August 14, 1776

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Congress today resolves to offer all foreign deserters from the British army a secure refuge, including religious liberty, the investment of the rights, privileges, and immunities of natives, as established by the laws the states and 5 ¼ acres of unapprpriated lands.

In Boston, the city observed the 11th anniversary of the popular resistance which prevented the execution of the Stamp Act in Boston.  The Sons of Liberty erected a pole at the site of the original Liberty Tree.

The HMS Phoenix and Rose anchored in the Hudson River near New York City are boarded by American sailors with plans to set them ablaze.

Abigail Adams writes to John about the sorry state of education at home, and points out that it is important not only to educate the sons, but the daughters as well.  You remark upon the deficiency of Education in your Countrymen. It never I believe was in a worse state, at least for many years. The Colledge is not in the state one could wish, the Schollars complain that their professer in Philosophy is taken of by publick Buisness to their great detriment. In this Town I never saw so great a neglect of Education. The poorer sort of children are wholly neglected, and left to range the Streets without Schools, without Buisness, given up to all Evil. The Town is not as formerly divided into Wards. There is either too much Buisness left upon the hands of a few, or too little care to do it. We daily see the Necessity of a regular Government.—You speak of our Worthy Brother.3 I often lament it that a Man so peculiarly formed for the Education of youth, and so well qualified as he is in many Branches of Litrature, excelling in Philosiphy and the Mathematicks, should not be imployd in some publick Station. I know not the person who would make half so good a Successor to Dr. Winthrope. He has a peculiar easy manner of communicating his Ideas to Youth, and the Goodness of his Heart, and the purity of his morrals without an affected austerity must have a happy Effect upon the minds of Pupils.  If you complain of neglect of Education in sons, What shall I say with regard to daughters, who every day experience the want of it. With regard to the Education of my own children, I find myself soon out of my debth, and destitute and deficient in every part of Education.  I most sincerely wish that some more liberal plan might be laid and executed for the Benefit of the rising Generation, and that our new constitution may be distinguished for Learning and Virtue. If we mean to have Heroes, Statesmen and Philosophers, we should have learned women. The world perhaps would laugh at me, and accuse me of vanity, But you I know have a mind too enlarged and liberal to disregard the Sentiment. If much depends as is allowed upon the early Education of youth and the first principals which are instilld take the deepest root, great benifit must arise from litirary accomplishments in women.”

 

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August 11, 1776

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General orders prohibit furloughs or discharge of officers and soldiers without the knowledge and consent of General George Washington.

In Boston, Massachusetts, the Declaration is read in all the local churches.

In Little River, South Carolina, Major Andrew Pickens, with a detachment of 25 men was attacked by a group of 135 Cherokee Indians while on a reconnaissance mission.  The American troops killed several Indians who then broke off the fight and withdrew.  The battle was also known as the “Ring Fight”

John Adams writes to James Warren:  “I Informed you in my last that we were Calling in every 25th. Man of the Train Band, and Alarm List to supply the places of your Battalions called away and already Marched. These Men are coming into the place of Rendesvous Dochester Heigths, but you have Appointed no General Officer to Command them, and unless General Ward can be prevailed on to Continue, I know not how they can be furnished with pay subsistence Barrack Utensils, or Ordinance Stores. Would it not be well to Appoint A Major General to Command in the Eastern department only. I am not Aware of any disadvantages in such An Appointment. I hope before this the Confederation, and matter of foreign Alliances are determined, As I suppose matters will go more glibly after the decleration of Independance, which by the way was read this Afternoon by Doctor Cooper, and Attended to by the Auditory with great Solemnity, and satisfaction.  Matters of great Importance must after all remain to be settled, Among which I Conceive Coin and Commerce are not to be reckoned Among the smallest. These are indeed such Intricate subjects that I dont pretend to Comprehend them in their full Extent. Your Currency still retains its Credit, but how long that will last if you Continue large Emissions is difficult for me to Guess. Commerce is A Subject of Amazeing Extent. While such Matters are on the Carpet how can we spare you.  I suppose Mrs. Adams will Inform you by this Post that She and the Children are well tho’ Charles has not yet had the Small Pox, which is the Case with many others After being Inoculated 2. 3. and even 6 or 7 Times. The Physicians cant Account for this. Several Persons that supposed they had it lightly last winter, and some before, now have it in the Natural way. Mrs. Warren and myself have been fortunate enough to have it very Cleverly and propose going home this week. She Joins me in the sincerest regards, for you and Mr. Adams, and wishes for your Health and Happiness. I am &c.  If the News you have from France be true the Ball must wind up soon.  God Grant a Confirmation. I long to be A Farmer again.

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August 4, 1776

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Colonel Joseph Reed in New York, an astute member of Washington’s staff, observes to a friend that although Admiral Howe spoke convincingly of “peace and accommodation,” his written communications fail to disclose any “serious intention of relinquishing one iota of their despotic claim over this country.”  He also reveals that Washington had considered an attack on Staten Island where the British troops were garrisoned but a lack of men and boats forced him to abandon the idea.

During July and August the entire frontier from Virginia to Georgia was thrown into turmoil by Indian attacks instigated by British agents.  Colonel Andrew Williamnson reports to President Rutledge that the state militia has fought its way out of an Indian ambush and on the following day crossed the Kenowee River to destroy four Indian towns.

An anonymous citizen complains to George Washington about his bad treatment by the army:  “My House is forcibly entered & posessed by officers and Soldiers without my Consent, to the number of 60 or 70. . . . From A barrack, my House is now become A mere Hospital Noise & Disturbance day and night, reign in every part—The two Halls below are occupied by the rude hand of Insolence the Doors nailed, & I am at last reduced to such narrow limits that the next Encroachment must consign myself & family to the Fields, & Mr Clarkes Estate to every waste.” One wonders what redress the anonymous citizen can expect if he does not give Washington his name:

John Adams writes to Nathaniel Greene about regional differences within the army:  “The New England Collonells, you observe, are jealous, that southern Officers are treated with more Attention than they, because Several of the Southern Collonells have been made Generals, but not one of them.”  After discussing some of the specific cases involving who had been promoted and who not, Adams goes on to discuss his perception of the difference between the two regions:  “Military Characters in the southern Colonies, are few—they have never known much of War and it is not easy to make a People Warlike who have never been so. All the Encouragement, and every Incentive therefore, which can be given with Justice ought to be given, in order to excite an Ambition among them, for military Honours.”  Just what characteristics do we want in our officers?  “A General Officer, ought to be a Gentleman of Letters, and General Knowledge, a Man of Address and Knowledge of the World. He should carry with him Authority, and Command. There are among the New England Officers, Gentlemen who are equal to all this… It is not every Piece of Wood that will do, to make a Mercury. And Bravery alone, is not a Sufficient Qualification for a General Officer. Name me a New England Collonell of whose real Qualifications, I can Speak with Confidence, who is intituled to Promotion by succession and If I do not get him made a General Officer, I will join the N. E. Collonells, and outclamour the loudest of them in their Jealousy.  nay I will go further!There is a real difficulty, attending this subject, which I know not how to get over. Pray help me. I believe, there would be no Difficulty in obtaining Advancement for some of the N. E. Collonells here. But by promoting them over the Heads of So many, there would be a Difficulty in the Army. Poor Massachusetts will fare the worst.”

Meanwhile, Nathaniel Greene writes from Long Island:  “Col. Hand Reports 21 Sail seen off last Evening, Eight arrivd at the Hook this morning and thirteen coming in.The Enemies Guard Boats pattroled much higher up the Bay than usual last Night.  I apprehend a couple of Guard Boats are necessary to Pattrole from Red to Yellow Hook across the Bay leading to Rappelyeas Mills, providing there are Boats to spare.”

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August 3, 1776

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In view of the serious threat to New York and its own shores, the State Convention in New Brunswick, New Jersey, resolves to fine all able-bodied men who refuse to bear arms.

General Horatio Gates feels reassured that the energetic Benedict Arnold would be responsible for building and commanding the fleet in order to oppose the inevitable invasion from Canada.

Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Tupper commanding 5 small boats attacked 5 British ships that passed up the Hudson River from Staten Island and anchored at the Tappan Sea.  The attack failed.  HMS Phoenix and HMS Rose were involved.

John Adams writes to his wife, Abigail (original spelling retained):  Went this Morning to the Baptist Meeting, in Hopes of hearing Mr. Stillman, but was dissappointed. He was there, but another Gentleman preached. His Action was violent to a degree bordering on fury. His Gestures, unnatural, and distorted. Not the least Idea of Grace in his Motions, or Elegance in his Style. His Voice was vociferous and boisterous, and his Composition almost wholly destitute of Ingenuity. I wonder extreamly at the Fondness of our People for schollars educated at the Southward and for southern Preachers. There is no one Thing, in which We excell them more, than in our University, our schollars, and Preachers. Particular Gentlemen here, who have improved upon their Education by Travel, shine. But in general, old Massachusetts outshines her younger sisters, still. In several Particulars, they have more Wit, than We. They have Societies; the philosophical Society particularly, which excites a scientific Emulation, and propagates their Fame. If ever I get through this Scene of Politicks and War, I will spend the Remainder of my days, in endeavouring to instruct my Countrymen in the Art of making the most of their Abilities and Virtues, an Art, which they have hitherto, too much neglected. A philosophical society shall be established at Boston, if I have Wit and Address enough to accomplish it, sometime or other.—Pray set Brother Cranch’s Philosophical Head to plodding upon this Project. Many of his Lucubrations would have been published and preserved, for the Benefit of Mankind, and for his Honour, if such a Clubb had existed.  My Countrymen want Art and Address. They want Knowledge of the World. They want the exteriour and superficial Accomplishments of Gentlemen, upon which the World has foolishly set so high a Value. In solid Abilities and real Virtues, they vastly excell in general, any People upon this Continent. Our N. England People are Aukward and bashfull; yet they are pert, ostentatious and vain, a Mixture which excites Ridicule and gives Disgust. They have not the faculty of shewing themselves to the best Advantage, nor the Art of concealing this faculty. An Art and Faculty which some People possess in the highest degree. Our Deficiencies in these Respects, are owing wholly to the little Intercourse We have had with strangers, and to our Inexperience in the World. These Imperfections must be remedied, for New England must produce the Heroes, the statesmen, the Philosophers, or America will make no great Figure for some Time.

Our Army is rather sickly at N. York, and We live in daily Expectation of hearing of some great Event. May God almighty grant it may be prosperous for America.—Hope is an Anchor and a Cordial. Disappointment however will not disconcert me.  If you will come to Philadelphia in September, I will stay, as long as you please. I should be as proud and happy as a Bridegroom.”

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August 2, 1776

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Members of congress signed the engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Samuel Cooper writes to John Adams:  “The Small Pox is an Enemy more terrible in my Imagination, than all others. This Distemper will be the ruin, of every Army from New England if great Care is not taken. I am really Sorry that the Town of Boston attempted to clear itself of the Infection.2 I cannot but wish, that an innoculating Hospital, was set up in every Town in New England. But if this is not done, I am Sure that Some Hospitals, ought to be erected in Some convenient Places.  Between you and me, I begin to think it Time for our Colony to think a little more highly of itself.—The military operations have been at least as well conducted, under our own Officers, when left to themselves, as any others. You and several others of my best Friends have been pressing for a Stranger to command in Boston, and from two political Motives, I have been pressing for it too. The one was this, the People, and the Soldiery, at Boston, would not be so likely to respect, a General from among themselves, as a Stranger, the other was that the People of the Southern and middle Colonies, would have more Confidence in one of their own Officers, than in one from New England. And in Case of any Thing Unlucky I had rather hear them groan for one of their own, than scold or curse at a New England man.  The Reverse of Fortune in Canada, and the Arrival of the Hallifax Fleet, at Sandy Hook have now, removed all Expectation of having such an Officer Sent to Boston as We wished and therefore I wish that some Massachusetts Man, could command at Boston.”

In Congress, a proposal for term limits is drafted which will ultimately be passed:  “To prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress, to preserve to that body the confidence of their friends, and to disarm the malignant imputations of their enemies It is earnestly recommended to the several Provincial Assemblies or Conventions of the United colonies that in their future elections of delegates to the Continental Congress one half at least of the persons chosen be such as were not of the delegation next proceeding, and the residue be of such as shall not have served in that office longer than two years. And that their deputies be chosen for one year, with powers to adjourn themselves from time to time and from place to place as occasions may require, and also to fix the time and place at which their Successors shall meet.”

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August 1, 1776

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Congress continues to discuss issues regarding the Articles of Confederation, including the issue of how much money individual states must contribute to the central government, and the number of votes allocated to each state.  John Adams made the following notes of the on-going discussion:

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 Rep[resentative]s of States not Individuals. States of Holland. The Consent of every one is necessary. 3 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. Abbe Reynauld Raynal has attributed the Ruin of the united Provinces to 3 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 loose 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 dont differ more than they do in G. 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. Mass, is contiguous to 2 small Colonies, R.[I]. and N.H. Pen. is near N.Y. and D. Virginia is between Maryland and N. Carolina.

We have been to[o] free with the Word Independence. We are dependent on each other—not totally independent States.

Montesquieu pronounced the Confederation of Licea 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 Pensilvania. When I entered that door, I considered myself a Citizen of America.3

Dr. Witherspoon. Rep[resentatio]n in England is unequal. Must I have 3 Votes in a County because I have 3 times as much Money as my Neighbour. Congress are to determine the Limits of Colonies.

G[overnor] Hopkins. A momentous Question. Many difficulties on each Side. 4 larger, 5 lesser, 4 stand indifferent. V. M. P. M.4 make more than half the People. 4 may alw

C, N.Y., 2 Carolinas, not concerned at all. The dissinterested 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 K. of Prussia has an equal Vote. The Helvetic Confederacy. It cant be expected that 9 Colonies will give Way to be governed by 4. The Safety of the whole depends upon the distinctions of Colonies.

Dr. Franklin. I hear many ingenious Arguments to perswade 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 sett 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 Expences of the United States.”

The bulk of General Sir Henry Clinton’s troops and Peter Parker’s warships arrived from their ill-fated expedition against Charlestown, South Carolina.

James Cresswell reported that Indian raids have converted the community into a frontier settlement.  “Plantations lie desolate and hopeful crops are going to ruin.  In short, dear sir, unless we get some relief, famine will overspeared our beautiful country.”

Abigail Adams writes to John, apologizing for her recent lack of correspondence:  “You complain of me. I believe I was to blame in not writing to you, I ought to have done it. I did not suspect you would hear of my intention till I told you myself. I had many cares upon my hands, many things to do for myself and family before I could leave it. The time granted was only ten days. I got here upon the 6th and then [wrot]e you a very long Letter. Since that I have scarcly omitted a Post, you will have more reason to complain of being tired out; I find the Method of treating the small pox here is similar to that sent by Dr. Rush, except that they use Mercury here. The common Practice here to an Adult is 20 Grains after innoculation. I took but 16; I dont admire this Mercury at this Season of the Year. Loyd I find practicess much more upon Dr. Rushs plan, makes use of the same medicines, but has not had greater success than others.  I greatly rejoice at the Spirit prevailing in the middle colonies. There is a fine company formed in this Town, call’d the independant Company consisting of young Gentlemen of the first families. Their Number is 80, they are the School for forming officers, they take great pains to acquire military Skill and will make a fine figure in a little while. Your Pupil Mason is one. He is an ambitious enterprizing creature and will make a figure some how or other, he always applies to his studies with method and diligence. I have lamented it that you have not been able to take him under your perticuliar care, as I know his abilities would have gratified you.  I Received by the Post a few lines from you july 20. It really greaved me to find you so anxious. Your kindness in so often writing shall be returnd in kind. I know not how you find the time amidst such a multitude of cares as surround you, but I feel myself more obliged by the frequent tokens of your remembrance, but you must not forget that tho my Letters have much less merrit, they have many more words, and I fill all the blank paper you send me. “

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July 30, 1776

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Debate on the “Articles of Confederation” continues.  On the subject of voting in Congress, Dr. Franklin argues that for the smaller colonies to have an equal vote, they should have to give equal money and men.  John Witherspoon, however, fears that “smaller states will be oppressed by the great ones.”  The following discussion takes place in regards to how African Americans should be treated in this new confederation (according to notes taken by John Adams) –

“Chase. Moves that the Word, White, should be inserted in the 11. 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 may have a Vote.

Wilson. If the War continues 2 Years, each Soul will have 40 dollars to pay of the public debt. It will be the greatest Encouragement to continue Slave keeping, and to increase them, 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 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 are 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.”  This is a discussion that will continue on, through the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and beyond.  General Washington informed British General William Howe that Congress had authorized a “General Exchange of prisoners, to those of equal rank.   Soldier for soldier, sailor for sailor, and citizen for citizen.”  A particular mention, he noted, was made of Colonel Ethan Allen, who would be exchanged for any officer.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours.  To learn more about George Washington, take our take our Valley Forge Tour.  Or, enjoy our four-hour “Independence Tour Extraordinaire,” which includes tickets to Independence Hall.  If your interest lies in the Civil War, you will not want to miss out on our extraordinary Gettysburg Tour.  Finally, if you are a huge history fan, please check out our exciting American History Vacation Packages, which include week-long excursions to learn about George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.