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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0114

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1776-05-08

[Wednesday May 8. 1776.]

Wednesday May 8. 1776. The Instructions from the Naval Committee to Commodore Hopkins being laid before Congress and read:
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Ordered That they be referred to a Committee of seven, and that it be an Instruction to that Committee to enquire how far Commodore Hopkins has complied with the said Instructions, and if upon Inquiry they shall find that he has departed therefrom, to examine into the Occasion thereof; also to inquire into the Situation of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Providence and the other Officers brought from thence, and report what in their Opinion is proper to be done with them. That the said Committee have power to send for Witnesses and Papers. The Members chosen Mr. Harrison Mr. J. Adams, Mr. McKean, Mr. Duane, Mr. Lynch, Mr. Sherman and Mr. W. Livingston.1
There were three Persons at this time, who were a standing Subject of Altercation in Congress. General Wooster, Commodore Hopkins and a Mr. Wrixon. I never could discover any reason for the Bitterness against Wooster, but his being a New England man: nor for that against Hopkins but that he had done too much: nor for that against Wrixon, but his being patronized by Mr. Samuel Adams and Mr. R. H. Lee. Be it as it may, these three consumed an immense quantity of time and kept up the Passions of the Parties to a great hight. One design was to divert us from our main Object.2
A Committee of the whole, Mr. Harrison report[ed] no resolution. Leave to sit again.
1. A part of these instructions to the committee was not adopted until 22 May; on 31 May other papers were referred to the same committee, which on 7 June brought in a report, written by JA (in PCC, No. 19, III), on which Congress acted; but on 12 July the committee was discharged and superseded by the Marine Committee (JCC, 4:375, 407; 5:424–425, 545). See also the entries in JA's Autobiography under 12, 15, 16, 17, 19 Aug., below.
2. On these controversies see the very full references in Burnett, ed., Letters of Members, 1:441, note.

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0115

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1776-05-09

[Thursday May 9. 1776.]

Thursday May 9. 1776. A Committee of the whole:—Mr. Harrison reported a Resolution, which he read and delivered in.
The Resolution of the Committee of the whole was again read, and the determination thereof, at the Request of a Colony was postponed till tomorrow.

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0116

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1776-05-10

[Fryday May 10. 1776.]

Fryday May 10. 1776. Congress resumed the Consideration of the Resolution reported from the Committee of the whole, and the same was agreed to as follows:
Resolved, That it be recommended to the respective Assemblies and Conventions of the United Colonies, where no Government sufficient to the Exigencies of their Affairs, hath been hitherto established, to adopt such Government as shall in the Opinion of the Representatives { 383 } of the People best conduce to the Happiness and Safety of their Constituents in particular, and America in general.
Resolved that a Committee of three be appointed to prepare a Preamble to the foregoing Resolution. The Members chosen Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Richard Henry Lee.1
Marshall in his Life of Washington says this Resolution was moved by R. H. Lee and seconded by J. Adams.2 It was brought before the Committee of the whole House, in concert between Mr. R. H. Lee and me, and I suppose General Washington was informed of it by Mr. Harrison the Chairman or some other of his Correspondents: but nothing of this Appears upon the Journal. It is carefully concealed like many other Things relative to the greatest Affairs of the Nation which were before Congress in that Year.
This Resolution I considered as an Epocha, a decisive Event. It was a measure which I had invariably pursued for a whole Year, and contended for, through a Scaene and a Series of Anxiety, labour, Study, Argument, and Obloquy, which was then little known and is now forgotten, by all but Dr. Rush and a very few who like him survive. Millions of Curses were poured out upon me, for these Exertions and for these Tryumphs over them, by the Essex Juntoes, for there were such at that time and have continued to this day in every State in the Union; who whatever their pretences may have been have never forgotten nor cordially forgiven me. By this Term which is now become vulgarly and politically technical, I mean, not the Tories, for from them I received always more candour, but a class of People who thought proper and convenient to themselves to go along with the Public Opinion in Appearance, though in their hearts they detested it. Although they might think the public opinion was right in General, in its difference with G. Britain, yet they secretly regretted the Seperation, and above all Things the Connection with France. Such a Party has always existed and was the final Ruin of the Federal Administration as will hereafter very plainly appear.
A Committee of the whole again. Mr. Harrison reported no Resolution. I mention these Committees to shew how all these great ques• { 384 } tions laboured. Day after day consumed in debates without any Conclusion.
1. On this momentous step toward independence, and JA's part in it, see not only what follows in the Autobiography but an earlier passage at p. 335, above, and JA's Diary (Notes of Debates), 13–15 May 1776, with the editorial notes there.
2. A mistake, as CFA pointed out in a note on this passage (JA, Works, 3:44). Marshall's account of the adoption of the resolve and its preamble recommending the establishment of new governments is correct, but JA evidently confused it with Marshall's passage on the resolution of independence, introduced on 7 June. See John Marshall, Life of George Washington, Phila., 1804–1807, 2:402–403, 409–410.
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.