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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2


Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0004-0006-0007

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1774-09-06

[Notes of Debates in the Continental Congress, 6 September 1774.]1

Mr. Henry. Government is dissolved. Fleets and Armies and the present State of Things shew that Government is dissolved.—Where are your Land Marks? your Boundaries of Colonies.
We are in a State of Nature, Sir. I did propose that a Scale should be laid down. That Part of N. America which was once Mass. Bay, { 125 } and that Part which was once Virginia, ought to be considered as having a Weight. Will not People complain, 10,000 <People> Virginians have not outweighed 1000 others.
I will submit however. I am determined to submit if I am overruled.
A worthy Gentleman (Ego)2 near me, seemed to admit the Necessity of obtaining a more Adequate Representation.
I hope future Ages will quote our Proceedings with Applause. It is one of the great Duties of the democratical Part of the Constitution to keep itself pure. It is known in my Province, that some other Colonies are not so numerous or rich as they are. I am for giving all the Satisfaction in my Power.
The Distinctions between Virginians, Pensylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders, are no more.
I am not a Virginian, but an American.
Slaves are to be thrown out of the Question, and if the freemen can be represented according to their Numbers I am satisfyed.
Mr. Lynch. I differ in one Point from the Gentleman from Virginia, that is in thinking that Numbers only ought to determine the Weight of Colonies. I think that Property ought to be considered, and that it ought to be a compound of Numbers and Property, that should determine the Weight of the Colonies.
I think it cannot be now settled.
Mr. Rutledge. We have no legal Authority and Obedience to our Determinations will only follow the reasonableness, the apparent Utility, and Necessity of the Measures We adopt. We have no coercive or legislative Authority. Our Constitutents are bound only in Honour, to observe our Determinations.
Govr. Ward. There are a great Number of Counties in Virginia, very unequal in Point of Wealth and Numbers, yet each has a Right to send 2 Members.
Mr. Lee. But one Reason, which prevails with me, and that is that we are not at this Time provided with proper Materials. I am afraid We are not.
Mr. Gadsden. I cant see any Way of voting but by Colonies.
Coll. Bland. I agree with the Gentleman (Ego)3 who spoke near me, that We are not at present provided with Materials to ascertain the Importance of each Colony. The Question is whether the Rights and Liberties of America shall be contended for, or given up to arbitrary Power.
Mr. Pendleton. If the Committee should find themselves unable to ascertain the Weight of the Colonies, by their Numbers and Property, { 126 } they will report this, and this will lay the Foundation for the Congress to take some other Steps to procure Evidence of Numbers and Property at some future Time.
Mr. Henry. I agree that authentic Accounts cannot be had—if by Authenticity is meant, attestations of officers of the Crown.
I go upon the Supposition, that Government is at an End. All Distinctions are thrown down. All America is all thrown into one Mass. We must aim at the Minutiae of Rectitude.
Mr. Jay. Could I suppose, that We came to frame an American Constitution, instead of indeavouring to correct the faults in an old one—I cant yet think that all Government is at an End. The Measure of arbitrary Power is not full, and I think it must run over, before We undertake to frame a new Constitution.
To the Virtue, Spirit, and Abilities of Virginia We owe much—I should always therefore from Inclination as well as Justice, be for giving Virginia its full Weight.
I am not clear that We ought not to be bound by a Majority tho ever so small, but I only mentioned it, as a Matter of Danger, worthy of Consideration.4
1. First entry in D/JA/22A, a collection of loose folded sheets of various sizes in which from time to time JA entered minutes of the debates in the first Continental Congress. These entries are mostly undated but have been inserted below under their most likely dates. Burnett, who prints the present notes in full, gives the evidence for assigning them to 6 Sept. (Letters of Members, 1:14–15).
2-3. This word inserted above the line in MS. Parentheses have been supplied by the editors.
4. Congress resolved this day that since it did not have and could not “at present ... procure proper materials for ascertaining the importance of each Colony,” “each Colony or Province shall have one Vote” (JCC, 1:25).

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0004-0006-0008

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1774-09-07

1774 Septr. 7. Wednesday.

Went to congress again. Heard Mr. Duchè read Prayers. The Collect for the day, the 7th of the Month, was most admirably adapted, tho this was accidental, or rather Providential. A Prayer, which he gave us of his own Composition, was as pertinent, as affectionate, as sublime, as devout, as I ever heard offered up to Heaven. He filled every Bosom present.1
Dined with Mr. Miers Fisher, a young Quaker and a Lawyer. We saw his Library, which is clever.
But this plain Friend, and his plain, tho pretty Wife, with her Thee's and Thou's, had provided us the most Costly Entertainment—Ducks, Hams, Chickens, Beef, Pigg, Tarts, Creams, Custards, Gellies, { 127 } fools, Trifles, floating Islands, Beer, Porter, Punch, Wine and a long &c.
We had a large Collection of Lawyers, at Table. Mr. Andrew Allen, the Attorney General, a Mr. Morris, the Prothonotary, Mr. Fisher, Mr. McKean, Mr. Rodney—besides these We had Mr. Reed, Govr. Hopkins and Governor Ward.
We had much Conversation upon the Practice of Law, in our different Provinces, but at last We got swallowed up, in Politicks, and the great Question of Parliamentary Jurisdiction. Mr. Allen asks me, from whence do you derive your Laws? How do you intitle yourselves to English Priviledges? Is not Lord Mansfield on the Side of Power?
1. This dramatic performance by Jacob Duché, assistant rector of Christ Church and St. Peter's in Philadelphia, following as it did the as yet uncontradicted rumor of the bombardment of Boston, had a profound effect on many besides JA; see Burnett, ed., Letters of Members, 1:19, and references there. What JA called the “Collect” was the thirty-fifth Psalm. JA wrote home at some length about the sensation produced by the eloquence of Duché, who, however, became a loyalist in 1777 and achieved notoriety by urging George Washington to have the Declaration of Independence withdrawn (JA to AA, 16 Sept. 1774, Adams Papers; printed in Works, 2:368, note; DAB, under Duché).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/