« PreviousContinue »
CHAP. IV. 1774. weight and efficacy of laws, they feemed to have founded in effect fomething like a new and independent government. Under the style of recommendation and advice, they settled the militia; and regulated the public treasures; and they provided arms. They appointed a day of public thanksgiving, on which, among the other enumerated bleffings, a particular acknowledgment was to be made to the Almighty, for the union which fo remarkably prevailed in all the colonies.
Thefe and fimilar measures, induced General Procla- Gage to iffue a proclamation, in which, tho' the direct terms are avoided, they are charged with proceedings, which are generally understood as nearly tantamount to treafon and rebellion. The inhabitants of the province were accordingly, in the king's name, prohibited from complying, in any degree, with the requifitions, recommendations, directions, or refolves of that unlawful affembly.
Refolutions of the General Congrefs, held at Philadelphia, and opened on Monday the 5th of September, 1774.
URING thefe tranfactions in the province of Maffachufett's-Bay, the twelve old colonies, Sept. 5th. including that whole extent of continent which ftretches from Nova-Scotia to Georgia, had appointed deputies to attend the General Congrefs, which General was held at Philadelphia, and opened on Monday held at Congrefs the 5th of September 1774. Such was the unhappy Philadeleffect of the measures purfued, perhaps fomewhat phia. too avowedly, and for that reafon the lefs wifely, for reducing America by divifion, that those twelve colonies, clafhing in interefts, frequently quarrelling about boundaries and many other fubjects, differing in manners, cuftoms, religion, and forms of government, with all the local prejudices, jealoufies, and averfions, incident to neighbouring ftates, were now led to affemble by their delegates in a general diet, and taught to feel their weight and importance in a common union. Whatever may be the event, it was undoubtedly a dangerous experiment to bring matters to this crifis.
Several of the colonies had given inftructions to Previous their deputies previous to their meeting in congrefs. inftrucIn general, they contained the strongest profeffions tions to of loyalty and allegiance; of affection for the mo- fome of ther country; of conftitutional dependence on her; the deputies. and of gratitude for benefits already received in that state. They totally difclaimed every idea of independence, or of feeking a feparation; acknowledged the prerogatives of the crown, and declared their readiness and willingness to fupport them with life and fortune, fo far as they are warranted by the conftitution. The Penfylvanians, in particular, declare that they view the prefent contefts with the
1774. deepest concern; that perpetual love and union, an interchange of good offices, without the least infraction of mutual rights, ought ever to fubfift between the mother country and them.
On the other hand, they were unanimous in declaring, that they never would give up those rights and liberties which, as they fay, defcended to them from their ancestors, and which, they fay, they were bound by all laws, human and divine, to transmit whole and pure to their pofterity; that they are entitled to all the rights and liberties of British-born fubjects; that the power lately affumed by parliament is unjuft; and the only cause of all the prefent uneafinefs; and that the late acts refpecting the capital and province of Maffachusett's-Bay, are unconftitutional, oppreffive, and dangerous.
The inftructions, however, of the feveral colonies that pursued that mode, differed confiderably from each other. In fome great violence appeared. Others were more reasonable. In fome nothing was spoken of but their grievances. Others propofed likewife terms on their part to be offered to Great Britain. Such as an obedience to all the trade laws paffed, or to be paffed, except fuch as were specified; and the fettling an annual revenue on the crown for public purposes, and difpofable by parliament. The deputies however were inftructed, that in thefe and all other points, they were to coincide with the majority of the Congrefs. This majority was to be determined by reckoning the colonies, as having each a vote, without regard to the number of deputies which it fhould fend.
The debates and proceedings of the Congress were conducted with the greatest fecrecy, nor have any parts of them yet tranfpired, but those which they thought proper to lay before the public.
The number of delegates amounted to 51, who '1774-
The first public act of the Congrefs was a decla- Sept. 17. ratory refolution expreffive of their difpofition with Acts of refpect to the colony of Maffachufett's-Bay, and the Conimmediately intended to confirm and encourage grefs. that people. In this they expreffed, in the most pathetic terms, how deeply they felt the fufferings of their country-men in that province, under the Approoperation, they said, of the late unjuft, cruel, and bation of oppreffive acts of the British parliament; they tho- duct of roughly approved of the wifdom and fortitude with the prowhich their oppofition to these ministerial measures vince of had hitherto been conducted, as well as of the refo- Maffalutions paffed, and measures proposed, by the delegates of the county of Suffolk; and earnestly recommended a perfeverance in the fame firm and temperate conduct, according to the determinations of that affembly. This was immediately published, and transmitted to that province, accompanied with an unanimous refolution, That contributions from all the colonies for fupplying the neceflities, and alleviating the diftreffes of their brethren at Boston, ought to be continued in fuch manner, and fo long, as their occafions may require.
By the fubfequent refolutions of the Congrefs, Refolutithey not only formally approve of the oppofition ons paffmade by that province to the late acts; but further ed by the county of declare, that if it fhould be attempted to be carried Suffolk. into execution by force, all America fhould fupport it in that oppofition.-That if it be found abfolutely Refoluneceffary to remove the people of Bofton into the tions. country, all America fhould contribute towards
CHAP. V. 1774. recompenfing them for the injury they might thereby fuftain. They recommended to the inhabitants of Maffachufett's-Bay, to fubmit to a suspension of the administration of justice, as it cannot be procured in a legal manner under the rules of the charter, until the effect of the application of the Congress for a repeal of those acts, by which their charter rights are infringed, is known.-And that every perfon who fhall accept, or act under, any commiflion or authority, derived from the late act of parliament, changing the form of government, and violating the charter of that province, ought to be held in deteftation, and confidered as the wicked tool of that defpotifm, which is preparing to destroy thofe rights, which God, Nature, and Compact, hath given to America. They befides recommended to the people of Boston and Maffachusett's-Bay, ftill to conduct themfelves peaceably towards the general, and the troops ftationed at Boston, so far as it could poffibly confist with their prefent fafety; but that they fhould firmly perfevere in the defenfive line of conduct which they are now purfuing. The latter part of this inftruction evidently alluded to and implied an approbation of the late refolutions of the county of Suffolk, relative to the militia, and to the arming of the people in general. The Congrefs conclude by a refolution, that the transporting, or attempting to tranfport any perfon beyond the fea, for the trial of offences committed in America, being against law, will justify, and ought to meet with resistance and reprifal.
Thefe refolutions being paffed, the Congress G. Gage. wrote a letter to General Gage, in which, after repeating the complaints which had been before repeatedly made by the town of Bofton, and by the delegates of different counties in the province of Mallachufett's-Bay, they declare the determined refolution of the colonies, to unite for the prefervation of their common rights, in oppofition to the