Notes of Debates In the Continental Congress: 1775, 1776



Founders Corner Library: Major Works, John Adams

Edited by Charles Henry Adams

1775 and 1776


All the notes made by Mr. Adams, during these years, have been put together and set apart in the following pages, with the addition of such explanations, by the Editor, as seem necessary to make them readily understood. Whilst the interest attaching to some of the minor questions discussed has passed away, it is believed that what has been preserved, upon such subjects as the state of trade, the authority to institute governments, and the formation of the Articles of Confederation, fragmentary as it is, will not be without its value to those who desire to understand the true history of the Revolution.

The following resolution appears upon the Journal of Congress, for the 23d of September, 1775:—

“Resolved, That a committee be appointed to purchase a quantity of woollen goods, for the use of the army, to the amount of five thousand pounds sterling.

“That the said goods, when bought, be placed in the hands of the Quarter-Masters-General of the Continental armies, and that the same be, by them, sold out to the private soldiers of said armies, at prime cost and charges, including a commission of five per centum, to the said Quarter-Masters-General, for their trouble.

“That the committee consist of five.

“The ballot being taken, and examined, the following members were chosen. Mr. Lewis, Mr. Alsop, Mr. Willing, Mr. Deane, Mr. Langdon.”

Thomas Mifflin had just been appointed, by General Washington, Quarter-Master-General of the army at Cambridge. The debate, which follows, took place upon an application of his, but to whom does not clearly appear, and it terminated in the foregoing resolution.

1775. September 23. Saturday. Samuel Adams moved, upon Mifflin’s letter, that a sum be advanced from the treasury for Mifflin and Barrell.

Mr. E. Rutledge wished the money might be advanced upon the credit of the Quarter-Master-General; wished that an inquiry might be made, whether goods had been advanced. If so, it was against the association. Lynch wished the letter read. S. Adams read it. Jay seconded the motion of E. Rutledge that a committee be appointed to inquire if goods are raised against the association. Gadsden wished the motion put off. We had other matters of more importance. Willing thought that goods might be purchased upon four months’ credit. We should not intermix our accounts.

Paine.

 

We have not agreed to clothe the soldiers, and the Quarter-Master-General has no right to keep a slop-shop, any more than anybody else. It is a private matter; very indigested applications are made here for money.

Deane.

 

The army must be clothed, or perish. No preaching against a snow-storm. We ought to look out that they be kept warm, and that the means of doing it be secured.

Lynch.

 

We must see that the army be provided with clothing. I intended to have moved, this very day, that a committee be appointed to purchase woollen goods in this city and New York for the use of the army. E. Rutledge. I have no objection to the committee. I meant only that the poor soldiers should be supplied with goods and clothing as cheap as possible.

Lewis.

 

Brown, of Boston, bought goods at New York, and sent them up the North River, to be conveyed by land to Cambridge.

Dyer wanted to know whether the soldiers would be obliged to take these goods. Goods cheaper in New York than here.

Sherman.

 

The sutlers, last war, sold to the soldiers, who were not obliged to take any thing. Many will be supplied by families with their own manufacture. The Quarter-Master-General did not apply to Congress, but to his own private correspondents.

Deane.

 

The soldiers were imposed on by sutlers last war; the soldiers had no pay to receive.

Lynch.

 

A soldier without clothing is not fit for service; but he ought to be clothed, as well as armed, and we ought to provide, as well as it can be done, that he may be clothed.

Nelson moved that five thousand pounds sterling be advanced to the Quarter-Master-General, to be laid out in clothing for the army. Langdon hoped a committee would be appointed. Sherman liked Nelson’s motion, with an addition that every soldier should be at liberty to supply himself in any other way.

Read understood that Massachusetts Committee of Supplies had a large store that was very full. Sherman, for a committee to inquire what goods would be wanted for the army, and at what prices they may be had, and report. Gadsden liked that best. Johnson moved that the sum might be limited to five thousand pounds sterling. We don’t know what has been supplied by Massachusetts, what from Rhode Island, what from New York, and what from Connecticut. S. Adams liked Nelson’s motion. Ward objected to it, and preferred the motion for a committee. Nelson. The Quarter-Master is ordered, by the General, to supply the soldiers, &c.

Paine.

 

It is the duty of this Congress to see that the army be supplied with clothing at a reasonable rate. I am for a committee. Quarter-Master has his hands full. Zubly. Would it not be best to publish proposals in the papers for any man who was willing to supply the army with clothing to make his offers?

Harrison.

 

The money ought to be advanced in all events; content with a committee.

R. R. Livingston.

 

. . . Willing proposed that we should desire the committee of this city to inquire after these goods, and this will lead them to an inquiry that will be beneficial to America.

Chase.

 

The city of Philadelphia has broken the association, by raising the price of goods fifty per cent. It would not be proper to purchase goods here. The breach of the association here is general in the price of goods, as it is in New York with respect to tea. If we lay out five thousand pounds here, we shall give a sanction to the breaches of the association; the breach is too general to be punished. Willing. If the association is broken in this city, don’t let us put the burden of examining into it upon a few, but the whole committee. New York have broken it entirely; ninety-nine in a hundred drink tea. I am not for screening the people of Philadelphia.

Sherman.

 

I am not an importer, but have bought of New York merchants, for twenty years, at a certain advance on the sterling cost.

R. R. Livingston thought we ought to buy the goods where they were dearest, because if we bought them at New York, where they were cheapest, New York would soon be obliged to purchase in Philadelphia, where they are dearest, and then the loss would fall upon New York; whereas, in the other way, the loss would be general. Jay. We had best desire the committee of this city to purchase the quantity of goods, at the price stated by the association, and see if they were to be had here at that price.

This debate terminated in a manner that I did not foresee. A committee was appointed to purchase five thousand pounds sterling’s worth of goods, to be sent to the Quarter-Master-General, and by him to be sold to the soldiers at first cost and charges. Quarter-Master to be allowed five per cent. for his trouble.

Mr. Lynch and Colonel Harrison and Colonel Nelson indulged their complaisance and private friendship for Mifflin and Washington, so far as to carry this.

It is almost impossible to move any thing, but you instantly see private friendships and enmities, and provincial views and prejudices, intermingle in the consultation.

1 These are degrees of corruption. They are deviations from the public interest and from rectitude. By this vote, however, perhaps the poor soldiers may be benefited, which was all I wished, the interest of Mr. Mifflin being nothing to me.

 

25. Monday. An uneasiness among some of the members, concerning a contract with Willing and Morris for powder, by which the House, without any risk at all, will make a clear profit of twelve thousand pounds at least.2 Dyer and Deane spoke in public; Lewis, to me, in private about it. All think it exorbitant.

 

S. Adams desired that the Resolve of Congress, upon which the contract was founded, might be read; he did not recollect it.

 

De Hart.

 

One of the contractors, Willing, declared to this Congress, that he looked upon the contract to be, that the first cost should be insured to them, not the fourteen pounds a barrel for the powder.

 

R. R. Livingston.

 

I never will vote to ratify the contract in the sense that Morris understands it.

 

Willing.

 

I am, as a member of the House, a party to that contract, but was not privy to the bargain. I never saw the contract, until I saw it in Dr. Franklin’s hand. I think it insures only the first cost; my partner thinks it insures the whole. He says that Mr. Rutledge said, at the time, that Congress should have nothing to do with sea risk. The committee of this city offered nineteen pounds. I would wish to have nothing to do with the contract, but to leave it to my partner, who is a man of reason and generosity, to explain the contract with the gentlemen who made it with him.

 

J. Rutledge.

 

Congress was to run no risk, only against men-of-war and custom-house officers. I was surprised, this morning, to hear that Mr. Morris understood it otherwise. If he won’t execute a bond, such as we shall draw, I shall not be at a loss what to do.

 

Johnson.

 

A hundred tons of powder was wanted. Ross. In case of its arrival, Congress was to pay fourteen pounds; if men-of-war or custom-house officers should get it, Congress was to pay first cost only, as I understood it. Zubly. We are highly favored; fourteen pounds we are to give, if we get the powder, and fourteen pounds, if we don’t get it. I understand, persons enough will contract to supply powder at fifteen pounds and run all risks.

 

Willing.

 

Sorry any gentleman should be severe. Mr. Morris’s character is such that he cannot deserve it.

 

Lynch.

 

If Morris will execute the bond, well; if not, the committee will report.

 

Deane.

 

It is very well that this matter has been moved, and that so much has been said upon it.

 

Dyer.

 

There are not ten men, in the Colony I came from, who are worth so much money as will be made, clear, by this contract. Ross. What has this matter to (do with) the present debate, whether Connecticut men are worth much or no; it proves there are no men there whose capital or credit is equal to such contracts; that is all. Harrison. The contract is made, and the money paid. How can we get it back?

 

Johnson.

 

Let us consider the prudence of this contract. If it had not been made, Morris would have got nineteen pounds, and not have set forward a second adventure. Gadsden understands the contract as Morris does, and yet thinks it a prudent one, because Morris would have got nineteen pounds.

 

J. Adams.

 

&c. &c. &c.

 

Cushing.

 

I move that we take into consideration a method of keeping up an army in the winter.

 

Gadsden seconds the motion, and desires that a motion made in writing some days ago, and postponed, may be read as it was, as also passages of G. Washington’s letter.

 

S. Adams. The General has promised another letter, in which we shall have his sentiments. We shall have it to-morrow, perhaps. Lynch. If we have, we shall only lose the writing of a letter.

 

J. Adams moved that the Generals’ advice should be asked concerning barracks, &c. and that a committee be appointed to draught a letter. Lynch seconded the motion.

 

A committee was appointed. Lynch, J. Adams, and Colonel Lee, the men.

 

Sherman moved that a committee be appointed, of one member from each Colony, to receive and examine all accounts.1S. Adams seconded the motion.

 

Harrison asked, “Is this the way of giving thanks?”

 

S. Adams was decent to the Committee for Riflemen’s Accounts; meant no reflections upon them; was sorry that the worthy gentleman from Virginia conceived that any was intended; he was sure there was no foundation for it.

 

Paine thought that justice and honor required that we should carefully examine all accounts and see to the expenditure of all public moneys; that the minister would find out our weakness, and would foment divisions among our people; he was sorry that gentlemen could not hear methods proposed to settle and pay accounts, in a manner that would give satisfaction to the people, without seeming to resent them. Harrison. Now the gentlemen have explained themselves, he had no objection; but when it was proposed to appoint a new committee, in the place of the former one, it implied a reflection. Willing. These accounts are for tents, arms, clothing, &c. as well as expenses of the riflemen, &c.

 

Nelson moved that twenty thousand dollars be voted into the hands of the other committee to settle the accounts. S. Adams seconded the motion, but still hoped that some time or other a committee would be appointed, of one member from each Colony, to examine all accounts, because he thought it reasonable.1

 

September 27. Wednesday. Willing, in favor of Mr. Purviance’s petition.2Harrison against it.

 

Willing thinks the non-exportation sufficiently hard upon the farmer, the merchant, and the tradesman, but will not arraign the propriety of the measure.

 

Nelson.

 

If we give these indulgences, I know not where they will end. Sees not why the merchant should be indulged more than the farmer. Harrison. It is the merchant in England that is to suffer. Lynch. They meant gain, and they ought to bear the loss.

 

Sherman.

 

Another reason, the cargo is provisions, and will probably fall into the hands of the enemy.

 

R. R. Livingston.

 

There is no resolve of Congress against exporting to foreign ports. We shall not give license to deceit by clearing out for England.

 

Lynch moves that the committee of this city be desired to inquire whether Dean’s vessel, taken at Block Island, and another at Cape Cod, were not sent on purpose to supply the enemy.

 

Read. The committee of this city have inquired of the owners of one vessel. The owners produced their letter books, and were ready to swear; the conduct of the captain is yet suspicious. Thinks the other inquiry very proper.

 

Lee thinks Lynch’s motion proper; thinks the conduct detestable parricide, to supply those who have arms in their hands to deprive us of the best rights of human nature. The honest seamen ought to be examined, and they may give evidence against the guilty.

 

Hancock.

 

Dean belongs to Boston; he came from West Indies, and was seized here and released; loaded with flour and went out.

 

Extract from the Journals of Congress.

 

Wednesday, 4 October, 1775.

 

“Agreeable to the order of the day, the Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the state of the trade of the thirteen United Colonies.”

 

1775. October 4. Johnson. I should be for the resolutions about imports and exports standing till further order. I should be against giving up the carriage. The grower, the farmer, gets the same, let who will be the exporter, but the community does not. The shipwright, rope-maker, hemp-grower, all shipbuilders, the profits of the merchant, are all lost, if foreigners are our sole carriers, as well as seamen, &c. I am for the report standing;1 the association standing.

 

J. Rutledge.

 

The question is, whether we shall shut our ports entirely, or adhere to the association. The resolutions we come to ought to be final.

 

Lee.

 

North Carolina is absent; they are expected every hour; we had better suspend a final determination. I fear our determination to stop trade will not be effectual.

 

Willing.

 

North Carolina promised to put themselves in the same situation with other Colonies. New York have done the same. Our gold is locked up at present; we ought to be decisive; interest is near and dear to men. The Committee of Secrecy find difficulties; merchants dare not trade.

 

Deane.

 

Sumptuary laws, or a non-importation, were necessary, if we had not been oppressed; a non-export was attended with difficulty; my Colony could do as well as others. We should have acquiesced in an immediate non-export, or a partial one. Many voted for it as an object in terrorem. Merchants, mechanics, farmers, all call for an establishment.

 

Whether we are to trade with all nations, except Britain, Ireland, and West Indies, or with one or two particular nations, we cannot get ammunition without allowing some exports; for the merchant has neither money nor bills, and our bills will not pass abroad.

 

R. R. Livingston.

 

We should go into a full discussion of the subject; every gentleman ought to express his sentiments. The first question is, how far we shall adhere to our association; what advantages we gain, what disadvantages we suffer by it. An immediate stoppage last year would have had a great effect, but at that time the country could not bear it. We are now out of debt nearly; the high price of grain, in Boston, will be an advantage to the farmer. The price of labor is nearly equal in Europe; the trade will be continued, and Great Britain will learn to look upon America as insignificant. If we export to Britain, and don’t import, they must pay us in money; of great importance that we should import. We employ our ships and seamen; we have nothing to fear but disunion among ourselves. What will disunite us more than the decay of all business? The people will feel, and will say, that Congress tax them and oppress them worse than Parliament.

 

Ammunition cannot be had, unless we open our ports. I am for doing away our non-exportation agreement entirely. I see many advantages in leaving open the ports, none in shutting them up. I should think the best way would be to open all our ports. Let us declare all those bonds illegal and void. What is to become of our merchants, farmers, seamen, tradesmen? What an accession of strength should we throw into the hands of our enemies, if we drive all our seamen to them!

 

Lee.

 

Is it proper the non-exportation agreement should continue? For the interest of Americans to open our ports to foreign nations, that they should become our carriers, and protect their own vessels.

 

Johnson never had an idea that we should shut our export agreement closer than it is at present. If we leave it as it is, we shall get powder by way of New York, the lower counties, and North Carolina. In winter, our merchants will venture out to foreign nations. If Parliament should order our ships to be seized, we may begin a force in part to protect our own vessels, and invite foreigners to come here and protect their own trade.

 

J. Rutledge.

 

We ought to postpone it, rather than not come to a decisive resolution.

 

Lee.

 

We shall be prevented from exporting, if British power can do it. We ought to stop our own exports, and invite foreign nations to come and export our goods for us. I am for opening our exportations, to foreigners, further than we have.

 

Willing.

 

The gentleman’s favorite plan is to induce foreigners to come here. Shall we act like the dog in the manger, not suffer New York and the lower counties and North Carolina to export, because we can’t? We may get salt and ammunition by those ports. Can’t be for inviting foreigners to become our carriers; carriage is an amazing revenue. Holland and England have derived their maritime power from their carriage. The circulation of our paper will stop, and lose its credit, without trade. Seven millions of dollars have been struck by the continent and by the separate Colonies. Lee. The end of administration will be answered by the gentleman’s plan; jealousies and dissensions will arise, and disunion and division. We shall become a rope of sand. Zubly. The question should be, whether the export should be kept or not.

 

Chase.

 

I am for adhering to the association, and think that we ought not to determine these questions this day. Differ from R. Livingston that our exports are to be relaxed, except as to tobacco and lumber. This will produce a disunion of the Colonies. The advantage of cultivating tobacco is very great; the planters would complain; their negro females would be useless without raising tobacco; the country must grow rich that exports more than they import. There ought not to be a partial export to Great Britain. We affect the revenue and the remittance by stopping our exports; we have given a deadly blow to Britain and Ireland by our non-export; their people must murmur, must starve. The nation must have become bankrupt before this day if we had ceased exports at first. I look upon Britain, Ireland, and West Indies, as our enemies, and would not trade with them while at war. We can’t support the war and our taxes without trade. Emissions of paper cannot continue. I dread an emission for another campaign. We can’t stand it without trade. I can’t agree that New York, the lower counties, and North Carolina, should carry on trade; upon giving a bond, and making oath, they may export. I am against these Colonies trading according to the restraining act. It will produce division. A few weeks will put us all on a footing; New York, &c. are now all in rebellion, as the ministry call it, as much as Massachusetts Bay.

 

We must trade with foreign nations, at the risk indeed, but we may export our tobacco to France, Spain, or any other foreign nation. If we treat with foreign nations, we should send to them as well as they to us. What nation or countries shall we trade with? Shall we go to their ports and pay duties, and let them come here and pay none? To say you will trade with all the world deserves consideration.

 

I have not absolutely discarded every glimpse of a hope of a reconciliation; our prospect is gloomy. I can’t agree that we shall not export our own produce. We must treat with foreign nations upon trade. They must protect and support us with their fleets. When you once offer your trade to foreign nations, away with all hopes of reconciliation.

 

E. Rutledge differs with all who think the non-exportation should be broke, or that any trade at all should be carried on. When a commodity is out of port, the master may carry it where he pleases. My Colony will receive your determination upon a general non-exportation; the people will not be restless. Proposes a general non-exportation until next Congress. Our people will go into manufactures, which is a source of riches to a country. We can take our men from agriculture and employ them in manufactures. Agriculture and manufactures cannot be lost; trade is precarious.

 

R. R. Livingston not convinced by any argument; thinks the exception of tobacco and lumber would not produce disunion. The Colonies affected can see the principles, and their virtue is such that they would not be disunited. The Americans are their own carriers now, chiefly; a few British ships will be out of employ. I am against exporting lumber. I grant that if we trade with other nations, some of our vessels will be seized, and some taken. Carolina is cultivated by rich planters; not so in the northern Colonies; the planters can bear a loss, and see the reason of it; the northern Colonies can’t bear it. Not in our power to draw people from the plough to manufactures. We can’t make contracts for powder without opening our ports. I am for exporting where Britain will allow us, to Britain itself. If we shut up our ports, we drive our sailors to Britain; the army will be supplied, in all events. Lee makes a motion for two resolutions. The trade of Virginia and Maryland may be stopped by a very small naval force. North Carolina is badly off. The northern Colonies are more fortunate. The force of Great Britain on the water being exceedingly great, that of America almost nothing, they may prevent almost all our trade in our own bottoms. Great Britain may exert every nerve next year to send fifteen, twenty, or even thirty thousand men to come here. The provisions of America are become necessary to several nations. France is in distress for them.—Tumults and attempts to destroy the grain in the ear. England has turned arable into grass; France into vines. Grain cannot be be got from Poland, nor across the Mediterranean. The dissensions in Poland continue. Spain is at war with the Algerines, and must have provisions; it would be much safer for them to carry our provisions than for us. We shall get necessary manufactures, and money, and powder. This is only a temporary expedient, at the present time and for a short duration, to end when the war ends. I agree we must sell our produce; foreigners must come in three or four months; the risk we must pay in the price of our produce. The insurance must be deducted. Insurance would not be high to foreigners on account of the novelty; it is no new thing; the British cruisers will be the danger.

 

The Same Debate Continued.

 

October 5. Thursday. Gadsden. I wish we may confine ourselves to one point. Let the point be, whether we shall shut up all our ports, and be all on a footing. The ministry will answer their end, if we let the custom-houses be open in New York, North Carolina, and the lower counties, and Georgia; they will divide us. One Colony will envy another, and be jealous. Mankind act by their feelings. Rice sold for three pounds; it wont sell now for thirty shillings. We have rich and poor there as well as in other Colonies; we know that the excepted Colonies don’t want to take advantage of the others.

 

Zubly. Q.

 

Whether the custom-houses be stopped, and the trade opened to all the world? The object is so great, that I would not discuss it, on horseback, riding post haste; it requires the debate of a week. We are lifting up a rod; if you don’t repeal the acts, we will open our ports. Nations, as well as individuals, are sometimes intoxicated. It is fair to give them notice. If we give them warning, they will take warning; they will send ships out. Whether they can stop our trade, is the question. New England, I leave out of the question; New York is stopped by one ship; Philadelphia says her trade is in the power of the fleet; Virginia and Maryland are within the capes of Virginia; North Carolina is accessible; only one good harbor, Cape Fear. In Georgia, we have several harbors; but a small naval force may oppose or destroy all the naval force of Georgia. The navy can stop our harbors and distress our trade; therefore it is impracticable to open our ports. The question is, whether we must have trade or not. We can’t do without trade; we must have trade; it is prudent not to put virtue to too serious a test. I would use American virtue as sparingly as possible, lest we wear it out. Are we sure one canoe will come to trade? Has any merchant received a letter from abroad that they will come? Very doubtful and precarious whether any French or Spanish vessel would be cleared out to America; it is a breach of the Treaty of Peace. The Spaniards may be too lazy to come to America; they may be supplied from Sicily. It is precarious and dilatory; extremely dangerous and pernicious. I am clearly against any proposition to open our ports to all the world; it is not prudent to threaten; the people of England will take it we design to break off, to separate. We have friends, in England, who have taken this up, upon virtuous principles.

 

Lee.

 

I will follow Mr. Gadsden, and simplify the proposition, and confine it to the question, whether the custom-houses shall be shut. If they are open, the excepted Colonies may trade, others not, which will be unequal; the consequence, jealousy, division, and ruin. I would have all suffer equally. But we should have some offices set up, where bonds should be given that supplies shall not go to our enemies.

 

Extract from the Journals.

 

Friday, October 6th.

 

“Resolved, That it be recommended to the several Provincial Assemblies or Conventions, and Councils or Committees of Safety, to arrest and secure every person in their respective Colonies, whose going at large may, in their opinion, endanger the safety of the Colony, or the liberties of America.”

 

Chase.

 

I don’t think the resolution goes far enough. Lord Dunmore has been many months committing hostilities against Virginia, and has extended his piracies to Maryland. I wish he had been seized by the Colony months ago. They would have received the thanks of all North America. Is it practicable now? Have the Committee any naval force? This order will be a mere piece of paper. Is there a power in the Committee to raise and pay a naval force? Is it to be done at the expense of the Continent? Have they ships or men?

 

Lee.

 

I wish Congress would advise Virginia and Maryland to raise a force by sea to destroy Lord Dunmore’s power. He is fond of his bottle, and may be taken by land, but ought to be taken at all events.

 

Zubly.

 

I am sorry to see the very threatening condition that Virginia is likely to be in. I look on the plan we heard of yesterday, to be vile, abominable, and infernal; but I am afraid it is practicable.1 Will these mischiefs be prevented by seizing Dunmore? Seizing the King’s representatives will make a great impression in England, and probably things will be carried on afterwards with greater rage. I came here with two views; one, to secure the rights of America; second, a reconciliation with Great Britain.

 

Dyer.

 

They can’t be more irritated at home than they are; they are bent upon our destruction; therefore, that is no argument against seizing them. Dunmore can do no mischief in Virginia; his connections in England are such that he may be exchanged to advantage. Wentworth is gone to Boston; Franklin is not dangerous, Penn is not, Eden is not.

 

Johnson.

 

Dunmore a very bad man. A defensive conduct was determined on in the Convention of Virginia. I am for leaving it to Virginia. We ought not to lay down a rule in a passion. I see less and less prospect of a reconciliation every day; but I would not render it impossible; if we should render it impossible, our Colony would take it into their own hands, and make concessions inconsistent with the rights of America. North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, at least, have strong parties in each of them of that mind. This would make a disunion. Five or six weeks will give us the final determination of the people of Great Britain. Not a Governor on the Continent has the real power, but some have the shadow of it. A renunciation of all connection with Great Britain will be understood by a step of this kind. Thirteen Colonies connected with Great Britain in sixteen months have been brought to an armed opposition to the claims of Great Britain. The line we have pursued has been the line we ought to have pursued; if what we have done had been proposed two years ago, four Colonies would not have been for it. Suppose we had a dozen Crown officers in our possession, have we determined what to do with them? shall we hang them?

 

Lee.

 

Those who apply general reasons to this particular case will draw improper conclusions. Those Crown officers who have advised his Lordship against his violent measures, have been quarrelled with by him. Virginia is pierced in all parts with navigable waters. His Lordship knows all these waters, and the plantations on them. Shuldham is coming to assist him in destroying these plantations. We see his influence with an abandoned administration is sufficient to obtain what he pleases. If six weeks may furnish decisive information, the same time may produce decisive destruction to Maryland and Virginia. Did we go fast enough when we suffered the troops at Boston to fortify?

 

Zubly.

 

This is a sudden motion; the motion was yesterday to apprehend Governor Tryon. We have not yet conquered the army or navy of Great Britain; a navy, consisting of a cutter, rides triumphant in Virginia. There are persons in America who wish to break off with Great Britain; a proposal has been made to apply to France and Spain; before I agree to it, I will inform my constituents. I apprehend the man who should propose it would be torn to pieces like De Witt.

 

Wythe.

 

It was from a reverence for this Congress that the Convention of Virginia neglected to arrest Lord Dunmore; it was not intended suddenly to form a precedent for Governor Tryon. If Maryland have a desire to have a share in the glory of seizing this nobleman, let them have it. The first objection is the impracticability of it. I don’t say that it is practicable; but the attempt can do no harm. From seizing clothing in Delaware, seizing the transports, &c., the Battles of Lexington, Charlestown, &c., every man in Great Britain will be convinced by ministry and Parliament, that we are aiming at an independency on Great Britain; therefore, we need not fear from this step disaffecting our friends in England. As to a defection in the Colonies, I can’t answer for Maryland, Pennsylvania, &c.; but I can for Virginia.

 

Johnson.

 

I am not against allowing liberty to arrest Lord Dunmore; there is evidence that the scheme he is executing was recommended by himself. Maryland does not regard the connection with Great Britain as the first good.

 

Stone.

 

If we signify to Virginia that it will not be disagreeable to us if they secure Lord Dunmore, that will be sufficient.

 

Lewis moves an amendment, that it be recommended to the Council of Virginia, that they take such measures to secure themselves from the practices of Lord Dunmore, either by seizing his person, or otherwise, as they think proper.

 

Hall.

 

A material distinction between a peremptory order to the Council of Virginia, to seize his Lordship, and a recommendation to take such measures as they shall judge necessary to defend themselves against his measures.

 

Extract from the Journals.

 

“Resolved, That the Committee appointed for the importation of powder, be directed to export, agreeable to the Continental Association, as much provisions or other produce of these Colonies, as they shall judge expedient for the purchase of arms and ammunition.”

 

Motion to Export Produce for Powder.

 

Sherman.

 

I think we must have powder, and we may send out produce for powder. But upon some gentlemen’s principles we must have a general exportation.

 

Paine.

 

From the observations some gentlemen have made, I think this proposition of more importance than it appeared at first. In theory, I could carry it further, even to exportation and importation to Great Britain. A large continent can’t act upon speculative principles, but must be governed by rules. Medicines we must have, some clothing, &c. I wish we could enter upon the question at large, and agree upon some system.

 

Chase.

 

By that resolution we may send to Great Britain, Ireland, and West Indies.

 

Lee.

 

Suppose provisions should be sold in Spain for money, and cash sent to England for powder.

 

Duane.

 

We must have powder; I would send for powder to London or anywhere. We are undone if we have not powder.

 

Deane.

 

I hope the words, “agreeable to the Association” will be inserted, but I would import from Great Britain powder.

 

R. R. Livingston.

 

We are between hawk and buzzard; we puzzle ourselves between the commercial and warlike opposition.

 

Rutledge.

 

If ammunition was to be had from England only, there would be weight in the gentleman’s argument. The Captain, Reed, told us yesterday that he might have brought one thousand barrels of powder. Why? because he was not searched. But if he had attempted to bring powder, he would have been searched. I would let the Association stand as it is, and order the Committee to export our provisions consistent with it.

 

Lee.

 

When a vessel comes to England against our Association, she must be observed and watched; they would keep the provisions, but not let us have the powder.

 

Deane.

 

I have not the most distant idea of infringing the Association.

 

Duane.

 

The resolution with the amendment amounts to nothing. The Committee may import now consistent with the Association. I apprehend that, by breaking the Association, we may import powder; without it, not. We must have powder. We must fight our battles, in two or three months, in every Colony.

 

J. Rutledge.

 

They may export to any other place, and thence send money to England.

 

Extract from the Journals.

 

“The Congress, taking into consideration the letter from New York, respecting the fortifications ordered to be erected on Hudson’s River,—

“Resolved, That a Committee of three be appointed to report to-morrow morning, an answer to the Convention of New York.

“The following members were chosen by ballot, namely, Mr. Morton, Mr. Deane, and Mr. R. Livingston.”

 

New York Letter concerning a fortification on the Highlands considered.

 

Dyer.

 

Can’t say how far it would have been proper to have gone upon Romain’s plan in the Spring, but thinks it too late now. There are places upon that river that might be thrown up in a few days, that would do. We must go upon some plan that will be expeditious.

 

Lee.

 

Romain says a less or more imperfect plan would only be beginning a strong-hold for an enemy.

 

Deane.

 

An order went to New York; they have employed an engineer. The people and he agree in the spot and the plan. Unless we rescind the whole we should go on; it ought to be done.

 

Saturday, October 7.

 

No trace of the next debate appears upon the Journals as originally printed, but much light is shed upon it in the extract from the Autobiography, which follows these reports.

 

On the third of October is this entry on the Journals: “One of the delegates for Rhode Island laid before the Congress a part of the instructions given them by their two Houses of Legislature, August 26, 1775.

 

“Resolved, That the Congress will, on Friday next, take the above into consideration.”

 

From these words it is clear that the instructions were themselves to be inserted as a part of the record, which they are not. But in the republication by Mr. Force in the American Archives, 4th series, vol. iv. c. 1888-9, they are found in full. The purport of them was to recommend to the Congress the building a fleet at the Continental expense.

 

In the Journals as originally printed, it would appear as if, when the subject came up on the appointed day, Friday, the consideration of it had been put off until Monday the 16th, which would make this debate seem entirely out of place.

 

Mr. Force has here again rectified the first edition of the Journals by showing that the vote on Friday was to postpone to Saturday; so that it then came up the first thing in the order of business, and was again postponed until Monday the 16th.

 

From the report of the debate it would seem as if, notwithstanding this reference, a motion was then made to refer the matter to a Committee.

 

Chase.

 

It is the maddest idea in the world to think of building an American fleet; its latitude is wonderful; we should mortgage the whole Continent. Recollect the intelligence on your table—defend New York—fortify upon Hudson’s River. We should provide, for gaining intelligence, two swift sailing vessels.

 

Dyer.

 

The affair of powder from New York should be referred to the Committee.

 

Hopkins.

 

No objection to putting off the instruction from Rhode Island, provided it is to a future day.

 

Paine.

 

Seconds Chase’s motion that it be put off to a future day, sine die.

 

Chase.

 

The gentleman from Maryland never made such a motion. I never used the copulative; the gentleman is very sarcastic, and thinks himself very sensible.

 

Zubly.

 

If the plans of some gentlemen are to take place, an American fleet must be a part of it, extravagant as it is.

 

Randolph moves that all the orders of the day should be read every morning.

 

Deane.

 

I wish it may be seriously debated. I don’t think it romantic at all.

 

J. Rutledge moves that some gentlemen be appointed to prepare a plan and estimate of an American fleet. Zubly seconds the motion.

 

Gadsden.

 

I am against the extensiveness of the Rhode Island plan; but it is absolutely necessary that some plan of defence, by sea, should be adopted.

 

J. Rutledge.

 

I shall not form a conclusive opinion, till I hear the arguments. I want to know how many ships are to be built, and what they will cost.

 

S. Adams.

 

The committee can’t make an estimate, until they know how many ships are to be built.

 

Zubly.

 

Rhode Island has taken the lead. I move that the delegates of Rhode Island prepare a plan; give us their opinion.

 

J. Adams.

 

The motion is entirely out of order. The subject is put off for a week, and now a motion is to appoint a committee to consider the whole subject.

 

Zubly, Rutledge, Paine, Gadsden,—lightly skirmishing.

 

Deane.

 

It is like the man that was appointed to tell the dream and the interpretation of it. The expense is to be estimated, without knowing what fleet there shall be, or whether any at all.

 

Gadsden.

 

The design is, to throw it into ridicule. It should be considered, out of respect to the Colony of Rhode Island, who desired it.

 

Determined, against the appointment of a committee.

 

Report of the Committee, for fortifying upon Hudson’s River, considered.1

 

J. Rutledge.

 

I think we should add to the report, that they take the most effectual measures to obstruct the navigation of Hudson’s River, by booms, or otherwise. Gadsden seconds the motion. Deane doubts the practicability of obstructing it with booms, it is so wide. The committee said, four or five booms chained together, and ready to be drawn across, would stop the passage.

 

The Congress of New York is to consult the Assembly of Connecticut, and the Congress of New Jersey, on the best method of taking posts, and making signals, and assembling forces for the defence of the river.

 

Gadsden moves that all the letters laid before us, from England, should be sent to the Convention of New York. Tryon is a dangerous man, and the Convention of that Colony should be upon their guard. Lee. I think the letters should, by all means, be sent. Rutledge. Dr. Franklin desired they might not be printed. Moves that General Wooster, with his troops, may be ordered down to New York. Duane moves that Wooster’s men may be employed in building the fortifications. Dyer seconds the motion, allowing the men what is usual.

 

Sherman would have the order conditional, if Schuyler don’t want them; understands that New York has the best militia upon the continent.

 

R. Livingston.

 

They will be necessary at the Highlands. Dyer thinks they ought to have the usual allowance for work.

 

S. Adams understands that the works at Cambridge were done without any allowance, but that General Washington has ordered, that, for future works, they be allowed half a pistareen a day.

 

Langdon would not have the order to Wooster,1 but to Schuyler; for he would not run any risk of the northern expedition.

 

Rutledge thinks Schuyler can’t want them; he waited only for boats to send five hundred men more. Sherman. Would it not be well to inform Schuyler of our endeavors to take the transports, and desire him to acquaint Colonel Arnold of it?

 

Rutledge.

 

He may cooperate with Arnold in taking the transports. I hope he is in possession of Montreal before now.

 

Deane.

 

I wish that whatever money is collected, may be sent along to Schuyler.

 

E. Rutledge.

 

We have been represented as beggarly fellows, and the first impressions are the strongest. If we eat their provisions, and don’t pay, it will make a bad impression.

 

Ross produces a Resolve of the Assembly of Pennsylvania, that their delegates lay the Connecticut Intrusion2 before Congress, that something may be done to quiet the minds.

 

J. Rutledge moves that the papers be referred to the delegates of the two Colonies.

 

Willing thinks them parties, and that they must have an umpire. Sherman thinks they may agree on a temporary line.

 

Debate on the Report for fortifying upon Hudson’s River, resumed.

 

Lee3 moves that parliamentary or ministerial posts may be stopped, as a constitutional post is now established from New Hampshire to Georgia. Langdon seconds the motion.

 

Willing thinks it is interfering with that line of conduct which we have hitherto prescribed to ourselves; it is going back beyond the year 1763.

 

Lee.

 

When the Ministry are mutilating our correspondence in England, and our enemies here are corresponding for our ruin, shall we not stop the ministerial post?

 

Willing looks upon this to be one of the offensive measures which are improper at this time. It will be time enough to throw this aside, when the time comes that we shall throw every thing aside; at present, we don’t know but there may be a negotiation.

 

Dyer.

 

We have already superseded the Act of Parliament effectually.

 

Deane is for a recommendation to the people to write by the constitutional post; not forbid a man to ride.

 

S. Adams thinks it a defensive measure; and advising people not to write by it, looks too cunning for me. I am for stopping the correspondence of our enemies.

 

Langdon.

 

Administration are taking every method to come at our intentions. Why should not we prevent it? Duane. I shall vote against it. It may be true that we are come to the time when we are to lay aside all. I think there should be a full representation of the Colonies. North Carolina should be here. Deane seconds the motion for postponing it.

 

Zubly.

 

The necessity of this measure does not appear to me. If we have gone beyond the line of 1763 and of defence, without apparent necessity, it was wrong; if with necessity, right. I look upon the invasion of Canada as a very different thing; I have a right to defend myself against persons who come against me, let them come from whence they will. We, in Georgia, have gained intelligence, by the King’s Post, that we could not have got any other way. Some gentlemen think all merit lies in violent and unnecessary measures.

 

S. Adams.

 

The gentleman’s argument would prove that we should let the post go into Boston. Morton. Would not this stop the packet? Would it not be ordered to Boston? Does the packet bring any intelligence to us that is of use?

 

Lee.

 

No intelligence comes to us, but constant intelligence to our enemies. Stone thinks it an innocent motion, but is for postponing it, because he is not at present clear. He thinks that the setting up a new post has already put down the old one.

 

Paine.

 

My opinion was, that the ministerial post will die a natural death; it has been under a languishment a great while; it would be cowardice to issue a decree to kill that which is dying; it brought but one letter last time, and was obliged to retail newspapers to bear its expenses. I am very loth to say that this post shall not pass.

 

Lee.

 

Is there not a Doctor, Lord North, who can keep this creature alive?

 

R. R. Livingston.

 

I don’t think that Tory letters are sent by the royal post. I consider it rather as a convenience than otherwise; we hear five times a week from New York. The letters, upon our table, advise us to adopt every conciliatory measure, that we may secure the affections of the people of England.

 

October 10. On the preceding day, the Congress had adopted a resolution, in the following words:—

“That it be recommended to the Convention of New Jersey, that they immediately raise, at the expense of the continent, two battalions, consisting of eight companies each, and each company of sixty-eight privates, officered with one captain, one lieutenant, one ensign, four sergeants, and four corporals.”

 

Who shall have the appointment of the officers, in the two battalions to be raised in New Jersey?

 

Sherman.

 

Best to leave it to the Provincial Conventions. Ward seconds the motion.

 

Chase.

 

This is persisting in error, in spite of experience; we have found, by experience, that giving the choice of officers to the people is attended with bad consequences. The French officers are allowed to exceed any in Europe, because a gentleman is hardly entitled to the smiles of the ladies, without serving a campaign. In my Province, we want officers. Gentlemen have recommended persons, from personal friendships, who were not suitable; such friendships will have more weight in the Colonies. Dyer. We must derive all our knowledge from the delegates of that Colony. The representatives at large are as good judges, and would give more satisfaction. You can’t raise an army, if you put officers over the men, whom they don’t know. It requires time to bring people off from ancient usage. E. Rutledge. We don’t mean to break in upon what has been done. In our Province we have raised our complement of men in the neighboring Colonies. I am for it, that we may have power to reward merit.

 

Ward.

 

The motion is intended for a precedent. In the expedition to Carthagena and Canada, the Crown only appointed a lieutenant in my Colony; the men will not enlist. When the Militia Bill was before us, I was against giving the choice to the men. I don’t know any man in the Jerseys. Duane. A subject of importance; a matter of delicacy; we ought to be all upon a footing; we are to form the grand outlines of an American army; a general regulation. Will such a regulation be salutary? The public good alone will govern me. If we were to set out anew, would the same plan be pursued? It has not been unprecedented in this Congress. Mr. Campbell, Allen, Warner, were promoted here. We ought to insist upon it; we shall be able to regulate an army better. Schuyler and Montgomery would govern my judgment. I would rather take the opinion of General Washington than of any convention. We can turn out the unworthy, and reward merit; the usage is for it. Governors used to make officers, except in Connecticut and Rhode Island. But we can’t raise an army! We are then in a deplorable condition indeed. We pay!—can’t we appoint, with the advice of our Generals?

 

Langdon looks upon this as a very extraordinary motion, and big with many mischiefs. Deane. It is the people’s money, not ours; it will be fatal. We can’t set up a sale for offices, like Lord Barrington. E. Rutledge. The appointment, hitherto, has been as if the money belonged to particular Provinces, not to the Continent. We can’t reward merit; the Governor appointed officers with us.

 

Ross.

 

My sentiments coincide with those of the gentlemen from New York and Carolina, and would go further and appoint every officer, even an ensign. We have no command of the army. They have different rules and articles. Jay. Am of opinion with the gentleman who spoke last. The Union depends much upon breaking down Provincial Conventions; the whole army refused to be mustered by your Muster-Master.

 

Debate on the State of Trade, continued from Page 457.

 

October 12. Report, on Trade, considered in a committee of the whole.

 

Lee.

 

It has been moved to bring the debate to one point by putting the question, whether the custom-houses shall be shut up, and the officers discharged from their several functions. This would put New York, North Carolina, the lower Counties, and Georgia, upon the same footing with the other Colonies. I, therefore, move you, that the custom-houses be shut, and the officers discharged; this will remove jealousies and divisions.

 

Zubly.

 

The measure we are now to consider is extremely interesting. I shall offer my thoughts. If we decide properly, I hope we shall establish our cause; if improperly, we shall overthrow it altogether.

 

1st Proposition. Trade is important. 2. We must have a reconciliation with Great Britain, or the means of carrying on the war; an unhappy day when we shall . . . A republican government is little better than government of devils. I have been acquainted with it from six years old. We must regulate our trade, so as that a reconciliation be obtained, or we enabled to carry on the war. Can’t say, but I do hope for a reconciliation, and that this winter may bring it. I may enjoy my hopes for reconciliation; others may enjoy theirs, that none will take place. A vessel will not go without sails or oars. Wisdom is better than weapons of war. We don’t mean to oppose Great Britain, merely for diversion; if it is necessary, that we make war, and that we have the means of it. This Continent ought to know what it is about; the nation don’t. We ought to know what they mean to be about; we ought to have intelligence of the designs. King of Prussia and Count Daun marched and countermarched, until they could not impose upon each other any more. Every thing we want for the war is powder and shot. Second thing necessary, that we have arms and ammunition. Third, we must have money; the continental credit must be supported; we must keep up a notion that this paper is good for something; it has not yet a general circulation. The Mississippi scheme, in France, and the South Sea scheme, in England, were written for our learning; a hundred millions fell in one day. Twenty men-of-war may block up the harbor of New York, Delaware River, Chesapeake Bay, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Whether we can raise a navy, is an important question. We may have a navy, and, to carry on the war, we must have a navy. Can we do this without trade? Can we gain intelligence without trade? Can we get powder without trade? Every vessel you send out is thrown away. New England, where the war is, may live without trade; the money circulates there; they may live. Without trade our people must starve; we cannot live; we cannot feed or clothe our people. My resolution was, that I would do and suffer any thing, rather than not be free; but I am resolved not to do impossible things; if we must trade, we must trade with somebody, and with somebody that will trade with us; either with foreigners or Great Britain; if with foreigners, we must either go to them or they must come to us; we can’t go to them, if our harbors are shut up. I look upon the trade with foreigners as impracticable. St. Lawrence being open is a supposition. New England people, last war, went to Cape François. Spaniards are too lazy to come to us. If we can’t trade with foreigners, we must trade with Great Britain. Is it practicable? will it quit cost? will it do more hurt than good? This is breaking our association. Our people will think we are giving way, and giving all up; they will say, one mischievous man has overset the whole navigation. I speak from principle; it has been said here that the association was made in terrorem.

 

Gadsden seconds Lee’s motion, and affirms that we can carry on trade from one end of the continent to the other.

 

Deane.

 

Custom-house officers discharged! Were they ever in our pay, in our service? Let them stand where they are; let this Congress establish what offices they please; let the others die. I think that all the Colonies ought to be upon a footing; we must have trade. I think we ought to apply abroad; we must have powder and goods; we can’t keep our people easy without.

 

Lee.

 

The gentleman agrees that all ought to be upon a footing. Let him show how this can be done without shutting the custom-houses.

 

Jay.

 

This should be the last business we undertake. It is like cutting the foot to the shoe, not making a shoe for the foot. Let us establish a system first.

 

I think we ought to consider the whole, before we come to any resolutions. Now gentlemen have their doubts whether the non-exportation was a good measure. I was, last year, clear against it. Because the enemy have burned Charlestown, would gentlemen have us burn New York? Let us lay every burden as equal on all the shoulders as we can. If Providence or Ministry inflict misfortunes on one, shall we inflict the same on all? I have one arm sore, why should not the other arm be made sore too? But jealousies will arise; are these reasonable? is it politic? We are to consult the general good of all America. Are we to do hurt, to remove unreasonable jealousies? Because Ministry have imposed hardships on one, shall we impose the same on all? It is not from affection to New York that I speak. If a man has lost his teeth, on one side of his jaws, shall he pull out the teeth from the other, that both sides may be upon a footing? Is it not realizing the quarrel of the belly and the members? The other Colonies may avail themselves of the custom-houses in the exempted Colonies.

 

Lee.

 

All must bear a proportional share of the Continental expense. Will the exempted Colonies take upon themselves the whole expense? Virginia pays a sixth part, the lower Counties an eightieth; yet the lower counties may trade, Virginia not. The gentleman exercised an abundance of wit to show the unreasonableness of jealousies. If this ministerial bait is swallowed by America, another will be thrown out.

 

Jay.

 

Why should not New York make money, and New Jersey not? One Colony can clothe them.

 

McKean.

 

I have four reasons for putting the favored Colonies upon a footing with the rest. 1. To disappoint the ministry; their design was insidious. 2. I would not have it believed by ministry, or other Colonies, that those Colonies had less virtue than others. 3. I have a reconciliation in view; it would be in the power of those Colonies, it might become their interest, to prolong the war. 4. I believe Parliament has done, or will do it for us, that is, put us on the same footing. I would choose that the exempted Colonies should have the honor of it; not clear that this is the best way of putting them upon a footing. If we should be successful in Canada, I would be for opening our trade to some places in Great Britain, Jamaica, &c.

 

J. Rutledge

 

wonders that a subject so clear has taken up so much time. I was for a general non-exportation. Is it not surprising that there should so soon be a motion for breaking the Association? We have been reproached for our breach of faith in breaking the non-importation. I have the best authority to say that if we had abided by a former non-importation we should have had redress. We may be obliged hereafter to break the Association; but why should we break it before we feel it? I expected the delegates from the exempted Colonies would have moved to be put upon the same footing. Don’t like shutting the custom-houses and discharging the officers, but moves that the resolve be, that people in New York, North Carolina, and lower Counties don’t apply to the custom-house.

 

Zubly.

 

Georgia is settled along Savannah River, two hundred miles in extent, and one hundred miles the other way. I look upon it, the Association altogether will be the ruin of the cause. We have ten thousand fighting Indians near us. Carolina has already smuggled goods from Georgia.

 

Chase.

 

I will undertake to prove that if the reverend gentleman’s positions are true, and his advice followed, we shall all be made slaves. If he speaks the opinion of Georgia, I sincerely lament that they ever appeared in Congress. They cannot, they will not comply! Why did they come here? Sir, we are deceived! Sir, we are abused! Why do they come here? I want to know why their Provincial Congress came to such resolutions. Did they come here to ruin America? The gentleman’s advice will bring destruction upon all North America. I am for the resolution upon the table. There will be jealousies, if New York and the other exempted Colonies are not put upon a footing. It is not any great advantage to the exempted Colonies. What can they export, that will not be serviceable to Great Britain and the West Indies? The exports of North Carolina are of vast importance to Great Britain. If these Colonies are in rebellion, will not their effects be confiscated and seized even upon the ocean? Arms and ammunition must be obtained by what is called smuggling. I doubt not we shall have the supply. Leaving open New York &c. will prevent our getting arms and ammunition.

 

Houston.

 

Where the protection of this room did not extend, I would not sit very tamely. Chase. I think the gentleman ought to take offence at his brother delegate.

 

Wythe agrees with the gentleman from New York that we don’t proceed regularly. The safety of America depends essentially on a union of the people in it. Can we think that union will be preserved if four Colonies are exempted? When New York Assembly did not approve the proceedings of the Congress, it was not only murmured at, but lamented as a defection from the public cause. When Attica was invaded by the Lacedemonians, Pericles ordered an estate to be ravaged and laid waste, because he thought it would be exempted by the Spartan King. Nothing was ever more unhappily applied than the fable of the stomach and the limbs.

 

Sherman.

 

Another argument for putting . . .

 

On Trade, continued.

 

October 13. R. Livingston hopes the whole matter will be put off. Is willing, as it seems the general sense, that all should be put upon a footing.

 

Gadsden hopes it will not be put off. South Carolina will be in the utmost confusion if this matter is not decided. Let the Continent determine.

 

Stone can see no particular inconvenience to Carolina; seconds the motion of Mr. Livingston, for postponing the question, and gives his reasons. The Powder Committee must take clearances. If they are allowed to take clearances, and no other, then whenever they take a clearance, it will be known that it is for powder, and the vessel will be watched.

 

Lee.

 

I see very clearly that the best time for putting a question is when it is best understood. That time is the present. As to powder, time may be allowed for the Committee to clear vessels.

 

J. Rutledge thinks this motion extraordinary; this subject has been under consideration three weeks. It is really trifling. The Committee may have time allowed to clear vessels for powder; but I had rather the Continent should run the risk of sending vessels without clearances. What confusion would ensue, if Congress should break up without any resolution of this sort! The motion seems intended to defeat the resolution entirely. Those who are against it are for postponing.

 

Jay.

 

We have complied with the restraining act. The question is, whether we shall have trade or not? and this is to introduce a most destructive scheme, a scheme which will drive away all your sailors, and lay up all your ships to rot at the wharves.

 

Debate continued.

 

Deane.

 

October 20. Their plunder only afforded one meal of fresh meat for the privates; all the rest was reserved for the officers, and their friends among the inhabitants. I would have traders prohibited from importing unnecessary articles, and from exporting live stock, except horses.

 

Gadsden.

 

If we give one leave, when there are one hundred who have an equal right, it will occasion jealousy. Let each Colony export to the amount of so many thousand pounds, and no more.

 

Chase.

 

We have letters from Guadaloupe, Martinique, and the Havana, that they will supply us with powder for tobacco.

 

Gadsden.

 

France and Spain would be glad to see Great Britain despotic in America. Our being in a better state than their Colonies occasions complaints among them, insurrections and rebellions. But these powers would be glad we were an independent State.

 

Chase.

 

The proposition is for exporting for a special purpose,—importing powder. I would not permit our cash to go for rum. Live stock is an inconsiderable part of our cargoes. I don’t wish to intermix any thing in this debate. I would restrain the merchant from importing any thing but powder, &c. Molasses was an article of importance in the trade of the Northern Colonies. But now they can’t carry on the African trade, and the rum is pernicious. If you give a latitude for any thing but arms and ammunition, we shan’t agree what articles are necessary and what unnecessary. Each Colony should carry on this trade, not individuals. I would not limit the quantity of ammunition to be imported by each Colony. A hundred tons a Colony would supply the West Indies, mediately all the army and navy. Twenty tons would be a considerable adventure for a Colony. Debts are due from the British West India Islands to the inhabitants of these Colonies. I am not for permitting vessels to go in ballast and fetch cash; I wish to import cash from every place as much as possible.

 

Deane.

 

It cannot be done with secrecy or despatch. I rather think it would be as well to leave it to traders.

 

Zubly.

 

It is of great weight that there be no favorites.

 

Dyer.

 

There will be such continual applications to the Assemblies by their friends among the traders, it will open a complete exportation; it would completely supply the West Indies.

 

Jay.

 

We have more to expect from the enterprise, activity and industry of private adventurers, than from the lukewarmness of assemblies. We want French woollens, Dutch worsteds, duck for tents, German steel, &c. Public virtue is not so active as private love of gain. Shall we shut the door against private enterprise?

 

Lee.

 

The gentleman may move for those things as exceptions to the general rule.

 

Randolph.

 

We are making laws contradictory in terms. We say nobody shall export, and yet somebody shall. Against all rule.

 

Lee.

 

It is a common rule in making laws, to make a rule and then make a proviso for special cases.

 

Dyer.

 

The rule and the proviso are passed at once in the same act, though. If I give my voice for an unconditional proposition, what security have I that the condition or proviso will be added afterwards? The greatest impropriety in the world.

 

Chase.

 

Both sides are right; and it arises from this, that one proposition is to be made public, and the other kept secret. We have very little confidence in each other.

 

Zubly.

 

If half the law is to be public and the other half secret, will not half the people be governed by one half and the other half by the other? Will they not clash?

 

Jay.

 

Lest your produce fall into the hands of your enemies, you publish a law that none go from the Continent; yet to get powder, we keep a secret law that produce may be exported. Then come the wrangles among the people. A vessel is seen loading,—a fellow runs to the committee.

 

Lee.

 

The inconvenience may arise in some measure; but will not the people be quieted by the authority of the Conventions? If we give public notice, our enemies will be more active to intercept us. On the contrary, the people may be quieted by the committees of safety.

 

Wythe.

 

The only persons who can be affected by this resolution, are those, who, on the other side of the water, will be called smugglers. Consider the danger these smugglers will run; liable to seizure by custom-house officers, by men of war at sea, and by custom-house officers in the port they go to. What can they bring? Cash, powder, or foreign manufactures? Can’t see the least reason for restraining our trade, as little can be carried on. My opinion is, we had better open our trade altogether. It has long been my opinion, and I have heard no arguments against it.

 

Zubly.

 

We can’t do without trade. To be or not to be is too trifling a question for many gentlemen. All that wise men can do among many difficulties, is to choose the least.

 

Stone.

 

Cannot agree to the propositions made by the gentleman from Maryland,—not for binding the people closer than they are bound already,—the proposition is the same with that which was made, that our vessels should be stopped, and foreigners invited to come here for our produce and protect their own trade. This appears to be a destructive system. It was a laborious task to get America into a general non-exportation to Great Britain, Ireland, and West Indies,—shall we now combine with Britain to distress our people in their trade, more than by the Association? People have looked up to this, and are unwilling to go further. The restraining bill, a most cruel, unjust, unconstitutional act; yet we are going to greater cruelties than they. We are all to be in the same circumstances of poverty and distress. Will the West Indies be supplied by a circuitous trade? I think not. How can the West Indies get supplies from Holland, France, or Spain? The whole produce will not be carried; it is said the men of war will take their produce; this argument will operate against exporting for powder. The army will be supplied; it is impossible to prevent their getting supplies, at least of bread. It appears to me this is not a temporary expedient, but will have a perpetual influence. It is a destructive, ruinous expedient, and our people never will bear it. Under the faith that your ports would be kept open to foreigners, people have made contracts with foreigners. You are giving a sanction to the Act of Parliament, and going further. Under such a regulation we never can exist. I would export produce to foreign West Indies, or anywhere for powder; but the mode of doing it will defeat it. The Assemblies never will turn merchants successfully. I would have private adventurers give bond to return powder, or the produce itself.

 

Chase.

 

Differs from his colleague; a different proposition from that for restraining our people and inviting foreigners. This proposition invites your people. If you carry on your exports, without the protection of a foreign power you destroy America. If you stop provisions and not other produce, you create a jealousy. If you export provisions and not other produce, you create a jealousy. Don’t think the risk will prevent supplies to the West India Islands.

 

We must prevent them lumber as well as provisions; great quantities will be exported, notwithstanding the risk. All the fleet of Britain cannot stop our trade; we can carry it all on. We must starve the West India Islands, and prevent them exporting their produce to Great Britain. There will be great quantities of provisions and lumber exported. It will enhance the expense, to carry them to Spain or France first, and thence to the West Indies; but the price will be such that the West Indies will get them. I hold it clearly, we can do without trade; this country produces all the necessaries, many of the conveniences, and some of the superfluities, of life. We can’t grow rich; our provisions will be cheap; we can maintain our army and our poor. We shan’t lose our sailors; the fishermen will serve in another capacity. We must defend the lakes and cities. Merchants will not grow rich; there is the rub. I have too good an opinion of the virtue of our people, to suppose they will grumble. If we drop our commercial system of opposition, we are undone; we must fail; we must give up the profits of trade, or lose our liberties. Let the door of reconciliation be once shut, I would trade with foreign powers, and apply to them for protection. Leave your ports open, and every man that can, will adventure; the risk will not prevent it.

 

It was strongly contended, at the first Congress, that trade should be stopped to all the world; that all remittances should cease. You would have saved a civil war, if you had; but it could not be carried; the gentlemen from South Carolina could not prevail to stop our exports to Britain, Ireland, and West Indies. Our vessels will all be liable to seizure; our trade must be a smuggling trade. Yet we can trade considerably, and many vessels will escape. No vessel can take a clearance. Many vessels will go out, unless you restrain them; all America is in suspense; the common sense of the people has pointed out this measure; they have stopped their vessels.

 

Lee.

 

We possess a fine climate and a fertile soil; wood, iron, sheep, &c. We make eleven or twelve hundred thousand pounds’ worth of provisions more than is necessary for our own consumption. Don’t think it necessary to combat the opinion of some gentlemen, that we cannot live without trade. Money has debauched States, as well as individuals, but I hope its influence will not prevail over America against her rights and dearest interests. We shall distress the West Indies, so as immediately to quit coin for corn. Four millions go yearly from the West Indies to Britain, and a million at least returns. If our provisions go from these shores, then they will go where the best price is to be had. West Indies and our enemies will get them. If it was not proper a year ago, it may be now; this proposition is not perpetual. When we get powder, we may make ourselves strong by sea, and carry on trade.

 

J. Rutledge.

 

A question of the greatest magnitude that has come before this Congress. If it is necessary to do without trade, our constituents will submit to it. The army will be supplied with flour from England, where it is now cheaper than here; but they would be supplied here, if they were to demand it upon pain of destroying our towns. West Indies are supplied, and have laid up stores, and some of them have been raising provisions on their own lands. It will bear hard upon the farmer, as well as the merchant. Don’t think the reasons the same now as last year; it would then have destroyed the linen manufactory and the West Indies; but now they have had notice of it, they are prepared against it.

 

Same Subject continuea.

 

October 21. Zubly.

 

We can’t do without powder, intelligence, drugs. Georgia must have an Indian war, if they can’t supply the Indians. The Creeks and Cherokees are in our Province; we must have Indian trade. Four millions have been spent in six months. We have been successful, but we have gained little; all the power of Great Britain, it is true, has gained very little. New England has been at great expense, so has New York; Pennsylvania has spent a hundred thousand pounds of their money, to fortify their river; Virginia as much; North Carolina a great deal; South Carolina have issued a million. Eighteen millions of dollars is an enormous sum of money; whenever your money fails, you fail too. We are to pay six millions now, twelve millions more presently, and have no trade. I would bear the character of a madman, or that of an emissary of Lord North, rather than believe it possible to pay eighteen millions of dollars without trade. Can we make bricks without straw? We can live upon acorns; but will we?

 

Wythe.

 

The rule, that the question should be put upon the last motion that is made and seconded, is productive of great confusion in our debates; six or seven motions at once. Commerce, whether we consider it in an economical, a moral, or political light, appears to be a great good; civility and charity, as well as knowledge, are promoted by it. The auri sacra fames is a fine subject for philosophers and orators to display themselves upon; but the abuse of a thing is not an argument against it. If the gentleman was possessed of the philosopher’s stone, or Fortunatus’s cap, would he not oblige the continent with the use of it? Why should not America have a navy? No maritime power near the sea-coast can be safe without it. It is no chimera. The Romans suddenly built one in their Carthaginian war. Why may not we lay a foundation for it? We abound with firs, iron ore, tar, pitch, turpentine; we have all the materials for construction of a navy. No country exceeds us in felicity of climate or fertility of soil. America is one of the wings upon which the British eagle has soared to the skies. I am sanguine and enthusiastical enough to wish and to hope that it will be sung, that America inter nubila condit.

 

British navy will never be able to effect our destruction. Before the days of Minos, nations round the Archipelago carried on piratical wars. The Moors carry on such wars now, but the pillars of Hercules are their ne plus ultra. We are too far off for Britain to carry on a piratical war. We shall, sometime or other, rise superior to all the difficulties they may throw in our way. I wont say, there is none that doeth good in Britain, no, not one; but I will say, she has not righteous persons enough to save their State. They hold those things honorable which please them, and those for just which profit them. I know of no instance where a Colony has revolted, and a foreign nation has interposed to subdue them; but many of the contrary. If France and Spain should furnish ships and soldiers, England must pay them. Where are her finances? Why should we divert our people from commerce, and banish our seamen? Our petition may be declared to be received graciously, and promised to be laid before Parliament, but we can expect no success from it. Have they ever condescended to take notice of you? Rapine, depopulation, burning, murder. Turn your eyes to Concord, Lexington, Charlestown, Bristol, New York; there you see the character of Ministry and Parliament. We shall distress our enemies by stopping trade; granted. But how will the small quantities we shall be able to export supply our enemies? Tricks may be practised. If desire of gain prevails with merchants, so does caution against risks.

 

Gadsden.

 

I wish we could keep to a point. I have heard the two gentlemen with a great deal of pleasure. I have argued for opening our ports, but am for shutting them until we hear the event of our petition to the King, and longer until the Congress shall determine otherwise. I am for a navy, too, and I think that shutting our ports for a time will help us to a navy. If we leave our ports open, warm men will have their ships seized, and moderate ones will be favored.

 

Lee.

 

When you hoist out a glimmering of hope that the people are to be furnished from abroad, you give a check to our own manufactures. People are now everywhere attending to corn and sheep and cotton and linen.

 

Chase.

 

A glove has been offered by the gentleman from Georgia, and I beg leave to discharge my promise to that gentleman, to answer his arguments. My position was this; that the gentleman’s system would end in the total destruction of American liberty. I never shall dispute self-evident propositions.

 

The present state of things requires reconciliation or means to carry on war. Intelligence we must have; we must have powder and shot; we must support the credit of our money. You must have a navy to carry on the war. You can’t have a navy, says the gentleman. What is the consequence? I say, that we must submit. Great Britain, with twenty ships, can destroy all our trade, and ravage our sea-coast; can block up all your harbors, prevent your getting powder. What is the consequence? That we should submit. You can’t trade with nobody; you must trade with somebody; you can’t trade with anybody but Great Britain, therefore, I say, we must submit. We can’t trade with foreigners, the gentleman said. The whole train of his reasoning proved that we must break our whole association, as to exports and imports. If we trade with Great Britain, will she furnish us with powder and arms? Our exports are about three millions; would Britain permit us to export to her, and receive cash in return? It would impoverish and ruin Great Britain. They will never permit a trade on our side, without a trade on theirs. Gentlemen from New York would not permit tobacco and naval stores to be sent to Great Britain; nothing that will support their naval power or revenue. But will not this break the Union? Would three Colonies stop their staple when the other Colonies exported theirs? Fifteen hundred seamen are employed by the tobacco Colonies—one hundred and twenty-five sail of British ships; but you may drop your staple, your tobacco; but it is difficult to alter old habits. We have a great number of female slaves that are best employed about tobacco. North Carolina cannot, will not, give up their staple. The gentleman from Georgia was for trading with Great Britain and all the world. He says we can’t trade with any nation but Britain, therefore we must trade with Britain alone. What trade shall we have, if we exclude Britain, Ireland, West Indies, British and foreign? Eastern Provinces might carry it on with a small fleet, if their harbors were fortified. Southern Colonies cannot. Eastern Colonies can’t carry on their trade to that extent, without a naval power to protect them, not only on the coast, but on the ocean, and to the port of their destination. The same force that would assist the Eastern Colonies, would be of little service to us in summer time; it must be a small, narrow, and limited trade.

 

The best instrument we have, is our opposition by commerce. If we take into consideration Great Britain in all her glory; Commons voted eighteen, twenty millions last war; eighty thousand seamen, from her trade alone; her strength is all artificial, from her trade alone. Imports from Great Britain to the United Colonies are three millions per annum; fifteen millions to all the world; one fifth; three quarters is British manufactures. A thousand British vessels are employed in American trade; twelve thousand sailors; all out of employ. What a stroke! I don’t take into view Ireland or West Indies. Colonies generally indebted about one year’s importation; the revenue of tobacco alone half a million, if paid. North Britain enter less than the quantity, and don’t pay what they ought; it employs a great number of manufacturers; reëxported abroad, is a million; it is more. Eighty thousand hogsheads are reëxported, and it pays British debts. The reëxport employs ships, sailors, freight, commissions, insurance.

 

Ireland; the flax seed, forty thousand pounds sterling. Linen brought two million one hundred and fifty thousand pounds from Ireland to England; yards, two hundred thousand. Ireland can raise some flax seed, but not much.

 

West Indies. Glover, Burke, and other authors. They depend for Indian corn and provisions and lumber, and they depend upon us for a great part of the consumption of their produce. Indian corn and fish are not to be had, but from the Colonies, except pilchards and herrings. Jamaica can best provide for her wants, but not entirely. Ireland can send them beef and butter, but no grain. Britain can send them wheat, oats; not corn, without which they cannot do.

 

Stop rum and sugar, how do you affect the revenue and the trade?

 

They must relax the Navigation Act, to enable foreign nations to supply the West Indies. This is dangerous, as it would force open a trade between foreigners and them.

 

Britain can never support a war with us, at the loss of such a valuable trade. African trade dependent upon the West India trade; seven hundred thousand pounds.

 

Twenty-five thousand hogsheads of sugar are imported directly into these Colonies, and as much more, from Britain, manufactured. Jamaica alone takes one hundred and fifty thousand pounds sterling of our produce.

 

National debt, one hundred and forty millions; ten millions, the peace establishment; twenty millions, the whole current cash of the nation. Blackstone. I never read anybody that better understood the subject. For the state of the revenue he calculates the taxes of Ireland and England; taxes of Britain, perpetual and annual; funds, three, the aggregate, general, and South Sea; taxes, upon every article of luxuries and necessaries. These funds are mortgaged, for the civil list, eight hundred thousand pounds, as well as the interest of the debt.

 

Debate continued.

 

October 27. R. R. Livingston.

 

Clothing will rise, though provisions will fall; laborers will be discharged; one quarter part of Rhode Island, New York, and Pennsylvania, depend upon trade, as merchants, shopkeepers, shipwrights, blockmakers, riggers, smiths, &c. &c.: the six northern Colonies must raise nine millions of dollars to support the poor. This vote will stop our trade for fourteen months, although it professes to do it only to the 20th of March; for the winter, when the men of war cannot cruise upon the coast, is the only time that we can trade. Wealthy merchants and moneyed men cannot get the interest of money. More virtue is expected from our people, than any people ever had. The low countries did not reason as we do about speculative opinions, but they felt the oppression for a long course of years, rich and poor.

 

Zubly.

 

Concludes that the sense and bent of the people are against stopping trade, by the eagerness with which they exported before the 10th of September. We can’t get intelligence without trade. All that are supported by trade, must be out of business. Every argument which shews that our association will materially affect the trade of Great Britain, will shew that we must be affected too, by a stoppage of our trade. Great Britain has many resources. I have bought two barrels of rice in Carolina for fifteen shillings, and negro cloth was three shillings instead of eighteen pence.

 

The West Indies will get supplies to keep soul and body together; the ingenious Dutchmen will smuggle some Indian corn from America. Is it right to starve one man because I have quarrelled with another? I have a great scruple whether it is just or prudent. In December, 1776, we shall owe between twenty and thirty millions of money.

 

J. Rutledge.

 

Am for adhering to the Association, and going no further; the non export in terrorem, and generally agreed; the consequences will be dreadful if we ruin the merchants. Will not the army be supplied if vessels go from one Province to another? We may pass a resolution that no live stock shall be exported.

 

October 30. Monday. Ross.1

 

We can’t get seamen to man four vessels. We could not get seamen to man our boats, our galleys. Wythe, Nelson, and Lee, for fitting out four ships.

 

Extract from the Journals.

 

1776. February 16. Friday.

 

“Agreeable 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, and the restrictions and regulations of the trade of these Colonies after the first of March next.”

(This discussion was continued from time to time until the sixth of April, when the Congress came in to sundry resolutions taking off the restrictions on trade.)

 

In Committee of the Whole.

 

Can’t we oblige Britain to keep a navy on foot, the expense of which will be double to what they will take from us? I have heard of bullion Spanish flotas being stopped, lest they should be taken, but perishable commodities never were stopped. Open your ports to foreigners; your trade will become of so much consequence that foreigners will protect you.

 

Wilson.

 

A gentleman from Massachusetts thinks that a middle way should be taken; that trade should be opened for some articles, and to some places, but not for all things and to all places. I think the merchants ought to judge for themselves of the danger and risk. We should be blamed if we did not leave it to them. I differ from the gentleman of Massachusetts. Trade ought in war to be carried on with greater vigor. By what means did Britain carry on their triumphs last war? the United Provinces their war against Spain? If we determine that our ports shall not be opened, our vessels abroad will not return. Our seamen are all abroad; will not return unless we open our trade. I am afraid it will be necessary to invite foreigners to trade with us, although we lose a great advantage, that of trading in our own bottoms.

 

Sherman.

 

I fear we shall maintain the armies of our enemies at our own expense with provisions. We can’t carry on a beneficial trade, as our enemies will take our ships. A treaty with a foreign power is necessary, before we open our trade, to protect it.

 

Harrison.

 

We have hobbled on under a fatal attachment to Great Britain. I felt it as much as any man, but I feel a stronger to my country.

 

Wythe.

 

The ports will be open the 1st March. The question is whether we shall shut them up. Fæce Romuli non Republicâ Platonis. Americans will hardly live without trade. It is said our trade will be of no advantage to us, because our vessels will be taken, our enemies will be supplied, the West Indies will be supplied at our expense. This is too true, unless we can provide a remedy. Our Virginia Convention have resolved, that our ports be opened to all nations that will trade with us, except Great Britain, Ireland, and West Indies. If the inclination of the people should become universal to trade, we must open our ports. Merchants will not export our produce, unless they get a profit.

 

We might get some of our produce to market, by authorizing adventurers to arm themselves, and giving letters of marque, make reprisals. 2d. By inviting foreign powers to make treaties of commerce with us.

 

But other things are to be considered, before such a measure is adopted; in what character shall we treat?—as subjects of Great Britain,—as rebels? Why should we be so fond of calling ourselves dutiful subjects? If we should offer our trade to the Court of France, would they take notice of it any more than if Bristol or Liverpool should offer theirs, while we profess to be subjects? No. We must declare ourselves a free people. If we were to tell them, that after a season, we would return to our subjection to Great Britain, would not a foreign Court wish to have something permanent? We should encourage our fleet. I am convinced that our fleet may become as formidable as we wish to make it. Moves a resolution.

 

Resolved, That the Committee of Secret Correspondence be directed to lay their letters before this Congress.

 

Resolved, That NA be a committee to prepare a draught of firm confederation, to be reported as soon as may be to this Congress, to be considered and digested and recommended to the several Assemblies and Conventions of these United Colonies, to be by them adopted, ratified, and confirmed.

 

Resolved, That it be recommended to the several Assemblies, Conventions, Councils of Safety, and Committees of Correspondence and Inspection, that they use their utmost endeavors, by all reasonable means, to promote the culture of flax, hemp, and cotton, and the growth of wool, in these United Colonies.1

 

Resolved, That it be recommended to the Assemblies, Conventions, and Councils of Safety, that they take the earliest measures for erecting, in each and every Colony, a society for the encouragement of agriculture, arts, manufactures, and commerce; and that a correspondence be maintained between such societies, that the numerous natural advantages of this country, for supporting its inhabitants, may not be neglected.

 

Resolved, That it be recommended to the said Assemblies, Conventions, and Councils of Safety, that they consider of ways and means of introducing the manufactures of duck and sailcloth2 into such Colonies where they are not now understood, and of increasing and promoting them where they are.

 

Resolved, That NA be a committee to receive all plans and proposals for encouraging and improving the agriculture, arts, manufactures, and commerce, both foreign and domestic, of America, to correspond with the several Assemblies, Conventions, Councils, and Committees of Safety, Committees of Correspondence and of Observation, in these United Colonies, upon these interesting subjects.

 

That these be published.

 

1776. March 1.3 How is the interest of France and Spain affected, by the dispute between Britain and the Colonies?

 

Is it the interest of France to stand neuter, to join with Britain, or to join with the Colonies? Is it not her interest to dismember the British empire? Will her dominions be safe, if Britain and America remain connected? Can she preserve her possessions in the West Indies? She has, in the West Indies, Martinico, Guadaloupe, and one half of Hispaniola. In case a reconciliation should take place between Britain and America, and a war should break out between Britain and France, would not all her islands be taken from her in six months? The Colonies are now much more warlike and powerful than they were during the last war. A martial spirit has seized all the Colonies. They are much improved in skill and discipline; they have now a large standing army; they have many good officers; they abound in provisions; they are in the neighborhood of the West Indies. A British fleet and army, united with an American fleet and army, and supplied with provisions and other necessaries from America, might conquer all the French Islands in the West Indies in six months, and a little more time than that would be required to destroy all their marine and commerce.

 

4. Monday. Resentment is a passion implanted by nature for the preservation of the individual. Injury is the object which excites it. Injustice, wrong, injury, excite the feeling of resentment as naturally and necessarily as frost and ice excite the feeling of cold, as fire excites heat, and as both excite pain. A man may have the faculty of concealing his resentment, or suppressing it, but he must and ought to feel it; nay, he ought to indulge it, to cultivate it; it is a duty. His person, his property, his liberty, his reputation, are not safe without it. He ought, for his own security and honor, and for the public good, to punish those who injure him, unless they repent, and then he should forgive, having satisfaction and compensation. Revenge is unlawful. It is the same with communities; they ought to resent and to punish.

 

Is any assistance attainable from France?

 

What connection may we safely form with her?

 

1. No political connection. Submit to none of her authority; receive no governors or officers from her. 2. No military connection. Receive no troops from her. 3. Only a commercial connection; that is, make a treaty to receive her ships into our ports; let her engage to receive our ships into her ports; furnish us with arms, cannon, saltpetre, powder, duck, steel.

 

Whereas the present state of America, and the cruel efforts of our enemies, render the most perfect and cordial union of the Colonies, and the utmost exertions of their strength, necessary for the preservation and establishment of their liberties, therefore,

 

Resolved, That it be recommended to the several Assemblies and Conventions of these United Colonies, who have limited the powers of their delegates in this Congress, by any express instructions, that they repeal or suspend those instructions for a certain time, that this Congress may have power, without any unnecessary obstruction or embarrassment, to concert, direct, and order such further measures as may seem to them necessary for the defence and preservation, support and establishment of right and liberty in these Colonies.1

 

Extract from the Journals of Congress, for Friday, 10 May, 1776.

 

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. R. H. Lee.”

A significant form of preamble was accordingly reported on Wednesday, the 15th of May, debated, and adopted. The following remarks were made in the course of the discussion:—

 

Mr. Duane moves that the delegation from New York might be read.

 

When we were invited by Massachusetts Bay to the first Congress, an objection was made to binding ourselves by votes of Congress. Congress ought not to determine a point of this sort about instituting government. What is it to Congress how justice is administered? You have no right to pass the resolution, any more than Parliament has. How does it appear that no favorable answer is likely to be given to our petitions? Every account of foreign aid is accompanied with an account of commissioners. Why all this haste? why this urging? why this driving? Disputes about independence are in all the Colonies. What is this owing to but our indiscretion? I shall take the liberty of informing my constituents that I have not been guilty of a breach of trust. I do protest against this piece of mechanism, this preamble. If the facts in this preamble should prove to be true, there will not be one voice against independence. I suppose the votes have been numbered, and there is to be a majority.

 

McKean construes the instructions from New York as Mr. Sherman does, and thinks this measure the best to procure harmony with Great Britain. There are now two governments in direct opposition to each other. Don’t doubt that foreign mercenaries are coming to destroy us. I do think we shall lose our liberties, properties, and lives too, if we do not take this step.

 

S. Adams.

 

We have been favored with a reading of the instructions from New York; I am glad of it. The first object of that Colony is no doubt the establishment of their rights. Our petitions have not been heard, yet answered with fleets and armies, and are to be answered with myrmidons from abroad. The gentleman from New York, Mr. Duane, has not objected to the preamble, but this, that he has not a right to vote for it. We cannot go upon stronger reasons than that the King has thrown us out of his protection. Why should we support governments under his authority? I wonder that people have conducted so well as they have.

 

Mr. Wilson.

 

Was not present in Congress when the resolution passed, to which this preamble is proposed. I was present, and one of the committee who reported the advice to Massachusetts Bay. New Hampshire, Carolina, and Virginia, had the same advice, and with my hearty concurrence.

 

The claim of Parliament will meet with resistance to the last extremity. Those Colonies were royal governments; they could not subsist without some government. A maxim, that all government originates from the people. We are the servants of the people, sent here to act under a delegated authority. If we exceed it, voluntarily, we deserve neither excuse nor justification. Some have been put under restraints by their constituents; they cannot vote without transgressing this line. Suppose they should hereafter be called to an account for it. This Province has not, by any public act, authorized us to vote upon this question; this Province has done much and asked little from this Congress; the Assembly, largely increased, will (not) meet till next Monday. Will the cause suffer much, if this preamble is not published at this time? if the resolve is published without the preamble? The preamble contains a reflection upon the conduct of some people in America. It was equally irreconcilable to good conscience, nine months ago, to take the oaths of allegiance, as it is now. Two respectable members, last February, took the oath of allegiance in our Assembly. Why should we expose any gentlemen to such an invidious reflection? In Magna Charta there is a clause which authorizes the people to seize the King’s castles and oppose his arms when he exceeds his duty.

 

In this Province, if that preamble passes, there will be an immediate dissolution of every kind of authority; the people will be instantly in a state of nature. Why then precipitate this measure? Before we are prepared to build the new house, why should we pull down the old one, and expose ourselves to all the inclemencies of the season?

 

R. H. Lee.

 

Most of the arguments apply to the resolve, not to the preamble.

 

CONFEDERATION.

 

On the eleventh of June, 1776, Congress voted that a committee should be appointed to prepare and report a plan of confederation for the Colonies. The next day, it was decided that the committee should consist of one member from each Colony. The following persons were 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. Gwinnett.

To whom Mr. Hopkinson was added on the 28th.

This committee reported on Friday the 12th of July, a draught, consisting of twenty articles. On Monday, the 22d, the Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole to take the report into consideration, which continued from day to day to debate it until Tuesday the 20th of August, when the amended form was reported back to the House. It was laid aside until the 8th of April, 1777, when the articles were again taken up, and discussed until the 15th of November, at which time, having been reduced to thirteen, they were finally adopted.

The following discussions all took place in committee of the whole, upon the original draught of twenty articles. They embrace the main points upon which there was a marked difference of opinion: the western territories, the Indians, representation, and taxation.

 

In Committee of the Whole.

 

1776. July 25. Article 14 of the confederation.1 Terms in this Article equivocal and indefinite.

 

Jefferson.

 

The limits of the Southern Colonies are fixed. Moves an amendment, that all purchases of lands, not within the boundaries of any Colony, shall be made by Congress of the Indians in a great Council.

 

Sherman seconds the motion.

 

Chase.

 

The intention of this Article is very obvious and plain. The Article appears to me to be right, and the amendment wrong. It is the intention of some gentlemen to limit the boundaries of particular States. No Colony has a right to go to the South Sea; they never had; they can’t have. It would not be safe to the rest. It would be destructive to her sisters and to herself.1

 

Jefferson.

 

Article 15.2 What are reasonable limits? What security have we, that the Congress will not curtail the present settlements of the States? I have no doubt that the Colonies will limit themselves.

 

Wilson.

 

Every gentleman has heard much of claims to the South Sea. They are extravagant. The grants were made upon mistakes. They were ignorant of the Geography. They thought the South Sea within one hundred miles of the Atlantic Ocean. It was not conceived that they extended three thousand miles. Lord Camden considers the claims to the South Sea, as what never can be reduced to practice. Pennsylvania has no right to interfere in those claims, but she has a right to say, that she will not confederate unless those claims are cut off. I wish the Colonies themselves would cut off those claims.3

 

Article 16.4Chase moves for the word deputies, instead of delegates, because the members of the Maryland Convention are called delegates, and he would have a distinction. Answer. In other Colonies the reverse is true. The members of the House are called deputies.5

 

Jefferson.

 

Objects to the first of November. Der Hall moves for May, for the time to meet. Jefferson thinks that Congress will have a short meeting in the Fall, and another in the Spring. Heyward. Thinks the Spring the best time. Wilson. Thinks the Fall, and November better than October; because September is a busy month everywhere. Dr. Hall. September and October the most sickly and mortal months in the year. The season is more forward in Georgia in April, than here in May.1

 

Hopkinson moves that the power of recalling delegates be reserved to the State, not to the Assembly, because that may be changed.2

 

Article 17. “Each Colony shall have one vote.”3

 

July 26.4Rutledge and Lynch oppose giving the power of regulating the trade and managing all affairs of the Indians to Congress. The trade is profitable, they say. Gwinnett is in favor of Congress having such power. Braxton is for excepting such Indians as are tributary to any State. Several nations are tributary to Virginia. Jefferson explains it to mean the Indians who live in the Colony. These are subject to the laws in some degree.

 

Wilson.

 

We have no right over the Indians, whether within or without the real or pretended limits of any Colony. They will not allow themselves to be classed according to the bounds of Colonies. Grants made three thousand miles to the eastward, have no validity with the Indians. The trade of Pennsylvania has been more considerable with the Indians than that of the neighboring Colonies.

 

Walton.

 

The Indian trade is of no essential service to any Colony. It must be a monopoly. If it is free, it produces jealousies and animosities and wars. Carolina, very passionately, considers this trade as contributing to her grandeur and dignity. Deerskins are a great part of the trade. A great difference between South Carolina and Georgia. Carolina is in no danger from the Indians at present. Georgia is a frontier and barrier to Carolina. Georgia must be overrun and extirpated before Carolina can be hurt. Georgia is not equal to the expense of giving the donations to the Indians, which will be necessary to keep them at peace. The emoluments of the trade are not a compensation for the expense of donations.

 

Rutledge differs from Walton in a variety of points. We must look forward with extensive views. Carolina has been run to an amazing expense to defend themselves against Indians; in 1760, &c., fifty thousand guineas were spent. We have now as many men on the frontiers, as in Charleston. We have forts in the Indian countries. We are connected with them by treaties.

 

Lynch.

 

Congress may regulate the trade, if they will indemnify Carolina against the expense of keeping peace with the Indians, or defending us against them.

 

Witherspoon.

 

Here are two adjacent provinces, situated alike with respect to the Indians, differing totally in their sentiments of their interests.

 

Chase.

 

South Carolina claims to the South Sea; so does North, Virginia and Massachusetts Bay. South Carolina says they have a right to regulate the trade with the Indians; if so, four Colonies have all the power of regulating trade with the Indians. South Carolina could not stand alone against the Indian nations.

 

Sherman moves that Congress may have a superintending power, to prevent injustice to the Indians or Colonies.

 

Wilson.

 

No lasting peace will be with the Indians, unless made by some one body. No such language as this ought to be held to the Indians. “We are stronger, we are better, we treat you better than another Colony.” No power ought to treat with the Indians, but the United States. Indians know the striking benefits of confederation; they have an example of it in the union of the Six Nations. The idea of the union of the Colonies struck them forcibly last year. None should trade with Indians without a license from Congress. A perpetual war would be unavoidable, if everybody was allowed to trade with them.

 

Stone.

 

This expedient is worse than either of the alternatives. What is the meaning of this superintendency? Colonies will claim the right first. Congress can’t interpose until the evil has happened. Disputes will arise when Congress shall interpose.1

 

July 30. Article 17. “In determining questions, each Colony shall have one vote.”

 

Dr. Franklin.

 

Let the smaller Colonies give equal money and men, and then have an equal vote. But if they have an equal vote without bearing equal burthens, a confederation upon such iniquitous principles will never last long.

 

Dr. Witherspoon.

 

We all agree that there must and shall be a confederation, for this war. It will diminish the glory of our object, and depreciate our hope; it will damp the ardor of the people. The greatest danger we have, is of disunion among ourselves. Is it not plausible that the small States will be oppressed by the great ones? The Spartans and Helotes. The Romans and their dependents. Every Colony is a distinct person. States of Holland.

 

Clark.

 

We must apply for pardons if we don’t confederate.

 

Wilson.

 

We should settle upon some plan of representation.2

 

Chase.

 

3 Moves that the word “white,” should be inserted in the eleventh Article. The negroes are wealth. Numbers are not a certain rule of wealth. It is the best rule we can lay down. Negroes a species of property, personal estate. If negroes are taken into the computation of numbers to ascertain wealth, they ought to be, in settling the representation. The Massachusetts fisheries, and navigation, ought to be taken into consideration. The young and old negroes are a burthen to their owners. The eastern Colonies have a great advantage in trade. This will give them a superiority. We shall be governed by our interests, and ought to be. If I am satisfied in the rule of levying and appropriating money, I am willing the small Colonies should have a vote.1

 

Wilson.

 

If the war continues two years, each soul will have forty dollars to pay of the public debt. It will be the greatest encouragement to continue slave-keeping, and to increase it, that can be, to exempt them from the numbers which are to vote and pay. Slaves are taxables in the Southern Colonies. It will be partial and unequal. Some Colonies have as many black as white; these will not pay more than half what they ought. Slaves prevent freemen from cultivating a country. It is attended with many inconveniences.

 

Lynch.

 

If it is debated, whether their slaves are their property, there is an end of the confederation. Our slaves being our property, why should they be taxed more than the land, sheep, cattle, horses, &c.?

 

Freemen cannot be got to work in our Colonies; it is not in the ability or inclination of freemen to do the work that the negroes do. Carolina has taxed their negroes; so have other Colonies their lands.

 

Dr. Franklin.

 

Slaves rather weaken than strengthen the State, and there is therefore some difference between them and sheep; sheep will never make any insurrections.

 

Rutledge.

 

I shall be happy to get rid of the idea of slavery. The slaves do not signify property; the old and young cannot work. The property of some Colonies is to be taxed, in others, not. The Eastern Colonies will become the carriers for the Southern; they will obtain wealth for which they will not be taxed.

 

August 1. Hooper.

 

North Carolina is a striking exception to the general rule that was laid down yesterday, that the riches of a country are in proportion to the numbers of inhabitants. A gentleman of three or four hundred negroes don’t raise more corn than feeds them. A laborer can’t be hired for less than twenty-four pounds a year in Massachusetts Bay. The net profit of a negro is not more than five or six pounds per annum. I wish to see the day that slaves are not necessary. Whites and negroes cannot work together. Negroes are goods and chattels, are property. A negro works under the impulse of fear, has no care of his master’s interest.1

 

The Consideration of the Seventeenth Article, resumed.1

 

Article 17. Dr. Franklin moves that votes should be in proportion to numbers. Mr. Middleton moves that the vote should be according to what they pay.

 

Sherman thinks we ought not to vote according to numbers. We are representatives of States, not individuals. States of Holland. The consent of every one is necessary. Three Colonies would govern the whole, but would not have a majority of strength to carry those votes into execution. The vote should be taken two ways; call the Colonies, and call the individuals, and have a majority of both.

 

Dr. Rush.2

 

Abbé Raynal has attributed the ruin of the United Provinces to three causes. The principal one is, that the consent of every State is necessary; the other, that the members are obliged to consult their constituents upon all occasions. We lose an equal representation; we represent the people. It will tend to keep up colonial distinctions. We are now a new nation. Our trade, language, customs, manners, don’t differ more than they do in Great Britain. The more a man aims at serving America, the more he serves his Colony. It will promote factions in Congress and in the States; it will prevent the growth of freedom in America; we shall be loth to admit new Colonies into the confederation. If we vote by numbers, liberty will be always safe. Massachusetts is contiguous to two small Colonies, Rhode Island and New Hampshire; Pennsylvania is near New Jersey and Delaware; Virginia is between Maryland and North Carolina. We have been too free with the word independence; we are dependent on each other, not totally independent States. Montesquieu pronounces the confederation of Lycia, the best that ever was made; the cities had different weights in the scale. China is not larger than one of our Colonies; how populous! It is said that the small Colonies deposit their all; this is deceiving us with a word. I would not have it understood that I am pleading the cause of Pennsylvania; when I entered that door, I considered myself a citizen of America.

 

Dr. Witherspoon.

 

Representation in England is unequal. Must I have three votes in a county, because I have three times as much money as my neighbor? Congress are to determine the limits of Colonies.

 

G. Hopkins.

 

A momentous question; many difficulties on each side; four larger, five lesser, four stand indifferent. Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, make more than half the people.

 

Connecticut, New York, two Carolinas, not concerned at all. The disinterested coolness of these Colonies ought to determine. I can easily feel the reasoning of the larger Colonies; pleasing theories always gave way to the prejudices, passions, and interests of mankind. The Germanic Confederation. The King of Prussia has an equal vote. The Helvetic confederacy. It can’t be expected that nine Colonies will give way to be governed by four. The safety of the whole depends upon the distinctions of Colonies.

 

Dr. Franklin.

 

I hear many ingenious arguments to persuade us that an unequal representation is a very good thing. If we had been born and bred under an unequal representation, we might bear it; but to set out with an unequal representation, is unreasonable. It is said the great Colonies will swallow up the less. Scotland said the same thing at the union.

 

Dr. Witherspoon rises to explain a few circumstances relating to Scotland; that was an incorporating union, not a federal; the nobility and gentry resort to England.

 

In determining all questions, each State shall have a weight, in proportion to what it contributes to the public expenses of the United States.1

 

August 2.2 “Limiting the bounds of States, which by charter, &c. extend to the South Sea.”

 

Sherman thinks the bounds ought to be settled. A majority of States have no claim to the South Sea. Moves this amendment to be substituted in place of this clause, and also instead of the fifteenth article;—“No lands to be separated from any State, which are already settled, or become private property.”

 

Chase denies that any Colony has a right to go to the South Sea.

 

Harrison.

 

How came Maryland by its land, but by its charter? By its charter, Virginia owns to the South Sea. Gentlemen shall not pare away the Colony of Virginia. Rhode Island has more generosity than to wish the Massachusetts pared away. Delaware does not wish to pare away Pennsylvania.

 

Huntington.

 

Admit there is danger from Virginia, does it follow that Congress has a right to limit her bounds? The consequence is, not to enter into confederation. But as to the question of right, we all unite against mutilating charters. I can’t agree to the principle. We are a spectacle to all Europe. I am not so much alarmed at the danger from Virginia as some are; my fears are not alarmed; they have acted as noble a part as any. I doubt not the wisdom of Virginia will limit themselves. A man’s right does not cease to be a right, because it is large; the question of right must be determined by the principles of the common law.

 

Stone.

 

This argument is taken up upon very wrong ground. It is considered as if we were voting away the territory of particular Colonies, and gentlemen work themselves up into warmth upon that supposition. Suppose Virginia should. The small Colonies have a right to happiness and security; they would have no safety if the great Colonies were not limited. We shall grant lands, in small quantities, without rent or tribute or purchase-money. It is said that Virginia is attacked on every side. Is it meant that Virginia shall sell the lands for their own emolument? All the Colonies have defended these lands against the King of Britain, and at the expense of all. Does Virginia intend to establish quit rents? I don’t mean that the United States shall sell them, to get money by them.

 

Jefferson.

 

I protest against the right of Congress to decide upon the right of Virginia. Virginia has released all claims to the land settled by Maryland, &c.1

 

AUTOBIOGRAPHY.

 

1775. September. [At the appointed time, we returned to Philadelphia, and Congress were reassembled. Mr. Richard Penn had sailed for England, and carried the petition, from which Mr. Dickinson and his party expected relief. I expected none, and was wholly occupied in measures to support the army and the expedition into Canada. Every important step was opposed, and carried by bare majorities, which obliged me to be almost constantly engaged in debate; but I was not content with all that was done, and almost every day I had something to say about advising the States to institute governments, to express my total despair of any good from the petition or any of those things which were called conciliatory measures. I constantly insisted that all such measures, instead of having any tendency to produce a reconciliation, would only be considered as proofs of our timidity and want of confidence in the ground we stood on, and would only encourage our enemies to greater exertions against us; that we should be driven to the necessity of declaring ourselves independent States, and that we ought now to be employed in preparing a plan of confederation for the Colonies, and treaties to be proposed to foreign powers, particularly to France and Spain; that all these measures ought to be maturely considered and carefully prepared, together with a declaration of independence; that these three measures, independence, confederation, and negotiations with foreign powers, particularly France, ought to go hand in hand, and be adopted all together; that foreign powers could not be expected to acknowledge us till we had acknowledged ourselves, and taken our station among them as a sovereign power and independent nation;1 that now we were distressed for want of artillery, arms, ammunition, clothing, and even for flints; that the people had no markets for their produce, wanted clothing and many other things, which foreign commerce alone could fully supply, and we could not expect commerce till we were independent; that the people were wonderfully well united, and extremely ardent. There was no danger of our wanting support from them, if we did not discourage them by checking and quenching their zeal; that there was no doubt of our ability to defend the country, to support the war, and maintain our independence. We had men enough, our people were brave, and every day improving in all the exercises and discipline of war; that we ought immediately to give permission to our merchants to fit out privateers and make reprisals on the enemy; that Congress ought to arm ships, and commission officers, and lay the foundation of a navy; that immense advantages might be derived from this resource; that not only West India articles, in great abundance, and British manufactures, of all kinds, might be obtained, but artillery ammunitions and all kinds of supplies for the army; that a system of measures, taken with unanimity and pursued with resolution, would insure us the friendship and assistance of France.

 

Some gentlemen doubted of the sentiments of France; thought she would frown upon us as rebels, and be afraid to countenance the example. I replied to those gentlemen, that I apprehended they had not attended to the relative situation of France and England; that it was the unquestionable interest of France that the British Continental Colonies should be independent; that Britain, by the conquest of Canada and her naval triumphs during the last war, and by her vast possessions in America and the East Indies, was exalted to a height of power and preëminence that France must envy and could not endure. But there was much more than pride and jealousy in the case. Her rank, her consideration in Europe, and even her safety and independence, were at stake. The navy of Great Britain was now mistress of the seas, all over the globe. The navy of France almost annihilated. Its inferiority was so great and obvious, that all the dominions of France, in the West Indies and in the East Indies, lay at the mercy of Great Britain, and must remain so as long as North America belonged to Great Britain, and afforded them so many harbors abounding with naval stores and resources of all kinds, and so many men and seamen ready to assist them and man their ships; that interest could not lie; that the interest of France was so obvious, and her motives so cogent, that nothing but a judicial infatuation of her councils could restrain her from embracing us; that our negotiations with France ought, however, to be conducted with great caution, and with all the foresight we could possibly obtain; that we ought not to enter into any alliance with her, which should entangle us in any future wars in Europe; that we ought to lay it down, as a first principle and a maxim never to be forgotten, to maintain an entire neutrality in all future European wars; that it never could be our interest to unite with France in the destruction of England, or in any measures to break her spirit, or reduce her to a situation in which she could not support her independence. On the other hand, it could never be our duty to unite with Britain in too great a humiliation of France; that our real, if not our nominal, independence, would consist in our neutrality. If we united with either nation, in any future war, we must become too subordinate and dependent on that nation, and should be involved in all European wars, as we had been hitherto; that foreign powers would find means to corrupt our people, to influence our councils, and, in fine, we should be little better than puppets, danced on the wires of the cabinets of Europe. We should be the sport of European intrigues and politics; that, therefore, in preparing treaties to be proposed to foreign powers, and in the instructions to be given to our ministers, we ought to confine ourselves strictly to a treaty of commerce; that such a treaty would be an ample compensation to France for all the aid we should want from her. The opening of American trade to her, would be a vast resource for her commerce and naval power, and a great assistance to her in protecting her East and West India possessions, as well as her fisheries; but that the bare dismemberment of the British empire would be to her an incalculable security and benefit, worth more than all the exertions we should require of her, even if it should draw her into another eight or ten years’ war.

 

When I first made these observations in Congress, I never saw a greater impression made upon that assembly or any other. Attention and approbation were marked upon every countenance. Several gentlemen came to me afterwards, to thank me for that speech, particularly Mr. Cæsar Rodney, of Delaware, and Mr. Duane, of New York. I remember these two gentlemen in particular, because both of them said that I had considered the subject of foreign connections more maturely than any man they had ever heard in America; that I had perfectly digested the subject, and had removed, Mr. Rodney said, all, and Mr. Duane said, the greatest part of his objections to foreign negotiations. Even Mr. Dickinson said, to gentlemen out of doors, that I had thrown great light on the subject.

 

These and such as these, were my constant and daily topics, sometimes of reasoning and no doubt often of declamation, from the meeting of Congress in the autumn of 1775, through the whole winter and spring of 1776.

 

Many motions were made, and after tedious discussions, lost. I received little assistance from my colleagues in all these contests; three of them were either inclined to lean towards Mr. Dickinson’s system, or at least chose to be silent, and the fourth spoke but rarely in Congress, and never entered into any extensive arguments, though, when he did speak, his sentiments were clear and pertinent and neatly expressed. Mr. Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, Mr. Sherman, of Connecticut, and Mr. Gadsden, of South Carolina, were always on my side, and Mr. Chase, of Maryland, when he did speak at all, was always powerful, and generally with us. Mr. Johnson, of Maryland, was the most frequent speaker from that State, and, while he remained with us, was inclined to Mr. Dickinson for some time, but ere long he and all his State came cordially into our system. In the fall of 1776, his State appointed him General of militia, and he marched to the relief of General Washington in the Jerseys. He was afterwards chosen Governor of Maryland, and he came no more to Congress.

 

In the course of this winter appeared a phenomenon in Philadelphia, a disastrous meteor, I mean Thomas Paine. He came from England, and got into such company as would converse with him, and ran about picking up what information he could concerning our affairs, and finding the great question was concerning independence, he gleaned from those he saw the common-place arguments, such as the necessity of independence at some time or other; the peculiar fitness at this time; the justice of it; the provocation to it; our ability to maintain it, &c. &c. Dr. Rush put him upon writing on the subject, furnished him with the arguments which had been urged in Congress a hundred times, and gave him his title of “Common Sense.” In the latter part of winter, or early in the spring, he came out with his pamphlet. The arguments in favor of independence I liked very well; but one third part of the book was filled with arguments, from the Old Testament, to prove the unlawfulness of monarchy, and another third, in planning a form of government for the separate States, in one assembly, and for the United States, in a Congress. His arguments from the Old Testament were ridiculous, but whether they proceeded from honest ignorance or foolish superstition on one hand, or from wilful sophistry and knavish hypocrisy on the other, I know not. The other third part, relative to a form of government, I considered as flowing from simple ignorance, and a mere desire to please the democratic party, in Philadelphia, at whose head were Mr. Matlack, Mr. Cannon, and Dr. Young. I regretted, however, to see so foolish a plan recommended to the people of the United States, who were all waiting only for the countenance of Congress to institute their State governments. I dreaded the effect so popular a pamphlet might have among the people, and determined to do all in my power to counteract the effect of it. My continual occupations in Congress allowed me no time to write any thing of any length; but I found moments to write a small pamphlet, which Mr. Richard Henry Lee, to whom I showed it, liked so well, that he insisted on my permitting him to publish it. He accordingly got Mr. Dunlap to print it, under the title of “Thoughts on Government, in a letter from a gentleman to his friend.” Common Sense was published without a name, and I thought it best to suppress my name too. But as Common Sense, when it first appeared, was generally by the public ascribed to me or Mr. Samuel Adams, I soon regretted that my name did not appear. Afterwards I had a new edition of it printed, with my name and the name of Mr. Wythe, of Virginia, to whom the letter was at first intended to be addressed.1 The gentlemen of New York availed themselves of the ideas in this morsel, in the formation of the constitution of that State. And Mr. Lee sent it to the convention of Virginia, when they met to form their government, and it went to North Carolina, New Jersey, and other States. Matlack, Cannon, Young, and Paine, had influence enough, however, to get their plan adopted in substance in Georgia and Vermont, as well as Pennsylvania. These three States have since found them such systems of anarchy, if that expression is not a contradiction in terms, that they have altered them and made them more conformable to my plan.

 

Paine, soon after the appearance of my pamphlet, hurried away to my lodgings and spent an evening with me. His business was to reprehend me for publishing my pamphlet; said he was afraid it would do hurt, and that it was repugnant to the plan he had proposed in his Common Sense. I told him it was true it was repugnant, and for that reason I had written it and consented to the publication of it; for I was as much afraid of his work as he was of mine. His plan was so democratical,2 without any restraints or even an attempt at any equilibrium or counterpoise, that it must produce confusion and every evil work. I told him further, that his reasoning from the Old Testament was ridiculous, and I could hardly think him sincere. At this he laughed, and said he had taken his ideas in that part from Milton; and then expressed a contempt of the Old Testament, and indeed of the Bible at large, which surprised me. He saw that I did not relish this, and soon checked himself with these words: “However, I have some thoughts of publishing my thoughts on religion, but I believe it will be best to postpone it to the latter part of life.” This conversation passed in good humor, without any harshness on either side; but I perceived in him a conceit of himself and a daring impudence, which have been developed more and more to this day.

 

The third part of Common Sense, which relates wholly to the question of independence, was clearly written, and contained a tolerable summary of the arguments which I had been repeating again and again in Congress for nine months. But I am bold to say there is not a fact nor a reason stated in it, which had not been frequently urged in Congress. The temper and wishes of the people supplied every thing at that time; and the phrases, suitable for an emigrant from Newgate, or one who had chiefly associated with such company, such as, “The Royal Brute of England,” “The blood upon his soul,” and a few others of equal delicacy, had as much weight with the people as his arguments. It has been a general opinion that this pamphlet was of great importance in the Revolution. I doubted it at the time, and have doubted it to this day. It probably converted some to the doctrine of independence, and gave others an excuse for declaring in favor of it. But these would all have followed Congress with zeal; and on the other hand it excited many writers against it, particularly “Plain Truth,” who contributed very largely to fortify and inflame the party against independence, and finally lost us the Allens, Penns, and many other persons of weight in the community.

 

Notwithstanding these doubts, I felt myself obliged to Paine for the pains he had taken, and for his good intentions to serve us, which I then had no doubt of. I saw he had a capacity and a ready pen; and, understanding he was poor and destitute, I thought we might put him into some employment where he might be useful and earn a living. Congress appointed a Committee of Foreign Affairs, not long after, and they wanted a clerk. I nominated Thomas Paine, supposing him a ready writer and an industrious man. Dr. Witherspoon, the President of New Jersey College, and then a delegate from that State, rose and objected to it with an earnestness that surprised me. The Doctor said he would give his reasons; he knew the man and his communication; when he first came over, he was on the other side, and had written pieces against the American cause; that he had afterwards been employed by his friend, Robert Aitkin, and finding the tide of popularity run rapidly, he had turned about; that he was very intemperate, and could not write until he had quickened his thoughts with large draughts of rum and water; that he was, in short, a bad character, and not fit to be placed in such a situation. General Roberdeau spoke in his favor; no one confirmed Witherspoon’s account, though the truth of it has since been sufficiently established. Congress appointed him; but he was soon obnoxious by his manners, and dismissed.

 

There was one circumstance in his conversation with me about the pamphlets, which I could not account for. He was extremely earnest to convince me that “Common Sense” was his first born; declared again and again that he had never written a line nor a word that had been printed, before “Common Sense.” I cared nothing for this, and said nothing; but Dr. Witherspoon’s account of his writing against us, brought doubts into my mind of his veracity, which the subsequent histories of his writings and publications in England, when he was in the custom-house, did not remove. At this day it would be ridiculous to ask any questions about Tom Paine’s veracity, integrity, or any other virtue.

 

I was incessantly employed through the whole fall, winter, and spring of 1775 and 1776, in Congress during their sittings, and on committees on mornings and evenings, and unquestionably did more business than any other member of that house. In the beginning of May, I procured the appointment of a committee, to prepare a resolution recommending to the people of the States to institute governments. The committee, of whom I was one, requested me to draught a resolve, which I did, and by their direction reported it.1 Opposition was made to it, and Mr. Duane called it a machine to fabricate independence, but on the 15th of May, 1776, it passed. It was indeed, on all hands, considered by men of understanding as equivalent to a declaration of independence, though a formal declaration of it was still opposed by Mr. Dickinson and his party.

 

Not long after this, the three greatest measures of all were carried. Three committees were appointed, one for preparing a declaration of independence, another for reporting a plan of a treaty to be proposed to France, and a third to digest a system of articles of confederation to be proposed to the States. I was appointed on the committee of independence, and on that for preparing the form of a treaty with France. On the committee of confederation Mr. Samuel Adams was appointed. The committee of independence were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. Mr. Jefferson had been now about a year a member of Congress, but had attended his duty in the house a very small part of the time, and, when there, had never spoken in public. During the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three sentences together. It will naturally be inquired how it happened that he was appointed on a committee of such importance. There were more reasons than one. Mr. Jefferson had the reputation of a masterly pen; he had been chosen a delegate in Virginia, in consequence of a very handsome public paper which he had written for the House of Burgesses, which had given him the character of a fine writer.1 Another reason was, that Mr. Richard Henry Lee was not beloved by the most of his colleagues from Virginia, and Mr. Jefferson was set up to rival and supplant him. This could be done only by the pen, for Mr. Jefferson could stand no competition with him or any one else in elocution and public debate.

 

Here I will interrupt the narration for a moment to observe, that, from all I have read of the history of Greece and Rome, England and France, and all I have observed at home and abroad, eloquence in public assemblies is not the surest road to fame or preferment, at least, unless it be used with caution, very rarely, and with great reserve. The examples of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson, are enough to show that silence and reserve in public, are more efficacious than argumentation or oratory. A public speaker who inserts himself, or is urged by others, into the conduct of affairs, by daily exertions to justify his measures, and answer the objections of opponents, makes himself too familiar with the public, and unavoidably makes himself enemies. Few persons can bear to be outdone in reasoning or declamation or wit or sarcasm or repartee or satire, and all these things are very apt to grow out of public debate. In this way, in a course of years, a nation becomes full of a man’s enemies, or at least, of such as have been galled in some controversy, and take a secret pleasure in assisting to humble and mortify him. So much for this digression. We will now return to our memoirs.

 

The committee had several meetings, in which were proposed the articles of which the declaration was to consist, and minutes made of them. The committee then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me to draw them up in form, and clothe them in a proper dress.1 The sub-committee met, and considered the minutes, making such observations on them as then occurred, when Mr. Jefferson desired me to take them to my lodgings, and make the draught. This I declined, and gave several reasons for declining. 1. That he was a Virginian, and I a Massachusettensian. 2. That he was a southern man, and I a northern one. 3. That I had been so obnoxious for my early and constant zeal in promoting the measure, that any draught of mine would undergo a more severe scrutiny and criticism in Congress, than one of his composition. 4. and lastly, and that would be reason enough if there were no other, I had a great opinion of the elegance of his pen, and none at all of my own. I therefore insisted that no hesitation should be made on his part. He accordingly took the minutes, and in a day or two produced to me his draught. Whether I made or suggested any correction, I remember not. The report was made to the committee of five, by them examined, but whether altered or corrected in any thing, I cannot recollect. But, in substance at least, it was reported to Congress, where, after a severe criticism, and striking out several of the most oratorical paragraphs, it was adopted on the fourth of July, 1776, and published to the world.

 

The committee for preparing the model of a treaty to be proposed to France, consisted of Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Franklin, Mr. John Adams, Mr. Harrison, and Mr. Robert Morris. When we met to deliberate on the subject, I contended for the same principles which I had before avowed and defended in Congress, namely, that we should avoid all alliance which might embarrass us in after times, and involve us in future European wars; that a treaty of commerce which would operate as a repeal of the British acts of navigation so far as respected us, and admit France into an equal participation of the benefits of our commerce, would encourage her manufactures, increase her exports of the produce of her soil and agriculture, extend her navigation and trade, augment her resources of naval power, raise her from her present deep humiliation, distress, and decay, and place her on a more equal footing with England, for the protection of her foreign possessions; and maintaining her independence at sea, would be an ample compensation to France for acknowledging our independence, and for furnishing us, for our money, or upon credit for a time, with such supplies of necessaries as we should want, even if this conduct should involve her in a war; if a war should ensue, which did not necessarily follow, for a bare acknowledgment of our independence, after we had asserted it, was not by the law of nations an act of hostility, which would be a legitimate cause of war. Franklin, although he was commonly as silent on committees as in Congress, upon this occasion, ventured so far as to intimate his concurrence with me in these sentiments; though, as will be seen hereafter, he shifted them as easily as the wind ever shifted, and assumed a dogmatical tone in favor of an opposite system. The committee, after as much deliberation upon the subject as they chose to employ, appointed me to draw up a plan and report. Franklin had made some marks with a pencil against some articles in a printed volume of treaties, which he put into my hand. Some of these were judiciously selected, and I took them, with others which I found necessary, into the draught, and made my report to the committee at large, who, after a reasonable examination of it, agreed to report it. When it came before Congress, it occupied the attention of that body for several days. Many motions were made to insert in it articles of entangling alliance, of exclusive privileges, and of warranties of possessions; and it was argued that the present plan reported by the committee held out no sufficient temptation to France, who would despise it and refuse to receive our Ambassador. It was chiefly left to me to defend my report, though I had some able assistance, and we did defend it with so much success that the treaty passed without one particle of alliance, exclusive privilege, or warranty.1

 

APPENDIX.

 

[1 ]The same complaint is made by General Washington, in a letter addressed to Richard Henry Lee, about this time. Sparks’s Washington, vol. iii. p. 68.

 

[2 ]Extract from the Secret Journals of Congress, 18 September, 1775:—

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

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

“19 September. The members chosen for the secret committee:—

“Mr. Willing, Mr. Franklin, Mr. P. Livingston, Mr. Alsop, Mr. Deane, Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Langdon, Mr. McKean, and Mr. Ward.”

Extract from the Journals, 25 September:—

“The delegates, from Pennsylvania, produced an account of the powder imported, and how it has been disposed of.”

 

[1 ]See Journals: “Resolved, That a Committee of Accounts or Claims be now appointed, to consist of one member from each of the United Colonies, to whom all accounts against the continent are to be referred, who are to examine and report upon the same in order for payment, seven of them to be a quorum.”

The various topics here discussed do not appear in the Journals arranged in the same order that is kept in these notes.

 

[1 ]The new committee consisted of the following members:—

Mr. Langdon, Mr. Cushing, Mr. Ward, Mr. Deane, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Smith, Mr. Willing, Mr. Rodney, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Nelson, Mr. Gadsden, and Dr. Zubly.

 

[2 ]Extract from the Journals of Congress, 27 September:—

“A memorial of Samuel and Robert Purviance was presented and read, setting forth that they had chartered a vessel to carry a load of wheat; that the said vessel, in going from Philadelphia to Chestertown, in Maryland, was lost in the late storm, by which they were prevented from exporting, before the 10th of September, the cargo which they had actually purchased; and, therefore, praying for liberty to export the cargo to a foreign port.

“Ordered, to lie on the table.”

 

[1 ]On Saturday, the 30th September, the committee appointed to consider the trade of America brought in their report. See Journals.

The original agreement of non-exportation had fixed the tenth of September, 1775, as the period from which it was to begin. The resolutions, finally passed, will be found in the Journals of the 1st of November.

 

[1 ]Lord Dunmore had sworn “by the living God, that if any injury or insult was offered to himself, he would declare freedom to the slaves.” At this time he went to Norfolk, threatening to execute his pledge. Tucker’s Life of Jefferson, vol. i. pp. 74-76. His proclamation, fulfilling it, is dated a month later. Howison’s History of Virginia, vol. ii. p. 99.

 

[1 ]This Report will be found at large in the printed Journals of this date.

 

[1 ]The following resolution made a part of the report under consideration:—

“Resolved, That orders be sent to General Wooster, in case he has no orders to the contrary from General Schuyler, that he immediately return to the batteries erecting in the Highlands, and there leave as many of his troops as the conductors of the work shall think necessary for completing them, and that he repair with the remainder to New York.”

 

[2 ]A brief, but clear, account of the controversy between Connecticut and Pennsylvania, respecting the lands at Wyoming, is found in the life of Roger Sherman, in Sanderson’s Biography of the Signers, &c. It was finally decided, in 1782, in favor of Pennsylvania. Reed’s Life of Reed, vol. ii. p. 388.

 

[3 ]One part of the report was in these words:—

“That it be recommended to said Convention, to establish, at proper distances, posts to be ready to give intelligence to the country, in case of any invasion, or, by signals, to give alarms in case of danger; and that they confer with the Assembly of Connecticut, and Convention of New Jersey, on the speediest manner of conveying intelligence in such cases, and receiving assistance when necessary.”

 

[1 ]Extract from the Journals:—

“The Committee appointed to prepare an estimate, and to fit out the vessels, brought in their report, which being taken into consideration, &c.

“Resolved, That two more vessels be fitted out with all expedition, &c.”

 

[1 ]The first three of these resolutions are found, with only verbal amendments, in the Journals of the 21st of March. They were drawn, presented, and carried through by Mr. Adams, as may be seen in the Extract from the Autobiography, that follows these debates.

 

[2 ]In the resolutions, as adopted, the words “and steel,” are here inserted.

 

[3 ]The three entries, which follow, seem to be notes of speeches made by the writer, at this period, in Congress, although it is not easy to decide precisely upon the form of the question proposed.

 

[1 ]This is perhaps the first draught of the well known motion made in Committee of the Whole, on the sixth of May, which was reported to the House, on the tenth, in the shape in which it appears extracted from the Journal of that day.

 

[1 ]This, in the first draught, reads as follows: “No purchases of lands, hereafter to be made of the Indians, by Colonies or private persons, before the limits of the Colonies are ascertained, to be valid. All purchases of lands not included within those limits, where ascertained, to be made by contracts between the United States assembled, or by persons for that purpose authorized by them and the great councils of the Indians, for the general benefit of all the United Colonies.”

 

[1 ]This article was stricken out.

 

[2 ]“When the boundaries of any Colony shall be ascertained by agreement, or in the manner hereinafter directed, all the other Colonies shall guarantee to such Colony the full and peaceable possession of, and the free and entire jurisdiction in, and over the territory included within such boundaries.”

 

[3 ]The article was stricken out.

 

[4 ]“For the more convenient management of the general interests of the United States, delegates should be annually appointed in such manner as the Legislature of each Colony shall direct, to meet at the city of Philadelphia, in the Colony of Pennsylvania, until otherwise ordered by the United States assembled; which meeting shall be on the first Monday of November in every year, with a power reserved to those who appointed the said delegates, respectively, to re-call them, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send new delegates in their stead for the remainder of the year. Each Colony shall support its own delegates in a meeting of the States, and while they act as members of the council of State, hereinafter mentioned.”

 

[5 ]This motion did not succeed.

 

[1 ]The motion did not succeed.

 

[2 ]This amendment prevailed in committee. The words “those who appointed the said delegates respectively,” were stricken out and the words “each State” inserted. The word “Colony” was also stricken out where it occurs, and “State” inserted. It should be recollected that the first draught was reported by John Dickinson. The article was again amended in the House by cutting off the last clause, and striking out the city of Philadelphia as the place of meeting. In this last shape, it was transferred to, and made the first part of, the fifth article, where it stands in the paper as finally adopted.

 

[3 ]Probably passed over for the moment.

 

[4 ]The eighteenth article of the first draught enumerates the rights and powers of the United States. Among these is that of “regulating the trade, and managing all affairs with the Indians.”

 

[1 ]The clause was retained in committee, with the addition of the following words, “not members of any of the States,” and makes a part of the ninth article as adopted.

 

[2 ]Probably passed over for the moment.

 

[3 ]The original draught of the eleventh article of the confederation, upon which this debate took place, was in these words:

“All charges of wars, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence, or general welfare, and allowed by the United States assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several Colonies in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex, and quality, except Indians not paying taxes, in each Colony, a true account of which, distinguishing the white inhabitants, shall be triennially taken and transmitted to the Assembly of the United States. Taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and directions of the legislature of the several Colonies within the time agreed upon by the United States assembled.”

 

[1 ]Notes of this speech of Mr. Chase, and of a portion of the debate, were also taken by Mr. Jefferson, and they are found in the first volume of his papers published by his grandson, Mr. Randolph. A comparison of the two reports, as far as they go, shows a substantial agreement between them. But Mr. Jefferson’s contains an abstract of two speeches by Mr. Adams, which are not found elsewhere. The first of them is inserted, as having been made immediately after that of Mr. Chase.

“Mr. John Adams observed, that the numbers of people were taken by this article, as an index of the wealth of the State, and not as subjects of taxation; that, as to this matter, it was of no consequence by what name you called your people, whether by that of freemen or slaves; that in some countries the laboring poor were called freemen, in others they were called slaves; but that the difference as to the State was imaginary only. What matters it whether a landlord employing ten laborers on his farm, gives them annually as much money as will buy them the necessaries of life, or gives them such necessaries at short hand? The ten laborers add as much wealth annually to the State, increase its exports as much, in the one case as the other. Certainly five hundred freemen produce no more profits, no greater surplus for the payment of taxes, than five hundred slaves. Therefore the State in which the laborers are called freemen, should be taxed no more than that in which are those called slaves. Suppose, by an extraordinary operation of nature or of law, one half the laborers of a State could in the course of one night be transformed into slaves. Would the State be made the poorer or the less able to pay taxes? That the condition of the laboring poor in most countries, that of the fishermen particularly, of the northern States, is as abject as that of slaves. It is the number of laborers which produces the surplus for taxation, and numbers, therefore, indiscriminately, are the fair index of wealth; that it is the use of the word ‘property’ here, and its application to some of the people of the State, which produces the fallacy. How does the southern farmer procure slaves? Either by importation, or by purchase from his neighbor. If he imports a slave, he adds one to the number of laborers in his country, and, proportionably, to its profits and ability to pay taxes; if he buys from his neighbor, it is only a transfer of a laborer from one farm to another, which does not change the annual produce of the State, and therefore should not change its tax; that if a northern farmer works ten laborers on his farm, he can, it is true, invest the surplus of ten men’s labor in cattle; but so may the southern farmer, working ten slaves; that a State of one hundred thousand freemen can maintain no more cattle, than one of one hundred thousand slaves. Therefore, they have no more of that kind of property; that a slave may indeed, from the custom of speech, be more properly called the wealth of his master, than the free laborer might be called the wealth of his employer; but as to the State, both were equally its wealth, and should therefore equally add to the quota of its tax.”

 

[1 ]Mr. Chase’s amendment was lost. Seven States, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, voting against it. Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, voting for it. Georgia divided.

The article, amended only by substituting the word “States,” for “Colonies,” was reported to the House as the ninth of the new draught.

It was again taken up on the 9th of October, 1777, and discussed until the 14th, when the following important amendment was adopted:—

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, voting unanimously in the negative.

New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, unanimously in the affirmative.

New York and Pennsylvania equally divided.

“That the proportion of the public expense, incurred by the United States for their common defence and general welfare, to be paid by each State into the Treasury, be ascertained by the value of all land within each State granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land, the buildings and improvements thereon, shall be estimated according to such mode as Congress shall, from time to time, direct or appoint.”

On the 22d, 23d, 24th, and 25th of June, 1778, the various States proposed, by their delegates, amendments. Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and South Carolina, each offered some form of modification of this article, but they were all rejected. See the History of the Confederation, at the end of the first volume of the Secret Journals, vol. i. pp. 368-385.

 

[1 ]From page 494.

 

[2 ]The order of the speakers, in this debate, does not correspond with the report made by Mr. Jefferson. But, immediately before this speech of Dr. Rush, there is inserted, by him, a speech of Mr. Adams, which may properly find its place in this note.

“John Adams advocated the voting in proportion to numbers. He said that we stand here as the representatives of the people; that in some States the people are many, in others they are few; that, therefore, their vote here should be proportioned to the numbers from which it comes. Reason, justice, and equity, never had weight enough on the face of the earth, to govern the councils of men. It is interest alone which does it, and it is interest alone which can be trusted; that, therefore, the interests, within doors, should be the mathematical representations of the interests without doors; that the individuality of the Colonies is a mere sound. Does the individuality of a Colony increase its wealth or numbers? If it does, pay equally. If it does not add weight in the scale of the confederacy, it cannot add to their rights, nor weigh in argument. A has fifty pounds; B five hundred pounds; C one thousand pounds, in partnership. Is it just they should equally dispose of the moneys of the partnership? It has been said, we are independent individuals making a bargain together. The question is not what we are now, but what we ought to be when our bargain shall be made. The confederacy is to make us one individual only; it is to form us, like separate parcels of metal, into one common mass. We shall no longer retain our separate individuality, but become a single individual as to all questions submitted to the confederacy. Therefore all those reasons which prove the justice and expediency of equal representation in other Assemblies, hold good here.

“It has been objected that a proportional vote will endanger the smaller States. We answer that an equal vote will endanger the larger. Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, are the three greater Colonies. Consider their distance, their difference of produce, of interests, and of manners, and it is apparent they can never have an interest or inclination to combine for the oppression of the smaller; that the smaller will naturally divide on all questions with the larger. Rhode Island, from its relation, similarity, and intercourse, will generally pursue the same objects with Massachusetts; Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, with Pennsylvania.”

 

[1 ]The seventeenth article was reported to the House, with only the change of the word “Colony” for “State,” as article thirteen of the new draught. The struggle was renewed on the 7th of October, but without effect. Mr. Adams’s vote stands recorded alone, north of Virginia, in favor of an amendment, basing representation upon population, every State to have one delegate for every thirty thousand of its inhabitants, and every delegate to have one vote. The vote by States was finally incorporated into the fifth article as at last adopted.

 

[2 ]This makes, in the first draught, a part of the eighteenth article, defining the rights and power of the United States:

“Limiting the bounds of those Colonies which, by charter or proclamation, or under any pretence, are said to extend to the South Sea.”

 

[1 ]This clause was stricken out in committee. The subsequent history of the struggle is well known, terminating in the acts of cession of claims to the Western territory.

 

[1 ]The following memorandum gives in brief the system probably dilated upon in the speeches of the writer at this time:—

Mem. The confederation to be taken up in paragraphs. An alliance to be formed with France and Spain. Ambassadors to be sent to both courts. Government to be assumed in every Colony. Coin and currencies to be regulated. Forces to be raised and maintained in Canada and New York. St. Lawrence and Hudson Rivers to be secured. Hemp to be encouraged, and the manufacture of duck. Powder-mills to be built in every Colony, and fresh efforts to make saltpetre. An address to the inhabitants of the Colonies. The committee for lead and salt to be filled up, and sulphur added to their commission. Money to be sent to the paymaster, to pay our debts and fulfil our engagements. Taxes to be laid and levied. Funds established. New notes to be given on interest for bills borrowed. Treaties of commerce with France, Spain, Holland, Denmark, &c.

 

[1 ]This Essay will be found in another portion of this work.

 

[2 ]This was the very objection made in the State of Virginia to his own, as will appear hereafter in a remarkable letter of Patrick Henry to the author.

 

[1 ]See page 489.

 

[1 ]Afterwards published in Great Britain under the title of “A summary View of the Rights of British America.” Mr. Jefferson’s account of it is given in the first volume of his grandson’s publication of his papers, p. 7.

 

[1 ]It is due to Mr. Jefferson here to say that his recollection of the event here described, materially differs from this account. In the month of August, 1822, Colonel Timothy Pickering addressed to Mr. Adams a letter of inquiry, respecting the origin of the Declaration of Independence. His reply contains so many other interesting particulars, besides those which relate to the single purpose of the letter, that it appears peculiarly suitable for insertion in this place in full.

TO TIMOTHY PICKERING.

6 August, 1822.

Sir:—

Your favor of the 2d instant has prescribed a dismal plan, which I was never very well calculated to execute; but I am now utterly incapable. I can write nothing which will not be suspected of personal vanity, local prejudice, or Provincial and State partiality. However, as I hold myself responsible at this age, to one only tribunal in the universe, I will give you a few hints at all hazards.

As Mr. Hancock was sick and confined, Mr. Bowdoin was chosen at the head of the Massachusetts delegation to Congress. His relations thought his great fortune ought not to be hazarded. Cushing, two Adamses, and Paine, all destitute of fortune, four poor pilgrims, proceeded in one coach, were escorted through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, into Pennsylvania. We were met at Frankfort by Dr. Rush, Mr. Mifflin, Mr. Bayard, and several other of the most active sons of liberty in Philadelphia, who desired a conference with us. We invited them to take tea with us in a private apartment. They asked leave to give us some information and advice, which we thankfully granted. They represented to us that the friends of government in Boston and in the Eastern States, in their correspondence with their friends in Pennsylvania and all the Southern States, had represented us as four desperate adventurers. “Mr. Cushing was a harmless kind of man, but poor, and wholly dependent on his popularity for his subsistence. Mr. Samuel Adams was a very artful, designing man, but desperately poor, and wholly dependent on his popularity with the lowest vulgar for his living. John Adams and Mr. Paine were two young lawyers, of no great talents, reputation, or weight, who had no other means of raising themselves into consequence, than by courting popularity.”*We were all suspected of having independence in view. Now, said they, you must not utter the word independence, nor give the least hint or insinuation of the idea, either in Congress or any private conversation; if you do, you are undone; for the idea of independence is as unpopular in Pennsylvania, and in all the Middle and Southern States, as the Stamp Act itself. No man dares to speak of it. Moreover, you are the representatives of the suffering State. Boston and Massachusetts are under a rod of iron. British fleets and armies are tyrannizing over you; you yourselves are personally obnoxious to them and all the friends of government; you have been long persecuted by them all; your feelings have been hurt, your passions excited; you are thought to be too warm, too zealous, too sanguine. You must be, therefore, very cautious; you must not come forward with any bold measures, you must not pretend to take the lead. You know Virginia is the most populous State in the Union. They are very proud of their ancient dominion, as they call it; they think they have a right to take the lead, and the Southern States, and Middle States too, are too much disposed to yield it to them.”This was plain dealing, Mr. Pickering; and I must confess that there appeared so much wisdom and good sense in it, that it made a deep impression on my mind, and it had an equal effect on all my colleagues.This conversation, and the principles, facts, and motives, suggested in it, have given a color, complexion, and character, to the whole policy of the United States, from that day to this. Without it, Mr. Washington would never have commanded our armies; nor Mr. Jefferson have been the author of the Declaration of Independence; nor Mr. Richard Henry Lee the mover of it; nor Mr. Chase the mover of foreign connections. If I have ever had cause to repent of any part of this policy, that repentance ever has been, and ever will be, unavailing. I had forgot to say, nor had Mr. Johnson ever been the nominator of Washington for General.Although this advice dwelt on my mind, I had not, in my nature, prudence and caution enough always to observe it. When I found the members of Congress, Virginians and all, so perfectly convinced that they should be able to persuade or terrify Great Britain into a relinquishment of her policy, and a restoration of us to the state of 1763, I was astonished, and could not help muttering, in Congress, and sometimes out of doors, that they would find, the proud, domineering spirit of Britain, their vain conceit of their own omnipotence, their total contempt of us, and the incessant representation of their friends and instruments in America, would drive us to extremities, and finally conquer us, transport us to England for trial, there to be hanged, drawn and quartered for treason, or to the necessity of declaring independence, however hazardous and uncertain such a measure might be.

It soon became rumored about the city that John Adams was for independence. The Quakers and proprietary gentlemen took the alarm; represented me as the worst of men; the true-blue sons of liberty pitied me; all put me under a kind of coventry. I was avoided, like a man infected with the leprosy. I walked the streets of Philadelphia in solitude, borne down by the weight of care and unpopularity.* But every ship, for the ensuing year, brought us fresh proof of the truth of my prophecies, and one after another became convinced of the necessity of independence. I did not sink under my discouragements. I had before experienced enough of the wantonness of popularity, in the trial of Preston and the soldiers, in Boston.

You inquire why so young a man as Mr. Jefferson was placed at the head of the Committee for preparing a Declaration of Independence? I answer; It was the Frankfort advice, to place Virginia at the head of every thing. Mr. Richard Henry Lee might be gone to Virginia, to his sick family, for aught I know, but that was not the reason of Mr. Jefferson’s appointment. There were three committees appointed at the same time. One for the Declaration of Independence, another for preparing articles of Confederation, and another for preparing a treaty to be proposed to France. Mr. Lee was chosen for the Committee of Confederation, and it was not thought convenient that the same person should be upon both. Mr. Jefferson came into Congress, in June, 1775, and brought with him a reputation for literature, science, and a happy talent of composition. Writings of his were handed about, remarkable for the peculiar felicity of expression. Though a silent member in Congress, he was so prompt, frank, explicit, and decisive upon committees and in conversation, not even Samuel Adams was more so, that he soon seized upon my heart; and upon this occasion I gave him my vote, and did all in my power to procure the votes of others. I think he had one more vote than any other, and that placed him at the head of the committee. I had the next highest number, and that placed me the second. The committee met, discussed the subject, and then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me to make the draught, I suppose because we were the two first on the list.

The sub-committee met. Jefferson proposed to me to make the draught. I said, “I will not.” “You should do it.” “Oh! no.” “Why will you not? You ought to do it.” “I will not.” “Why?” “Reasons enough.” “What can be your reasons?” “Reason first—You are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second—I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third—You can write ten times better than I can.” “Well,” said Jefferson, “if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.” “Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.”

A meeting we accordingly had, and conned the paper over. I was delighted with its high tone and the flights of oratory with which it abounded, especially that concerning negro slavery, which, though I knew his Southern brethren would never suffer to pass in Congress, I certainly never would oppose. There were other expressions which I would not have inserted, if I had drawn it up, particularly that which called the King tyrant. I thought this too personal; for I never believed George to be a tyrant in disposition and in nature; I always believed him to be deceived by his courtiers on both sides of the Atlantic, and in his official capacity only, cruel. I thought the expression too passionate, and too much like scolding, for so grave and solemn a document; but as Franklin and Sherman were to inspect it afterwards, I thought it would not become me to strike it out. I consented to report it, and do not now remember that I made or suggested a single alteration.

We reported it to the committee of five. It was read, and I do not remember that Franklin or Sherman criticized any thing. We were all in haste. Congress was impatient, and the instrument was reported, as I believe, in Jefferson’s handwriting, as he first drew it. Congress cut off about a quarter of it, as I expected they would; but they obliterated some of the best of it, and left all that was exceptionable, if any thing in it was. I have long wondered that the original draught has not been published. I suppose the reason is, the vehement philippic against negro slavery.

As you justly observe, there is not an idea in it but what had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before. The substance of it is contained in the declaration of rights and the violation of those rights, in the Journals of Congress, in 1774. Indeed, the essence of it is contained in a pamphlet, voted and printed by the town of Boston, before the first Congress met, composed by James Otis, as I suppose, in one of his lucid intervals, and pruned and polished by Samuel Adams.

Your friend and humble servant.

On the national anniversary succeeding the date of this letter, Colonel Pickering quoted the latter part of it, in the course of some remarks made by him at a celebration of the day in Salem. This drew forth a letter, from Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Madison, denying its accuracy, particularly in the matter of the sub-committee, and attributing the error to the failing memory of eighty-eight, the assumed age of Mr. Adams at the time.* Mr. Jefferson did not then know, what the present publication of the Autobiography shows, not to speak of Mr. Pickering’s letter of inquiry, that almost the identical statement had been made, not only in conversation long before, but also in this record, by Mr. Adams, nearly twenty years earlier, so that, if it be an error, it cannot be attributed merely to age.

Perceiving also the awkward nature of the charge made by one—himself—having, at the moment, nearly attained fourscore, Mr. Jefferson disclaims all reliance upon his recollection, and appeals to the unequivocal authority of his notes, made at the time. This seemed conclusive testimony, sufficient to set the matter at rest forever. But if by those notes is to be understood no more than what has since been published under that name, in the first volume of his correspondence, it is clear, on examination, that they present no evidence, excepting that which may be implied by their affirming nothing in corroboration.

The question, in itself, does not rise beyond the character of a curiosity of literature, as the substantial facts in both accounts are the same. The case having been stated, the reader must be left to form his opinions from the materials before him.

Among the papers left by Mr. Adams, is a transcript, by his own hand, of the Declaration of Independence, very nearly as it appears in Mr. Jefferson’s first draught. This must have been made by him before the paper had been subjected to any change in committee, as none of the alterations which appear on the original, as made at the instance of Dr. Franklin, and but one of the two suggested by himself, are found there. Several variations occur, however, in the phraseology, and one or two passages are wholly omitted. The most natural inference is, that he had modified it to suit his own notions of excellence, without deeming the alterations worth pressing in committee. As Mr. Jefferson says that his draught was submitted separately, first to Mr. Adams, and afterwards to Dr. Franklin, the presence of this copy does not affect the question of the correctness of either version of the proceedings.

 

[1 ]This plan of a treaty is found in the second volume of the Secret Journals of Congress, pp. 7-30.

 

[1 ]It is due to Mr. Jefferson here to say that his recollection of the event here described, materially differs from this account. In the month of August, 1822, Colonel Timothy Pickering addressed to Mr. Adams a letter of inquiry, respecting the origin of the Declaration of Independence. His reply contains so many other interesting particulars, besides those which relate to the single purpose of the letter, that it appears peculiarly suitable for insertion in this place in full.

TO TIMOTHY PICKERING.

6 August, 1822.

Sir:—

Your favor of the 2d instant has prescribed a dismal plan, which I was never very well calculated to execute; but I am now utterly incapable. I can write nothing which will not be suspected of personal vanity, local prejudice, or Provincial and State partiality. However, as I hold myself responsible at this age, to one only tribunal in the universe, I will give you a few hints at all hazards.

As Mr. Hancock was sick and confined, Mr. Bowdoin was chosen at the head of the Massachusetts delegation to Congress. His relations thought his great fortune ought not to be hazarded. Cushing, two Adamses, and Paine, all destitute of fortune, four poor pilgrims, proceeded in one coach, were escorted through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, into Pennsylvania. We were met at Frankfort by Dr. Rush, Mr. Mifflin, Mr. Bayard, and several other of the most active sons of liberty in Philadelphia, who desired a conference with us. We invited them to take tea with us in a private apartment. They asked leave to give us some information and advice, which we thankfully granted. They represented to us that the friends of government in Boston and in the Eastern States, in their correspondence with their friends in Pennsylvania and all the Southern States, had represented us as four desperate adventurers. “Mr. Cushing was a harmless kind of man, but poor, and wholly dependent on his popularity for his subsistence. Mr. Samuel Adams was a very artful, designing man, but desperately poor, and wholly dependent on his popularity with the lowest vulgar for his living. John Adams and Mr. Paine were two young lawyers, of no great talents, reputation, or weight, who had no other means of raising themselves into consequence, than by courting popularity.”*We were all suspected of having independence in view. Now, said they, you must not utter the word independence, nor give the least hint or insinuation of the idea, either in Congress or any private conversation; if you do, you are undone; for the idea of independence is as unpopular in Pennsylvania, and in all the Middle and Southern States, as the Stamp Act itself. No man dares to speak of it. Moreover, you are the representatives of the suffering State. Boston and Massachusetts are under a rod of iron. British fleets and armies are tyrannizing over you; you yourselves are personally obnoxious to them and all the friends of government; you have been long persecuted by them all; your feelings have been hurt, your passions excited; you are thought to be too warm, too zealous, too sanguine. You must be, therefore, very cautious; you must not come forward with any bold measures, you must not pretend to take the lead. You know Virginia is the most populous State in the Union. They are very proud of their ancient dominion, as they call it; they think they have a right to take the lead, and the Southern States, and Middle States too, are too much disposed to yield it to them.”This was plain dealing, Mr. Pickering; and I must confess that there appeared so much wisdom and good sense in it, that it made a deep impression on my mind, and it had an equal effect on all my colleagues.This conversation, and the principles, facts, and motives, suggested in it, have given a color, complexion, and character, to the whole policy of the United States, from that day to this. Without it, Mr. Washington would never have commanded our armies; nor Mr. Jefferson have been the author of the Declaration of Independence; nor Mr. Richard Henry Lee the mover of it; nor Mr. Chase the mover of foreign connections. If I have ever had cause to repent of any part of this policy, that repentance ever has been, and ever will be, unavailing. I had forgot to say, nor had Mr. Johnson ever been the nominator of Washington for General.Although this advice dwelt on my mind, I had not, in my nature, prudence and caution enough always to observe it. When I found the members of Congress, Virginians and all, so perfectly convinced that they should be able to persuade or terrify Great Britain into a relinquishment of her policy, and a restoration of us to the state of 1763, I was astonished, and could not help muttering, in Congress, and sometimes out of doors, that they would find, the proud, domineering spirit of Britain, their vain conceit of their own omnipotence, their total contempt of us, and the incessant representation of their friends and instruments in America, would drive us to extremities, and finally conquer us, transport us to England for trial, there to be hanged, drawn and quartered for treason, or to the necessity of declaring independence, however hazardous and uncertain such a measure might be.

It soon became rumored about the city that John Adams was for independence. The Quakers and proprietary gentlemen took the alarm; represented me as the worst of men; the true-blue sons of liberty pitied me; all put me under a kind of coventry. I was avoided, like a man infected with the leprosy. I walked the streets of Philadelphia in solitude, borne down by the weight of care and unpopularity.* But every ship, for the ensuing year, brought us fresh proof of the truth of my prophecies, and one after another became convinced of the necessity of independence. I did not sink under my discouragements. I had before experienced enough of the wantonness of popularity, in the trial of Preston and the soldiers, in Boston.

You inquire why so young a man as Mr. Jefferson was placed at the head of the Committee for preparing a Declaration of Independence? I answer; It was the Frankfort advice, to place Virginia at the head of every thing. Mr. Richard Henry Lee might be gone to Virginia, to his sick family, for aught I know, but that was not the reason of Mr. Jefferson’s appointment. There were three committees appointed at the same time. One for the Declaration of Independence, another for preparing articles of Confederation, and another for preparing a treaty to be proposed to France. Mr. Lee was chosen for the Committee of Confederation, and it was not thought convenient that the same person should be upon both. Mr. Jefferson came into Congress, in June, 1775, and brought with him a reputation for literature, science, and a happy talent of composition. Writings of his were handed about, remarkable for the peculiar felicity of expression. Though a silent member in Congress, he was so prompt, frank, explicit, and decisive upon committees and in conversation, not even Samuel Adams was more so, that he soon seized upon my heart; and upon this occasion I gave him my vote, and did all in my power to procure the votes of others. I think he had one more vote than any other, and that placed him at the head of the committee. I had the next highest number, and that placed me the second. The committee met, discussed the subject, and then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me to make the draught, I suppose because we were the two first on the list.

The sub-committee met. Jefferson proposed to me to make the draught. I said, “I will not.” “You should do it.” “Oh! no.” “Why will you not? You ought to do it.” “I will not.” “Why?” “Reasons enough.” “What can be your reasons?” “Reason first—You are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second—I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third—You can write ten times better than I can.” “Well,” said Jefferson, “if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.” “Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.”

A meeting we accordingly had, and conned the paper over. I was delighted with its high tone and the flights of oratory with which it abounded, especially that concerning negro slavery, which, though I knew his Southern brethren would never suffer to pass in Congress, I certainly never would oppose. There were other expressions which I would not have inserted, if I had drawn it up, particularly that which called the King tyrant. I thought this too personal; for I never believed George to be a tyrant in disposition and in nature; I always believed him to be deceived by his courtiers on both sides of the Atlantic, and in his official capacity only, cruel. I thought the expression too passionate, and too much like scolding, for so grave and solemn a document; but as Franklin and Sherman were to inspect it afterwards, I thought it would not become me to strike it out. I consented to report it, and do not now remember that I made or suggested a single alteration.

We reported it to the committee of five. It was read, and I do not remember that Franklin or Sherman criticized any thing. We were all in haste. Congress was impatient, and the instrument was reported, as I believe, in Jefferson’s handwriting, as he first drew it. Congress cut off about a quarter of it, as I expected they would; but they obliterated some of the best of it, and left all that was exceptionable, if any thing in it was. I have long wondered that the original draught has not been published. I suppose the reason is, the vehement philippic against negro slavery.

As you justly observe, there is not an idea in it but what had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before. The substance of it is contained in the declaration of rights and the violation of those rights, in the Journals of Congress, in 1774. Indeed, the essence of it is contained in a pamphlet, voted and printed by the town of Boston, before the first Congress met, composed by James Otis, as I suppose, in one of his lucid intervals, and pruned and polished by Samuel Adams.

Your friend and humble servant.

On the national anniversary succeeding the date of this letter, Colonel Pickering quoted the latter part of it, in the course of some remarks made by him at a celebration of the day in Salem. This drew forth a letter, from Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Madison, denying its accuracy, particularly in the matter of the sub-committee, and attributing the error to the failing memory of eighty-eight, the assumed age of Mr. Adams at the time.* Mr. Jefferson did not then know, what the present publication of the Autobiography shows, not to speak of Mr. Pickering’s letter of inquiry, that almost the identical statement had been made, not only in conversation long before, but also in this record, by Mr. Adams, nearly twenty years earlier, so that, if it be an error, it cannot be attributed merely to age.

Perceiving also the awkward nature of the charge made by one—himself—having, at the moment, nearly attained fourscore, Mr. Jefferson disclaims all reliance upon his recollection, and appeals to the unequivocal authority of his notes, made at the time. This seemed conclusive testimony, sufficient to set the matter at rest forever. But if by those notes is to be understood no more than what has since been published under that name, in the first volume of his correspondence, it is clear, on examination, that they present no evidence, excepting that which may be implied by their affirming nothing in corroboration.

The question, in itself, does not rise beyond the character of a curiosity of literature, as the substantial facts in both accounts are the same. The case having been stated, the reader must be left to form his opinions from the materials before him.

Among the papers left by Mr. Adams, is a transcript, by his own hand, of the Declaration of Independence, very nearly as it appears in Mr. Jefferson’s first draught. This must have been made by him before the paper had been subjected to any change in committee, as none of the alterations which appear on the original, as made at the instance of Dr. Franklin, and but one of the two suggested by himself, are found there. Several variations occur, however, in the phraseology, and one or two passages are wholly omitted. The most natural inference is, that he had modified it to suit his own notions of excellence, without deeming the alterations worth pressing in committee. As Mr. Jefferson says that his draught was submitted separately, first to Mr. Adams, and afterwards to Dr. Franklin, the presence of this copy does not affect the question of the correctness of either version of the proceedings.

 

[* ]Compare this with the language of the Rev. Jacob Duché, in his letter to General Washington: “Bankrupts, attorneys, and men of desperate fortunes, are the colleagues of Mr. Hancock.” Graydon’s Memors of his own Time, Littell’s edition, Appendix, p. 432.

 

[* ]Dr. Benjamin Rush says of the Author, in a manuscript in the Editor’s hands,—“I saw this gentleman walk the streets of Philadelphia alone, after the publication of his intercepted letter in our newspapers, in 1775, an object of nearly universal scorn and detestation.”

 

[* ]Jefferson’s Memoir and Correspondence, vol. iv. p. 375.


Editors Note: This is Volume 2 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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