June 23, 1776

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In Philadelphia, the Provincial Conference of Committees urges the people to “select qualified patriots to the Convention, who shall know the ideas and sentiments of their constituents, and, above all, assure the timid and fearful of the high purpose of the Congress.”

In Charleston, South Carolina, Commodore Peter Parker notifies General Sir Henry Clinton that he would land on the mainland tomorrow on the flood tide if the wind was from the south.  Parker and his fleet were thwarted by a sandbar for nearly two weeks.

Meanwhile, John Adams writes to Cotton Tufts about the dramatic events going on in Philadelphia as the colonies debate the declaring independence.  Adams had argued long and hard for months, and perhaps even he was surprised but the slow yet steady progress his arguments (as well as events) had made upon the others.  “You mention Independence and Confederation. These Things are now become Objects of direct Consideration. Days, and Times, without Number, have been spent upon these Subjects, and at last a Committee is appointed to prepare a Draught of Confederation, and a Declaration that these Colonies [are] free States, independent of all Kings, Kingdoms, Nations, People, or States in the World. . . .”  As we have seen in prior posts, Adams has requested that Thomas Jefferson take on the job of writing the initial draft of the Declaration.  “There has been the greatest Scarcity of News for the last Fortnight, which has ever happened since the War commenced. . . . I make it a constant Practice to transmit to my Family, all the News Papers, where I presume you get a Sight of them. You will find by them, the Course of political Causes and Effects in this Colony. The Assembly [were] necessitated to rescind their Instructions, and [became] so obnoxious, and unpopular, among the Inhabitants their own Constituents for having ever passed them, as to be obliged to die away, without doing any Thing else, even without Adjourning, and give Place to a Conference of Committees and a Convention. Every Part of the Colony is represented in this Conference which is now sitting, and is extremely unanimous, spirited, zealous, and determined. You will soon see Pensilvania, one of the most patriotic Colonies.”  John Adams and cousin Sam deserve some credit for this, having helped to encourage a mob to gather and angrily replace the Pennsylvanian delegates who voiced the timid proposals of reconciliation.  “New Jersey is in a similar Train. The Delaware Government the same.  Maryland is a little beside itself I think, but presently it will blaze out like a Fire ship or a Volcano.”  Adams is every day hectoring Maryland delegate Samuel Chase to get his colony in line.  However, they felt powerless to act, since the Maryland Convention had adjourned on May 25 without determining their position.  Samuel Chase has returned to Maryland to persuade the colony’s leader to call their convention back into session and to endorse independence.  Although he has been able to drum up considerable support, the members of the provincial convention have now ordered the Maryland delegates in Philadelphia to return to Maryland to attend the convention, but not to leave congress until they receive a guarantee that they will not take up the question of independence until they return.  This may be a hard sell, as congress has already agreed to take up Richard Henry Lee’s resolution, and those seeking independence, such as Adams, smell victory in the air and are in no mood to delay.

Adams continues  to describe New York and its lack of gravitas.  “New York still acts in Character, like a People without Courage or sense, or Spirit, or in short any one Virtue or Ability. There is neither Spunk nor Gumption, in that Province as a Body. Individuals are very clever. But it is the weakest Province in point of Intellect, Valour, public Spirit, or any thing else that is great and good upon the Continent. It is incapable of doing Us much good, or much Hurt, but from its local situation. The low Cunning of Individuals, and their Prostitution plagues Us, the Virtues of a few Individuals is of some Service to Us. But as a Province it will be a dead Weight upon any side, ours or that of our Enemies.”

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June 16, 1776

george-washington-writing-at-his-desk-by-candlelightIn Quebec, Canada, Benedict rnold’s men fought a rear guard action against the British and continued their retreat.

General Washington writes to General Schuyler regarding numerous matters:  “The Account of Mr Deane is variant from Col. Kirkland’s, but Yet they both seem to agree in the most material Point, Vizt That some Parts of our Frontiers are to feel the Effects of the Savage Resentment which the Friends of Government have been industrously trying to call forth against Us. You have done well in Your Message to the six Nations; the sooner a Conference can be held the better, & I think the most Vigorous Exertions necessary to secure a Post as You mention where Fort Stanwix formerly stood, & below that, as intimated in my last—If You can Effect these, I am hopefull all their Attempts in that Quarter will be unavailing.

I have ordered a Ton of Powder, half a Ton of Lead, five Thousand Flints, some Cannon, Intrenching Tools & a Dozen Whip Saws & files to be immediately sent You, which You will receive in two or three Days, with a List of them & Every other Article sent from hence at this Time.  I have inclosed You Copy of an Invoice of Goods now in the Hands of Mr Robert Henry in Albany, which he offered the Quarter Master Genl this Week on moderate Terms, as the Quarter Master informs Me—It certainly will be proper that You purchase them or such of them, as will suit the Army in Canada, & It will be less troublesome & expensive than sending Articles from hence, supposing they can be procured. I wish You to get Every Thing You want & that Can be had Either in Albany or Its Vicinity rather than to send here for them, I am really so immersed in Buisiness & have such a Variety of Things to attend to, That I scarcely know which way to turn Myself, Perhaps if You make a strict Inquiry, You may Obtain not only more Goods, but Other Necessaries.  The Indians are here, just returned from Philadelphia—I will communicate to them Your Wishes for their Return & Give Direction that Every Mark of Respect be shewn them by those who go with them.  I have requested the Paymaster, to procure, if possible, as Much hard Money as will discharge Mr Blake’s Claim.  How he will succeed I cannot tell; If he can get It, It shall be forwarded as soon as a proper Conveyance can be had. In Regard to a Person to superintend the Building of Gondolas & other Carpenters to carry on the Work I refer You to my Letter of the 9th & shall only add, that they cannot be now had, Every one Qualified for the Buisiness being Employed here.  The Intelligence contained in General Sullivan’s Letter is extremely pleasing & I sincerely wish his most sanguine Hopes may be more than answered. If the Affection of the Canadians can be Engaged & he seems to have no Doubt of It, It will be of much Importance & probably the Means of our retreiving our Misfortunes in that Quarter.  I find from General Arnold’s Letter to General Sullivan, Col. Bedel, Majr Butterfield & Captn Young are gone to the Sorel for Trial.9 If their Conduct was as bad & Infamous as represented, It will surely meet with an Exemplary Punishment. Men who will not discharge the Duty they owe their Country from Principle, must be influenced to It by Other Motives, or at least prevented from betraying our most Valuable Rights by a Cowardly & disgraceful Behaviour.

Inclosed You have an Extract of a Letter I received by last Nights Post from General Ward, from which we may reasonably Conjecture that the rest of the Transports which sailed with the One taken, will not be long before they arrive10—It seems Evident they expected to find General Howe at Boston & I am hopefull some Others under this Idea will fall into our Hands. There are also Accounts in Town of two or three Valuable Prizes more being taken to the Eastward, one with several light Cannon, Another a West India Man homeward bound with a Quantity of Dollars & sugars—But I fear, tho’ the Accounts seem particular, that they want Confirmation, as General Ward mentions Nothing of them.”

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June 11, 1776

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Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Philip Livingston comprise a committee chosen to prepare the Declaration of Independence.  John Adams requests Thomas Jefferson to prepare the first draft.  When Jefferson suggested that Adams write the Declaration, Adams “declined, and gave him 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.”

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We had a tremendous tour at Valley Forge yesterday – now that summer is here, you don’t want to miss  it.

June 10, 1776

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Congress stops short of declaring “total independence” from Britain, but calls for a committee to prepare a declaration based on the premise “That these United States are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states, that they all are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and all political connection between them and the state of Gret Britain is, and ought to be totally dissolved,” as stated in the Virginia proposal.

George Washington writes to John Hancock, addressing the threats to Philadelphia as well as the internal threats to the cause in general.  “To Congress I also submit the Propriety of keeping the two Continental Battalions (under the Comd of Colonels Shae & McGaw) at Philadelpa when there is the greatest probability of a speedy attack upon this place from the Kings Troops. the Incouragements given by Govr Tryon to the disaffected, which are circulated no one can well tell how—the movements of these kind of People which are more easy to perceive than describe —the confident report which is said to have come immediately from Govr Tryon, & brought by a Frigate from Hallifax that the Troops at that place were Imbarking for this, added to a thousand Incidental Circumstances trivial in themselves but strong from comparison, leaves not a doubt upon my Mind but that Troops are hourly expected at the Hook.  I had no doubt when I left this City, for Philadelphia, but that some measures would have been taken to secure the suspected, & dangerous Persons of this Government before now, and left Orders for the Military to give every aid to the Civil Power—But, the Subject is delicate, & nothing is done in it—we may therefore have Internal, as well as external Enemies to contend with.”

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June 9, 1776

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In Loudon County, Virginia, small tenant farmers petition the Convention for relief.  Unable to sell their harvests of wheat to foreign markets, many become destitute.

John Adams writes to William Cushing, a judge before he once used to argue:  “It would give me great Pleasure to ride this Eastern Circuit with you, and prate before you at the Bar, as I used to do. But I am destined to another Fate, to Drudgery of the most wasting, exhausting, consuming Kind, that I ever went through in my whole Life. Objects of the most Stupendous Magnitude, Measures in which the Lives and Liberties of Millions, born and unborn are most essentially interested, are now before Us. We are in the very midst of a Revolution, the most compleat, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the History of Nations. A few Matters must be dispatched before I can return. Every Colony must be induced to institute a perfect Government. All the Colonies must confederate together, in some solemn Compact. The Colonies must be declared free and independent states, and Embassadors, must be Sent abroad to foreign Courts, to solicit their Acknowledgment of Us, as Sovereign States, and to form with them, at least with some of them commercial Treaties of Friendship and Alliance. When these Things shall be once well finished, or in a Way of being so, I shall think that I have answered the End of my Creation, and sing with Pleasure my Nunc Dimittes, or if it should be the Will of Heaven that I should live a little longer, return to my Farm and Family, ride Circuits, plead Law, or judge Causes, just as you please.”

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June 4, 1776

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John Hancock exhorts the colonies to “exert every nerve to distinguish yourselves.  Quicken your preparations and stimulate the good people of your government and thre is no danger, notwithstanding the mighty armament with which we are threatened, but you will be able to lead them to victory, to liberty, and to happiness.”

John Adams responds to the resolution for independence drafted in the Virginia House of Burgesses that was sent to him from Richard Henry Lee.  “Your Favour of 18 May, inclosing the momentous Resolution of your wise and patriotic Convention, together with the American Crisis came duely to Hand, and yesterday, I had the Pleasure of receiving the Proceedings of the House of Burgesses. I thank you, sir for both these esteemed Favours.  Is it not a little remarkable that this Congress and your Convention should come to Resolutions so nearly Similar, on the Same day, and that even the Convention of Maryland should, in that critical Moment, have proceeded so far as to abolish the Oaths of Allegiance, notwithstanding that Some of their other Resolves are a little excentric? Your Resolution is consistent and decisive, it is grounded on true Principles which are fairly and clearly Stated, and in my humble opinion the Proviso which reserves to your selves the Institution of your own Government is fit and right, this being a Matter of which the Colonies are the best Judges, and a Priviledge which each Colony ought to reserve to itself. Yet after all I believe there will be much more Uniformity, in the Governments which all of them will adopt than could have been expected a few Months ago.  The Joy and exultation which was expressed upon that great Occasion did Honour to their good sense and public Virtue. It was an important Event at a critical Time, in which the Interest and Happiness, of themselves and their Posterity, was much concerned.”

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May 24, 1776

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After conferring with General Washington, Horatio Gates, and Thomas Mifflin, Congress votes to inform the commanding officer in Canada to “contest every foot of the ground” and especially prevent the enemy from ascending the St. Lawrence River.

Regarding Canada, General Washington wrote to General Schuyler:  “Inclose your Excellency an Estimate of the Men necessary to be employed in transporting and guarding the provisions between Albany and Canada, but if Flour can be procured there, nearly one half of the Number of Men mentioned for the Batteau Service may be dispensed with, when a considerable Stock is laid in, but even then I shall not have Numbers sufficient with Van Schaick’s and Wynkoop’s to clear Wood Creek cut the Roads, repair Tyconderoga, and do the Variety of Work necessary in this Quarter, I must therefore beg for a Reinforcement.1

Two Mohawk Indians came on the 21st to the Landing at the North End of Lake George and after enquiring what News, and where the commanding officer at Tyconderoga kept they said they were going to see him, but they soon took another Rout to the Westward—We suppose these to be some of the Indians who went with Sir John Johnson, we have small scouting parties out, but if we should discover them we are unable to send after them, as we have so few Men here.

Mr McNeil, who left St John’s on Friday last informs me that the 8th Regiment, and a Number of Indians were coming down the St Lawrence, and that a Reinforcement was ordered to Colonel Bedel, who is at the Cedars, and that Warner’s Green Mountain Boys were also to go up there.  As Tyconderoga is to be repaired an Engineir will be wanted, and none is to be procured here.  Having not received a Line from Mr Price to advise me of what Flour can be procured in Canada, I have thought it expedient, least the Army should suffer, to order up a Quantity: about three hundred Barrels are gone on since the 13th Instant & 1191 of pork, 115 of which reached St John’s on the 17th in the Morning and I believe about a like Quantity arrived there on each of the four succeeding Days, so that all my Fears of the army’s Starving are vanished.  I have this afternoon experienced a very severe Fit of the ague—I was in Hopes it had taken its Farewell for this Season—I shall vigorously attack it with the Bark, and hope to eradicate it by that Means.  If such a Number of British and foreign Troops are destined for Canada as is said, more of our’s will be wanted there, & very soon too.”

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