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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 5

Docno: ADMS-06-05-02-0135

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1777-06-12

Motion on Gunning Bedford

Resolved that the Freedom of Speech and Debate in Congress ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place, out of Congress.1
Resolved, that the Said Letters from Gunning Bedford Esq2 to { 224 } Mr. Sergeant a Member of this Congress from the State of New Jersey, is a most daring Contempt of the Authority of this House and Violation of the Priviledge of the Said Member.3
Resolved the Said Member, in laying the said Letters before Congress, did what his Duty to this House and the State he represents required of him.
Resolved that it is the Right and the Duty of this Congress, to vindicate its own Authority from Contempts, And the Priviledges of all its Members.
Resolved that the said Gunning Bedford Esq. be taken into Custody of the Door keeper of this Congress, and committed to the Prison in this City, for his Contempt and Brea[ch] of Priviledge aforesaid, untill the further order of Congress.4
MS in JA's hand (PCC, No. 36, IV, f. 189).
1. Paraphrased from the Bill of Rights of 1689 and incorporated in the Articles of Confederation as adopted (Parliamentary Hist., 5:110; JCC, 9:910).
2. Gunning Bedford (1747–1812), often confused with his cousin of the same name (1742–1797), trained for the law in Philadelphia—hence the reference to him as “Esquire.” His cousin had a military career before going into politics and would thus have been referred to by his military title. The younger man sometimes designated himself as Gunning Bedford Jr. (DAB for both).
3. Bedford took exception to remarks made about him by Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant and challenged him to a duel with pistols. In his reply Sergeant said he did not recall mentioning Bedford's “Character or Name on any Occasion unless in Congress, in the Course of Business.” Continuing to demand satisfaction, Bedford declared that the remarks' having been made in the congress only heightened the insult: “I have been much abused and illtreated by the arbitrary and ungenerous conduct of that house, and have long wished to lay my hands on some one particular member, whome I could prove had traduced my character; I am at length so happy as to have fixed on one, and could only wish he was an object more worthy of resentment.” The letters exchanged between the two men are in PCC, No. 78, II, f. 193–202.
4. Opposite this last resolve in the margin is written “neg.” Neither this set of resolutions nor another in the hand of William Duer, both offered when Sergeant presented the letters before the congress, was passed. Instead, the congress approved a briefer and more temperate resolve on 13 June and ordered Bedford to appear before it on the 14th, when it resolved that Bedford had been “guilty of a high breach of [its] privileges.” Bedford was dismissed after he asked the pardon of both the congress and Sergeant (JCC, 8:458–461, 466–467). By 1785 Bedford was himself a member of the congress and later, of the Federal Convention.

Docno: ADMS-06-05-02-0136

Author: Morris, Apollos
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1777-06-14

From Apollos Morris

[salute] Sir

Centinels are again Posted at my Lodgings.1 This I suppose a mistake L: Col: Parke2 having inform'd me as from you, that there was a second resolution of Congress respecting me3 that I was to apply for it and go in Consequence to give my Parole.
{ 225 }
I did by Mr. Wade yesterday even: apply for it but could find no other but the first. I went to your Lodgings, your Servant told me you were abroad.
I was prevented from repeating my visit to you this morn: Col: Parke offer'd to go to speak to you or some other member of the Congress; so long ago that he seems to have neglected it. I beg to be heard when and where you please and am Sir with all respect Your most humble & obedt. servt.
[signed] Apollos Morris
1. Maj. Apollos Morris, who had served in the 27th Infantry of foot in Ireland, had been considered for Washington's adjutant general when Gates was reluctant to return to that position. But Morris' ambiguous feelings about the American cause ruled him out (A List of the General and Field-Officers . . . on the British and Irish Establishments . . . the Whole Complete for 1774, London, [1775?], p. 81; Freeman, Washington, 4:392). Morris had come to the United States, according to his memorial to the congress, to “share in the distresses and to take up arms for Its Peace, Liberty and Safety.” By the last, Morris meant restoring the country to the state it had enjoyed before 1763. Believing himself a friend to both countries, he had arrived to find independence declared and himself in the awkward position of having recently said in print that independence was not in the best interest of the colonies. In the spring of 1777, he made inquiry about the latest proclamation of the Howes to learn whether it offered any more than submission and pardon. According to Washington, Morris had said that he would take an active part in the struggle if the ministry had nothing more to offer. According to Morris' memorial, he decided to keep his opinions to himself, but he felt that he could not act as an officer. Feeling that Morris was dangerous because he knew too much about American military secrets, Washington suggested to the congress that he be returned to the West Indies or Europe. The general wrote an unsealed letter to Morris in which he expressed his surprise that Morris then felt that without independence an adjustment might have been reached by the two countries. When Washington's letter and the unsealed one to Morris arrived in the congress, it ordered Benedict Arnold immediately to arrest him (PCC, No. 41, VI, f. 15–18; Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 8:191–193; JCC, 8:428).
2. Lt. Col. John Parke of the additional Continental regiment commanded by Col. John Patton (Heitman, Register Continental Army, p. 26, 424).
3. On 10 June the congress heard a resolution to permit Morris to leave under parole restrictions for Europe, by way of France or the French West Indies, but the resolution was tabled. On the 14th, Morris, under house arrest, wrote to the president of the congress enclosing the memorial referred to above, which he had written before he knew that he was being sent to Virginia, as he said. Nothing in the printed Journals mentions this disposition of his case. His letter and the memorial were turned over to a committee for consideration. The final action came on 20 June, when the substance of the tabled resolution was adopted with the further proviso that Morris remain in Philadelphia until he could take passage (JCC, 8:450, 468, 489; PCC, No. 78, XV, f. 221–224).
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, 2018.