American History Told by Contemporaries

Author: Richard Smith  | Date: 1896

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U.S. History

The Activities of the Continental Congress (1775)


TUESDAY, 12 September 1775. I attended at Congress for the first Time since the Adjornment. Mr Hancock having a Touch of the Gout there was no President in the Chair. The Colonies of New Hampshire and N Carolina absent as also sundry Members from other Colonies. Dr Franklin read several Letters recieved today by Capt Falkner from London and informed the Members that he had some Bales of Household Goods on Board of Falkner, desiring the Congress’s Leave to land them. no Objection to it only Willing and John Rutledge thought it irregular to do Business without a President and it was referred. Mr Gadsden and others moved for an Adjornment to 10 Tomorrow, which was complyed with. 3 of the Georgia Delegates were present with Mr Peyton Randolph and the new Delegates from Virginia, their Credentials not yet delivered, and little Business hitherto done this session.

Wednesday 13th Mr President (Hancock) in the Chair. The Credentials of the Georgia, Virginia and Maryland Delegates were read and accepted without any Objection. the Marylanders were the same as at the last Session. An Order was made that the Pennsa Delegates shall send off to Gen. Washington under a proper Guard, the remainder of his Money amounting in the whole to 700,000 Dollars, and they were at the same Time to send the Cloathing for Two Regiments lately seized at Philada. Duane and Rob. R. Livingston came today from the Indian Treaty at Albany. another Treaty is about to be held at Pittsburg. Dr Franklins Goods allowed to be landed. a great Number of Letters and Papers were read, some from Gen. Washington giving a particular State of his Army they want Powder and Money—some from Gen. Schuyler stating his Situation; others from Col. Lewis Morris and Ja?? Wilson Dated at Fort Pitt recommending an Expedition agt Detroit to be conducted by Col. Arthur St Clair—others from Gov. Trumbull and sundry more.

Thursday 14 Septr . . . The Georgia Delegates laid the Proceedings of their Provincial Convention before us cont’g a Petition to the King, another to certain Resolves and other Matters, and motioned for Leave to sell the Cargoes of Two Ships which were shipped without Knowledge of their Agreement of Non Importn, and motioned also for Exportation of certain Articles under certain Limitations. these Motions were opposed by Chase and J. Adams and supported by Nelson, Houstoun and Dr. Zubley, the latter out of Humor with Chase. the Consideration of it was put off till Tomorrow. the proposed Expedition to Detroit canvassed and disagreed to and various other Matters.

Friday 15 Septr . . . the Affair of the Two Cargoes at Georgia referred from Yesterday, was largely agitated and in the End a Resolution drawn by Jay took place importing that the cargoes should be sold and the Proffits if any put into the Hands of the Georgia Convention or Comes of Safety to be applied in Defence of the Province. an incidental Matter took up some Time viz, Whether Mr Nelson should vote for Virginia he being the only Delegate present and whether any lesser Number than the Quorum shall represent any Colony. Mr. Nelson waved his Question, and the other went off without a Determination (since that Time no Colony votes without the Quorum present as limited by their Colony, some authorize 3. some 2 some one Delegate to give a Vote). Two of the Georgia Delegates are possessed of Homespun Suits of Cloaths, an Adornment few other Members can boast of, besides my Bror Crane and myself.

Saturday 16 Sepr the greater Part of the Time lost in considering Whether One Officer in our Army may be allowed to hold Two Commissions it was postponed. . . .

Monday 18. Motion to appoint a Comee to procure 500 Ton of Gunpowder from abroad, together with 10,000 Stand of Arms 20,000 Gun Locks &c with power to draw on the Continental Treasury for the Amount, was carried by Vote, the Payment in Produce was opposed and the further Consideration postponed. Comee on the Accounts asked Direction how to settle them and the Matter left unsettled Motion by E. Rutledge to enlarge Col. Fenton a Prisoner in Connectt from New Hampshire, opposed by Langdon and deferred. . . .

Tuesday 19 Septr . . . agreed to banish John Fenton to England at his own Request after considerable Debate. Dr Franklin the PostMaster General desired the Delegates of New Jersey to nominate Deputy Post-Masters throughout that Colony which we did accordingly.

Wednesday 20. An Expedition is on Foot against the Kings Forces in Canada via Kennebec under Col. Arnold from Washingtons Camp at Cambridge. . . . Gen. Wooster with a considerable Detachment ordered to join Schuyler. this Morning a Letter in French was delivered to the President directed for Gen. Washington said to be from the Governor of Hispaniola. Whether the Letter shall be opened and whether by a select Comee or by the President, were made Questions. the general Opinion seemed to be that the President should open it and the Secretary (Charles Thomson) translate it and if of a public Nature that it should be laid before Congress but it was dropt. . . .

Thursday 21 Septr On a Question Whether Col. Armstrong or Col. Fry shall be Brig. Gen. in the Room of Pomeroy retired, the Colonies were divided 6 against 6—North Cara being absent, consequently there was no Appointment. . . .

Friday 22.—Andrew MacNair Doorkeeper’s Accot ordered to be paid. . . . Major Rogers ordered to be discharged if Nothing appears agt Him but being a Half Pay Officer, he was arrested by the Comee of Safety of Pennsylvania. a committee of 7 appointed by Ballot to consider the State of Trade in America.—Wm Shads Accot as Messenger ordered to be paid.

Saturday 23 Septr a Letter from Thos Mifflin Quarter Master to the Army directed to Wm Barrell Mercht was read, desiring Him to forward Cloathing for the Army, the Congress took that Subject into Consideration and appointed by Ballot a Comee of 5 to supply the Two Armies with Cloathing to the Amount of £5000 sterl’g, and allowed each Quarter Master 5 [figure table]

Cent for selling out to the Soldiers.

Monday 25. A Comee of 3 named to draw an Answer to Gen Washingtons Letters. . . . De Hart moved to restrict all Conventions and Assemblies from issuing any more Paper Money and to recall what they have done without Permission from hence, he was not seconded. On reading Wilson and Morris’s Letters and other Papers Willing moved that the Congress would interfere in settling a temporary Line between Virginia and Pennsylvania, a Letter was read from the Delegates of those Two Colonies to the Inhabitants recomm’g Peace &c. several Orders of the King in Council Dated in June last relative to this Line were read.

Tuesday 26 Septr Comee brought in a Letter to Gen Washington, in the Course of it E Rutledge moved that the Gen. shall discharge all the Negroes as well Slaves as Freemen in his Army. he (Rutledge) was strongly supported by many of the Southern Delegates but so powerfully opposed that he lost the Point. the Question of the Lines between Penna and Virginia agitated but Nothing determined. the Letters between Washington and Gage ordered to be published, then the Journal was read in Order for Publication and some Parts of it ordered not to be printed as improper for Public Inspection particularly all that was there about fortifying the Passes on Hudsons River and the Directions to the New Yorkers to arm themselves &c.

Wednesday 27. . . . the Journal continued to be read and various Parts ordered not to be published, as the Instructions to Gen Washn the Directions to the German Ministers &c. A Petition was read from Messrs . Purviance of Baltimore praying Leave to ship off a Cargo of Wheat which the late Storm prevented, refused and ordered to lie on the Table.

Thursday 28 Septr No Congress. the Members dined by Invitation on Board of the RowGallies which sailed down to the Chevaux de Frize near Mud Island and up to Point no Point. I amused myself all the Morning in M. du Simitiere’s curious Museum.

Friday 29. Letters from Gen. Washington with a Return of his Army, about 19,000 effective Men who are to be disbanded in Decr by the Terms of Inlistment, he prays Directions how to keep or raise an Army. Expenses run very high, great Want of Powder and Money. Chief Part of the Morn’g was spent on a Motion to send a Comee of the Congress to the Army to take proper Measures for the Winter Campaign, it passed in the Affirmative. some Powder said to be just arrived in Delaware our Comee were desired to purchase it. above 80 of our Men have deserted to Gen. Gage in the Course of this Campaign accord’g to Gen. Washns Dispatches.

Saturday 30 Septr A Comee of 3, viz Harrison, Franklin and Lynch was appointed by Ballot to proceed to the Camp at Cambridge. . . .

[Wednesday, December 13.] . . . the Order for this day was to consider of giving Gen Washington Directions to storm Boston but various other Matters intervening it was put off till Tomorrow. Mc Kean informed the Congress that many Persons in Pennsa , Maryland and Jersey sell Tea and drink Tea upon a Report that Congress had granted Leave so to do and he doubted Whether the Committees had Power to restrain them, a Day was fixed for considering the Matter (in April 1776 the Congress gave Leave to sell and use what Tea was in the Country, forbidding any further Importation of it)—M. Crane went home, Livingston and myself remain, Kinsey and De Hart have lately resigned. . . .

Friday Decr 15. . . . Motion by Wilson that all Officers below a Major in the Continental Troops now raising in Pennsa shall be appointed by the several Committees of Correspondence and Observation was at length rejected and the Mode of Appointment there and in the Lower Counties settled. . . . Robert Morris moved that a Comee be nominated to consider of Ways and Means to bring in Gold and Silver and keep it in the Country, it is reported that Half Joes have already risen to £3–2–6, it was debated and postponed till Tomorrow. Col. Lee moved that George Mead & Co. of Philada may export from that City to Virginia 6000 Bushels of Salt and carry abroad Produce to the Amount from thence, opposed by Jay, Lewis and others and supported by Nelson, Wyth, Rob. Morris &c. it passed in the Affirmative 7 Colonies to 4 Comee on Public Accots reported a Number of Accounts which were allowed and ordered to be paid (the mode of Payment is the President signs an Order to the joint Treasurers Hillegas and Clymer and then they pay the Money) several other Motions and Matters, for these Memoirs only contain what I could readily recollect.

Saturday 16 Decr . . . A Comee of 3 prepared a Speech to be delivered by the President to Capt White Eyes a chief of the Delaware Indians said to reside on the Muskingham, who was then introduced into the Congress accompanied by One of his Councellors and an Interpreter, the Chief was dressed in a good Suit of Blue Cloth with a Laced Hat and his Counsellor was wrapped in a Blanket, Capt White Eyes shook all the Members heartily by the Hand, beginning with the President and used the same Ceremony at his Departure, he stayed about an Hour, Our President delivered the Speech and the Chief answered by his Interpreter that he was well pleased to hear such a good Speech and meet his Brethren in the Grand Council Fire, that he would faithfully report to his Friends the kind Disposition of the Congress and proposed to stay in Town all Winter—he wanted a Clergyman, Schoohnaster and Blacksmith established among his People and said they inclined to embrace Christianity and a more civilized Way of Life. A Copy of the Congress’s Speech was given to him when he withdrew, his Councellor said Nothing. . . .

Monday Decr 18. . . . An Express arrived from Montreal with Letters from Gen. Montgomery, Col. Arnold and others. Eleven Vessels are taken near Montreal by our people who have also seized Brig. Prescot who had caused all the Powder to be thrown overboard, but the Ships contain plenty of Provision. Ethan Allen is sent to England in

Irons. Col. James Livingston is about to raise a Regiment of Canadians in our pay for One Year. Arnold is near Quebec but has not Men enough to surround it and his Powder so damaged, that he has only 5 Rounds apiece. Montgomerys Soldiers very disobedient and many of them come Home without Leave. Frauds discovered in some of his Officers. Gen. Washn in great Want of Powder and most of the Connectt Troops have left his Army. Accounts of a Skirmish in Virginia and great Preparations in England for an Invasion of Us in the Spring. We sat from 10 oCloc till the Dusk of the Evening.

Diary of Richard Smith in the Continental Congress, in American Historical Review (New York, etc., 1896), I, 289–296 passim.


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Chicago: Richard Smith, "The Activities of the Continental Congress (1775)," American History Told by Contemporaries in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902), 525–530. Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2022,

MLA: Smith, Richard. "The Activities of the Continental Congress (1775)." American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. I, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 3, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1902, pp. 525–530. Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2022.

Harvard: Smith, R, 'The Activities of the Continental Congress (1775)' in American History Told by Contemporaries. cited in 1902, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York, pp.525–530. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2022, from