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warm discussions; but we know also that the spirit of an exalted patriotism prevailed over them all, and that when at last their voice was heard it came forth as the utterance of a calm, deeprooted, and unanimous conviction.
It was Monday morning on the 5th of September that they first met in Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia ; forty-four at the opening, soon to be fifty-two when all the delegates were come in. Like the Congress of 1765, they were still a body unknown to the constitution, and depending solely upon the wisdom of their acts for the confirmation of them. Part of them had been appointed by their Provincial Assemblies, part by County Committees, part by Committees of Correspondence;—a diversity of origin characteristic of the times — for the royal Governors and the Provincial Assemblies were necessarily at variance upon these grave questions — and illustrative also of the readiness with which the people applied the forms of government to measures which government refused to sanction.
Familiar with legislation, they proceeded at once to organize ; complimenting, on the motion of Lynch of South Carolina, the first official appearance of the powerful Colony of Virginia among her sisters, by making Peyton Randolph their President; complimenting Pennsylvania, by choosing for Secretary Charles Thompson, formerly a schoolmaster, now a rich man by marriage, -thin, wrinkled, with deep-set, sparkling eyes, and straight, gray hair, not long enough to reach his ears, — " the life of the cause of liberty,” Philadelphians said, and whose name, in his own firm, clear hand, looks so familiar, even at this distance of almost a hundred years.
Thus far all ran smoothly, although there had been a slight hesitation about the Secretary on the part of two New-Yorkers, Jay and Duane. But now came the fiery ordeal, for, as they proceeded to make their rules, the question, “How shall we vote?” met them full in the face. There was no avoiding it, no putting it off; for it contained the fundamental principle of their Union, of all unions of unequal elements, — how to preserve the rights of the smaller members without encroaching upon those of the larger members.
“Government is dissolved,” said Patrick Henry, in those tones which had often thrilled the Virginia Burgesses. “Where are your landmarks, your boundaries of Colonies? We are in a state of nature, sir. The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New-Yorkers, and New-Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American!” And renouncing his first intention of insisting upon a vote by numbers, he declared himself ready to submit, if overruled, and give all the satisfaction in his power. Others, too, had their opinions, — the result of long and earnest meditation ; but they knew how to distinguish between the surrender of a principle and the postponement of a discussion; and, making an entry on their journal that the rule was not to be drawn into precedent, they agreed to vote by Colonies, and give each Colony an equal vote.
Then Cushing of Massachusetts moved that Congress should be opened by prayer; and when Jay and Rutledge opposed it, because s they were too much divided in religious sentiment to unite in one form of prayer,” the Congregationalist Samuel Adams arose, and, saying that piety, virtue, and love of country were his only tests, moved that the Episcopalian Duché should be asked to read prayers the next morning according to the Episcopal form. And when morning came, Duché, arrayed in his canonical robes, was introduced to the assembly; and read the solemn morning service of the Church, while his clerk gave the responses, and Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Congregationalists, and Quakers, some kneeling, and some standing up, but all mingled and confounded together, listened with decent reverence. When he came to the psalm of the day, the thirty-fifth psalm, David's heart-cry to God for deliverance from his enemies, a sudden thrill went through the assembly; for they called to mind the tidings which had reached them the day before, that the British troops were firing upon Boston, and felt as if God's own finger had pointed out to them the appropriate language of supplication. Then, too, a sudden inspiration warmed the timid heart of the clergyman, and, closing his prayer-book, he broke forth into an extemporaneous prayer for Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the poor devoted town of Boston ; and in words so earnest, in such thrilling and pathetic tones, that every heart was stirred, and every eye was wet.
The appointment of the committees followed next; one composed of two delegates from each Province, to draft a Bill of Rights; and another of one delegate from each Province, to report upon the statutes that affected the trade and manufactures of the Colonies. A great concession had already been made by the larger Colonies, and now, as they met with equal voices upon the common ground which they had made for themselves, all knew that in the question before them all other questions were involved. For the enumeration of their rights was the proclamation of their wrongs; and great was the need of weighing well their words, and making their foundations sure. Hardest of all was the part of the delegates from Massachusetts. The sympathy with Boston was universal. Their journey to Philadelphia had seemed more like a royal progress than the journey of the representatives of an oppressed people going to ask for sympathy and succor. Committees from the principal towns met them on their way, and their entrance was hailed by the ringing of bells and firing of cannon. They were invited to lodge in private houses, and feasted with the fat of the land
But as they drew nigh to their journey's end, they were admonished that doubts of their intentions had gone before them, that they were accused of aiming directly at independence, and that their words would be weighed in a nicer balance than the words of those who had suffered less. Then John Adams reined in his fiery spirit, and Samuel Adams, constraining his nature, was content for a while to follow where he had been accustomed to lead.
But fortunately there were other men there prepared to go resolutely forward, and without attempting to deceive themselves as to whither the path might lead them. “Our rights are built on a fourfold foundation,” said Richard Henry Lee ; " on nature, on the British Constitution, on charters, and on immemorial usage. The Navigation Act is a capital violation of them ”; and he could not see why they should not lay their rights on the broadest bottom, — the law of nature. “ There is no allegiance without protection !” said John Jay, “and emigrants have a right to erect what government they please. I have always withheld my assent from the position that every man discovering land does it for the state to which he lelongs.” - - The Colonies,” said Roger Sherman, “ are not bound to the King or crown by the act of settlement, but by their consent to it. There is no other legislature over them but their respective as