Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Five Colonics had already expressly authorized their delegates to vote for independence; and while on that memorable 15th of May, twin birthday of our nation, John Adams was reporting to Congress the comprehensive and energetic preamble to the resolve of the 10th, Virginia was voting instructions to her delegates to unite with their colleagues in the decisive act of separation.

On the 7th of June, says the Journal of Congress, "Certain resolutions respecting independency being moved and seconded, Resolved, that the consideration of them be referred till to-morrow morning, and that the members be ordered to attend punctually at ten o'clock, in order to take the same into their consideration." On that morrow they were discussed in committee of the whole, and a second sitting ordered for Monday the 10th, when, after full discussion, it was resolved, "That the discussion of the first resolution be postponed to Monday, the first day of July next; and in the mean while, that no time be lost, in case the Congress agree thereto, that a committee be appointed to prepare the declaration to the effect of the said first resolution, which is in these words: That these United Colonies are, 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 and the state of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved." Congress transacted no further business that day.

On the following day the committee was chosen: Jefferson, John Adams, Franklin, Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. And immediately after it was resolved, "That a committee be appointed to prepare and digest the form of a confederation to be entered into between these Colonies "; and, "That a committee be appointed to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers."

The 1st of July came. All the delegates but those of New York had now received the instructions of their constituents, and all been authorized to vote for independence. One voice was raised against it, as yet premature; the persuasive voice of John Dickinson, always heard with respect. One voice was raised in its defence, the vehement voice of John Adams. But no discussion was needed. At the request of South Carolina the final vote was postponed to the next day; and then, on Tuesday, the 2d of July, twelve Colonies united in the resolve, "That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States."

The Declaration of Independence had already been reported from the committee. Another day — the 3d — was partly employed in discussing it. And on the 4th, authenticated by the signatures of John Hancock as President, and Charles Thompson as Secretary, it was sent to the printer. On the 2d of August, fairly engrossed on parchment and made unanimous by the adhesion of New York, it received the signatures of all the members present as the unanimous "Declaration" of the thirteen United States of America.

And a joyful shout went up from all the land; from inland hamlet and sea-side town; from workshop and field, where fathers could henceforth eat their bread cheerfully, even in the sweat of their brows, — for they knew that their children would inherit the fruit of their labors, and receive and transmit unimpaired the precious birthright of freedom. The solemn words were read at the head of the army drawn out in full array, and welcomed by the waving of banners and the booming of cannon. They were read from the pulpit while heads were bowed reverently in prayer, and hearts glowed as at a visible manifestation of the will of God. They crossed the ocean, waking strange fears in palaces, whispering soothing hopes in hovols, telling the poor and oppressed and down-irodch.n of every land that an asylum had been opened for them in fertile regions beyond the ocean, where industry was unfettered and thought was uncontrolled.

And still, as we look back to that auspicious day, we bless God that he imparted to our fathers so large a measure of his own wisdom; that he breathed into their councils such a spirit of calm, resolute, and hopeful zeal; that he put into their mouths words of such comprehensive truth that through all time, as each successive generation draws nearer to the law of universal brotherhood, it will but develop more fully the principle by which these United States first took their place among the nations, — "that all men are equally entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

[ocr errors]

LECTURE IV.

CONGRESS AND THE STATE GOVERNMENTS OF THE REVOLUTION.

WE have seen that in the history of our country Congress and Union have always gone hand in hand together. We have seen that the

, Congress of 1690 was convened in order to give a common direction to the energies of the Northern Colonies in an attack upon Canada; that the Albany Congress of 1754 came together with the wish for a more lasting union upon its lips; that

*the New York Congress of 1765 built its hojies of redress upon the common sense of wrong as expressed in a common remonstrance and appeal; that the Congress of 1774 assumed openly the title of Continental Congress, and spoke as with authority in the name of all the Colonies. We have seen this deliberative body coming directly from the people and with no recognized place in the Constitution, acting in all things in harmony with public sentiment, and assuming, in 1775, executive, legislative, and sometimes even judicia. authority, organizing a government and declar

« ZurückWeiter »