« ZurückWeiter »
Standing armies have been kept up among us in times of peace, without the consent of our legislatures.
The inilitary has been rendered independent of, and superior to the civil power.
A plan lias been formed to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws.
Acts have been passed by the British legislature, for quartering large bodies of armed troops anong us—for protecting them by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should cominit on the inhabitants of these states--for cutting off our trade with a!l parts of the world for imposing taxes on us without our consent for depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury--for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences—for abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and tit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies--for taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments--for suspending our own legislatures, and declaring the British parliament invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. · "The crown of Great-Britain has abdicated government here', by declaring us out of its protection and waging war against us.
Our seas have been plundered, our coasts ravaged, our towns burnt, and the lives of our people destroyed.
Large armies of foreign mercenaries are ai this time transporting, to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun, with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy a civilized nation.
Our fellow-citizens, taken captive on the high seas, have been constrained to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or tu tall themselves by their hands.
Domestic insurrections have been excited amongst us, and endeavors have been used to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of wartare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. The declaration proceeds, saying, .
“ In every stage of these oppressions, we have peticioned for “ redress in the most humble terins. Our repeated petitions have “ been answered only by repeated injury. Nor have we been * wanting in attentions to our British breihren. We have warniVOL. II.
“ ed them, from time to time, of attempts by their legislature to “ extend an unwariantable jurisdiction over us. We have res “ minded them of the circumstances of our emigration and set.
tlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnaniniity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would
inevitably interrupt vur connections and correspondence. “ They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consan: “ guinity. We must therefore acquiesce in the necessity which “ denounces our separation, and hoid them, as we hold the rest " of mankind, enemics in war, in peace friends. WE, therefore, " the Representatives of the United States of America, in ge.
neral Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of
the world for the rectitude of our intentions, DO, in the " name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, " solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are; 6i and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT “ STATES; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the “ British crown; and that all political connection between them 66 and the state of Great-Britain, is, and ought to be totally dis. 6 solved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have « full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, e. “ stablish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which «independent states may of right do. And for the support of * this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of DI. “ VINE PROVIDENCE, we mutually pledge to each other “ our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
The declaration was by order of congress engrossed and signed by the following members, JOHN HANCOCK-NEW-HAMPSHIRE, Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Mathew Thornton MASSACHUSETTS-BAY, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry-Rhode-ISLAND and PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS, Stephen Ilopkins, William Ellery-Con. NECTICUT, Roger Shermun, Sannel Huntington, llilliam Il'illiams. Oliver Il'olcott-NEW-YORK, William Floyd, Philip Li. vingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris-NEW-JERSEY, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark-PENNSYLVANIA, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross--DELAWARE, Cæsur Rodney, George Read—MARYLAND, Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton--VIRGINIA, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Neilson, jun. Francis Lightfoot Lee, Cartar Braxton-NORTH-CAROLINA, William Xooper,
Joseph Hewes, John Penn :--SOUTH-CAROLINA, Edward Ruleilge, Thomas Haywird, jun. Thomas Lynch, jun, sin thur Middleton :-GEORGIA, Button Gwinneti, Lyman llull, George Walton.
The declaration of Congress is intended for their act of separ. ation from the crown of Great-Britain ; they therefore no longer regard that prudential state maxim, the king can do no wrong in his official character; but, in making their complaints, charge the specified grievances to majesty itself ; by which they mean to justify, in the sight of mankind, the renunciation of their former allegiance. Thus has an event been produced which was not had in contemplation by any of the colonies, or even by any dciegate, scarce by Mr. Samuel Adams, as what was so soon to happen, when congress first met in the year 1774. When Lexington engagement had taken place, he and some of his colleagues judged that the contest must then issue in independence, or slavery ; and therefore laboured to establish the first, that tiše last might be prevented. But had a serious proposal of separating from the crown of Great-Britain been early introduced into congress, the dissolution of that body would have followed, through the general aversion of the people at large and of particular colonies to such separation. The Massachusetts del egates had a very nice part to act. The southern colonies were jealous of their republican spirit, and of their aiming at independency. These therefore, by a most prudent policy, secured those of the Virginia delegates that verged toward republicanismi, with whom they intrusted any favourite measure which they wanted to have carried; and who brought the same forward and supported it in congress, against the other southern delegates, while their Massachusetts brethren attended the debates without showing themselves particularly interested, so that the jealousies of such as were most against it were not alarmed. They took occasion also, from the various occurrences that offered, gently to infuse their own sentiments into the minds of such as had before opposed them. Their wise procedure aided, on the one hand by certain trusty friends in congress, and on the other by the persevering blundering politics of the British ministry, have under the direction of Providence produced independency. It remains to be scen whether Providence will give to the same ati abiding establishment. The measures which congress have adopted, may be deemed by some presumptuous, considering the weakness of their own army: the strength of the Britisli, assisted by a powerful navy; and that they have not the least assurance of aid from foreign power. But how could it have been avoided? The people were ripe for it. Prudencedictated a compliance with their expectations and wishes. A disappointment Inight have disgusted, and produced disorder. The declaration may give confidence to the timid ; and animate the friends of liberty to greater exertions. It may lead France to think that the Americans have resources more than are known, and so incline her to entertain the thought of giving them assistance, while it admits of their applying for the same, with perfect consistency as an independent people. They have nothing worse to apprehend from the declaration than before. The force destined to act against them proves, that if possible, they are to be reduced to unconditional submission; the declaration cannot add to the misery of such submission. Beside, the quarrel is in such a siage, that it cannot be ended with safety to the inhabi. tants, but by their separating from Great-Britain, and becoming independent : any thing short of that must now prove a continual source of dissention and wretchedness. The members of congress have had it for some time rung in their ears,
“ The middle way, the best, we sometimes call, : “ But 'tis in politics no way at all.”
[July 8.] This day at tweive o'clock, the declaration of independence was proclaimed at the state-house in Philadelphia, amidst the greatest acclamations. The day, in consequence of general orders, it was read at the head of each brigade of the continental army at New-York, and every where received with loud huzzas, and the utmost demonstrations of joy. The same evening the equestrian statue of the king was laid prostrate on the ground. The lead of which it is niade, is doomed to be run into bullets. The New-York congress have unanimously resolved, that they will at the risk of their lives and fortunes, join with the other colonies in supporting the declaration; and have authorised their delegates to adopt all such measures as may be conducive to the happiness of the United States. · The New Jersey convention have declared their late governor, William Franklin, esq. a virulent enemy to the country, and a person who niay prove dangerous, and who ought to be confined in such place and manner as congress may direct; congress have ordered him to be sent under guard to governor Trumbull of Connecticut, who is to admit him to his parole ; but if he refuses to give it, he is to be secured the same as other prisoners. Matters are drawing on to such a crisis, that the next letter njust necessarily contain very interesting intelligence.
Roxbury, Sept. 16, 1776. T ORD Dunmore has at length quitted Virginia and joined the
British forces. He arrived with lord Campbell and Sir Peter Parker off Staten Island. [August 14.] His lordship continued on the coast, and in the rivers of Virginia, till the closeness and filth of the small vessels in which the fugitives were crowded, together with the heat of the weather, the badness and scarcity of water and provisions, produced the pestilential fever, which made greathavock, especially among the negroes, many of whom were swept away. When at length every place was shut against him, and neither water nor provisions were to be obtained, but at the expence of blood, it was found necessary, toward the beginning of August, to burn several of the smaller and least valuable vessels, to prevent their falling into the hands of the Americans, and to send the remainder, amounting to between forty and fifty, with the exiled friends of government, to seek shelter in Florida, Bermudas, and the West-Indies; a great number of negroes were sent at the same time to the last of these places for sale. The Virginians lost about 1000 of them in the whole, including those who were killed or died while attached to his lordship's service. Thus have ended the hopes entertained of suppressing the opposition to government in Virginia by employing the negroes-a measure which being rather invidious than powerful, tended infinitely to infiame the discontents of the people without adding to the strength of the royal arms. The New-Jersey congress were so irritated by the plot for destroying the American army, that they used the utmost dispatch in forming their constitution, and finished it by the second of July.
Though they knew that the subject of independence was before the continental congress, and that these were upon the point of declaring the United Colonies independent: and though they had cnipowered their own delegates to join in the declaration, yet that not being made at the time, they closed with saying, • provided always, and it is the true intent and meaning of this congress, that if a reconciliation between Great-Britain and these colonies should take place, and the latter be taken again under the protection and government of the crown of Britain, this charter shall be null and yoid, otherwise to remain firm and inviolable."