Thomas Jefferson Papers

Continental Congress: Agreement of Secrecy, 9 November 1775

Continental Congress: Agreement of Secrecy

In Congress Novr. 9th: 17 [75]

Resolved That every member of this Congress considers himself under the ties of virtue, honor 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.

John Hancock
Jas. Duane Wm. Floyd
Lewis Morris Robt R Livingston junr
Frans. Lewis Henry Wisner
Stepn. Crane Thos M:Kean
Wil: Livingston Geo: Read
Thos. Willing Cæsar Rodney
Andw. Allen John Jay
C: Humphreys Richd: Smith (Jersey)
James Wilson
Robt Morris  Philada. 18 Jany. 1776
B Franklin
John Dickinson Saml. Huntington
E Biddle Robt. Alexander
Josiah Bartlett Oliver Wolcott
John Langdon J Rogers
Thomas Cushing Elbridge Gerry
Saml Adams
John Adams T: Stone
Robt Treat Paine Jona D Sergeant
Step. Hopkins Geo: Clinton
Sam. Ward Wm: Whipple
Elipht Dyer Mat. Tilghman
Roger Sherman Carter Braxton
Silas Deane Thos. Heyward Junr:
Th [Johnson Ju]nr Lyman Hall May 20th
Wm Paca Button Gwinnett 20th
Samuel Chase William Ellery
Jno Witherspoon
Richard Henry Lee Abra: Clark
Th: Jefferson Geo Walton
Benja Harrison John Hart
Thos Nelson jr B Rush. 22 July 1776
G. Wythe Wm. Williams, 30 July 1776
Francis Lightfoot Lee Geo. Clymer
John Penn Chas. Carroll
Will Hooper Jonathn. Elmer
Joseph Hewes Nov. 10th. Mann Page Junr.
Nathan Brownson Feb. 3d 1777
Tho Lynch Matthew Thornton
Christ Gadsden James Lovell
Edward Rutledge Tho. Burke
Archd: Bulloch W: Smith
John Houstoun Wm: Duer June 5th: 1777
Thomas Lynch Junr. Nichs. VanDyke
Arthur Middleton Hy Marchant
Fras. Hopkinson 28 June Geo: Frost

MS (DLC: PCC, Safe). Text in Charles Thomson’s hand, with autograph signatures. Endorsed by Thomson: “Engagement of the Members to Secresy.” There is also another similar endorsement in a presumably later hand. MS worn at edges and folds.

On 11 May 1775, the second day of the session, Congress had resolved “that the members consider themselves under the strongest obligations of honor to keep the proceedings secret, until the majority shall direct them to be made public” (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , ii, 22). The stringent terms of the new agreement of 9 Nov. suggest that there had been violations of the earlier one. See Burnett, Letters of Members, i, No. 363, note, with references there. The significance of the dates, some of which are in Thomson’s hand and some in the signers’, can be worked out only from a study of the MS (facsimile available in Force, Archives, 4th ser., iii, between col. 1916–17). Thus Hopkinson apparently inserted his name at the foot of a left-hand column on 28 June [1776] (date added by Thomson) ahead of the Delaware delegates in the following right-hand column, who had signed in Nov. 1775. Burnett discusses these points in his prefatory summaries of the delegates’ periods of service; it is his opinion that the last four signatures were all added on 5 June 1777.

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