The Life of George Washington, Vol. 1 (of 5)
by John Marshall
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9
Home - Random Browse

These are the sentiments and proceedings of the house, and as they have too much reason to believe that the enemies of the colonies have represented them to his majesty's ministers and the parliament as factious, disloyal, and having a disposition to make themselves independent of the mother country, they have taken occasion in the most humble terms, to assure his majesty and his ministers, that, with regard to the people of this province, and, as they doubt not, of all the colonies, the charge is unjust.

The house is fully satisfied, that your assembly is too generous and enlarged in sentiment to believe, that this letter proceeds from an ambition of taking the lead, or dictating to the other assemblies; they freely submit their opinion to the judgment of others; and shall take it kind in your house to point out to them anything further that may be thought necessary.

This house cannot conclude without expressing their firm confidence in the king, our common head and father, that the united and dutiful supplications of his distressed American subjects will meet with his royal and favourable acceptance.

* * * * *

NOTE—No. VI.—See Page 410.

An account of the origin of these committees, and of their mode of proceeding, is thus given by Mr. Gordon, and is not unworthy of attention.

"Governor Hutchinson and his adherents having been used to represent the party in opposition, as only an uneasy factious few in Boston, while the body of the people were quite contented; Mr. Samuel Adams was thereby induced to visit Mr. James Warren, of Plymouth. After conversing upon the subject, the latter proposed to originate and establish committees of correspondence in the several towns of the colony, in order to learn the strength of the friends to the rights of the continent, and to unite and increase their force. Mr. Samuel Adams returned to Boston, pleased with the proposal, and communicated the same to his confidents. Some doubted whether the measure would prosper, and dreaded a disappointment which might injure the cause of liberty. But it was concluded to proceed. The prime managers were about six in number, each of whom, when separate, headed a division; the several individuals of which, collected and led distinct subdivisions. In this manner the political engine has been constructed. The different parts are not equally good and operative. Like other bodies, its composition includes numbers who act mechanically, as they are pressed this way or that way by those who judge for them; and divers of the wicked, fitted for evil practices, when the adoption of them is thought necessary to particular purposes, and a part of whose creed it is, that in political matters the public good is above every other consideration, and that all rules of morality when in competition with it, may be safely dispensed with. When any important transaction is to be brought forward, it is thoroughly considered by the prime managers. If they approve, each communicates it to his own division; from thence, if adopted, it passes to the several subdivisions, which form a general meeting in order to canvass the business. The prime managers being known only by few to be the promoters of it, are desired to be present at the debate, that they may give their opinion when it closes. If they observe that the collected body is in general strongly against the measure they wish to have carried, they declare it to be improper: is it opposed by great numbers, but not warmly, they advise to a re-consideration at another meeting, and prepare for its being then adopted; if the opposition is not considerable, either in number or weight of persons, they give their reasons, and then recommend the adoption of the measure. The principal actors are determined on securing the liberties of their country, or perishing in the attempt.

"The news of his majesty's granting salaries to the justices of the superior court, afforded them a fair opportunity for executing the plan of establishing committees of correspondence through the colony. The most spirited pieces were published, and an alarm spread, that the granting such salaries tended rapidly to complete the system of their slavery.

"A town meeting was called, and a committee of correspondence appointed, to write circular letters to all the towns in the province, and to induce them to unite in measures. The committee made a report, containing several resolutions contradictory to the supremacy of the British legislature. After setting forth, that all men have a right to remain in a state of nature as long as they please, they proceed to a report upon the natural rights of the colonists as men, christians, and subjects; and then form a list of infringements and violations of their rights. They enumerate and dwell upon the British parliament's having assumed the power of legislation for the colonies in all cases whatsoever—the appointment of a number of new officers to superintend the revenues—the granting of salaries out of the American revenue, to the governor, the judges of the superior court, the king's attorney and solicitor general. The report was accepted; copies printed; and six hundred circulated through the towns and districts of the province, with a pathetic letter addressed to the inhabitants, who were called upon not to doze any longer, or sit supinely in indifference, while the iron hand of oppression was daily tearing the choicest fruits from the fair tree of liberty. The circular letter requested of each town a free communication of sentiments on the subjects of the report, and was directed to the select men, who were desired to lay the same before a town meeting, which has been generally practised, and the proceedings of the town upon the business have been transmitted to the committee at Boston. This committee have their particular correspondents in the several towns, who, upon receiving any special information, are ready to spread it with dispatch among the inhabitants. It consists of twenty-one persons of heterogeneous qualities and professions, &c."

Gordon's Hist. Am. War, vol. I. p. 312.

* * * * *

NOTE—No. VII.—See Page 425.


New Hampshire.

John Sullivan, Nathaniel Fulsom.

Massachusetts Bay.

James Bowdoin, Thomas Cushing, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine.

Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Stephen Hopkins, Samuel Ward.


Eliphalet Dyer, Roger Sherman, Silas Deane.

From the city and county of New York, and other counties in province of New York.

James Duane, Henry Wisner, John Jay, Philip Livingston, Isaac Low, John Alsop.

From the county of Suffolk, in the province of New York.

William Floyd.

New Jersey.

James Kinsey, William Livingston, John Dehart, Stephen Crane, Richard Smith.


Joseph Galloway, Charles Humphreys, Samuel Rhoads, George Ross, John Morton, Thomas Mifflin, Edward Biddle, John Dickinson.

Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware.

Cesar Rodney, Thomas M'Kean, George Read.


Robert Goldsborough, Thomas Johnson, William Paca, Samuel Chase, Matthew Tilghman.


Peyton Randolph, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, Edmund Pendleton.

North Carolina.

William Hooper, Joseph Hughes, Richard Caswell.

South Carolina.

Henry Middleton, John Rutledge, Thomas Lynch, Christopher Gadsden, Edward Rutledge.

* * * * *

NOTE—No. VIII.—See Page 425.

These resolutions manifested a degree of irritation which had not before been displayed. They are introduced in the following manner:

"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 desert, was purchased by the toil and treasure, or acquired by the blood and valour of those our venerable progenitors; to us they bequeathed the dear bought 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 for ever; 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 crowded 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 panegyrists will roll our reputations to that latest period, when the streams of time shall be absorbed in the abyss of eternity.

"Therefore resolved," &c. &c. &c.

* * * * *

NOTE—No. IX.—See Page 427.

"Whereas, since the close of the last war, the British parliament, claiming a power, of right, to bind the people of America by statutes in all cases whatsoever, hath in some acts expressly imposed taxes on them; and in others, under various pretences, but in fact for the purpose of raising a revenue, hath imposed rates and duties payable in these colonies, established a board of commissioners with unconstitutional powers, and extended the jurisdiction of courts of admiralty, not only for collecting the said duties, but for the trial of causes merely arising within the body of a county.

"And whereas, in consequence of other statutes, judges, who before held only estates at will in their offices, have been made dependent on the crown alone for their salaries, and standing armies kept in times of peace: And whereas it has lately been resolved in parliament, that by force of a statute, made in the thirty-fifth year of the reign of King Henry VIII. colonists may be transported to England and tried there upon accusations for treasons, and mis prisons and concealments of treasons committed in the colonies, and by a late statute, such trials have been directed in cases therein mentioned.

"And whereas, in the last session of parliament, three statutes were made; one entitled, 'An act to discontinue in such manner and for such time as are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading or shipping of goods, wares, and merchandise, at the town, and within the harbour of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay in North America;' another entitled, 'An act for the better regulating the government of the province of Massachusetts Bay in New England;' and another act, entitled, 'An act for the impartial administration of justice, in the cases of persons questioned for any act done by them in the execution of the law, or for the suppression of riots and tumults, in the province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England;' and another statute was then made, 'for making more effectual provision for the government of the province of Quebec,' &c. All which statutes are impolitic, unjust, and cruel, as well as unconstitutional, and most dangerous and destructive of American rights.

"And whereas, assemblies have been frequently dissolved, contrary to the rights of the people, when they attempted to deliberate on grievances; and their dutiful, humble, loyal, and reasonable petitions to the crown for redress, have been repeatedly treated with contempt by his majesty's ministers of state; the good people of the several colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Castle, Kent and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, justly alarmed at the arbitrary proceedings of parliament and administration, have severally elected, constituted and appointed deputies to meet and sit in general congress, in the city of Philadelphia, in order to obtain such establishment, as that their religion, laws, and liberties, may not be subverted: whereupon the deputies so appointed being now assembled, in a full and free representation of these colonies, taking into their most serious consideration, the best means of attaining the ends aforesaid, do in the first place, as Englishmen their ancestors in like cases have usually done, for asserting and vindicating their rights and liberties, declare, that the inhabitants of the English colonies in North America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following rights.

"Resolved, unanimously, 1st, that they are entitled to life, liberty, and property; and they have never ceded to any sovereign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.

"Resolved, unanimously, 2d, that our ancestors, who first settled these colonies, were, at the time of their emigration from the mother country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural born subjects, within the realm of England.

"Resolved, unanimously, 3d, that by such emigration they by no means forfeited, surrendered, or lost any of those rights, but that they were, and their descendants now are, entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all such of them, as their local and other circumstances enabled them to exercise and enjoy.

"Resolved, 4th, that the foundation of English liberty and of all free government, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council: and as the English colonists are not represented, and from their local and other circumstances cannot properly be represented in the British parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures, where their right of representation can alone be preserved, in all cases of taxation and internal polity subject only to the negative of their sovereign, in such manner as has been heretofore used and accustomed: but from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interest of both countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British parliament, as are, bona fide, restrained to the regulation of our external commerce, for the purposes of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members; excluding every idea of taxation internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects in America without their consent.

"Resolved, unanimously, 5th that the respective colonies are entitled to the common law of England, and more especially to the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage, according to the course of that law.

"Resolved, 6th, that they are entitled to the benefit of such of the English statutes, as existed at the time of their colonisation; and which they have, by experience, respectively found to be applicable to their several local and other circumstances.

"Resolved, unanimously, 7th, that these, his majesty's colonies are likewise entitled to all the immunities and privileges granted and confirmed to them by royal charters, or secured by their several codes of provincial laws.

"Resolved, unanimously, 8th, that they have a right peaceably to assemble, consider of their grievances, and petition the King; and that all prosecutions, prohibitory proclamations, and commitments for the same, are illegal.

"Resolved, unanimously, 9th, that the keeping a standing army in these colonies, in times of peace, without the consent of the legislature of that colony in which such army is kept, is against law.

"Resolved, unanimously, 10th, it is indispensably necessary to good government, and rendered essential by the English constitution, that the constituent branches of the legislature be independent of each other; that, therefore, the exercise of legislative power in several colonies, by a council appointed, during pleasure, by the crown, is unconstitutional, dangerous, and destructive to the freedom of American legislation.

"All and each of which the aforesaid deputies, in behalf of themselves and their constituents, do claim, demand, and insist on, as their indubitable rights and liberties; which cannot be legally taken from them, altered or abridged by any power whatever, without their own consent, by their representatives in their several provincial legislatures.

"In the course of our inquiry, we find many infringements and violations of the foregoing rights, which, from an ardent desire that harmony and mutual intercourse of affection and interest may be restored, we pass over for the present, and proceed to state such acts and measures as have been adopted since the last war, which demonstrate a system formed to enslave America.

"Resolved, unanimously, that the following acts of parliament are infringements and violations of the rights of the colonists; and that the repeal of them is essentially necessary, in order to restore harmony between Great Britain and the American colonies, viz.

"The several acts of 4 Geo. III. chap. 15, and 34.—5 Geo. III. chap. 25.—6 Geo. III. chap. 52.—7 Geo. III. chap. 41, and chap. 46.—8 Geo. III. chap. 22; which imposed duties for the purpose of raising a revenue in America; extend the power of the admiralty courts beyond their ancient limits; deprive the American subject of trial by jury; authorise the judge's certificate to indemnify the prosecutor from damages, that he might otherwise be liable to; requiring oppressive security from a claimant of ships and goods seized, before he shall be allowed to defend his property, and are subversive of American rights.

"Also 12 Geo. III. chap. 24, intitled, 'an act for the better securing his majesty's dockyards, magazines, ships, ammunition, and stores,' which declares a new offence in America, and deprives the American subject of a constitutional trial by a jury of the vicinage, by authorising the trial of any person charged with the committing of any offence described in the said act, out of the realm, to be indicted and tried for the same in any shire or county within the realm.

"Also the three acts passed in the last session of parliament, for stopping the port and blocking up the harbour of Boston, for altering the charter and government of Massachusetts Bay, and that which is intitled, 'an act for the better administration of justice,' &c.

"Also, the act passed in the same session for establishing the Roman catholic religion in the province of Quebec, abolishing the equitable system of English laws, and erecting a tyranny there, to the great danger, (from so total a dissimilarity of religion, law, and government) of the neighbouring British colonies, by the assistance of whose blood and treasure the said country was conquered from France.

"Also, the act passed in the same session for the better providing suitable quarters for officers and soldiers in his majesty's service in North America.

"Also, that the keeping a standing army in several of these colonies, in time of peace, without the consent of the legislature of that colony in which such army is kept, is against law.

"To these grievous acts and measures, Americans cannot submit; but in hopes their fellow subjects in Great Britain will, on a revision of them, restore us to that state, in which both countries found happiness and prosperity, we have for the present only resolved to pursue the following peaceable measures: 1. to enter into a non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreement or association. 2. To prepare an address to the people of Great Britain, and a memorial to the inhabitants of British America: and, 3. To prepare a loyal address to his majesty, agreeable to resolutions already entered into."


Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9
Home - Random Browse