Diary of John Adams, volume 3

Monday May 13. 1776.

Wednesday May 15. 1776

385 [Tuesday May 14. 1776.] JA


[Tuesday May 14. 1776.] Adams, John
Tuesday May 14. 1776.

Tuesday May 14. 1776. A Letter of the 11th. from General Washington inclosing sundry Papers; a Letter of the 3d from General Schuyler; and a Letter of the 9th. from Daniel Robertson were laid before Congress and read. Resolved that they be referred to a Committee of three. The Members chosen Mr. W. Livingston, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. John Adams.1

William Ellery Esqr. appeared a Delegate from Rhode Island, in the place of Governor Ward, and being an excellent Member, fully supplied his place.

The Committee appointed to prepare a Preamble, thought it not necessary to be very elaborate, and Mr. Lee and Mr. Rutledge desired me as Chairman to draw something very short which I did and with their Approbation.2


For the letters in question see JCC , 4:352, note. Washington's letter is printed in his Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 5:32–37. Further letters were referred to this committee on 16 and again on 18 May, all relative to the northern campaign, and on the latter date the committee was enlarged. Its tangled history is summarized, with full references, in an editorial note in Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd, 1:295–296. A portion of its report of 21 May is in JA's hand ( PCC, No. 19, VI; JCC , 4:377).


This had been brought in as a “draught” on 13 May and postponed ( JCC , 4:351), though curiously JA overlooked the relevant passage in the Journals under that date and thus mistakenly says below that it was “reported” (he should have said “taken into consideration”) on the 15th. No MS version of the famous preamble has been found except that which was spread on the Journal as finally adopted; it was printed, with the resolution of 10 May, in the Pennsylvania Gazette, 22 May.