Papers of John Adams, volume 5

From Oliver Wolcott, 1 January 1777 Wolcott, Oliver JA From Oliver Wolcott, 1 January 1777 Wolcott, Oliver Adams, John
From Oliver Wolcott
sir Baltimore1 1 Janry 1777

Your Favour of the 30 Nov came to hand last Evening for which I most sincerely thank you. I wrote to you the 15: Nov. which I hope you have received.2 Your Observations of the Necessity of establishing a respectable Army are in my Judgment 57Very Proper. Congress have impowered Genl. Washington to raise 16 Battalions in Addition to those Already granted and 3,000 Cavalry. Also have given the General a Power for six Months to Conduct at his Discretion the Operations of the War, establish Magazines, call upon the Militia when Necessary, regulate every Department in the Army, Displace and Appoint any Officer below the Rank of Brigadier General &c. In a Word the Whole of the Military Department is put into his Hand for six Months.3 Upon this that the Preservation of the Civil Liberties of the People, at the present Time, depends upon the full Exertion of the Military Power. An Embargo for six Months is laid upon fatted Provisions.4 For other Matters of publick Intelligence referr you to the enclosed. I hope We may Obtain further advantages against the Enemy in the Jersys.5 The Express is this Moment going off. I have only to say, that We must have an Army, to carry on a War without one is a New Peice of Business. That they ought to be provided for in the best Manner, and that without Discipline they will not be serviceable. And that I think if We can once bring one into the Feild, that they will be much better provided for disciplined and governed than they have hitherto been, in a Word I beleive if We can get an Army it will be a good one—more happy themselves and more Beneficial to the Publick than any We have yet had.

Great Complaints are made that the Assemblys have Appointed great Numbers of Very insufficient Officers and have neglected the most Apparent Merit.

Your kindness for me particularly exacts my Gratitude, I wish I was less sensible of the Injury I have received.6 Any but those who have exercised Power to Answer sinister Purposes to my Injury I can easily forgive, but those Men I hope may deserve not only my Forgiveness but that of their Maker. I am at no Loss as to what they deserve. But God forbid that this Villany shall ever induce Me to relax my Endeavours to serve my Country as far as I am able. I saw the Baseness of those Men's Design and the Effect of my own Undertaking in a good Degree contrary to my own Opinion. I undertook and therefore ought to suffer. I am generally tho't to be pritty inflexible in my own Opinion. I certainly will study to be more so.

My Compliments to Mrs. Adams, and with Candor Accept this hasty Sketch from Sir your Most Obedient humble Servant Oliver Wolcott

RC (N); docketed in an unknown hand: “Col: Wolcotts Letter”; in another hand: “1 Jany 1777 S.” Enclosure not found.


On 12 Dec. the congress resolved to move to Baltimore because of the threatening military situation. The first meeting was held there on 20 Dec. ( JCC , 6:1027–1028).


Neither letter has been found.


These powers were voted on 27 Dec. (same, 6:1045–1046).


Anticipating shortages for the army of “bacon, salted beef, pork, soap, tallow and candles,” the congress on 30 Dec. 1776 prohibited the export of these articles from 6 Jan. until 1 Nov. 1777 (same, 6:1054).


On Christmas Day, Washington's forces captured 918 prisoners at Trenton (Freeman, Washington , 4:325).


As an Indian commissioner for the Northern Department, Wolcott had participated with Gen. Schuyler, Col. Turbutt Francis, and others in a conference in August 1775. At the end, and wholly unexpectedly, a sachem brought up the contested land claims between Pennsylvania and Connecticut along the Susquehanna River, declaring that the land had been sold to Gov. John Penn. When commissioners Schuyler, Wolcott, and two others, but not Francis, held an inquiry into this surprising departure from the purpose of the Indian conference, they found evidence that Francis, a Pennsylvania land claimant, had offered a bribe to have the speech made. It was decided that the matter should be reported to the congress; but although a letter was drafted and signed, it apparently was never presented. Out of delicacy as a Connecticut man and thus an interested party, Wolcott did not sign this letter. Francis did not find out about the investigation until months later, when Wolcott told him about it as a matter of honor. A misunderstanding followed, with Francis blaming his fellow commissioners for going into matters not of their concern and keeping their investigation secret. Acting the injured party, Francis demanded an investigation by the congress, which was never completed because Indian witnesses would not testify. Schuyler apparently resented Wolcott's having revealed the findings, but Wolcott felt that he had acted uprightly in every respect. Just why these animosities should have been festering in the fall of 1776 when Francis' effort at a congressional inquiry had failed as long ago as June is not clear. But Wolcott wrote in detail to Timothy Edwards about the whole affair on 29 Nov., and it seems that JA wrote in support of Wolcott on the 30th (Julian P. Boyd and Robert J. Taylor, eds., The Susquehannah Company Papers, 11 vols., Ithaca, 1962–1971, 6:348–349, 416–420; 7:11–12, 24–28).

John Adams’ Service in the Continental Congress John Adams’ Service in the Continental Congress
John Adams' Service in the Continental Congress
Committee Assignments 2 January – 6 November 1777

In his final months of service in the congress, JA served on 26 committees, acting as chairman for 8 of them, and for most of the period he continued to act as president of the Board of War and as a member of the Committee on Appeals. From all this committee work, only two reports in JA's hand have been found; they are printed below in their appropriate chronological order. Here, as with lists given before, the intention is to demonstrate the variety of tasks to which JA was assigned and to indicate with whom he worked.

59 Samuel Chase, James Wilson, JA, who had not yet returned to the congress ( JCC , 7:9). To consider the form of a commission to Benjamin Franklin (the Committee of Secret Correspondence had brought in a draft; it was read, debated, and recommitted to this committee). Reported and resolution adopted: 2 Jan.; report not found (same, 7:10). JA, Roger Sherman, Samuel Chase ( JCC , 7:89). To consider a petition from Edward Southouse (n.d., no text). Report not found. Richard Henry Lee, James Wilson, Samuel Chase, JA, Roger Sherman ( JCC , 7:93–94). To consider proceedings of the committees of the four New England states (on price control), which were under consideration and reported by the Committee of the Whole. Reported and report tabled: 6 Feb. (same, 7:97). Reported and report discussed (with report of the Committee of the Whole): 12, 13 Feb. (same, 7:111–112, 118). Report recommitted: 14 Feb. (same, 7:121). Reported and resolutions adopted: 15 Feb.; report not found (same, 7:124–125). JA, Richard Henry Lee, Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant, Roger Sherman, Thomas Heyward ( JCC , 7:95). To consider a motion made by Abraham Clark on Washington's Proclamation of 25 January (text of motion in Journal). Reported and report tabled: 27 Feb.; report in JA's hand (same, 7:165–166; PCC, No. 36, I, f. 5, printed below). Thomas Heyward, JA, John Witherspoon, Richard Henry Lee, Samuel Adams ( JCC , 7:127). To consider revising the regulations of the post office, and report a plan so as “to render the conveyance of intelligence more expeditious and certain.” Reported and report tabled: 25 Feb.; report in Thomas Heyward's hand (same, 7:153–154; PCC, No. 61, f. 445). Reported and resolutions adopted: 12 April; report not found ( JCC , 7:258). Reported and resolutions adopted: 12 May; report in R. H. Lee's hand (same, 7:346, 347; PCC, No. 61, f. 449). Reported and resolutions adopted: 17 Oct.; report in R. H. Lee's hand ( JCC , 9:816–817; PCC, No. 61, f. 443). JA, George Read, Thomas Burke ( JCC , 7:172). To be added to the standing committee for hearing appeals (see same, 7:75 for original committee appointed 30 Jan.). James Wilson, JA, Roger Sherman ( JCC , 7:203). To consider a letter of 20 March (on riotous behavior of some American 60soldiers) with enclosures from the committee of Lancaster to the Pennsylvania delegates. Reported and resolution adopted: 29 March; report in James Wilson's hand (same, 7:208; PCC, No. 20, II, f. 7). Elbridge Gerry, Thomas Burke, JA ( JCC , 7:219). To revise Dr. Shippen's plan for the regulating of the hospital. Reported and report debated: 4, 5 April (same, 7:225, 227). Resolutions passed: 7 April; report in Thomas Burke's hand (same, 7:231–237; PCC, No. 22, f. 19). Further resolutions passed: 8 April; two paragraphs of report in James Wilson's hand ( JCC , 7:244–245; PCC, No. 22, f. 26½). James Wilson, George Clymer, Richard Henry Lee, Abraham Clark, JA ( JCC , 7:246–247). To confer with officials on the subject of possible enemy attack in Pennsylvania. Reported and resolutions passed: 10 April (same, 7:250–251). Other duty assigned 10 April: to write a draft letter to Washington, outlining the reasons that induced the congress to pass the above resolutions (same, 7:251; Dft in R. H. Lee's hand [PPAmP]). A letter, dated 10 April, signed by these committee members was offered for sale by Dodd, Mead & Co., 1899. JA, Daniel Roberdeau, James Wilson ( JCC , 7:266). To consider the proper reward to offer for destroying or capturing the enemy's ships. Report not found. William Duer, JA, Benjamin Rumsey ( JCC , 7:314). To confer with the executive power of Pennsylvania on general affairs of state. Report not found. James Wilson, JA, Richard Henry Lee ( JCC , 7:318). To inquire into the laws and customs regarding the neutrality of nations and report on whether the conduct of Portugal is a breach of neutrality and justifies acts of hostilities against its subjects. Report not found. William Duer, JA, Arthur Middleton ( JCC , 8:414). To confer with the Pennsylvania Board of War and evaluate the prospects for the defenses at Billingsport. Reported and report tabled: 10 June; report not found (same, 8:451). Resolutions adopted: 11 June (same, 8:451–452). Daniel Roberdeau, JA, Jonathan Bayard Smith ( JCC , 8:536). To consider a petition from the Rev. Francis Allison, John Ewing, and William Marshall on printing an edition of the Bible. Reported and resolution passed: 11 Sept.; report in Daniel Roberdeau's hand (same, 8:733–735; PCC, No. 28, f. 203). 61 Thomas Heyward, JA, James Lovell ( JCC , 8:553, 554). To communicate the congress' resolution to Philippe Tronson du Coudray on his agreement with Silas Deane and his rank. Reported verbally: 17 July (same, 8:558). Other duties assigned 17 July: to consider the situation of Du Coudray (same). Robert Morris, James Wilson added to the committee: 17 July (same). Reported and report tabled: 21 July; report in Thomas Heyward's hand ( JCC , 8:569; PCC, No. 19, II, f. 137). Henry Laurens, JA, Eliphalet Dyer, Daniel Roberdeau, Nathaniel Folsom ( JCC , 8:596). To report on the mode of conducting the inquiry into the evacuation of Ticonderoga and Fort Independence and on the conduct of the officers there. Reported and report tabled: 19 Aug. (same, 8:653). Report recommitted: 20 Aug. (same, 8:659). Report debated and resolutions passed: 23, 25, 27 Aug.; report in Henry Laurens' hand (same, 8:668–669, 674–675, 681–686; PCC, No. 29, f. 261). Resolutions ordered published: 28 Aug. ( JCC , 8:688; see Pennsylvania Gazette, 3 Sept.). Henry Laurens, James Wilson, JA, James Duane, Richard Law ( JCC , 8:599). To consider the state of the Northern Department; confer with Gen. Washington; and consider a letter of 28 July from Gov. Jonathan Trumbull. Reported and resolutions passed: 3 Aug.; report not found (same, 8:600–601). Other duties assigned 4 Aug.: to consider part of a letter of 3 Aug. from Gen. Washington asking to be excused from naming a general to replace Schuyler (same, 8:603–604). Reported and resolutions passed: 5 Aug.; report in James Duane's hand (same, 8:614; PCC, No. 21, f. 115). William Duer, Richard Henry Lee, James Wilson, JA, Samuel Chase ( JCC , 8:648). To consider the state of the western frontiers and the Northern Department. Reported partially and resolution passed: 16 Aug.; report not found (same, 8:649). Other duties assigned 18 Aug.: to consider those parts of the public letters that relate to the Northern Department (same, 8:649–650). Reported and resolutions passed: 20 Aug.; report not found (same, 8:659). Henry Laurens, Richard Henry Lee, JA ( JCC , 8:688). To collect evidence and facts on the evacuation of Ticonderoga and 62Fort Independence. (See Laurens and others, to Joseph Trumbull, 5 Sept. [below].) Letter from Lt. Col. Hale referred: 2 Oct. (same, 8:758). Portion of a letter from Gen. Schuyler referred: 9 Oct. (same, 9:786–787). Francis Dana, John Witherspoon, William Ellery added to the committee: 26 Dec. (same, 9:1053). James Lovell (in place of Dana) added to the committee: 20 Jan. 1778 (same, 10:66). James Smith added to the committee: 27 Jan. (same, 10:93). Reported and resolutions passed: 5 Feb. 1778; report in Henry Laurens' hand (same, 10:125; PCC, No. 29, f. 26). JA, William Duer, Richard Henry Lee ( JCC , 8:688–689). To consider two letters from Gen. Sullivan with enclosures of various Quaker letters and documents. Reported and resolutions passed: 28 Aug.; report in William Duer's hand (same, 8:695; PCC, No. 19, V, f. 439½). Other duties assigned 3 Sept.: to consider letters and papers found in the possession of some Quakers taken into custody ( JCC , 8:708). Reported and consideration postponed: 5 Sept.; report not found (same, 8:713, 714). Orders issued: 6 Sept. (same, 8:718). See Thomas McKean to JA, 19 Sept. 1777 (below). JA, Richard Henry Lee, William Duer, Elbridge Gerry, James Wilson ( JCC , 8:719, 720). To consider a letter of 1 September from Gov. Trumbull complaining about slowness in getting the Journals printed (Adams Papers). No report found. JA, Samuel Chase, Joseph Jones ( JCC , 8:732–733). To consider a motion on regulations for officers receiving rations in messes. Report not found. Richard Henry Lee, JA, Samuel Chase ( JCC , 9:783). To consider a resolution to prevent intercourse between towns held by the enemy and inhabitants of the country. Reported and resolutions passed: 8 Oct.; report not found (same, 9:784–785). JA, James Duane, William Williams ( JCC , 9:788). To consider a memorial from and papers on George McIntosh of Georgia. Reported and resolution passed: 10 Oct.; report in JA's hand (same, 9:789–790; PCC, No. 19, IV, f. 23–24; printed below). Richard Henry Lee, JA, Elbridge Gerry ( JCC , 9:859). To consider a motion for directing the future operations of Gen. Gates. 63 Reported and report recommitted: 4 Nov. (a canceled resolution is printed, same, 9:863). William Duer added to the committee: 4 Nov. (same). Reported and resolutions passed: 5 Nov.; report not found (same, 9:864–868). JA, James Duane, Joseph Jones, Richard Henry Lee ( JCC , 9:871). To consider a motion respecting the convention of Saratoga and a letter from Gen. Heath of 25 October. Reported and resolutions passed: 8 Nov.; report not found (same, 9:880–882). Ordered to sit again: 8 Nov. (same, 9:882).