- Thomas Hobbs, Leviathan, (Outlines the Laws of Nature - Chap. 27, (1651)).
"Any single man must judge for himself whether circumstances warrant obedience or resistance to the commands of the civil magistrate; we are all qualified, entitled, and morally obliged to evaluate the conduct of our rulers. This political judgment, moreover, is not simply or primarily a right, but like self-preservation, a duty to God. As such it is a judgment that men cannot part with according to the God of Nature. It is the first and foremost of our inalienable rights without which we can preserve no other."
- John Locke, A Essay Concerning the true original, extent, and end of Civil Government, 1690.
"Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature."
- Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin, 'The Rights of the Colonists', (actual title; 'The Report of the Committee of Correspondence to the Boston Town Meeting'). Nov. 20, 1772.
"The supreme of all laws, in all cases, is that of self-preservation."- Thomas Paine, The Writings of Thomas Paine, Collected and Edited by Moncure Daniel Conway (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1894). Vol. 3.
Journals of the Continental Congress, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 1774, A. M.
The Congress met according to adjournment.
Richard Caswell, Esqr. one of the deputies from North-Carolina, appeared, and took his seat in Congress.
The Resolutions entered into by the delegates from the several towns and districts in the county of Suffolk, in the province of the Massachusetts-bay, on tuesday the 6th instant, and their address to his excellency Govr. Gage, dated the 9th instant, were laid before the congress, and are as follows:
At a meeting of the delegates of every town & district in the county of Suffolk, on tuesday the 6th of Septr., at the house of Mr. Richard Woodward, of Deadham, & by adjournment, at the house of Mr. [Daniel] Vose, of Milton, on Friday the 9th instant, Joseph Palmer, esq. being chosen moderator, and William Thompson, esq. clerk, a committee was chosen to bring in a report to the convention, and the following being several times read, and put paragraph by paragraph, was unanimously voted, viz.
Whereas the power but not the justice, the vengeance but not the wisdom of Great-Britain, which of old persecuted, scourged, and exiled our fugitive parents from their native shores, now pursues us, their guiltless children, with unrelenting severity: And whereas, this, then savage and uncultivated desart, was purchased by the toil and treasure, or acquired by the blood and valor of those our venerable progenitors; to us they bequeathed the dearbought inheritance, to our care and protection they consigned it, and the most sacred obligations are upon us to transmit the glorious purchase, unfettered by power, unclogged with shackles, to our innocent and beloved offspring. On the fortitude, on the wisdom and on the exertions of this important day, is suspended the fate of this new world, and of unborn millions. If a boundless extent of continent, swarming with millions, will tamely submit to live, move and have their being at the arbitrary will of a licentious minister, they basely yield to voluntary slavery, and future generations shall load their memories with incessant execrations.--On the other hand, if we arrest the hand which would ransack our pockets, if we disarm the parricide which points the dagger to our bosoms, if we nobly defeat that fatal edict which proclaims a power to frame laws for us in all cases whatsoever, thereby entailing the endless and numberless curses of slavery upon us, our heirs and their heirs forever; if we successfully resist that unparalleled usurpation of unconstitutional power, whereby our capital is robbed of the means of life; whereby the streets of Boston are thronged with military executioners; whereby our coasts are lined and harbours crouded with ships of war; whereby the charter of the colony, that sacred barrier against the encroachments of tyranny, is mutilated and, in effect, annihilated; whereby a murderous law is framed to shelter villains from the hands of justice; whereby the unalienable and inestimable inheritance, which we derived from nature, the constitution of Britain, and the privileges warranted to us in the charter of the province, is totally wrecked, annulled, and vacated, posterity will acknowledge that virtue which preserved them free and happy; and while we enjoy the rewards and blessings of the faithful, the torrent of anegyrists will roll our reputations to that latest period, when the streams of time shall be absorbed in the abyss of eternity.--Therefore, we have resolved, and do resolve,
1. That whereas his majesty, George the Third, is the rightful successor to the throne of Great-Britain, and justly entitled to the allegiance of the British realm, and agreeable to compact, of the English colonies in America--therefore, we, the heirs and successors of the first planters of this colony, do cheerfully acknowledge the said George the Third to be our rightful sovereign, and that said covenant is the tenure and claim on which are founded our allegiance and submission.
2. That it is an indispensable duty which we owe to God, our country, ourselves and posterity, by all lawful ways and means in our power to maintain, defend and preserve those civil and religious rights and liberties, for which many of our fathers fought, bled and died, and to hand them down entire to future generations.
3. That the late acts of the British parliament for blocking up the harbour of Boston, for altering the established form of government in this colony, and for screening the most flagitious violators of the laws of the province from a legal trial, are gross infractions of those rights to which we are justly entitled by the laws of nature, the British constitution, and the charter of the province.
4. That no obedience is due from this province to either or any part of the acts above-mentioned, but that they be rejected as the attempts of a wicked administration to enslave America.
5. That so long as the justices of our superior court of judicature, court of assize, &c. and inferior court of common pleas in this county are appointed, or hold their places, by any other tenure than that which the charter and the laws of the province direct, they must be considered as under undue influence, and are therefore unconstitutional officers, and, as such, no regard ought to be paid to them by the people of this county.
6. That if the justices of the superior court of judicature, assize, &c. justices of the court of common pleas, or of the general sessions of the peace, shall sit and act during their present disqualified state, this county will support, and bear harmless, all sheriffs and their deputies, constables, jurors and other officers who shall refuse to carry into execution the orders of said courts; and, as far as possible, to prevent the many inconveniencies which must be occasioned by a suspension of the courts of justice, we do most earnestly recommend it to all creditors, that they shew all reasonable and even generous forbearance to their debtors; and to all debtors, to pay their just debts with all possible speed, and if any disputes relative to debts or trespasses shall arise, which cannot be settled by the parties, we recommend it to them to submit all such causes to arbitration; and it is our opinion that the contending parties or either of them, who shall refuse so to do, onght to be considered as co-operating with the enemies of this country.
7. That it be recommended to the collectors of taxes, constables and all other officers, who have public monies in their hands, to retain the same, and not to make any payment thereof to the provincial county treasurer until the civil government of the province is placed upon a constitutional foundation, or until it shall otherwise be ordered by the proposed provincial Congress.
8. That the persons who have accepted seats at the council board, by virtue of a mandamus from the King, in conformity to the late act of the British parliament, entitled, an act for the regulating the government of the Massachusetts-Bay, have acted in direct violation of the duty they owe to their country, and have thereby given great and just offence to this people; therefore, resolved, that this county do recommend it to all persons, who have so highly offended by accepting said departments, and have not already publicly resigned their seats at the council board, to make public resignations of their places at said board, on or before the 20th day of this instant, September; and that all persons refusing so to do, shall, from and after said day, be considered by this county as obstinate and incorrigible enemies to this country.
9. That the fortifications begun and now carrying on upon Boston Neck, are justly alarming to this county, and gives us reason to apprehend some hostile intention against that town, more especially as the commander in chief has, in a very extraordinary manner, removed the powder from the magazine at Charlestown, and has also forhidden the keeper of the magazine at Boston, to deliver out to the owners, the powder, which they had lodged in said magazine.
10. That the late act of parliament for establishing the Roman Catholic religion and the French laws in that extensive country, now called Canada, is dangerous in an extreme degree to the Protestant religion and to the civil rights and liberties of all America; and, therefore, as men and Protestant Christians, we are indispensubly obliged to take all proper measures for our security.
11. That whereas our enemies have flattered themselves that they shall make an easy prey of this numerous, brave and hardy people, from an apprehension that they are unacquainted with military discipline; we, therefore, for the honour, defence and security of this county and province, advise, as it has been recommended to take away all commissions from the officers of the militia, that those who now hold commissions, or such other persons, be elected in each town as officers in the militia, as shall be judged of sufficient capacity for that purpose, and who have evidenced themselves the inflexible friends to the rights of the people; and that the inhabitants of those towns and districts, who are qualified, do use their utmost diligence to acquaint themselves with the art of war as soon as possible, and do, for that purpose, appear under arms at least once every week.
12. That during the present hostile appearances on the part of Great-Britain, notwithstanding the many insults and oppressions which we most sensibly resent, yet, nevertheless, from our affection to his majesty, which we have at all times evidenced, we are determined to act merely upon the defensive, so long as such conduct may be vindicated by reason and the principles of self-preservation, but no longer.
13. That, as we understand it has been in contemplation to apprehend sundry persons of this county, who have rendered themselves conspicuous in contending for the violated rights and liberties of their countrymen; we do recommend, should such an audacious measure be put in practice, to seize and keep in safe custody, every servant of the present tyrannical and unconstitutional government throughout the county and province, until the persons so apprehended be liberated from the bands of our adversaries, and restored safe and uninjured to their respective friends and families.
14. That until our rights are fully restored to us, we will, to the utmost of our power, and we recommend the same to the other counties, to withhold all commercial intercourse with Great-Britain, Ireland, and the West-Indies, and abstain from the consumption of British merchandise and manufactures, and especially of East-Indies, and piece goods, with such additions, alterations, and exceptions only, as the General Congress of the colonies may agree to.
15. That under our present circumstances, it is incumbent on us to encourage arts and manufactures amongst us, by all means in our power, and that(1)
[Note 1: 1 The names of those appointed on this committee were Joseph Palmer, of Braintree; Ebenezer Dorr, of Roxbury; James Boies and Edward Preston, of Milton, and Nathaniel Guild, of Walpole.]
be and are hereby appointed a committee, to consider of the best ways and means to promote and establish the same, and to report to this convention as soon as may be.
16. That the exigencies of our public affairs, demand that a provincial Congress be called to consult such measures as may be adopted, and vigorously executed by the whole people; and we do recommend it to the several towns in this county, to chuse members for such a provincial Congress, to be holden at Concord, on the second Tuesday of October, next ensuing.
17. That this county, confiding in the wisdom and integrity of the continental Congress, now sitting at Philadelphia , pay all due respect and submission to such measures as may be recommended by them to the colonies, for the restoration and establishment of our just rights, civil and religious, and for renewing that harmony and union between Great-Britain and the colonies, so earnestly wished for by all good men.
18. That whereas the universal uneasiness which prevails among all orders of men, arising from the wicked and oppressive measures of the present administration, may influence some unthinking persons to commit outrage upon private property; we would heartily recommend to all persons of this community, not to engage in any routs, riots, or licentious attacks upon the properties of any person whatsoever, as being subversive of all order and government; but, by a steady, manly, uniform, and persevering opposition, to convince our enemies, that in a contest so important, in a cause so solemn, our conduct shall be such as to merit the approbation of the wise, and the admiration of the brave and free of every age and of every country.
19. That should our enemies, by any sudden manoeuvres, render it necessary to ask the aid and assistance of our brethren in the country, some one of the committee of correspondence, or a select man of such town, or the town adjoining, where such hostilities shall commence, or shall be expected to commence, shall despatch couriers with written messages to the select men, or committees of correspondence, of the several towns in the vicinity, with a written account of such matter, who shall despatch others to committees more remote, until proper and sufficient assistance be obtained, and that the expense of said couriers be defrayed by the county, until it shall be otherwise ordered by the provincial Congress.1
[Note 1: 1 Thus far was issued in Boston as a broadside, a copy of which is to be found in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston. The language differs somewhat in the two versions.]
At a meeting of delegates from the several towns and districts in the county of Suffolk, held at Milton, on Friday, the 9th day of September, 1774--Voted,
That Dr. Joseph Warren, of Boston, &c.2 be a committee to wait on his excellency the governor, to inform him, that this county are alarmed at the fortifications making on Boston Neck, and to remonstrate against the same, and the repeated insults offered by the soldiery, to persons passing and repassing into that town, and to confer with him upon those subjects.
[Note 2: 2 The names of this committee were printed in the newspaper accounts, and were as follows:
Dr Benjamin Church, Boston; Deacon Joseph Palmer, Germantown; Capt. Lemuel Robinson, Dorchester; Capt. William Heath, Roxbury; Col. Ebenezer Thayer, Braintree; William Holden, Esq. Dorchester; Col. William Taylor, Milton; Capt. John Homans, Dorchester; Isaac Gardiner, Esq., Brooklyn; Mr. Richard Woodward, Dedham; Capt. Benjamin White, Brooklyn; Dr. Samuel Gardiner, Milton; Nathaniel Summer, Esq., Dedham; Capt Thomas Aspinwall, Brooklyn.]
Attest, William Thompson, Clerk.
"To his excellency Thomas Gage, Esq. captain-general, and commander in chief of his majesty's province of Massachusetts-Bay.
"May it please your excellency,
"The county of Suffolk, being greatly, and, in their opinion, justly alarmed at the formidable appearances of hostility, now threatening his majesty's good subjects of this county, and more particularly of the town of Boston, the loyal and faithful capital of this province, beg leave to address your excellency, and represent, that the apprehensions of the people are more particularly encreased by the dangerous design, now carrying into execution, of repairing and manning the fortifications at the south entrance of the town of Boston, which, when completed, may, at any time, be improved to aggravate the misereis of that already impoverished and distressed city, by intercepting the wonted and necessary intercourse between the town and country, and compel the wretched inhabitants to the most ignominious state of humiliation and vassalage, by depriving them of the necessary supplies of provision, for which they are chiefly dependant on that communication. We ahve been informed, that your excellency, in consequence of the spplication of the select men of Boston, has, indeed, disavowed any intention to injure the town in your present manoeuvres, and expressed your purpose to be for the security of the troops and his majesty's subjects in the town, we are therefore at a loss to guess, may it please your excellency, from whence your want of confidence in the loyal and orderly people of this vicinity could originate; a measure, so formidable, carried into execution from a pre-conceived though causeless jealousy of the insecurity of his majesty's troops and subjects in the town, deeply wounds the loyalty, and is an additional injury to the faithful subjects of this county, and affords them a strong motive for this application. We therefore intreat your excellency to desist from your design, assuring your excellency, that the people of this county, are by no means disposed to injure his majesty's troops; they think themselves aggrieved and oppressed by the late acts of parliament, and are resolved, by Divine assistance, never to submit to them, but have no inclination to commence a war with his majesty's troops, and beg leave to observe to your excellency, that the ferment now excited in the minds of the people, is occasioned by some late transactions, by seizing the powder in the arsenal at Charlestown; by withholding the powder lodged in the magazine of the town of Boston, from the legal proprietors; insulting, beating, and abusing passengers to and from the town by the soldiery, in which they have been encouraged by some of their officers; putting the people in fear, and menacing them in their nightly patrole into the neighbouring towns, and more particularly by the fortifying the sole avenue by land to the town of Boston.
"In duty therefore to his majesty and to your excellency, and for the restoration of order and security to this county, we the delegates from the severla towns in this county, being commissioned for this purpose, beg your excellency's attention to this our humble and faithful address, assuring you, that nothing less than an immediate removal of the ordnance, and restoring the entrance into the town to its former state, and an effectual stop of all insults and abuses in future, can place the inhabitants of this county in that state of peace and tranquillity, in which every free subject ought to be."
His excellency was waited on to know if he would receive the committee with the above written address, but desiring he might have a copy of it in a private way, that so when he received it from the committee, he might have an answer prepared for them, he was accordingly furnished with a copy. His excellency then declared, that he would receive the committee on Monday, at 12 o'clock.
The Congress, taking the foregoing into consideration,
Resolved unan, That this assembly deeply feels the suffering of their countrymen in the Massachusetts-Bay, under the operation of the late unjust, cruel, and oppressive acts of the British Parliament--that they most thoroughly approve the wisdom and fortitude, with which opposition to these wicked ministerial measures has hitherto been conducted, and they earnestly recommend to their brethren, a perseverance in the same firm and temperate conduct as expressed in the resolutions determined upon, at a [late] meeting of the delegates for the county of Suffolk, on Tuesday, the 6th instant, trusting that the effect [s] of the united efforts of North America in their behalf, will carry such conviction to the British nation, of the unwise, unjust, and ruinous policy of the present administration, as quickly to introduce better men and wiser measures1.
[Note 1: 1 Eluding the prohibition of town meetings, a meeting was convened first at Dedham and then at Milton, before which was laid a set of resolutions prepared by Joseph Warren. They were adopted on September 9, and became known as the "Suffolk Resolves." They were sent express to Congress by Paul Revere, who reached Philadelphia on Friday, September 16, and delivered them to the Massachusetts delegates. On the day after, they were laid before Congress, and were acted upon the same day. "This was one of the happiest days of my life," noted John Adams in his Diary. "In Congress we had generous, noble sentiments, and manly eloquence. This day convinced me that America will support the Massachusetts or perish with her." And to his wife he wrote: "These votes were passed in full Congress with perfect unanimity. The esteem, the affection, the admiration for the people of Boston and the Massachusetts, which were expressed yesterday, and the fixed determination that they should be supported, were enough to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave, pacific Quakers of Pennsylvania." Samuel Adams wrote that the resolves were "read with great applause," and that the Congress was unanimous in its resolutions. Quincy, Life of Quincy, 155. Silas Deane noted that the two resolutions of Congress were passed without one dissneting voice, though all the members were present," Ford, Correspondence of Samuel Blachley Webb, I, 039. Jones believed that this endorsement by Congress put an end to the usefulness of the Tories or Loyalists in the Congress.To indorse the Suffolk resolves was but a step in the policy of the Massachusetts delegation. On the 24th of September the two Adams talked with Dickinson--"a true Bostonian" was Samuel Adams' comment. "The Congress have, in their resolve of the 17th instant, given their sanction to the resolutions of the county of Suffolk, one of which is to act merely upon the defensive so long as such conduct may be justified by reason and the principles of self-preservation,--but no longer.
They have great dependence upon your tried patience and fortitude. They suppose you mean to defend your civil Constitution. They strongly recommend perseverance and a firm and temperate conduct, and give you a full pledge of their united efforts in your behalf. They have not yet come to final resolutions. It becomes them to be deliberate.
I have been assured, in private conversation with individuals, that if you should be driven to the necessity of acting in self-defence of your lives or liberties, you would be justified by their constituents, and openly supported by all the means in their power" Samuel Adams to Joseph Warren, September 25, 1774. On the following day John Adams wrote of the numberless prejudices to be removed. "We have been obliged to act with great delicacy and caution. We have been obliged to keep ourselves out of sight, and to feel the pulses of and sound the depths; to insinuate our sentiments, designs, and desires, by means of other persons; sometimes of one Province, and sometimes of another" To Judge Tudor, September 26, 1774. A good illustration of this labor is given in the meeting with Shippen, Richard Henry Lee and Washington, on the evening of the 28th. Washington to Robert Mackenzie, October 9, 1774. As a result of those
deliberations, the resolutions of the 30th here printed must have been framed and submittd; but as events proved, too early to be adopted. And this, too, in the face of a belief of Adams that all Congress "profess to consider our Province as suffering in the common cause, and indeed they seem to feel for us, as if for themselves" To his wife, September 29, 1774.]
Resolved unan, That contributions from all the colonies for supplying the necessities, and alleviating the distresses of our brethren at Boston, ought to be continued, in such manner, and so long as their occasions may require.1
[Note 1: 1 A ms. copy of these resolutions, in the writing of Richard Henry Lee, is among the Lee Papers. It does not, however, follow that he was the framer.]
Ordered, That a copy of the above resolutions be transmitted to Boston by the president.
Ordered, That these resolutions, together with the resolutions of the County of Suffolk, be published in the newspapers.
The committee appointed to examine & report the several statutes, which affect the trade and manufactures of the colonies, brought in their report, which was ordered to lie on the table.
Adjourned till Monday morning
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1
Samuel Adams to Joseph Warren?
My dear sir
Sept. 25th 1774
I wrote you yesterday by the Post. A frequent Communication at this critical Conjuncture is necessary. As the all important American Cause so much depends upon each Colony acting agreably to the Sentiments of the whole it must be useful to you to know the Senti- ments which are entertaind here of the Temper and Conduct of our Province. Heretofore we have been accounted by many, intemperate and rash; but now we are universally applauded as cool and judicious as well as Spirited and brave. This is the Character we sustain in Congress. There is however a certain Degree of Jealousy in the Minds of some that we aim at total Independency not only of the Mother Country but of the Colonies too: and that as we are a hardy and brave People we shall in time over run them all. However groundless this Jealousy may be, it ought to be attended to, and is of Weight in your Deliberations on the Subject of your last Letter. I spent yesterday Afternoon and Evening with Mr. Dickinson. He is a true Bostonian. It is his opinion that if Boston can safely remain on the defensive the Liberties of America which that Town have so nobly contended for will be secured. The Congress have in their resolve of the 17 Instant given their Sanction to the Resolutions of the County of Suffolk (1).--One of which is to act merely upon the defensive so long as such Conduct may be justified by Reason & the principles of Self preservation, but no longer. They have great Dependence upon your tryed Patience and fortitude. They suppose you mean to defend your civil Constitution. They strongly recommend Perseverance in a firm & temperate Conduct and give you a full pledge of their united Efforts in your Behalf. They have not yet come to final resolutions. It becomes them to be deliberate, I have been assured in private Conversation with Individuals that if you should be driven to the Necessity of acting in Defence of your Lives or Liberty, you would be justified by their Constituents and openly supported by all Means in their power but whether they will ever be prevaild upon to think it necessary for you to set up another form of Government, I very much question for the Reason I have before suggested. It is of the greatest Importance that the American opposition should be united, and that it should be conducted so as to concur with the opposition of our friends in England. Adieu.
FC (NN). Unsigned draft in the hand of Samuel Adams; recipient designated in Adams, Writings (Cushing), 3:157.
1 JCC, 1:39-40.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1, Samuel Adams' Draft Letter to Thomas Gage
[October 7-8, 1774]
The Delegates from his Majestys several Colonies of New Hampshire [ ] (1) assembled in general Congress in the City of Philadelphia take the Liberty of addressing you upon Subjects of the last Importance, to your own Character, Happiness and Peace of Mind to his Majestys Service to the Wellfare of that Province over which you preside and of all North America, and, perhaps, of the whole British Empire.
The Act of the British Parliament for shutting up the Harbour of Boston is universally deemd to be unjust and cruel; and the World now sees with Astonishment & Indignation the Distress which the In habitants of that loyal though devoted Town are suffering under the most rigid Execution of it.
There are two other Acts passed in the present Session of Parliament, the one for regulating the Government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay and the other entitled an Act for the more impartial Administration of Justice in the same Province; the former of these Acts was made with the professed Purpose of materially altering the Charter of that Province granted by his Majesties Royal Predecessors King William & Queen Mary for themselves their Heirs &c forever; and both or either of them if put into Execution will shake the Foundations of that free & happy Constitution which is the Birthright of the English Subjects, and totally destroy the inestimable Blessing of Security in Life Liberty and Property.
By your own Acknowledgment, the refusal of the People to yield obedience to these Acts is far from being confind to a Faction in the Town of Boston: It is general through the province. And we do now assure your Excellency, that this Refusal is vindicable, in the opinion of this Congress, by the Laws of Reason and Self preservation; and the People ought to be and will be supported in it by the united Voice and Efforts of all America.
We are fully convinced that the Town of Boston and Province of the Massachusetts Bay are suffering in the righteous Cause of America, while they are nobly exerting themselves in the most spirited opposition to those oppressive Acts of Parliament and Measures of Administration which are calculated to annihilate our most sacred & invalueable Rights. It is with the deepest Concern that we observe, that while this Congress are deliberating on the most effectual Measures for the Restoration of American Liberty and a happy Harmony between the Colonies and the parent State, so essentially necessary to both, your Excellency is erecting Fortifications round the Town of Boston, whereby well grounded Jealousies are excited in the Minds of his Majesties faithful Subjects and apprehensions that all Communication between that Town & the Country will be cut off, or that this Freedom will be enjoyed at the Will of an Army. Moreover we would express to your Excellency the just Resentment which we feel at the Indignities offered to our worthy fellow Citizens in Boston and the frequent Violations of private property by the Soldiers under your Command. These Enormities committed by a Standing Army, in our opinion, unlawfully posted there in a time of Peace, are irritating in the greatest Degree, and if not remedied will endanger the involving all America in the Horrors of a civil War! Your Situation Sir is extremely critical. A rupture between the Inhabitants of the Province over which you preside and the Troops under your Command would produce Consequences of the most serious Nature: A Wound which would never be heald! It would probably establish Animosities between Great Britain & the Colonies which time would never eradicate! In order therefore to quiet the Minds & remove the Jealousies of the people, that they may not be driven to such a State of Desparation as to quit the Town & fly for Shelter to their Friends & Countrymen, we intreat you from the Assurance we have of the peaceable Disposition of the Inhabitants to desist from further fortifications of the Town, and to give orders that a free & safe Communication between them & the Country may be restored & continued.
MS (NN). In the hand of Samuel Adams and endorsed by Adams:
"This was offerd to the Committee of Congress to be reported as a Remonstrance to Genl. Gage."
1 Nearly two lines left blank for insertion of the other colonies. On October- 6, Congress received a letter from the Boston Committee of Correspondence concerning Gage's fortification of Boston. On the seventh, a committee composed of Thomas Lynch, Samuel Adams, and Edmund Pendleton was appointed to prepare a letter to Gage, which according to Secretary Thomson's journal was reported, amended, and adopted on the 10th. ,JCC, 1:55-60. But Samuel Ward noted in his diary that on October 8 the committee reported a draft which was recommitted, and it seems likely that this Samuel Adams draft formed the basis for the letter first reported by the committee. Adams' "Remonstrance," as he termed it, is harshly phrased and makes little attempt to soften the asperity of his charges. From the tone of his letter, it seems clear that the purpose of recommitting the draft reported to Congress was to substitute a milder letter reflecting a conciliators posture more in keeping with the general mood of Congress. It is possible that the John Adams draft letter of October 7-8 was penned at this time for the purpose of reaching a compromise acceptable to the majority of the delegates. The letter finally adopted by Congress is printed in the Journals with the proceedings for the 11th, JCC, 1:60-61. The document received by Gage, in the hand of Charles Thomson and signed by Peyton Randolph, is in the Gage Papers, MiU-C.
Delegates to Congress: Letters of delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Volume 1
Samuel Adams to Thomas Young
My dear Sir Philadelphia Octob [17?] 1774
I have receivd your (1) favors of 29th Sept and 11th Instant, the latter of which is just come to hand. The affidavit inclosed confirms the report in Boston about the begining of July, of a Mans being seizd by the Soldiery, put under Guard & finally sent to England. But what Remedy can the poor injurd Fellow obtain in his own Country where inter Arma silent Leges! I have written to our Friends to provide themselves without Delay with arms & Ammunition, get well instructed in the military Art, embody themselves & prepare a complete Set of Rules that they may be ready in Case they are called to defend themselves against the violent Attacks of Despotism. Surely the Laws of Self Preservation will warrant it in this Time of Danger & doubtful Expectation. One cannot be certain that a distracted Minister will yield to the Measures taken by the Congress, though they should operate the Ruin of the National Trade, until he shall have made further Efforts to lay America, as he impiously expressd it "prostrate at his Feet." ...
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1, County Freeholders
7th November 1774.
When our common Liberties are invaded, our dearest Rights in Danger, and a whole Continent loudly called upon to defend and secure themselves against high handed Oppression: the Confidence resposed in us as Delegates of your respectable County is a distinguished Honour, which excites our most affectionate Esteem and demands our most grateful Acknowledgments.While we lament that our Talents are unequal to the most important Trust that ever was conferred, we have the Consolation to assure you that we have endeavoured to discharge the arduous Task with Zeal and Fidelity, with a fervent Regard to the Interest and Happiness of our Country: and a respectful Attention to what we conceived to be the Sentiments of our numerous Constitutents. It is with the greatest Satisfaction we reflect that while this Colony has been eminently conspicuous for Loyalty, for their Veneration for the parent State, and for the Support of just Government, it has never failed to exhibit the most solid Proofs of an inviolable Attachment to Constitutional Liberty: From repeated Testimonies of the Fortitude and patriotism of our Countrymen it is not to be questioned but that they will in this perilous Hour, when their Virtue and public Spirit are called forth to a glorious Trial, stand firm to their Engagements, and with unremitting Ardour and inflexible Integrity maintain the Association entered into by their Representatives.You Gentlemen in particular who have so chearfully and unanimously embraced the Expedient of a Continental Congress and appealed to them for the Redress of your Grievances and the preservation of your Rights, will, we are confident, nobly disdain every sordid Advantage and temporary Convenience incompatible with a plan suggested by their united Councils. You will not hesitate to prefer to every other Consideration, the great purposes of rescuing Americans from the Chains of Despotism, and handing down to your posterity the inestimable Blessings which are only to be enjoyed in a free Government established on the Basis of Constitutional Liberty. It is our cordial Advice and most earnest Wish that our worthy Constituents of every Rank and Degree may zealously inculcate that Union and Harmony which can alone render tolerable the progress, and ensure the Success of this unhappy and much lamented Conflict with our parent State: A Conflict justified by the principles of self preservation and into which we are innocently plunged by the artful Wiles of an infatuated and tyrannical Ministry! Let us remember that Discord and Faction cannot fail of exposing us to the Contempt of our Enemies and the Reproaches of our Friends: that by verwhelming us in Anarchy and Confusion they must enfeeble and disappoint the best concerted Measures and that Nothing but a Spirit of Benevolence, mutual Forbearance and Liberality to the distressed, can soften the Calamities of this tempestuous Season and maintain that internal Tranquility which is at all Times desireable, but absolutely indispensible in this great Struggle for Freedom.
Unable sooner to present you in one View with the Acts of Congress, it is with Regret that we have thus long been obliged to withold this mark of Respect, which we owe to our worthy Constitu- tents. The Copy inclosed (1) comprizes every proceeding except the petition to the King which cannot in point of Decorum be made pub lick until it has been laid before the Throne. The several Resolutions are too clear and explicite to require Illustration, you will therefore be pleased to be refered to them for the Measures it is expected you will at this momentuous period adopt and religiously observe. Permit us only to add that the Recommendation of the Committee of Correspondence of this City in Favour of the distressed Inhabitants of the Town of Boston has received additional weight by one of the Resolutions of the Congress. Every Motive of Duty Humanity and Policy requires that we should at such a Juncture contribute to the Relief of a people suffering in a common Cause as the devoted Victims of Ministerial Vengeance; and we flatter ourselves that you will not be backward in setting an Example on this Occasion worthy of Imitation and Applause. We have the Honour to be with the greatest Esteem Gentlemen Your most obliged and most obedient humble Servants.(2)
Phil. Livingston Isaac Low
RC (PHC). written in a clerical hand and signed by Alsop, Duane, Jay, Low, and Philip Livingston.
Addressed: "To Zephaniah Platt Esqr., Chairman, and the Freeholders of the county of Dutchess."
1 This is doubtless a reference to the pamphlet Extracts from the Votes and Proceedings of the American Continental Congress, Held at Philadelphia on the 5th of September 1774 . . . (Philadelphia: William and Thomas Bradford, 1774). JCC, 1:131.
2 The New York delegates apparently sent a similar letter to the New York City Committee of Mechanics. A letter of thanks from the Mechanics committee to the New York delegates, November 18, 1774, and the delegates' undated reply are in Am. Archives, 4th ser.1:987.
"Self-preservation is the first principle of our nature. When our lives and properties are at stake, it would be foolish and unnatural to refrain from such measures as might preserve them because they would be detrimental to others. . . . . . that the united strength of the several members might give stability and security to the whole body, and each respective member; so that one part cannot encroach upon another without becoming a common enemy, and eventually endangering the safety and happiness of all the other parts."
- Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton - "A FULL VINDICATION.", Dec. 15, 1774, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 1.
Delegates to Congress: Letters of delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Volume 1
Robert Treat Paine to Stephen Collins
Feby. 25th. 1775
"...With regard to the particular matter of moving the Guns &c, any person who attends to the Current of affairs must know the reason of it was the forbidding Arms & Ammunition being imported, & the Conduct of Administration wearing so hostile an Appearance as to loudly call upon the natural inherent principle of Self preservation. Those who hold the Doctrines of passive Obedience & non resistance will fault their Conduct, whilst others who view these transactions as Connected with the rights of mankind & Englishmen, will have more liberal apprehensions from them. But our Enemys omitt no opportunitys to asperse the Whiggs; & even the Whiggs who are at a distance from the scene of action, dont Sufficiently Consider the difficult Scituation of their Freinds, who in the Centre of action are Continually impressed, & in danger of being shackled & rendered unable to Struggle by patience & remissness, or of giving Offence & causing Divisions by any Enterprize which might save them. They who wish well to our Common Cause will Consider all Circumstances before they form a judgment, & they who are unfreindly will stick at nothing to reproach us...."
Journals of the Continental Congress, THURSDAY, MAY 18, 1775
Resolved, Whereas there is indubitable evidence that a design is formed by the British Ministry of making a cruel invasion from the province of Quebec, upon these colonies, for the purpose of destroying our lives and liberties, and some steps have actually been taken to carry the said design into execution. And whereas several inhabitants of the northern colonies, residing in the vicinity of Ticonderogo, and immediately exposed to incursions, impelled by a just regard for the defence and preservation of themselves and their countrymen from such imminent dangers and calamities have taken possession of that post, in which was lodged a quantity of cannon and military stores, that would certainly have been used in the intended invasion of these colonies, this Congress earnestly recommend it to the committees of the cities and counties of New York and Albany, immediately to cause the said cannon and military stores to be removed from Ticonderogo to the south end and of Lake George; and if necessary to apply to the colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts bay, and Connecticut, for such an additional body of forces as will be sufficient to establish a strong post at that place and effectually to secure the sd. cannon and stores or so many of them as it may be judged proper to keep there.--And that an exact inventory be taken of all such cannon and stores in order that they may be safely returned when the restoration of the former harmony between great Britain and these colonies so ardently wished for by the latter shall render it prudent and consistent with the overruling law of self preservation.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1, James Duane's Notes for a Speech in Congress
[May 23-25? 1775] (1)
On the State of the Colonies
I. The importance of the subject--it concerns our liberties, our lives our property.
II. The eyes of Europe and America are fixed on this Assembly, and the fate of one of the greatest empires on earth, in no small degree, depends on the issue of their deliberations.
III. We are contending with the State from whence we sprung, with those who were once our fathers, our guardians, our brethren, with those fleets and armies which were lately our protection, and contributed to rescue us from Gallic tyranny and oppression.
IV. Cemented by the ties of blood, religion and interest, victory itself however decided must be fatal: and whichever side prevails must weep over its conquests. On our side we tremble for the dearest and most inestimable of all earthly blessings, our liberty and for those rights and that most excellent constitution and free government, which (resources) (2) were procured by the blood and handed down to us by the wisdom and the bravery of our renowned ancestors.
V. Doubly exposed to the cruel projects of an unrelenting and despotic Ministry, and if they are defeated to the danger of foreign invasions from bigots and tyrants, no condition can be more alarming.
VI. How necessary then while we summon up all our fortitude and rise superior to fear and every selfish regard while we are ready to lay down our fortunes and even our lives in the defence of the best of causes, that at the same time we restrain every emotion of intemperate zeal--every sally of anger and passion; and coolly and deliberately examine and consider the state of the Colonies uniting with one heart and one voice our best and wisest counsels for the preservation of our country.
VII.However diffident of my own abilities, and conscious that I can contribute but very little in this great and arduous enquiry, silence on this momentous occasion would ill requite the confidence reposed in me by my constituents.
VIII. I am the more encouraged to offer my sentiments, because I have the happiness to find, that they are confirmed by some of the most respectable authorities which distinguish the bright catalogue of American Patriots and in whose steps I may tread with some degree of confidence.
IX. I shall not spend the time in reviewing that wicked system of ministerial oppression which has reduced America to its present de- plorable situation. It has been done with precision and elegance by the Worthy member from Virginia.(3)
X. Nor need I enter upon the question whether all the united Colonies are to be considered as in a state of War, or Peace?
Xl. It is a sufficient ground for my conduct, that the sword of ministerial vengeance has been drawn against our Brethren in the Massachusetts Bay and their innocent blood been shed. That they suffer in our common cause; and that we are bound by the most solemn engagements by every tie of duty interest and policy to succur and support them and to hazard our all in the tremenduous conflict.
Xll. One common danger therefore awaits us and we must share one common fortune. May that gracious being upon whom we depend inspire our councils with wisdom and bless our efforts with success! and speedily restore US to that Peace and harmony with Great Britain on principles of liberty and mutual advantage--which is the ultimate wish of every virtuous patriot.
XIII. The subject of our debate divides itself into two general heads.
1st. A vigorous preparation for our common defence--for Sir, I wish we may never part with the idea that every hostile measure on our part is undertaken for and shall be conducted to our own self preservation: and that however injured and provoked the desire of conquest, of independence and much less of revenge may be banished from every American breast.Let this be ever considered as a family quarrel, unnatural, disgraceful and ruinous into which we are innocently plunged by intolerable oppression, and which we are sincerely disposed to appease and reconcile, whenever the good providence of God shall put it in our power, consistent with the preservation of our just rights.
This loyal and benevolent sentiment which to the honor of injured Americans under all her grievances so universally prevails will open the next head of debate vizt.
2dly. Whether any means of reconciliation are left in our power which we can propose with a prospect of success, and a just regard to our invaded Rights.
As to the 1st point--a vigorous preparation for our common defence.
I have no military skill and considering the critical state of the Colony which gave me birth, I have reason to lament it. Our capital may be surrounded with ships of war, which we are wholly incapable of resisting--Hudson's River affords an easy communication for vessels of force upwards of 100 miles into the heart of our best settlements. Our western frontier covered with scattered villages interspersed to the distance of 100 miles from Albany are exposed to the ravages of the Western nations of Indians while our northern and Eastern frontiers are at the mercy of the Canadians and the savages long in their alliance.
The fertility of the Colony, its advantageous situation to supply the ministerial armament and to cut off the communication between the Eastern and Western provinces are circumstances which render it of the utmost moment to the contending powers. We must therefore expect that every effort will be put in practice to secure it for the Ministry.
The force of America must consequently be divided into two bodies--one to defend the Massachusetts the other to secure New York.
Two large armies must be kept on foot for these purposes; sufficient to overawe the Ministerial troops and confine them to the port they may under cover of the fleet be able to secure. The army which is to defend New York must again be subdivided --a sufficient number to overawe and confine the troops which may be landed in the City of New York, and the rest to oppose the attempts of the Indians & Canadians. In our operations we must hazard all upon the success of our small arms--there is no prospect that we shall be able to erect forts or batteries which will prove the least serviceable. We have some cannon but no engineers; no apparatus necessary for fortifying and what is worse very little powder of any kind, and no cannon powder or ball though with the latter we might speedily be supplied.
Besides if we had both materials and capacity to construct fortifications they would probably only serve as decoys to ensnare us, for it would be opposing inexperience to discipline and meeting regular troops in their own way and on their own guard.
In short the examples and success of the Massachusetts point out the only way in which we can meet our tyrants with any prospect of success.
Under this head of preparation for defence will be considered-
2dly. The number of men to be raised in each Colony and
3dly. The means of their support.
But these are subjects which can only be investigated by a thorough knowledge of the abilities and circumstances of each Colony of which I am too ignorant to venture any estimate.
[As to the] (4) I come now to the
II. General Head--whether any means of reconciliation are still left in our power which we can prepare with a prospect of success, or a just regard to our invaded rights.
Many are the reasons which ought to induce us while we are preparing vigorously for the last appeal to open a door for reconciliation. I shall mention only three.
1. That we can g (cetera desunt) (5)
1 Duane's notes are undated, but their emphasis on the twin themes of colonial defense and reconciliation with the mother country suggests that they pertain to debates that occurred May 23, 24, and 25. During this period the delegates heatedly discussed both issues in Congress, finally adopting resolutions relating to the defense of New York on the 25th and to colonial defense in general and pursuit of peaceful redress of American grievances on the 26th. Duane composed his notes sometime before the passage of the first series of resolutions, but in the absence of other evidence it is impossible to date them with greater certainty. Moreover, it is curious that Silas Deane, who kept a record of congressional debates at this time, fails to mention Duane's participation in them. Silas Deane's Diary, May 23, 24, 25, 1775; and JCC, 2:59 66.
2 Thus in MS.
3 Probably Richard Henry Lee. See Silas Deane's Diary, May 23, 24, 25, 1775.
4 Thus in MS.
5 Thus in MS. George Bancroft inserted this parenthetical Latin phrase to signify that this is where the original MS notes ended.
Journals of the Continental Congress, MONDAY, MAY 29, 1775
The Congress met according to Adjournment.
The Committee, to whom the letter to the inhabitants of Canada, was recommitted, brought in a draught,2 which was read, and approved, and is as follows:
[Note 2: 2 Drafted by John Jay.]
To the oppressed Inhabitants of Canada.3
[Note 3: 3 "Province of Quebec" was first written.]
Friends and countrymen,
Alarmed by the designs of an arbitrary Ministry, to extirpate the Rights and liberties of all America, a sense of common danger conspired with the dictates of humanity, in urging us to call your attention, by our late address, to this very important object.
Since the conclusion of the late war, we have been happy in considering you as fellow-subjects, and from the commencement of the present plan for subjugating the continent, we have viewed you as fellow-sufferers with us. As we were both entitled by the bounty of an indulgent creator to freedom, and being both devoted by the cruel edicts of a despotic administration, to common ruin, we perceived the fate of the protestant and catholic colonies to be strongly linked together, and therefore invited you to join with us in resolving to be free, and in rejecting, with disdain, the fetters of slavery, however artfully polished.
We most sincerely condole with you on the arrival of that day, in the course of which, the sun could not shine on a single freeman in all your extensive dominion. Be assured, that your unmerited degradation has engaged the most unfeigned pity of your sister colonies; and we flatter ourselves you will not, by tamely bearing the yoke, suffer that pity to be supplanted by contempt.
When hardy attempts are made to deprive men of rights, bestowed by the almighty, when avenues are cut thro' the most solemn compacts for the admission of despotism, when the plighted faith of government ceases to give security to loyal and dutiful subjects, and when the insidious stratagems and manoeuvres of peace become more terrible than the sanguinary operations of war, it is high time for them to assert those rights, and, with honest indignation, oppose the torrent of oppression rushing in upon them.
By the introduction of your present form of government, or rather present form of tyranny, you and you wives and your children are made slaves. You have nothing that you can call your own, and all the fruits of your labour and industry may be taken from you, whenever an avaritious governor and a rapacious council may incline to demand them. You are liable by their edicts to be transported into foreign countries to fight Battles in which you have no interest, and to spill your blood in conflicts from which neither honor nor emolument can be derived: Nay, the enjoyment of your very religion, on the present system, depends on a legislature in which you have no share, and over which you have no control, and your priests are exposed to expulsion, banishment, and ruin, whenever their wealth and possessions furnish sufficient temptation. They cannot be sure that a virtuous prince will always fill the throne, and should a wicked or a careless king concur with a wicked ministry in extracting the treasure and strength of your country, it is impossible to conceive to what variety and to what extremes of wretchedness you may, under the present establishment, be reduced.
We are informed you have already been called upon to waste your lives in a contest with us. Should you, by complying in this instance, assent to your new establishment, and a war break out with France, your wealth and your sons may be sent to perish in expeditions against their islands in the West indies.
It cannot be presumed that these considerations will have no weight with you, or that you are so lost to all sense of honor. We can never believe that the present race of Canadians are so degenerated as to possess neither the spirit, the gallantry, nor the courage of their ancestors. You certainly will not permit the infamy and disgrace of such pusillanimity to rest on your own heads, and the consequences of it on your children forever.
We, for our parts, are determined to live free, or not at all; and are resolved, that posterity shall never reproach us with having brought slaves into the world.
Permit us again to repeat that we are your friends, not your enemies, and be not imposed upon by those who may endeavour to create animosities. The taking the fort and military stores at Ticonderoga and Crown-Point, and the armed vessels on the lake, was dictated by the great law of self-preservation. They were intended to annoy us, and to cut off that friendly intercourse and communication, which has hitherto subsisted between you and us. We hope it has given you no uneasiness, and you may rely on our assurances, that these colonies will pursue no measures whatever, but such as friendship and a regard for our mutual safety and interest may suggest.
As our concern for your welfare entitles us to your friendship, we presume you will not, by doing us injury, reduce us to the disagreeable necessity of treating you as enemies.
We yet entertain hopes of your uniting with us in the defence of our common liberty, and there is yet reason to believe, that should we join in imploring the attention of our sovereign, to the unmerited and unparalleled oppressions of his American subjects, he will at length be undeceived, and forbid a licentious Ministry any longer to riot in the ruins of the rights of Mankind.1
[Note 1: 1 This address was printed in the Pennsylvania Packet, 19 June, 1775.]
Ordered, That the above Letter be signed by the president.
Ordered, That Mr.[John] Dickinson, and Mr.[Thomas] Mifflin, be a committee to get the letter translated into the french language,and to have 1,000 copies of it, so translated, printed, in order to be sent to Canada, and dispersed among the Inhabitants there.
On motion, Resolved, That no provisions or necessaries of any kind be exported to the island of Nantucket, except from the colony of Massachusetts bay,the convention of which colony is desired to take measures for effectually providing the sd Island, upon their application to purchase the same, with as much provision, as shall be necessary for its internal use, and no more.
The Congress deeming it of great importance to North America, that the British fishery should not be furnished with provisions from this continent thro' Nantucket, earnestly recommend a vigilant execution of this resolve
to all committees.1
[Note 1: 1 These two resolutions were printed in the Pennsylvania Packet, 5 June, 1775, but the date is wrongly stated as being May 27.]
Ordered, That the above resolve be immediately published.
As the present critical situation of the colonies renders it highly necessary that ways and means should be devised for the speedy and secure conveyance of Intelligence from one end of the Continent to the other,
Resolved, That Mr. [Benjamin] Franklin, Mr. [Thomas] Lynch, Mr. [Richard Henry] Lee, Mr. [Thomas] Willing, Mr. S[amuel] Adams, and Mr. P[hilip] Livingston, be a committee to consider the best means of establishing posts for conveying letters and intelligence through this continent.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1, John Jay's Draft Petition to the King
[June 3-l9? 1775] (1)
To the Kings most excellent Majesty
The Petition of the freeholders & Freemen of the Colonies of New Hampshire, Massachuses Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pensylvania, the on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina & the Parish of St Johns in the Colony of Georgia, by their Representatives convened in general Congress at the City of Philadelphia the Day of 1775.
Most humbly sheweth That your Majestys American Subjects bound to your Majesty by the strongest Ties of Allegeance & affection and attached to their Parent Country by every Bond that can unite Societies, deplore with the deepest Concern the continuance of that System of colonial Administration which for twelve Years past has filled the minds of the loyal Inhabitants of North America with apprehensions of the most alarming Nature.
That reposing the utmost Confidence in the paternal Care of their Prince and the Justice of the British Nation they were urged by the perilous Situation of their Liberties to sollicit his Majesty's Attention by their late Petition to their real & unmerited Greivances, and to request his royal Interposition in their Behalf.
That tho disappointed in their Expectations of Relief they still re member their Duty to their Sovereign, & imputing the Rigour of their Treatment to insidious Counsels & wicked Misrepresentation, they again beg Leave to entreat for Justice & to request only that Portion of Liberty to which God and the Constitution have given them Rights. That Nothing but the Overruling Laws of self Preservation could ever have induced them to pursue any Measures which might be deemed offensive to their King or disrespectful to the British Nation, and that they ardently desire an opportunity of manifesting their Fidelity to the one and evincing their affection for the other.
That neither repeated oppression nor all the Miseries which attend the sword or are Threatned by Famine have yet weaned them from their Parent Country, and that they cannot yet cease to seek by every dutiful & peaceble Means in their Power to obtain a Restoration of that Harmony which formerly gave union Wealth & Power to the Empire.
That they most earnestly beseech his Majesty to commission some good & great Men to inquire into the Grievances of his faithful Subjects, & be pleased to devise some Means of accommodating those unhappy Dissentions which unless amicably terminated must endanger the safety of the whole Empire and that shd. his majesty not be disposed to hear the Complaints of his American Subjects from their Representatives in Congress we most humbly beseech his Majesty to direct Com [missioner] s from their different Assemblies to convene for the Purpose. That altho the People of North America are determined to be free they wish not to be independent and beg Leave again to assure his Majesty that they mean not to question the Right of the British Parliament to regulate the Commercial Concerns of the Empire in the Manner they have before declared as their Enemies have unkindly insinuated and to remove all Doubts upon this Head are ready to confirm these Declarations by Acts of their Legislatures in the different Colonies. That
(to facilitate the Restoration of Union & Harmony) they most humbly submit it to his Majestys Wisdom [whether] it wd not tend to facilitate the Restoration of Union & Harmony that the further Effusion of Blood should be prevented & every irritating Measure suspended and should his Majesty be graciously pleased by his royal Interposition to relieve his faithful Subjects from the Uneasiness & Anxiety they feel from the several acts of the british Parliament by which they think themselves so greatly agreived, they will with the utmost Gratitude & Chearfulness return to & resume that former Intercourse with their parent State which Nothing but the most pressing necessities could ever induce them to interrupt.They also take the Liberty of suggesting that when Concord & mutual Confidence shall thus be reestablished between his Majesty's British & American Subjects, their several Claims may be examined with Temper, adjusted with Precision and the present unnatural Contest end in a Compact that may place the Union of the Empire on a firm & permanent Basis.
MS (PPL) . In the hand of John Jay.
1 On May 26, 1775, Congress resolved to present a second petition to the king asking for redress of American grievances, and on June 3 it appointed a committee to draw up this document. The committee, consisting of John Dickinson, Thomas Johnson, John Rutledge, John Jay, and Benjamin Franklin, brought in a draft petition, largely the work of Dickinson, on June 19, which Congress finally approved, apparently with only a few minor amendments, on July 5. Congress then entrusted the petition to Richard Penn for presentation to George III, but the king refused to receive it. JCC, 2:65, 79-80, 100, 126-27, 158-62; Am. Archives, 4th ser. 3:627; Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul Leicester Ford, 12 vols. (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904-5), 1:17-18; Adams, Diary (Butterfield), 3:317-18; and NYHS Collections 11 (1878): 284-85.
The present text is an early draft by John Jay of the second petition to the king. Although Jay's draft and Dickinson's petition are both conciliatory in tone, they are dissimilar in nearly all other respects. It is not known exactly when Jay composed this draft, but he probably did so sometime between the appointment of the committee and the presentation of its report to Congress. It is also impossible to state what use was made of Jay's draft, but since Jay proposed that the king appoint commissioners to inquire into American grievances and that the colonial legislatures confirm Parliament's right to regulate American commerce, it can be assumed that the committee rejected it because it was too conciliatory.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1, People of Great Britain
[June 27? 1775] (1)
To the people of Great Britain from the Delegates appointed by the several English Colonies of New Hampshire Massachusetts Bay Rhode Island and Providence plantations Connecticut New York New Jersey Pennsylvania The lower Counties on Delaware Maryland Virginia North Carolina South Carolina and the Parish of St. Johns in Georgia to meet in Philadelphia May 1775.
It is with the deepest concern that we find ourselves compelled by the persevering and increased violence of administration again to appeal to your reason and justice upon a subject of the last importance to the safety, happiness, and wellfare of the British empire. It is well known that the original cause of our present unhappy difference is the lately assumed right and practise of Parliament, to raise revenue on the subject in America, contrary to the clearest principles of justice and the English constitution, which exempt from payrnent of Tax, Tallage, Aid or other like charge not set by common consent. That British America is not represented in the British Parliament, and consequently its consent not involved in the Acts of that Assembly, is too true to admit of doubt, too certain to be contested. But to obviate this argument Administration say, many inEngland are not represented and yet they are bound by Acts of the British Parliament concluding that because the representation of England is imperfect therefore the people of America must not be represented at all and by fallacious kind of logic, reasoning from the existence to the infinite extention of evil.
In prosecution of this new scheme of taxation a system of Statutes and regulations has taken place by which the trial by Jury is abolished; the oppressive powers of excise extended to all cases of revenue; the sanctuary of private houses exposed to violation at the pleasure of every Officer and Servant of the customs; the dispensation of justice corrupted by making Judges totally dependant on the Crown; life and liberty rendered precarious by supposed Offenders being liable to be transported over the Ocean to be tried for treason or felony, whereby the condemnation of the most innocent may follow from distance, want of evidence, money and friends; the profligate encouraged to shed the blood of the people by a mode of trial offering in demnity to the murderer; the Capital of one Colony condemned without being heard to most unequal punishment, involving with unexampled rigor the innocent and the guilty in the
same undistinguished ruin; that great palladium of English liberty the Habeas Corpus Act suppressed; Charterd rights taken away without forfeiture proved and a new form of government established to prevent legal efforts against the despotism of wicked Rulers; the antient limits of Canada extended over immense regions bordering on the frontiers of all the Colonies and Arbitrary government created there, as well by immediate exertions as by future efforts to banish liberty with all its attendant virtues from this great Continent; and finally a fleet and army sent to execute these oppresive edicts. In this state of unparalled abuse the people of America, by their Representatives in Congress Septemr 1774 presented a petition to his Majesty so full of duty, loyalty, and affection; so full of humble desires "of peace liberty and safety" as malice itself could not except against. The world will judge, what more could be done on this side the Atlantic to soften the rigor of authority and appease the rage of despotic Ministers, unless we had tamely surrendered our lives, liberty, and property into the hands of Administration, thereby rendering ourselves unworthy of the British Ancestry and undeserving the rights of men, by betraying the dignity of human nature. The duty of a British Minister should lead him to protect the just rights of the Subject in every part of the Empire, but the present Administration at variance with freedom in every Clime equal foes to British and American rights, under the fatal guidance of a Favorite at enmity with the glorious constitu-tion of England, that work of Ages and admiration of surrounding nations instead of redressing grievances of such magnitude and so justly complained against, proceed to bitter declarations of rebellion, determination to subdue by force and increasing Armies in North America have at length drawn the Sword of violence to ravage this Country, burn houses, and destroy his Majesties faithful American subjects. When Ministry charge millions of people with cowardice faction and rebellion, it necessarily leads to reflect how extensive must be the abuse, and how different the present from former ad ministrations, which has worked so wonderful a change in a whole nation, acknowledged frequently by the parent State, to be a brave, loyal, and useful people. Equally unjust is the charge of refusing to support civil government and the administration of justice, and denying contribution to the necessary expence of protection and defence. We have already declared "that such provision has been and will be made for defraying the two first articles, as has been and shall be judged, by the Legislatures of the several colonies just and suitable to their respective circumstances." And the journals of Parliament shew that in time of war our Aids have been admitted to transcend our abilities. In times of peace justice and magnanimity will be content with the immense profits derived from our confined commerce, establishing so grievious a monopoly of our imports, and of our great staple commodities of exportation, as to impoverish us in proportion as it enriches Great Britain. A Monopoly that annually fixes so large a ballance against these Colonies, as to preclude, without great oppression the payment of fixt revenue, added to the necessary support of our respective civil establishments, and other large contingent expences. Whenever it shall be thought proper to indulge us with a Trade a [s] extensive as you our fellow subjects possess, we shall then, provided with the means of procuring wealth, freely contribute at all tim[es] our full proportion to the expences of the Empire. The injurious and unaccommodating intentions of our Ministerial enemies are fully manifested by a plan of conciliation (as it is called) so inconsistent with its avowed design, as to be incapable of deceiving the most unthinking; for when the Americans, upon constitutional ground, claim a right of being concerned in the disposal of their own property; Administration after various and violent attempts to destroy this claim, propose to conciliate, by [retaining?] a power of controuling both the sum and its application; leaving the injured American the wretched choice of payment, or of punishment in case of refusal. Unprejudiced Men will determine whether this plan is intended to conciliate, or by insulting the understanding to convert dissatisfaction into despair. It appears by the conduct of Administration upon our humble petition for peace presented unto his Majesty and the demands they make; that the design which hath for sometime been carried on to alter the frame and constitution of these Colonies, is now come to ripeness; and the Contrivers of it conceive themselves arrived to that condition of strength, that they shall be able to put it into present execution. For what else can be signified by an unprovoked declaration of rebellion by the Commander of the British forces, after having converted the large and flourishing Town of Bostoninto a Military Garrison, marching into the Country, slautering the inhabitants, burning their houses, and ravaging all before him? Necessity hath therefore brought on this Congress and possessed it with the power of acting with more vigor and resolution than former Congresses had done, nor do the principles of Self preservation longer permit us to neglect providing a proper defence to prevent the pernicious practices of wicked men and evil Counsellors, alike enemies to the religion, laws, rights, and liberties of England and America. How necessary this was to be done, is sufficiently manifest from the designs and attempts of the despotic Governor of Canada to march an army of Canadians and Savages into these Colonies. Great cause therefore hath all good men to bless God, who put it into the heads and hearts of our Countrymen to possess themselves of the fortresses of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and to make themselves Masters of those Lakes that cover the frontiers of many Colonies, and secure them from such cruel and wicked designs. For were these bad Ministers to succeed in their evil intentions and put North America in slavery, it is not difficult to foresee with what ease they might afterwards master the liberties of Great Britain. In this state of extreme danger to the British Empire, we have once more implored our common Sovereign to save the whole from the meditated ruin of his Ministers, and by redressing the unmerited grievances of his faithful American Subjects, restore peace to his afflicted people. We call God to witness, that it is the earnest wish of our hearts to be firmly united with you on the broad basis of civil and religious liberty equally extended to all the subjects of this great empire. And we earnestly entreat your powerful aid may be interposed to calm the distractions, and quiet the apprehensions, by removing the grievances of British America. We shall then with joy behold the return of those halcyon days, when peace, happiness, and flourishing Commerce, established the glory, strength, and safety of the British empire.
MS (MH) . In the hand of Richard Henry Lee.
1 Congress agreed to present a second address to the people of Great Britain on June 3, 1775, and appointed Richard Henry Lee, Robert R. Livingston, and Edmund Pendleton as a committee to prepare a draft. On June 27 the committee reported a draft, which was read but not considered further until July 6, when it was debated and recommitted. The committee reported again on the seventh, and on the eighth the address was debated and approved. JCC, 2:80, 110, 127, 157, 162.
The Lee draft does not appear to have been utilized in drafting the final version of the address. There is marked contrast in the organization and style of the two documents, but apparently no other drafts of the address survive. The Lee draft does however represent the views of a committee member and may have been the draft submitted to Congress June 27. Nothing is known about the work of the committee after the address was recommitted, and the authorship of the final draft has not been established.
A contemporary printed text is reprinted in JCC, 2:163-70. See also JCC, 3:509-10.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1, Thomas Johnson, Jr., to Horatio Gates
Annapolis, August 18, 1775.
Discusses prospects for reconciliation between America and Great Britain. "I shall be very unhappy that petitioning the King, to which Measure I was much a Friend, should give you or any one else attached to the cause of America and of Liberty the least uneasiness. You and I and America in general may almost universally wish in the first place to establish our Liberties; our second wish is a reunion with Britain; so may we preserve the Empire intire and the Constitutional Liberty founded in whiggish principles, handed down to us by our Ancestors. In order to strengthen ourselves to accomplish these great ends we ought in my opinion to conduct ourselves so as to unite America and divide Britain. This as it appears to me may most likely be effected by doing rather more than less in the peaceable Line than would be required if our petition is rejected with contempt which I think most likely. Will not our Friends in England be still more exasperated against the Court, and will not our very moderate Men on this side of the water be compelled to own the necessity of opposing Force by Force? The rejection of the New-York petition was very servicable to America. If our petition should be granted the Troops will be recalled, the obnoxious Acts repealed, and we restored to the footing of 1763. If the petition should not be granted, but so far attended to as to lay the ground work of a negotiation Britain must I think be ruined by the delay. If she subdues us at all it must be by a most violent and sudden exertion of her force, and if we can keep up a strong party in England headed by such characters as Lord Chatham and the others in the present opposition, Bute, Mansfield, and North, and a corrupt majority cannot draw the British force fully into action against us. Our Friends will certainly continue such so long as they see we do not desire to break from a reasonable and beneficial Connection with the Mother Country, but if, unhappily for the whole Empire, they should once be con-vinced by our conduct that we design to break from that Connection I am apprehensive they will thenceforth become our most dangerous enemies. The greatest and first Law of self preservation will justify, nay compel it. The cunning Scotchmen and Lord North fully feel the force of this reasoning; hence their Industry to make it be believed in England that we have a scheme of Independance, a general term they equivocally use to signify to the Friends of Liberty a breaking off all connection; and to Tories that we dispute the Supremacy of Parliament. In the Extent of the Declaratory Act is the power of binding us by its acts, in all causes whatever. The latter we do most certainly dispute, and I trust shall successfully fight against, with the approbation of every honest Englishman. Lord North's proposition, and consequent resolution of Parliament were insidiously devised to wear the face of peace, and Embarrass us in the Choice of evils--either to accept and be slaves or reject and increase the number and power of our Enemies. I flatter myself that our petition will present to him only a choice of means injurious to his villanous schemes." Concludes with description of the proceedings of a recent meeting of the Maryland Provincial Convention.
(1) Tr (PRO: C.O. 5, 92:285-87).
Printed, with numerous minor variations, in Am. Archives, 4th ser. 3:157-59.
Johnson's letter was intercepted by the British and subsequently printed in newspapers in England and
America. See Gen. Thomas Gage to Lord Dartmouth, September 20, 1775, PRO: C.O. 5, 92:281-84.
1 On these proceedings, see Am. Archives, 4th ser. 3:99-132.
Journals of the Continental Congress,
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 3, 1775
"...Resolved, That this Colony most ardently wishes to see the former friendship, harmony and intercourse between Britain and these Colonies restored, and a happy and lasting connection established between both countries upon terms of just and equal liberty and will concur with the other colonies in all proper measures for obtaining those desirable blessings; and as every principle divine and human requires us to obey that great and fundamental law of nature, self preservation, until peace shall be restored upon constitutional principles; this colony will most heartily exert the whole power of government in conjunction with the other colonies for carrying on this just and necessary war, and bringing the same to a happy issue, and amongst other measures for obtaining this most desirable purpose, this Assembly is persunded, that the building and equipping an American fleet, as soon as possible, would greatly and essentially conduce to the preservation of the lives, liberty and property of the good people of these Colonies and therefore instruct their delegates to use their whole influence at the ensuing congress for building at the Continental expence a fleet of sufficient force for the protection of these colonies, and for employing them in such manner and places as will most effectually annoy our enemies, and contribute to the common defence of these colonies, and they are also instructed to use all their influence for carrying on the war in the most vigorous manner, until peace, liberty and safety are restored and secured to these Colonies upon an equitable and permanent basis...."
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 2,
Richard Henry Lee to Catherine Macaulay
29th Novr 1775
As a good Christian properly attached to your native Country, I am sure you must be pleased to hear that North America is not fallen, nor likely to fall down before the Images that the King hath set up. After more than ten years abuse and injury on one side, of modest representation on the other; Administration at length determine to try if the sword cannot affect, what threatening Acts of Parliament had in vain attempted; that is, the ruin of the just rights and liberty of this great Continent. Lexington, Concord, and Bunkers Hill opened the tragic scene; and clearly proved to the whole world that N. America had no reliance but on its own virtue in Arms. The battle of Bunkers Hill, tho followed by strong reenforcements, has not enlarged the prison of the Ministerial Army many paces. After the clearest proofs that the Quebec Act was going to be carried into effect by marching an Army of Canadians &c. into these Colonies, and when every attempt had been made to bring the Savages on the defenceless women and Children along our extensive frontiers; it became high time, on principles of self preservation, to avert the meditated [Evi] 1. The war was therefore sent into their own Country having first, by proper Agents and Memorials, explained to the Inhabit-ants of Canada and to the Indians, the views and objects of the United Colonies. Success, equal to the justice of the cause, has followed this undertaking. With indefatigable zeal 3000 Men crossed Lake Champlain and laid siege to Fort St. Johns, which place, as the key to Canada, had been made very strong by Govr. Carlton, and garrisoned with 500 regular Troops and 100 Canadians. During this siege, a detachment from the Army pierced further into the Country, invested and took Fort Chamble (between St. Johns & Montreal) that was garrison'd by about 80 Regulars. Gen. Carleton having by this time collected 800 Men, marched to the relief of St. Johns, when 600 of the Am. Troops met and defeated him. This was presently followed by the surrender of St. Johns, with all the Garrison prisoners of war, and there they found a plentiful supply of military stores. A rapid march to Montreal was next made, and yesterd[ay] brought the account of the surrender of that Town [to] General Montgomerie on Monday the 13th instant upon condition that the people should quietly enjoy their religion and not be molested in their property. Gen. Carleton had escaped down the St. Laurence with 2 or 3 Vessels, but it was expected he would fall into the hands of Collo. Arnold, then at Quebec, to which place he had penetrated with 1000 men by the rivers Kenebec and Chaudiere. No doubt is entertained here, but that this Congress will be shortly joined by Delegates from Canada, which will then complete the union of 14 provinces. Thus have the evil machinations of an unprincipled Administration been turned greatly to the honor and security of the people they meant to ruin. The proclamation that followed the receipt of so humble a petition has determined the Councils of America to prepare for defence with the utmost vigor both by Sea & Land. Altho' upon the former of these elements, America may not at first be in condition to meet the force of G. Britain, yet as Hercules was once in his Cradle, so, time and attention will, under the fostering hand of Liberty, make great changes [in] this matter. The knowing Ones are of opinion that by next Spring so many Armed Vessels will be fitted out as to annoy our enemies greatly, and to afford much protection to the Trade of North America. It is wonderful what great benefits have already been obtained by the infant efforts of some Colonies in this way. Whilst this Country abounds in Wood, iron & Artisans, whilst a soil and Climate fitted for the abundant production of Hemp is possessed by an industrious people, strength on the sea cannot long be wanting. The Congress has ordered a suspension of all exportation for a certain time. This looks like ruin to the West Indies. The almost infinite distress that these Islands will feel in a short time is realy shocking to human[it]y, but in this case, charity must begin at home, and the liberties of North America be at all events secured.
The animation and perseverance that the spirit of Liberty and re-sentment furnishes was well displaid in the seige of St. Johns. Twas a wet cold season, and the Men thinly clothed, the ground so low & wet on which they were placed, that they were compelled to lay heaps of brush, and weeds on the Top of the brush, that they might sleep out of the water at night. In this horrid situation they vigorously pressed the seige for 47 days, when the Garrison surrendered prisoners of war. Lord Dunmores unparallelled conduct in Virginia has, a few Scotch excepted, united every Man in that large Colony. If Administration had searched thro the world for a person the best fitted to ruin their cause, and procure union and success for these Colonies, they could not have found a more complete Agent than Lord Dunmore.
We regret not having heared from England since early in September, but our Congress disregarding this, are proceeding with vigor, perseverance, and judgement in effecting the great purpose for which they were appointed.
You know the Writer of this letter Madam, and therefore it is as unnecessary to sign it, as it would be to assure you of his affection and esteem for your whole self, and all your connections. We hope all are well at St. Bees and that proper care will be taken there in this tempestuous Season.
The last Post produces a proclamation from Ld. Dunmore declaring Liberty to the Slaves and proclaiming the Law martial to be the only law in that Colony-And all this he says is done "in virtue of the power and authority to me given by his Majesty.''(1) Is it possible that his Majesty could authorize him thus to remedy evils which his Lordship himself had created? I would have inclosed you a copy of this curious proclamation, had I not feared it would too much increase the size of this packet. The inhumanity with which this war (unprovoked as it has been on this side) is prosecuted, is realy shocking. A few days since, in the midst of winters [. . .] that northern climate, did Gen Howe turn out of Boston between two & three hundred Women and Children without even the necessaries of life. Some of them died on the water side before their hospitable Countrymen could relieve them. This cruelty is the more unpardonable, as these unhappy people have been by violence detained in Boston until now, contrary to the faith of a most positive agreement entered into between the Town & Gen. Gage.
The inclosed printed papers will shew you Madam how successful the cause of liberty has been in Canada. No doubt is entertained of Quebec & Govr. Carleton having fallen into the hands of Gen. Mongomerie & Colo. Arnold. A Valuable Artillery Store Ship is just fallen into our hands and the Stores are at our Camp at Cambridge.
The Ship is the Nancy I think.
l Dunmore's proclamation of November 7, 1775, is printed in Am. Archives, 4th ser. 3:1 385.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume: 3
John Dickinson's Draft Address
[January 24? 1776]
To the Inhabitants of America
"...These Efforts were soon attended with such Effect, that the British Army still confined within the Town of Boston & its Environs, and the Fleet sent to cooperate with it, finding the Fruits of their plundering our seacoasts too precarious and dangerous, Ships of war began to seize our vessels, carry them to Boston & take out their Cargos of provisions. It therefore became expedient to make some Regulations to prevent their receiving such supplies, which have been effectual.
"The war being thus prosecuted against these Colonies by Sea as well as by Land, Several armed vessels have been fitted out by us, and many considerable Captures have been made of Transports loaded with warlike Stores and Provisions for the army in Boston.
"Upon this same Principle of self preservation, founded on the Laws of Nature, and justified by the Laws of Nations, We approved of an Expedition into Canada, against the British Forces in that Province. With such a dangerous Caution did We proceed in this important Measure, that when the proposal was first made in Congress, it was rejected: But sometime after, receiving undoubted Intelligence that Governor Carleton was by every Artifice exciting our fellow subjects in Canada & the Indians to commence Hostilities, and that Administration entertained Designs and Expectations of putting these Colonies between two Fires, and even of carrying on the War by the worst of Assassinations, even those of Women & Children, in letting loose & enflaming the Tribes of Barbarians, with whom Mercy is a Reproach, We judged, that We should be impardonably criminal with Regard to You, who had put your Lives into our Hands, if We hesitated any longer to frustrate as much as We could the cruel Machinations of your Enemies...."
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume: 3,
John Jay's Essay on Congress and Independence
It has long been the Art of the Enemies of America to sow the seeds of Dissentions among us and thereby weaken that Union on which our Salvation from Tyranny depends. For this Purpose Jealousies have been endeavoured to be excited, and false Reports, wicked Slanders and insidious misrepresentations industriously formed and propagated.
Well knowing that while the People reposed Confidence in the Congress, the Designs of the Ministry would probably be frustrated no Pains have been spared to traduce that respectable Assembly and misrepresent their Designs and actions.
Among other aspersions cast upon them, is an ungenerous & groundless Charge of their aiming at Independence, or a total Separation from G. Britain. Whoever will be at the Trouble of reviewing their Journal will find ample Testimony against this accusation, and for the sake of those who may not have either Leisure or Opportunity to peruse it, I have selected the following Paragraphs which abundantly prove the Malice and falsity of such a Charge.(2) The Congress in giving orders for securing the Stores taken at Crown Point & Ticonderogah direct "That an Exact Inventory be taken of all such Cannon and Stores, in order that they may be safely returned, when the Restoration of the former Harmony between Great Britain &R these Colonies, so ardently wished for by the latter shall render it prudent and consistent with the over-ruling Law of self preservation."
The Congress after resolving that the Colonies ought to be put in a State of Defence, thus proceed unanimously. "But as we most ardently wish for a Restoration of the Harmony formerly subsisting between our Mother Country and these Colonies, the Interruption of which must, at all Events be exceedingly injurious to both Countries, that with a sincere Design of contributing by all the Means in our Power, (not incompatible with a just Regard for the undoubted Rights and true Interests of these Colonies) to the Promotion of this most desireable Reconciliation, an humble and dutiful Petition be presented to his Majesty. Resolved that measures be entered into for opening a negotiation, in order to accommodate the unhappy disputes subsisting between Great Britain and these Colonies, and that this be made a Part of the Petition to the Wing."
The Congress recommend to the Convention of New York "to persevere the more vigorously in preparing for their Defence, as it is very uncertain whether the earnest Endeavours of the Congress to accommodate the unhappy Differences between Great Britain and the Colonies, by conciliatory Measures, will be successful."
The Congress in order to rescue the Province of Massachusetts Bay from Anarchy, advise that their "Assembly or Council exercise the Powers of Government until a Governor of his Majestys Appointment will consent to govern the Colony according to its Charter."
The Congress in their vote for a general Fast recommend that we should "offer up our joint Supplications to the all wise, omnipotent & merciful Disposer of all Events (among other Things) (3) to bless our rightful Sovereign Wing George the Third, that a speedy End may be put to the civil Discord between Great Britain and the American Colonies without further Effusion of Blood." "And that all America may soon behold a gracious Interposition of Heaven for the Redress of her many Grievances, the Restoration of her invaded Rights, a Reconciliation with the parent State on Terms consitutional and honorable to both."
The Congress after declaring the Reasons which compelled them to recur to Arms, thus express themselves-"Lest this Declaration should disquiet the Minds of our Friends & Fellow Subjects in any Part of the Empire, we assure them that we mean not to dissolve that Union which has so long &9 so happily subsisted between us, and which we sincerely wish to see restored. Necessity has not yet driven us into that desperate Measure, or induced us to excite any other nation to War against them. We have not raised Armies with ambitious Designs of separating from Great Britain, and establishing independent States."
"We most humbly (4)implore the divine Goodness to dispose our Adversaries to Reconciliation on reasonable Terms."
In the Petition to the King, every Line of which breaths affection for his Majesty & Great Britain, are these remarkable Sentences.
"Attached to your Majestys Person, Family & Government, with all the Devotion that Principle & Affection can inspire, connected with Great Britain by the strongest Ties that can unite Societies, and deploring every Event that tends in any Degree to weaken them, we solemnly assure your Majesty, that we not only most ardently desire the former Harmony between her and these Colonies may be restored, but that a Concord may be established between them upon so firm a Basis as to perpetuate its Blessings uninterrupted by any future Dissentions to succeeding Generations in both Countries." "We beg Leave further to assure your Majesty that notwithstanding the Sufferings of your loyal Colonists during the Course of this present Controversey our Breasts retain too tende a Regard for the Kingdom from which we derive our origin, to request such a Reconciliation as might in any Manner be inconsistent with her Dignity or Welfare."
In the last Address of the Congress to the People of Great Britain are the following Passages.
"We are accused of aiming at Independence; but how is this accusation supported? By the Allegations of your Ministers not by our Actions. Abused, insulted e contemned what steps have we pursued to obtain Redress? We have carried our dutiful Petitions to the Throne. We have applied to your Justice for Relief ."
"Give us Leave most solemnly to assure you, that we have not yet lost Sight of the Object we have ever had in View, a Reconciliation with you on constitutional Principles, and a Restoration of that friendly Intercourse which to the Advantage of both, we till lately maintained."
In the Address of the Congress to the Lord Mayor,
Aldermen and Livery of London, there is this Paragraph vizt.
"North America My Lord ! wishes most ardently for a lasting connection with Great Britain on Terms of just and equal Liberty."
From these testimonies it appears extremely evident that to charge the Congress with aiming at a Separation of these Colonies from Great Britain is to charge them falsely and without a single Spark of Evidence to support the accusation.
Many other Passages in their Journal might be mentioned, but as that would exceed the Limits of this Paper, I shall reserve them for some future Publications.(5)
It is much to be wished that People would read the Proceedings of the Congress and consult their own judgments, and not suffer themselves to be duped by Men who are paid for decieving them.
MS (NNC photocopy). In Jay's hand and endorsed by him, apparently at a much later date: "Proofs that the colonies do not aim at independence. Probably in 1775 "
1 Aside from Jay's noncontemporary and somewhat tentative endorsement, there is no direct evidence available about the provenance and date of this essay. It seems likely that Jay was moved to compose it in response to the arrival in Philadelphia early in January 1776 of news of George I I I's October 26, 1775, address to Parliament accusing the colonists of waging "rebellious war . . . for the purpose of establishing an independent Empire" and in conjunction with his own efforts at this time, in negotiations with Lord Drummond, to achieve a reconciliation between America and Great Britain. Jay's participation in the talks with Drummond may well explain his failure to mention the king's speech in this essay, believing, in his zeal to bridge the widening gap between the colonies and mother country, that it was preferable to criticize the monarch's advisers instead of the monarch himself. In any case, Jay's direct quotations in this essay from an edition of the journals of Congress which was not available to the public until December 11, 1775, suggest that he could not have written it before then;
and the rapidly changing mood in Philadelphia toward independence in January 1776, after the publication of Common Sense and the arrival of word of Dunmore's attack on Norfolk, makes it unlikely that he wrote it later in the year. See JCC, 3:514; Am. Archives, 4th ser. 6:1-3; and Lord Drummond's Notes, January 3-9? 1776. Apparently John Dickinson was also considering a response to the king's charges at about this time. Among a group of Dickinson
MSS in the Gratz Collection, PHi, is the following notation, in Dickinson's hand, on a fragment of a page: "Proofs that the Colonies do not aim at an Independant Empire. See pa. 49 of the first Journal-61-69-75-91-142. 2d Journal-63, 64, 111, 112, 149, 156, 163, 164, 165, 166." For the "first Journal," see JCC, 1:136; and for the "2d Journal," see below, note2.
2 All quotations cited by Jay refer to actions of Congress frown May 18 through July 8 1775, and are taken from Journal of the Proceedings of the Congress, held at Philadelphia; May 10, 1775 (Philadelphia: William and Thomas Brandford, 1775), which was originally advertised for sale on December 11, 1775. JCC, 3:514. For the same citations from a more accessible edition of the journals, see JCC, 2:56, 64 66, 84, 87-88, 155-57, 160, 166, 167, 171.
3 Parenthetical remark inserted by Jay.
4 "Devoutly" in journals.
5 No contemporary printing of this essay has
been found, nor has any sequel to it been discovered.
"...In this state of extreme danger we have no alternative left, but an abject submission to the will of those overbearing tyrants, or a total separation from the crown and Government of Great Britain, uniting and exerting the strength of all America for defence, and forming alliances with foreign powers for commerce and aid in war: wherefore, appealing to the Searcher of Hearts, for the sincerity of former declarations expressing our desire to preserve the connexion with that nation, and that we are driven from that inclination by their wicked councils, and the eternal laws of self-preservation...." [May 15, 1776]
- James Madison, The Writings of James Madison, comprising his Public Papers and his Private Correspondence, including his numerous letters and documents now for the first time printed, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900).
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 4,
Joseph Hewes to Samuel Johnston
8th July 1776
I have received your favours of the 23d of May, 6th & 11th of June, the first of these came last to hand.(1) I have not had an oppertunity to forward your Letter to Elmsley, Tryon is not to be trusted with it. I shall send it by some Vessel bound to France or Spain, I cannot find out any other way of conveyance, and that is very precarious.
I shall endeavour to get for you a proper Account of the Linnen Manufactory here. I have been several times at it, but have not hitherto been fortunate enough to meet with any of the directors. I expect in the course of our political convulsions with Great Britain I shall be rendered incapable of holding any share in any public Manufactory for want of Stock, I will think of it when I get home which I hope will be towards the latter end of August.
I received a Letter from your Committee of Secrecy, War and intelligence respecting the expediency of Fortifying the harbour of Cape Lookout. I laid the matter before a Committee of Congress appointed to consider what places were proper to be Fortifyed, but before they consider & make report thereon it is absolutely Necessary they should have a plan or Map of the harbour with proper explanations and discriptions. These should be taken by an engineer on the spot who should form a plan of the Fortifications necessary to be made and the expence that would attend it. I have wrote to Mr. Harnett twice on this subject (2) but as I have reason to believe many Letters Miscarry I now mention the matter to you, in hopes you will endeavour to prevail on the Council of Safety to get the matter done as early as possible. I find a disposition in most of the Members of Congress to grant to our Province all that can be reasonably expected. It is not in their power to assist us at present with Cannon but as several Forges are beginning to Cast twelve & eighteen pounders I hope towards Winter they will not only have it in their power but be heartily disposed to assist us with some heavy pieces to put into such places as may be thought Most advisable. This is all you can expect, it is all that is done in the like cases. The works must be done At your own expence, or by such Continental Troops as may be in the province for the time being. I give you this as my opinion, perhaps they may do more for our Province, it stands high in Rank and high in estimation. I wish it may be able to support its good Character in future.
A hellish plott has been lately discovered at New York to Murder Genl. Washington and some other officers of the first rank, blow up the Magazine & spike up the Cannon. The persons employed had it in charge & have actually inlisted a number of Men for the Kings Army. It was to have been put in execution on the first arrival of the Army from Halifax. One of Genl. Washingtons guards has been put to death for being concerned in it. The Mayer of the City & some others are Confined, I believe many of them are guilty. It is said the matter has been traced up to Govr. Tryon. What is become of my friend Hooper, I expected to have seen him here 'eer now, otherwise I should have wrote to him respecting some of his connexions at Boston who are like to suffer by having property in the hands of Tories that fled from that Country.(3)
My friend Penn came time enough to give his vote for independance. I send you the declaration inclosed. All the Colonies voted for it except New York, that Colony was prevented from Joining in it by an old Instruction, their Convention meets this day and it is expected they will follow the example of the other Colonies. I had the weight of North Carolina on my Shoulders within a day or two of three months, the service was too severe. I have sat some days from Six in the morning till five, & sometimes Six in the afternoon without eating or drinking. My health was bad, such close attention made it worse, I nevertheless obstinately persisted in doing my duty to the best of my Judgment and abilities and attended Congress the whole time, one day only excepted. This I did contrary to the repeated solicitations of my friends, some of whom I believe thought I should not be able to keep Soul and body together 'till this time. Duty, inclination and self preservation call on me now to make a little excursion in the Country to see my Mother, this is a duty which I had not allowed my self time to perform during almost nine months that I have been here.
General Howe with his Army are in the Neighbourhood of New York, sometimes on Shore on Staten Island, and sometimes on board the Fleet. It is thought he has not more than Seven or eight thousd. Men with him. He is waiting for Lord Howe's Fleet to arive, when he expects to be Joined by twenty thousd. Men. All the Regiments on Continental pay that were raised in this Province are now at New York and on the lakes. Six thousand Militia from this province & three thousand four hundred from Maryland will march in a Few days towards New York. The Jersey Militia are all in Motion. I fear these Colonies will suffer greatly for want of Labourers to get in the harvest. Some people are of opinion that many fields of wheat will remain unreaped and be totaly lost.
Our Northern Army has left Canada and retreated to Ticonderoga and Crown Point. The small Pox has made great havock among them. Several Regiments had not well men enough to Row the Sick over the Lakes, men were draughted from other Regiments to do that Service. In short that Army has melted away in as little time as if the destroying Angel had been sent on purpose to demolish them as he did the Children of Israel. We are endeavouring to get the Lakes fortified in the best manner we can to prevent Burgoyne from passing them and entering the Colonies on that side. A paper has been privately laid on the Congress Table importing that some dark designs were forming for our destruction, and advising us to take care of ourselves. Some were for examining the Cellars under the Room where we set. I was against it and urged that we ought to treat such information with Contempt and not show any marks of fear or Jealousy. I told some of them I had almost as soon be blown up as to discover to the world that I thought my self in danger. No notice has been taken of this piece of information which I think was right. I enclose you a resolve of Congress which please to forward to your Council of safety,(4)
I also enclose a letter to Mr. Burke. If you can do any thing for the Gentlemen who subscribe it I hope you will do it, they are my friends and friends to America. I sent you a Commission of this kind some time ago, you have not mentioned it in any of your Letters. I will trespas no longer on your patience. Remember me to your family and Connections and be assured that I am with affection and regard, Dear Sir, Your most Obed Sevt, Joseph Hewes
P.S. I copy no Letters, take them with all their imperfections.
1 An extract from Johnston's May 23 letter is in Clark, Naval Documents, 5:223.
2 Not found.
3 On this point, see Hewes to Thomas Cushing, May 31, 1776.
4 Probably the July 4 resolution calling upon "the several assemblies, conventions and committees, or councils of safety, and . . . the several commanding officers of the continental troops" to proclaim the Dedaration of Independence. See JCC 5:516.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 6,
Richard Henry Lee to Arthur Lee
My dear Sir,
Baltimore in Maryld.
17th Feby. 1777
The papers that go with this to yourself and the other Commissioners, are so full on the subject of news that it is not very necessary for me to say much on that subject here. There scarcely comes a post but brings us an account of some skirmish in which the enemy get beaten, and driven back (without their forage) within their lines on the hills near Brunswick, where their distress we know is very great. This has been a most fatal winter Campaign to our enemies, and unless some change happens in their favor, which cannot be seen at present, it bids fair to be abundantly more so yet. Upon the whole, notwithstanding the contemptible Ministerial boasts in their Gazettes, and in Parliament, the great force they sent here has cut a most pitiful figure indeed. In humanity they figure still worse than They do in arms. Their ravages in the Jersies, until They were checked and driven back, beggars all description. Rapes, Murders, and devastation marked their steps in such a manner as would have disgraced the Savages of the Wilderness. The old English esteem for valor seems quite done away, and in several instances where young Americans displaid heroic spirit, and happened to fall in to their power, they have butchered them in cold blood in a most cruel and barbarous manner. They have been so frequently shameless in this way, after remonstrance has been in vain made to Gen. Howe, that the patience of our Soldiery is exhausted, and it appears as if no more prisoners will be taken, until Mr. Howe & his people learn the practice of humanity. I have received two letters from [ ....] (1) But he thinks strongly in favor of Great Britain. Was it not the most unrelenting and cruel persecution of us that forced us from her, and are we not compelled upon the clearest principles of self preservation to seek from Strangers what our kindred denied us? Must a great Continent be buried in ruin because the people of England cannot rouse from a lethargy which suffers the most abandoned of Men to trample upon the rights of human nature? It is decreed above, and we are parted Forever. Every Friendly American Nerve will now be strained to procure the active interference of France, by which, under God, the liberty of North America must be secured. Mr. Lee's stewart at Green Spring (Fauntleroy) has behaved so ill during our absence, that I have removed him, and got a Manager from Hanover (a John Ellis) who I believe will do well. I purchased a quantity of Oznaburgs from Philadelphia for the people this winter, and they make their own woolen & Cotton Stuffs. I hope the time will shortly come, when we may correspond more openly, fully, and freely; in the mean time, cannot you send me by return of Captain Johnson two pounds of the best Jesuits Bark prepared? You know how necessary that medicine is for me, and I know that it is not to be had here on any terms at present. Let Mr Lee know as much of this letter as imports him The Congress have determined to return to Philadelphia in eight days from this time. We shall have a number of exceeding fine Frigates at Sea very soon, from 24 to 36 guns.
Farewell & send me a long letter by return of this vessel.
I am exceedingly uneasy about my poor Boys & beg of you to get them to me in the quickest and safest manner.
RC (ViU). ln Lee's hand, though not signed.
1 Two lines inked through and illegible.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 6,
William Whipple to John Langdon
My Dear Sir,
19th April 1777.
...This city is still threatened with an invasion but whether the threats will be executed or not, is a matter of doubt with me. A plan of correspondence between this City and the enemy has lately been discovered. 7 or 8 of the Traitors are under close confinement. Some of them will no doubt be hanged. This is disagreeable business, but if we dont hang them they'll hang us, and self preservation, you know, is the first law of nature. A considerable quantity of the goods will be saved from the ship blown up near the Capes, as mentioned in my last. She had a valuable cargo on board 400 lbs. of powder, 2500 stand of arms and a considerable quantity dry goods amounting in the whole to 250,000 livres for account of the public besides private property to a large amount-but the greatest loss is the life of the Captain whose bravery on this occasion is without example....
The establishment of a Navy Board in the Eastern Department is now in contemplation and I imagine will soon be done.(1) This is a necessary measure and ought to have been adopted some time ago. I am much at a loss for proper men to compose this Board. Boston, I suppose will be the place of their sitting; therefore it's probable they will be of that town, or neighborhood. My only wish is, that they may be good men. He is my choice who will best serve my country. Some gentlemen are very urgent that I would engage in this business, but it's totally against my principles to accept an office of profit created by a Legislative Body of which I am a member and to resign my seat from lucrative views would not only be treating honor done me by my constituents with indecency but be inconsistent with that patriotic delicacy, which ever affords the most agreeable reflections. These are my present sentiments nor do I by any means think I shall relinquish them. Whoever are appointed, I suppose must reside chiefly at Boston.
I wish we could have a public furnace for casting cannon set up in New Hampshire. I think I have heard that there is a large quantity of ore at Barrington and a convenient place for this business. I wish you would make inquiry about it and inform me what the ore can be purchased for, what distance it is from a convenient place for a furnace and the distance the latter is from water carriage.
I hope you will send some body to relieve me soon, as it will be very disagreeable to go a long journey in the heat of summer. My Colleague sets out in about a fortnight when I shall be left alone for New Hampshire and you know how hard the service will be then. In full confidence that you use the utmost influence to have me relieved, I am your Sincere friend &c,
23d. Since writing the foregoing, have rec'd your's by Capt Thompson who will set out in a few days.
By him I shall write you fully if I can.
1 For the creation of the Navy Board at Boston,
see John Adams' two letters to James Warren, April 6, 1777.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 7,
Philip Schuyler to Israel Pemberton
Philadelphia May 22d. 1777.(1)
Your Letter of Yesterday's Date advising me that mine of the 17th inst. had been laid before a Meeting of Friends convened for the Purpose of deliberating on Its Contents, I have taken into the most serious Consideration. The Sentiments conveyed in the first Paragraph are such as ought to influence every Member of Society of whatever religious Persuasion he may be, but more especially Christian, And altho' I differ with You on the Subject Matter of the next, I shall never the less not cease to respect & hold sacred the Rights of Conscience. From this Motive I shall no longer insist on a Contribution of Friends, for what they deem to be preparations for War: But as the first Principle of Human Nature is Self preservation; as we are engaged in a Conflict the Event of which must Either be a perfect Establishment of our Civil & Religious Priviledges or a Total Deprivation of both, It is a Duty incumbent on Us, in Order to avert the Latter, to embrace all Means made Lawful from the most evident Necessity, And altho' Friends cannot conscientiously give, Yet such is their Benevolence & Charity that I am sure rather than see Men suffer, they will acquiesce if We take at a just Valuation, a small Portion of What they can share. Directions must be given for that purpose & shall be conducted with all prudence & Tenderness for Civil Liberty, of which such an urgent & uncommon Case is capable. On the other part of your Letter, I shall in General observe, that it is out of my sphere to enter into any political Disquisitions; that I am a Friend to All Mankind; that I wish to see Universal Happiness prevail & Every Member of every Society in the full Enjoyment of all their Rights; That my Application to the Friends for Blankets was forwarded on Information & Belief that they had not contributed on the Application of a Committee appointed by the Board of War; That I did not mean by the discrimination to convey one disadvantageous Idea entertained of the Society of Friends; But meerly that they might be put on a Footing with the Other Members of the Community who as I was informed had Liberally contributed; That I shall waive animadverting on what was done by "some Rich Men & others in their private Stations" ;(2) And that I thank You for the present of the Book You have been so kind as to send me and that altho' my Time is much engrossed, I shall read It with great Attention, convinced from its Character, that my Heart will be mended thereby, altho' I should not fully subscribe to every Part of the Doctrine it contains.
I thank You for your Fervent Wish for my Real Peace & Happiness and with equal Good Will toward You,
I remain with Respect,
Your Friend & Very Humble servant.
Journals of the Continental Congress,
Friends and fellow Citizens
[ante May 29, 1777]
"...In short it is manifest that from the Begining Britain has pursued a purpose of making the People of America Submit to her absolute Dominion, and regardless of Right, Justice and humanity, has employed means the most destructive and Calamitous.
"On the other Hand America has Supplicated with the most humble Voice and manner of Complaint, have prayed with most Submissive humility for Peace, Liberty and Safety, but in vain, and at length when forced to take Arms for self-preservation She raised them with reluctance against Britain even in Defence of her own Bosom, and at length unwillingly seperated altho she plainly saw that any further Connection must involve her in Circumstances worse than utter Perdition.
"To maintain this Seperation is to maintain the Religion, Liberty and Property of ourselves and our Posterity, to renounce it is to Sink into the lowest meanness and Slavery.
"May God remove every such thought from every American Breast! Welcome first the Life of the most uncivilized Savages ! Welcome Death itself and everlasting Oblivion to our race! ..."
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 7,
James Duane to Robert Livingston
My dear and honourd Sir
Philadelphia 27h Augt. 1777
Mr Thorne deliverd me your favour of the 15t Instant. I participate in the Distress & Anxiety you must have felt at the prospect of Genl Burgoine's Approach attended by murdrous Savages and no less cruel European Troops. That gracious Being who has hitherto protected us will I trust disappoint the destructive Projects of our Enemies. To him let us look up for Protection; and our Efforts for our own self preservation will be blessed with Success. The signal Victory gained at Bennington; the severe blow given to the Indians by our Tryon militia, and the Courage and Perseverance of the Garrison at Fort Schuyler, join'd to General Burgoine's Temerity, and Genl Howes great Distance which must effectually prevent his giving (1) any Succour in Season; Above all the present Security which the Eastern States derive from the remote Situation of General Howe which leaves them at full Liberty to employ their whole Strength to the Northward-All these Circumstances united will probably give a happy turn to our affairs, and oblige Mr Burgoine to retreat with more Rapidity than he advanced. We have Reason to hope that General Arnold will raise the Siege of Fort Schuyler as he writes that the militia of Tryon support him with the utmost alacrity. This we may reasonably conclude will settle the minds & secure the Fidelity of the six nations and our western frontier. Indeed we have the strongest assurances that on this Event they will take an active part and retaliate on General Burgoine who under the guise of Religion and Humanity has Been the Author of Cruelties at which his Countrymen must blush, and which must stain the page of British History with indelible Infamy. Col. Ogden has made a successful Sortie on Staten Island and took a hundred Prisoners, but this fortunate maneuvre was unhappily marr'd by General Sullivan who attempting a like Enterprize suffered his rear Guard to be cut off, so that tho' nothing coud equal the Cowardice of the Enemy, nor exceed the gallantry of the Continental Troops, the Account is nearly balancd.
General How has certainly landed his army near the Head of Chesepeake about 48 miles from this City. General Washington is on his way from this city to meet him. He writes Congress that the militia shew the greatest alacrity to support him. Those who are Judges assure me that General Howe coud not have Chosen a place in this part of the Continent to which more good men coud have been drawn on a sudden Emergency to oppose him. I need not tell you, who are so great a master of Geography, that his army is now near 230 miles from the Sea. What Advantages he proposes by taking this ground is hard to be conceivd. His Object is undoubtedly Philadelphia; nothing else is of sufficient moment. To obtain it he must leave his shipping at a great distance and give G Washington an oppertunity of taking his own Time, and his own Ground, to harrass and oppose him. A few weeks, perhaps days, will settle the point between the Competitors. The people here in general are firm and pleasd with the Hopes of success.
I have not seen a single family moving out of the Town, nor a single Feature discomposed with Fear.
I am Dear & hond Sir, your Dutiful Son & most obed Servt,
[P.S.] Be pleased to present my affectionate Regard to every branch of your & my Families & tell my Polly
that I wrote to her yesterday by Major Livingston. (2)
RC (N)1Duane wrote "receiving" above "giving" but did not line out the latter.
2 Duane's letter to his wife has not been found.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 8,
Henry Laurens to the States
23d December 1777.
I am directed by Congress to transmit to your honorable body, the enclosed resolutions, which the pressing wants of the army, & the arts & avarice of engrossers & extortioners have rendered indispensibly necessary to the general welfare.(1) It is with deep concern that Congress after having for some time contemplated in painful silence the mischiefs which threaten this extended continent from the growing avarice of the times, feel themselves constrained to recommend measures, which the virtue of all classes of men rendered not long since, unnecessary, & which a scrupulous regard for the security of property to every citizen of these States has hitherto restrained them from adopting; but (unhappy the case of America) Laws unworthy the character of infant republics are become necessary to supply the defect of public virtue, & to correct the vices of some of her sons; & she is called upon by the grand principle of self preservation to guard against the parricide of those, whom she has fostered in her own bosom. To minds, whose reflections are employed on the importance of the cause in which we are engaged, & which feel for every circumstance which may affect the honor and safety of these States, it must give the most painful sensations to consider, that at a time when the late signal successes we have been blest with, the reduced numbers of the enemy, the difficulties they meet with in procuring foreign levies, & the political complexion of affairs in Europe, have deprived Britain of many of those resources, on which she has so much depended; when the numbers & improving discipline of our army, the prodigious augmentation of our military stores, the quantity of provisions, with which this country abounds, & the large supplies of cloathing, which have of late been imported by private persons afford not only the opportunity but the means, under divine providence, of establishing our liberties by a few exertions, this bright prospect should be clouded over, & this great & glorious event endangered, by the languor of too many, & by the arts & avarice of designing individuals, who like the British Nabobs of the East, are corrupting the manners of a whole nation, & building vast fortunes on the destruction of the liberties of the Western World.
It is to be hoped however, that the wise & spirited laws of the different States, aided by the influence & exertions of the real patriots, will apply effectual remedies to these alarming evils; that the old & hardened offenders will be punished, that those in whose bosoms the sparks of public virtue are not yet extinguished, will be reclaimed; the languid roused from their present apathy; & that all classes of men will unite with their former spirit & virtue against an enemy, whose progress is marked with every vestige of barbarity, & whose determined object is to establish a tyranny of the most dangerous & debasing nature over the inhabitants of a vast continent. Congress flatter themselves that the resolutions herewith transmitted will tend to accomplish some of these valuable purposes, & they therefore esteem it their duty to recommend them to the serious consideration of your honourable house,(2) & hope they will be carried into execution, as expeditiously & secretly as possible.
By order of Congress, Henry Laurens, President
In a clerical hand and signed by Laurens.
This circular letter to the legislatures of the states was prepared by
the committee appointed on December 12 to consider letters from Deputy Clothier General Samuel A. Otis.
JCC, 9:1022, 1031, 1033, 1042, 1046 47.
1 For the December 20 resolves referred to here, see JCC,
9:1043-45. Laurens also transmitted copies of these resolves with brief letters that he wrote on this day to Gov. Nicholas Cooke of Rhode Island and President Meshech Weare of New Hampshire, on December 26 to Govs. Thomas Johnson of Maryland, Patrick Henry of Virginia, and Richard Caswell of North Carolina, and on December 29 to President John Rutledge of South Carolina and Gov. John Treutlan of Georgia. PCC, item 13, fols. 68-70, 85-87.
2 Laurens inadvertently offended Gov. Jonathan Trumbull by addressing an RC of this letter to the speaker of the Connecticut Assembly rather than to the governor himself. For the minor tempest stirred up by this oversight, see James Lovell to Joseph Trumbull, January 27; Eliphalet Dyer to Joseph Trumbull, February 8; and Laurens to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., February 9, 1778.
The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 2
H. Laurens to Congress.
[Note *: * MSS. Dep. of State.]
December 16, 1778.
If consciousness of having faithfully discharged my duty from the moment Congress were pleased to confer on me the presidency to my last act of resigning the chair enhances the value of the acknowledgments with which after mature deliberation you have been pleased to honor me, the former must be my true support. Your testimonial will transmit honor to my children.
I entreat you, gentlemen, accept my most grateful thanks, and suffer me to repeat that I will persevere in measures for the public good with unabated ardor.
I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, and under a great sense of obligation, your faithful friend and obedient humble servant,
A. Lee to Florida Blanca.†
[Note †: † 1 Sparks' Dip. Rev. Corr., 529. This letter was forwarded to Count de Florida Blanca through the agency of Count d'Aranda, Spanish ambassador in France.--Sparks.]
December 17, 1778.
I have the honor of enclosing to your excellency a true copy of a proclamation and manifesto lately issued in America by the British commissioners. The plan of desolation and cruelty announced in it has been approved in Parliament by one of His Britannic Majesty's principal secretaries of state, the Earl of Suffolk; and a majority in both Houses of Parliament have given their sanction to the manifesto itself by refusing to disclaim it. Upon these grounds it may justly be considered the act of the nation.
The intentions of Great Britain, derogatory at once of all the sacred rights of humanity and of the honor of God and of the established laws of civilized nations, are thus declared in the manifesto: "The policy, as well as the benevolence of Great Britain, have thus far checked the extremes of war when they tended to distress a people still considered as our fellow subjects and to desolate a country shortly to become again a source of mutual advantage. But when that country professes the unnatural design not only of estranging herself from us, but of mortgaging herself and her resources to our enemy, the whole contest is changed, and the question is how far Great Britain may, by every means in her power, destroy or render useless a connection contrived for her ruin and for the aggrandizement of France. Under such circumstances the laws of self-preservation must direct the conduct of Great Britain; and if the British Colonies are to become an accession to France, will direct her to render that acquisition of as little avail as possible to her enemy."
The pretext here alleged for carrying war to all extremities, which the laws of humanity and of nations forbid, and of desolating merely for the purposes of desolation, is that the country is to be monopolized by France. That this is merely a pretext is manifest from the treaty itself, on which they ground it, in which it is declared that the United States are at liberty to make the same treaty with all nations.
Your excellency knows, too, how unjust this imputation is in our most secret transactions. By one of those strange absurdities into which men, blinded by bad passions, are often betrayed, they denounce this desolation against the people at large, who they in the same breath assert have not ratified the treaty. Thus, if we are to credit their own assertions, the ground of their rage is pretended and the objects of it innocent.
It is therefore most clear that the threatened cruelties are not out of policy, but out of revenge. And as nothing is more odious than this spirit, nothing more dangerous to all that is deemed dear and sacred among men, than an open avowal of such a principle and an exercise of the barbarities which it suggests, such a conduct ought to arm all nations against a people whose proceedings thus proclaim them to be hostis humani generis.
It is not that they can add to the cruelties they have already exercised; desolation and massacre have marked their steps wherever they could approach. The sending of those captives, whom they pretend now to be their fellow subjects, into perpetual slavery in Africa and India; the crowding of their captives into dungeons, where thousands perish by disease and famine; the compelling of others, by chains and stripes, to fight against their country and their relations; the burning of defenseless towns, and the exciting of the savages, by presents and bribes, to massacre defenseless frontier families, without distinction of age or sex, are extremities of cruelty already practiced, and which they can not exceed. But the recovery of what they called their rights, and the reduction of those who had renounced, as they alleged, a just supremacy, was then avowedly the object of the war. These cruelties were, it was pretended, incidental severities, and necessary to the attainment of a just object. But now destruction alone is the object. It is not profit to themselves, but injuries to others, which they are pursuing. Desolation for the pleasure of destroying is their only purpose. They will sacrifice to disappointed vengeance what their injustice lost and their power can not regain.
There can not be a greater violation of those laws which bind civilized nations together, which are the general property, and which distinguish their wars from those of savages and barbarians, than this manifesto. All civilized nations are called upon, as well by their own interests as those of humanity, to vindicate its violated laws. Your excellency will therefore permit me to hope that so daring and dangerous a procedure will call forth a declaration from the King of Spain, whose pre-eminent character among princes for piety, wisdom, and honor will render him a fit avenger of the common cause of mankind. It is not America only that is wronged by this savage proclamation, but the feelings of humanity, the dictates of religion, the laws of God and of nations.
Your excellency will also give me leave to request that this representation may be laid before his majesty, and enforced with such arguments as your excellency's greater knowledge and the favor you have had the goodness to manifest for our just cause may suggest.
I have the honor to be, your excellency's very humble servant,
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 13,
James Duane to George Clinton
12th June, 1779.
Your Excellency has been pleased to desire an unreserved correspondence on measures which may occur to me as advancive of the interest and honor of our State. It is a fruitful theme for speculation, and I shall obey your commands with the utmost pleasure, being fully persuaded that an honorable peace, and a wise internal policy, will render us one of the greatest and the happiest people in the union. The security of our territorial rights, in which we have made great progress, and the speedy cultivation of our rich and fertile frontiers are the principal objects-objects which in my opinion call for the immediate attention of government.
The pressure of heavy taxes on an exhausted and suffering people is the evil most to be dreaded. Our waste lands afford a natural and certain fund for their relief: nor is there any impediment but that the right of soil, in sufficient quantities, remains to be transferred from the native proprietors to the State. This I will always maintain ought to be done, not by fraud or lawless force, but on just and equitable considerations. I consider then that the hostile tribes, who, without the least reason or provocation, and in violation of the ties of treaties, gratitude, and humanity, have destroyed our citizens, plundered our substance, and desolated our country, are bound to make us full and adequate reparation. This they have it in their power to do by an assignment of a territory commensurate to the amount of the damages we have sustained in the loss of lives and property together with an equivalent for all our actual expenses in opposing their ravages, and the consequential injuries to our husbandry, &c. An estimate may readily be formed of these various damages, critical exactness being unnecessary, and a demand made of equivalent territory as a righteous preliminary to peace. At this distance I cannot decide whether it is in our power to fortify and take possession of the country of the Onondaguas in right of conquest: but if practicable it is clearly justifiable in good conscience and by the laws of nations. And Surely, Sir, it is worth a strenuous exertion at the expense of the State, if the Commander-in-chief should not think it such a general concern as to render it a continental charge. I do not mean that any faithful Onondago Should suffer a loss of his right of Soil; it will be easy to discriminate. Violence or injustice will deprive us of national character and the blessing of Heaven!
Sir, in my opinion, the first plan which I have Suggested is recommended equally by sound policy and self-preservation. It is confirmed by the example of our Southern brethren. The Indians are sufficiently Sensible of the value of their lands. No other consider[atio]n will keep them within the bounds of humanity or good faith. Let them know that hereafter they shall part with their inheritances for their transgressions; and they will be cautious of unprovoked hostilities. I flatter myself that the venal and disgraceful System hitherto practiced, of courting and bribing them to lay down their arms after the most wanton barbarities will never be revived. Let justice be done to them as reasonable beings: but let them know that they Shall not injure us with impunity. This alone can secure our future tranquillity; especially if Britain should retain Canada on a pacification.
I do not recollect whether I have touched on this Subject hitherto; if I have, your Excellency will pardon my earnestness from its vast importance. While America is in arms is the Season for reducing these savage neighbors to reason and a disposition for lasting peace.(1) The present operations promise more decision in every quarter of the Continent than any ever yet undertaken; and I wish our State may stand ready to avail ourselves of every favorable event.
The accounts from the Southward are highly interesting. Lincoln, it is said, is victorious, and the British detachment completely ruined. From various quarters this great event is rendered probable; but Congress has no despatches hitherto. In our State I hope we are prepared to baffle the designs of our enemies, though I have the most sensible feelings for the distress of individuals. You, Sir, will allow for my anxiety for my family, and enable me to return with honor to my own State as soon as possible. I never yet thought it consistent with my character, and the confidence placed in me, to leave my station without the consent of my constituents. This dutiful respect to government has exposed me to a disproportionate share of exile, and my family and private affairs to great distress and disadvantage. But I comfort myself with the reflection of having done some public good, and studied to do all in my power; and that I have served a people who will honor me with their esteem which is my highest ambition. I have the honor to be-with the utmost respect,
Sir, your Excellency's most obedient and very humble servant,
P. S. Pennsylvania and Maryland, without waiting for the opinion of Congress, have given their officers half pay for life. Is it impracticable to know the sense of our state on this subject? It is an important one, and will probably be soon debated.(2) I wish to please our Legislature; but ignorant of their views often hazard more than is prudent by acting from myself.
Tr (MH-H: Sparks Collection).
1 Duane, a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs, repeatedly stressed the need to punish the Onondagas
and other hostile tribes by seizing their lands. See Duane to Philip Schuyler, June 15, and to Clinton,
June 30, 1779.
2 For the revival of the half-pay debate in Congress, see John Fell's Diary, July 27, 1779.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 13,
James Duane to Philip Schuyler
My dear Sir
Philad. 15h. June 1779
I this morning had the pleasure of your favour of the 5th Instant. Mine of the 1st May I concluded must have miscarried led into this Belief by your usual punctuality and Attention to your Friends. I greatly differ with you in your Conclusion from the Acceptance of your last Resignation.(1) Your best Friends in Congress were firmly perswaded that your Determination to resign, in every Event, & under every Circumstance, was fixed unalterably! and that you woud be obliged, and not hurt by, the Acceptance. You may be assurd you stand very high in the Esteem of three fourths of the States & Members of Congress: No inconsiderable Proportion, considering how much pains have been taken by the factions to injure your Reputation! I tell you once more that If you had communicated to me your wishes, instead of making the second absolute Resignation, any reasonable Vindication of your Character-if any after the honourable Acquittal by your Peers, & Confirmation by Congress, was necessary-coud have been obtained. Do not therefore blame Congress, who have enough to distress them, without the Reproach of their Friends: nor suffer Chagrin to disturb you when Glory is out of the Reach of Malice. And your Enemies put to Silence & Shame. Much less be prevailed upon to retire to Privacy 'till Peace & Safety are established. Let our own Private Feelings be sacrificed to our Country. And Let us be contented with the Approbation of our own Consciences.
Far, my dear Sir, be it from your Thoughts to resigning the dearest Concerns of our State, involved in the Indian Department. Can any thing be of so much Importance to Us? Who is able to succeed you? Will you give place to Men unacquainted with the Business? To Strangers, perhaps to ______s(2) of the State? What will your fellow Citizens say? What your warmest Friends? But if so this Step shoud be precipitated before we can find a proper Successor it will be inexcusable. I mean to assist you in executing this most important office till we can put it on a proper footing. I will then, with you, chearfully resign it: for it is impossible you can be more heartily tired of a publick Character than I am.
This is a Period in which we may expect decisive Regulations and lasting Security with respect to our Savage Neighbours. Very probably they will soon Sue for Peace: but more than verbal Submission & fair promises ought to be exacted. Since they unprovoked & perfidiously have committed Ruin & Devastation upon our Frontiers: we have a Right to a full & adequate Compensation for the Loss of Lives, Property, Time, Husbandry &c &c. They are able to make it by assignment of part of their Territories. It must be insisted on-not only as an Act of Justice & Retribution for past Injuries: but as a point of Policy & self preservation. Let them know that they shall always pay dearly for their Ravages: & that their Inhabitants shall answer for their Depredations; & you will have some due tax upon them. At present you have None. Fond of Blood, & destitute of principles, there is no dependence on their most solemn Treaties. I have written my sentiments to our Governor on this subject. If approvd the Execution will remain with you: & it is a work of delicacy & difficulty which will require all your Experience & Abilities, & to which, without exemptions no man but yourself is equal. The goods you requested are certainly purchasd: and you will find it a seasonable & handsome Assortment for our Indian Friends. Every Aid you request will be granted, the greatest deference being paid to all your Recommendations even by those who do not love you. I will mention the delays of the Quarter Master to the Board of War. I feel most sensibly the depreciation of our paper money amidst all our golden prospects. We are striving hard to reestablish its Credit. Certainly it is within the Compass of human wisdom & our present powers: if the Legislatures & People will Act with a Vigour & disinterestedness Suitable to so great an Emergency. You will have heard the agreeable Report from the Southward. Congress have yet no official Inteligence which restrains our Joy.
You have another Visit from Sir Henry Clinton.(3) But as we are prepard to meet him, I am not apprehensive of any deep Impression.
I have a violent Fit of the Malade du Suisse! And have requested Leave of Absence from the Legislature. Col Floyd is already returned without that Ceremony. One of my first wishes will be to meet you for Much have I [to] talk of over a friendly Calumet.
Adieu! And believe me ever, Dear Sir, most affectionately,
Your Obed. huml. Servant,
[P. S.] Present my Compliments to Mrs. Schuyler & the Ladies & [....]
RC (NN: Schuyler Papers).
1 For information on General Schuyler's resignation, see Duane to
Schuyler, May 1, 1779.
2 That is, "enemies."
3 For the British army's movement up the Hudson
River, see Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer to Thomas Johnson, June 8, 1779.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 13,
Marine Committee to Benjamin Franklin
[post July 19, 1779] (1)
Inclosed you have a certified Copy of a Resolution of Congress dated July 19. 1779; by which you will perceive the Marine Committee are empowered and directed by Congress to carry into Execution their Manifesto of the 30 of Octr. 1778.(2) In pursuance of this Authority and for the more speedy accomplishment of the Ends proposed, we authorise and most earnestly request you, to take every Measure in your power, to aid and assist us in the Execution of this Business.
It is not our Intentions to confine the Measures to be used on this Occasion to open and hostile operations; But on the contrary it is expected and we wish and desire that you would cause, at the Expence of the United States, any of the Towns of Great Britain or the West Indies, secretly to be set on fire. In particular London, Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh are to be considered as the first objects of national retaliating resentment; and above all, London, the Seat of royal Residence and vindictive rage and the quarter from which have issued the orders for the conflagrations which have by the Enemy been lighted up in these United States.
America would have the Monarch see, that when provoked she can light up fires even at his own Doors. And in this Business it is requested, that you will use every possible Exertion. This Measure, in which so many Calamities are involved, and so contrary to the known and acknowledged Humanity with which Congress have heretofore carried on the present war, has, at length become, for the sole and direct purpose of self preservation, absolutely and indispensibly necessary, from the cruel and unprecedented Manner in which our Enemies are daily carrying on the present War. Our Villages on the Sea Coasts are numerous, most of them efenceless, and all of them, with very few Exceptions, exposed and easily accessable to a naval Force, which renders them at any Time a prey to a savage and desolating Enemy. The Towns of (3) heretofore laid in ashes, and the late successful attempts in burning and destroyed [sic] the Villages of Fairfield, Norwalk and Bedford in Connecticut and New-York, and the unquestionable proofs Congress have received, that the Vengence denounced against these States in the Manifesto of the British Commissioners will be executed in its fullest extent, has induced them, as the only effectual Means, to put a stop to the further destruction of our Country, to retaliate upon our Enemy by destroying, if possible, some of the most distinguished Cities in Great Britain and the West Indies.
Our Countrymen have long complained of the slow and forbearing disposition of Congress, when every day announces to them the destruction of some part of their Country. To meet these Ideas, they have at length solemnly determined to revenge themselves on their Enemies, and to leave untried no exertions for carrying into execution their Manifesto of the 30 of Octr., 1778.
A few desperate determined (4) Men, under the promise of handsome rewards, and well acquainted with the Situation of the large Towns in England & Scotland, will perhaps be the best instruments that can be employed for the ccomplishment of this Work. We do not however wish to point out any Mode that shall be obligatory upon you; your own Judgment and observation will readily suggest to you such Steps as are most likely to answer the Ends proposed.
As the avowed Determination of the Enemy, as set forth by the British Commissioners, is to render us of as little use as possible to our ally, perhaps it would not be improper, if Capt. Jones should be in France, and his own force is inadequate, to request further aid, and attempt the destruction of some of their Towns by a naval (5) surprlse.
How such a Measure will accord with the Sentiments of the Court of France, your Situation will best enable you to determine. If it should appear to you improper to communicate the Matter at all to the Minister of France, you will then forbear to do it. We cannot conclude without once more earnestly pressing upon you. the Necessity of striking some blow similar to those suggested in the resolution of Congress. The destruction of a single village would instantly convince our Enemy of the Danger to which they are exposed, and the Necessity there will be, of desisting from the present destructive mode in carrying on the War
FC (DNA: PCC, item 152). In the hand of William Whipple.
1 Although this draft letter is undated, Whipple clearly wrote it after Congress adopted a resolve on July 19 directing the Marine Committee "to take the most effectual means to carry into execution the Manifesto of October 30, 1778, by burning and destroying the towns belonging to the enemy in Great Britain and the West Indies." Congress had adopted this resolve in response to a letter of July 13 from General Washington reporting the recent British "devastations" in Connecticut. With his letter, Washington had enclosed a number of documents relating details of the recent British raid into Connecticut, including accounts of Gov. Jonathan Trumbull and Gen. Samuel H. Parsons, and a copy of Sir George Collier's and Gen. William Tryon's July 4 "Address to the Inhabitants of Connecticut," reminding them of their vulnerability and inviting them "to set the first Example of returning to Allegiance." After explaining some recent measures taken to repress further "depredations," Washington concluded with the observation: "If it is practicable, it seems to me, high time to retaliate by destroying some of their Towns." Congress referred Washington's letter this day to a committee consisting of William Carmichael, Gouverneur Morris, and William Whipple. The committee's report, which was written by Morris and laid before Congress on August 2, contained a similar draft of a letter for Franklin but no action was taken on it by Congress. There is also no evidence that either letter was ever sent to Franklin. See JCC, 14:852; 915-16; PCC, item 152, 7:529-31, item 19, 6:271-72; and Washington, Writings (Fitzpatrick), 15:419-21.
Whipple undoubtedly drafted this letter because of his dual role as a member of both the Marine Committee and the special committee to which Washington's July 13 letter was referred. His draft was originally "discovered" and identified by Worthington C. Ford, who thereupon wrote a brief account of the affair in the context of the information then available to him for the Nation, vol. 87 (July 23, 1908): 69-70.
2 Edmund C. Burnett printed under this date a proposed resolve on retaliation that he attributed to Henry Laurens. Burnett, Letters, 3:328.
Although the original document is located in the Henry Laurens Papers, no. 25, ScHi, it is clearly in the hand of Massachusetts delegate Francis Dana, who left Congress in August, 1778. The proposed resolve must therefore have been written sometime during Congress' sporadic consideration of a retaliation policy that ultimately resulted in the passage of the October 30, 1778, "Manifesto," before Dana's departure from Congress. For the obscure evolution of that "Manifesto," see these Letters, 10:470n.4.
3 In the August 2 committee report on Washington's July 13 letter, "Portsmouth and Suffolk in Virginia" were mentioned in this context, but Portsmouth was then crossed out. JCC, 14:915.
4 Whipple wrote "determined" above "desperate" and underlined both.
5 This prospect had already been pondered by Franklin, but he was as yet reluctant to see the United States become embroiled in such a war of retaliation. Thus in his April 28, 1779, instructions to Capt. John Paul Jones, Franklin admonished him: "although the English have burnt wantonly many defenseless towns in America, you are not to follow this example unless where a reasonable ransom is refused." However after learning the results of the British raid into Connecticut at this time, Franklin was apologetic for drafting such moderate instructions and confessed to James Lovell in a letter of October 17, 1779, that "The late provocations, by the burning of Fairfield and other towns, added to the preceding, have at length demolished all my moderation, and were such another expedition to be concerted I think so much of that disposition would not appear in the instructions." Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, 3:146, 384.
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 19
David Howell to Nicholas Brown
Octob 30 1782.
Your very acceptable favour of 15 Inst. came duly to hand per Post, the enclosures as well as contents were agreeable. I am happy to find that abler pens have at length enlisted in so good a cause. The opposition to the Impost, I am convinced, gains ground in Congress as well as in this City. I have taken great pains to explain the principles of Liberty & to shew how the Confederation will secure it to us, & I can assure you that great Charter of our Liberties is lately more frequently quoted & growing into that sacred veneration to which it is entitled. When I first came here, Genl. Cornell called it a rope of Sand & I found he had catched the expression from others. The States are not to be held together by the strength of penal laws & coercion, but by their mutual intrest--And if a wise & just policy is adopted it will continue in future the intrest of the States to remain confederated as much as it now is, or has been. Every measure which tends to greive one member of the Union, tends to a Dissolution; for nature teaches to seek redress: And Self preservation, among Laws, is Lord paramount.
Letters of Delegates to Congress:Volume 23,
Timothy Bloodworth to Richard Caswell
September 29th 1786
The enclos'd was handed to me by the Secretary of Congress with a request to forward it on to Youre Excellency.(1)
The publick Business make slow advances, & proceed in a Very Disagreeable Direction. The instr[uc]tion for a negociation with Spain has employd oure time principally ever since the 10th of August Last. The perticulars is confinde to secresy, which gives me great uneasiness, we have (that is the minority) endeavour'd to have the injunction of secresy taken of, so far, as to communicate the perticulars to the Executives of oure States, but could not obtain Leave,(2) & I was oblig'd to suppress a letter which I had wrote on the subject, in confidence of obtaining Leave to communicate the perticulars to Youre Excellency. This being the situation of affairs & not willing to forfiet my honour in Violating the rules of the house, have Long omitted writing any thing. The utmost warmth has appeard on this occation from each party, the Divition are seven states for the measure, & five against, & the Majority appears Determined to carry on the treaty at all events, & the minority as firmly fixt to oppose it in all its Stages, except Instructed to the contrary by their Different States. For my own part I think the president [precedent] Dangerous to the Liberties of the southern States. If seven states can barter any part of the Priveledges of the Different States, for any advantage whatsoever, there remains no security for any possession. It is well known that the ballance of Power is now in the Eastern States, & they appear determined to keep it in that Direction. This to me is evident from all their Conduct, & in the present measure, if carried they will be favoured in their scheme. I shall think it my Duty to attend the assembly & lay the matter before them with the circumstances that attend the measure.(3) All other business appears out of View, & I do not expect any thing of account will be don by the present Congress. We have endeavoured frequently to have som measures taken on the Indian treaties, & have had the subject refer'd to a committee, but they will not report as yet, & I fear no relief is intended, however shall urge it if possible.(4) I am sorry to find Mr Blount does not intend to bring his family, we shall certainly be in want of an able representation the ensuing Year, & those that will give their steady attendance.(5)
I Remain with the highest Esteem & Regard, Youre Excellencies Most obedient &
Very Humble servant,
RC (PHC: Roberts Autograph Collection).
1 Not identified.
2 The September 28 vote on Charles Pinckney's motion to lift the secrecy injunction was defeated six states to three, with Georgia divided and Maryland represented by only one delegate, New Hampshire and Delaware unrepresented. See JCC, 31:697.
3 See Bloodworth to the North Carolina Assembly, December 16, 1786.
4 On September 15 Henry Lee offered a motion written by Bloodworth, recommending appointment of a committee to examine "the late Treaty entered into with the Indians" recently protested by New York, North Carolina, and Georgia. It was referred to a committee of five chaired by Arthur St. Clair which was also to consider St. Clair's September 14 motion seeking to prohibit the states from levying war against the Indians in violation of existing treaties. St. Clair's motion was specifically aimed at Virginia which had, according to reports from Col. Josiah Harmar, raised "a considerable Force. . .with intent to levy War and commit Hostilities upon some of the Nations of Indians" with which the United States was at peace. See JCC, 31:656--;58, 662; and PCC item 190, fol. 122. Confirmation of Harmar's reports came on October 16 when Robert Pemberton, assistant to Secretary at War Henry Knox, submitted to Congress May 15 Virginia Council resolves declaring a military expedition against the Wabash and other "inimical" Indian tribes "justifiable, necessary and. . .practicable," some proceedings of the Virginia officers in Kentucky, a lengthy letter of July 22 from J. M. P. Legras to George Rogers Clark concerning a planned Indian attack on Vincennes, and reports from frontier settlers and the inspector of Continental troops, Maj. William North. The original committee considering Lee's and St. Clair's motions was renewed October 17 and directed also to consider Pemberton's letter and enclosures. See JCC, 31:885n; and PCC, item 150, 2:20--;66, item 190, fol. 129. In its October 30 report the committee made four separate observations or recommendations:
(1) that Virginia was "in perfect conformity to the Confederation" in protecting its citizens and that "the offensive operations commenced by the inhabitants of Kentucky are authorized by self preservation and their experience of the imbecility of the foederal government;"
(2) that it was premature to judge conditions in North Carolina and Georgia until the new superintendent for Indian affairs for the southern department could report (for which see Bloodworth to Caswell, August 16, note 2, and Charles Thomson to James White, October 9 , and Thomson to Certain States, October 11 );
(3) that to overcome the enmity of the Indians, which stemmed from the inability of government to compel British withdrawal from the western ports, federal troops should be stationed on Lake Erie at the mouths of the Cayahoga, Sandusky, and Miami rivers; and
(4) that the Illinois settlers be assured that a government would be established there as soon as possible and, in the meantime, they should continue "united measures" to defend themselves. According to Secretary Thomson's Register of Reports, this report was never acted on, being merely "transferred" in November 1787 to a new list of reports on which no action had been taken. See JCC, 31:916--;18, 33:746; and PCC, item 189, fols. 15--;16.
5 In a letter of October 19 from Martinsborough, N.C., William Blount informed Caswell that "I shall set out from this on the 21st Instant for New-York so as to be there in Time to take my seat in Congress on the first Monday in November." Governors' Letterbooks, Nc--;Ar.
Journals of the Continental Congress,
MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 1786.
....The com. [consisting of Mr. Henry Lee, Mr. Charles Pinckney, Mr. Nathan Dane, Mr. Charles Pettit, and Mr. John Henry] to whom were referred the motion of Mr. [Arthur] St Clair, the motion of Mr. [Henry] Lee with the letter from the Governor of Virga. and the accompanying papers together with the letter from the Sec. at War dated Oct. 19th and all the enclosures report--
That these several matters arrange themselves under the following heads:
1st. The military preparations in the district of Kentucky for offensive operations against sundry Indian tribes.
2d. The treaty concluded between the U. States and the Southern Indians on which are grounded complaints from the states of No. Carolina and Georgia.
3d. Evidences of a general combination among the southern and western indians to prohibit the survey of the foederal territory on the Ohio and to levy war on the frontier of the U. States.
With respect to the first your com. are of opinion that the executive of Virga. have conducted themselves in the measures which they have been pleased to direct for the protection of their citizens with the most profound respect to the sovereignties of the U. States and in perfect conformity to the Confederation and that the offensive operations commenced by the inhabitants of Kentucky are authorized by self preservation and their experience of the imbecility of the foederal government.
With respect to the 2d., Your com. presume that an official report on the causes of disquietude which pervades the states of No. Carolina and Georgia may be expected from the superindt. of Indian Affairs for the Southern department, previous to which any determination of Congress will be premature.
Respecting the 3d., your committee have the fullest conviction of the inimical disposition of the Indian tribes north west and south adjoining the territory of the U. States and are of opinion that this enmity is founded on the sentiments they hold relative to the inability of the thirteen govs. which opinion arises from the detention of the Western posts contrary to the treaty of peace by his brittannick majesty, nor can a change in the minds of the savages be effected but by the British troops abandoning the territory of the U. States. To accomplish this soon your com. recommend the following position of the foederal forces on the Ohio: A detachment at Cayothoga, another at Sandusky, and headquarters at the head of the navigation of the Miami river which falls into lake Erie.
Among the many papers submitted to your com. is a letr. signed Legrass, an inhabitant of St. Vincents narrating certain evils which oppress the good people of that country; to remedy which your committee consider it indispensably necessary immediately to extend the benefits of government to the Illinois settlements and in the meantime to prevent the continuance of the evils which are communicated by Mr. Legrass, they conceive it proper that the minister of war take order to reply to Mr. Legrass assuring him of the approbation of Congress and of their intention to establish without loss of time a government in the western country, till which period they recommend a perseverance in united measures calculated to defend the inhabitants from their indian enemy and to protect them from vagabonds and robbers; that a copy of Mr. Legrass letter to Gen. Clarke and his answer be transmitted to the Superindts. of Indian affairs.(1)
[Note 1: 1 This report, in the writing of Henry Lee, is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 20, II, folio 321. According to indorsement it was read October 30. Committee Book No. 189 states that it was transferred. Legrace's letter is in Papers, No. 150, II, folio 42.October 30: The letter of the Postmaster General, dated October 30, "respectg. contract for transportation of Mail" was referred back to the Postmaster General to report and report rendered November 2. The letter from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs of October 26 "with letters from Chargé des Affairs and the Consul gen. of France" was referred back to the Secretary for report. Jay's letter is in No. 80, III, folio 129.Committee Book No. 190. Also was read, according to indorsement, a letter from Postmaster General Ebenezer Hazard dated October 30, forwarding intelligence from Frederick Green, Postmaster at Annapolis, informing that the Maryland legislature is considering taking control of the Maryland postoffice under the idea that Congress has control in interstate postoffice business and not within the state. Hazard's letter is in No. 61, folio 391. Also was read a report of the Board of Treasury on the memorial of Constant Freeman for payment of a bill of exchange drawn by American officers, when prisoners in Quebec. The Board's letter, transmitting this report is in No. 140, I, folio 291. Freeman's petition is in No. 142, III, folio 143. Committee Book No. 189 states that it was transferred.]
The Federalist No. 41
Saturday, January 19, 1788
"...The answer indeed seems to be so obvious and conclusive as scarcely to justify such a discussion in any place. With what color of propriety could the force necessary for defense be limited by those who cannot limit the force of offense? If a federal Constitution could chain the ambition or set bounds to the exertions of all other nations, then indeed might it prudently chain the discretion of its own government, and set bounds to the exertions for its own safety."
"How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation? The means of security can only be regulated by the means and the danger of attack. They will, in fact, be ever determined by these rules, and by no others. It is in vain to oppose constitutional barriers to the impulse of self-preservation. It is worse than in vain; because it plants in the Constitution itself necessary usurpations of power, every precedent of which is a germ of unnecessary and multiplied repetitions. If one nation maintains constantly a disciplined army, ready for the service of ambition or revenge, it obliges the most pacific nations who may be within the reach of its enterprises to take corresponding precautions...."
"...The Law of nations, by which this question is to be determined, is composed of three branches,
1. The Moral law of our nature.
2. The Usages of nations.
3. Their special Conventions.
"The first of these only, concerns this question, that is to say the Moral law to which Man has been subjected by his creator, & of which his feelings, or Conscience as it is sometimes called, are the evidence with which his creator has furnished him. The Moral duties which exist between individual and individual in a state of nature, accompany them into a state of society & the aggregate of the duties of all the individuals composing the society constitutes the duties of that society towards any other; so that between society & society the same moral duties exist as did between the individuals composing them while in an unassociated state, their maker not having released them from those duties on their forming themselves into a nation. Compacts then between nation & nation are obligatory on them by the same moral law which obliges individuals to observe their compacts. There are circumstances however which sometimes excuse the non-performance of contracts between man & man: so are there also between nation & nation. When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non-performance is not immoral. So if performance becomes self-destructive to the party, the law of self-preservation overrules the laws of obligation to others. For the reality of these principles I appeal to the true fountains of evidence, the head & heart of every rational & honest man. It is there Nature has written her moral laws, & where every man may read them for himself. He will never read there the permission to annul his obligations for a time, or for ever, whenever they become "dangerous, useless, or disagreeable." Certainly not when merely useless or disagreeable, as seems to be said in an authority which has been quoted, Vattel, 2. 197, and tho he may under certain degrees of danger, yet the danger must be imminent, & the degree great. Of these, it is true, that nations are to be judges for themselves, since no one nation has a right to sit in judgment over another. But the tribunal of our consciences remains, & that also of the opinion of the world. These will revise the sentence we pass in our own case, & as we respect these, we must see that in judging ourselves we have honestly done the part of impartial & vigorous judges...."
- Thomas Jefferson, April 28, 1793 letter to George Washington. [The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes. Federal Edition. Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford.]
Thomas Jefferson and Early Western Explorers, Transcribed and Edited by Gerard W. Gawalt, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
"We cannot allege that we possess any right derived from the ordinary principles of human justice or the law of Nations to inhibit the completion of a Contract made by two independent nations. But is there not a law in our favor Superior to all others, the Divine law of Self-preservation? But even upon this principle, violence is unjustifiable until fair and honorable negotiations shall have failed."
- William Dunbar to Thomas Jefferson, June 10, 1803.
"'I am of opinion that it is not a rule of law of universal application that the plaintiff must prove affirmatively that his own conduct, on the occasion of the injury, was cautious and prudent. The onus probandi, in this as in most other cases, depends upon the position of the affair as it stands upon the undisputed facts. Thus, if a carriage be driven furiously through a crowded throughfare, and a person is run over, he would not be obliged to prove that he was cautious and attentive, and he might recover, though there were no witnesses of his actual conduct. The natural instinct of self-preservation would stand in the place of positive evidence, and the dangerous tendency of the defendant's conduct would create so strong a probability that the injury happened through his fault that no other evidence would be required. . . . The culpability of the defendant must be affirmatively proved before the case can go to the jury, but the absence of any fault on the part of the plaintiff may be inferred from circumstances; and the disposition of men to take care of themselves and keep out of difficulty may properly be taken into consideration.'"
- Mr. Justice HUNT, U.S. Supreme Court, quoting; [Oldfield v. The New York and Harlem Railroad Company,2 Denio, J.] in [WASHINGTON & G R CO v. GLADMON, 82 U.S. 401 (1872) (Wall.)]
"The presumption is founded on a law of nature. We know of no more universal instinct than that of self-preservation, -none that so insistently urges to care against injury. It has its motives to exercise in the fear of has its motives to exercise in the fear of pain, maiming, and death. There are few presumptions based on human feelings or experience that have surer foundation than that expressed in the instruction objected to."
- Mr. Justice McKenna, delivering opinion of the U.S Supreme Court in Baltimore & P R CO v. Landrigan, 191 U.S. 461 (1903). Decided December 7, 1903.
""Capitalism is an economic system based on man's right to private property and on his freedom to use that property in producing goods which will earn him a just profit on his investment. Man's right to private property stems from the Natural Law implanted in him by God. It is as much a part of man's nature as the will to self-preservation." (At 560.)"
- MR. Justice Douglas, (in dissent), U.S. Supreme Court, quoting "Arthur J. Hughes' general history text, Man in Time (1964)", in Board OF Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236 (1968). Decided June 10, 1968.