Motion Censuring David Howell
[Philadelphia, December 17, 1782]1
Mr. Howel having avowed himself the author of the letter2 respecting foreign loans and other matters as published in the Boston Gazette of Nov 10 17823 mentioned in the report of the Committee thereupon,4 It is the sense of this house that the said letter contains a misrepresentation of facts of a tendency injurious to the public affairs and a disclosure of an important foreign transaction requiring secrecy5 and that therefore the said letter is highly unjustifiable.6
AD, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives.
2. This letter was dated October 16, 1782.
3. The date is not in the writing of H.
4. Howell, delegate from Rhode Island, had written that the negotiations for a loan which John Adams was conducting with the Dutch were proceeding satisfactorily, that the credit of the United States was such that “they have of late failed in no application for foreign loans,” and that Sweden had made a secret proposal to enter into a treaty with the United States (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIII, 791–92). Howell’s letter was brought to the attention of Congress on December 6 and referred to a committee which reported on December 12 that “the Secretary for foreign affairs be instructed to write to the executive of Rhode Island, requesting them to enquire through what channel the above communication was made, or who is the supposed author of the extract referred to, and report accordingly” (ibid., 792). H’s motion was made after Daniel Carroll, delegate from Maryland, had moved “That the Secretary of Foreign Affairs be discharged from the instructions given him on the 12 instant” (ibid., 812). Carroll’s motion was not approved by the Congress until the next day. H, according to James Madison, was unwilling that the matter be settled without a reference to Howell’s authorship of the publication (“Notes of Debates in the Continental Congress,” MS, James Madison Papers, Library of Congress).
5. H refers to Howell’s disclosure of the overtures made by the Court of Sweden for a treaty with the United States.
6. H’s motion was postponed for consideration until the following day, December 18.