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THE DEBATES IN 1776,

ON THE

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

AND

ON A FEW OF THE ARTICLES OF THE CONFEDERATION,

PRESERVED BY THOMAS JEFFERSON.

THE DEBATES IN 1776,

ON TIIE

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE,

AND

ON A FEW OF THE ARTICLES OF THE CONFEDERATION,

PRESERVED BY THOMAS JEFFERSON.*

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The Delegates from Virginia moved, in obedience to instructions from their constituents, that the Congress should declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; that they are absolved from all obedience to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; that measures should be immediately taken for procuring the assistance of foreign powers, and a Confederation be formed to bind the Colonies more closely together.

The House being obliged to attend at that time to some other business, the proposition was referred to the next day, when the members were ordered to attend punctually at ten o'clock.

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(* These Debates were given to Mr. Madison, in Mr. Jefferson's own handwriting, as now on file among Mr. Madison's papers. They are prefixed as forming a part of the only materials known to exist in the form of Debates within the Revolutionary Congress.]

Vol. I.-1*

CC

Saturday, June 8th. They proceeded to take it into consideration, and referred it to a Committee of the Whole, into which they immediately resolved themselves, and passed that day and Monday the tenth, in debating the subject. '

It was argued by Wilson, Robert R. Livingston, E. Rutledge, Dickenson and others :

That, though they were friends to the measures themselves, and saw the impossibility that we should ever again be united with Great Britain, yet they were against adopting them at this time:

That the conduct we had formerly observed was wise and proper now, of deferring to take any capital step till the voice of the people drove us into it:

That they were our power, and without them our declarations could not be carried into effect:

That the people of the middle Colonies (Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, the Jerseys and New York) were not yet ripe for bidding adieu to British connection; but that they were fast ripening, and in a short time would join in the general voice of America:

That the resolution entered into by this House on the fifteenth of May, for suppressing the exercise of all powers derived from the Crown, had shewn, by the ferinent into which it had thrown these middle Colonies, that they had not yet accommodated their minds to a separation from the mother country:

That some of them had expressly forbidden their Delegates to consent to such a declaration, and others had given no instructions, and consequently no powers to give such consent:

That if the Delegates of any particular Colony had no power to declare such Colony independent, certain they were, the others could not declare it for them, the Colonies being as yet perfectly independent of each other:

That the Assembly of Pennsylvania was now sitting above stairs, their Convention would sit within a few days, the Convention of New York was now sitting, and those of the Jerseys and Delaware counties would meet on the Monday following, and it was probable these bodies would take up the question of Independence, and would declare to their Delegates the voice of their State:

That if such a declaration should now be agreed to, these Delegates must retire, and possibly their Colonies might secede from the Union :

That such a secession would weaken us more than could be compensated by any foreign alliance:

That in the event of such a decision, foreign powers would either refuse to join themselves to our fortunes, or having us so much in their power, as that desperate declaration would place us, they would insist on terms proportionably more hard and prejudicial:

That we had little reason to expect an alliance with those to whom alone, as yet, we had cast our eyes:

That France and Spain had reason to be jealous of that rising power which would one day certainly strip them of all their American possessions :

That it was more likely they should form a connection with the British Court, who, if they should find themselves unable otherwise to extricate themselves from their difficulties, would agree to a partition of our territories, restoring Canada to France,

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