Papers of John Adams, volume 2

Appointment of Massachusetts Delegates to the Continental Congress, 17 June 1774 JA Massachusetts House of Representatives


Appointment of Massachusetts Delegates to the Continental Congress, 17 June 1774 Adams, John Massachusetts House of Representatives
Appointment of Massachusetts Delegates to the Continental Congress
Friday, June 17, A.D. 1774

This House having duly consider'd1 and being deeply affected with the unhappy Differences which have long subsisted and are increasing between Great-Britain and the American Colonies, do resolve, That a Meeting of Committees from the several Colonies on this Continent is highly expedient and necessary to consult upon the present State of the Colonies, and the Miseries to which they are and must be reduced by the Operation of certain Acts of Parliament respecting America; and to deliberate and determine upon wise and proper Measures to be by them recommended to all the Colonies, for the Recovery and Establishment of their just Rights and Liberties, civil and religious, and the Restoration of Union and Harmony between Great-Britain and the Colonies, most ardently desired by all good Men: Therefore,

Resolved, That this House will now appoint a Committee on the Part of this Province, to consist of five Gentlemen, any three of whom to be a Quorum; to meet such Committees or Delegates from the other Colonies as may be appointed either by their respective Houses of Burgesses or Representatives, or by Convention, or by Committees of Correspondence appointed by the respective Houses of Assembly, in the City of Philadelphia, or any other Place that shall be judg'd most suitable by the Committee, on the first Day of September next;2 and that the Speaker of the House be directed in a Letter to the Speakers of the Houses of Burgesses or Representatives in the several Colonies, to inform them of the Substance of these Resolves.

Resolved, That this House will now proceed to the Choice of a Committee for the Purposes mentioned in the foregoing Resolve; and 99that Capt. Heath, Col. Thayer and Mr. Gorham, be a Committee to sort and count the Votes.

Then the Members of the House proceeded to bring in their Votes, and Capt. Heath from the Committee appointed to count the same, reported that the following Gentlemen, viz. the Hon. James Bowdoin, Esq;3 the Hon. Thomas Cushing, Esq; Mr. Samuel Adams, John Adams, Esq; and Robert Treat Paine, Esq; were chosen.

Upon a Motion, Resolved, That the Sum of Five Hundred Pounds be allow'd and paid out of the publick Treasury for the Use of the said Committee, and to enable them to discharge their important Trust.

Reprinted from (Mass., House Jour. , 1774, p. 44–45).


In defiance of Gov. Gage, the House met in secret and behind locked doors to appoint delegates for the congress in Philadelphia. When the Governor learned of the meeting and its probable outcome, he sent the secretary of the province, Thomas Flucker, to dissolve the House. Refused admission, the secretary was forced to read the proclamation outside the locked doors (Gage, Corr. , 1:357–358).


Actually the delegates met and presented credentials on 5 Sept. 1774 ( JCC , 1:13).


Bowdoin did not attend the Continental Congress. His stated reason was the poor health of his wife, “occasioned by a long continued Slow Fever” (Boston Gazette, 15 Aug. 1774). He repeated this reason in a letter to John Temple on 10 Sept. 1774 (MHS, Colls. , 6th ser., 9 [1897]:374). Writing in 1822, JA questioned these motives, explaining that because John Hancock was ill, Bowdoin had been chosen to head the delegation but refused because “his relations thought his great fortune ought not to be hazarded” (JA, Works , 2:512, note). Adams' view is disputed in Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 11:534.

To James Warren, 25 June 1774 JA Warren, James


To James Warren, 25 June 1774 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
Dr. Sir Ipswich June 25. 1774

I am very sorry, I had not the Pleasure of seeing you, after your Return from Salem: as I wanted a great deal of Conversation with you, on several Subjects.

The principal Topick, however was the Enterprise to Phyladelphia. I view, the Assembly that is to be there, as I do, the Court of Ariopagus, the Council of the Amphyctions, a Conclave, a Sanhedrim, A Divan, I know not what. I Suppose you sent me there, to school. I thank you for thinking me, an apt scholar or capable of learning. For my own Part I am at a Loss, totally at a Loss what to do when We get there: but I hope to be there taught.

It is to be a School of Political Prophets I Suppose—a Nursery of American Statesmen. May it thrive, and prosper and flourish and from 100this Fountain may there issue Streams, which shall gladden all the Cities and Towns in North America, forever.

I am for making of it annual, and for Sending an entire new set every Year, that all the principal Genius's may go to the University in Rotation—that We may have Politicians in Plenty. Our great Complaint is the scarcity of Men fit to govern Such mighty Interests, as are clashing in the present Contest—a scarcity indeed! For who is Sufficient for these Things?1

Our Policy must be to improve every opportunity and Means for forming our People, and preparing Leaders for them in the grand March of Politicks. We must make our Children travel.

You and I have too many Cares and Occupations, and therefore We must recommend it to Mrs Warren and her Friend Mrs Adams to teach our Sons the divine Science of the Politicks: And to be frank I suspect they understand it better than we do.

There is one ugly Reflection—Brutus and Cassius were conquered and slain. Hampden died in the Field. Sydney on the Scaffold, Harrington in Goal, &c.2 This is cold Comfort. Politicks are an ordeal Path, among red hot Ploughshares. Who then would be a Politician for the Pleasure of running about barefoot among them? Yet Somebody must. And I think those, whose Characters, Circumstances, Educations, &c call them ought to follow.

Yet I don't think that one or a few Men are under any moral obligation to Sacrifice themselves and Families, all the Pleasures Profits and Prospects of Life, while others for whose Benefit this is to be done lie idle, enjoying all the Sweets of Society, acumulating Wealth in Abundance, and laying Foundations for oppulent and powerfull Families for many Generations. So I think the arduous Duties of the Times ought to be discharged in Rotation—and I never will engage more in Politicks but upon this System.

I must entreat the Favour of your Sentiments and Mrs. Warrens what is proper, praticable expedient, wise, just, good necessary to be done at Phyladelphia. Pray let me have them in a Letter before I go.

I am your Friend, John Adams

RC (NNPM); addressed: “To the Honourable James Warren esqr Plymouth”; docketed in an unidentified hand: “John Adams June 26 1774 Ipswich.”


Compare JA's diary entry for this date ( Diary and Autobiography , 2:97).


Although James Harrington (1611–1677) went to prison for his political activities, he did not die there ( DNB ).