Category Archives: Congress

Item of the Day: Speech of the President of the United States to Congress (May 16, 1797)

Found In: State Papers and Publick Documents of the United States from the Accession of George Washington to the Presidency, Exhibiting a Complete View of our Foreign Relations since that Time. 1797. Boston: Printed and published by T. B. Wait & Sons, David Hale, agent for the States of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, 1815.



Gentlemen of the Senate, and

Gentlemen of the House of Representatives,

The personal inconveniences to the members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives, in leaving their families and private affairs, at this season of the year, are so obvious, that I the more regret the extraordinary occasion which has rendered the convention of Congress indispensable.

It would have afforded me the highest satisfaction to have been able to congratulate you on a restoration of peace to the nations of Europe, whose animosities have endangered our tranquillity: but we have still abundant casue of gratitude to the Supreme Dispenser of national blessings for general health and promising seasons; for domestick and social  happiness; for the rapid progress and ample acquisitions of industry through extensive territories; for civil, political, and religious liberty. While other states are desolated with foreign war, or convulsed with intestine divisions, the United States present the pleasing prospect of a nation governed by mild and equal laws, generally satisfied with the possession of their rights; neither envying the advantages nor fearing the power of other nations; solicitious only for the maintenance of order and justice and the preservation of liberty; increasing daily in their attachment to a system of government, in proportion to their experience of its utility; yielding a ready and general obedience to laws flowing from the reason, and resting on the only solid foundation, the affections of the people.

It is with extreme regret that I shall be obliged to turn your thoughts to other circumstances, which admonish us that some of these felicities may not be lasting; but if the tide of our prosperity is full, and a reflux commencing, a vigilant circumspection becomes us, that we may meet our reverses with fortitude, and extricate ourselves from their consequences, with all the skill we possess, and all the efforts in our power.

In giving to Congress information of the state of the Union, and recommending to their consideration such measures as appear to me to be necessary or expedient, according to my constitutional duty, the cause and the objects of the present extraordinary session will be explained.

After the President of the United States received information that the French government had expressed serious discontents at some proceedings of the government of these states, said to affect the interests of France, he thought it expedient to send to that country a new minister, fully instructed to enter on such amicable discussions, and to give such candid explanations as might happily remove the discontents and suspicions of the French government, and vindicate the conduct of the United States. —For this purpose he selected from among his fellow-citizens a character, whose integrity, talents, experience, and services, had placed him in the rank of the most esteemed and respected in the nation. The direct object of his mission was expressed in his letter of credence to the French Republick; being “to maintain that good understanding, which from the commencement of the alliance had subsisted between the two nations; and to efface unfavourable impressions, banish suspicions, and restore that cordiality which was at once the evidence and pledge of a friendly union:” and his instructions were to the same effect “faithfully to represent the dispositon of the government and people of the United States, (their dispositon being one) to remove jealousies, and obiate complaints, by showing that they were groundless; to restore that mutual confidence which had been so unfortunately and injuriously imparied; and to explain the relative interests of both countries, and the real sentiments of his own.” . . .



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Filed under 1790's, Congress, Early Republic, Foreign Relations, France, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Washington

Item of the Day: Authentic Account of the Proceedings of the Congress held at New-York in 1765 (1767)

Full Title: Authentic Account of the Proceedings of the Congress held at New-York, in MDCCLXV, on the SUBJECT of the AMERICAN STAMP ACT.  MDCCLXVII. [1767]







Boston, June 1765.


 The House of Representatives of this province, in the present session of the general court, have unanaimously agreed to propose a meeting, as soon as may be, of COMMITTEES, from the houses of representatives or burgesses of the several British colonies on this continent, to consult together on the present circumstances of the colonies, and the difficulties to which they are, and must be reduced, by the operation of the acts of parliament for levying duties and taxes on the colonies; and to consider of a general, and united, dutiful, loyal and humble representation of their condition, to his Majesty and the Parliament, and to implore relief. The house of reprsentatives of this province have also voted to propose, That such meeting be at the city of New-York, in the province of New-York, on the first Tuesday in October next; and have appointed a committee of three of their members to attend that service, with such as the other houses of representatives, or burgesses, in the several colonies, may think fit to appoint to meet them. And the committee of the house of representatives of this province, are directed to repair to said New-York, on said first Tuesday in October next, accordingly.

If, therefore, your honourable house should agree to this proposal, it would be acceptable, that as early notice of it as possible, might be transmitted to the speaker of the house of representatives of this province.


In consequence of the foregoing circular letter, the following gentlemen met at New-York, in the province of New-York, on Monday the seventh day of October, 1765, viz.

From the province of Massachusetts-bay, JAMES OTIS, OLIVER PATRIDGE, TIMOTHY RUGGLES, Esquires.

From the colony of Rhode-Island, and Providence plantation, METCALF BOWLER, HENRY WARD, Esquires.

From the colony of Connecticut, ELIPHALET DYER, DAVID ROWLAND, WILLIAM SAMUEL JOHNSON, Esquires.


From the colony of New-Jersey, ROBERT OGDEN, HENDRICK FISHER, JOSEPH BORDEN, Esquires.

From the government of the counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, CAESAR RODNEY, THOMAS M’KEAN, Esquires.

From the province of Maryland, WILLIAM MURDOCK, EDWARD TILGHMAN, THOMAS RINGGOLD, Esquires.

From the province of South-Carolina, THOMAS LYNCH, CHRISTOPHER GADSDEN, JOHN RUTLEDGE, Esquires.

Then the said committees proceeded to chuse a chariman by ballot, and Timothy Ruggles, esq; on sorting and counting the votes, appeared to have a majority, and thereupon was placed in the chair.


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Filed under 1760's, Colonial America, Congress, Great Britain, New York, Politics, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Stamp Act

Item of the Day: Congress Canvassed (1774)

Full Title:

The Congress Canvassed: Or, An Examination into the Conduct of the Delegates, at their Grand Convention, Held in Philadelphia, Sept 1, 1774.  Addressed, to the Merchants of New-York.  By A. W. Farmer.  Author of Free Thoughts, &c.  Printed in the Year M,DCC,LXXIV.


I shall make no apology for addressing myself to you, the Merchants of the city of New-York, upon the present unhappy and distressed state of our country.  My subject will necessarily lead me to make some remarks on your past and present conduct, in this unnatural contention between our parent country and us.  I am duly sensible of what importance you are to the community, and of the weight and influence you must have in the conduct of all our public affairs: I know that the characters of many of you are truly respectable, and I shall endeavour to express what I have to say to you, consistently with that decency and good manners which are due, not only to you, but to all mankind.

But you must not expect any undue complaisance from me.–You must be content with plain English, from a plain countryman; I must have the privilege of calling a fig–a Fig; an egg, –an Egg.  If, upon examination, your conduct shall, in any instances, appear to be weak, you must bear to be told of it:—if wrong, to be censured:—if selfish, to be exposed:—if ridiculous, to be laughed at :— Do not be offended if I omit to say, that if your conduct shall appear to be honourable, that it shall be commended.  Honourable and virtuous actions want no commendation,—they speak for themselves:  They affect not praise, but are rather disgusted with it,—instead of heightening, it tarnishes their lustre.  If you have acted from honourable motives, from disinterested principles, from true patriotism,—if justice and prudence, and a love of your country have been the guides of your conduct, you need fear no attack, nor the strictest scrutiny of your actions. 

Nor, upon the other hand, ought you to be displeased with the man, who shall point out your errors, supposing you have acted wrong.  To err is common,— I wish it was uncommon to persist in error.  But such is the pride of the human heart, that when we have once taken a wrong step, we think it an impeachment of our wisdom and prudence to retreat.  A kind of sullen, sulky obstinacy takes possession of us; and though, in the hour of calm reflection, our hearts should condemn us, we had rather run the risk of being condemned by the world too, than own the possibility of our having been mistaken.  Preposterous pride!  It defeats the end it aims at:  It degrades instead of exalting our characters, and destroys that reputation which it seems so solicitous to establish.  To become sensible of our errors, and to mend them,—to grow wiser by our own mistakes,—to learn prudence from our misconduct,—to make every fall a means of rising higher in virtue,—are circumstances which raise the dignity of human nature the nearest to that perfection of conduct which has never erred.   

Possibly, in many instances, I shall need your candour:  In one particular I must bespeak it.  I live at a distance from the city, and visit it but seldom.  The opinion I have formed of your conduct, depends, a good deal, upon report, and the common newspapers.—I have, however, endeavoured to get the best information I could; and I have not the least inclination to put unfair constructions upon your actions; and should I, in any instance, misrepresent you, I will, upon good information, make all proper acknowledgements.  Under these circumstances, and with this disposition, I think I have a right to expect, that you will read this Address without prejudice, and judge of it with impartiality, and such a regard to truth and right, as every reasonable man ought to make the basis of his opinion in all the discussions, and the rule of his conduct in all his actions.


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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Congress, Eighteenth century, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Hamilton’s Full Vindication… (1774)

Full Title: A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress, From the Calumnies of their Enemies; In Answer to a Letter, Under the Signature of A. W. Farmer.  Whereby his Sophistry is exposed, his Cavils confuted, his Artifices detected, and his Wit ridiculed; In a General Address to the Inhabitants of America, And a Particular Address to the Farmers of the Province of New-York.  [By Alexander Hamilton.]  New York: Printed by James Rivington, 1774.

Friends and Countrymen,

It was hardly to be expected that any man could be so presumptuous, as openly to controvert the equity, wisdom, and authority of the measures, adopted by the congress; an assembly truly respectable on every account!–Whether we consider the characters of the men, who composed it; the number, and dignity of their constituents, or the important ends for which they were appointed.  But, however improbable such a degree of presumption might have seemed, we find there are some, in whom it exists.  Attempts are daily making to diminish the influence of their decisions, and prevent the salutary effects, intended by them.–The impotence of such insidious efforts is evident from the general indignation they are treated with; so that no material ill-consequences can be dreaded from them.  But lest they should have a tendency to mislead, and prejudice the minds of a few; it cannot be deemed altogether useless to bestow some notice upon them.

And first, let me ask these restless spirits, whence arises that violent antipathy they seem to entertain, not only to the natural rights of mankind; but to common sense and common modesty.  That they are enemies to the natural rights of mankind is manifest, because they wish to see one part of their species enslaved by another.  That they have an invincible aversion to common sense is apparant in many respects: They endeavour to persuade us, that the absolute sovereignty of parliament does not imply our absolute slavery; that it is a Christian duty to submit to be plundered of all we have, merely because some of our fellow-subjects are wicked enough to require it of us, that slavery, so far from being a great evil, is a great blessing; and even, that our contest with Britain is founded entirely upon the petty duty of 3 pence per pound of East India tea; wheras the whole world knows, it is built upon this interesting question, whether the inhabitants of Great-Britain have a right to dispose of the lives and property of the inhabitants of America or not?  And lastly, that these men have discarded all pretension to common modesty, is clear from hence, first because they, in the plainest terms, call an august body of men, famed for their patriotism and abilities, fools or knaves, and of course the people whom they repsented cannot be exempt from the same opprobrious appellations: and secondly, because they set themselves up as standards of wisdom and probity, by contradicting and censuring the public voice in favour of those men…


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Filed under 1770's, Alexander Hamilton, American Revolution, Colonial America, Congress, Eighteenth century, Liberty, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution, United States

Item of the Day: Pitt’s Political Debates

Full Title:

Political Debates.  [Featuring William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham]  “Upon the whole, I will beg leave to tell the House what is really my opinion.  It is, that the Stamp Act be REPEALED ABSOLUTELY, TOTALLY, andIMMEDIATELY.” The Great Commoner.  A Paris, Chez J. W. Imprimeur, Rue du Colombier Fauxbourg St. Germain, a l’Hotel de Saxe. M DCC LXVI. [Prix 30 Sous.] Avec Approbation, & Privilege

It is necessary to inform the reader, that some time before the meeting of parliament, a report had been artfully propogated, that the ministry had changed their minds with regard to the Stamp-Act, and, instead of repealing, were resolved to enforce it.  If it could be proved, that this report did not come originally from the favourites of a certain northern nobleman, yet it was certainly much indebted to them for its progress, which was so great as to affect the stocks.

The king’s speech to the parliament on the 14th of January, 1766, gave some colour to the suggestion; but when the gentleman had spoke who moved for the address, and who seconded it, nothing could be clearer, than that the ministry persisted in their intention to promote the repeal.  The friends of the late ministry applauded the king’s speech, and approved of the proposed address, which, as usual, only recapitulated the speech.

The opposition took great offence at the tenderness of the expression, that the first gentlemen had made use of concerning America.  Mr. Nugent particularly insisted, “That the HONOR and dignity of the kingdom obliged us to compel the execution of the Stamp-Act, except the right was acknowledged, and the repeal solicited as a favour.  He computed the expence of the troops now employed in America for their defence, as he called it, to amount to nine-pence in the pound of our land-tax; while the produce of the Stamp-Act would not raise a shilling a head on the inhabitants of America; but that a pepper-corn, in acknowledgement of the right. was of more value than millions without.  He expatriated on the extreme ingratitude of the colonies; and concluded, with charging the ministry with encouraging petitions to parliament, and instructions to members from the trading and manufacturing towns, against the Act.”

Mr. Pitt was the next speaker.  Every friend of his country rejoiced to see him again in that house, and more so, in such perfect health.  As he always begins very low, and as every body was in agitation at his first rising, his introduction was not heard, ’till he said, “I came to town today; I was a stranger to the tenor of his majesty’s speech, and the proposed address, ’till I heard them read in this house.  Unconnected and unconsulted, I have not the means of information; I am fearful of offending through mistake, and therefore beg to be indulged with a second reading of the proposed address.”  The address being read, Mr. Pitt went on:–“He commended the king’s speech, approved of the address in answer, as it decided nothing, every gentleman being left at perfect liberty to take such  a part concerning America, as he might afterwards see fit.  One word only he could not approve of, and EARLY, is a word that does not belong to the notice the ministry have given to parliament of the troubles in America.  In a matter of such importance, the communication ought to have been immediate:  I speak not with respect to parties; I stand up in this place single and unconnected.  As to the late ministry, (turning himself to Mr. G—-lle, who sat within one of him) every capital measure they have taken, has been entirely wrong!”


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Filed under 1760's, Colonial America, George III, Government, Posted by Matthew Williams, Stamp Act

Item of the Day: Secret Journals of the Congress of the Confederation (1821)

Full Title: Secret Journals of the Acts and Proceedings of Congress, from the First Meeting thereof to the Dissoluiton of the Confederation, by the Adoption of the Constitution of the United States. . . . Vol. I. Boston: Printed and Published by Thomas B. Wait, 1821.


The Secret Journals of the Congress of the Confederation, directed by the foregoing resolutions to be published, are at the Department of State in five manuscript volumes. The Journals of Proceedings relating to Domestick Affairs, are in one separate volume, and the History of the Confederation in another. Of the latter, the projected articles presented by Dr. Franklin, on the 21st of July, 1775; those reported int he hand-writing of J. Dickinson, on the 12th of July, 1776, and those reported in a new draft on the 20th of August, 1776, by the committee of the whole, were kept secret, and have never before been published. The proceedings subsequent to the 8th of April, 1777, when this report of the committee of the whole was taken up and debated in Congress, were published from time to time in the publick journals; but never having been collected in one compilation, and being scattered through seveal of the volumes of the publick journals, which are now quite out of print, it has been thought most consistent with the intention of the resolutions to publish the whole of this manuscript. The Journal of Foreign Affairs is at the Department in three volumes; the last of which is not entirely filled, the journal closing on the 16th of September, 1788. On the 13th of the same month the resolution had passed for the organization of the new government, and for the meeting of the Congress under the constitution of the United States on the first Wednesday of the ensuing March. The tenth of October, 1788, was the last day upon which the Congress of the confederation met in numbers sufficient to form a quorum.

Department of State, August, 1820.


NOVEMBER 9, 1775.

Resolved, That every member of this Congress considers himself under the ties of virtue, honour, and love of his country, not to divulge, directly or indirectly, any matter or thing agitated or debated in Congress, before the same shall have been determined, without leave of the Congress; nor any matter or thing determined in Congress, which a majority of the Congress shall order to be kept secret. And that if any member shall violate this agreement, he shall be expelled this Congress, and deemed an enemy to the liberties of America, and liable to be treated as such; and that every member signify his consent to this agreement by signing the same.


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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Congress, Government, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Address and Recommendations to the States (1783)

Full Title: Address and Recommendations to the States, by the United States in Congress assembled. Philadelphia: Printed, 1783; Boston: Re-printed, By Order of the Hon. House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1783.


THE prospect which has for some time existed, and which is now happily realized, of a successful termination of the war, together with the critical exigencies of public affairs, have made it the duty of Congress to review and provide for the debts which the war has left upon the United States, and to look forward to the means of obviating dangers which may interrupt the harmony and tranquility of the confederacy. The result of their mature and solemn deliberations on these great objects is contained in their several recommendations of the 18th instant, herewith transmitted. Although these recommendations speak themselves the principles on which they are founded, as well as the ends which they propose. It will not be improper to enter into a few explanations and remarks, in order to place in a stronger view the necessity of complying with them.

The first measure recommended is, effectual provision for the debts of the United States. The amount of these debts, as far as they can now be ascertained, is 42,000,375 dollars, as will appear by the schedule No. I. To discharge the principal of this aggregate debt at once, or in any short period, is evidently not within the compass of our resources; and even if it could be accomplished, the ease of the community would require that the debt itself should be less to a course of gradual extinguishment, and certain funds be provided for paying in the mean time the annual interest. The amount of it commuted to be 2,415,956 dollars. Funds, therefore, which will certainly and punctually produce this annual sum, at least, must be provided.

In devising these funds, Congress did not overlook the mode of supplying the common treasury, provided by the articles of confederation but, after the most respectful consideration of that mode, they were constrained to regard it as inadequate and inapplicable to the form into which the public debt must be thrown. The delays and uncertainties incident to a revenue to be established and collected from time to time by thirteen independent authorities, is at first view irreconcilable with the punctuality essential to the discharge of the interest of a national debt. Our own experience, after making every allowance for transient impediments, has been a sufficient illustration of this truth. Some departure, therefore in the recommendations of Congress, from the federal constitution was unavoidable; but it will be found to be as small as could be reconciled with the object in view, and to be supported besides by solid considerations of interest and sound policy. . . .

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Filed under 1780's, Congress, Early Republic, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Public Debt

Item of the Day: Journal of the House of Representatives (1790)

Full Title: Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States. Anno M,DCC,XC, and of the Independence of the United States the Fourteenth. New-York: Printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine, M,DCC,XC.

FRIDAY, January 8

. . . Mr. Speaker laid before the House a copy of the Speech deliverd by the President of the United States, to both Houses of Congress, in the Senate-chamber, as followeth:

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Reprsentatives,

I EMBRACE with great satisfaction the opportunity which now presents itself, of congratualting you on the present favorable prospects of our public affairs. The recent accession of the important state of North-Carolina to the Constitution of the United States, (of which official information has been received)–the rising credit and respectablity of our country–and the general encreasing good-will towards the Government of the Union–and the concord, peace and plenty, with which we are blessed, are circumstances, auspicious, in an eminent degree, to our national prosperity.

In resuming your consultations for the general good, you cannot but derive encouragement from the reflection, that the measures of the last session have been as satisfactory to your constituents, as the novelty and difficulty of the work allowed you to hope. Still further to realize their expectations, and to secure the blessings which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach, will, in the course of the present important session, call for the cool and deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness and wisdom.

Among the many interesting objects, which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence, will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end, a uniform and well digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly, for military supplies.

The proper establishment of the troops which may be deemed indispensable, will be entitled to mature consideration. In the arrangements which may be made respecting it, it will be of importance to conciliate the comfortable support of the officers and soldiers, with a due regard to economy.

There was reason to hope, that the pacific measures adopted with regard to certain hostile tribes of Indians, would have relieved the inhabitants of our southern and western frontiers from their depredations. But you will perceive, from the information contained in the papers which I shall direct to be laid before you (comprehending a communication from the commonwealth of Virginia) that we ought to be prepared to afford protection to those parts of the Union; and if necessary, to punish aggessors.

The interest of the United States require, that our intercourse with other nations should be facilitated by such provsions as will enable me to fulfil my duty in that respect, in the manner which circumstances may render most conducive to the public good: And to this end, that the compensations to be made to the persons, who may be employed, should, according to the nature of their appointments, be defined by law; –and a comptetent fund designated for defraying the expences incident to the conduct of our foreign affairs.

Various considerations also render it expedient that the terms on which foreigners may be admitted to the rights of citizens, should be speedily ascertained by a uniform rule of naturalization.

Uniformity in the currency, weights and measures of the United States, is an object of great importance and will, I am persuaded, by duly attended to.

The advancement of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, by all proper means, will not, I trust, need recommendation. –But I cannot forbear intimating to you, the expediency of giving effectual encouragement as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions abroad, as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home; — and of facilitating intercourse betwen the distant parts of our country, by a due attention to the post-office and post-roads.

Nor am I less persuaded, that you will agree with me in opinion, that there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness. In one, in which the measures of government receive their impression so immediately from the sense of the community, as in our’s [sic] , it is proportionably essential. To the security of a free Constitution it contributes in various ways: By convincing those who are entrusted with the public administration, that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people; and by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between opression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burthens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience, and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness,  cherishing the first, avoiding the last, and uniting a speedy, but temprate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws.

Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established–by the institution of a national university, or by any other expedients, will be well worthy of a place in the deliberations of the Legislature. . . .





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Filed under 1790's, Congress, Early Republic, Government, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Washington

Item of the Day: Letter from Silas Deane to the Committee of Secret Correspondence (1776)

Found in: The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution  . . . Vol. I.  Edited by Jared Sparks. Boston: N. Hale and Gray & Bowen; G. & C. & H. Carvill, New York, 1829.


Paris, 17th October, 1776.


I once more put pen to paper, not to attempt, what is absolutely beyond the power of language to paint, my distressed situation here, totally destitute of intelligence or instructions from you since I left America, except Mr Morris’ letters of the 4th and 5th of June last, covering duplicates of my first instructions. Nor will I complain for myself, but must plainly inform you, that the cause of the United Colonies or United States has, for some time, suffered at this court for want of positive orders to me, or some other person.

It has not suffered here only, but at several other courts, that are not only willing, but even desirous of assisting America. Common complaisance, say they, though they want none of our assistance, requires that they should announce to us in form their being Independent States, that we may know how to treat their subjects and their property in our dominions. Every excuse, which my barren invention could suggest, has been made, and I have presented memoir after memoir on the situation of American affairs, and their importance to this kingdom, and to some others. My representations, as well verbally as written, have been favorably received, and all the attention paid them I could have wished, but the sine qua non is wanting, —a power to treat from the United Independent States of America. How, say they, is it possible, that all your intelligence and instructions should be intercepted, when we daily have advice of American vessels arriving in different ports in Europe? It is true I have effected what nothing but the real desire this court has of giving aid could have brought about, but at the same time it has been a critical and delicate affair, and has required all attention to save appearances, and more than once have I been on the brink of losing all, from suspicions that you were not in earnest in making applications here. I will only add, that a vessel with a commission from the Congress has been detained in Bilboa as a pirate, and complaint against it carried to the court of Madrid. I have been applied to for assistance, and though I am in hopes nothing will be deteermined against us, yet I confess I tremble to think how important a question is by this step agitated, without any one empowered to appear in a proper character and put in a defence. Could I present your Declaration of Independence, and shew my commission subsequently, empowering me to appear in your behalf, all might be concluded at once, and a most important point gained, —no less than that of obtaining a free reception, and defence or protection of our ships of war in these ports.

I have written heretofore for twenty thousand hogsheads of tobacco. I now repeat my desire, and for a large quantity of rice. The very profits on a large quantity of these articles will go far towards an annual expense. The stores, concerning which I have repeatedly written to you, are now shipping, and will be with you I trust in January, as will the officers coming with them. I refer to your serious consideration the enclosed hints respecting a naval force in these seas, also the enclosed propositions which were by accident thrown in my way. If you shall judge them of any consequence you will lay them before Congress; if not, postage will be all the expense extra. I believe they have been seen by other pesons, and therefore I held it my duty to send them to you. My most profound respect and highest esteem ever attend the Congress, and particiculary the Secret Committee.

I am, Gentlemen, &c,





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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Congress, Letters, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution (1829)

Full Title: The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution. Being the Letters of Benjamin Franklin, Silas Dean, John Adams, John Jay, Arthur Lee, Ralph Izard, Francis Dana, William Carmichael, Henry Laurens, John Laurens, M. Dumas, and Others, Concerning the Foreign Relations of the United States during the Whole Revolution; together with the Letters in Reply fromt he Secret Committee of Congress, and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. also, the Entire Correspondence of the French Ministers, Gerard and Luzerne, with Congres. Edited by Jared Sparks. Vol. I. Boston: N. Hale and Gray & Bown; G. & C. & H. Carvill, New York, 1829.



The Correspondence between the old Congress and the American Agents, Commissioners, and Ministers in foreign countries, was secret and confidential during the whole revolution. The letters, as they arrived, were read in Congress, and referred to the standing Committee of Foreign Affairs, accompanied with requisite instructions, when necessary, as to the nature and substance of the replies. The papers embracing this correspondence, which swelled to a considerable mass before the end of the revolution, were removed to the department of State after the formation of the new government, where they have remained ever since, accessible to such persons as have wished to consult them for particualr purposes, but never before published. In compliance with the resolution of Congress, of March 27th, 1818, they are now laid before the public, under the direction of the President of the United States.

On the 29th of November, 1775, a Committee of five was appointed to correspond with the friends of America in other countries. It seems to have been the specific object of this Committee, to gain information in regard to the public feeling in Great Britain towards the Colonies, and also the degree of interest which was likely to be taken by other European powers in the contest, then beginning to grow warm on this side of the Atlantic. Certain commercial designs came also under its cognizance, such as procuring ammunition, arms, soldiers’ clothing, and other military stores from abroad. A secret correspondence was immediately opened with Arthur Lee in London, cheifly with the view of procuring intelligence. Early in the next year, Silas Deane was sent to France by the Committee, with instructions to act as a commercial or political agent for the American Colonies, as circumstances might dictate. This Committee was denominated the Committee of Secret Correspondence, and continued in operation till April 17th, 1777, when the name was changed to that of the Committee of Foreign Affairs. The duties and objects of the Committee appear to have remained as before, notwithstanding the change of name.

In the first years of the war, it was customary for the Commissioners and Ministers abroad to address their letters to the Committee, or to the President of Congress. In either case the letters were read in Congress, and answered only by the Committee, this body being the organ of all communicaions from Congress on foreign affairs. The proceedings of Congress in relation to these topics were recorded in a journal, kept separately from that in which the records of other transactions were entered, and called the Secret Journal. This Journal has recently been published, in conformity with the same resoluion of Congress, which directed the publication of the foreign correspondence.

Robert R. Livingston was chosen Secretary of Foreign Affairs on the 10th of August, 1781, when the Committee was dissolved, and the foreign correspondence from that time went through the hands of the Secretary. As the responsibility thus devolved on a single individual, instead of being divided among several, the business of the department was afterwards executed with much more promptness and efficiency.

The plan adopted, in arranging the papers for publication, has been to bring together those of each Commissioner, or Minister, in strict chronological order. As there is much looseness, and sometimes confusion in their arrangement as preserved in the Department of State, this plan has not always been easy to execute. The advantage of such a method, however is so great, the facility it affords for a ready reference and consultaion is so desirable, and the chain of events is thereby exhibited in a manner so much more connected and satisfactory, that no pains have been spared to bring every letter and doucment into its place in the exact order of its date. Thus the correspondence of each Commisssioner, or Minister, presents a continuous history of the acts in which he was concerned, and of the events to which he alludes.

It will be seen, that the letters are occasionally missing. These are not to be found in the archives of the government. The loss may be accounted for in several ways. In the first place, the modes of conveyance were precarious, and failures were frequent and unavoidable. The despatches were sometimes intrusted to the captains of such American vessels, merchantmen or privateers, as happened to be in port, and sometimes forwarded by regular express packets, but in both cases they were subject to be captured. Moreover, the despatches were ordered to be thrown overboard if the vessel conveying them should be pursued by an enemy, or exposed to the hazard of being taken. It thus happened, that many letters never arrived at their destination, although duplicates and triplicates were sent. Again, the Committee had no Secretary to take charge of the papers, and no regular place of deposit; the members themselves were perpetually changing, and each had equal access to the papers, and was equally responsible for their safe keeping. They were often in the hands of the Secretary of Congress, and of other membres who wished to consult them. Nor does it appear, that copies were methodically taken till after the war. In such a state of things, many letters must necessarily have been withdrawn and lost. When Mr Jay became Secretary of Foreign Affairs, in the year 1784, that office had been made the place of deposit for all the foreign correspndence which then remained. Under his direction, a large portion of it was copied into volumes, apparently with much care, both in regard to the search after papers, and the accuracy of the transcribers. These volumes are still retained in the archives of the Department of State, together with such originals as have escaped the perils of accident, and the negligence of their early keepers . . .

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Filed under American Revolution, Congress, Early Republic, Government, Letters, Posted by Caroline Fuchs