The entity that was the Continental Congress represented a gathering of some of the most intelligent, influential, and wealthy individuals on American soil during the War for Independence. Some of those individuals served for years, others for a short time, and still others who declined to serve all together. Here at Morristown National Historical Park, Peter Blasevick and I recently undertook the task of sifting through the papers in collection of those individuals who declined to serve on the Continental Congress. As interns from William Paterson University, we have both been able to utilize this opportunity at Morristown as a benefit to our futures. We are currently working through some 177 documents covering fifty-five of the ninety delegates who declined altogether. Included in the documents are some notable names, including George Mason, William Paterson, and James Bowdoin, whose collection of letters detail instructions for putting down Shay's Rebellion.
What surprised us foremost was the lack of any documents specifically mentioning an individual's election to the Congress. While some manuscripts predate the individuals election, and others postdate it significantly, the ones that are near to the time of election fail to mention it altogether. Nonetheless, Peter and I have been able to conclude for certain individuals why they rejected the call to serve. Some were ill, others far more attached to local politics and local responsibilities. The totality of the project has been far more intriguing than we could have imagined at the outset and is just one example of the hidden gems here at Morristown National Historical Park and Museum.
Blog entry by Bruce Spadaccini, William Paterson University.