use of the owner or owners, and the officers, marines, and mariners of such armed vessel, according to such rules and proportions as they shall agree on; provided always, that this resolution shall not extend to any vessel bringing settlers, arms, ammunition, and warlike stores to and for the use of these Colonies or any of the inhabitants thereof, who are friends to the American cause, or to such warlike stores, or to the effects of such settlers.1

Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed to consider of the fortifying one or more ports on the American coast in the strongest manner, for the protection of our cruisers, and the reception of their prizes; that they take the opinion of the best engineers on the manner and expense; and report thereon to Congress.

The members chosen, Mr. Harrison, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Hewes, Mr. R. Morris and Mr. Whipple.

Resolved, That this Congress will, on Monday next, resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the trade of the United Colonies; and that sundry motions offered by the members from Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, and Virginia, be referred to said committee.

Here is an instance, in addition to many others, of an extraordinary liberty taken by the secretary, I suppose at the instigation of the party against independence, to suppress, by omitting on the Journals, the many motions that were made disagreeable to that set. These motions ought to have been inserted verbatim on the Journals, with the names of those who made them.

On Monday, March 25th, I made a motion, and laid it in writing on the table, in these words,—

Resolved, That the thanks of this Congress, in their own name, and in the name of the thirteen United Colonies, whom they represent, be presented to His Excellency General Washington, and the officers and soldiers under his command, for their wise and spirited conduct in the siege and acquisition of Boston; and that a medal of gold be struck in commemoration of this great event and presented to His Excellency; and that a committee of three be appointed to prepare a letter of thanks, and a proper device for the medal.

The members chosen, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Jay, and Mr. Hopkins.

Tuesday, March 26. Congress were informed of the death of Governor Ward, and on

Wednesday, March 27th, they attended his funeral, in mourning for a month. In this gentleman, who died of the small-pox, we lost an honorable, a conscientious, a benevolent, and inflexible patriot.

Thursday, March 28. A multitude of details, but no committee of the whole house.

Friday, March 29. More trifles, but no committee of the whole.

Saturday, March 30. Ditto.

Monday, April 1. A measure of great importance was adopted; a treasury office with an auditor, and a sufficient number of clerks. On the 17th of February, Congress had resolved that a standing committee of five be appointed for superintending the Treasury; their duties were pointed out; and Mr. Duane, Mr. Nelson, Mr. Gerry, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Willing, were chosen on the committee. On this day, April 1st, the treasury was much improved in its system. No order of the day.

April 2.

“The committee appointed to prepare a letter of thanks to General Washington, and the officers and soldiers under his command, brought in a draught, which was read and agreed to.

Ordered, That it be transcribed, signed by the President, and forwarded.”

But the letter, a great part of the compliment of which would have lain in the insertion of it in the Journals, was carefully secluded. Perhaps the secretary, or the president, or both, chose rather to conceal the compliment to the General, than make one to the member who made the motion and the committee who prepared it. I never troubled myself about the Journals, and should never have known the letter was not there, if I had not been called to peruse them now, after twenty-nine years have rolled away.1

April 3. Great things were done. The naval system made great progress.

April 4. We did great things again.

“Agreeable to the order of the day, the Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the trade of the United Colonies, and after some time spent thereon, the President resumed the chair, and Mr. Harrison reported that the committee had taken into consideration the matters referred to them, and had come to sundry resolutions, which he was ordered to deliver in.

“The resolutions agreed to by the committee of the whole Congress being read,

Ordered, To lie on the table.”

April 5. Good Friday.

April 6.

“The Congress resumed the consideration of the report from the committee of the whole, and the same being twice read, and debated by paragraphs, was agreed to.”

These resolutions are on the Journals, and amount to something. They opened the ports, and set our commerce at liberty, but they were far short of what had been moved by members from Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia. There is one resolution I will not omit.

Resolved, That no slaves be imported into any of the thirteen Colonies.”

I will not omit to remark here the manifest artifice in concealing in the Journals the motions which were made, and the names of the members who made them, in these daily committees of the whole. The spirit of a party, which has been before exposed, can alone account for this unfairness.

“A letter from General Washington of the 27th of March, and a letter from Brigadier General Heath, being received and read,

Resolved, That the letter from General Washington, with the papers inclosed, be referred to a committee of the whole Congress.”

Tuesday, April 9. No committee of the whole.

Wednesday, April 10.

Resolved, That the letters from General Washington, be referred to a committee of the whole Congress.”

April 11.

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to inquire into the truth of the report respecting Governor Tryon’s exacting an oath from persons going by the packet, and to ascertain the fact by affidavits taken before a chief justice, or other chief magistrate.

“The members chosen, Mr. Jay, Mr. Wythe, and Mr. Wilson.”

This helped forward our designs a little.

Resolved, That it be recommended to the several Assemblies, Conventions, and Committees or Councils of Safety of the United Colonies, to use their best endeavors in communicating to foreign nations the resolutions of Congress relative to trade.”

This, also, was a considerable advance; but it would now be scarcely credited if I were to relate the struggle it cost us to obtain every one of these resolutions.

April 12. No committee of the whole.

April 13. No committee of the whole.

April 15. No committee of the whole.

Tuesday, April 16.

“Whereas, information has been this day laid before Congress, from which there is great reason to believe that Robert Eden, Esq., Governor of Maryland, has lately carried on a correspondence with the British Ministry, highly dangerous to the liberties of America;

Resolved, therefore, that the Council of Safety of Maryland be earnestly requested immediately to cause the person and papers of Governor Eden to be seized and secured, and such of the papers as relate to the American dispute, without delay, conveyed safely to Congress, and that copies of the intercepted letters from the Secretary of State be inclosed to the said Council of Safety.”

A similar resolution relative to Alexander Ross and his papers.

No committee of the whole.

Wednesday, April 17. Thursday, April 18. No committee of the whole.

Friday, April 19.

Resolved, That a committee of seven be appointed to examine and ascertain the value of the several species of gold and silver coins current in these Colonies, and the proportions they ought to bear to Spanish milled dollars. Members chosen, Mr. Duane, Mr. Wythe, Mr. John Adams, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Hewes, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Whipple.

“The committee to whom General Washington’s letter of the 15th instant, as well as other letters, were referred, brought in their report, which being taken into consideration was agreed to, whereupon, Resolved.*

One resolution was, that the resignation of James Warren, as paymaster-general of the army, be accepted. This gentleman had been appointed at my solicitation, Mr. Samuel Adams and Mr. Gerry concurring; our other colleagues notwithstanding.

“The committee to whom were referred the letter from General Washington of the 4th, and the letter from General Schuyler of the second, of this month, brought in their report.

“Adjourned to Monday.”

Monday, April 22. A letter from the Canada Commissioners, one from General Washington of the 19th, one from General Schuyler, inclosing sundry letters and papers from Canada, and one from the committee of inspection of West Augusta, with sundry papers inclosed, were referred to Mr. R. H. Lee, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Jay, Mr. Braxton, and Mr. Johnson.

Tuesday, April 23.

“The committee to whom the letters from General Washington, General Schuyler, and the letters from Canada, &c., were referred, brought in their report.”

Wednesday, April 24. Thomas Heyward, Junior, Esq., a new member from Carolina, and an excellent one, appeared in Congress. On him we could always depend for sound measures, though he seldom spoke in public. Thomas Lynch, Junior, Esq., also appeared. Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, but came to no resolutions.

Thursday, April 25. Two letters from General Washington of the 22d, and 23d, were referred to Mr. R. H. Lee, Mr. J. Adams, and Mr. Hewes.

“Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into their farther consideration, the letter from General Washington of the 27th of March last, and the papers therein inclosed, and Mr. Harrison reported that the committee had come to a resolution on the matters referred to them, which he read and delivered in.”

Report read again, and postponed.

Friday, April 26. Postponed. Saturday, April 27. Ditto.

Monday, April 29. Congress resumed the consideration of the report of the committee on General Washington’s letter of the 20th, and came to sundry resolutions which may be seen on the Journal.

Tuesday, April 30.

“Congress took into consideration the report of the Committee on General Washington’s letter of the 24th of March, whereupon, Resolved,

As in the Journal. Of some importance, but nothing to the great objects still kept out of sight.

“The delegates from New Jersey having laid before Congress a number of bills, counterfeited to imitate the continental bills of credit,

Resolved, That a committee of six be appointed to consider of this matter, and report thereon to Congress. The members chosen, Mr. W. Livingston, Mr. McKean, Mr. Sherman, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Braxton, and Mr. Duane. Adjourned to Thursday.”

Thursday, May 2.

“Congress resumed the consideration of the report of the Committee on General Washington’s letter of the 24th of March last, and after debate,

Resolved, That it be recommitted, and, as the members of the former committee are absent, that a new committee be appointed; the members chosen, Mr. Dickinson, Mr. W. Livingston, and Mr. Rutledge.”

The recommitment, and the names of the new committee, show the design.

Friday, May 3.

“A petition from Peter Simon was presented to Congress, and read; ordered, that it be referred to a committee of three. The members chosen, Mr. McKean, Mr. Wythe, and Mr. J. Adams.

“The committee to whom the report on General Washington’s letter of the 24th of March last was recommitted, brought in their report, which was read;

Ordered, To lie on the table.”

Monday, May 6.

“Congress resumed the consideration of the report on General Washington’s letter of the 24th of March, and thereupon came to the following resolution;

“Whereas, General Washington has requested directions concerning the conduct that should be observed towards commissioners said to be coming from Great Britain to America,

Resolved, That General Washington be informed, that Congress suppose, if commissioners are intended to be sent from Great Britain to treat of peace, that the practice usual in such cases will be observed, by making previous application for the necessary passports or safe conduct, and on such application being made, Congress will then direct the proper measures for the reception of such commissioners.”

It will be observed how long this trifling business had been depending, but it cannot be known from the Journal how much debate it had occasioned. It was one of those delusive contrivances, by which the party in opposition to us endeavored, by lulling the people with idle hopes of reconciliation into security, to turn their heads and thoughts from independence. They endeavored to insert in the resolution ideas of reconciliation; we carried our point for inserting peace. They wanted powers to be given to the General to receive the commissioners in ceremony; we ordered nothing to be done till we were solicited for passports. Upon the whole, we avoided the snare, and brought the controversy to a close, with some dignity. But it will never be known how much labor it cost us to accomplish it.

Then a committee of the whole, on the state of the colonies. Mr. Harrison reported sundry resolutions, which, as they stand on the Journal, will show the art and skill with which the General’s letters, Indian affairs, revenue matters, naval arrangements, and twenty other things, many of them very trivial, were mixed, in those committees of the whole, with the great subjects of government, independence, and commerce. Little things were designedly thrown in the way of great ones, and the time consumed upon trifles which ought to have been consecrated to higher interests. We could only harangue against the misapplication of time, and harangues consumed more time, so that we could only now and then snatch a transient glance at the promised land.1

Wednesday, May 8.

“The instructions given by the naval committee to Commodore Hopkins being laid before Congress and read;

Ordered, That they be referred to a committee of seven, and that it be an instruction to the said committee to inquire how far Commodore Hopkins has complied with the said instructions, and if, upon inquiring, they shall find that he has departed therefrom, to examine into the occasion thereof; also to inquire into the situation of the governor and lieutenant-governor of Providence and the other officer brought from thence, and report what, in their opinion, is proper to be done with them.

“That the said Committee have power to send for witnesses and papers.

“The members chosen, Mr. Harrison, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. McKean, Mr. Duane, Mr. Lynch, Mr. Sherman, and Mr. W. Livingston.”

There were three persons at this time who were standing subjects of altercation in Congress; General Wooster, Commodore Hopkins, and a Mr. Wrixon. I never could discover any reason for the bitterness against Wooster, but his being a New Englandman;1 nor for that against Hopkins, but that he had done too much; nor for that against Wrixon, but his being patronized by Mr. Samuel Adams and Mr. R. H. Lee. Be it as it may, these three consumed an immense quantity of time, and kept up the passions of the parties to a great height. One design was to divert us from our main object.

A committee of the whole. Mr. Harrison reported no resolution. Leave to sit again.

Thursday, May 9. A committee of the whole. Mr. Harrison reported a resolution, which he read and delivered in. The resolution of the committee of the whole was again read, and the determination thereof, at the request of a Colony, was postponed till to-morrow.

Friday, May 10.

“Congress resumed the consideration of the resolution reported from the committee of the whole, and the same was agreed to as follows;

Resolved, That it be recommended to the respective assemblies and conventions of the United Colonies, where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs hath been hitherto established, to adopt such government as shall, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and America in general.

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to prepare a preamble to the foregoing resolution. The members chosen, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Rutledge, and Mr. Richard Henry Lee.”

Marshall, in his Life of Washington, says,2 “this resolution was moved by R. H. Lee, and seconded by J. Adams.” It was brought before the Committee of the whole house, in concert between Mr. R. H. Lee and me, and I suppose General Washington was informed of it by Mr. Harrison, the chairman, or some other of his correspondents. But nothing of this appears upon the Journal. It is carefully concealed, like many other things relative to the greatest affairs of the nation, which were before Congress in that year.

This resolution I considered as an epocha, a decisive event.1 It was a measure which I had invariably pursued for a whole year, and contended for, through a scene and a series of anxiety, labor, study, argument, and obloquy, which was then little known, and is now forgotten by all but Dr. Rush and a very few, who, like him, survive. Millions of curses were poured out upon me for these exertions and for these triumphs over them, by many, who, whatever their pretences may have been, have never forgotten, nor cordially forgiven me. By these I mean, not the Tories, for from them I received always more candor, but a class of people who thought proper and convenient to themselves to go along with the public opinion, in appearance, though in their hearts they detested it. Although they might think the public opinion was right, in general, in its difference with Great Britain, yet they secretly regretted the separation, and above all things the connection with France. Such a party has always existed, and was the final ruin of the federal administration, as will hereafter very plainly appear.

A committee of the whole again. Mr. Harrison reported no resolution. I mention these committees to show how all these great questions labored. Day after day consumed in debates without any conclusion.

Saturday, May 11.

“A petition from John Jacobs, in behalf of himself and others, was presented to Congress and read.

Ordered, that it be referred to a committee of three. The members chosen, Mr. John Adams, Mr. Lee, and Mr. Rutledge.

“A committee of the whole. Mr. Harrison reported no resolution.”

This day’s Journal of this Committee shows with what art other matters were referred to these committees of the whole, in order to retard and embarrass the great questions.

Tuesday, May 14.

“A letter of the 11th, from General Washington, inclosing sundry papers, a letter of the 3d, from General Schuyler, and a letter of the 9th, from Daniel Robertson, were laid before Congress and read.

Resolved, That they be referred to a committee of three. The members chosen, Mr. W. Livingston, Mr. Jefferson, and Mr. J. Adams.”

William Ellery, Esq., appeared as a delegate from Rhode Island, in the place of Governor Ward, and being an excellent member, fully supplied his place. The Committee appointed to prepare a preamble, thought it not necessary to be very elaborate, and Mr. Lee and Mr. Rutledge desired me, as chairman, to draw something very short, which I did, and, with their approbation, on Wednesday, May 15th, reported the following, which was agreed to.

“Whereas, His Britannic Majesty in conjunction with the Lords and Commons of Great Britain has, by a late act of Parliament, excluded the inhabitants of these United Colonies from the protection of his crown; and whereas, no answer whatever to the humble petitions of the Colonies for redress of grievances and reconciliation with Great Britain has been, or is likely to be given, but the whole force of that kingdom, aided by foreign mercenaries, is to be exerted for the destruction of the good people of these Colonies; and whereas, it appears absolutely irreconcilable to reason and good conscience for the people of these Colonies now to take the oaths and affirmations necessary for the support of any government under the Crown of Great Britain, and it is necessary that the exercise of every kind of authority under the said Crown should be totally suppressed, and all the powers of government exerted under the authority of the people of the Colonies, for the preservation of internal peace, virtue, and good order, as well as for the defence of their lives, liberties, and properties, against the hostile invasions and cruel depredations of their enemies. Therefore,

Resolved, That it be recommended to the respective Assemblies and Conventions of the United Colonies, where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs hath been hitherto established, to adopt such government as shall, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and America in general.

Ordered, that the said preamble, with the resolution passed the 10th instant, be published.”

Mr. Duane called it to me, a machine for the fabrication of independence.1 I said, smiling, I thought it was independence itself, but we must have it with more formality yet.

May 16. Thursday.

“The following letters were laid before Congress and read; one of the 1st, from the Commissioners of Congress in Canada; one of the tenth, from General Schuyler; and one without date from General Washington, inclosing a letter to him from Dr. Stringer.

Resolved, That the letter from Dr. Stringer to General Washington, be referred to the committee appointed to prepare medicine chests; that the other letters be referred to Mr. W. Livingston, Mr. Jefferson, and Mr. J. Adams.

Resolved, That the President write to General Washington, requesting him to repair to Philadelphia, as soon as he can conveniently, in order to consult with Congress upon such measures as may be necessary for the carrying on the ensuing campaign.

“Horatio Gates, Esq., was elected a Major General, and Thomas Mifflin, Esq., Brigadier General.

I take notice of this appointment of Gates, because it had great influence on my future fortunes. It soon occasioned a competition between him and Schuyler, in which I always contended for Gates; and the rivalry occasioned great animosities among the friends of the two Generals, the consequences of which are not yet spent. Indeed, they have affected the essential interests of the United States, and will influence their ultimate destiny. They effected an enmity between Gates and Mr. Jay, who always supported Schuyler, and a dislike in Gates of Hamilton, who married Schuyler’s daughter, with which Mr. Burr wrought so skilfully, as, in 1800, to turn the elections in New York, not only against Hamilton but against the federalists. Gates’s resentment against Jay, Schuyler, and Hamilton, made him turn, in 1799, against me, who had been the best friend and the most efficacious supporter he ever had in America. I had never in my life any personal prejudice or dislike against General Schuyler; on the contrary, I knew him to be industrious, studious, and intelligent. But the New England officers, soldiers, and inhabitants, knew Gates in the camp at Cambridge. Schuyler was not known to many, and the few who had heard of him, were prejudiced against him from the former French war. The New England soldiers would not enlist to serve under him, and the militia would not turn out. I was, therefore, under a necessity of supporting Gates. Mr. Duane, Mr. Jay, Colonel Harrison, &c., supported Schuyler.

On this same May 16th, it was

Resolved, That it be recommended to the General Assemblies of Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut, to endeavor to have the battalions enlisted for two years, unless sooner discharged by Congress, in which case the men to be allowed one month’s pay on their discharge; but if the men cannot be prevailed on to enlist for two years, that they be enlisted for one; and that they be ordered, as soon as raised and armed, to march immediately to Boston.”

Here it is proper for me to obviate some aspersions against me, which were not the less malicious for being silly. I will not here charge the authors with wilful falsehood, because I can readily believe, that among the correspondents with the army, and the connections of my opponents, they may have heard insinuations and misrepresentations that they too easily credited. The truth is, I never opposed the raising of men during the war. I was always willing the General might obtain as many men as he possibly could, to enlist during the war, or during the longest period they could be persuaded to enlist for, and I always declared myself so. But I contended that I knew the number to be obtained in this manner would be very small in New England, from whence almost the whole army was derived. A regiment might possibly be obtained, of the meanest, idlest, most intemperate and worthless, but no more. A regiment was no army to defend this country. We must have tradesmen’s sons, and farmers’ sons, or we should be without defence; and such men certainly would not enlist during the war, or for long periods, as yet. The service was too new; they had not yet become attached to it by habit. Was it credible that men who could get at home better living, more comfortable lodgings, more than double the wages, in safety, not exposed to the sicknesses of the camp, would bind themselves during the war? I knew it to be impossible. In the Middle States, where they imported, from Ireland and Germany, so many transported convicts and redemptioners, it was possible they might obtain some. Let them try. I had no objection. But I warned them against depending on so improbable a resource for the defence of the country. Congress confessed the unanswerable force of this reasoning. Mr. McKean, I remember, said in Congress, “Mr. John Adams has convinced me that you will get no army upon such terms. Even in Pennsylvania, the most desperate of imported laborers cannot be obtained in any numbers upon such terms. Farmers and tradesmen give much more encouragement to laborers and journeymen.” Mr. McKean’s opinion was well founded, and proved to be true in experience, for Pennsylvania never was able to obtain half the complement of New England in proportion.1

Monday, May 20. Lyman Hall and Button Gwinnet appear as delegates from Georgia, both intelligent and spirited men, who made a powerful addition to our phalanx.

“Certain resolutions of the Convention of South Carolina, respecting the battalions raised in that Colony; also, certain resolutions passed by the General Assembly of the said Colony, respecting the manner in which commissioners, coming from England, are to be received and treated in that Colony, were laid before Congress and read.

Resolved, That the resolutions respecting the battalions be referred to a committee of five.

“The members chosen, Mr. John Adams, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Floyd, Mr. W. Livingston, and Mr. Morton.

“A committee of the whole. Mr. Harrison reported no resolution.

Tuesday, May 21.

“Three letters from General Washington, inclosing letters and papers of intelligence from England, and a copy of the treaties made by His Britannic Majesty with the Duke of Brunswick, for 4084 of his troops, with the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel, for 12,000 of his troops; and with the Count of Hanau, for 668 of his troops.

“A letter from William Palfrey, with a copy of his weekly account. A letter from John Langdon to General Washington. A petition from Samuel Austin, John Rowe, S. Partridge, Samuel Dashwood, and John Scollay, of Boston.

Resolved, That the said letters, and papers, and petition, be referred to a committee of five; that the said committee be directed to extract and publish the treaties, and such parts of the intelligence as they think proper. Also, to consider of an adequate reward for the person who brought the intelligence, and that they prepare an address to the foreign mercenaries who are coming to invade America.

“The members chosen, Mr. John Adams, Mr. William Livingston, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. R. H. Lee, and Mr. Sherman.

“The committee, to whom the letter of the 10th from General Lee was referred, brought in their report, which was read, and after some debate,

Resolved, That the farther consideration thereof be postponed till the arrival of General Washington.

“The committee to whom the letters from General Washington, Major-General Schuyler, and the commissioners in Canada were referred, brought in their report, which was read.

Resolved, That the consideration thereof be postponed till to-morrow.

Thursday, May 23.

Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed to confer with General Washington, Major-General Gates, and Brigadier-General Mifflin, upon the most speedy and effectual means of supporting the American cause in Canada. The members chosen, Mr. Harrison, Mr. R. H. Lee, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Wilson, and Mr. Rutledge.

Friday, May 24.

“The committee appointed to confer with His Excellency General Washington, Major-General Gates, and Brigadier-General Mifflin, brought in their report.*

“Agreeable to order, General Washington attended in Congress, and after some conference with him.

Resolved, That he be directed to attend again to-morrow.

Saturday, May 25.

Resolved, That a committee be appointed to confer with His Excellency General Washington, Major General Gates, and Brigadier-General Mifflin, and to concert a plan of military operations for the ensuing campaign. The members appointed, Mr. Harrison. Mr. R. H. Lee, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Wilson, Mr. R. R. Livingston, Mr. Whipple, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. W. Livingston, Mr. Read, Mr. Tilghman, Mr. Hewes, Mr. Middleton, and Mr. Hall.

“Congress took into consideration the report of the committee on the letter from General Washington of the 11th of May, the letter from General Schuyler of the 3d, &c., which was in part agreed to, as may be seen on the Journal.

Resolved, That the consideration of the first paragraph in said report be postponed, and that the third and fifth paragraphs be referred to the committee appointed to confer with the Generals.

Resolved, That the several reports on General Washington’s letters, not yet considered, and the General’s letters referred to a committee of the whole Congress, be committed to the committee appointed to confer with the Generals.

Thus, as postponement and embarrassment had been for many months the object, we now had all our business to go over again.

“A number of deputies from four of the Six Nations of Indians having arrived in town, and notified Congress that they are desirous of an audience,

Resolved, That they be admitted to an audience on Monday next at eleven o’clock.”

Monday, May 27.

“Agreeable to order, the Indians were admitted to an audience.

Wednesday, May 29.

“The committee appointed to confer with the Generals, brought in a report which was read and considered. Resolved, That the farther consideration of the report be postponed till to-morrow.

Thursday, May 30.

“Congress took into consideration the report of the committee appointed to confer with the Generals. Resolved, That it be referred to a committee of the whole Congress. Mr. Harrison reported one resolution relative to the defence of New York. Leave to sit again.”

Friday, May 31.

“The committee of conference brought in a farther report, which was read.

Resolved, That it be referred to the committee of the whole Congress.

“Mr. Harrison reported a request to sit again. Granted.”

Saturday, June 1.

“Colonel Joseph Reed resigned his office of secretary to General Washington.

“Committee of the whole again. Mr. Harrison reported some resolutions. Leave to sit again.”

Monday, June 3.

“Committee of the whole. Mr. Harrison reported sundry resolutions. Leave to sit again.”

Tuesday, June 4.

“Committee of the whole. Mr. Harrison reported more resolutions. Leave to sit again. Resolutions reported postponed.”

Wednesday, June 5.

“Congress took into consideration the report of the committee of the whole, whereupon, Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed to consider what is proper to be done with persons giving intelligence to the enemy, or supplying them with provisions. The members chosen, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. Wilson, and Mr. R. Livingston.

Resolved, That Robert Hanson Harrison, Esq., have the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Continental army. The General’s secretary, as I suppose.

“Joseph Reed, Esq., was elected Adjutant-General.”

Friday, June 7.

“Certain resolutions, respecting independency, being moved and seconded,

Resolved, That the consideration of them be referred till to-morrow morning, and that the members be enjoined to attend punctually at ten o’clock, in order to take the same into their consideration.”

It will naturally be inquired why these resolutions, and the names of the gentlemen who moved and seconded them, were not inserted on the Journals. To this question, I can give no other answer than this. Mr. Hancock was President, Mr. Harrison, chairman of the committee of the whole house, Mr. Thomson, the secretary, was cousin to Mr. Dickinson, and Mr. R. H. Lee and Mr. John Adams were no favorites of either.

Saturday, June 8.

Resolved, That the resolutions respecting independency be referred to a committee of the whole Congress. Mr. Harrison reported no resolution. Leave to sit again.

Monday, June 10.

“Committee of the whole. Mr. Harrison reported a resolution. The resolution, agreed to in the committee of the whole Congress, being read,

Resolved, That the consideration of the first resolution be postponed to the first day of July next, and in the meanwhile, that no time be lost, in case the Congress agree thereto, that a committee be appointed to prepare a declaration to the effect of the first resolution, which is in these words. ‘That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.’ ”

Tuesday, June 11.

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to consider of a compensation to the secretary for his services. The members chosen, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Rutledge, and Mr. Hewes.

Resolved, That the committee for preparing the declaration consist of five. The members chosen, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. John Adams, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Sherman, and Mr. R. R. Livingston. Jefferson was chairman, because he had most votes; and he had most votes, because we united in him to the exclusion of R. H. Lee, and to keep out Harrison.

Resolved, That a committee be appointed to prepare and digest the form of a confederation to be entered into between these Colonies.

“That a committee be appointed to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers.

Wednesday, June 12.

Resolved, That the committee to prepare and digest the form of a confederation, to be entered into between these Colonies, consist of a member from each Colony. The members appointed, Mr. Bartlett, Mr. S. Adams, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Sherman, Mr. R. R. Livingston, Mr. Dickinson, Mr. McKean, Mr. Stone, Mr. Nelson, Mr. Hewes, Mr. E. Rutledge, and Mr. Gwinnet.

Resolved, That the committee to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers, consist of five. The members chosen, Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Franklin, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Harrison, and Mr. R. Morris.

“Congress took into consideration the report of the committee on the war-office, whereupon,

Resolved, That a committee of Congress be appointed, by the name of a board of war and ordnance, to consist of five members.”1

In order to show the insupportable burden of business that was thrown upon me by this Congress, it is necessary to transcribe from the Journals an account of the constitution, powers, and duties of this board.

It was resolved,

“That a secretary and one or more clerks be appointed by Congress, with competent salaries, to assist the said board in executing the business of their department.

“That it shall be the duty of the said board to obtain and keep an alphabetical and accurate register of the names of all officers of the land forces, in the service of the United Colonies, with their rank and the dates of their respective commissions; and also regular accounts of the state and disposition of the troops in the respective Colonies, for which purpose the Generals and officers commanding the different departments and posts are to cause regular returns to be made into the said war office.

“That they shall obtain and keep exact accounts of all the artillery, arms, ammunition, and warlike stores, belonging to the United Colonies, and of the manner in which, and the places where, the same shall from time to time be lodged and employed; and that they shall have the immediate care of all such artillery, arms, ammunition, and warlike stores, as shall not be employed in actual service; for preserving whereof, they shall have power to hire proper magazines at the public expense.

“That they shall have the care of forwarding all despatches from Congress to the Colonies and armies, and all moneys to be transmitted for the public service by order of Congress, and of providing suitable escorts and guards for the safe conveyance of such despatches and moneys, when it shall appear to them to be necessary.

“That they shall superintend the raising, fitting out, and despatching, all such land forces as may be ordered for the service of the United Colonies.

“That they shall have the care and direction of all prisoners of war, agreeable to the orders and regulations of Congress.

“That they shall keep and preserve in the said office, in regular order, all original letters and papers which shall come into said office by order of Congress or otherwise, and shall also cause all draughts of letters and despatches to be made or transcribed in books to be set apart for that purpose, and shall cause fair entries in like manner to be made, and registers preserved, of all other business which shall be transacted in said office.”1

From this time, we find in almost every day’s Journal references of various business to the board of war, or their reports upon such things as were referred to them.

Friday, June 28. A new delegation appeared from New Jersey. Mr. William Livingston and all others, who had hitherto resisted independence, were left out. Richard Stockton, Francis Hopkinson, and Dr. John Witherspoon, were new members.

Monday, July 1.

“A resolution of the Convention of Maryland, passed the 28th of June, was laid before Congress, and read, as follows: ‘That the instructions given to their deputies in December last, be recalled, and the restrictions therein contained removed; and that their deputies be authorized and empowered to concur with the other United Colonies, or a majority of them, in declaring the United Colonies free and independent States; in forming a compact between them, and in making foreign alliances, &c.1

Resolved, That this Congress will resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the resolution respecting independency.

“That the declaration be referred to said committee.

“The Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole. After some time, the President resumed the chair, and Mr. Harrison reported, that the committee had come to a resolution, which they desired him to report, and to move for leave to sit again.

“The resolution, agreed to by the committee of the whole, being read, the determination thereof was, at the request of a Colony, postponed till to-morrow.”

I am not able to recollect whether it was on this or some preceding day, that the greatest and most solemn debate was had on the question of independence. The subject had been in contemplation for more than a year, and frequent discussions had been had concerning it. At one time and another all the arguments for it and against it had been exhausted, and were become familiar. I expected no more would be said in public, but that the question would be put and decided. Mr. Dickinson, however, was determined to bear his testimony against it with more formality. He had prepared himself apparently with great labor and ardent zeal, and in a speech of great length, and with all his eloquence, he combined together all that had before been written in pamphlets and newspapers, and all that had from time to time been said in Congress by himself and others. He conducted the debate not only with great ingenuity and eloquence, but with equal politeness and candor, and was answered in the same spirit.

No member rose to answer him, and after waiting some time, in hopes that some one less obnoxious than myself, who had been all along for a year before, and still was, represented and believed to be the author of all the mischief, would move, I determined to speak.

It has been said, by some of our historians, that I began by an invocation to the god of eloquence. This is a misrepresentation. Nothing so puerile as this fell from me. I began, by saying that this was the first time of my life that I had ever wished for the talents and eloquence of the ancient orators of Greece and Rome, for I was very sure that none of them ever had before him a question of more importance to his country and to the world. They would probably, upon less occasions than this, have begun by solemn invocations to their divinities for assistance; but the question before me appeared so simple, that I had confidence enough in the plain understanding and common sense that had been given me, to believe that I could answer, to the satisfaction of the House, all the arguments which had been produced, notwithstanding the abilities which had been displayed, and the eloquence with which they had been enforced. Mr. Dickinson, some years afterwards, published his speech.1 I had made no preparation beforehand, and never committed any minutes of mine to writing. But if I had a copy of Mr. Dickinson’s before me, I would now, after nine and twenty years have elapsed, endeavor to recollect mine.

Before the final question was put, the new delegates from New Jersey came in, and Mr. Stockton, Dr. Witherspoon, and Mr. Hopkinson, very respectable characters, expressed a great desire to hear the arguments.2 All was silence; no one would speak; all eyes were turned upon me. Mr. Edward Rutledge came to me and said, laughing, “Nobody will speak but you upon this subject. You have all the topics so ready, that you must satisfy the gentlemen from New Jersey.” I answered him, laughing, that it had so much the air of exhibiting like an actor or gladiator, for the entertainment of the audience, that I was ashamed to repeat what I had said twenty times before, and I thought nothing new could be advanced by me. The New Jersey gentlemen, however, still insisting on hearing at least a recapitulation of the arguments, and no other gentleman being willing to speak, I summed up the reasons, objections, and answers, in as concise a manner as I could, till at length the Jersey gentlemen said they were fully satisfied and ready for the question, which was then put, and determined in the affirmative.

lf1431-03_figure_001

Mr. Jay, Mr. Duane, and Mr. William Livingston of New Jersey, were not present. But they all acquiesced in the declaration, and steadily supported it ever afterwards.

July 4.

Resolved, That Dr. Franklin, Mr. J. Adams, and Mr. Jefferson, be a committee to prepare a device for a seal for the United States of America.”

Monday, July 15.

“A letter from Mr. Jay, and two letters from the Convention of New York, of the 11th, with sundry papers inclosed, among which were the following resolutions.

“In convention of the representatives of the State of New York,

White Plains, July 9, 1776.

Resolved, unanimously, that the reasons assigned by the Continental Congress for declaring the United Colonies free and independent States are cogent and conclusive, and that while we lament the cruel necessity which has rendered that measure unavoidable, we approve the same, and will, at the risk of our lives and fortunes, join with the other Colonies in supporting it.

Resolved, unanimously, that the delegates of this State in the Continental Congress be, and they hereby are, authorized to concert and adopt all such measures as they may deem conducive to the happiness and welfare of America.”

“Extract from the Minutes.

 

Robert Benson,Secretary.

This was the Convention which formed the constitution of New York, and Mr. Jay and Mr. Duane had attended it, as I suppose, for the purpose of getting a plan adopted, conformable to my ideas in the letter to Mr. Wythe, which had been published in the Spring before. I presume this was the fact, because Mr. Duane, after his return to Congress, asked me if I had seen the constitution of New York? I answered him, that I had. He then asked me if it was not agreeable to my ideas, as I had published them in my letter to Mr. Wythe. I said I thought it by far the best constitution that had yet been adopted.

The daily references to the Board of War, rendered it necessary for me to spend almost my whole time in it, on mornings, till Congress met, and on evenings, till late at night. The Journals will show some of the results of the tedious details. There is one report, which may be mentioned here.

Wednesday, July 17.

“The board of war, to whom the letter of General Washington, of the 14th, was referred, brought in their report, which was taken into consideration; whereupon,

Resolved, That General Washington, in refusing to receive a letter said to be sent from Lord Howe, addressed to ‘George Washington, Esq.,’ acted with a dignity becoming his station; and therefore, this Congress do highly approve the same; and do direct that no letter or message be received, on any occasion whatsoever, from the enemy, by the commander-in-chief, or others, the commanders of the American army, but such as shall be directed to them in the characters they respectively sustain.

Resolved, That Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Harrison, and Mr. Morris, be a committee to bring in a resolution for subjecting to confiscation the property of the subjects of the crown of Great Britain, and particularly, of the inhabitants of the British West Indies, taken on the high seas, or between high and low water mark.”

Thursday, July 18.

Resolved, That a member be added to the board of war. The member chosen, Mr. Carroll.”

An excellent member, whose education, manners, and application to business and to study, did honor to his fortune, the first in America.

“The committee appointed to prepare a plan of treaties to be entered into with foreign states and kingdoms, brought in a report, which was read;

Ordered, To lie on the table.”

Friday, July 19.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration; whereupon, Resolved,* . . .

“The committee appointed to prepare a resolution for subjecting to confiscation the property of the subjects of Great Britain, &c., brought in the same, which was read;

Ordered, To lie on the table, and that the same be taken into consideration on Monday next.

“The committee to whom the letters from Lord Howe to Mr. Franklin, &c., were referred, brought in a report, which was taken into consideration; whereupon,

Resolved, That a copy of the circular letters, and the declaration inclosed from Lord Howe to Mr. William Franklin, Mr. Penn, Mr. Eden, Lord Dunmore, Mr. Martin, and Sir James Wright, which were sent to Amboy by a flag, and forwarded to Congress by General Washington, be published in the several Gazettes, that the good people of these United States may be informed of what nature are the commissioners, and what the terms, with expectation of which the insidious court of Britain has endeavored to amuse and disarm them, and that the few, who still remain suspended by a hope founded either in the justice or moderation of their late king, may now at length be convinced that the valor alone of their country is to save its liberties.”

Saturday, July 20.

Resolved, That the letter from General Lee, with the papers inclosed, which were received and read yesterday, be referred to the board of war.

“A petition and memorial of Mr. Pelissier was presented to Congress, and read;

Resolved, That it be referred to the board of war.

Resolved, That the plan of treaties be printed for the use of the members, under the restrictions and regulations prescribed for printing the plan of confederation; and that, in the printed copy, the names of persons, places, and States, be omitted.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration; whereupon, Resolved, as in the Journal.

“The delegates of Pennsylvania produced credentials of a new appointment, made on the 20th of July.*

Resolved, That Dr. Franklin may, if he thinks proper, return an answer to the letter he received from Lord Howe.”

Monday, July 22.

“The Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the articles of confederation, and, after some time, the president resumed the chair, and Mr. Harrison reported that the committee have made some progress in the matter to them referred, but not having come to a conclusion, desire leave to sit again.

Resolved, That this Congress will to-morrow again resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into their farther consideration the articles of confederation.”

Tuesday, July 23d, was employed in making references to the board of war, and in receiving, considering, and adopting their reports, as may be seen in the Journal.

Also in a committee of the whole on the articles of confederation.

Wednesday, July 24.

“A letter from Lieutenant Colonel William Allen was laid before Congress, and read, requesting leave to resign his commission. Resolved, That leave be granted.”

About this time it was that the gentlemen in the Pennsylvania proprietary interest generally left us.

“A petition from George Kills was presented to Congress and read:

Resolved, That it be referred to the board of war.

“The Congress took into consideration the report of the committee appointed to prepare a resolution for confiscating the property of the subjects of Great Britain; whereupon,

Resolved, That all the resolutions of this Congress passed on the twenty-third day of March last, and on the third day of April last, relating to ships and other vessels, their tackle, apparel, and furniture, and all goods, wares, and merchandises, belonging to any inhabitant or inhabitants of Great Britain, taken on the high seas, or between high and low water mark, be extended to all ships and other vessels, their tackle, apparel, and furniture, and to all goods, wares, and merchandises, belonging to any subject or subjects of the King of Great Britain, except the inhabitants of the Bermudas and Providence or Bahama Islands.

“The board of war brought in their report, which was taken into consideration; whereupon, Resolved, as in the Journal.”

Among the number, I select with great pleasure the two following, namely,

Resolved, That Colonel Knox’s plan for raising another battalion of artillery, be approved, and carried into execution as soon as possible.

Resolved, That General Washington be empowered to agree to the exchange of Governor Skene for Mr. James Lovell.”

A committee of the whole on the articles of confederation, but no progress.

Then a list of letters from General Washington and others referred to the board of war.

Thursday, July 25. A memorial from sundry officers who served in Canada, referred to the board of war.

Committee of the whole on the articles of confederation.

Letter from General Washington, inclosing letters from Governor Trumbull, and a Committee of Safety of New Hampshire, referred to the board of war.

Friday, July 26. A committee of the whole on the articles of the confederation. Mr. Morton in the chair.

Monday, July 29. A long list of references to the board of war, of letters from Washington, Schuyler, Reed, Trumbull, Convention of New Jersey, Council of Massachusetts, &c.

The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, whereupon, Resolved, as in the Journal.

Committee of the whole on the articles of confederation. Mr. Morton in the chair.

Tuesday, July 30. Two reports from the board of war, with resolutions in consequence of them, as in the Journal.

Committee of the whole on the articles of confederation. Mr. Morton in the chair.

Wednesday, July 31. The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, whereupon, Resolved, as in the Journal.

A committee of the whole on the articles of confederation. Mr. Morton in the chair.

Thursday, August 1. Letters from General Mercer and General Roberdeau, referred to the board of war.

Committee of the whole on the articles of confederation. Mr. Morton in the chair.

Letters from General Washington, General Schuyler, and Colonel Dubois, referred to the board of war.

The board of war brought in two reports which were accepted, as in the Journal.

Friday, August 2. The board of war brought in a report which was accepted, as in the Journal.

The marine committee brought in a report on the conduct of Commodore Hopkins.

Committee of the whole on the articles of confederation. Mr. Morton in the chair.

Saturday, August 3.

“A letter from Neil McLean, referred to the board of war.”

Monday, August 5.

“Two letters from General Washington, one from the Council of Virginia, with copies of sundry letters from North Carolina and South Carolina, inclosed; one from E. Anderson, and sundry resolutions passed by the Convention of Pennsylvania, were laid before Congress and read; referred to the board of war.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration; whereupon,

Resolved, That the commanders of all ships of war and armed vessels in the service of these States, or any of them, and all letters of marque and privateers, be permitted to enlist into service, on board the said ships and vessels, any seamen who may be taken on board any of the ships or vessels of our enemies, and that no such seamen be entitled to receive the wages due to them out of the said prizes, but such as will so enlist, and that all other seamen so taken be held as prisoners of war, and exchanged for others taken by the enemy, whether on board vessels of war or merchantmen, as there may be opportunity.

“That Lieutenant-Colonel Rufus Putnam be appointed an engineer, with the rank of Colonel, and pay of sixty dollars a month.”

A petition from Commodore Hopkins, for a hearing, &c.

Ordered, That the board of war furnish the committee of treasury with the names of the British officers, and other prisoners, who are entitled to the allowance made by Congress of two dollars a week, with the times of their captivity and the places where they are quartered.

Resolved, That the pay of an assistant clerk to the board of war, be two hundred and sixty-six dollars and two thirds, a year.

“A petition from Louis de Linkensdorf, referred to the board of war.

Tuesday, August 6.

“A letter of the 5th from General Washington, inclosing copies of letters between him and General Howe, respecting the exchange of prisoners, and sundry other letters and papers; also, one from Brigadier-General Mercer of the 4th, were laid before Congress and read;

Resolved, That they be referred to the board of war.

“A committee of the whole on the articles of confederation. Mr. Morton in the chair.”

Wednesday, August 7.

“A memorial from George Measam referred to the board of war.

“A report from the board of war, as in the Journal.

“A committee of the whole on the articles of confederation. Mr. Morton in the chair.”

Thursday, August 8.

“The board of war directed to see certain resolutions carried into effect.

Resolved, That the board of war be directed to take into immediate consideration the state of the army in the Northern department, and our naval force on the lakes; and that Mr. Chase be directed to attend the said board, and give them all the information in his power; and that Mr. Williams be desired to furnish the said board with an extract of the letter he has received from Governor Trumbull, relative to the said army and naval force, and that the said board report thereon as soon as possible.

Resolved, That to-morrow be assigned for electing four Major Generals and six Brigadier Generals.

“A committee of the whole on the articles of confederation. Mr. Morton in the chair.”

Friday, August 9.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was read;

Ordered, To lie on the table.

Resolved, That the secret committee be directed to deliver to the order of the board of war, such articles in their possession, belonging to the continent, as in the opinion of the said board of war are necessary for the Delaware battalion.

“William Heath, Joseph Spencer, John Sullivan, Nathaniel Greene, Esqs., chosen Major Generals.

“James Reed, John Nixon, Arthur St. Clair, Alexander McDougall, Samuel Holden Parsons, and James Clinton, Esqs., Brigadiers.

Resolved, That the hearing of Commodore Hopkins be postponed to Monday next, at eleven o’clock, and that Captain Jones be directed to attend at the same time.

Saturday, August 10.

“The board of war brought in a report which was taken into consideration; whereupon,

Resolved, That commissions be made out, and sent to General Washington, to be delivered to the several officers recommended in the list exhibited by the said board, to fill the vacancies mentioned in the said list, excepting those persons recommended to fill the vacancies occasioned by officers being in captivity, which ought not to be filled, but to be left open until those officers shall be redeemed, and excepting the case of Lieutenant-Colonel Tyler, who is to have a commission for Colonel of the regiment lately commanded by Colonel Parsons, promoted; and that Lieutenant-Colonel Durkee have a commission of Colonel of the 20th regiment, and that Major Prentice be made Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment in which he is now Major, and Major Knowlton, Lieutenant-Colonel of the 20th regiment.

Resolved, That William Tudor, Judge Advocate General, have the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the army of the United States; and that he be ordered immediately to repair to the discharge of his duty at New York.”

Monday, August 12.

“A letter from General Washington of the 8th, with sundry papers inclosed, and one from General Mercer, with one inclosed to him from Colonel Dickinson, were read.

Resolved, That the letter from General Washington, with the papers inclosed, be referred to the board of war.”

Commodore Hopkins had his hearing, as in the Journal. On this occasion I had a very laborious task against all the prejudices of the gentlemen from the Southern and Middle States, and of many from New England. I thought, however, that Hopkins had done great service, and made an important beginning of naval operations.

The record in the Journal stands as follows:

“Agreeable to the order of the day, Commodore Hopkins attended, and was admitted: when the examination taken before the marine committee, and the report of the said committee in consequence thereof, were read to him; and the Commodore being heard in his own defence, and having delivered in some further answers to the questions asked him by the marine committee, and two witnesses being at his request introduced and examined, he withdrew.

“Congress then took into consideration the instructions given to Commodore Hopkins, his examination and answers to the marine committee, and the report of the marine committee thereupon; also, the farther defence by him made, and the testimony of the witnesses; and after some debate, the farther consideration thereof was postponed.”

It appeared to me that the Commodore was pursued and persecuted by that anti-New-England spirit which haunted Congress in many other of their proceedings, as well as in this case and that of General Wooster. I saw nothing in the conduct of Hopkins, which indicated corruption or want of integrity. Experience and skill might have been deficient in several particulars; but where could we find greater experience or skill? I knew of none to be found. The other captains had not so much, and it was afterwards found they had not more success. I therefore entered into a full and candid investigation of the whole subject; considered all the charges and all the evidence, as well as his answers and proofs; and exerted all the talents and eloquence I had, in justifying him where he was justifiable, and excusing him where he was excusable. When the trial was over, Mr. Ellery of Newport, came to me and said, “You have made the old man your friend for life: he will hear of your defence of him, and he never forgets a kindness.” More than twenty years afterwards, the old gentleman hobbled on his crutches to the inn in Providence, at fourscore years of age, one half of him dead in consequence of a paralytic stroke, with his eyes overflowing with tears, to express his gratitude to me. He said he knew not for what end he was continued in life, unless it were to punish his friends, or to teach his children and grandchildren to respect me. The president of Rhode Island College, who had married his daughter, and all his family, showed me the same affectionate attachment.

Tuesday, August 13.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, whereupon, Resolved, as in the Journal.

“A letter of the 12th, from Brigadier General Mercer, was read.

Resolved, That it be referred to the board of war.

“Congress took into consideration the articles of war, and after some time spent thereon, the farther consideration thereof was postponed till to-morrow.

Wednesday, August 14.

“A letter of the 12th, from General Washington, with a return of the army at New York, and sundry other papers inclosed, being received, was read; also, sundry letters from England were read;

Resolved, That the letter from General Washington, with the papers inclosed, be referred to the board of war.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, whereupon, Resolved, as in the Journal.”

Thursday, August 15.

“The board of war brought in a report which was taken into consideration, whereupon, Resolved, as in the Journal.”

“A petition from Return Jonathan Meigs, in behalf of himself and others, was presented to Congress, and read;

Resolved, That it be referred to the board of war.

“Congress resumed the consideration of the instructions given to Commodore Hopkins, &c.

Resolved, That the said Commodore Hopkins, during his cruise to the southward, did not pay due regard to the tenor of his instructions, whereby he was expressly directed to annoy the enemy’s ships upon the coasts of the Southern States, and that his reasons for not going from Providence immediately to the Carolinas are by no means satisfactory.

“At the request of the delegates of Pennsylvania, the farther consideration of the report was postponed till to-morrow.

Friday, August 16.

Resolved, That a member be added to the committee to whom were referred the letters and papers respecting the murder of Mr. Parsons.

“The member chosen, Mr. J. Adams.

Resolved, That the letters received yesterday from General Washington, General Schuyler, and General Gates, be referred to the board of war.

“Congress resumed the consideration of the instructions given to Commodore Hopkins, &c., and thereupon came to the following resolution.

Resolved, That the said conduct of Commodore Hopkins deserves the censure of this House, and this House does accordingly censure him.

Ordered, That a copy of the resolutions passed against Commodore Hopkins be transmitted to him.”

Although this resolution of censure was not in my opinion demanded by justice, and consequently was inconsistent with good policy, as it tended to discourage an officer, and diminish his authority, by tarnishing his reputation, yet, as it went not so far as to cashier him, which had been the object intended by the spirit that dictated the prosecution, I had the satisfaction to think that I had not labored wholly in vain in his defence.1

Saturday, August 17.

“Congress resumed the consideration of the report of the Committee to whom was referred Brigadier General Wooster’s letter, requesting an inquiry into his conduct, while he had the honor of commanding the continental forces in Canada, which was read as follows:—

“That Brigadier General Wooster produced copies of a number of letters which passed between him and General Schuyler, and of his letters to Congress, from which it appears that he from time to time, gave seasonable and due notice of the state of the army under his command, and what supplies were in his opinion necessary to render the enterprise successful; that a number of officers and other gentlemen from Canada who were acquainted with his conduct there, and who happened to be occasionally in this city, were examined before the committee, to which letters, and the minutes of the examination of the witnesses herewith exhibited, the committee beg leave to refer Congress for further information, and report as the opinion of the committee upon the whole of the evidence that was before them, that nothing censurable or blameworthy appears against Brigadier General Wooster.

“The report being again read, was agreed to.”

But not, however, without a great struggle. In this instance, again, as in many others, where the same anti-New-England spirit which pursued Commodore Hopkins, persecuted General Wooster, I had to contend with the whole host of their enemies, and with the utmost anxiety, and most arduous efforts, was scarcely able to preserve them from disgrace and ruin, which Wooster had merited even less than Hopkins. In Wooster’s case, there was a manifest endeavor to lay upon him the blame of their own misconduct, in Congress, in embarrassing and starving the war in Canada. Wooster was calumniated for incapacity, want of application, and even for cowardice, without a color of proof of either. The charge of cowardice he soon confuted, by a glorious and voluntary sacrifice of his life, which compelled his enemies to confess he was a hero.

The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, whereupon, Resolved, as in all the rest of the Journal.

Monday, August 19.

“Letters from General Washington, referred to the board of war. A letter of the 14th, from Commodore Hopkins, was read, whereupon.

Resolved, That Commodore Hopkins be directed to repair to Rhode Island, and take the command of the fleet formerly put under his care.

“Congress resumed the consideration of the articles of war, as revised by the committee for that purpose appointed, and after some time spent thereon, the further consideration thereof was postponed.”

This report was made by me and Mr. Jefferson, in consequence of a letter from General Washington, sent by Colonel Tudor, Judge Advocate-General, representing the insufficiency of the articles of war, and requesting a revision of them. Mr. John Adams and Mr. Jefferson were appointed a committee to hear Tudor, and revise the articles. It was a very difficult and unpopular subject, and I observed to Jefferson, that whatever alteration we should report with the least energy in it, or the least tendency to a necessary discipline of the army, would be opposed with as much vehemence, as if it were the most perfect; we might as well, therefore, report a complete system at once, and let it meet its fate. Something perhaps might be gained. There was extant one system of articles of war which had carried two empires to the head of mankind, the Roman and the British; for the British articles of war were only a literal translation of the Roman. It would be in vain for us to seek in our own inventions, or the records of warlike nations, for a more complete system of military discipline. It was an observation founded in undoubted facts, that the prosperity of nations had been in proportion to the discipline of their forces by sea and land; I was, therefore, for reporting the British articles of war, totidem verbis. Jefferson, in those days, never failed to agree with me, in every thing of a political nature, and he very cordially concurred in this. The British articles of war were, accordingly, reported, and defended in Congress by me assisted by some others, and finally carried. They laid the foundation of a discipline which, in time, brought our troops to a capacity of contending with British veterans, and a rivalry with the best troops of France.

Tuesday, August 20.

“A letter of the 18th, from General Washington, with sundry papers inclosed, was laid before Congress and read.

Resolved, That the same be referred to a committee of five. The members chosen. Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. J. Adams, and Mr. Hooper.

“A committee of the whole on the articles of confederation. Mr. Morton reported that the committee had gone through the same, and agreed to sundry articles, which he was ordered to submit to Congress.

Ordered, That eighty copies of the articles of confederation, as reported from the committee of the whole, be printed under the same injunctions as the former articles, and delivered to the members under the like instructions as formerly.”

Thus we see the whole record of this momentous transaction. No motions recorded,1 no yeas and nays taken down, no alterations proposed, no debates preserved, no names mentioned; all in profound secrecy. Nothing suffered to transpire, no opportunity to consult constituents; no room for advice or criticisms in pamphlets, papers, or private conversation. I was very uneasy under all this, but could not avoid it. In the course of this confederation a few others were as anxious as myself. Mr. Wilson, of Pennsylvania, upon one occasion, moved that the debates should be public, the doors opened, galleries erected, or an adjournment made to some public building, where the people might be accommodated. Mr. John Adams seconded the motion, and supported it with zeal. But no! neither party was willing; some were afraid of divisions among the people; but more were afraid to let the people see the insignificant figures they made in that assembly. Nothing, indeed, was less understood abroad, among the people, than the real constitution of Congress, and the characters of those who conducted the business of it. The truth is, the motions, plans, debates, amendments, which were every day brought forward, in those committees of the whole house, if committed to writing, would be very voluminous; but they are lost forever. The preservation of them, indeed, might, for any thing I recollect, be of more curiosity than use.1

Wednesday, August 21.

“A petition from Prudhomme La Jeunesse was read, and referred to the board of war.

“The committee to whom part of the report from the committee on spies was recommitted, having brought in a report, the same was taken into consideration, whereupon,

Resolved, That all persons not members of, nor owing allegiance to any of the United States of America, as described in a resolution of Congress, of the 24th of June last, who shall be found lurking as spies, in or about the fortifications or encampments of the armies of the United States, or of any of them, shall suffer death, according to the law and usage of nations, by sentence of a court martial, or such other punishment as such court martial shall direct.

Ordered, That the above resolution be printed at the end of the rules and articles of war.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, whereupon, Resolved, as in the Journal.

Resolved, That the letter from General Washington read yesterday, and that of the 12th, with the papers inclosed, be referred to the board of war.

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to revise the resolutions of Congress, respecting the place where prizes are to be carried into, and to bring in such further resolutions as to them shall seem proper.

“The members chosen, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Morris, and Mr. J. Adams.

Thursday, August 22.

“Letters from General Washington and Schuyler, with papers inclosed, referred to the board of war.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was read.

Ordered, To lie on the table.

“The committee to whom the letter, from General Washington, of the 18th was referred, brought in a report, which was read. Ordered, To lie on the table.

“A committee of the whole on the form of a treaty; Mr. Nelson in the chair.

“A letter from Brigadier-General Lewis; also, a letter from the Committee of Carlisle, in Pennsylvania, inclosing a memorial from the officers and prisoners there, were read and referred to the board of war.

Friday, August 23.

“A letter of the 21st, from General Washington, inclosing a copy of a letter from him to Lord Howe, together with his lordship’s answer, was read.

Resolved, That the same be referred to the board of war, with orders to publish the General’s letter to Lord Howe, and His Lordship’s answer.

Monday, August 26.

“Three letters of the 22d and 23d, from General Washington, with sundry papers inclosed, a letter from William Finnie, deputy quartermaster-general of the Southern department, were read and referred to the board of war.

“A letter of the 22d, from Colonel James Wilson, was read, and referred to Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Franklin, and Mr. John Adams.

Tuesday, August 27.

“A letter of the 23d, from General Mercer, was read and referred to the board of war.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, whereupon, Resolved—See the several resolutions in the Journal.

“The committee to whom the letter from Colonel Wilson was referred, brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, whereupon, Congress came to the following resolutions.*

“A committee of the whole on the plan of foreign treaties. Mr. Nelson reported that the committee had gone through the same, and made sundry amendments.

Resolved, That the plan of treaties, with the amendments, be referred to the committee who brought in the original plan, in order to draw up instructions pursuant to the amendments made by the committee of the whole; that two members be added to the said committee. The members chosen, Mr. Richard Henry Lee and Mr. Wilson.

“A petition from the deputy commissary-general was read, and referred to the board of war.

Wednesday, August 28.

“Delegates from Virginia produced new credentials. George Wythe, Thomas Nelson, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, and Francis Lightfoot Lee, Esqs.

Thursday, August 29.

“A letter of the 27th, from R. H. Harrison, the General’s secretary, and one of the 28th, from General Mercer, both giving an account of an action on Long Island, on the 27th, were read and referred to the board of war.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, whereupon, Resolved—See the several resolutions in the Journal.

Resolved, That the committee to whom the plan of treaties with the amendments was recommitted, be empowered to prepare such further instructions, as to them shall seem proper, and make report thereof to Congress.

Friday, August 30.

“A memorial from Mr. Kosciusko was read, and referred to the board of war.

Monday, September 2.

“A letter of the 31st of August from General Washington, inclosing the determination of a council of war, and the reasons for quitting Long Island, and a copy of a letter from Lord Stirling; also, one of the 23d from General Gates, with sundry papers inclosed; one from sundry field officers in the army at Ticonderoga, dated the 19th of August, with the proceedings between a court martial and Brigadier-General Arnold; also, a letter of the 23d, from Captain John Nelson, and one from Benjamin Harrison, Jr., deputy paymaster-general, with his weekly account, were read and referred to the board of war.

“Congress being informed that General Sullivan was come to Philadelphia with a design to communicate a message from Lord Howe;

Ordered, That he be admitted and heard before Congress.

“A petition from Michael Fitzgerald, one from John Weitzell, and one from James Paul Govert, were read and referred to the board of war.

“General Sullivan being admitted, delivered a verbal message he had in charge from Lord Howe, which he was desired to reduce to writing, and then he withdrew.

Resolved, That the board of war be directed to prepare and bring in a plan of military operations for the next campaign.”

Tuesday, September 3.

“General Sullivan, having reduced to writing the verbal message from Lord Howe, the same was read as follows:—

“The following is the purport of the message of Lord Howe to Congress, by General Sullivan.

“That, though he could not at present treat with Congress as such, yet he was very desirous of having a conference with some of the members whom he would consider, for the present, only as private gentlemen, and meet them himself as such, at such place as they should appoint.

“That he, in conjunction with General Howe, had full powers to compromise the dispute between Great Britain and America, upon terms advantageous to both: the obtaining of which delayed him near two months in England, and prevented his arrival at this place, before the declaration of independency took place. That he wished a compact might be settled at this time, when no decisive blow was struck, and neither party could say that they were compelled to enter into such agreement.

“That in case Congress were disposed to treat, many things which they had not as yet asked, might and ought to be granted them, and that if, upon the conference, they found any probable ground of accommodation, the authority of Congress must be afterwards acknowledged, otherwise the compact would not be complete.”

In this written statement of the message it ought to be observed, that General Sullivan has not inserted, what he had reported verbally, that Lord Howe had told him “he would set the act of Parliament wholly aside, and that Parliament had no right to tax America, or meddle with her internal polity.”

“The board of war brought in a report which was read, and a number of resolutions adopted upon it, which see in the Journal.”

Wednesday, September 4.

Resolved, That the board of war be directed to call in the several recruiting parties of the German battalion, and to have them formed and armed with all possible expedition, and forwarded to New York, taking measures, and giving proper directions to have the battalion recruited to the full complement, as soon as the same can conveniently be done.

Resolved, That the proposal made by General Howe, as delivered by General Sullivan, of exchanging General Sullivan for General Prescott, and Lord Stirling for Brigadier-General McDonald, be complied with.

“Congress took into consideration the report of the board of war, and after some time spent thereon,

Resolved, That the farther consideration thereof be postponed till to-morrow.

Thursday, September 5.

“A petition referred to the board of war.

Resolved. That General Prescott, and Brigadier-General McDonald be sent by the board of war, under an escort, to General Washington, to be exchanged for General Sullivan and Lord Stirling.

“Congress resumed the consideration of the report of the board of war, whereupon,

Resolved, That General Sullivan be requested to inform Lord Howe, that this Congress being the representatives of the free and independent States of America, cannot with propriety send any of its members to confer with His Lordship in their private characters, but that, ever desirous of establishing peace on reasonable terms, they will send a committee of their body, to know whether he has any authority to treat with persons, authorized by Congress for that purpose, in behalf of America, and what that authority is, and to hear such propositions as he shall think fit to make respecting the same.

“That the President be desired to write to General Washington, and acquaint him, that it is the opinion of Congress no proposals for making peace between Great Britain and the United States of America, ought to be received and attended to, unless the same be made in writing, and addressed to the representatives of the said States in Congress, or persons authorized by them, and if application be made to him by any of the commanders of the British forces on that subject, that he inform them that these United States, who entered into the war only for the defence of their lives and liberties, will cheerfully agree to peace on reasonable terms, whenever such shall be proposed to them, in manner aforesaid.

Resolved, That a copy of the first of the two foregoing resolutions be delivered to General Sullivan, and that he be directed to repair immediately to Lord Howe.

Resolved, That to-morrow be assigned for electing the committee.”

Friday, September 6.

Resolved, That General Sullivan be requested to deliver to Lord Howe, the copy of the resolution given to him.

Resolved, That the committee ‘to be sent to know whether Lord Howe has any authority to treat with persons authorized by Congress for that purpose in behalf of America, and what that authority is, and to hear such propositions as he shall think fit to make respecting the same,’ consist of three.

“Congress then proceeded to the election, and the ballots being taken, Mr. Franklin, Mr. J. Adams, and Mr. Rutledge, were elected.

“Letters from General Washington, Schuyler, Gates, and Mercer, referred to the board of war.

“The board of war brought in a report. Resolutions upon it.”

Saturday, September 7.

“A letter of the 5th from Charles Preston, Major of the 26th regiment, a prisoner, was read and referred to the board of war.

Resolved, That a copy of the resolutions passed by Congress on the message brought by General Sullivan, and the names of the committee appointed, be sent to General Washington.

“Congress resumed the consideration of the report of the board of war, whereupon,

Resolved, That all letters to and from the board of war and ordnance, or the secretary of the same, be free of all expense in the post-office of the United States, &c.”

Monday, September 9.

Resolved, That in all continental commissions and other instruments, where heretofore the words “United Colonies” have been used, the style be altered for the future to the “United States.”

“The board of war brought in a report, which was read.

Ordered, To lie on the table.”

On this day Mr. Franklin, Mr. Edward Rutledge, and Mr. John Adams, proceeded on their journey to Lord Howe, on Staten Island, the two former in chairs, and the latter on horseback. The first night we lodged at an inn in New Brunswick. On the road, and at all the public houses, we saw such numbers of officers and soldiers, straggling and loitering, as gave me, at least, but a poor opinion of the discipline of our forces, and excited as much indignation as anxiety. Such thoughtless dissipation, at a time so critical, was not calculated to inspire very sanguine hopes, or give great courage to ambassadors. I was, nevertheless, determined that it should not dishearten me. I saw that we must, and had no doubt but we should, be chastised into order in time.

The taverns were so full we could with difficulty obtain entertainment. At Brunswick, but one bed could be procured for Dr. Franklin and me, in a chamber little larger than the bed, without a chimney, and with only one small window. The window was open, and I, who was an invalid and afraid of the air in the night, shut it close. “Oh!” says Franklin, “don’t shut the window, we shall be suffocated.” I answered, I was afraid of the evening air. Dr. Franklin replied, “The air within this chamber will soon be, and indeed is now, worse than that without doors. Come, open the window and come to bed, and I will convince you. I believe you are not acquainted with my theory of colds.” Opening the window, and leaping into bed, I said I had read his letters to Dr. Cooper, in which he had advanced, that nobody ever got cold by going into a cold church or any other cold air, but the theory was so little consistent with my experience, that I thought it a paradox. However, I had so much curiosity to hear his reasons that I would run the risk of a cold. The Doctor then began a harangue upon air and cold, and respiration and perspiration, with which I was so much amused that I soon fell asleep, and left him and his philosophy together, but I believe they were equally sound and insensible within a few minutes after me, for the last words I heard were pronounced as if he was more than half asleep. I remember little of the lecture, except that the human body, by respiration and perspiration, destroys a gallon of air in a minute; that two such persons as were now in that chamber, would consume all the air in it in an hour or two; that by breathing over again the matter thrown off by the lungs and the skin, we should imbibe the real cause of colds, not from abroad, but from within. I am not inclined to introduce here a dissertation on this subject. There is much truth, I believe, in some things he advanced, but they warrant not the assertion that a cold is never taken from cold air. I have often conversed with him since on the same subject, and I believe with him, that colds are often taken in foul air in close rooms, but they are often taken from cold air abroad, too. I have often asked him whether a person heated with exercise going suddenly into cold air, or standing still in a current of it, might not have his pores suddenly contracted, his perspiration stopped, and that matter thrown into the circulations, or cast upon the lungs, which he acknowledged was the cause of colds. To this he never could give me a satisfactory answer, and I have heard that in the opinion of his own able physician, Dr. Jones, he fell a sacrifice at last, not to the stone, but to his own theory, having caught the violent cold which finally choked him, by sitting for some hours at a window, with the cool air blowing upon him.

The next morning we proceeded on our journey, and the remainder of this negotiation will be related from the Journals of Congress, and from a few familiar letters, which I wrote to my most intimate friends before and after my journey. The abrupt, uncouth freedom of these and all others of my letters in those days, requires an apology. Nothing was farther from my thoughts, than that they would ever appear before the public. Oppressed with a load of business, without an amanuensis, or any assistance, I was obliged to do every thing myself. For seven years before this, I had never been without three clerks in my office as a barrister; but now I had no secretary, or servant, whom I could trust to write, and every thing must be copied by myself, or be hazarded without any copy. The few that I wrote, upon this occasion, I copied, merely to assist my memory, as occasion might demand.

There were a few circumstances which appear neither in the Journals of Congress, nor in my letters, which may be thought by some worth preserving. Lord Howe had sent over an officer as a hostage for our security. I said to Dr. Franklin, it would be childish in us to depend upon such a pledge, and insisted on taking him over with us, and keeping our surety on the same side of the water with us. My colleagues exulted in the proposition, and agreed to it instantly. We told the officer, if he held himself under our direction, he must go back with us. He bowed assent, and we all embarked in his lordship’s barge. As we approached the shore, his lordship, observing us, came down to the water’s edge to receive us, and, looking at the officer, he said, “Gentlemen, you make me a very high compliment, and you may depend upon it, I will consider it as the most sacred of things.” We walked up to the house between lines of guards of grenadiers, looking fierce as ten Furies, and making all the grimaces, and gestures, and motions of their muskets, with bayonets fixed, which, I suppose, military etiquette requires, but which we neither understood nor regarded.

The house had been the habitation of military guards, and was as dirty as a stable; but his lordship had prepared a large handsome room, by spreading a carpet of moss and green sprigs, from bushes and shrubs in the neighborhood, till he had made it not only wholesome, but romantically elegant; and he entertained us with good claret, good bread, cold ham, tongues, and mutton.

I will now proceed to relate the sequel of this conference: 1st, from the Journal of Congress; 2d, from the letters written to some of my friends at the time; 3d, a circumstance or two, which are not preserved in the Journals or letters.

Friday, September 13.

“The committee appointed to confer with Lord Howe, having returned, made a verbal report.

Ordered, That they make a report, in writing, as soon as conveniently they can.”

Tuesday, September 17.

“The committee appointed to confer with Lord Howe, agreeable to the order of Congress, brought in a report in writing, which was read, as follows:

“In obedience to the orders of Congress, we have had a meeting with Lord Howe. It was on Wednesday last, upon Staten Island, opposite to Amboy, where his lordship received and entertained us with the utmost politeness.

“His lordship opened the conversation by acquainting us, that, though he could not treat with us as a Committee of Congress, yet, as his powers enabled him to confer and consult with any private gentlemen of influence in the Colonies, on the means of restoring peace between the two countries, he was glad of this opportunity of conferring with us on that subject, if we thought ourselves at liberty to enter into a conference with him in that character. We observed to his lordship, that, as our business was to hear, he might consider us in what light he pleased, and communicate to us any propositions he might be authorized to make for the purpose mentioned, but that we could consider ourselves in no other character than that in which we were placed by order of Congress.

“His Lordship then entered into a discourse of considerable length, which contained no explicit proposition of peace, except one, namely. That the Colonies should return to their allegiance and obedience to the Government of Great Britain. The rest consisted, principally, of assurances, that there was an exceeding good disposition in the King and his ministers to make that government easy to us, with intimations, that, in case of our submission, they would cause the offensive acts of Parliament to be revised, and the instructions to governors to be reconsidered; that so, if any just causes of complaint were found in the acts, or any errors in government were perceived to have crept into the instructions, they might be amended or withdrawn.

“We gave it as our opinion to his lordship, that a return to the domination of Great Britain was not now to be expected. We mentioned the repeated humble petitions of the Colonies to the King and Parliament, which had been treated with contempt, and answered only by additional injuries; the unexampled patience we had shown under their tyrannical government, and that it was not till the late act of Parliament, which denounced war against us, and put us out of the King’s protection, that we declared our independence; that this declaration had been called for by the people of the Colonies in general; that every Colony had approved of it, when made, and all now considered themselves as independent States, and were settling, or had settled their governments accordingly, so that it was not in the power of Congress to agree, for them, that they should return to their former dependent state; that there was no doubt of their inclination to peace, and their willingness to enter into a treaty with Britain, that might be advantageous to both countries; that, though his lordship had, at present, no power to treat with them as independent States, he might, if there was the same good disposition in Britain, much sooner obtain fresh powers from thence, for that purpose, than powers could be obtained by Congress, from the several Colonies, to consent to a submission.

“His lordship then, saying that he was sorry to find that no accommodation was like to take place, put an end to the conference.

“Upon the whole, it did not appear to your committee that his lordship’s commission contained any other authority than that expressed in the act of Parliament, namely, that of granting pardons, with such exceptions as the commissioners shall think proper to make, and of declaring America, or any part of it, to be in the King’s peace, upon submission; for, as to the power of inquiring into the state of America, which his lordship mentioned to us, and of conferring and consulting with any persons the commissioners might think proper, and representing the result of such conversation to the ministry, who, provided the Colonies would subject themselves, might, after all, or might not, at their pleasure, make any alterations in the former instructions to governors, or propose in Parliament any amendment of the acts complained of, we apprehended any expectation from the effects of such a power, would have been too uncertain and precarious to be relied on by America, had she still continued in her state of dependence.

Ordered, That the foregoing report, and also the message from Lord Howe, as delivered by General Sullivan, and the resolution of Congress, in consequence thereof, be published by the committee who brought in the foregoing report.

Ordered, That the said committee publish Lord Drummond’s letters to General Washington, and the General’s answers.

Two or three circumstances, which are omitted in this report, and, indeed, not thought worth notice in any of my private letters, I afterwards found circulated in Europe, and oftener repeated than any other part of this whole transaction. Lord Howe was profuse in his expressions of gratitude to the state of Massachusetts, for erecting a marble monument, in Westminster Abbey, to his elder brother, Lord Howe, who was killed in America, in the last French war, saying, “he esteemed that honor to his family above all things in this world. That such was his gratitude and affection to this country, on that account, that he felt for America as for a brother, and, if America should fall, he should feel and lament it like the loss of a brother.” Dr. Franklin, with an easy air, and a collected countenance, a bow, a smile, and all that naiveté, which sometimes appeared in his conversation, and is often observed in his writings, replied, “My Lord, we will do our utmost endeavors to save your lordship that mortification.” His lordship appeared to feel this with more sensibility than I could expect; but he only returned, “I suppose you will endeavor to give us employment in Europe.” To this observation, not a word, nor a look, from which he could draw any inference, escaped any of the committee.

Another circumstance, of no more importance than the former, was so much celebrated in Europe, that it has often reminded me of the question of Phocion to his fellow-citizens, when something he had said in public was received by the people of Athens with clamorous applause: “Have I said any foolish thing?” When his lordship observed to us, that he could not confer with us as members of Congress, or public characters, but only as private persons and British subjects, Mr. John Adams answered somewhat quickly, “Your lordship may consider me in what light you please, and, indeed, I should be willing to consider myself, for a few moments, in any character which would be agreeable to your lordship, except that of a British subject.” His lordship, at these words, turned to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Rutledge, and said, “Mr. Adams is a decided character,” with so much gravity and solemnity, that I now believe it meant more than either of my colleagues, or myself, understood, at the time. In our report to Congress, we supposed that the commissioners, Lord and General Howe, had, by their commission, power to except from pardon all that they should think proper; but I was informed, in England, afterwards, that a number were expressly excepted, by name, from pardon, by the Privy Council, and that John Adams was one of them, and that this list of exceptions was given, as an instruction, to the two Howes, with their commission. When I was afterwards a minister plenipotentiary at the Court of St. James, the king and the ministry were often insulted, ridiculed, and reproached, in the newspapers, for having conducted themselves with so much folly, as to be reduced to the humiliating necessity of receiving, as an ambassador, a man who stood recorded, by the Privy Council, as a rebel expressly excepted from pardon.1 If this is true, it will account for his lordship’s gloomy denunciation of me as “a decided character.” Some years afterwards, when I resided in England, as a public minister, his lordship recollected, and alluded to this conversation, with great politeness and much good humor. At the ball, on the queen’s birthnight, I was at a loss for the seats assigned to the foreign ambassadors and their ladies. Fortunately meeting Lord Howe at the door, I asked his lordship where were the ambassadors’ seats. His lordship, with his usual politeness, and an unusual smile of good humor, pointed to the seats, and, manifestly alluding to the conversation on Staten Island, said, “Ay! now we must turn you away, among the foreigners.”

The conduct of General Sullivan, in consenting to come to Philadelphia, upon so confused an errand from Lord Howe, though his situation, as a prisoner, was a temptation, and may be considered as some apology for it, appeared to me to betray such want of penetration and fortitude, and there was so little precision in the information he communicated, that I felt much resentment, and more contempt, upon the occasion, than was perhaps just. The time was extremely critical. The attention of Congress, the army, the States, and the people, ought to have been wholly directed to the defence of the country. To have it diverted and relaxed, by such a poor artifice and confused tale, appeared very reprehensible. To a few of my most confidential friends, I expressed my feelings, in a very few words, which I found time to write, and all the letters of which I find copies in my letter book, are here subjoined, relative to this transaction, from its beginning to its end.1

I return to the Journal of Congress.

Friday, September 13.

“Two letters, of the 7th and 11th, from General Washington, one of the 8th from General Green, and a resolution of the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania, of the 13th, were read, and referred to the board of war.

“Two letters, of the 8th, from General Schuyler, with sundry papers inclosed, one of the 7th, from Walter Livingston, and one of the 12th of August, from Brigadier-General Armstrong, were read. Referred to the board of war.

“A committee of the whole to take into consideration a report of the board of war. Mr. Nelson reported no resolutions.”

Saturday, September 14.

“A letter from R. H. Harrison, secretary to General Washington, was read. Four French officers, who arrived in the Reprisal, Captain Weeks, being recommended to Congress,

Resolved, That they be referred to the board of war.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, whereupon nine resolutions were adopted.*

“A letter of the 9th, from General Lee to the board of war, was laid before Congress, and read.”

Monday, September 16.

“A letter of the 14th from General Washington, one of the 9th from General Schuyler, inclosing a copy of one from General Gates, dated the 6th, and one of the 2d from General Gates, with sundry papers inclosed, were read, and referred to the board of war.

“A committee of the whole on a report of the board of war. Mr. Nelson reported sundry amendments, and Congress adopted the resolutions with the amendments.*

Resolved, That to-morrow be assigned for taking into consideration the articles of war.”

Tuesday, September 17.

“Sundry resolutions being moved and seconded, in addition to those passed yesterday, relative to the new army. After debate.

Resolved, That they be referred to the board of war.

“A letter of the 10th from Brigadier-General Lewis was read; also a letter from James Forrest was read, and referred to the board of war.

“Congress took into consideration the plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign nations, with the amendments agreed to by the committee of the whole, and the same was agreed to.”

This is all that I can find in the Public Journal relative to this, one of the most important transactions that ever came before Congress. A Secret Journal was prepared, in which all the proceedings on this business were entered, which has never been published. If that Journal was honestly and faithfully kept, the progress of the plan of treaties, and the persons chiefly concerned in it, will there appear.1

Wednesday, September 18.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, and six resolutions adopted from it, which appear on the Journal. The remainder of the report postponed.

Resolved, That the board of war be directed to prepare a resolution for enforcing and perfecting discipline in the army.

“Congress took into consideration the instructions to the commissioners, &c.”

These, I suppose, were the ministers to France and other courts in Europe.

Thursday, September 19.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was taken into consideration, and five resolutions adopted from it, which see in the Journal. The last of these is in these words.

“That the commander-in-chief of the forces of these States, in the several departments, be directed to give positive orders to the brigadier-generals and colonels, and all other officers in their several armies, that the troops under their command may every day be called together and trained in arms, in order that officers and men may be perfected in the manual exercise and manœuvres, and mured to the most exemplary discipline, and that all officers be assured that the Congress will consider activity and success, in introducing discipline into the army, among the best recommendations for promotion.”

This resolution was the effect of my late journey through the Jerseys to Staten Island. I had observed such dissipation and idleness, such confusion and distraction among officers and soldiers, in various parts of the country, as astonished, grieved, and alarmed me. Discipline, discipline, had become my constant topic of discourse and even declamation in and out of Congress, and especially in the board of war. I saw very clearly that the ruin of our cause and country must be the consequence, if a thorough reformation and strict discipline could not be introduced. My zeal on this occasion was no doubt represented by my faithful enemies, in great secrecy, however, to their friends in the army; and although it might recommend me to the esteem of a very few, yet it will be easily believed that it contributed nothing to my popularity among the many.

“A memorial from the Chevalier Dorre was read. Ordered, that it be referred to the board of war.

“Congress resumed the consideation of the articles of war, and after some time the farther consideration thereof was postponed.”

This was another measure that I constantly urged on with all the zeal and industry possible, convinced that nothing short of the Roman and British discipline could possibly save us.

Friday, September 20.

“Congress resumed the consideration of the articles of war, which, being debated in paragraphs, were agreed to as follows:—

Resolved, That from and after the publication of the following articles, in the respective armies of the United States, the rules and articles by which the said armies have heretofore been governed shall be, and they are, hereby, repealed.”

The articles are inserted in the Journal of this day, and need not be transcribed; they are the system which I persuaded Jefferson to agree with me in reporting to Congress. They fill about sixteen pages of the Journal. In Congress, Jefferson never spoke, and all the labor of the debate on those articles, paragraph by paragraph, was thrown upon me, and such was the opposition, and so undigested were the notions of liberty prevalent among the majority of the members most zealously attached to the public cause, that to this day I scarcely know how it was possible that these articles could have been carried. They were adopted, however, and have governed our armies with little variation to this day.*

Ordered, That the foregoing articles of war be immediately published.

Ordered, That the resolutions for raising the new army be published, and copies thereof sent to the commanding officers in the several departments, and to the Assemblies and Conventions of the respective States.”

These were for raising eighty-eight battalions, with a bounty for enlisting the men during the war, granting lands, &c.† The articles of war, and the institution of the army, during the war, were all my work, and yet I have been represented as an enemy to a regular army!

Monday, September 23.

“A letter, of the 20th and 21st, from General Washington; two of the 19th, from J. Trumbull; one of the 21st, from the Convention of Delaware; one of the 14th, from R. Varick; one of the 19th from Governor Livingston; also, one of the 14th, from General Schuyler, and one of the 19th, from Colonel Van Schaick, and one from Dr. William Shippen, were read.

Ordered, That the letter from Dr. Shippen be referred to the medical committee, and the rest to the board of war.

“Two petitions, one from Colonel J. Stark, and the other from Monsieur Devourouy, were read, and referred to the board of war.”

Tuesday, September 24.

“The board of war brought in a report, which was read. Ordered, To lie on the table.

“The board of war brought in a further report. Ordered, To lie on the table.

“Congress resumed the consideration of the instructions to the commissioners, and the same being debated by paragraphs, and amended, were agreed to.”

These instructions were recorded only on the Secret Journal, and are not, therefore, in my power. They may be found, no doubt, at the seat of government, in the office of the Secretary of State.1

Wednesday, September 25.

“Two letters from General Lee; one of the 24th of August to the President; the other, of the 27th of the same month, to the board of war, both dated at Savannah, being received, were read.

“Congress took into consideration the report of the board of war, whereupon, Resolved, &c.”

Friday, September 27.

“Two letters, of the 24th and 25th, from General Washington, with sundry papers inclosed; one of the 20th from the Convention of New York; one of the 22d from Joseph Trumbull, one of the 25th, from Colonel John Shee, inclosing his commission; one of the 25th, from Jon. B. Smith, requesting leave to resign his office of deputy mustermaster-general, were laid before Congress, and read.

Ordered, That the letters from General Washington be referred to a committee of five.

“The members chosen, Mr. Wythe, Mr. Hopkinson, Mr. Rutledge, Mr. J. Adams, and Mr. Stone.

Ordered, That the secret committee deliver to the board of war the care and custody of all arms, ammunition, and other warlike stores, now under their care, or that may hereafter be imported or purchased by them for account of the United States of America.”

Saturday, September 28.

“The board of war, to whom the petition of William McCue was referred, brought in a report, whereupon, Resolved, as in the Journal.”

Monday, September 30.

Resolved, That the board of war be empowered and directed, on requisition of the General or commanding officers in the several departments, to send such articles of military stores and other necessaries, which they may have in their possession, or can procure.

Resolved, That the board of war be directed to order the three Virginia battalions, now on their march to New York, to be lodged in the barracks at Wilmington; there to remain till further orders.

“The committee to whom were referred the letters from General Washington, of the 24th and 25th instant, and the papers inclosed therein, brought in their report, which was taken into consideration; whereupon, many resolutions were passed, which appear in the Journal, and the remainder of the report postponed.”

Tuesday, October 1.

Resolved, That a committee of four be appointed to confer with Brigadier-General Mifflin.

“The members chosen, Mr. R. H. Lee, Mr. Sherman, Mr. J. Adams, and Mr. Gerry.

Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed to prepare and bring in a plan of a military academy at the army.

“The members chosen, Mr. Hooper, Mr. Lynch, Mr. Wythe, Mr. Williams, and Mr. J. Adams.”

On this same day I wrote to Colonel Knox in these words:

“This day I had the honor of making a motion for the appointment of a committee to consider of a plan for the establishment of a military academy in the army. The committee was appointed and your servant was one. Write me your sentiments upon the subject.”

As this was, in my opinion, the most critical and dangerous period of the whole revolutionary war; as all that I had seen and heard and read of the state of our army, made a great impression on my mind, and aroused the most alarming apprehensions, I will conceal nothing from posterity. My own private letters to confidential friends will show my opinion at the time of the state of facts, and the measures that were necessary to retrieve our disgraces. Like Mr. Gifford, I look back with a sort of skepticism, on the application of those days, and cannot account for the possibility of finding time, amidst all my employments in Congress and the board of war, to write and copy the letters I find in my books.

If these papers should hereafter be read by disinterested persons, they will perhaps think that I took too much upon me, in assuming the office of preceptor to the army. To this objection, I can only reply by asserting that it was high time that the army had some instructor or other. It was a scene of indiscipline, insubordination, and confusion. Colonel Tudor had been my pupil as a clerk in my office as a barrister at law. Colonel Knox had been a youth, who had attracted my notice by his pleasing manners and inquisitive turn of mind, when I was a man in business in Boston. General Parsons had been my junior for three years at college, and upon terms of familiarity. I had therefore no reason to suppose that either of them would take offence at any thing I should write. Again, I had formed an opinion that courage and reading were all that were necessary to the formation of an officer. Of the courage of these gentlemen, and the officers in general, I had no doubt; but I was too well informed that most of the officers were deficient in reading, and I wished to turn the minds of such as were capable of it, to that great source of information. I had met with an observation among regular officers, that mankind were naturally divided into three sorts; one third of them are animated at the first appearance of danger, and will press forward to meet and examine it; another third are alarmed at it, but will neither advance nor retreat, till they know the nature of it, but stand to meet it. The remaining third will run or fly upon the first thought of it. If this remark is just, as I believed it was, it appeared to me that the only way to form an army to be confided in, was a systematic discipline, by which means all men may be made heroes. In this manner, in time, our American army was made equal to the veterans of France and England, and in this way the armies of France have been made invincible hitherto, and in the same way they will be ultimately conquered, or at least, successfully resisted by their enemies.

All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary were at that time collected in one centre, and that centre was the Congress. As a member of that body, I had contributed my share towards the creation of the army, and the appointment of all the officers, and, as president of the board of war, it was my peculiar province to superintend every thing relating to the army. I will add without vanity, I had read as much on the military art, and much more of the history of war, than any American officer of that army, General Lee excepted. If all these considerations are not a sufficient apology for my interference, I submit to censure. Certain it is, that these letters, and many more that I wrote, without preserving copies, were not calculated to procure me popularity in the army, but on the contrary, contributed to produce those misrepresentations which were diffused from that source against me, as well as my friend Samuel Adams and others. The General’s secretaries and aids, all from the southward, Reed, Harrison, &c., &c., were young gentlemen of letters, and thought full as highly of themselves as they ought to think, and much more disrespectfully of New England, and even of Congress than they ought to have thought; they dictated letters, which were not well calculated to preserve that subordination of the military power to the civil authority, which the spirit of liberty will always require and enforce.1

Some time in the month of October, 1776,—I cannot from the Journals, ascertain the day,1 —worn down with continual application, through all the heats of a summer in Philadelphia, anxious for the state of my family, and desirous of conferring with my constituents on the critical and dangerous state of affairs at home, I asked leave of Congress to be absent, which they readily granted.

The fragment of Autobiography left by Mr. Adams terminates here. An interval of a year takes place and then follows a paper which appears to have been commenced on the first of December, 1806, under the title of “Travels and Negotiations.” The greater part of this is only an amplification of his Diary of the same period. As a selection of one or the other of these papers seemed necessary, the Diary, as the contemporaneous record, has been preferred for publication, whilst such portions of the other paper have been added as furnish interesting details. These are distinguished by being placed within brackets.

Among the papers left by Mr. Adams, is the logbook of Captain Samuel Tucker, during the voyage to France of the Frigate Boston. With this record the Diary has been compared, and such extracts from it as tend to illustrate the text have been placed in the Notes.

1777. November. When I asked leave of Congress to make a visit to my constituents and my family in November, 1777, it was my intention to decline the next election, and return to my practice at the bar. I had been four years in Congress, had left my accounts in a very loose condition, my debtors were failing, the paper money was depreciating: I was daily losing the fruits of seventeen years’ industry; my family was living on my past acquisitions, which were very moderate, for no man ever did so much business for so little profit; my children were growing up without my care in their education, and all my emoluments as a member of Congress, for four years, had not been sufficient to pay a laboring man upon my farm. Some of my friends, who had more compassion for me and my family than others, suggested to me what I knew very well before, that I was losing a fortune every year by my absence. Young gentlemen who had been clerks in my office, and others whom I had left in that character in other offices, were growing rich; for the prize causes, and other controversies had made the profession of a barrister more lucrative than it ever had been before. I thought, therefore, that four years’ drudgery, and sacrifice of every thing, were sufficient for my share of absence from home, and that another might take my place. Upon my arrival at my home in Braintree, I soon found that my old clients had not forgotten me, and that new ones had heard enough of me to be ambitious of engaging me in suits which were depending. I had applications from all quarters in the most important disputes. Among others, Col. Elisha Doane applied to me to go to Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, upon the case of a large ship and cargo, which had been seized, and was to be tried in the court of admiralty, before Judge Brackett.

At the trial of the cause at Portsmouth, and while I was speaking in it, Mr. Langdon came in from Philadelphia, and leaning over the bar, whispered to me, that Mr. Deane was recalled, and I was appointed to go to France. As I could scarcely believe the news to be true, and suspected Langdon to be sporting with me, it did not disconcert me. As I had never solicited such an appointment, nor intimated to any one the smallest inclination for it, the news was altogether unexpected. The only hint I ever had of such a design in Congress was this. After I had mounted my horse for my journey home, Mr. Gerry, at Yorktown, came out of the house of Mr. Roberdeau, where we lodged together, and said to me, between him and me, that I must go to France; that Mr. Deane’s conduct had been so intolerably bad as to disgrace himself and his country, and that Congress had no other way of retrieving the dishonor but by recalling him. I answered that, as to recalling Mr. Deane, Congress would do as they thought fit, but I entreated him that neither Mr. Gerry nor any one else would think of me for a successor, for I was altogether unqualified for it. Supposing it only a sudden thought of Mr. Gerry, and that when he should consider it a moment he would relinquish it, I know not that I recollected it again, till Mr. Langdon brought it to remembrance. At Portsmouth, Captain Landais was introduced to me as then lately arrived from France, who gave me an account of his voyage with Bougainville round the world, and other particulars of his life. Upon my return to Braintree, I found to my infinite anxiety, that Mr. Langdon’s intelligence was too well founded. Large packets from Congress, containing a new commission to Franklin, Lee, and me, as plenipotentiaries to the King of France, with our instructions and other papers had been left at my house, and waited my arrival. A letter from the President of Congress informed me of my appointment, and that the navy board in Boston was ordered to fit out the frigate Boston as soon as possible, to carry me to France. It should have been observed before, that in announcing to me the intelligence of my appointment, Langdon neither expressed congratulation nor regret, but I soon afterwards had evidence enough that he lamented Mr. Deane’s recall, for he had already formed lucrative connections in France, by Mr. Deane’s recommendation, particularly with Mr. Le Ray de Chaumont, who had shipped merchandises to him to sell upon commission, an account of which, rendered to Chaumont by Langdon, was shown to me by the former, at Passy, in 1779, in which almost the whole capital was sunk by the depreciation of paper money.

When the despatches from Congress were read, the first question was, whether I should accept the commission, or return it to Congress. The dangers of the seas, and the sufferings of a winter passage, although I had no experience of either, had little weight with me. The British men-of-war were a more serious consideration. The news of my appointment, I had no doubt, were known in Rhode Island, where a part of the British navy and army then lay, as soon as they were to me, and transmitted to England as soon as possible. I had every reason to expect that ships would be ordered from Rhode Island and from Halifax to intercept the Boston, and that intelligence would be secretly sent them, as accurately as possible, of the time when she was to sail. For there always have been and still are spies in America, as well as in France, England, and other countries. The consequence of a capture would be a lodging in Newgate. For the spirit of contempt, as well as indignation and vindictive rage, with which the British government had to that time conducted both the controversy and the war, forbade me to hope for the honor of an apartment in the Tower as a state prisoner. As their Act of Parliament would authorize them to try me in England for treason, and proceed to execution too, I had no doubt they would go to the extent of their power, and practise upon me all the cruelties of their punishment of treason. My family, consisting of a dearly beloved wife and four young children, excited sentiments of tenderness, which a father and a lover only can conceive, and which no language can express; and my want of qualifications for the office was by no means forgotten.

On the other hand, my country was in deep distress and in great danger. Her dearest interests would be involved in the relations she might form with foreign nations. My own plan of these relations had been deliberately formed and fully communicated to Congress nearly two years before. The confidence of my country was committed to me without my solicitation. My wife, who had always encouraged and animated me in all antecedent dangers and perplexities, did not fail me on this occasion. But she discovered an inclination to bear me company, with all our children. This proposal, however, she was soon convinced, was too hazardous and imprudent.

It was an opinion, generally prevailing in Boston, that the fisheries were lost forever. Mr. Isaac Smith, who had been more largely concerned in the cod-fishery than any man, excepting Mr. Hooper and Mr. Lee of Marblehead, had spoken to me on the subject, and said that whatever should be the termination of the war, he knew we should never be allowed to fish again upon the Banks. My practice as a barrister, in the counties of Essex, Plymouth, and Barnstable, had introduced me to more knowledge, both of the cod and whale fisheries, and of their importance, both to the commerce and naval power of this country, than any other man possessed who would be sent abroad if I refused; and this consideration had no small weight in producing my determination.

After much agitation of mind, and a thousand reveries unnecessary to be detailed, I resolved to devote my family and my life to the cause, accepted the appointment, and made preparation for the voyage. A longer time than I expected was required to fit and man the frigate. The news of my appointment was whispered about, and General Knox came up to dine with me at Braintree. The design of his visit was, as I soon perceived, to sound me in relation to General Washington. He asked me what my opinion of him was. I answered, with the utmost frankness, that I thought him a perfectly honest man, with an amiable and excellent heart, and the most important character at that time among us; for he was the centre of our Union. He asked the question, he said, because, as I was going to Europe, it was of importance that the General’s character should be supported in other countries. I replied, that he might be perfectly at his ease on the subject, for he might depend upon it, that, both from principle and affection, public and private, I should do my utmost to support his character, at all times and in all places, unless something should happen very greatly to alter my opinion of him; and this I have done from that time to this. I mention this incident, because that insolent blasphemer of things sacred, and transcendent libeller of all that is good, Tom Paine, has more than once asserted in print that I was one of a faction, in the fall of the year 1777, against General Washington.1

I was almost out of patience waiting for the frigate till the thirteenth day of February, 1778.

[1 ]From the records of the town of Braintree, it appears that in the year 1775, Mr. Adams was again elected one of the Selectmen.

His name is also found upon the town committees raised this year to prepare a non-importation agreement, and to procure enlistments of minute men, and as associated with the committees of correspondence and observation.

[* ]See the Journals of Congress for 1775, p. 238. Wednesday, November 8th, 1775, and the note. (Also the Secret Journals since printed, vol. 1. pp. 26. 33.)

[† ]See Journals of Congress for the year 1775, pp. 272, 273.

[* ]See the Journals, vol. ii. pp. 24, 25.

[* ]8th of March, 1805.

[1 ]An interesting letter of Mr. Jay, in reply to one by Mr. Adams on this subject, is found in the Life of John Jay, by his son William Jay, vol. ii. pp. 380-384.

[* ]Vol. ii. page 209, of the Journals.

[† ]See the Journals.

[1 ]A slight idea of the character of this discussion is given in the notes of debates in this Congress, vol. ii. page 463. Governor Ward of Rhode Island in his letters to his brother, alludes to the obstacles interposed to the adoption of the resolution. Gammell’s Life of Ward, in Sparks’s American Biography, vol. xix. p. 316.

[1 ]See, for the rest of these resolutions, Journals of Congress, first edition, vol. i. pp. 259-261.

[* ]These regulations are to be found in pages 262-271 of the Journals of Congress for 1775; they are too long to transcribe.

[* ]Journals of Congress, p. 112.

[1 ]In the first part of Almon’s Remembrancer, for the year 1776, is an article purporting to be the “Fragment of a Speech made in the General Congress of America, by one of the Delegates, in 1775.” By whom this was furnished, or whence obtained, does not appear. Mr. Austin, in his Life of Gerry, inserts it in a note to page 188, vol. i., with the intimation of his belief that it was made by John Adams. If genuine, the ownership probably lies between him, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, and Edward Rutledge, as there were no other eloquent men on that side of the question in this Congress. The difficulties are, that it has too much rhetoric for Mr. Adams, too much learning for Patrick Henry, and too much vigor for R. H. Lee, whilst its political tone is too high for Rutledge. With these comments, the reader will be left to form his own opinion from the perusal.

“FRAGMENT OF A SPEECH MADE IN THE GENERAL CONGRESS OF AMERICA, BY ONE OF THE DELEGATES IN 1775.

“The great God, sir, who is the searcher of all things, will witness for me, that I have spoken to you from the bottom and purity of my heart. We have heard that this is an arduous consideration. And surely, sir, we have considered it earnestly. I may think of every gentleman here, as I know of myself, that, for seven years past, this question has filled the day with anxious thought, and the night with care. The God to whom we appeal must judge us. If the grievances, of which we complain, did not come upon us unprovoked and unexpected, when our hearts were filled with respectful affection for our parent state, and with loyalty to our King, let slavery, the worst of human ills, be our portion. Nothing less than seven years of insulted complaints and reiterated wrongs could have shaken such rooted sentiments. Unhappily for us, submission and slavery are the same; and we have only the melancholy alternative left—of ruin or resistance.“The last petition* of this Congress to the King contained all that our unhappy situation could suggest. It represented our grievances, implored redress, and professed our readiness to contribute for the general want, to the utmost of our abilities, when constitutionally required.“The apparently gracious reception it met with, promised us a due consideration of it, and that consideration relief. But, alas! sir, it seems at that moment the very reverse was intended. For it now appears, that in a very few days after this specious answer to our agents, a circular letter was privately written by the same Secretary of State to the Governors of the Colonies, before Parliament had been consulted, pronouncing the Congress illegal, our grievances pretended, and vainly commanding them to prevent our meeting again. Perhaps, sir, the ministers of a great nation never before committed an act of such narrow policy and treacherous duplicity. They found Parliament, however, prepared to support every one of their measures.“I forbear, sir, entering into a detail of those acts, which, from their atrociousness, must be felt and remembered forever. They are calculated to carry fire and sword, famine and desolation, through these flourishing Colonies. They ‘cry, Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.’ The extremes of rage and revenge, against the worst of enemies, could not dictate measures more desperate and destructive.“There are some people who tremble at the approach of war. They fear that it must put an inevitable stop to the further progress of these Colonies, and ruin irretrievably those benefits which the industry of centuries has called forth from this once savage land. I may commend the anxiety of these men, without praising their judgment.“War, like other evils, is often wholesome. The waters that stagnate, corrupt. The storm that works the ocean into rage, renders it salutary. Heaven has given us nothing unmixed. The rose is not without the thorn. War calls forth the great virtues and efforts which would sleep in the gentle bosom of peace.

  • Paulúm sepuliæ distat mettæ
  • Celata virtus.’

It opens resources which would be concealed under the inactivity of tranquil times. It rouses and enlightens. It produces a people of animation, energy, adventure, and greatness. Let us consult history. Did not the Grecian republics prosper amid continual warfare? Their prosperity, their power, their splendor, grew from the all-animating spirit of war. Did not the cottages of shepherds rise into imperial Rome, the mistress of the world, the nurse of heroes, the delight of gods! through the invigorating operation of unceasing wars?

  • Per damna, per cædes, ab ipso
  • Ducit opes animumque terro

How often has Flanders been the theatre of contending powers, conflicting hosts, and blood! Yet what country is more flourishing and fertile? Trace back the history of our parent state. Whether you view her arraying Angles against Danes; Danes against Saxons; Saxons against Normans; the Barons against the usurping Princes, or the civil wars of the red and white roses, or that between the people and the tyrant Stuart, you see her in a state of almost continual warfare. In almost every reign, to the commencement of that of Henry VII., her peaceful bosom (in her poet’s phrase) was gored with iron war. It was in the peaceful reigns of Henry VII., Henry VIII., and Charles II., that she suffered the severest extremities of tyranny and oppression. But, amid her civil contentions, she flourished and grew strong. Trained in them, she sent her hardy legions forth, which planted the standard of England upon the battlements of Paris, extending her commerce and her dominion.

  • ‘Those noble English, who could entertain
  • With half their topics the fuel power of France,
  • And let another half stand laughing by,
  • All out of work, and cold for action

“The beautiful fabric of her constitutional liberty was reared and cemented in blood. From this fulness of her strength those scions issued, which, taking deep root in this delightful land, have reared their heads and spread abroad their branches like the cedars of Lebanon.“Why fear we then to pursue, through apparent evil, real good? The war, upon which we are to enter, is just and necessary. ‘Justum est bellum, ubi necessarium; et pia arma, quibus nulla, nisi in armis, relinquitur spes.’ It is to protect these regions, brought to such beauty through the infinite toil and hazard of our fathers and ourselves, from becoming the prey of that more desolating, cruel spoiler than war, pestilence, or famine—absolute rule and endless extortion.“Our sufferings have been great, our endurance long. Every effort of patience, complaint, and supplication, has been exhausted. They seem only to have hardened the hearts of the ministers who oppress us, and double our distresses. Let us, therefore, consult only how we shall defend our liberties with dignity and success. Our parent state will then think us worthy of her, when she sees that with her liberty we inherit her rigid resolution of maintaining it against all invaders. Let us give her reason to pride herself in the relationship.

  • “And thou, great Liberty! inspire our souls.
  • Make our lives happy in thy pure embrace
  • Or our deaths glorious in thy just defence!”

 

[1 ]The following singularly worded letter is found among Mr. Adams’s papers. The difficulty in assigning the authority under which the Council could act is obvious, and is evaded in the way recommended by the resolve of Congress. See p. 16-17.

Council Chamber, Watertown, October28, 1775.

Sir:—

I am directed by the major part of the Council of this Colony, to acquaint you that by virtue of the power and authority in and by the royal charter, in the absence of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, lodged in them, they have seen fit to appoint you, with the advice and consent of Council, to be first or Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature, &c., for this Colony.

The inclosed is a list of your brethren of the Bench, who are to hold their seats in the order therein arranged. I am further directed to request your Honor to signify to the Board, in writing, your acceptance of, or refusal of, said appointment, as soon as may be.In the name and by order of the Council.

Perez Morton,Deputy Secretary. Hon. John Adams, Esq. List Inclosed.Hon. John Adams, Esq. William Cushing, Esq. Hon. William Read, Esq. Robert Treat Paine, Esq. Nathaniel Sargent, Esq.The answer to this letter is now in the Archives of the State, in the State House, in Boston. Though belonging to another portion of this work, it may, from its connection with the personal history of the writer, properly find a place here.

John Adams to Perez Morton, Deputy Secretary, to be communicated to the Honorable Board.

Philadelphia, 24 November, 1775.

I had the honor of receiving your letter of the twenty-eighth of October last, by Mr. Revere, in which you acquaint me that the major part of the Honorable Council, by virtue of the power and authority, in and by the Royal Charter of the Massachusetts Bay, in the absence of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, lodged in them, have seen fit to appoint me, with the advice and consent of Council, to be a Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature, &c. for that Colony, inclosing a list of the Honorable gentlemen, who are to hold seats on the same bench, and requesting me to signify in writing my acceptance or refusal of said appointment as soon as might be.I am deeply penetrated, sir, with a sense of the high importance of that office, at all times difficult, but under those distresses in which our country is involved, exposed to greater hazard and embarrassments than were ever known in the history of former times.As I have ever considered the confidence of the public the more honorable in proportion to the perplexity and danger of the times, so I cannot but esteem this distinguished mark of the approbation of the Honorable Board, as a greater obligation, than if it had been bestowed at a season of greater ease and security; whatever discouraging circumstances, therefore, may attend me in point of health, of fortune or experience, I dare not refuse to undertake this duty.Be pleased then to acquaint the Honorable Board, that as soon as the circumstances of the Colonies will admit an adjournment of the Congress, I shall return to the Honorable Board, and undertake to the utmost of my ability, to discharge the momentous duties to which they have seen fit to appoint me.

Although I am happy to see a list of gentlemen appointed to the Bench, of whose abilities and virtues I have the highest esteem, and with whom I have long lived in friendship, yet the rank in which it has pleased the Honorable Board to place me, perplexes me more than any other circumstance; but as I ought to presume that this was done upon the best reasons, I must submit my private opinion to the judgment of that Honorable body, in whose department it is to determine.

With the most devout wishes for the peace and prosperity of the Colonies, and of the Massachusetts Bay in particular, and with the greatest respect to the Honorable Board,

I am, Sir, Your most obedient, humble servant.

John Adams.Although Mr. Adams accepted this post, he never took his seat on the bench. In order to complete the history of this transaction, the following letter of resignation is here subjoined.

To the Honorable, the Council of the State of Massachusetts Bay.

Baltimore,10 February, 1777.

May it please your Honors:—

I find myself under a necessity of resigning my appointment to a seat in the Superior Court; and I do accordingly hereby resign it, and request that some other gentleman may be forthwith appointed to that most honorable station.

I am your Honors’ Most obliged and obedient humble servant,

John Adams.Appended to this letter in the copy book is this note:

10 February. Informed Portia [his wife] of the above resignation, and that I was determined, whilst I was ruining my constitution, both of mind and body, and running daily risks of my life and fortune in defence of the independence of my country, I would not knowingly resign my own.

[1 ]“The thought of independence had not yet become at all palatable in Maryland” The instruction is inserted in full in the Life of Thomas Stone, in Sanderson’s Biography. Much of it appears to be distinctly levelled at the three great measures advocated by Mr. Adams in Congress. The passage alluded to in the text is in these words:

“And we further instruct you to move for, and endeavor to obtain a resolve of Congress, that no person who holds any military command in the continental, or any provincial regular forces, or marine service, nor any person who holds or enjoys any office of profit under the Continental Congress, or under any government assumed since the present controversy with Great Britain began, or which shall hereafter be assumed, or who directly or indirectly receives the profits, or any part of the profits of such command or office, shall, during the time of his holding or receiving the same, be eligible to sit in Congress.”

[2 ]This interesting letter will be found in the correspondence, under date of 14 June, 1775, in another volume. The name of the mover of the resolution is not given, though it is said that he was a colleague of Mr. Chase. The delegates from Maryland at this time, were Matthew Tilghman. Thomas Johnson, Robert Goldsborough, William Paca, Samuel Chase, John Hall, Robert Alexander, and John Rogers.

[* ]First Edition, Vol. ii. pp. 67, 68.

[1 ]As it is more than once intimated in this record that Charles Thomson was some what biased in his action as secretary by his connection with Mr. Dickinson, it is fair to give his own explanation:—

“I was married to my second wife on a Thursday; on the next Monday, I came to town to pay my respects to my wife’s aunt and the family. Just as I alighted in Chestnut Street, the door-keeper of Congress (then first met) accosted me with a message from them, requesting my presence. Surprised at this, and not able to divine why I was wanted, I however bade my servant put up the horses, and followed the messenger myself to the Carpenter’s Hall, and entered Congress. Here was indeed an august assembly, and deep thought and solemn anxiety were observable on their countenances! I walked up the aisle, and standing opposite to the President I bowed, and told him I awaited his pleasure. He replied, ‘Congress desire the favor of you, sir, to take their minutes.’ I bowed in acquiescence, and took my seat at the desk. After a short silence, Patrick Henry arose to speak. I did not then know him; he was dressed in a suit of parson’s gray, and from his appearance I took him for a Presbyterian clergyman, used to haranguing the people. He observed, that we were here met in a time and on an occasion of great difficulty and distress; that our public circumstances were like those of a man in deep embarrassment and trouble, who had called his friends together to devise what was best to be done for his relief:—one would propose one thing, and another a different one, whilst perhaps a third would think of something better suited to his unhappy circumstances, which he would embrace, and think no more of the rejected schemes with which he would have nothing to do. ‘I thought,’ continued the venerable narrator, ‘that this was very good instruction to me, with respect to the taking the minutes. What Congress adopted, I committed to writing; with what they rejected, I had nothing farther to do; and even this method led to some squabbles with the members who were desirous of having their speeches and resolutions, however put to rest by the majority, still preserved upon the minutes.’ ” American Quarterly Review, vol. i. p. 30.

[1 ]It is rather singular that Mr. Jefferson should have ascribed, even though in vague language, to Patrick Henry, a young man, not of the aristocracy, and just upon the threshold of public life, the origination of this bold measure. See Wirt’s Life of Henry, p. 52. Mr. Lee, though also young at the time, had been for several years in the House of Burgesses, and naturally acted with more confidence, from knowing himself to be sustained by a strong and extensive family connection. His grandson and biographer states the facts almost exactly as they are given by Mr. Wythe in the text; and he further asserts, that among the manuscripts to which he had access is a letter from a gentleman of a distant county to Mr. Lee, thanking him for the part he had taken in the matter. Life and Correspondence of R. H. Lee, vol. i. p. 23. Yet it is not unlikely that Mr. Henry should have supported the motion, after it had been made by Mr. Lee. Mr. Jefferson’s inclination to disparage the Lees is obvious enough in his writings.

[2 ]The particulars of this agency of Lord Drummond are to be found in the Appendix No. XIII. to the third volume of the writings of Washington. It would seem from his letter that he had been busy among the members of Congress, at Philadelphia, as early as the beginning of January.

[1 ]These resolutions are inserted in the report of the Debates. See vol. ii. p. 486.

[1 ]For the rest of these resolutions, see Journals of Congress, vol. ii. pp. 107, 108.

[1 ]This letter is printed, together with a private letter addressed by Mr. Adams to General Washington at the same time, in the Appendix, No. xiv. to the third volume of Mr. Sparks’s edition of the Washington Papers.

[* ]See the Journal.

[1 ]The curious reader will find a corroboration of these views in the strong letters of Elbridge Gerry written to his friends at home. Austin’s Life of Gerry, vol. i. pp. 176-181.

[1 ]General Wooster’s defect was his age. He gave what remained of his natural life to his country, in the action at Danbury, in 1777. Few of the brave officers in the French war sustained their reputation in the revolutionary struggle. The same remark may be made of the revolutionary officers engaged in the war of 1812.

[2 ]This is a mistake. Marshall refers to the final resolutions of the seventh of June.

[1 ]The decisive effect of this measure is well described in Mr. Reed’s Life of Joseph Reed, vol. i. pp. 185-7. Pennsylvania was the battle ground of the movement at this time. The timidity even of the friends of independence is remarkably developed in the letters of Mr. Reed himself, and of Robert Morris. pp. 199-202. It seems that even Patrick Henry was staggering.

[1 ]See Notes of Debates. Mr. Duane’s Speech, vol. ii. pp. 488-9.

[1 ]Mr. Graydon’s experience of recruiting in Pennsylvania, is given in his Memoirs, Littel’s edition, pp. 135-137.

[* ]The resolutions reported and adopted may be seen on the Journal.

[1 ]See for the names of this board, of which Mr. Adams was chairman, page 6.

[1 ]For the remainder, see Journals for 1776, p. 209.

[1 ]The following letter, first published in Gordon’s History, without the name of the person to whom it was addressed, is not without interest in this connection. A fac similewill be found in this volume.

SAMUEL CHASE TO JOHN ADAMS.

Annapolis,28 June, 1776. Friday Eve, 9 o’clock.

Dear Sir:—

I thank you for your two letters of the 17th and 24th instant. They were handed to me in Convention.

I shall offer no other apology for concluding, than that I am this moment from the House, to procure an express to follow the post, with a unanimous vote of our Convention for independence,&c. &c. See the glorious effects of county instructions. Our people have fire if not smothered. Poor General Thompson!I charge you to write to me. Now for a government.

Jubeo te bene valere. Adieu. Your friend,

S. Chase.

[1 ]This must be a mistake. No trace of it has been found.

[2 ]Mr. Sedgwick, in his Memoir of the Life of William Livingston, relies upon a passage in Samuel Adams’s letter to R. H. Lee, printed in the Memoir of R. H. Lee, vol. i. p. 183, to prove that the new delegates from New Jersey did not arrive until after the Declaration was signed, but that they were allowed to affix their names to it. The language of his authority is certainly equivocal enough to justify his interpretation. Yet, on the other hand, nothing is better established in history than the fact that those delegates arrived in season to hear the conclusion of the debate, and were present to vote upon the final question.

Mr. Adams was in constant communication with the leading men who were pushing for independence in the Middle States, where the cause was weakest. Mr. Chase’s note of triumph has already been given, but Mr. Adams had received the following equally cheering lines, thirteen days earlier, from one of the most active friends of the measure in New Jersey.

Burlington,15 June, 1776.

Dear Sir:—

Jacta est alea. We are passing the Rubicon, and our delegates in Congress, on the first of July, will vote plump. The bearer is a staunch Whig, and will answer any questions you may need to ask. I have been very busy here, and have stolen a minute from business to write this.

In haste, yours,

Jona. D. Sergeant.

For a long time the struggle between the friends and the opponents of decided measures had been severe in New Jersey. The scale is said to have been at last turned, in the Provincial Congress, by the information received of Governor Tryon’s plot against Washington, in New York; but, from a comparison of dates, it is clear that this event could only have come in, to complete what was already determined on. The new delegates were elected a week after the date of Mr. Sergeant’s note, and nearly a week later, that is, on the 28th of June, the Journals of Congress show that Mr. Francis Hopkinson, one of the number, attended and produced the credentials of the whole. He was immediately placed upon the committee for preparing a plan of confederation.The instructions given to the new members were not however, peremptory, in respect to their action in favor of a declaration of independence. Power was given them to join with the delegates of the other Colonies in that act, if they should judge it necessary or expedient to the support of the just rights and liberties of America. In the Life of Richard Stockton, in Sanderson’s Collection, it is said that he was so far doubtful that his mind was not absolutely made up until after he had heard Mr. Adams. This corroborates the statement of the text. But, in addition, there is a letter written many years afterwards by his son, the late Richard Stockton, to Mr. Adams, which contains the following voluntary tribute of reminiscence. It is dated in 1821, and says,—

“I well remember that on my father’s first return home from Congress, in the summer of 1776, after the fourth of July, he was immediately surrounded by his anxious political friends, who were eager for minute information in respect of the great event which had just taken place. Being then a boy of some observation, and of very retentive memory, I remember these words, addressed to his friends. ‘The man to whom the country is most indebted for the great measure of independence is Mr. John Adams, of Boston. I call him the Atlas of American independence. He it was who sustained the debate, and by the force of his reasoning demonstrated not only the justice, but the expediency, of the measure.’ This I have often spoken of to others, and distinctly remember the very language which he used.”

George Walton, a delegate from Georgia, in a letter dated the seventh of November, 1789, fixes the day upon which the greatest impression was made upon his mind by Mr. Adams in the debate. He says,—

“I can truly assure you that since the first day of July, 1776, my conduct in every station in life has corresponded with the result of that great question which you so ably and faithfully developed on that day—a scene which has ever been present to my mind. It was then that I felt the strongest attachments, and they have never departed from me.”

The strength of the resistance made to the declaration at this time is now very little understood. It gained ground through the temporizing spirit of that large class who in times of political contention are by temperament averse to a final measure, though often willing to favor an intermediate step tending the same way. Of this class a very large number were found in the States of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, including many of their most distinguished men. They had formed a party in the very first Congress of 1774, which continued to act with great force until dispersed by the decisive measure of independence. The speakers were almost all of that side. Among them Mr. Jefferson enumerates Dickinson, Wilson, R. R. Livingston, and E. Rutledge, whilst on the other side he mentions only R. H. Lee, who was called home on the tenth of June, Wythe, and John Adams. From this it is tolerably plain how large a share of the active support of the measure must have fallen on the last named.

Mr. Jefferson’s testimony at a later day is emphatic on this point. In a letter addressed in February, 1813, to Mr. W. P. Gardner, a gentleman at Washington, who was then meditating the publication of an ornamented copy of the Declaration of Independence, he says,—

“No man better merited than Mr. John Adams to hold a most conspicuous place in the design. He was the pillar of its support on the floor of Congress, its ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious assaults it encountered; for many excellent persons opposed it on doubts, whether we were provided sufficiently with the means of supporting it, whether the minds of our constituents were yet prepared to receive it, &c., who, after it was decided, united zealously in the measures it called for.”

Governor McKean’s testimony, given to the same gentleman at an earlier period, is to the same effect. Mr. Madison, though not himself present, writes to Mr. G. A. Otis the impressions which he received from those who were. “I well recollect,” he says, “that the reports from Mr. Adams’s fellow laborers in the cause, from Virginia, filled every mouth in that State with the praises due to the comprehensiveness of his views, the force of his arguments, and the boldness of his patriotism.”

This fact respecting Mr. Adams being abundantly established, it would seem superfluous to dwell upon it, were it not for the equally certain fact that up to a comparatively late period, most if not all of those who have undertaken to write concerning the Revolution, either overlooked or misrepresented it. The Italian, Botta, though generally well informed, so far as researches made in Europe could avail, and under no temptation to pervert the facts, was so misguided by his authorities as to present Richard Henry Lee, because the mover of the first proposition, as the type of the whole argument for independence. But, if Mr. Jefferson’s evidence be trusted, Mr. Lee, though a zealous, was a florid and verbose, rather than a strong speaker; and his exertions, undoubtedly of great value when those of all were needed, were suspended, three days after the presentation of his resolution, by his departure for Virginia. Singularly enough, Botta, after this mistake, falls into another, more remarkable, as it involves something of an anachronism. He represents John Dickinson, as addressing himself, not to the Continental Congress, in which he did speak, but to the revolutionary convention of Pennsylvania, an organization by no means then completed, which had been resorted to by the popular party as the only means of stemming the resistance instigated by him in the Assembly of the Province, and one, the validity of which he would have been slow to recognize. The convention did ultimately throw him and some of his associates out, and bring in another set, whose names appear attached to the declaration. But it is very certain that this did not happen, as Botta states, before the fourth of July, neither was it the cause of the change in the votes of the delegation favorable to independence; for the new members were not elected until the 20th, nearly three weeks afterwards. See p. 61. Mr. Dickinson, with three more out of seven old delegates of Pennsylvania, voted in committee of the whole, against independence on the first instant. On the second, he and Mr. Robert Morris absented themselves, which reversed the condition of parties and determined the favorable vote of the State.

This is not the place to treat of the causes which led to the mode of writing American history in the early part of the present century. No more striking instance of the effect, however, can be adduced, than Mr. Wirt’s Life of Patrick Henry, a book which tacitly assumes for Virginia and Virginians the origin of the Revolution. At the time of writing. Mr. Wirt was comparatively a young man, fully imbued with the prejudices of his favorite State. His biographer, Mr. Kennedy, has given the evidence both of the extent to which he carried his horror of New England at one time, and of the frank manner in which he confessed his error at a later period. To Mr. Adams’s remonstrances, firmly but gently made, it was owing, in a great degree, that the public mind did not completely imbibe the impressions which the Life of Henry was calculated to give.

It was the moment of this publication that another Virginian, who had been active in political hostility to Mr. Adams through the violent scenes of his Presidency, the mover of the celebrated “resolutions of ’98,” selected to place his voluntary testimony on record in his hands. Perhaps his opinion of Patrick Henry may have been somewhat influenced by what he regarded as the excessive eulogy of Mr. Wirt. Of this, impartial posterity will judge, with whom it rests to make up its calmest judgment from the comparison of conflicting testimony. The following is the letter.

JOHN TAYLOR, OF CAROLINE, TO JOHN ADAMS.

Virginia, Port Royal,20 February, 1819.

“Respectable Sir:—

Permit me to express my concurrence with your remarks in relation to Mr. Wirt’s History of Mr. Henry. I was old enough to serve often in our Legislature with this gentleman, to know him and many other patriots of the Revolution personally, and to take a deep interest in its progress from beginning to end; and although Mr. Henry possessed very popular talents as an orator, yet I know that he had but little celebrity as a statesman, and none as a soldier or a writer. He had certainly some merit as a revolutionary patriot, but I sincerely believe that its efficiency in promoting that event was not one tenth part of that resulting from the efforts of many other gentlemen, among whom I cordially and conscientiously class yourself, as an offering to justice, and in some degree (should this letter reach future times) to supply your forbearance to vindicate your own claim.

“This testimony is, I confess, from a source too inconsiderable to be very important; but as it comes from a contemporary witness, who has subsequently differed from you in several political opinions, its integrity may perhaps give it some weight.

“I am, with great respect, sir, “Your most obedient servant,

“John Taylor.”It would be a curious subject of inquiry to consider what might have been the result of the mission of Lord Howe, and the disastrous campaign of 1776-7, had the Rubicon not been crossed on the Fourth of July.

[* ]See the Resolutions in the Journal.

[* ]See their names in the Journal. Among them are those of Franklin, Clymer, Morris, Wilson, and Rush.

[1 ]Mr. Cooper seems to justify Hopkins. History of the Navy, vol. i. p. 107.

[1 ]This is a mistake. The record does contain the motions, the yeas and nays, and the alterations proposed; but it was kept secret until the publication of the Secret Journals, ordered by Congress, in 1820.

[1 ]The following reminiscence of one of the scenes that took place, is taken from a letter of Mr. Henry Marchant, a delegate of Rhode Island, written to Mr. Adams, in 1789, just as the new constitution was going into operation:—

“You wish me to give you a particular account of the prophetic declaration made on the floor of Congress, just as the former confederation was concluded.

“When my friend has all his feelings wound up upon an important subject, and vent must be given, he has a manner of expression so peculiar to himself, and so striking to the hearers, that the impression, as from a stroke of lightning, is left behind, while the flash and sound, the mode of expression, is lost or forgotten. His words I will not engage to recollect with exactness.

“The articles of confederation being completed, the members by rotation were called to place their signatures to them. This being concluded, a pause and perfect calm succeeded. He sat and appeared full of thought. He rose. ‘Mr. President.’ His cane slipped through his thumb and forefinger, with a quick tap upon the floor; his eyes rolled upwards, his brows were raised to their full arch.

“ ‘This business, sir, that has taken up so much of our time seems to be finished. But, sir, I now, upon this floor, venture to predict that, before ten years, this confederation, like a rope of sand, will be found inadequate to the purpose, and its dissolution will take place. Heaven grant that wisdom and experience may then avert what we have most to fear!’

“I never knew a greater solemnity upon the minds of the members. It was near the usual time of adjournment. Congress was adjourned.”

Mr. Adams, in his reply, makes some correction.

“Your account of the prophecy is humorous enough, but you must be mistaken in the point of time. I left Congress on the 11th of November, 1777, that year which the Tories said, had three gallowses in it, meaning the three sevens, just as Congress had gone through the confederation, but before it was signed. My name is not to that confederation; so that the prediction must have been uttered either at Yorktown, a day or two before I left it, or before, at Philadelphia.

“I recollect some expressions of that sort, on the floor of Congress, in Philadelphia, immediately after the determination that the votes should be by States, and not by numbers, a point which Wilson and I labored with great zeal. After that determination and some others, I own I gave up that confederation in despair of its efficacy or long utility.”

The decisive vote, to which Mr. Adams alludes, was upon the following motion:

“That each State shall have a right to send one delegate to Congress for every thirty thousand of its inhabitants; and, in determining questions in Congress, each delegate shall have one vote.”

In favor of this motion, but seven ayes are recorded. That of John Adams, from Massachusetts, the four Virginia delegates, Messrs. Harrison, Jones, F. L. and R. H. Lee, Mr. Penn, of North Carolina, and Mr. Middleton, of South Carolina, made up the number.

At this day, there can be little doubt that, even if the confederation could have survived its other defects, the rejection of the principle contained in this proposition sealed its fate.

[* ]Which see in the Journal.

[1 ]Mr. Adams’s name had already been inserted in a bill of attainder commenced in one house of Parliament. Tucker’s Life of T. Jefferson, vol. i. p. 61, note.

[1 ]The letters are inserted, under the proper dates, in the General Correspondence.

[* ]See the Journal.

[* ]The resolutions, which may be seen in the Journal, contain the whole plan of an army of eighty-eight battalions, to be enlisted as soon as possible, to serve during the war.

[1 ]The Secret Journal was published in 1820, but it gives little clue to individual action. The draught of the treaties is stated in a former volume to have been made by Mr. Adams. See vol. ii. p. 516. The only other instance in which his name appears, is as one of the committee appointed on the 26th of September to prepare a draught of letters of credence to the commissioners, and to report the ways and means of providing for their subsistence.

[* ]The 7th of June, 1805.

[† ]Which may be seen, pages 357, 358, of the Journal of 1776.

[1 ]Since published by order of Congress.

[‡ ]These resolutions fill two pages of the Journal.

[1 ]Mr. W. B. Reed, in his valuable life of his grandfather, has endeavored to do away the impression of the time, as recorded by Gordon in his History, that his grandfather, when acting as Adjutant-General, was deeply imbued with the prevailing prejudices against the New England troops. Possibly this might in his case have been exaggerated, although it must be conceded that the weight of evidence lies the other way. It would be surprising if Mr. Reed should have been an exception to a feeling almost universal among the officers out of New England. Mr. Graydon has stated the case with fairness in his Memoirs. It had very much to do with the hostility to General Schuyler among the New England troops, a circumstance which seems to have been unnecessarily puzzling to some writers upon American affairs.

This matter merits a closer analysis than it has met with. In speaking of the origin of the revolutionary movement in Virginia and Pennsylvania, Mr. Wirt and Mr. Graydon alike trace it to the more favored and wealthy classes of society. Such was not the case in New England. The persons of considerable property who entered into it are so few that they can readily be counted. Mr. Adams’s Diary and the catalogue of the graduates at Harvard college sufficiently show how many of that class in Massachusetts, a community remarkable at that time for the equalization of property, refused to join it, and became exiles in consequence. Probably the social system of New England more nearly approximated theoretical democracy in 1776, than that of any other Colony then did, or than it has ever itself done since. The effect was visible in the military organization around Boston, which was that of an armed community, and not of what is understood in a military sense to be an army. The relation between officers and privates was one inspired by preference and not by authority. Of course the prevailing ideas of discipline were very different from those acquired by men coming to them as officers from an opposite condition of society. It is only a right conception of this state of things that can fully illustrate at once the fitness of Washington’s appointment to command the army before Boston, and the peculiarities of his character which enabled him, in so delicate a position, to acquit himself with so much honor.

It is the province of the historian to show the influence which the prejudices imbibed in the army against the New England troops in 1776, have had upon subsequent events.

[1 ]By the Diary, the 13th. See vol. ii. p. 432.

[1 ]This assertion has found higher authority than Paine. In the army, the impression that it was true, so far prevailed, that General Lafayette seems to have caught it at the time and retained it all his life. In the publication of his papers, made by his family, in 1837, is the following statement:—

“Gates étoit à Yorktown, où il en imposait par son ton, ses promesses, et ses connoissanees Européennes. Parmi les députés qui s’unirent à lui, on distingue les Lees, Virginiens, ennemis de Washington, et les deux Adams.Mémoires de ma main.By reference to the Diary, it appears that Mr. John Adams left Congress, at Yorktown, on the 11th of November, never to return. At that time General Gates was still in the North, having barely got through with the capitulation of Burgoyne. Congress received the news of that great event through his aid-de-camp, Colonel Wilkinson, on the 3d of November, five days before leave of absence was granted to Mr. Adams, and eight days before he departed. It only remains to remark, that the importance of General Gates, as a rival of Washington, arose after, and in consequence of, his success in the North.

[1 ]In the first part of Almon’s Remembrancer, for the year 1776, is an article purporting to be the “Fragment of a Speech made in the General Congress of America, by one of the Delegates, in 1775.” By whom this was furnished, or whence obtained, does not appear. Mr. Austin, in his Life of Gerry, inserts it in a note to page 188, vol. i., with the intimation of his belief that it was made by John Adams. If genuine, the ownership probably lies between him, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, and Edward Rutledge, as there were no other eloquent men on that side of the question in this Congress. The difficulties are, that it has too much rhetoric for Mr. Adams, too much learning for Patrick Henry, and too much vigor for R. H. Lee, whilst its political tone is too high for Rutledge. With these comments, the reader will be left to form his own opinion from the perusal.

“FRAGMENT OF A SPEECH MADE IN THE GENERAL CONGRESS OF AMERICA, BY ONE OF THE DELEGATES IN 1775.

“The great God, sir, who is the searcher of all things, will witness for me, that I have spoken to you from the bottom and purity of my heart. We have heard that this is an arduous consideration. And surely, sir, we have considered it earnestly. I may think of every gentleman here, as I know of myself, that, for seven years past, this question has filled the day with anxious thought, and the night with care. The God to whom we appeal must judge us. If the grievances, of which we complain, did not come upon us unprovoked and unexpected, when our hearts were filled with respectful affection for our parent state, and with loyalty to our King, let slavery, the worst of human ills, be our portion. Nothing less than seven years of insulted complaints and reiterated wrongs could have shaken such rooted sentiments. Unhappily for us, submission and slavery are the same; and we have only the melancholy alternative left—of ruin or resistance.“The last petition* of this Congress to the King contained all that our unhappy situation could suggest. It represented our grievances, implored redress, and professed our readiness to contribute for the general want, to the utmost of our abilities, when constitutionally required.“The apparently gracious reception it met with, promised us a due consideration of it, and that consideration relief. But, alas! sir, it seems at that moment the very reverse was intended. For it now appears, that in a very few days after this specious answer to our agents, a circular letter was privately written by the same Secretary of State to the Governors of the Colonies, before Parliament had been consulted, pronouncing the Congress illegal, our grievances pretended, and vainly commanding them to prevent our meeting again. Perhaps, sir, the ministers of a great nation never before committed an act of such narrow policy and treacherous duplicity. They found Parliament, however, prepared to support every one of their measures.“I forbear, sir, entering into a detail of those acts, which, from their atrociousness, must be felt and remembered forever. They are calculated to carry fire and sword, famine and desolation, through these flourishing Colonies. They ‘cry, Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.’ The extremes of rage and revenge, against the worst of enemies, could not dictate measures more desperate and destructive.“There are some people who tremble at the approach of war. They fear that it must put an inevitable stop to the further progress of these Colonies, and ruin irretrievably those benefits which the industry of centuries has called forth from this once savage land. I may commend the anxiety of these men, without praising their judgment.“War, like other evils, is often wholesome. The waters that stagnate, corrupt. The storm that works the ocean into rage, renders it salutary. Heaven has given us nothing unmixed. The rose is not without the thorn. War calls forth the great virtues and efforts which would sleep in the gentle bosom of peace.

  • Paulúm sepuliæ distat mettæ
  • Celata virtus.’

It opens resources which would be concealed under the inactivity of tranquil times. It rouses and enlightens. It produces a people of animation, energy, adventure, and greatness. Let us consult history. Did not the Grecian republics prosper amid continual warfare? Their prosperity, their power, their splendor, grew from the all-animating spirit of war. Did not the cottages of shepherds rise into imperial Rome, the mistress of the world, the nurse of heroes, the delight of gods! through the invigorating operation of unceasing wars?

  • Per damna, per cædes, ab ipso
  • Ducit opes animumque terro

How often has Flanders been the theatre of contending powers, conflicting hosts, and blood! Yet what country is more flourishing and fertile? Trace back the history of our parent state. Whether you view her arraying Angles against Danes; Danes against Saxons; Saxons against Normans; the Barons against the usurping Princes, or the civil wars of the red and white roses, or that between the people and the tyrant Stuart, you see her in a state of almost continual warfare. In almost every reign, to the commencement of that of Henry VII., her peaceful bosom (in her poet’s phrase) was gored with iron war. It was in the peaceful reigns of Henry VII., Henry VIII., and Charles II., that she suffered the severest extremities of tyranny and oppression. But, amid her civil contentions, she flourished and grew strong. Trained in them, she sent her hardy legions forth, which planted the standard of England upon the battlements of Paris, extending her commerce and her dominion.

  • ‘Those noble English, who could entertain
  • With half their topics the fuel power of France,
  • And let another half stand laughing by,
  • All out of work, and cold for action

“The beautiful fabric of her constitutional liberty was reared and cemented in blood. From this fulness of her strength those scions issued, which, taking deep root in this delightful land, have reared their heads and spread abroad their branches like the cedars of Lebanon.“Why fear we then to pursue, through apparent evil, real good? The war, upon which we are to enter, is just and necessary. ‘Justum est bellum, ubi necessarium; et pia arma, quibus nulla, nisi in armis, relinquitur spes.’ It is to protect these regions, brought to such beauty through the infinite toil and hazard of our fathers and ourselves, from becoming the prey of that more desolating, cruel spoiler than war, pestilence, or famine—absolute rule and endless extortion.“Our sufferings have been great, our endurance long. Every effort of patience, complaint, and supplication, has been exhausted. They seem only to have hardened the hearts of the ministers who oppress us, and double our distresses. Let us, therefore, consult only how we shall defend our liberties with dignity and success. Our parent state will then think us worthy of her, when she sees that with her liberty we inherit her rigid resolution of maintaining it against all invaders. Let us give her reason to pride herself in the relationship.

  • “And thou, great Liberty! inspire our souls.
  • Make our lives happy in thy pure embrace
  • Or our deaths glorious in thy just defence!”

[* ]In 1774, presented last Christmas.


Editors Note: This is Volume 3 of the 10 Volume “The Works of John Adams”, (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). The author, Charles Henry Adams is John Adams grandson. The copyright for the original text is in the Public Domain because its copyright has expired. The font, and formatting of this version of The Works of John Adams, as well as all other Americanist Library and Founders Corner selections are, unless otherwise specified, Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell.


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