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It has been my endeavor to show, in the first five 
chapters, the close interrelation between the develop 
ment of the authority and jurisdiction of the Con 
tinental Congress and the evolution of the senti 
ment for independence. The gradual, though occa 
sionally rapid manner in which the Congress ac 
quired power, and the ways in which this was exer 
cised, went side by side with the growth of the idea 
that independence was a necessary outcome of the 
controversy between England and America, that had 
been raging for nearly fifteen years. As the author 
ity and jurisdiction of the Congress were extended, it 
adopted various means to further the desire for in 
dependence. Also, as this desire became more widely 
spread, the Congress, the embodiment of the union 
sentiment, acting for all and in behalf of all, gained 
additional strength. The highest point of its power 
was reached on July 4, 1776. It was never again 
so powerful as on the day it declared independence 
of England. The decline of its authority dates from 
this time, when the first steps were taken to define 
the limits to its jurisdiction, by means of the Articles 
of Confederation. The states then began to acquire 
power at the cost of the Congress, ultimately culmi- 


nating in its complete overthrow and the establish 
ment of a new federal government under the Con 

In order to describe the beginnings of the Con 
gress and of independence it has not been thought 
necessary to go over again the oft-told, though as yet 
inadequately told story of the rise of the American 
revolutionary movement. A familiarity with the 
main facts of that history is assumed. Only such 
of the earlier phases of the controversy, as bear im 
mediately upon independence, have been touched 
upon in the opening chapter. In one sense Chalmers 
was correct in dating independence from the first 
days of the settlement of the colonies. In another, 
the events preceding the Congress of 1774, are to be 
differentiated from those happening after that date, 
when ideas of establishing independence first had 
their rise. There is no evidence of a conscious striv 
ing for independence in the earlier period; there is 
none even previous to November, 1775, but after 
that date it appears on every hand with a force that 
rendered the final outcome inevitable. 

In the explanation of -the meaning of the various 
clauses of the Declaration, embodied in chapters X 
and XI, I have not attempted to deal with every ex 
ample of a colonial grievance that might with pro 
priety be assumed to have been held in mind by the 
framers of that document. Only the grievances of 


particular significance, and those that had attained 
greatest prominence are referred to. The limit 
(1763) fixed by the Congress of 1774 as the starting 
point of the controversy, has been adhered to in the 
main ; not, however, because it is any part of my in 
tention to hold that the causes of the revolution had 
their origin at so late a period, but for the reason that 
the principal grievances complained of reached their 
most aggravating development after that date. 

The earlier chapters are in some respects a pre 
liminary studv, in part an abstract of a larger, more 
detailed work on this subject for which I have 
been collecting material for some years. The first 
incentive to undertake it was received under the 
guidance of Professor John Bach McMaster, to 
whom is owing a debt which it is a pleasure to 
acknowledge here. He has put me under additional 
obligation by his kindness in reviewing a portion of 
the manuscript, and for encouragement given me to 
push the work to completion. 

For helpful criticism of some of the manuscript 
and all of the proofs, I am indebted to Prof. John L. 
Stewart. And I have to thank my kind friends, Miss 
Henrietta Szold, Mr. Joseph Jacobs, Dr. Cyrus 
Adler, and Mr. C. L. Sulzberger, for reading the 
proofs and for many valuable suggestions. 

For purposes of convenience I have throughout 
cited Peter Force s well-known American Archives 


as Force. The references to Jefferson s Writings 
are to Ford s edition, and those to Mass. State 
Papers to Bradford s Speeches of the Governors of 
Massachusetts, from 1765 to 1775; and the Answers 
of the House of Representatives to the same, etc., 
Boston, 1818. 





















INDEX 281-299 


\\ OF 




During the period of more than one hundred years 
preceding the Declaration of Independence, repeated 
occasion offered for differences of opinion to arise 
between the crown and the colonies, over questions 
of policy and the interpretation of constitutional 
law. Beginning in controversy over governmental 
methods, earnest discussion led on to serious dis 
pute that finally culminated in engendering much 
bitterness of feeling. Owing, however, to the lack 
of a definite British colonial policy consistently car 
ried out, or, more exactly, the failure to carry out 
consistently the existing policy, the colonies were in 
large measure allowed to grow up neglected. When 
laws were passed by Parliament designed, in pur 
suance of the mercantile theories of the age, to 
control the commerce and productions of the 


colonies, for the benefit of England, tjiey were 
either not enforced at all, or enforced with such lax 
ity, as practically to nullify their intended purpose. 1 
This neglect had a double effect: it deprived the 
home country of the commercial rewards that would 
have been hers had these acts been enforced rigidly, 
and it allowed the colonists to develop their com 
merce largely on the lines suggested by an intelligent 
perception of the natural advantages of their geo 
graphical relation to the West Indies. In like man 
ner, the control of their political affairs by the crown 
was exercised with such leniency, in the main, as 
ultimately to produce a condition that has been ad 
mirably described as " virtual independence with re 
lations of mutual good-will/ 2 

Upon the accession of Grenville to power in 1763, 
the attempt was made to accomplish the impossible 
task of subverting peacefully the multiform customs 
and precedents that a century of license had per 
mitted to be established. If at this time King, min 
istry and Parliament could have fashioned a states 
man in whose mind would be found a combination 
of the wisdom of a Moses and a Solomon, with the 
philosophy of a Plato and an Aristotle, he might 
have carried through to success the policy which 

1 The number of British acts of Parliament affecting the 
commerce and industry of the colonies in force at this time, 
footed up a total of thirty. 

2 C. F. Adams, Life and Works of John Adams, I, 133. 


Grenville undertook to initiate. But nothing short 
of some such superhuman aggregate of mental re 
sources could have accomplished it. On the other 
hand, it would appear as if Grenville and his suc 
cessors endeavored to carry out their plans in a 
manner pre-designed to create as much irritation 
as the circumstances would allow. If, instead, the 
British authorities had, in dealing with the colonies, 
exercised some of the tactful diplomacy which has 
won so many triumphs in the larger field of inter 
national affairs, the separation might have been 
postponed for a considerable term of years. 1 

Further, a serious tactical blunder was made, by 
yielding to the clamor of the colonies against the 
Stamp Act, by reason of which it was repealed on 
March 17, 1766. At the same time the act since gen 
erally known as the Declaratory Act was made into 
law. 2 It was unwise to pass laws and then allow 
them to be annulled by non-enforcement. It was in 
the highest degree injudicious to enact a measure 
containing many of the provisions of the Stamp Act. 
But the crowning act of folly came with the repeal 
of an obnoxious act upon the occasion of the first 
show of resistance to it, by means of the revolution 
ary memorials of the Stamp Act Congress of 1765. 
Had the Grenville ministry or its successor, the 

1 This was Franklin s view. 

2 See Chapter XL 


Rockingham Whigs, 1 determined at all hazards to 
enforce the law with a high hand, for this purpose 
calling in the military arm of the government, there 
would have been an end to resistance, and the revo 
lution would have been postponed for many years. 
When troops were finally sent over they availed little, 
for they were few in number, were utilized in no 
spirited manner, and served only to raise the issue of 
quartering troops without consent, in time of peace, 
causing the additional irritation which culminated 
in the clash at Boston on March 5, 1770. But in the 
beginning a large force would have had a decided 
effect. For no sort of extra-legal, intercolonial po 
litical organizations existed as yet, nor any suffi 
cient feeling of the necessity for united action, such 
as grew up during the first ten years of the con 
troversy. At the end of that time the ramifications 
of the newly created committees of correspondence 
and the like, were so widely extended as to touch 
the popular mind at every point. This is evidenced 

*The fact that the Rockingham Whigs were of a different 
political complexion from the Grenville ministry, and conse 
quently had no interest in enforcing the unwelcome acts of 
its predecessors, does not affect the case. For they imme 
diately proceeded to pass the Declaratory Act, which (though 
little attention was paid to it at the time by the colonists) 
ultimately proved more serious in its consequences than was 
anticipated, when an attempt was made to live up to its pro 
visions. The colonists at first regarded it as but another 
British act passed with no intention of being enforced. 


by the fact that only nine colonies were represented 
at the Stamp Act Congress, all but three of the dele 
gations having been elected by the respective legal 
assemblies. Ten years later, when but one colony 
failed to respond, 1 only five of the delegations to the 
Congress of 1774 were elected by the assemblies. 
The revolutionary organization was by this time so 
complete that it mattered little whether or not assem 
blies were in session ; delegates were elected none the 
less in a regular and orderly manner throughout the 
colonies. 2 

If anything approaching an adequate conception 
respecting the temper and attitude of mind of the 
colonies existed in England, it was not shown in 
any of the legislation enacted, beginning with the 
passage of the Townshend Acts of ij6j? nor is 
there any evidence of the existence of an apprecia 
tion of the extraordinary ability for dialectics that 
had developed in the minds of the foremost Ameri 
cans. Moreover, through the Stamp Act Congress, 
by its successful resistance to the Stamp Act, the 
colonists had their first taste of the efficiency of 
united action against Great Britain, when the inter 
ests of all were thought to be at stake. It had 

1 Georgia. 

2 New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia 
were not represented at the Stamp Act Congress because their 
respective assemblies were not in session and there was no 
other organization to supply the deficiency. 

8 See Chapter XI. 


been the custom for a colony to appeal by petition to 
the King when any grievance weighed too heavily 
upon it, and often with success. It was natural, 
therefore, that they should appeal in common when 
all were concerned alike. 

But by adopting memorials to Lords and Com 
mons, at the Stamp Act Congress, at the same time 
as a petition to the King was formulated, they went 
further than they had any idea of going, and took 
the first step on the road to independence. For this 
marks the beginning of an entire change in the 
character of the controversy. Hitherto dispute had 
always been with the crown. But Parliament, by 
the Sugar Act 1 and the Stamp Act, had projected 
itself into American affairs, by passing laws having 
the purpose of raising revenue by direct taxation, 
and the colonists were not slow to make that 
branch of the British government a party to their 
disputes. This, however, is the only occasion on 
which the colonists as a body addressed Parliament 
directly, and demonstrates the unformed character 
of the colonial opposition. After opportunity had 
been given for an interchange of views respecting 
the grounds of the colonial contentions, and a defi 
nite stand had been taken, the tactical error of ap 
pealing to Parliament was not repeated. As the 
controversy advanced, though Parliament was held 

1 April 5, 1764. See Chapter XL 



at fault, the doctrine was consistently maintained 
that the King had it within his power to right their 
wrongs, and to him must all appeals be made. The 
colonists gradually renounced all consideration of 
parliamentary control, and they would stultify them 
selves by appealing for redress to a power whose 
authority they would not recognize. 

Further, an examination of the declaration of 
rights and of the petition and memorials of the 
Stamp Act Congress discloses a fundamental dif 
ference between them and the documents issued 
subsequently. The theory of the natural right of 
Englishmen to enjoy the blessings of the British 
constitution, to representation, to taxation only by 
representatives, and to trial by jury, figure con 
spicuously, it is true, in the state papers of the 
Stamp Act Congress. But, side by side with these, 
and raised to equal importance, were put the eco 
nomic reasons why the enforcement of the Stamp 
Act and the recently revised trade laws would prove 
burdensome. The colonies would be drained of 
specie, they held, rendering it impossible to pay the 
debts due England s merchants ; the profits Great 
Britain would derive from her trade with the col 
onies would be decreased materially, because they 
would be made so poor as to be unable to pur 
chase needed commodities ; and they would, there 
fore, be unable to bear the burden of paying the 


taxes imposed by the Stamp Act, short of absolute 
ruin. Another point should be noted: the tone 
of these appeals is far more moderate. Rights are 
asserted with much less vehemence, and there is 
much more show of a conciliatory spirit than is evi 
dent in any of the documents produced by the next 
congress. 1 

But a new phase was entered upon with the repeal 
of the Stamp Act and the passage of the Declaratory 
Act. In this the assertion of the colonists that 
their own assemblies had the sole and exclusive right 
of imposing duties and taxes was denounced, and 
it was specifically declared that the colonies " have 
been, are, and of right ought to be, subordinate 
unto, and dependent upon the imperial crown of 
Great Britain; and that the King s majesty, by and 
with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual 
and temporal, and commons of Great Britain, in 
parliament assembled, had, hath, and of right ought 
to have, full power and authority to make laws and 
statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the 
colonies and people of America, subjects of the 
crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever." 2 
The economic burdens of which the colonies com- 

1 The proceedings of the Stamp Act Congress are to be 
found in Niles Principles and Acts of the Revolution, 1822, 
451 et seq. 

2 The text of the act can be found most conveniently in 
MacDonald s Select Charters Illustrative of American History, 
1606-1775, 316. 


plained having been removed, they were led to 
hope that since the change in the ministry, and the 
return to power of the Whigs, Rockingham would 
not enforce the revised trade regulations. Their 
economic grievances being practically at an end, the 
Declaratory Act, another of Great Britain s meas 
ures of unwisdom, was made the means of carry 
ing on the controversy, whose entire character was 
now transformed from one in which economic 
and political elements played an equal part to one 
having almost exclusively a political basis. Com 
plaint respecting the effects and workings of any 
of the subsequent British acts, is never again based 
on grounds that may be regarded as primarily eco 
nomic. The only economic phase of the subsequent 
controversy is found when non-importation agree 
ments are entered into, with the view to oppressing 
British merchants engaged in colonial commerce to 
such an extent as to induce them to espouse the 
cause of the colonists, and make them work to have 
the obnoxious acts repealed to save themselves from 

The repressive measures of Hillsbo rough of 1768, 
and the retention of the duty on tea in April, 1770, 
when the other Townshend taxes of I767 1 were re 
pealed, are of a piece with the Declaratory Act in 
their effect in emphasizing the transformation of the 

x The nature and effect of these several acts are described 
in chapters X and XI. 


character of the dispute. The tea duty was re 
tained for the same reason that prompted the pas 
sage of the Declaratory Act to maintain the prin 
ciple of parliamentary authority and was but an 
other in the long list of deeds of unwisdom of the 
British government. By repealing the other duties 
Parliament yielded to popular clamor, as in the repeal 
of the Stamp Act, but retained an obnoxious measure 
that was to prove a fruitful source of further irrita 
tion. A partial repeal, with the retention of one 
duty designed for a purpose only too well known in 
America, was folly worse confounded, and showed 
that there was no real conception in England of the 
earnestness and determination of the Americans, nor 
of the nature of the independent development of 
political institutions produced by a century of ex 
perience. The events that had transpired in the five 
years succeeding the passage of the Stamp Act were 
productive of great results, so that by 1770 the con 
troversy had been pushed to the point from which 
must issue either complete submission of the colonies 
to England, or else independence. 

In Great Britain at the end of the hundred years 
subsequent to the Puritan Revolution, the reaction 
had reproduced a virtual kingly autocracy, though 
within certain legal and constitutional bounds. By 
force of his dominating personality, the King, 
though nominally guided by his ministers, had made 


himself the directing head of the nation s affairs, and 
practically controlled his cabinet and Parliament 
as he saw fit. In America, where the structure of 
society was far simpler, there had been no such re 
action. On the contrary, there had been a constant 
development along the democratic lines made famil 
iar by the popular uprisings under Cromwell. In 
consequence the political ideas of Locke passed cur 
rent not alone in the Puritan colonies of New Eng 
land, but were received at their face value in the 
other colonies which at their foundation had noth 
ing in common with the Puritan ideals. By rea 
son of the extent to which the colonists participated 
in their political affairs throughout the colonies, 
the laxity with which parliamentary enactments 
were enforced, and the leniency shown by the 
crown, a complete administrative machinery of their 
own was developed in many respects far in advance 
of anything of a similar nature existing in Great 
Britain. In other words they had brought over with 
them a perfect familiarity with British constitutional 
and administrative forms, which, owing to the more 
democratic nature of the conditions under which 
they lived, produced a body politic in which prac 
tically every property owner had a stake. Out of 
this was evolved an attachment for their own 
methods, as strong as that of any parent for its child. 
The questions at issue previous to 1763 had been 


argued with the crown, either directly or through 
the royal governors, often with great earnestness, 
though only on occasion with a show of heat. But 
with the change in the nature of the dispute from 
one between King and colonies, in which the points 
of disagreement were localised, were peculiar to 
each colony, and did not permit of any united op 
position, to one between Parliament and colonies, 
in which, among others, the principle of taxation was 
at issue, affecting all alike, the natural passions 
were aroused that are ordinarily engendered when 
the attempt is made by an outsider to appro 
priate and convert to his own use what one believes 
to be his own property, the fruit of his toil. Their 
point of view was admirably stated by Burke when 
he said " a great people who have their property, 
without any reserve, disposed of by another people 
at an immense distance from them, will not think 
themselves in the enjoyment of liberty." 1 That taxa 
tion without representation was tyranny, and nothing 
less, became the doctrine universally held. It was re 
peatedly reiterated that, by the nature of their loca 
tion, they had and could have representation only in 
their assemblies, by which alone they would therefore 
consent to be taxed. 2 As one man they flung back 

Speech on "State of the Nation," Works II, 170. 

2 It is true that Otis in his pamphlet The Rights of the 
British Colonies Asserted, 1764, advocated colonial repre 
sentation in Parliament, but this idea did not attain to gen- 


and would have none of the British idea of virtual 
representation, which was that the colonies were not 
less represented than the people of Great Britain, 
five-sixths of whom had no share in the election of , 
members of Parliament, by reason of the corrupt 
and inefficient British system. That a member of 
Parliament was as much a member for the whole 
empire as for the constituency which sent him, was 
the theory held as largely then as now. But it did 
not appeal to the colonists, grown accustomed to the 
benefits of actual representation. 

The unanimity of the acceptance of the idea 
of the interrelation of representation and taxation, 
as also the wide extent of the belief in the theories 
that man was born with certain natural, inalienable 
rights, and that government derived its origin from 
a compact for mutual protection, was due to the re 
markable series of disquisitions on the rights of the 
colonies, the nature and extent of these rights, and 
the constitutional limitations to parliamentary con 
trol, which the five years of discussion had produced. 
Every man who was ready with the pen, and the 
number of these indicated an unusual diffusion of 
skill in political debate, contributed his share, 
though the productions of men like James Otis, 

eral adoption. In the Declaration of Rights of 1774 it was 
specifically stated as the colonial contention that the colonies 
could be represented only in the colonial legislatures. See 
Declaration of Rights, article 4. 


Samuel and John Adams, Richard Bland, Daniel 
Dulany, John Dickinson, and Stephen Hopkins, stand 
out in especial prominence. Without going into an 
examination of the merits of their arguments, it 
suffices to draw attention to the fact that they served 
to familiarize the public, in the widest possible de 
gree, with a reasonable theory of the origins of gov 
ernment, and of the constitutional relations between 
the colonies and Great Britain. They made every 
freeholder believe and maintain that he possessed 
certain rights and privileges which were far too 
sacred to permit of being infringed by any acts of 
King or Parliament, and for which it was his duty 
to contend, with all the power that in him lay. The 
men who wrote these often stirring pamphlets were 
the same who in legislative assemblies embodied 
their thoughts in the form of resolutions and me 
morials, and thus gave them not only the widest 
circulation, but a semi-legal character as well, mak 
ing them the acts of the people. There were able 
counterblasts, too, notably from the well-attuned 
trumpet of Jonathan Boucher, proclaimer of the 
sacred rights of kings and government. But they 
were not sufficiently harmonious in these prelim 
inary stages to make any strong impression. Not 
until the later point was reached of the practical 
denial of parliamentary authority, dating from 1774, 
does this opposition become in any way important. 


In fact, one of the most striking elements in the 
preliminary stages of the revolution, is the extra 
ordinary unanimity of opinion as to the existence 
of rights and of serious infringements of them pre 
vailing throughout the colonies. 

Not much more was required, therefore, to make 
the parties at issue fall farther and farther apart. 
Nor was there a question as to whether the colonies 
or the home government had the greater weight of 
authoritative legal opinion on its side. It has come 
to be admitted that the preponderance of constitu 
tional law was with those favoring the parliamen 
tary contention, and that both English political 
parties were at one in their belief in the legality 
of parliamentary dominance over the colonies as em 
bodied in the Declaratory Act, whatever may have 
been their differences on other points. No one had 
firmer faith in this doctrine than Pitt himself, the 
idol of America, under whose ministry the Act was 
passed. The extent of administrative development 
in America through the legislative assemblies, and 
the firmness of the faith that full justification for 
the colonists attitude was found in the current in 
terpretation of the origin and ends of government, 
should not have been overlooked by the British 
statesmen. That there was a power above the con 
stitution from which rights were derived, was an 
idea as generally diffused as that Americans were 


free-born English subjects and entitled to all their 
rights and privileges. In contests over the interpre 
tation of constitutional and political theories, the 
question is ultimately decided not by the weight of 
legal precedents, but by the sacrifices which the par 
ties at issue are willing to make when points of 
difference prove irreconcilable. In fundamentals, 
as has been well said, all constitutional questions are 
" questions of power, and not of law." 1 The 
theories of America and England were so much at 
variance by this time that nothing short of abso 
lute submission of the one or the other could bring 
about a peaceful solution. That the latter was not 
to result, the events of the four years succeeding 
1770 made inevitable. Clashes between soldiery 
and populace were succeeded by repeated acts of 
violence in resistance to authority in which the 
military arm played little or no part. A spirit of 
lawlessness, so far as the enforcement of British 
acts was concerned, was manifested side by side 
with the most perfect respect for legislative acts of 
the colonists own creation. 

In the meantime, as assemblies were being pro 
rogued throughout the colonies, and as this admin 
istrative machinery was in danger of breaking down, 
recourse was had to a new expedient for political 
control, the Committees of Correspondence. At first 

1 Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, Horce Sabbaticce, III, 120. 


appointed by the assemblies, they gradually came 
into existence almost everywhere by original au 
thority of the people, and their variety of forms 
made necessary by difference of conditions, is a 
striking witness to the wide diffusion of, familiarity 
with, and capacity for political organization. 1 They 
served to keep the colonists in touch with each other, 
by extending their activities even beyond the bounds 
of the individual colonies. They thus performed the 
function of an intercolonial clearing house, through 
which the inhabitants of one colony were made fa 
miliar with the occurrences taking place in another. 
When, therefore, Great Britain in 1774 began her 
policy of attempting to coerce the colonies into sub 
mission, it was too late to meet with success, for an 
effective instrument for resistance had been de 
veloped as the result of the previous ten years of 
discussion. Moreover, as was ultimately proved, 
the colonists were willing to sacrifice their all 
for the maintenance of the principles which they 
firmly believed were involved. Familiarity with the 
uses to which their extra-legal committee organiza 
tions could be put, for purposes of colonial and 
intercolonial communication, made it natural that 
still greater reliance should be placed upon them 
when the question of convening a continental con- 

1 On Committees of Correspondence and their significance, 
see the able treatment which they receive at the hand of Dr. 
Edward D. Collins, in Rep t American Hist. Assn., 1901, I, 243. 


gress for mutual support was before them. Thus 
it happened, that of the twelve colonies sending 
delegates to the Congress but five acted through 
their assemblies, though three 1 of these were so 
completely in control of the revolutionists as scarcely 
to be of significance in this connection. All of the 
remaining delegations were chosen by some form 
of committee organization. 

The Congress which convened at Carpenter s Hall 
/ in Philadelphia, on September 5, 1774, had, there 
fore, a much more popular basis than any Congress 
heretofore called together. And whereas recourse 
was had in the past to the various committees of 
correspondence for purposes of united action, under 
the more difficult and complex conditions that had 
arisen, their place was now to be taken by this new 
engine of political organization. The Congress and 
the local committees bore to each other relations of 
interdependence: the committees created the Con 
gress, and the Congress in turn looked to the com 
mittees to enforce its recommendations. The voice 
that the committees had in calling the Congress into 
being, thereby giving it a popular character, spoke 
out even to the extent of outlining the work that it 
was to undertake. 

In their instructions, either to delegates directly, 
or to committees that were to have a share in the 

1 Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. 


election of delegates, the people gave expression to 
their desires in not uncertain tones. The credentials 
which the delegates bore to this first Continental 
Congress were in the main of the same character. 
They were authorized in general to devise measures 
that would extricate the colonies from the difficulties 
with which they were beset, to state the rights and 
privileges to which on constitutional grounds they 
were entitled, and to endeavor to restore harmony, 
mutual confidence, and union. 1 Behind these creden 
tials, however, and of a much more specific character, 
were the instructions issued to the delegates by 
their constituent bodies. Three days after the 
Boston Port Bill reached that town her citizens 
gave expression to their view that the salvation of 
North America depended on the other colonies com 
ing to a general agreement to stop all importation. 2 
It was on this hint that the colonies spoke for a gen 
eral Congress. At the same time, the suggestion 
of obtaining redress by the adoption of commercial 
restrictions was taken up by no less than six of the 
colonies. Definitive resolutions were passed in Mary 
land, 3 Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Vir- 

credentials are to be found in Journal of Congress 
for 1774. 

2 May 13, 1774, Force, 4th, I, 331. 

s Maryland s resolutions were passed June 22, 1774, Force, 
4th, I, 439 ; Pennsylvania s on July 15, ibid., 555 ; New Jersey s 
July 21, ibid., 624; Delaware s August 2, ibid., 668; Virginia s 


ginia, and North Carolina, authorizing their repre 
sentatives to enter into non-importation and non- 
exportation agreements if the representatives of the 
other colonies were of the same mind. South Caro 
lina alone had considered the matter and voted it 
down, substituting general instructions, and proved 
later on the stumbling block over which the Con 
gress came near falling. 1 Maryland and Virginia 
went even further and embodied their views respect 
ing commercial aggression, in the credentials to their 
delegates, while New Jersey and Delaware pledged 
themselves in advance to support the Congress in 
whatever action it might take in addition to these 

Thus the Congress before it met was committed 
to issuing a statement of the rights and grievances 
of the colonists and to the adoption of the only 
powerful and efficient means at hand to effect the re 
peal of the obnoxious acts a non-importation 
and non-exportation agreement. It was generally 
appreciated that their objects could not be attained 
without some form of central organization which 
should extend beyond any hitherto known. The 
Congress, therefore, was the natural advance from 

August 1-6, ibid., 689 ; North Carolina s August 27, ibid., 689. 
In Rhode Island especially, the town meetings expressed sim 
ilar views, as was the case in many instances elsewhere. 

1 See John Adams Diary, Works, II, 382 et seq., 393 et seq.; 
McCrady, South Carolina under Royal Gov t., 762 et seq. 


the committee organizations, and served as the ex 
pression of the popular desire for united action and 
for the creation of a policy on which such action 
might be based. 

The Congress in turn showed its appreciation of 
the fact that it was the creature of the popular will 
and dependent on it for the success of its resolves 
by three acts of striking significance. The first 
was the unanimous and immediate endorsement 
of the resolutions of the Suffolk County Com 
mittee, recommending " a perseverance in the same 
firm and temperate conduct as expressed in the 
resolutions/ 1 Firm they undoubtedly were, but a 
perusal will disclose that " temperate " is scarcely 
the other adjective by which they should, in truth, 
be described. 2 The pledge of Suffolk County, to 
support whatever the Congress determined on, went 
a long way toward influencing it in taking this 
radical action. Their assurance was the first infor 
mation of this nature officially conveyed, as the reso 
lutions of the Congress thereon were the first public 
expression of the fact that the colonies would sup 
port each other and stand as one man in the con 
test. By the endorsement of these resolutions the 
Congress gave the sanction of its authority to the 
most recent American view respecting the constitu- 

1 Journal of Congress, September 17, 1774. 

2 The Suffolk Resolutions are to be found in the Journal of 
Congress, September 17, 1774. 


tional relations of Parliament and the colonies, that 
of no legislation without representation. From this 
to war for independence was inevitably but a short 

Secondly, came the letter to General Gage 1 de 
manding the cessation of activity on the part of 
his troops, in which the Congress proclaims that its 
members are " appointed the guardians " of the 
rights and liberties of the colonies. And, lastly, 
we have the clauses of the Articles of Association, 
(practically an ordinance of nullification, and the 
expression of the previously announced popular de 
sire), by which enforcement of its provisions was 
to be ensured, and which mark a still further de 
velopment in government by committee. These 
Articles as finally adopted and signed on October 
20, prohibited the importation of British products 
after December i, 1774, as also of certain enu 
merated commodities from the West Indies, and of 
East India tea no matter whence derived ; nor 
were any slaves to be brought in after that date 
nor the trade in them continued. No tea was to be 
used or purchased on which any duty had been 
paid, and none whatever after the first of March, 
1775. After September 10, 1775, unless all the 
acts complained of had been repealed in the interval, 
no commodities, excepting " rice to Europe," were to 
1 October n, 1774. 


be exported to Great Britain, Ireland, or the West 
Indies. Committees were to be chosen in every 
county, city, and town, by those qualified to vote for 
representatives in the legislature. Their business 
was to see that the Association was not violated, and 
that violators of it should be practically boycotted. 
The Committees of Correspondence, further, were 
given plenary instructions to examine entries at the 
custom houses to obtain evidence of the violation 
of the Association. In addition to the Articles of 
Association, this Congress adopted a Declaration of 
Rights, a petition to the King, and issued addresses 
to the people of Great Britain, to the inhabitants of 
the colonies, and a special one to those of Quebec. 

Among the very earliest of the important acts of 
the first Congress was the decision, reached only 
after much discussion, to limit any statement 
of rights to such " as have been infringed by 
acts of the British parliament since the year 
1763, postponing the further consideration of the 
general state of American rights to a future day." 1 
This is self-explanatory and gave a definitiveness to 
the controversy that would not otherwise have been 

To frame a declaration of rights was one of the 
principal duties of this Congress, thereby to fix a 
common ground upon which all could stand. But 

1 Journal of Congress, September 24 ; John Adams, Works, 
I, 160 ; II, 370 et seq. 


at the outset a stumbling block was met with, when 
consideration was given to the extent to which the 
authority of Parliament was to be recognized in this 
declaration. Upon this point there was wide diver 
gence of opinion, and various propositions were 
advanced. Some proposed drawing the distinction 
between internal and external taxation, some advo 
cated the denial of the applicability to the colonies 
of any statute wherein taxation was intended, and 
some even the disavowal of any parliamentary au 
thority whatever. Finally John Adams came for 
ward with his equivocal compromise proposition. 
In this, while claiming the exclusive power to legis 
late in their own representative assemblies upon all 
matters of taxation and internal polity, subject only 
to the negative of their sovereign, the willingness 
was expressed, from the necessity of the case and 
for the purpose of " securing the commercial advan 
tages of the whole empire to the mother country," 
to consent to the operation of all laws regulating 
commerce with other countries, " excluding every 
idea of taxation, internal or external, for raising 
a revenue on the subjects in America without their 
consent." x This forms the fourth of the rights 
embodied in this declaration, and with the sixth is 
the only one which did not meet with unanimous ap 
proval. The preamble of the Declaration of Rights, 
Adams, Works, II, 397; Journal of Congress. 


as passed on October 14, contains a summary 
of all the acts of Parliament passed " since the close 
of the last war " which are viewed as infringing 
rights, and enacted with a view to subjecting the 
colonists to a jurisdiction and control which they 
cannot recognize. Added to this their assemblies 
have been frequently dissolved, and their " dutiful, 
humble, loyal, and reasonable " petitions treated 
with contempt. In consequence, they, the duly 
appointed, elected, and constituted representatives 
of the colonies have come together " in order to 
obtain such establishment, as that their religion, 
laws and liberties may not be subverted/ Follow 
ing comes an enumeration of the rights and privi 
leges to which, " by the immutable laws of nature, 
the principles of the English constitution, and the 
several charters and compacts," they are entitled. 
These are (i) the right to life, liberty and prop 
erty; (2) the rights, liberties and immunities of 
natural born Englishmen, (3) none of which was 
lost by emigration ; (4) representation in their own 
legislatures and taxation by them only; (5) enjoy 
ment of the benefits of the common law of Eng 
land, trial by jury, and (6) the English statutes in 
existence at the time of colonization and applicable 
to their condition; (7) the immunities and privi 
leges granted in the charters and secured by the 
codes of provincial laws ; (8) the right to assemble, 


to consider grievances, and to petition 5(9) that it is 
against law to keep a standing army in the colonies 
in time of peace; (10) and that it is destructive 
of the freedom of America for legislative power 
to be exercised by a council appointed to hold office 
during pleasure of the crown. An enumeration of 
the thirteen specific laws in which these rights and 
privileges are infringed follows, with the demand for 
their repeal if harmony is to be restored. Submis 
sion to them is declared out of the question, and to 
ensure their repeal an agreement for non-importa 
tion, non-consumption and non-exportation is to be 
entered into, and addresses to the people of Great 
Britain and America, as also a loyal petition to the 
King to be prepared. 

The place of the address to Parliament of the 
Stamp Act Congress, was now taken by the address 
to the people of Great Britain, (the work of John 
Jay), and illustrates the point adverted to before re 
specting the development of the controversy. What 
aim it was hoped to further by this address is 
not quite clear, for the addressers were as familiar 
as we now are with the little influence the people 
at large had upon England s politics. But it was 
thought well to cherish the fiction that the people 
were responsible for the character of the Parlia 
ment they supposedly elected, as the assemblies 
represented the people of the colonies. And they 


were, therefore, appealed to in the hope " that the 
magnanimity and justice of the British nation will 
furnish a parliament of such wisdom, independence, 
and public spirit, as may save the violated rights 
of the whole empire, from the devices of wicked 
ministers and evil, counsellors, whether in or out 
of office ; and thereby restore that harmony, friend 
ship, and fraternal affection, between all the inhabit 
ants of His Majesty s kingdoms and territories so 
ardently wished for, by every true and honest 

The address to the people of the colonies, the 
handiwork of Richard Henry Lee, served as an ex 
planation and justification of the proceedings of the 
Congress, and is a remarkably calm and well-written 
recital of rights and grievances and of the proposals 
for redress. The humble though firm petition to 
the King, bearing the impress of Dickinson s able 
mind, was an admirably conceived document, and 
might have impressed a more obstinate king had he 
been open to reason. The address to the people of 
Quebec was an attempt to draw them into the con 
troversy, but had no better success than the more 
energetic measures of the spring of I776. 1 

Naturally, the revolutionary measures that had 
been adopted met with the disapproval of large 
numbers of people, who now voiced their dissenting 

1 See pp. 83-84. 


views in the public prints. They saw that if per 
sisted in, civil war would be the end, and while 
they were willing to follow the leaders to the verge 
of the precipice, they stopped in horror at the sight 
of the chaotic abyss beyond. An opposition party 
now sprang into existence, destined to have a 
serious influence upon the conduct of affairs within 
as well as without the Congress. 

Spirited and outspoken as were the resolutions of 
the Congress of 1774 in stating their demands, 
there is no sign among them all that can rightly be 
interpreted as indicating a wish for the establish 
ment, even remotely, of an independent government. 
Nor could there have been. For the instructions 
to the delegates, and their credentials as well, were 
practically unanimous in expressing the desire that 
such measures as were passed, should be not less in 
the interest of the restoration of harmony and union 
than for the redress of grievances. 

It is questionable, also, whether such avowed 
radicals as John and Samuel Adams, Jefferson, and 
Patrick Henry, would have advocated independence 
in earnest at this time, had the opportunity been 
favorable. To speak loosely as they did, to the 
effect that if matters did not take a turn for the 
better, independence was the inevitable outcome, was 
far different from establishing a definite concerted 
plan having that aim in view. They were too 


skilled as politicians to be the upholders of a 
policy that would have damned at the outset the 
cause into which they had thrown themselves body 
and soul. Many months had to pass, and many 
irritating events occur during the year following the 
adjournment of the Congress of 1774, before we 
find the tide changing, and the country drifting at 
first, and then guided skillfully, into the swift cur 
rent of independence. 1 

Having performed the functions for which it was 
called into being, the Congress dissolved on October 
26, to meet again, if occasion required, in May of 
the following year. 

1 See in this connection Sparks Washington, II, Appendix 
X, and Winsor, Narrative and Critical History, VI, 248-251, 


Practically the same men who had separated 
in October of the previous year, and represent 
ing the same politically organized bodies, found 
themselves once more entrusted with the affairs of 
America, when they reconvened at Philadelphia on 
May 10, 1775. They had used the interval to good 
purpose, and throughout the colonies had been in 
strumental in having the acts of the previous Con 
gress supported by resolutions of assemblies, conven 
tions, and committees. So that they were reassured, 
if any reassurance were needed, that so far as they 
had gone, they had properly given expression to the 
desires of their electors. But they were now face 
to face with new and far different problems. By 
the accident of circumstance, the clash at arms at 
Lexington and Concord, duties and reponsibilities 
were thrust upon them that none had given thought 
to a few months before. And in undertaking these 
new activities, the Congress had no precedent to 
guide it, nor any instructions even from its con 
stituents to follow as before. It was, therefore, free 
and untrammeled so long as it kept within the 
bounds of popular support. 



All the country was drifting about hopelessly, 
looking for some pilot to show the way. For now 
that the controversy had been pushed to the break 
ing point, real parties were forming. Many who 
were willing to follow so long as peaceful measures 
alone were resorted to, became hearty conservatives 
as soon as they saw civil war imminent. Others, 
seeing the consequences of the denial of parliamen 
tary authority staring them in the face, had not made 
up their minds which side to join. These two 
groups formed probably a majority of the inhabit 
ants, and in some districts of New York and Penn 
sylvania were greatly in preponderance. But their 
influence was weakened since they lacked not only 
an organization, but seemingly, even the power to 
organize, 1 though they were not backward in keep 
ing their pens busy writing pamphlets and taking 
active 1 part in the heated discussions in the gazettes. 
Consequently the well-organized revolutionary party, 
represented for America at large by the Congress, 
controlled affairs. The Congress, therefore, was 
compelled to assume the directing hand and provide 
the rule of conduct, the more so as the revolu 
tionary organizations, in colony after colony, were 
looking to it for advice and direction, especially in 
all that concerned military affairs. This dependence 
on the Congress and the authority it derived there- 

1 See Van Tyne, Loyalists in Am. Revolution, 85, 87. 


from, carried with them a gradual development of 
a spirit of subordination to its will, on the part of 
those controlling the revolutionary movement. The 
Congress thus grew, from an impotent body with 
vague powers designed at first to prepare petitions 
and addresses, into one having practically complete 
control of the affairs of a people engaged in a war 
of revolution, with all that such control implies. 
Though this evolution is the most important civil 
and political phenomenon of the period, it was a 
perfectly natural development, since the leading 
spirits and ablest men were in Philadelphia, and 
they saw to it that the new power assumed its au 
thority with caution and wielded it with skill. 

For the understanding of the events of the next 
year it is all-important that the growth of the power 
and authority of the Congress, the manner of their 
exercise, and the method of enforcing its decisions 
upon points of policy, be clearly held in mind. Ac 
tually the creature of the colonies, representing the 
united sentiment of them all, the Congress was much 
stronger than any one colony. It stood for union 
and was, therefore, compelled to pursue every meas 
ure looking to the tightening of the chains. By 
so doing and by frowning upon every individual 
action that might lead to disunion and consequent 
weakening of its own powers, it succeeded in ever 
strengthening itself. So that by the time it reached 


its highest point of authority (July 4, 1776) we 
have unfolded before us the phenomenon of a polit 
ically organized body, the creature of individual 
political organizations, deriving all its strength and 
sanction from them, dependent for its existence 
upon their good will, yet with no limits to its au 
thority other than those of the reason and good 
sense of its members. Gradually it procured so 
much power as to be able to dictate to the colonies 
how to shape their own administrative organiza 
tions, and finally was able to advance to the extreme 
point of declaring them independent of the govern 
ment that had always controlled them. The suc 
cessful manner in which this was consummated is 
demonstrated by the support given to its acts 
throughout the colonies. In all this the Congress 
relied on and fostered the democratic elements of 
which, in large measure, it was the revolutionary 
outcome. Without so doing the revolution would 
never have attained so much of success as it did 
before outside aid was called upon. It suited the 
purposes of those who fostered the revolution to 
emphasize the natural rights to which they believed 
themselves entitled. This very emphasis aroused 
the minds of " the multitude," (as it was generally 
termed) to a knowledge that they too had rights 
which had been denied them hitherto, that by the 
restrictions upon the franchise, upon representation, 


and by other means, they had been deprived of par 
ticipation in the government. It required many 
years of agitation before they finally came into 
full possession of their own, but the beginnings 
were made now. The Congress saw plainly that 
if it was to rely on the democracy to fight its bat 
tles in the field, the democracy must be shown 
certain favors in return. Only the first moves 
had been made toward the creation of a con 
tinental army, when the Congress pronounced as its 
policy this reliance on the people for support. In 
its most definite form it was embodied in the advice 
given, in November and December, 1775, to the col 
onies of New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Vir 
ginia, respecting the creation of new forms of gov 
ernment. In each instance the Congress recom 
mends the calling of " a full and free representation 
of the people," 1 to establish the form of government 
by which they are to be controlled. This is far dif 
ferent in character from the earlier advice given to 
Massachusetts, 2 when she was simply told to nullify 
the act abrogating her charter, and to organize 
government on the old familiar lines " until a gov 
ernor, of his Majesty s appointment, will consent to 
govern the colony according to its charter." The 
Congress could take the more advanced attitude in 

1 Journal of Congress, November 3, 5, December 4, 1775. 

2 June 9, 1775, ibid. 


the later instances because it had the experience of 
nearly five months to aid it in outlining a policy, and 
because it regarded itself as the chosen agency of 
the people, with authority derived from them " ac 
cording to the purest maxims of representation." 1 
Moreover, with each enlargement of the powers 
of the Congress, the common aim of a firm union 
was more nearly consummated. Every increase of 
the continental army, every act enforcing the Asso 
ciation or regulating trade, every issue of bills of 
credit, every means toward getting into relations 
with a foreign power, in short, every one of the 
countless instances by which it extended its own 
authority and made it more complex, by so much 
increased the necessity that this should be done in 
such manner as would be supported throughout the 
colonies, and consequently strengthen the union. 
The political acumen required was of a high order, 
in that it was necessary not alone to conduct the 
Congress so as not to get too far ahead of popu 
lar opinion, but to keep a guiding hand on the 
course of events in the colonies as well. This 
was done through correspondence between the dele 
gates and their constituents, by resolutions of the 
Congress, and, when the occasion demanded, by 
personal visits of the members of the Congress. 2 

1 Declaration of Congress, December 6, 1775, Journal. 

2 Notably in the case of sending a committee to New Jersey 
on December 4, 1775. See below, pp. 45-46. 


The union sentiment was greatly fostered by one 
principle in the conduct of affairs which the Con 
gress followed out with consistent purpose to the 
end. This was never to perform an act of conse 
quence, nor issue a document designed to influence 
the popular mind, without stating the causes for it. 
Statements were invariably so framed as to put the 
acts of Great Britain always in the wrong, and to 
make it appear plausible that the course pursued by 
the Congress was rendered necessary by specified 
instances of British aggression, coercion, or infringe 
ment of what were believed to be undoubted rights, 
and was the only one possible under the circum 
stances. Naturally the British side gained nothing 
by the manner in which it was stated by the Con 
gress. Amid all the vacillation that characterized 
the earliest period of the activity of the Congress, 
that is, until the beginning of 1776 (often caused by 
the very necessity of yielding a little here and a little 
there, to unite the wishes of individuals and localities 
in order that the larger movement might not be 
stayed), this is one point of policy that was carried 
through with absolute consistency. Consequently, 
if we search deeply enough, the causal origin of 
every important resolution or series of resolutions 
affecting the continental concerns may be found in 
some previous British action. By carrying out 
this deep-laid design, confidence was inspired in the 


minds of the supporters of the Congress, and they 
were made to believe in its ability and rectitude. 

Inseparable from the growth of the authority of 
the Congress and the resultant strengthening of the 
union, was the advance toward independence. Be 
fore November, 1775, though many acts had been 
committed that assisted in making the separation 
inevitable, the Congress can hardly be considered as 
working consciously to bring about that end. There 
was too great a want of uniformity of design in its 
acts, too much of profession of loyalty to Great Brit 
ain and denial of any planning for independence, side 
by side with the passage of resolutions that appear 
now as having no other possible ultimate conclusion. 
But this was due to the large conservative element 
in the Congress, which held the small radical minor 
ity strongly in check and forced through concessions. 
The period between May 10 and November I, 1775, 
was one, therefore, which taxed the ingenuity of the 
members of the Congress to the utmost. For they 
had to steer a middle course between the desires 
of the small, aggressive, minority body of radicals 
on the one side, and those of the large number of 
conservatives on the other. If they yielded to the 
former they were in danger of dashing to pieces on 
the rocks of civil war, if to the latter they might 
be stranded on the shoals of indecision. There 
is, therefore, at this time no evidence of a conscious 


determination to achieve independence, though 
many acts were adopted notably those relating to 
military affairs which led inevitably in that direc 
tion. The conservatives insisted on sending an 
other petition, in spite of the failure of the first. 
This was a wise move, though the full wisdom of it 
was not seen even by many of its promoters and op 
ponents. If the conservatives could, at the price 
of agreeing to send another petition, be got to 
acquiesce in all the other measures of the Con 
gress, many of them warlike in the extreme and 
casting reflection upon all their professions of 
loyalty and allegiance to the crown, the cost was not 
too great to pay. If the petition failed, as the rad 
icals all believed it must, and was therefore use 
less, it was good policy none the less; for it put 
the Congress in position to say that it had left no 
stone unturned to bring about a peaceful solution 
of the controversy, and that no other course was 
open except war, for every overture had been re 
jected. With the rejection of the petition in 
hand the Congress was far stronger before the 
country than if none had been sent and no oppor 
tunity for rejection given. 

Having agreed to send the petition, 1 whatever else 
was done, a due and proper period had to be given 
for answer to be made. During the four months 

a july 8, 1775. 


that elapsed before the reply was received, a waiting 
policy had to be pursued, and the conservatives saw 
to it that no act out of keeping with this policy was 
committed. But this did not prevent the Congress 
from fostering the union sentiment in every way 
possible. The most important opportunity for doing 
this arose out of the indecision of the colonies as 
to the course to pursue respecting Lord North s 
plan of conciliation and concession. 1 Three col- 
onies 2 had transmitted the plan to the Congress with 
the request for directions as to their conduct re 
specting it, while the remainder waited, before tak 
ing any action, to hear what the Congress would 
advise. The reply of the Congress, the last impor 
tant act before taking a recess during the month of 
September, was an unequivocal rejection, and, 
though it contained no new thought, was a forcible 
statement in denunciation of submission to parlia 
mentary taxation and parliamentary legislation. The 
latter point was now carried to its farthermost ex 
treme, and by implication, England s right even 
to control the commerce of the colonies upon the 
terms stated by the first Congress, and repeated in 
the address to the inhabitants of Great Britain, 
agreed to on the same day as the petition to the 

1 February 20-27, 1775- Lord North s motion is to be found 
in Journal of Congress, July 31, 1775. 

2 New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. 


King, was renounced. 1 No colony gave the resolu 
tion further consideration so that this attempt to 
break up the union had no other result than to 
strengthen it. 

The adjournment for the month of August served 
the double purpose of enabling the members to re 
turn among their constituents, and so keep in 
touch with them, and of consuming time while wait 
ing for the reply to the petition to arrive. When 
they reconvened in September 2 no answer had yet 
come, and the policy, therefore, had still to be a 
waiting one. The next six weeks are mainly de 
voted to a consideration of the commerce and trade 
of the colonies, and to military affairs, which still 
have a defensive cast. The non-exportation part 
of the Association went into effect on September 10. 
Appeals to the Congress from various quarters 
necessitated some interpretation of its provisions. 8 
No colony would act on its own responsibility. On 
no other point, except in directing military affairs, 
was there such general acquiescense in allowing the 
Congress a full and free hand. There was need, 
too, that the Congress should express its opinion of 

^uly 8, 1775. 

2 September 5, 1775. 

8 See Journal of Congress, September 15, 27, 1775; John 
Adams Works, II, 451 ; Diary of Richard Smith, Am. Hist. 
Rev., I, 290, 292. 


the Restraining Acts 1 of March and April, since 
four colonies 2 were favored as against the rest, and 
if they took advantage of their exception, they could 
break up the union. Though no disposition to do so 
was shown, this was a matter of continental concern 
and a word from the Congress was awaited. Some 
of the radicals would have had the ports opened 
to trade with the world at large. 3 But as such a 
proposition meant virtual independence it found few 
followers. The debate had about run its course 
when the announcement was received, on the last 
day of October, that not only had the petition been 
given no consideration, but that on the very day 
when the King was to have received it, he had is 
sued a proclamation declaring the colonists in re 
bellion. The first reply made by the Congress was 
issued the next day. All exportation without the 
permission or order of the Congress was to be 
stopped until the first of the following March ; even 
the export of rice, allowed by the provisions of the 
Association to be shipped to Great Britain, was pro 
hibited. Further, the four colonies exempted from 
the provisions of the Restraining Acts were told not 
to avail themselves of the benefits to be derived 

1 The provisions of these acts are given in Chapter XI. 

2 New York, Delaware, North Carolina, and Georgia. 

3 John Adams Works, II, 451-484. 


therefrom and were thanked for not having pre 
viously done so. 1 

Dating from November first, we can discern the 
beginning of the conscious movement having inde 
pendence as its aim. There was from that time 
no further talk of petitioning, but there were many 
expressions within the Congress and many more 
without that no other course was left, than either 
to work for independence, or to adopt the impossible 
alternative of absolute submission and renunciation 
of all that had been striven for during the past 
fourteen years. But in proceeding along the road 
toward independence as much caution and skill were 
required as previously had been shown in steering 
the middle course. It was necessary never to go 
a step further than popular opinion could be made 
to take, and on this account many concessions had 
to be made to the large body of conservatives 
within and without the Congress. In the latter, 
though their numbers from now on began to de 
crease, they still held the upper hand and continued 
to for months to come. 

The policy of always putting Great Britain in the 
wrong and making the acts of the Congress appear 
as still defensive or retaliatory had to be continued. 
Though the Congress was unable to go forward with 
the rapidity that would have pleased the radicals, no 

1 Journal of Congress, November i, 1775. 


backward step was taken. For the next month gave 
the opportunities for stirring up the democracy 
already adverted to, 1 which were eagerly seized upon 
as likely to aid the forward movement. The radicals 
were for going much further. 2 They would have 
taken advantage of the application of New Hamp 
shire, for advice respecting establishing her govern 
ment, to recommend a general abolition of the old 
forms. Fortunately for the success of the revolu 
tionary movement they were not sufficiently strong 
to make their opinions prevail, for the Congress as a 
body saw that the ground was not yet prepared for 
it to act except when appealed to directly. But it 
was certainly due to the radicals, and probably as a 
concession to them, that the advice given during the 
months of November and December had so markedly 
a democratic character. 

Even so much of progress caused a reaction in 
the colonies where the conservative spirit had the 
upper hand. The numerous radical expressions, 
favoring independence and the adoption of measures 
leading thereto, which now (November to Decem 
ber) began to appear in the public prints, caused the 
conservatives who still believed there might be some 
other way out, to attempt to frustrate the designs of 
the radicals. The Pennsylvania conservatives, with 

1 See pp. 33-35. 

2 John Adams Works, III, 19, 20. 


Dickinson at their head, were actively supporting 
the moderate attitude, all the more because of the 
sympathies with the democracy displayed by the 
Congress. The salvation of the conservative party 
in Pennsylvania depended upon keeping the people, 
" the multitude," from getting control of the gov 
ernment there. The old-line conservatives believed 
in all sincerity that if the people were allowed to 
come into power, nothing short of anarchy would be 
the outcome. Dickinson and his followers, control 
ling Pennsylvania politics, advocated united action 
by the colonies, and even fighting for their rights, but 
did not favor an aggressive policy. Great as was his 
interest in the affairs of the continent, they were to 
him secondary to the necessity for preserving the 
management of Pennsylvania politics in the hands of 
those who had always governed. So much of a de 
sire for independence as was in existence in his 
colony at this time was confined, with a few excep 
tions, to the radicals, who had little share in political 
affairs. If they should acquire control, they would 
not only overturn the whole fabric of government, 
but, by sending representatives of their own views 
to the Congress, greatly strengthen the independence 
party. This was to be prevented at all hazards, and 
one means to this end was to issue new instructions 
to Pennsylvania s delegates in the Congress which 
would keep them from taking part in any of the 


schemes of the radicals, especially such as would 
change the existing form of the Pennsylvania gov 
ernment. 1 It was fully appreciated, too, that as 
Pennsylvania led, the other middle colonies where 
the conservatives were in control, would follow, so 
that within two months after Pennsylvania s 2 in 
structions against independence were passed, similar 
instructions were issued to their delegates by the 
governing organizations of New Jersey, New York, 
Delaware and Maryland. One element aiding in the 
establishment of this attitude, was the hope of the 
leaders in these colonies that despite the rejection of 
the petition and the King s proclamation of rebellion, 
some pressure might still be brought to bear on 
Parliament to reverse its position. Though the like 
lihood was not great that such a change of purpose 
would prevail, the conservatives were for giving a 
chance of embracing it to the new Parliament, that 
was to assemble in October. 

But the Congress, compelled to listen to instruc 
tions against independence, would not sit idly by, 
if a colony brought up again the idea of sending a 

1 See Lincoln, Revolutionary Movement in Pennsylvania, 
Chap. XII ; Reed s Life and Corr. of Joseph Reed, and Stille s 

2 Pennsylvania s instructions were issued on November 9 ; 
New Jersey s, November 28 ; New York s on December 14, 
1775, and Maryland s, January n, 1776, though the committee 
to prepare the last was appointed on December 9, 1775. 


petition to the King. This was no time for further 
petitioning, and no such proposition had been made 
in the Congress since the last had proved so barren 
of results. Therefore, when New Jersey took up 
the matter, there was serious business. By force of 
circumstances it had been necessary to keep hands 
off when New York sent her petition some months 
back, and for her pains was rewarded by being ex 
empted from the effects of the Restraining Acts. 
But now the face of things had changed and a solid 
front must be presented at all costs. A resolution 
was passed expressing the view that it would be 
" dangerous to the liberties and welfare of America, 
if any colony should separately petition the King or 
either house of parliament," 1 and a committee was 
appointed to confer with New Jersey on the subject. 
Care was taken to put Dickinson, the author of the 
last petition of the Congress, at its head. His com 
panions were Wythe and Jay, a radical and a con 
servative, and their efforts were so successful as 
to cause New Jersey to abandon all thought of send 
ing a new petition. If New Jersey had not yielded 
so promptly to this gentle persuasion, there is no 
doubt that stronger measures, even to the employ 
ment of force, would have been resorted to to over 
throw its government. 2 

1 Journal of Congress, December 4, 1775. 
a New Jersey Archives, ist Series, X, 677-678, 689-691; 
Force, 4th, III, 1871-1874, 


Almost a month had passed since the Congress 
had obtained official information of the failure of its 
petition, and no statement had been issued in reply. 
It was time, therefore, to speak out, the more so 
as Lord Howe had also published a proclamation 
prohibiting the people of Boston from leaving the 
town without permission. The answer to these was 
made on December 6, in a proclamation sent forth 
in the name of " the delegates of the thirteen United 
Colonies of North America," and the most defiant 
of all the documents so far emanating from the Con 
gress. All allegiance to Parliament is specifically 
disavowed, even that to the King is brought into 
question somewhat in the argument. And in reply 
to that part of the King s proclamation announcing 
the punishment to be meted out to those caught aid 
ing and abetting the rebellion, the Congress boldly 
announces that it will retaliate in kind and degree. 
All this is done " in the name of the people of the 
United Colonies, and by authority, according to the 
purest maxims of representation." No convention 
or committee is to intervene to aid in carrying out 
this threat, Congress itself assumes the burden and 
will bear it. This is the highest point of authority 
which the Congress had yet reached, but, since in 
the last resort military force would be invoked, it 
could thus speak out without exciting the jealousy 
of any colony. 


The last two months of the year 1775 saw many 
acts committed by the Congress that occasioned an 
increase of its power, and at the same time strength 
ened the union and made for independence. The 
beginnings were made in three points of sovereign 
policy that ultimately had far reaching consequences. 
These were the initial attempts at suppressing the 
loyalist sympathizers ; the first steps toward inviting 
foreign intervention; and those toward laying the 
foundations of a continental navy. 1 Along with 
these is to be noticed a far stiffer tone in military 
affairs, and less talk of acting only on the defensive, 
the while actions were belying professions. All 
these acts paved the way for the more vigorous pol 
icy that was to be ushered in with the New Year. 
After November there begins a gradual weakening 
of the power of the conservatives, and we see devel 
oping the conscious aim toward independence. The 
end of the waiting policy that had characterized the 
proceedings of the previous five months was at hand. 
For two months at least the advance is not rapid, 
but after that it gets full headway and goes forward 
with a rush that nothing can stop. Every act that 
can foster it is committed, and every opposition to 
it is borne down, by gentle means if possible, by force 
if necessary. By each step the authority of the 

1 The issuance of bills of credit may also be regarded as 
tending in this direction. 


Congress is increased, the necessity for united action 
made more urgent, and the sentiment for declaring 
independence so aroused, that he who is not for it 
is made to appear as an enemy of his country. 



At the opening of the most notable year in Ameri 
can history, though the radical advocates of an inde 
pendence policy had made much progress in per 
fecting the revolutionary organization, they had not 
succeeded in winning to their support any consid 
erable numbers in the Congress. But a scant third 
of the thirty-five or forty men, controlling the 
political destinies of the colonies, were as yet open 
advocates of measures leading to a definitive break 
with the home government. So strong was the 
conservative spirit still prevailing that of them all 
one colony alone, Virginia, could at a roll call muster 
a majority of her delegates on the side of an avowal 
of independence. 1 The conservative majority, still 
favored a waiting policy, with military movements 
mainly of defensive character ; a course rendered the 
more necessary by the failure of several colonies 2 
to keep delegations in Congress sufficiently large 
to enable them to cast a vote. But the current be- 

1 See pp. 84-85. 

2 North Carolina and Georgia were not represented at this 
time, nor South Carolina for a brief period a little later on. 



gan to set more strongly in the direction of inde 
pendence as each day passed. The public prints 
throughout the colonies were beginning to contain, 
more and more, arguments favoring it, while in 
their private correspondence the leaders of thought, 
who were also prolific contributors to the gazettes, 
were more outspoken than they dared be in public. 
At the same time, there is discernible a constant 
increase in the power and authority of the Congress, 
made necessary by the more offensive character 
which the war gradually assumed, and the resultant 
change in the nature of the struggle. The Con 
gress came to be accepted generally as the directing 
head of affairs, " the supreme superintending 
power," 1 and each extension of jurisdiction was so 
skilfully managed as to meet with welcome as the 
logical outcome of events. 

The time was ready for some event that would 
give impetus to the thought that independence was 
inevitable, and, by playing into the hands of the Con 
gress, give the opportunity to direct affairs with the 
purpose of achieving independence in mind, to be 
carried through by the constant extension of its own 
authority. To the good fortune of the revolutionary 
movement, the uprising in America had led the 
King to call Parliament to meet on October 26, 1775, 
to consider the situation. In his brief speech on 

1 Rhode Island Col. Records, VII, 448-449. 


opening the session he left no doubt as to the force 
of his determination. The colonies were in rebel 
lion, he declared, and were conspiring, in spite of 
their outspoken protests to the contrary, to establish 
an independent government. To prevent this all 
the resources of the British empire would be drawn 
on if necessary, and as a first step the army and navy 
had been increased. Also " most friendly offers of 
foreign assistance " had been received, and his 
Electoral troops had been sent to the garrisons 
of Gibraltar and Port Mahon, in order to free the 
British troops of these garrisons for service else 
where. In closing he made reference to the inten 
tion to give power to agents on the spot, to grant 
pardons and to receive the submission of such 
provinces and colonies as were disposed to return 
to their allegiance. 1 Though rumors were current 
in America before the year 1775 was out, that a 
speech of this nature had been delivered by the 
King, the speech itself did not reach Boston until 
the fourth of January, and Philadelphia until three 
days later. On the eighth it was known by every 
man in the Congress, as also that large reinforce 
ments to the British army had arrived, and that 
Norfolk had been destroyed by Lord Dunmore. 
On the next day Paine s Common S ense made its 

1 Force, 4th, VI, i. 


Such a favorable concurrence of historical acci 
dents was of inestimable value to the radical side. 
The King s speech and the burning of Norfolk were 
welcomed as grist for their mill, for which Common 
Sense furnished the much needed propelling force. 
No arguments from the leaders were so convincing, 
as the sight of a substantial town in ashes, the news 
that the British redcoats would overrun the land, 
and that a British navy would invest it from the 
sea. But even these, in view of the King s proposal 
to send agents to America with power to act, might 
have failed to stir up the dissatisfied elements, if 
Common Sense had not made its appearance. It is 
no longer necessary to enter into details respecting 
its vast influence. All scholars are at one in giving 
this unusual pamphlet credit for a large share in the 
popularization of the newly arisen ideas of inde 
pendence, and, in a measure, for shaping the whole 
movement. But its influence would not have been 
so great had it not been published at so opportune 
a time. 

And the thought therefore arises, is it likely that 
such a pamphlet, which was a considerable time in 
preparation, and with whose author many of the 
men of the Congress were on terms of familiar rela 
tion, was sent out on its message at this precise time 
by grace of providential dispensation? We know 
well that the men who were controlling the revolu- 


tionary movement were far-seeing statesmen, many 
of them, unaccustomed and unwilling to trust vital 
affairs to the uncertain favors of fortune. They 
were naturally keen to take advantage of every 
means that might aid them, for their lives and for 
tunes were staked with their reputations. So far, 
on the part of the Congress in its official documents, 
there had been a distinct disavowal of any purposed 
striving for independence, though its acts were 
hardly always in keeping with its avowals. The 
conservatives, still in control, saw to it that no other 
policy was pursued. But in the aggressive minority, 
among whom Franklin was an active spirit, were 
those who were working to influence public opinion 
in the direction of independence, thereby aiming to 
react on the Congress itself. For it was perfectly 
understood that, though the Congress should be al 
ways kept a little ahead of the trend of the popular 
ideas, and outline the course of action, it must do 
this in so subtle a manner as never to appear actu 
ally to lead, merely to direct. Since the early part 
of November the more radical spirits had decided 
that independence was the goal to strive for. Par 
ticularly with the view of breaking up the old con 
servative party in Pennsylvania, it is altogether 
probable that Franklin, with the connivance of 
others of his way of thinking, made preparation to 
further their side of the cause by having a pamphlet 


written which could be used to counteract the effects 
of the King s speech, or any measures that Parlia 
ment might adopt, in the unlikely event that they 
would be conciliatory, and to fan the flame of dis 
content if they were of the character they proved 
to be. The date of the meeting of Parliament was 
well known in America, as also the fact that it took 
about two months for information to reach from 
the other side. Paine was accordingly employed, 
in the autumn of 1775, to write a pamphlet which 
might be issued at nearly the same time as the first 
news of the proceedings in Parliament was made 
known, and thereby aid those who were now the 
avowed advocates of an independence policy, and 
who still had the inertia of the conservatives to 
overcome. The preparation of Common Sense was 
conceived with deliberation, and for a definite object. 
It would have appeared about this time had there 
been no speech from the King. But the large meas 
ure of its success, was due to the careful foresight 
that caused its preparation for publication at the 
psychological moment best calculated to give it cur 
rency, and render it of most effect in shaping 
opinion. 1 

Its appearance, too, was intimately associated 
with the contest going on in Pennsylvania, in whose 

1 For the details respecting the negotiations with Paine see 
Conway s Life of Paine. 


affairs the Congress found opportunity to take ever 
greater and greater part. The radicals by reason of 
the share they were having in raising troops, were 
gaining largely in power though still unable to direct 
affairs. Franklin had allied himself with them, and 
was a powerful factor on their side. They were 
now making such rapid strides as to be held in check 
with ever increasing difficulty. Unquestionably, 
because of his desire to influence opinion in Penn 
sylvania in favor of the moderates, James Wilson, 
on the very day that Common Sense appeared, made 
his motion that the Congress issue an address in 
reply to the King s speech, wherein denial should 
be made that the colonies were aiming at independ 
ence, and should " declare to their constituents and 
the World their present intentions respecting an 
Independency." 1 His motion, though strongly sup 
ported, was under the rules postponed, and another 
day assigned for its consideration. When taken up 
again on the twenty-fourth, it was passed, and a 
conservative committee 2 was selected to prepare the 

1 Diary of Richard Smith, January 9, 1776, American Hist. 
Rev., I, No. 2, 307. For a lucid account of the complex po 
litical struggle in Pennsylvania, see Lincoln s The Revolu 
tionary Movement in Pennsylvania. 

2 The committee consisted of Dickinson, Wilson, Hooper, 
Duane, and Alexander. The Address as reported is among the 
Papers of the Continental Congress, and is entirely in Wil 
son s handwriting. It has been printed in Am. Hist. Rev., I, 


address. And, as if wishing to make display of the 
ultimate futility of such procedure, its opponents 
were on the very same day sufficiently powerful to 
have a committee appointed to consider the equally 
important matter of the propriety of establishing a 
war office. Three weeks passed before Wilson was 
ready with his address, which Richard Smith de 
scribes as " very long, badly written, and full against 
Independency." x 

But in these three weeks events had moved 
rapidly, and the Congress was now in no mood to 
listen to, much less adopt and issue such a document 
as expressing its attitude. The military measures 
made necessary by the fall of Quebec and the death 
of Montgomery; the general quickening of mind 
and act that they had brought about ; the resolutions 
adopted to suppress Tories ; the rumors that foreign 
troops were to be engaged by Great Britain for 
service in America; the constantly recurring argu 
ments in the gazettes favoring independence, all 
combined to render it unlikely that the Congress 
would now stop to issue any pronouncement on the 
subject of independence, and least of all one putting 
it in opposition to a course which it was tacitly 
favoring on every possible occasion. But an ele 
ment aiding in the defeat of Wilson s proposal that 
must not be ignored, was the arrival of two new 

1 Diary, February 13, 1776. 


delegations from New England, and of Chase of 
Maryland. Fresh from home they could tell of the 
spirit animating the people, and in their journeying 
to the Congress had the opportunity to get in touch 
with public sentiment from Boston to Baltimore. 
Sherman, Wolcott, and Huntington of Connecticut 
arrived on January 16, Chase about February 3, 
and John Adams and Gerry of Massachusetts on 
February 9. The last two together with Samuel 
Adams now formed a majority of the Massachusetts 
delegation, and could therefore completely control 
the vote of that colony. As the Connecticut dele 
gates were not less ardently radical in their views 
than those of Massachusetts, together they had great 
weight in determining the course of events, both 
by argument and by the example of their vote, 
winning over a majority of the colonies. They 
opposed all measures that obstructed independence, 
and though as yet unable to dominate completely 
the actions of the Congress, they of course stood in 
the way of the adoption and issuance of Wilson s 
proposed address. Able support was received, too, 
from Franklin and Chase, who, though bound by 
instructions against voting for independence, worked 
to further every measure that might bring it about. 
As the result of their combined activities and ex 
ertions, the address, after its report to the Congress, 
is not heard of again. If the radicals could not force 


the Congress to advance, at least they could prevent 
any backward step from being taken. And the 
noticeable stiffening of the attitude of the Congress, 
which dates from this period, is in large measure 
due to the influence exerted by these two new dele 
gations, whose persistency in turn brought about 
a gradual accession of numbers to their ranks. 
Both the Adamses were working strenously also, 
without the doors of the Congress, to make converts 
to their views. Samuel Adams bent his energies 
upon arousing the democracy of Pennsylvania, and 
began to contribute arguments favoring independ 
ence to the Philadelphia newspapers. These were 
much needed, particularly in Philadelphia, where in 
spite of the presence of the Congress a strong con 
servative element still held predominance. 

A further insight into the increasing strength of 
the more advanced party is obtained, from a view of 
the incidents happening about the same time and 
attending the oration delivered by the Reverend 
Doctor William Smith on the occasion of the public 
services, held by order of the Congress, in memory 
of the death of General Montgomery. Smith s ora 
tion, breathing throughout its length the spirit of 
loyalty and allegiance to the King, was little to the 
liking of the majority of the Congress who, while 
not seeing their way clear to announcing independ 
ence, listened with scant patience to a preaching 


about their duty as loyal subjects of King George. 
Accordingly, when a few days later William Living 
ston moved that a vote of thanks be extended to 
Doctor Smith with a request that he print his ora 
tion, it was objected to because the " D r . declared 
the sentiments of the Congress to continue in a 
Dependency on Great Britain which Doctrine the 
Congress cannot now approve." 1 To every one 
approving Livingston s proposition two voices spoke 
against it, and so strong was the opposition, that fore 
seeing failure, he withdrew the motion. The main 
value of this occurrence lies in the light it throws 
upon the attitude of the Congress as a body toward 
independence. The leading speakers and writers 
were advocating the adoption of measures leading to 
it at every opportunity, and so unimportant an epi 
sode as the introduction of Livingston s motion, was 
not allowed to pass before Chase, John Adams, 
Wythe, Edward Rutledge, Wolcott, and Sherman 
had given expression to their views against it. The 
nature of the instructions of five colonies to their 
delegates, however, acted as an estoppel upon their 
assenting to any open avowal in favor of independ 
ence. Until they were withdrawn or revised, these 
delegations could not vote for any measure having 
independence as its object. But this did not prevent 
them as individuals from speaking and working 

1 Diary of Richard Smith, February 21, 1776. 


for it, so long as they halted short of casting the 
vote of their colony contrary to instructions. 

In the six or seven weeks that intervened between 


the arrival of the King s speech and the two occa 
sions on which the Congress uttered its opposition 
to taking any action that would stand in the way of 
ultimate independence, Common Sense was being 
disseminated throughout the land, ably supported 
by productions of lesser distinction, many taking 
their cue from it. The people were growing fa 
miliar gradually with the thought of an independ 
ent government, and the Congress, marvelously in 
touch with every phase of this development, kept 
pace with it. So that by the end of February, the 
question in the minds of many of those in the Con 
gress who are still to be classed as conservatives, 
was not one of the advisability or inadvisability of 
independence, but of the means and measures by 
which it should be brought about; of the prepara 
tions that should be made in advance of its declara 
tion, and above all of the readiness of the people for 
it. For without the support of the democracy the 
whole of the revolutionary organizations would 
collapse. These, it is true, were being strengthened 
with every increase in the continental army, but 
even the lengths which the Congress could go in 
adding to it, depended entirely upon the extent to 
which the populace would follow in enlisting for 


the armed struggle. The Congress had thus all the 
while to feel its way and, by keeping in careful 
touch with the people, to know how far it might 

Yet, notwithstanding the many arguments that 
had appeared favoring independence, and the almost 
equally frequent advocacy of opening the ports of 
the country to trade with the world, as a preliminary 
step, many still had misgivings, and until these 
were overcome any too radical action might com 
pass the downfall of the whole movement. Com 
bined with the natural disinclination from the over 
turn of a constitutional authority that had always 
been recognized in some form, and which, even the 
most radical admitted, conferred mutual advantages 
of no mean order, was that other deterring element, 
of aversion at the thought of the cost at which inde 
pendence of England might be procured. Would 
not after all more be lost thereby than by continuing 
the attempt at obtaining the desired reforms within 
the empire ? What guarantees could be offered that 
they would have more liberty under a new order 
than under the old? Would they ever be able to 
stand alone ? Was there not danger, if they brought 
about a separation from England, that another 
power, France, the traditional enemy, might step in 
and take advantage of their weakness for her own 
aggrandizement ? As has been well said, " so strong 


was the love for the old country, so great was the 
pride of being a part of the British dominion, and 
entitled to the glories of her history, that many 
shrank from an explicit recognition and declaration 
of the fact that the colonies were indeed independent 
States, no longer a part of their old country." 1 
Thoughts such as these coursed through the minds 
of many, giving them pause, and were as often the 
considerations blocking hasty action in Virginia and 
South Carolina, as in more conservative Pennsylva 
nia and New York. Numbers were unwilling to 
take the final leap until they had carefully gone over 
the ground on which they would alight, and were 
assured that it was not sown with pitfalls. 

The vague mention in the King s speech, of his 
intention to send to America agents with indefinite 
power to accommodate the differences, and this too 
in despite of the not uncertain character of the re 
mainder of the speech, fostered markedly this re 
luctant sentiment, both within and without the 
Congress. There was a very wide diffusion of the 
idea that all radical measures should halt until the 
opportunity was given to learn something definite 
about these " commissioners," as they were very 
generally called. 2 The discerning Joseph Reed 
could not fail to wonder at the " strange reluctance 

1 McCrady, Sotith Carolina in the Revolution, 175-176. 

2 Stevens Facsimiles, 890*. 


in the minds of many to cut the knot." " Though 
no man of understanding expects any good from the 
commissioners, yet they are for waiting to hear their 
proposals before they declare off." This was par 
ticularly the case in Pennsylvania " and to the south 
ward." 1 

That a bill embracing the clause authorizing the 
appointment of such a commission was under con 
sideration and likely to pass, was known in America 
in the early part of February. Some of the very 
persons active in perfecting the revolutionary or 
ganizations were influenced by the possibilities for 
reconciliation that might lie with these commission 
ers. Wordy discussions respecting their aims and 
their powers for good and evil, rilled the gazettes 
during the months of March and April. One of the 
principal arguments hurled against waiting to hear 
the propositions that they might have to make, was 
that they would be similar to Lord North s con 
ciliatory motion of the year before, designed merely 
to divide the colonies by playing off one against the 
other. The correspondence of every man of im 
portance contains some reference to these expected 
agents of conciliation, and they are all in agreement 
upon their effect in blocking the independence move 
ment. Washington had no patience with the 
thought of waiting for them and considered the idea 

2 Reed s Reed, I, 163, March 3, 1776. 


as insulting as Lord North s motion. 1 Reed was 
more in fear of them than of the British generals 
and armies. He was fearful " if their propositions 
are plausible, and behaviour artful," that they would 
" divide us." " There is so much suspicion in Con 
gress," he informed Washington, " and so much 
party on this subject, that very little more fuel is 
required to kindle the flame." 2 John Adams of 
course placed no store by them, " a messiah that will 
never come," and he " laughed, . . . scolded, . . . 
grieved and . . . rip d " at the story of their com 
ing, and stormed against what he termed " as arrant 
an illusion as ever was hatched in the brain of an 
enthusiast, a politician, or a maniac. 3 The views of 
the more conservative members of the Congress 
are well expressed in a letter of Thomas Stone, 
of Maryland. " If the Commissioners do not arrive 
shortly and conduct themselves with great candor 
and uprightness," he wrote towards the end of April 
to Jenifer, " to effect a reconciliation, a separation 
will most undoubtedly take place." He wished " to 
conduct affairs so that a just & honorable reconcilia 
tion should take place, or that we should be pretty 
unanimous in a resolution to fight it out for Inde 
pendence. . . ." 4 

1 Reed s Reed, I, 170. 2 Ibid., I, 173. 

3 Letters to his Wife, I, 98. 

* Journal and Corr. Md. Council of Safety, 383. 



Anxiously on the lookout for any sign that might 
indicate a show of a conciliatory spirit on the part 
of Great Britain, all those not already committed to 
independence pinned their hopes to these commis 
sioners. But as days and weeks went by and their 
arrival was delayed, and rumors about them still 
remained indefinite and conflicting, even those most 
sanguine in the expectation of the good they would 
accomplish gradually lost confidence, and listened 
to the persuasive oratory of those who placed no 
trust in either the commissioners or their mission. 
After the momentous month of March those who 
still had faith in commissioners were inconsiderable 
in numbers and devoid of influence. After the sixth 
of May, 1 until independence was already more than 
two months old, no attention was again given to 
them. And when they finally arrived and negotia 
tions with them were begun, the unsatisfactory 
powers with which they were clothed, and the new 
spirit infused by the fact that independence had been 
declared, rendered the negotiations abortive. 

But no one influence was of such effect in silenc 
ing those who still advocated further temporizing, 
and in convincing them that longer delay on the 
score of prospective commissioners was useless, as 
the information which reached America early in 
May, that Great Britain had actually engaged for- 

1 See Journal of Congress, May 6, 1776. 


eign mercenaries, then on their way over sea, to fight 
her battles in America. 1 Up till now there had been 
many vague rumors floating about respecting Eng 
land s bid for Russians and Hessians and Hanove 
rians, but nothing specific had been learned. The 
thought that England would be forced to seek out 
side aid was of early origin, 2 and that application 
had been made to Russia with no success was known 
in America early in December. In January informa 
tion more definite was obtained from the reference 
to offers of foreign assistance in the King s 
speech. And throughout the next three months 
the pamphleteers let pass no opportunity to harp 
upon this additional witness to England s cruel 
intentions. When, therefore, on May io, 3 unques 
tioned evidence was put before the eyes of the 
Congress that 12,000 Hessians were about to be 
sent on their way, nay, were even then at sea, the 
effect in vivifying the acts of the Congress was, in 
its intensity, unequaled by any occurrence since the 
arrival of the King s speech four months before. 

In order to preserve a continuity of narrative, it 
has been necessary to run a little ahead and pass 

1 The story of the British negotiations for foreign assistance 
has been often told ; the details can be found in Bancroft, 
Chapters L and LVII. 

2 See Force, 4th, III, 819, 944, 1592. 

8 Journal of Congress. Thos. Cushing s letter conveying the 
intelligence is to be found in Force, 4th, V, 1184. 


by some affairs in which the constantly increasing 
authority of the Congress is displayed. Of these 
none is more important than the regulation of the 
colonial commercial relations. From the day that 
the Articles of Association went into effect, the 
Congress was the recognized interpreter for the 
continent in all affairs having to do with its foreign 
commerce. The view was general that this affair 
was the Congress s ; that its importance to the wel 
fare of America was such that no colony could act 
solely on its own responsibility; that all must con 
duct themselves in this respect in accordance with 
the rules laid down by the general body. Because 
of this the power and jurisdiction of the Congress 
were extended, and its influence came to be felt far 
and wide. Where so many were merchants and 
traders, when such numbers found the advance of 
their interests, even their means of existence, de 
pendent upon a word from the Congress, that body 
found it could keep in close touch with the economic 
life of the continent, by the control of its trade. 
The influence, therefore, was reciprocal : the people, 
acting through the assemblies, the conventions, the 
committees of safety, looked to the Congress for 
direction; the Congress in turn gave this in accord 
ance with the best light it had. And by a judicious 
permission granted now here, now there, to break 
its own rules, it did much to relieve the severity of 


the non-intercourse agreement and to establish itself, 
not as a mere autocratic dictator, but rather as the 
mild ruler acting for the good of all, upon con 
sultation with all, and after careful consideration 
of all interests involved. When the day came finally 
for declaring the ports open to trade with all parts 
of the world, 1 the Congress with one stroke abolished 
one of the most potent means it had established for 
maintaining dominance in continental affairs. By 
that time there was no need to adopt measures de 
signed merely to increase its power. It was strong 
enough to do practically anything it willed, short of 
declaring independence. And the energies of all 
the aggressive members were henceforth bent upon 
forcing through independence and creating a mili 
tary organization that could support it when de 

The ink was scarcely dry on the trade compromise 
of November first 2 when exceptions to its general 
provisions were found to be necessary, and during 
the next four months these increased with the pass 
of every day. But however much these infractions 
of its rules, made under the Congress s own au 
thority, differed in character, they had all the same 
end in view : to procure arms, ammunition, and other 
much-needed warlike supplies. 3 Throughout, the 

1 April 6, 1776. 

2 See pp. 41-42. 

3 Journal of Congress, November 22, December n, 14, 1775. 


attitude of the Congress is far bolder than is as 
sumed on other occasions, and a dictatorial tone is 
adopted repeatedly. Though it left the enforcement 
of its resolutions to the assemblies, conventions, and 
committees of safety, the Congress fixed the terms 
under which individuals might be permitted to 
export; the amount and character of the bonds to 
be entered and to whom to be given; the tonnage 
of the cargoes, and the destination of the vessels ; the 
time and place of sailing, and the period within 
which, as evidence of good faith, return must be 
made to some friendly American port. Unless these 
stipulations were complied with in advance, no per 
mits to trade were issued. And the Congress was 
careful to state, in several cases, that the permission 
was by reason of particular circumstances, and was 
not to be " drawn into precedent," thus leaving open 
the door for refusal when it deemed such action 
wise. 1 

But the time was approaching (March i) when, 
unless some other action was taken, the ports under 
the terms of the Articles of Association would be 
opened, and trade with Great Britain might be re 
sumed. The first two months of the new year saw 
consideration given to this knotty problem when 
ever the other multifarious questions which so en- 

1 Journal of Congress, December 15, 1775, January 27, 
February 2, 1776. 


grossed the attention of the Congress allowed. 
Earnest and serious discussion of the question be 
gan in the middle of February. By that time the 
public prints were teeming with all manner of argu 
ments favoring and opposing independence. And 
the reiterated advocacy of open ports and free 
trade with all parts of the world, now in conjunc 
tion with independence, again as a precedent to it, 
did much to reassure those in Congress who favored 
the most radical measures. It was well understood 
that open ports and independence were inseparably 
connected, but the conservatives were not yet ready 
for this step. For such action meant the nullifica 
tion by act of the Congress of the various trade laws 
enacted by the Parliament of England. 

Towards the end of February, it was seen that no 
conclusion could be reached before the first of 
March, and inasmuch as merchants in Philadelphia 
and elsewhere were preparing to make the most of 
their opportunities beginning with March first, re 
course was had to another temporary expedient. 
On the twenty-sixth of February it was resolved 
that no vessel laden for Great Britain, Ireland, or 
the West Indies should be permitted to sail without 
further order of the Congress, and the committees 
of inspection and observation were called on to see 
to the enforcement of this resolution. The very 
next day Robert Morris came into the Congress 


bearing in his hand the " very long and cruel "* act 
prohibiting trade and intercourse with America, 
which had been signed by the King on December 
22, 1775. This put a new face on affairs. The 
first reply was issued on the fourth of March, when 
the resolution of the twenty-sixth of February was 
rescinded, and trade with Great Britain and Ireland 
and the British West Indies was legalized, if en 
gaged in for the purpose of procuring arms and 

These were the days, it will be remembered, when 
there was still much talk of commissioners and the 
good that might flow from them. But when the 
very act which made provision for their appointment 
was found to contain clauses which authorized the 
British officers and seamen to share in the prizes 
which they captured, and to seize and force to serve 
under the British flag all persons found on board 
these ships, a resentful desire to retaliate in kind 
took the place of the patient waiting upon the hoped- 
for chance of reconciliation with Great Britain. 
The next few weeks were big with events of the 
greatest importance to America. The radicals were 
growing more and more aggressive, and as each suc 
cessive act was disclosed, showing the unconcilia- 
tory spirit of Great Britain, the conservatives had 
the ground more and more cut from under them. 

1 Diary of Richard Smith, Am. Hist. Rev., I, 506. 



On the twenty-third of March the first real reply 
to the Prohibitory Act was made in the resolutions 
authorizing the equipment of privateers. Almost 
immediately the details providing how these resolu 
tions were to be carried into effect were passed, the 
Congress in every particular demonstrating its au 
thority over those who would take advantage of the 
privileges now allowed. Within a few days there 
was general exultation throughout the land over the 
evacuation of Boston, and almost equal dejection 
was occasioned by the news that foreign troops 
were being hired by England for service in America. 
The Congress, taking advantage of the general and 
widely diffused enthusiasm aroused by Washing 
ton s success, felt that the time had come when, 
without losing prestige among the people, it could 
adopt a measure that from the point of view of inde 
pendence was the most important yet passed. 
Therefore, on April 6, the ports of the colonies were 
thrown open to trade to all parts of the world, ex 
cept Great Britain. But in so doing the Congress 
also reserved the right to enact any commercial 
regulations that future necessity might require, re- 
enacted those parts of the Association not incon 
sistent with the new resolutions, made recommenda 
tions to the colonies as to the manner of enforcing 
these regulations, directed the seizure of all goods 
imported from British dominions, and prohibited 


absolutely the importation of slaves. 1 Thus was 
ended the contest that had been on for three months. 

The extent of the power and authority which the 
Congress had acquired, is demonstrated by the pass 
ing and the general support accorded this act, 
whereby virtually one of the most powerful means 
for controlling general continental affairs was given 
up. Its jurisdiction in respect of trade had till now 
been maintained, and through it the Congress could 
influence colonial action and keep in touch with the 
condition of public thought throughout the country. 
But the question henceforth was not one of acquir 
ing additional powers, but of forcing through a 
unanimous resolution of independence. 

The while this discussion over the issuance of 
some public announcement respecting trading with 
foreign countries was under consideration, the Con 
gress was secretly planning to carry on such trade 
on its own account, intent upon procuring from 
abroad, notably from France, all manner of warlike 
supplies, though it veiled its intentions under the 
guise of procuring articles suitable for the Indians. 2 

As early as the nineteenth of February a contract 
had been entered into with Silas Deane to engage in 
an enterprise of this nature, to carry out which two 

1 Journal of Congress, April 6, 1776. 

2 Deane Papers (N. Y. Hist. Soc.), I, 116; Journal of Con 
gress, January 27, 1776. 


hundred thousand dollars was put at the disposal 
of the committee having the matter in charge. 
From them Deane received his instructions upon the 
first of March. Within the next two days the Com 
mittee of Secret Correspondence gave him credentials 
to go to France " there to transact such Business, 
commercial and political as we have committed to 
his Care, in Behalf and by Authority of the Con 
gress of the thirteen united Colonies," and provided 
him with elaborate instructions how to enter into 
negotiations with the French government. 1 

If we examine the personnel of the committee 
having charge of the relations of the colonies with 
foreign countries, the Committee of Secret Corre 
spondence as it was called, we discover one of the 
most interesting facts that a close study of any of 
the affairs of this period discloses. Of the five 
members composing the committee, three, Franklin, 
Dickinson, and Morris, were from Pennsylvania. 
Harrison was from Virginia, and Jay represented 
New York. Strangely enough, no New England 
member was added to the committee until many days 
after independence had been declared. Moreover, 
of this committee Franklin was the only openly 
avowed radical. Harrison, to say the least, had 
decided conservative proclivities, while Dickinson, 
Morris, and Jay were the most forceful leaders on 

1 Deane Papers, 117-119, 123 et seq. 


the conservative side. They were the ardent op 
ponents of every measure that appeared to have in 
dependence for its object, and until the restrictions 
which their respective colonies had placed upon their 
actions respecting independence, were removed, their 
voice and vote were always in opposition. And yet, 
in secret, they were willing to make themselves 
parties to a policy that had as its aim the nullification 
of British laws respecting the colonies, a policy that 
was more nearly allied to actual independence than 
anything previously undertaken by act of the Con 
gress, and to do this a month in advance of the time 
when the Congress adopted the first of its most rad 
ical resolutions. This discloses their real attitude, 
therefore, not only to independence, but to the col 
onies which they represented. Moreover it demon 
strates how necessary it was, before independence 
could be made an accomplished fact, to have the in 
structions against independence repealed. Perfectly 
willing to do secretly what they dared not do openly, 
the actions of these men have the appearance of in 
consistency. But they become quite comprehensible 
when we bear in mind the local conditions which 
colored all their public acts. 


The Congress was the representative of the col 
onies, in a way having some of the attributes of our 
Senate. The members were elected, not directly 
by the people, but by what then corresponded to the 
legislatures of our day the conventions or pro 
vincial congresses or assemblies. They were, there 
fore, under the control of these revolutionary polit 
ical organizations and responsible to them. When, 
therefore, an election to the Congress was accepted, 
the delegate was of necessity bound by whatever in 
structions it was thought meet and proper to give 
him. Until these were withdrawn they must be 
followed, no matter what individual opinions were 
held. It was consequently impossible for the 
delegations representing New York, Pennsylva 
nia, Delaware, Maryland, or New Jersey, to cast 
their votes in favor of independence until new 
instructions were issued to them rescinding the 
old. 1 In fact it was with difficulty that they 
could be persuaded to support the resolutions for 
issuing letters of marque and reprisal 2 and open- 

1 For prior reference to these instructions see p. 45. 

2 March 23, 1776, Journal of Congress. 



ing the ports, for their radical character was well 
appreciated. But for doing this they could plead 
extenuation in the harsh terms of the Prohibitory 
Act, and they took the chances that their action 
would meet with the support of their constituents, 
now flushed by the success at Boston, though the 
delegates had many misgivings as to the nature of 
the reception their decidedly conservative commu 
nities would accord such radical measures. 

During the next three months, 1 the aggressive 
radicals bent their energies toward compelling the 
colonies to withdraw their anti-independence instruc 
tions, and lost no opportunity to further their ends. 
With the possible exception of New York, no colony 
had been more persistent in maintaining the old 
order than Pennsylvania, and into the political up 
heaval going on in that colony the Congress was 
about to project itself with vigor, knowing full 
well that if Pennsylvania could be brought into line, 
the cause was won, for she still controlled the policy 
of the middle colonies. 

John Jay, not less than John Dickinson and 
Robert Morris, represented the old-line aristocrats 
whose ascendancy in New York, as in Pennsylvania, 
was being undermined by the rise to power of the 
democracy. These men were not a whit less patriots, 
in the sense current at that time, than Franklin or 

1 April, May, and June. 


the Adamses or Jefferson. But independence meant 
to the former the overthrow of the administrative 
organizations with which they had always been 
allied, and which saw to it that the democracy was 
held in check. They had been among the leaders 
in disseminating ideas of the rights of man and of 
the equality of men, and in so doing were perfectly 
consistent. These abstract theories, as they viewed 
it, were to serve as a basis for stating the American \ 
attitude in the controversy with England. Little 
thought had been given to their possible application 
to conditions in the colonies, and to their destructive 
effect upon conservative traditions. But when the 
people at large had been fed for ten years and more 
upon such a diet, and, moreover, were called upon to 
enlist and fight for the rights which they had been 
led to believe were theirs, what more natural than 
that they should demand their full share when the 
time came for distribution? Upon their shoulders, 
in large measure, rested the burden of the war, and 
they would dictate how it was to be carried. 

Consequently, in an especial degree in the middle 
colonies, but to no less an extent in South Carolina, 1 
political revolutions were taking place side by side 
with the larger struggle, in which all were concerned 

1 See the notable study of Dr. Wm. A. Schaper on Section 
alism and Representation in S. C. in Rep. Am. Hist. Assn., 
i9po, Vol. I, especially pp. 338 et seq. and 354 et seq. 


alike. The democracy was fighting there not only 
for the general cause, but for itself, and the peaceful 
clashes between radicals and conservatives, though 
little less frequent and determined, are not heard in 
the din of the rattle of musketry and the roar of 
artillery. But unless they be taken into account a 
full appreciation of the motives underlying the 
retarding influences on independence cannot be ob 
tained. The contest for independence in its later 
stages, that is just before July 4, 1776, in Pennsylva 
nia, New Jersey, North and South Carolina, and to 
almost an equal extent in New York, Delaware, 
and Maryland, became virtually not less one be 
tween the people and the aristocrats for control, 
than one between the United Colonies and Great 
Britain for the establishment of a separate govern 
ment. In all of these contests the influence of the 
Congress, whenever possible, was cast on the side 
of the democracy. The early sympathy displayed 
with it in November and December, in the resolu 
tions advising New Hampshire, South Carolina, and 
Virginia to establish governments by calling a " full 
and free representation of the people," though not 
going so far as a few extreme radicals desired, 1 
went too far for the conservatives. In the reaction 

1 John Adams would have had the Congress issue instruc 
tions to all the colonies to form new governments. See pp. 
34-35, 43, supra. 


that followed (in bringing about which Dickinson 
was the prime mover) instructions were issued to 
the delegations of five colonies preventing them 
from assenting to any resolutions favoring independ 
ence. These were designed as much to prevent the 
overthrow of the existing governmental machinery 
still in conservative control, as to bind the hand 
of the Congress. For it was well understood that 
if independence were declared, each colony would 
of necessity have to devise a new form of govern 
ment. In this process the conservatives feared that 
the democracy might gain the upper hand, and over 
turn the old established order, and the wisdom of 
their caution was justified by subsequent events. 

But the Congress, a revolutionary organization, 
itself in large measure the creature of the demo 
cratic revolutionary organizations, had no occasion 
to stand in fear of the people. In fact the radicals 
in the Congress saw clearly that dependence must in 
the main be placed upon them. And as the con 
servatives could control the votes of only five 
colonies (the votes being always taken by colonies 
and not by individuals), they could not hold the 
radicals in check when there was a full representation 
of the colonies in the Congress. 1 Accordingly the 

x The Congress was always a fluctuating body, and in the 
last months of 1775 and the first months of 1776, when affairs 
at home were of extreme importance, members came and 
went constantly, so that frequently a colony was not repre 


Congress took advantage of every occasion that 
offered to stir up the democracy, and this phe 
nomenon of a representative body taking more 
radical action than a number of its constituent parts 
would have had it, is one of the interesting develop 
ments of the time. It serves also to show the com 
plex nature of the controversy. 

The measures the Congress resorted to in order to 
accomplish its ends were various. Perhaps that of 
most consequence was the increase of the continental 
army, judiciously distributed throughout the colo 
nies, now by request, again as the exigencies made 
requisite. Through it the Congress made its own 
existence a real entity, and supported the often weak 
revolutionary organizations. Philadelphia was a 
great distance from the seat of many of the colonial 
activities, and news traveled with painful slowness. 
The presence, therefore, of the army, the outward 
demonstration of the majesty and power of the Con 
gress, had an effect in overawing the opposition to it 
that is not now easily discernible, though not less 
potent on that account. When the Congress saw fit 
to take measures to support the weak credit of its 
issues of paper money, 1 to promote the signing of 
associations, or to suppress the activities of Tories, 
the continental army was ready to hand to assist, 
if the committees of safety were inclined to call 

1 Journal of Congress, January n, 1776. 


upon it. 1 When, by taking part in the Pennsyl 
vania-Connecticut dispute at Wyoming, it could let 
the dissatisfied elements of the western counties of 
Pennsylvania know that their interests were being 
guarded by it, the Congress did not hesitate to pro 
ject itself into this controversy, even though it 
thereby aroused the resentment of the Pennsylvania 
Assembly. But the Congress, bent on establishing 
itself with the people, cared little for this Assembly, 
controlled as it was by the aristocrats who could be 
moved only by force, and ignored its existence con 
sistently from the day that the Pennsylvania Com 
mittee of Safety came into power. When the com 
mittee was sent to Canada in the hope that the people 
of that country might be induced to join their forces 
in the struggle, they were authorized to explain 
the " method of collecting the sense of the People, 
and conducting our Affairs regularly by Committees 
of Observation and Inspection in the several Dis 
tricts, and by Conventions and Committees of 
Safety in the several Colonies." And they were 
further to " press them to have a complete repre 
sentation of the People assembled in Convention, 
with all possible expedition, to deliberate concern- 

1 Ibid., January 2, 3, 5, 30, February 5, 8, March 8, 9, 14. 
In one instance this was done, however, without any reference 
to any committee of safety, assembly, or convention. The 
Tories of Queen s County, New York, were moved against by 
direct action of the Congress by means of the continental army. 


ing the establishment of a Form of Government, 
and Union with the United Colonies." 1 And, finally, 
when the Congress was sufficiently strong to permit 
privateering, it adopted one of its most popular 
measures. For, though the risks were great, the 
returns were so large as to interfere seriously with 
enlistments in the army the pomp, and circum 
stance, and glory of war seemingly making weaker 
appeal to the patriots of those days, than the for 
tunes to be gained by the less poetic, but more re 
munerative preying upon England s commerce. 

The carrying through of the resolutions outlined 
above was made possible only by the never-tiring 
aggressiveness of the radical minority, who made 
up for the slimness of their numbers by the stout 
ness of their intellects. At the beginning of the year 
1776 the outspoken advocates of independence then 
in the Congress were George Wythe of Virginia, 
Gadsen of South Carolina, McKean of Delaware, 
Franklin of Pennsylvania, Ward of Rhode Island, 
Deane of Connecticut, and Samuel Adams of Massa 
chusetts. The accession of the new Connecticut 
delegation, which arrived on January 16, followed 
by Samuel Chase, John Adams, and Elbridge Gerry 
shortly after, gave strength to their ranks, by 
way of ability, far in excess of their numbers. 
There were some losses as well, for Gadsen left 

1 Journal of Congress, March 20, 1776, Bradford edition. 


about the middle of January to take part in the 
affairs of his own colony, and Ward died on March 
25. But the loss of the latter was more than made 
good by the arrival of Richard Henry Lee, in the 
second week of March. Until the end of April 
they had no important additions to their numbers. 
Upon the shoulders of these few men rested the 
burden of the fight for independence in the Con 
gress, and that it was carried on with such skill and 
with ultimate success, was due to the inexhaustible 
resourcefulness of their sharp wits. Largely 
through their exertions the Congress had established 
itself. For the next two months (May and June) 
they bent their energies to forcing their way through 
to their ultimate goal a unanimous declaration of 

But with all their aggressiveness and alertness 
and ability, in spite of the great encouragement they 
were giving to the popular party in Philadelphia, 
and the pressure they could bring to bear on indi 
vidual members, they had not been able to make 
any impression on the Pennsylvania Assembly as a 
whole. The local fight, now of several months 
duration, to have that body agree to a material in 
crease in the representation of the western counties 
and of the city of Philadelphia, and to an extension 
of the suffrage qualifications, proved almost barren 
of result, except to incense further the popular party. 


Yet the Assembly was so blind as not to see the ex 
tent and force of this popular uprising ; and sitting 
in the room above that in which the Congress held 
its sessions, on the very day that the Congress was 
opening the ports of the country, the Assembly was 
obstinately voting, by a large majority, not to alter 
the instructions to the delegates on the subject of 
independence. 1 But the Congress, grown some 
what arbitrary by the rapid advances toward inde 
pendence it saw making elsewhere, would not sit 
idly by without taking some measure to show its 
sympathy with the disappointed democracy of Penn 
sylvania. To the much dissatisfied elements in the 
western counties it had been responsive on a pre 
vious occasion, 2 as if to let the people there know 
that, though the Assembly was against them, the 
stronger arm of the Congress would be raised in 
their behalf whenever expedient. The border war 
fare between the Pennsylvania and the Connecticut 
settlers at Wyoming still continued, and an oppor 
tunity arose in the middle of April for the Congress 
again to take a hand. 3 It did this now with the 
more readiness, because it could thereby make 
known that the welfare of no part of the country 
was being overlooked, and that the inhabitants of 

1 See Lincoln, op. cit., Chap. XIII. 

2 Journal of Congress, December 20, 1775. 
8 Journal of Congress, April 15, 1776. 


the western counties in their dispute with the Penn 
sylvania Assembly would continue to find a sturdy 
advocate before the Congress. 

In the full flush of its new-found strength the 
Congress went further afield and seeing, as it 
thought, an opportunity to advance fkt inierests of 
the independence party in Maryland, proceeded 
to attempt to lay down the rule of conduct for that 
colony. The conditions were in some respects not 
dissimilar from those in Pennsylvania, and the pres 
ence of a most amiable, respected^ and popular gov 
ernor, Eden, still exercising some of his functions, 
served to complicate matters. He iiad been able, in 
great measure, to keep control of tie Convention and 
Council of Safety, though the Baltimore Committee 
had not proved so tractable. It was largely due to 
his influence that Maryland had taken her stand 
against independence, and though hid authority was 
waning at this time (the middle of April) it was as 
yet far from gone. When, therefore^ the Congress 
had put before it, by the Baltimore Committee, a 
batch of Eden s correspondence with the home au 
thorities, it immediately responded by calling upon 
the Maryland Council of Safety to seize and secure 
the governor and have his papers relating " to the 
American dispute, without delay conveyed safely to 
Congress." 1 But the Congress had reckoned with 
out its host. 

1 Journal of Congress, April 16, 1776. 


Without delay, it is true, the Council of Safety 
took up the cause, but in a manner far different from 
what had been anticipated. Its members considered 
their dignity offended by the Congress acting at 
once: upon the information provided by the Balti 
more Committee, without first referring the matter 
to the Council of Safety. They denounced the 
Baltimore Committee, and especially its president, 
for exercising an authority which went far beyond 
the bounds to whiUi it was considered they should 
have been limited-* and the echoes of the controversy 
resounded in the, halls of the Maryland Convention 
when it met a fe\/ weeks later. 1 Instead of seizing 
Governor Eden, tfciey considered his case for several 
weeks, and finally advised him to depart in peace 
with his possessions. 2 When, therefore, the resolu 
tion of the Congress on the subject of forming new 
governments and putting an end to all authority 
derived from* the crown, 3 came before them, they 
were still smarting under what they believed to be 
the insult put upon them by the Congress. Despite 
that they, had less than a week before absolved all 
persons ^lom taking the usual oaths to the govern 
ment, upon assuming office, they now not only passed 

x May 8, 1776, Proc. of Md. Conventions, Baltimore, 1836, 

2 May 24, 1776, Ibid., 150-152. 

3 See pp. Qi-94- 


long resolutions expressing their opinion that the 
necessity had not yet arisen for suppressing the 
exercise of every kind of authority under the crown, 
and in its place having all the powers of government 
exercised under the authority of the people, but went 
further, and specifically notified the delegates in 
the Congress to follow the old instructions directing 
them not to vote for independence, " in the same 
manner as if the said instructions were particularly 
repeated." 1 In this instance the intrusion of the 
Congress into Maryland s affairs had retarded in 
stead of advanced the cause of independence, and 
the effects of the friction engendered between the 
Congress and the Convention, and between Mary 
land s delegates and the President, Hancock, and 
other delegates, did not wear off before six weeks 
had passed away. 

But a set-back of this nature did not daunt the 
radicals, who were now finding popular support 
throughout the colonies. The measures that the 
Congress had so far adopted were looked upon 
everywhere as warranted by the necessities of the 
situation. From all sides information was coming 

* V 

in that the popularity of independence was growing 
apace. The correspondence of the time, the 
gazettes, the resolutions of local committees, all 
were viewing with marked favor the idea that six 

1 Proc. of Md. Conventions, May 21, 142. 


months before had found scarcely an advocate. 1 
These gave courage to the radicals in the Congress, 
and furnished the incentive to pursue bolder meas 
ures still. The inertia of the conservative middle 
colonies had to be overcome, and if they would not 
of themselves withdraw the instructions against 
independence, the Congress would give them the 
occasion. This reasoning applied with particular 
force to Pennsylvania, whose Assembly still stood 
as a stone wall against all pressure brought to bear 
on it, for as has been well said, " Pennsylvania was 
the battle-ground of the movement at this time." 2 
Some direct appeal must be made which if not re 
plied to by the conservatives in a manner satis 
factory to the independence party in Pennsylvania, 
as elsewhere, would result in the overthrow of the 
old order. 

As if to provide the radicals with a lever with 
which to raise out of their depths of doubt and hesi 
tation the many still hoping for commissioners or 
other means of reconciliation, came the definite 
news, early in May, 3 that great numbers of Han 
overian and Hessian soldiers were being sent over. 
The cry against resorting to the aid of foreign mer 
cenaries, who could have no interest in the contest, 

l See Austin s Gerry, I, 179. 

2 John Adams Works, III, 45, note. 

3 See p. 67. 


and would, therefore, be certain to carry on the 
war with a cruelty not to be expected of those 
speaking their own language and having much in 
common with them, resounded through the land; 
and while serving to give pause to many who halted 
at the thought of the seeming impossibility of with 
standing such an overwhelming force, aroused the 
spirit of a far greater number to meet the oncoming 
hosts with all the strength and determination within 

John Adams, always ready for some bold stroke, 
now came forward and sought to force matters. 
He would have had the colonies that had put 
limitations upon the actions of their delegates, re 
quested to repeal their instructions, giving as rea 
son the present state of America and " the cruel 
efforts of our enemies " which rendered it necessary 
that a perfect union be formed to preserve and es 
tablish our liberties. 1 But largely because of the 
feeling that prevailed in the minds of the more con 
servative that this was going too far for the time, 
and that the ultimate aim might be attained the 
better in another way, this motion in the form finally 
adopted was toned down considerably. It made 
a recommendation to the assemblies and conven 
tions, " where no government sufficient to the 
exigencies of their affairs hath been hitherto estab- 

1 Probably on May 6, 1776. See Works, II, 489. 


lished, to adopt such government as shall in the 
opinion of the representatives of the people best 
conduce to the happiness and safety of their con 
stituents in particular and America in general." 1 
And this was followed by the selection of a radical 
committee to prepare a preamble intended to state 
the reason for advising such action. 

In the interval between their appointment and the 
adoption of the preamble which they reported, two 
important incidents occurred, which could not have 
been without influence in shaping the course of the 
Congress action. On the day before the final vote 
on the preamble was taken, Jefferson, fresh from his 
labors in Virginia, took his seat in the Congress, 
from which he had been absent for more than four 
months ; and Ellery arrived from Rhode Island 
bringing with him new instructions, but just issued to 
her delegates by that colony, permitting them to vote 
for independence if joined by others. 2 Though Jef 
ferson bore no new instructions, he was perfectly in 
touch with affairs in his own colony, knew how 
county upon county was demanding that the recently 
called convention should renounce allegiance to Great 
Britain, and was therefore ready to aid in every way 
in furthering such views. The Rhode Island in- 

1 Journal of Congress, May 10, 1776. 

2 These instructions are in Journal of Congress, May 14, 


structions, though not mentioning independence (be 
cause in the phrasing of the astute governor of that 
colony, " dependency is a word of so equivocal a 
meaning, and hath been used to such ill purposes, 
and independency, with many honest and ignorant 
people carrying the idea of eternal warfare ")/ were 
so general in their character as to give the delega 
tion full powers to do or vote as they wished. With 
two such accessions to the ranks of the radicals in 
the Congress the preamble was carried through with 
a rush. 

As usual, the occasion for giving the authority of 
the Congress to the recommendation now made to 
the colonies is sought in some British acts of aggres 
sion or shortcoming. These are stated to be the 
exclusion by the King, in conjunction with the 
Lords and Commons, of the colonies from the pro 
tection of his crown ; the failure to answer the peti 
tion, and the use of the full force of the kingdom, 
combined with foreign mercenaries, to accomplish 
the subjugation of America. Under such circum 
stances " it appears absolutely unreconcilable to rea 
son and good conscience, for the people of these 
colonies now to take the oaths and affirmations neces 
sary for the support of any government under the 
crown of Great Britain." Instead, every kind of 
authority under the crown should be totally sup- 

1 Staples, Rhode Island in the Continental Congress, 68. 


pressed, and all the powers of government exerted 
by authority of the people of the colonies " for the 
preservation of internal peace virtue and good or 
der, as well as for the defence of their lives, liberties 
and properties, against the hostile invasions and 
cruel depredations of their enemies." 1 

To stay the passage of this preamble, to them more 
offensive even than the resolution for which it fur 
nished the pretext, Duane of New York, and Wilson 
of Pennsylvania uttered loud and earnest protest. 
They were fully cognizant that the intent of its 
clauses was to compass the overthrow of the totter 
ing Pennsylvania Assembly, and bring pressure to 
bear upon the conservative elements of New York 
and the other hesitating colonies. This could be done 
only by an appeal to the people, and the Congress 
had not dared as yet to go so far in proclaiming 
its reliance upon them. But it was foreseen that 
an appeal of another sort must shortly be made to 
them to come forth in large numbers to fight the 
greater future battles for liberty, compared with 
which all the clashes that had already occurred were 
as preliminary skirmishes. And to ensure the success 
of its extensive plans the Congress was more than 
willing to give the democracy, whenever it might, 
some show to procure the rights which it was 
clamoring for in louder and ever louder degree. 

1 Journal of Congress, May 15, 1776, Aitken edition, 1777. 


Having been instrumental in accomplishing so 
much, John Adams could with good grace unbosom 
himself to his wife to this effect : " Great Britain has 
at last driven America to the last step, a complete 
separation from her; a total absolute independence, 
not only of her Parliament, but of her Crown, for 
such is the amount of the resolve of the I5th, . . . 
This is effected by extinguishing all authority under 
the crown, Parliament, and nation, as the resolu 
tion for instituting governments has done, to all in 
tents and purposes." 1 In those few words John 
Adams touched upon the salient point of the 
resolution the renouncement of the jurisdiction of 
the crown. Hitherto this had not been brought 
seriously into question, in any of the public docu 
ments of the Congress. 2 And the form this now 
took but foreshadowed the terms in which would be 
couched the definite Declaration of Independence 

The latter end of the month of May and the first 
week of June had crowded into these few days 
events, the bigness of which by far transcended any 
thing that had gone before. The Congress was 
approaching rapidly to the highest point of its au 
thority. It had already assumed to give a com 
mittee full power, in carrying out its investigations, 

1 Letters to his Wife, I, 109-110. 

2 See Chapter VII. 


to send for persons and papers. 1 This was an ex 
tension of jurisdiction that would not until now have 
been acquiesced in for a moment. The arrival on 
the twentieth of May of Button Gwinnett and Ly- 
man Hall from Georgia, bringing with them broad 
instructions to agree to any of the acts of the Con 
gress, was an important accession to the ranks of the 
radicals, even though these two represented few 
more than a handful of the revolutionists of Sa 
vannah. Thus strengthened, the Congress could, 
with the greater complacency, studiously ignore 
Maryland s reactionary resolutions, which were read 
in the Congress on the twenty-fourth. 2 Within a 
few days the consideration of plans for retrieving 
the miscarriages and blunders in Canada, and carry 
ing on the war with determined energy was entered 
upon with enthusiasm. For this purpose Washing 
ton and Gates were called to the councils of the Con 
gress from New York, where they were awaiting 
and preparing to meet the expected reinforcements 
to the British arms. 

Under these circumstances, the instructions laid 
before the Congress by the North Carolina and Vir 
ginia delegates on May 27, proved welcome read 
ing. North Carolina s provincial Congress had 
passed the resolution empowering her representa- 

1 Journal of Congress, May 8, 1776. 

2 See p. 89 supra. 


tives to join with the delegates from the other 
colonies in declaring independence, on the twelfth 
of the month preceding. For some reason, not 
fully to be accounted for, its presentation had been 
thus long delayed. It was probably not sent off 
with promptness, and when received was held back 
by Hewes who, unaided, had born the brunt of 
guarding North Carolina s interests in Philadelphia, 
for several months past. Before presenting it he 
had thought well to wait a while in the hope that 
another delegate might arrive to share with him 
the heavy responsibility of taking so momentous a 
step. But no such considerations weighed with the 
Virginia delegation. Their instructions were more 
explicit than any hitherto passed. They were not 
merely to join with others in declaring independence 
when the Congress saw fit to adopt such a measure, 
but were to make the first move by presenting a 
specific proposal to that end. Only the multiplicity 
of affairs receiving consideration at this time, pre 
vented the Congress from at once giving a hearing to 
Virginia s proposition. 

The Congress was now on the point of making a 
call for greater numbers of troops than any hitherto 
sent out. Some attempt must be made to retrieve 
the miscarriages and disasters in Canada, and a 
bold front must be put on to meet the serious situa 
tion in New York. 1 To do this without stating 

1 Journal of Congress, June i, 3, 1776. 


publicly the reasons, so that all might be made famil 
iar with them would arouse criticism, might even 
cause dissension. To avoid this possibility, it was 
decided to have the call for troops accompanied by a 
stirring address that would " impress the minds of 
the people with the necessity of now stepping for 
ward to save their country, their freedom and prop 
erty." 1 Moreover it was well understood that in 
dependence was now a question, at most, of only a 
few weeks, and once declared, the Congress must 
be in a position to sustain it by force of arms if need 
be. For none appreciated better than the members 
of the Congress, the necessity of being prepared to 
suppress with determination the dissenters from the 
measures for which it stood sponsor, from the day 
when it renounced all connection with Great Britain. 
The time was at hand when all must declare either 
for the Congress or against it and those who fol 
lowed the latter course must be ready to pay the 
full cost of their tenacity of opinion. 

1 Secret Journal of Congress, Domestic, May 29, 1776. The 
address intended was never issued, as the Declaration of In 
dependence more than took its place. 


A brief survey of the status of the independence 
sentiment throughout the colonies at the opening of 
the month of June, as mirrored in the instructions 
to the delegates in the Congress, discloses the fact 
that but one colony, Virginia, had given unequi 
vocal expression to its views. Excepting only that 
colony, none had directed that a definite proposal 
upon the subject of independence should be made; 
the five middle colonies had not rescinded their reso 
lutions against it, and the instructions of only one 
other, North Carolina, mentioned the word. But 
throughout New England, the resolutions of the 
towns spoke as with one voice in favor of a declara 
tion by the Congress. Massachusetts, carrying out 
her policy, laid down nearly two years before, had 
not officially come forward to demand what was the 
overwhelming desire of her inhabitants. She had 
made so many advances in the past, had seen so 
many of her grievances taken up and made common 
issue of, that she thought it well to let the great 
renouncement take its origin elsewhere. She would 
be content to show her mettle after the die was cast. 



The middle colonies had not yet spoken; but they 
were in a ferment of discussion, and the day for de 
ciding the all-important question could not long be 
put off. Of the southern colonies, the action of 
South Carolina alone was doubtful. The instruc 
tions to her delegates, issued by the revolutionary 
organization, which had overthrown the old form of 
government and substituted a new in its place, 
were comprehensive. But scarcely half a dozen 
of the men who were the leaders in the local revolu 
tionary movement favored independence. The in 
structions could not, therefore, accurately be con 
strued as authorizing a vote for independence. At 
most the delegates could use their best judgment as 
to the right course to follow. 1 

Such was the situation when on June 7, in accord- 
/ ance with the terms of Virginia s instructions, Rich 
ard Henry Lee, speaking for his colleagues, intro- 
Y duced the resolutions, written in his own hand and 
reading : " Resolved, 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 connec- 
tipn between them and the State of Great Britain 
is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. 

" That it is expedient to take the most effectual 
measures for forming foreign alliances. 

1 McCrady, S. C. in the Revolution, Chapter VI. 


" That a plan of confederation be prepared and 
transmitted to the respective Colonies for their con 
sideration and approbation." 1 That Virginia s dele 
gation would propose the adoption of some such 
statements, was foreseen ten days before when the 
Congress had listened to the formal reading of the 
resolves of the Virginia Convention. And if any 
thing more were needed to strengthen the conviction 
that it was useless to hope for a change of policy on 
the part of Great Britain, and that Virginia s move 
was, therefore, timely and appropriate, this was 
furnished by the King s brief answer, just to hand, 
delivered in reply to the address and petition of the 
Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London on March 
22. 2 But even with the action of Virginia s dele 
gation fully expected, and with the determined 
words of the King before them, there must have 
been something at least approaching a shock in Inde 
pendence Chamber when this " hobgobling of so 

1 The original MS of these resolutions is among the Papers 
of the Continental Congress recently transferred from the 
Department of State to the Library of Congress. The sheet 
on which they are written has had added to it, partly in the 
hand of Benjamin Harrison and partly in that of Charles 
Thomson and another not identified, the determination of 
Congress thereupon, as afterwards entered in the journal. 
It also bears an endorsement in Thomson s hand. A facsimile 
is in Force, 4th, VI, facing 1700. 

2 See Force, 4th, VI, 462-463. 


frightful a mien " l actually stalked into their midst. 
This may account for the unsatisfactory entry on 
the Journal of Congress, which fails to inform us 
who were the mover and seconder, though it duly 
records that the resolutions obtained a second, and 
from other sources we learn that it was John Adams 
who thus spoke out. 

For all that they had been long demanding action, 
even the radicals entered upon the discussion of this 
momentous subject not unmindful of the seriousness 
of the consequences involved. They were aggres 
sive and persistent still, had advocated a reckless 
course in times past, and were eager that a con 
clusion should be reached, but above all they per 
ceived the necessity for unanimity, now more than 
ever. They were entirely willing, therefore, that 
consideration should be postponed for a day, the 
members being enjoined to attend punctually at ten 
o clock the next morning. As if to foreshadow 
the great part he was to play in fashioning the 
document in which independence is proclaimed, 
Jefferson, and he alone, made notes of the great 
debates held on the eighth and tenth of June, and 
on July i. 2 The main burden of the opposition fell 
upon the shoulders of Wilson, Robert R. Living 
ston, Dickinson, and Edward Rutledge, all but the 

1 John Adams. 

z Works, Ford edition, I, 18-28. 


last representing the middle colonies. They held 
that, though friendly to the measure, with them it 
was a question of its opportuneness ; there had 
always been delay in taking any important step 
until the voice of the people demanded it ; the mid 
dle colonies were " not yet ripe for bidding adieu to 
British connection, but they were fast ripening and 
in a short time would join in the general voice of 
America," and the dissensions created by the resolu 
tion of May 15, demonstrated this; that some dele 
gations had not the authority to consent to such a 
declaration, and certainly the delegates of the other 
colonies had no power to answer for them; that 
as the assembly of Pennsylvania, and the New York 
convention were then in session, and conventions 
would meet in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New 
Jersey in a few days, and would probably take up 
the question of their attitude toward independence, 
they should wait until they could be heard from ; 
that there was danger if such a declaration was 
made now, the instructed delegates must retire, and 
possibly their colonies might secede from the union. 
Taking up the matter of foreign alliances, they 
argued that it would be best to wait until they 
learned from the agent sent to Paris as to the dis 
position of the French court ; that by waiting, if the 
ensuing campaign was successful, they could make 
an alliance on better terms, and that they should 


agree among themselves upon the terms on which 
to form an alliance, before declaring to form one at 
all events. It is probable, too, that some stress was 
laid, at least by Dickinson, upon the desirability of 
forming a confederation before declaring independ 
ence, as this was a point on which he is reported 
to have laid particular emphasis during the preced 
ing months. 1 

Against these contentions " the Power of all New 
England, Virginia and Georgia " was thrown, 2 
though the principal spokesmen were John Adams, 
Wythe, and Lee until his departure for Virginia on 
June 10. They held that the arguments of the 
opposition were not against the proposition itself 
but its timeliness ; that the question was not one of 
announcing something new, but by a declaration of 
independence of announcing a fact which already 

1 Stille s Dickinson. On July 21, 1775, Franklin brought 
forward his plan of a confederation, which appears to have 
been read in Congress but received no further consideration. 
Secret Journal, Domestic, 283 et seq. A plan was considered 
by the Congress, January 16, 1776 (Diary of Richard Smith), 
but was opposed by Dickinson and Hooper among others. 
This was probably a modification of Franklin s original plan, 
which he had transmitted to various colonies for examination. 
In all likelihood this was the plan published in the Penna. 
Evening Post, for March 5, 1776, and it may have been pub 
lished then in order to answer the objection that confedera 
tion should precede independence. 

2 Jefferson s Works, I, 19, note. 


existed; they had never acknowledged the domi 
nance of the people or Parliament of England, and 
the restraints which they had imposed on trade, 
derived effect only from acquiescence in them ; 
their allegiance to the King was now dissolved by 
his assent to the late act of Parliament declaring 
them out of his protection and by levying war upon 
them; that James II had not formally declared the 
English people out of his protection and " yet his 
action proved it & the parliament declared it," and 
this was their position. They argued that the 
prohibitory instructions, particularly of Pennsyl 
vania, were drawn a long time back, when condi 
tions were different; that the people were waiting 
for the Congress to lead the way, and were in favor 
of the measure though some of their representatives 
were not. Attacking the " proprietary powers " 
(in which we hear the voice of John Adams) as 
responsible for this backward attitude of Pennsyl 
vania and Maryland, they held that the conduct of 
some colonies from the beginning gave rise to the 
suspicion that it was their policy to lag behind the 
rest in order that " their particular prospect might 
be better, even in the worst event," that the colonies 
which had come forward in the beginning and 
hazarded all must do so now, and " put all again 
to their own hazard." As to secession, they had 
no fears, and even if the dissatisfied colonies seceded 


(and here again the sound of John Adams s voice is 
unmistakable) " the history of the Dutch revolution 
proved that a secession of some colonists would not 
be so dangerous as some apprehended." Respect 
ing foreign alliances, no nation of Europe would 
treat with us or receive an ambassador from us 
unless we were first independent, that they might 
not even afterward, but we should never know with 
out trying ; that the ensuing campaign might prove 
unsuccessful, and that an alliance had better be pro 
posed " while our affairs wear a hopeful aspect." 

It becomes clear from an examination of these 
debates, (which took place in committee of the whole 
with Harrison of Virginia in the chair), even in the 
fragmentary form in which they have come down 
to us, that all energies had to be concentrated on 
the middle colonies if they were to be won over to 
acquiesce in the determination reached by the seven 
other colonies, and that the opposing conventions and 
assemblies must be informed of the attitude of the 
majority of the Congress. A compromise involving 
delay was, therefore, a welcome proposal. So that 
when Edward Rutledge, on behalf of his colony, 
moved on the tenth that the consideration of the 
first resolution be postponed for three weeks, it was 
passed with the proviso that in order that no time 
might be lost in case the Congress finally agreed 
thereto, a committee should be selected to prepare 


a declaration which should serve as a preamble to 
the resolution. 1 On the next day Jefferson, John 
Adams, Franklin, Sherman, and R. R. Livingston 
were chosen as the committee to have charge of pre 
paring this important document. And in the hope 
of influencing Dickinson and Morris, who contended 
for the making of foreign alliances and a confedera 
tion in advance of declaring independence, commit 
tees to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to 
foreign powers, and to draft articles of confedera 
tion, were selected on the twelfth. Significant of the 
great awakening in the Congress that these debates 
occasioned, as of the necessity for a more orderly 
conduct of military affairs, which passing events dis 
closed, is the institution on this same day of the 
most important permanent organization within the 
Congress, the board of war and ordnance a pro 
posal for the creation of which had laid on the desk 
unacted upon for nearly two months. 2 

Turning now to what was happening in the mid 
dle colonies, we discover everywhere discussion of 
and action on the great question. The resolution 
of the Congress of May 15 had proved, as was in 
tended, of immediate effect in Philadelphia in spur 
ring on the elements dissatisfied with the unchanged 

1 Journal of Congress, June 10, 1776. 

2 The Committee on establishing a War Office had reported 
on April 18, Journal of Congress. 


attitude of the Pennsylvania Assembly. On the 
twentieth of that month a general gathering of the 
inhabitants of the City and Liberties, to the num 
ber, it is said, of 7,000, presided over by one of the 
most disgruntled and influential of the radicals, 
Col. Daniel Roberdeau, protested against the Assem 
bly s competency to form a new government, and 
resolved that a convention should be chosen by the 
people for that purpose. 1 These resolutions were 
sent out to the committees of the counties of the 
province, and June 18 was named as the day 
on which a provincial conference should meet 
in Philadelphia to determine upon the method of 
electing members to a convention to establish the new 
form of government, recommended by the Con 
tinental Congress. The tottering Assembly in the 
meantime was having difficulty in getting a quorum 
together, though this was finally obtained on May 
22. They did little more for the next few days 
than listen to elaborate addresses presented by the 
radical and conservative inhabitants respectively, the 
one demanding that no action be taken upon the 
resolution of the Congress of May 15, and the other 
that the old instructions to the delegates against in 
dependence be adhered to. On the fifth of June 
they listened to the reading of Virginia s resolu 
tions transmitted by the convention of that colony, 

1 Lincoln, Revolutionary Movement in Pennsylvania, 255. 


and, by a large majority, decided to appoint a com 
mittee, with Dickinson as chairman, to prepare new 
instructions to the delegates in the Congress. These 
were adopted on the eighth, but not signed by the 
speaker until the day, June 14, on which the old 
Assembly passed forever out of existence, by reason 
of the impossibility of reconciling the conservative 
spirit of its members with the revolutionary ideas 
prevailing among large numbers of the people, who 
had taken affairs into their own hands. The in 
structions tried to effect a compromise when the 
time for compromises was long past, and conse 
quently displeased the conservatives who thought 
they went too far, and were unsatisfactory to the 
radicals, because they did not go far enough. While 
specifically authorizing the delegates to enter into 
a confederation and to make treaties with foreign 
powers, they dodged the main issue, independence, 
by merely bestowing the power to concur in adopt 
ing such other measures as were judged necessary. 
In such a crisis plain speaking was required, and no 
resort to subterfuges would answer. Accordingly, 
when the Conference of Committees came together 
on the eighteenth of June, under the presidency of the 
active Thomas McKean, a member of the Congress, 
though having no power to instruct the delegates, 
they unanimously expressed the willingness to con 
cur in a vote of the Congress declaring the colonies 


free and independent states. 1 Thus ended the 
struggle for authority to declare independence in 
Pennsylvania, as a result of which the colony was 
so rent asunder that it took many years to recover 
from the effects. 

We miss from this record the familiar name of 
Franklin, who throughout the first six months had 
been as much the leader of the radicals as Dickinson 
of the moderates. He was not now holding aloof 
from choice, but fallen a victim to the racking 
twinges of the gout, was kept from " Congress & 
Company " for nearly all of the first three weeks of 
June. If the void left by his absence could have 
been filled, Thomas McKean was at hand for this. 
Not content with taking a leading part in fashion 
ing Pennsylvania s affairs, he went through the 
counties of Delaware and by his personal exertions 
swung her into line for independence on June I4, 2 
the wording of the Philadelphia conference, with 
which he had so much to do, being used. It must be 
remembered, when we wonder how a Pennsylvanian 
could have been permitted to interfere in Delaware, 
that Pennsylvania men and measures were not then 
so separated from Delaware s politics as now. 

Some measure of the extent of the changes 
wrought in New Jersey by the revolution, is revealed 

1 Force, 4th, VI, 963. 

2 Life and Correspondence of George Read, 165; Force, 4th, 
VI, 884; Frothingham s Rise of the Republic, 523. 


by the fact that of the men who met in Provincial 
Congress at Burlington on June 10, but six had 
been members of the assembly of that colony which 
had met for the last time in November of the prev 
ious year. There as in Maryland, matters were 
complicated by the presence of a popular governor, 
William Franklin, who, though out of touch with 
the Provincial Congress, still had the support of a 
large body of the population. To deprive him of 
further influence to delay agreement upon inde 
pendence it was thought best to get him out of the 
colony, but he and his party were so strong that the 
Provincial Congress were not willing to undertake 
his banishment without the authority and assistance 
of the Continental Congress, as " the countenance 
and approbation of the Continental Congress would 
satisfy some persons who might otherwise be dis 
posed to blame " them. 1 The Congress, on the look 
out for a chance to shape the course of events, es 
pecially in a colony that had not yet rescinded its 
old instructions against independence, responded im 
mediately upon the receipt of this appeal. Direct 
ing the examination of the governor, if as a result 
it was decided that he should be confined, the 
Congress stood ready to name the place, " they con 
curring in the sentiment . . . that it would be 

1 Letter of the New Jersey Congress to Continental Congress, 
June 1 8, 1776, Force, 4th, VI, 1624. 


improper to confine him in that colony." Before 
another week went round, Governor Franklin was 
ordered, by the Congress, to be sent to Connecticut. 1 
Four days after New Jersey s first appeal, the 
Provincial Congress having, one June 21, declared 
itself in favor of forming a new government pur 
suant to the recommendation of the Congress 
voted new instructions to the delegates in the Con 
gress, by which they were authorized to join in de 
claring independence, in making a confederation, 
and in contracting foreign alliances. In all this 
the hand of Jonathan D. Sergeant is visible. He, 
like McKean, was also a member of the Congress 
and knew well the temper of the majority of that 
body, though he had not for some weeks been in 
his place in Independence Chamber. His person 
ality looms almost as large in the events that brought 
about the adhesion of New Jersey to the new doc 
trine, as McKean s in Pennsylvania and Delaware, 
Jay s in New York, and Chase s in Maryland. 

Chase returned from the mission he was sent on 
to Canada too late by one day to take part in the de 
bates held in the Congress. But this enforced silence 
served to make his pen all the more active when he 
learned how necessary it was for the cause of inde 
pendence, to turn Maryland about. The Convention 
of that colony had adjourned on May 25, in angry 

1 Journal of Congress, June 19, 24, 1776. 


mood at the Congress for its interference in her 
affairs, and was not to reassemble until the follow 
ing August. But the requisitions for troops, made 
by the Congress, rendered it necessary for the Coun 
cil of Safety to call the Convention to meet at An 
napolis on June 21. That same day they instructed 
their deputies in Philadelphia to ask for leave of 
absence to attend the Convention, and at the same 
time to make an agreement to postpone considera 
tion of the questions of independence, foreign 
alliances and confederation until their return. 1 The 
Congress, however, would not listen to any proposal 
for deferring the vote, as it was public property 
that this would take place on July I, and the country 
was expectant. 2 Meantime, Chase, as he put it, 
had " not been idle." He had appealed in writing 
to every county committee, and one after the other 
they were directing their representatives in the Con 
vention to vote for new instructions to the delegates 
in the Congress. And in winning over the members 
of the Convention to his way of thinking he received 
able support from Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, 
his companion on the mission to Canada. Just a 
week after the Convention met, the fruit of their 
toil was manifested in the unanimous resolve, 
passed late at night, directing Maryland s delegates 

1 Proc. Md. Conventions, 166. 

2 John Adams Works, IX, 413. 



to join with the other colonies in voting in favor of 
independence. 1 Immediately after this decision was 
reached, Chase wrote to John Adams, in triumph : 
" I am this moment from the House to procure an 
Express to follow the Post with an Unan : vote of 
our Convention for Independence etc. etc. see the 
glorious effects of County Instructions our people 
have fire if not smothered." 2 Without his oppor 
tune exertions it is safe to say that Maryland would 
have lagged behind many weeks longer. 

Excepting only New York, each of the middle 
colonies, spurred on by the persistent agitation of 
some member of the Congress, before the month 
was out, in one way or another had given to its 
delegates the authority that was so much desired, 
and which was all important, if independence was to 
bQ proclaimed as the unanimous act of the colonies. 
As for the remainder of the country there was 
doubt about only one other colony, South Carolina. 
For in response to the repeated demands of their 
delegates, Connecticut and New Hampshire had 
taken action on June 14 and 15 respectively 3 And, 
though the assemblies of Massachusetts and Rhode 
Island 4 had not instructed in precise terms, the 

1 Proc. Md. Conventions, 176. 

2 John Adams Works, III, 56. 
8 Force, 4th, VI, 868, 1030. 

4 See p. 92 supra. 


voice of the people within their borders was calling 
so loudly for the proclaiming of independence, that 
none could have any doubt how the votes of their 
representatives would be cast. All knew, also, 
how stood Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. 
But a question in the minds of many as the fateful 
day approached, was " How would South Carolina 
and New York decide ? " No more definite word 
had issued from the former than that spoken more 
than three months before, when her delegates were 
empowered to join with a majority of the other 
colonies in executing such measures as would pro 
mote the best interests of that colony in particular, 
and America in general. None familiar with the 
political situation in South Carolina at the time these 
instructions were passed by her Provincial Congress 
can, in fairness, construe them as an authorization 
to vote for independence. 1 But in the three months 
interval the aggressive, efficient, local minority favor 
ing independence had been as active in beating down 
the opposition (or at least in gaining control of the 
administrative machinery), as had been that other 
minority, with success so marked, in the Continental 
Congress. If her instructions had not been rend 
ered more explicit, the conditions had certainly un 
dergone a change, and it was for South Carolina s 

1 See McCrady, South Carolina in the Revolution. Also 
p. 100 supra. 


delegates in the Congress to determine whether 
these were so altered as to serve as warrant for 
joining their vote to that of the majority. 

New York, much divided in her counsels by local 
political and religious dissensions of long standing, 
as by the presence of a large body of Tory sym 
pathizers, the effects of which had colored all her 
acts in the past, had shown as yet no inclination to 
make haste in reaching a decision. It would well 
repay us to go into the history of the complex condi 
tions in that colony, but we would thereby be car 
ried too far afield. 1 And, though there was anxious 
waiting to hear what would be her attitude, it must 
be remembered that she occupied not nearly so large 
nor so critical a place as Pennsylvania, nor wielded 
so much influence. Therefore, after it was known 
how Pennsylvania would in all probability vote, 
New York s position was not so important in the 
councils of the Congress, so far as independence 
was concerned, as it would have been had there 
still been doubt of Pennsylvania. Reliance, too, was 
placed upon the influence that the large increases 
in the army soon to be gathered about New York, 
would have in shaping opinion in favor of the 

1 For the details of New York s complex political affairs 
see Flick, Loyalism in New York, passim, Van Tyne s Loyal 
ists in the Am. Rev., Chapter V, and for the earlier period, 
Dr. Becker s valuable studies in Am. Hist. Rev. and Pol. Sci. 


Congress s decrees. Suffice it, therefore, for our 
purposes to record that on May 31 resolutions were 
passed by her Provincial Congress respecting the 
recommendation of the Congress of May 15. They 
were to the effect that having doubts as to the 
authority of the Provincial Congress to deal with so 
important a subject as instituting a new form of 
government, the people were to be given the oppor 
tunity of determining this matter. The electors in 
the several counties of the colony were recom 
mended to hold a special election of deputies 
(in the manner and form prescribed for the election 
of the existing Congress) to a Congress that should 
meet in New York on the second Monday in July. 
The deputies thus elected were to be understood as 
being thereby authorized to form a new government 
if they deemed it wise, which was " to continue in 
force until a future peace with Great Britain shall 
render the same unnecessary." 1 There was nothing 
in this that could seriously offend the sensibilities 
of those still conservatively inclined, for in spite of 
the declaration that the people should determine the 
question, the ultimate decision was left in the hands 
of the Provincial Congress. 

Immediately after the vote in the Continental 
Congress on independence, on June 8, four of the 
New York delegates then in Philadelphia, sent an 

1 Force, 4th, VI, 1352. 


express to their Provincial Congress telling them 
that a vote on independence could be expected to 
be had soon and asking for instructions. Three 
days later the Provincial Congress passed resolu 
tions recommending the electors and freeholders 
to instruct the representatives, for whom they were 
to vote at the ensuing election, respecting the atti 
tude they should hold on the question of independ 
ence. But at the same time, with striking incon 
sistency, they voted not to publish these resolutions 
until after the election had taken place. 1 Desiring 
to explain this paradoxical action to the delegates 
at Philadelphia, the letter in which the information 
was conveyed served only to confuse them the more. 
They were told that the Provincial Congress was 
unanimously of the opinion that the instructions 
did not authorize them " to give the sense of this 
colony on the question of declaring it to be, and 
continue, an independent state," a fact that was 
so well understood by the delegates as not to need 
affirmation by the unanimous opinion of the Pro 
vincial Congress. Further, they said they did not 
feel inclined to instruct on that point, as the 
majority held they had no authority so to do; 
and they were fearful to ask the opinion of the 
people at that time, lest it might interfere with the 
elections that were to determine the question of a 

1 Force, 4th, VI, 1396. 


new form of government. 1 In plain words, they 
wanted to insure their own reelection to power, did 
not want to take any steps that might put this re 
sult in jeopardy, nor add to the numerous complica 
tions that already had arisen, and had, therefore, 
decided to postpone action on independence until 
the new convention met. The perplexed delegates 
in Philadelphia were thus left suspended in mid-air. 
And to add to their difficulties, they had doubts 
how to vote after independence was declared, 
when measures, the outcome of such action, were 
up for consideration. 2 In the meantime, the ap 
proach of the British army to New York caused the 
Provincial Congress to adjourn, on June 30, to meet 
at White Plains on July 8, so that at this crucial 
period, the delegates in Philadelphia were left with 
out an authority to whom they might appeal for 
directions, until the vote on independence had taken 
place. On the tenth of July the deputies, just elected 
under the terms of the resolution of May 31, met at 
White Plains, resolved themselves into a convention 
and listened to the reading of the Declaration of 
Independence. The question of taking some stand 
was thus forced upon them, and a committee with 
Jay as chairman was selected to suggest suitable 
action. Since the discovery of Tryon s plot against 

1 Force, 4tli, VI, 814. 

2 Ibid., 1212. 


Washington a considerable change of opinion had 
come over enough of the members to form a ma 
jority, and they saw that only radical measures 
could counteract the influence of the Tories, and 
the presence of the British army. Therefore, 
on the afternoon of the same day they reported 
resolutions, which were unanimously adopted, ap 
proving the declaration of the Continental Con 
gress and pledging themselves to support it; the 
final act being played on July 15, when these resolu 
tions were read before the Continental Congress, 
thereby rendering it possible to give the engrossed 
copy the title of " The unanimous Declaration of 
the thirteen united States of America." 


While the colonies were thus preparing for the 
final day, the committee, to whom had been entrusted 
the difficult and exacting task of framing a declara 
tion suitable to serve as introductory to and in justi 
fication of the resolution of independence, had con 
cluded its work. On Friday, the twenty-eighth 
of June, the document in Jefferson s handwriting, 
after being read before the Congress, was laid on 
the table. Had Jefferson alone, without opportunity 
to consult his associates, received the mandate of 
the Congress to draw up such a paper, it would have 
differed in no essential detail from that handed in. 
For not only was it the product of his pen, but it 
bears the stamp of his master mind in every phrase. 
At the first meeting of the committee he had been re 
quested to undertake the preparation of the docu 
ment. Upon its completion he submitted it sepa 
rately to Adams and Franklin, who made only a 
few verbal alterations, and it was then reported to 
the full committee. Sherman and Livingston ap 
parently performed no service beyond lending their 
approval. 1 As chairman of the committee it was 

l l have followed Jefferson s account (Works, I, 24-27) as 
the only nearly contemporary version. It is but fair to add, 


Jefferson s right to draw up the report, and his col 
leagues request overcame any reluctance he may 
have had to enter upon so important an undertak 

The last two days of June happened to fall on 
Saturday and Sunday. As the Congress had decided 
a short time before, to hold no sessions on these days, 
in order that the hard pressed committees might have 
some leisure in which to consult upon the work given 
over to them, consideration of the Declaration went 
over until the next session, on July I. At nine 
o clock the Congress met, and, as if these events had 
been predesigned to render the day more solemn 
still, it heard from New Jersey s Convention that 
Howe was at Sandy Hook, and that some fifty Brit 
ish sail of the line had been sighted; and learned 
from Washington of the unearthing of a serious con 
spiracy instigated by the Mayor of New York and 
Governor Tryon. With his accustomed reserve, 
Washington intimated by no word that the danger 
to himself was of any consequence, though we may 
gather from other sources that nothing short of his 
own assassination was aimed at. But some slight re 
lief was obtained from reflecting upon such de- 

however, that Adams in his autobiography, written many years 
later, differs as to details. Naturally, as a result of the 
greater clamor that by that time surrounded the Declaration, 
he exaggerated the part he had played in its preparation. See 
Works of John Adams, III, 512 et seq. 


pressing intelligence, when the welcome resolution 
of Maryland s Convention was made known to all, 
disclosing that another vote was sure to be added 
to the majority favoring independence. 1 

After reading the order of the day, the considera 
tion of the resolution upon independence was pro 
ceeded with in committee of the whole, with Harri 
son of Virginia in the chair. The Declaration was 
referred to this committee also, but was not under 
discussion until the following day, July 2, when the 
resolution had been disposed of. As Hancock was 
the permanent president of the Congress, so Harri 
son may be regarded as its permanent chairman of 
the committee of the whole. He had served in that 
capacity for many months, the Congress by this 
means aiming to restore to Virginia her weight of 
prominence in the colonial balance, that had been 
lost to Massachusetts by Hancock s election to the 
presidency. Great debates were on once again, and 
for the final time, and engrossed the attention of the 
Congress for the entire day (July i). Relying as 
we must, upon accounts written many years after 
ward, when memories proved treacherous, it would 
appear, nevertheless, that John Adams and John 
Dickinson again stepped forth as principal cham 
pions for and against the adoption of Lee s reso 
lution declaring independence. 

1 Journal of Congress, July i, 1776. See p. 113 supra. 


John Adams tells us that he made his speech for 
the benefit and at the desire of the newly arrived 
New Jersey delegates, who had not been present on 
the seventh and eighth of June, and had therefore 
missed the earlier debates. 1 But of the words he 
then uttered no trace remains. In these circum 
stances we can only state that he recapitulated argu 
ments made " twenty times before," all of which, he 
thought, was " an idle misspence of time, for noth 
ing was said but what had been repeated and hack 
neyed in that room before, a hundred times for six 
months past." 2 That he delivered a speech, how 
ever, of unusual force and brilliancy is certain, and 
that it had considerable influence upon the minds of 
some who still were undecided how to act, is quite 
beyond doubt. 

For the precise contribution of Dickinson on this 
important occasion, we are equally at a loss. But 
if there is no record of his words, we have by way 
of substitute the opinions he held at that time, set 
down by his own hand six years and a half later, 
which Bancroft has taken the liberty of dressing up 
to give them the appearance of the speech he is 
known to have delivered. Dickinson would have us 
believe that his opposition was based on the inad- 
visability of issuing a declaration of independence 

1 Works, III, 58. 

2 Ibid., IX, 415. 


at that time. " The right and authority of Congress 
to make it, the justice of making it I acknowledged. 
The policy of then making it I disputed." He would 
have had the Congress await the result of some de 
cisive battle, upon which, and not upon the Declara 
tion, would depend procuring foreign aid; and he 
believed that " the formation of our governments, 
and an agreement upon the terms of our confedera 
tion, ought to precede the assumption of our station 
among sovereigns." To his mind the logical order 
was, first, the creation of local governments, to be 
followed by a confederation, and then independence. 
The importance of a confederation rested on the 
security it would give to the weaker colonies, against 
the dangers of having disadvantageous terms im 
posed on them by the stronger. These are the main 
points on which he based his arguments, as contained 
in the elaborate vindication of his career contributed, 
appropriately enough, to Freeman s Journal in I783. 1 
It is altogether probable that others participated 
in the discussion on this day, for the sitting was 
protracted until late in the afternoon, but we have 
no authentic statements of anything that was said. 
The debate having run its course, and the vote being 
taken, it was discovered that all New England, New 
Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and 

Vindication is to be found in Stille s Dickinson, Ap 
pendix V. 


Georgia favored the resolution, and South Caro 
lina and Pennsylvania voted against it. Delaware s 
ballot went for naught, since McKean favored and 
George Read opposed it, and New York s delegates 
decided that the only course they could pursue was 
to refrain from voting. Nine colonies thus regis- 
/ tered themselves as willing to cast off the yoke, an 
overwhelming majority to be sure, yet far from the 
unanimity which had been hoped for and worked 
for. As soon as Harrison, in his capacity of chair 
man of the committee of the whole, reported the 
decision to the Congress, Edward Rutledge of South 
Carolina again exercised the privilege of having the 
final determination postponed, which he had made 
use of on June 10. The members, however, were 
now so eager to conclude the consideration of this 
momentous subject that delay was voted but for a 

The position of the South Carolina delegates 
was extremely embarrassing. That a majority of 
them, under Rutledge s guidance, favored inde 
pendence, there can be no question. The issue now 
before them, however, was not that of giving ex 
pression to individual opinion, but of casting the 
vote of the colony of South Carolina as the major 
ity of her people would have desired. If the view 
of the most recent historian of that state be correct, 
there was not only a decided opposition to inde- 


pendence in that colony, but there was nothing in 
the history of the relations between South Carolina 
and the home government to create a sentiment in 
its favor. 1 On the other hand, the South Carolina 
delegates in the Congress were confronted with the 
probability that when the final vote was taken no 
colony, unless it be their own, would be found vot 
ing in the negative. They were naturally reluctant 
to incur the responsibility of thus marking theirs as 
the only colony to stand in the way of practical 
unanimity. Therefore they took ready advantage 
of the opportunity for another day s delay, which 
the rules allowed. It would appear that Rutledge 
was the most forward among them and the boldest, 
that he bent the others to his will, and made them 
willing to cast in their lot with the rest and brave 
the consequences at home. Fortunately for them, 
we are told, " a battle had been fought, a British 
fleet had been repulsed, a British army held in check, 
and a victory won in Charlestown harbor, before the 
news of their action in Congress," was known 
among their fellows. All this changed the condi 
tion of parties and affairs, and gave welcome recep 
tion to the intelligence of the part the delegates had 
played in the drama at Philadelphia. 2 

During the day s interval, McKean of Delaware 

1 McCrady, 5". C. in the Revolution, 1 72. 

2 Ibid., 173-174. 


had been active in his endeavor to get an additional 
delegate from his colony to counterbalance George 
Read s opposition. He tells us that he sent an ex 
press-rider at his own expense for Caesar Rodney 
to Dover. Riding the eighty miles at post-haste, 
Rodney was met by McKean at the State House 
door and brought into Congress in his boots, just 
before the vote was taken. 1 At least three of Penn 
sylvania s delegates, Dickinson, Morris, and Wilson, 
were in as sore perplexity as those of South Caro 
lina. Bearing credentials from the Pennsylvania 
Assembly, they had seen its authority diminish 
gradually, until a quorum could no longer be ob 
tained, and it had now passed out of existence. In 
its stead a revolutionary organization, with which 
they had no sympathy, had assumed control of Penn 
sylvania s affairs. The Conference of Committees, 
just organizing into a convention to prepare a form 
of government, had given authority to vote for in 
dependence, but to Wilson, Dickinson, and Morris, 
this Conference had not itself the authority which 
it was conferring upon others. On the other hand, 
as far-seeing men, it was plain to them that the old 
order was overturned, its vitality gone, with little 
likelihood of its revival. Under these circum 
stances, but one of them, Wilson, rose to the occa 
sion. As Dickinson and Morris stayed away from 
1 Buchanan s McKean Family. 


the Congress when the vote was taken, Wilson 
decided to go with the majority. His decision 
was all-important, for without his vote Pennsylva 
nia s delegation would have been equally divided 
and her vote would have gone for naught. Dick 
inson in spite of his services in the field did not for 
many years recover the prestige which he lost at this 
time. Robert Morris, notwithstanding that he was 
in opposition to the popular desires, is the only mem 
ber who was returned to the Congress. He was 
thus given the opportunity to serve his state and his 
country in so signal a manner in after years, as al 
most to obliterate all memory of his antagonism to 
independence. 1 

Thus, when the final vote was taken on the reso 
lution on the morning of July 2, but three votes, so 
far as we know, were cast against it those of Will 
ing and Humphreys of Pennsylvania, and Read s of 
Delaware. But Wilson, Franklin, and Morton out 
voted Willing and Humphreys, and McKean and 
Rodney set Read s opposition at naught. All the 
other colonies, excepting only New York, whose 
delegates abstained from taking part, voted without 
a dissenting voice for the resolution. 

This out of the way, the Congress now for the 
first time undertook to consider, in committee of the 

1 See, for Morris s own statement of his views, his letter 
to Joseph Reed, July 20, 1776, Reed s Reed, I, 201. 


whole, Jefferson s Declaration which was to serve as 
justification for the resolution just adopted. For 
the remainder of that day and most of the next two, 
beginning at the early hour of nine o clock, this the 
most picturesque and interesting of all of America s 
state documents was under consideration, paragraph 
by paragraph, what time the flying camp was ordered 
out both to protect New Jersey and stand ready 
to Washington s call, and rations of rum were being 
voted to shipwrights on Lake Champlain. The prin 
cipal changes resolved upon by reason of this 
discussion are thus described by Jefferson : " The 
pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England 
worth making terms with, still haunted the minds of 
many. For this reason those passages which con 
veyed censures on the people of England were struck 
out, lest they should give them offence. The clause, 
too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of 
Africa, was struck out in complaisance to South 
Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to 
restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the 
contrary still wished to continue it. Our Northern 
brethren also I believe felt a little tender under these 
censures ; for though their people have very few 
slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty consider 
able carriers of them to others." 1 

The first of the paragraphs he had in mind when 

1 Works, I, 28. 


penning these words, reads : " and when occasions 
have been given them, by the regular course of their 
laws, of removing from their councils the disturbers 
of our harmony, they have by their free election re 
established them in power. At this very time too 
they are permitting their chief magistrate to send 
over not only soldiers of our common blood, but 
Scotch and foreign mercenaries to invade and de 
stroy us. These facts have given the last stab to 
agonizing affection, and manly spirit bids us to re 
nounce forever these unfeeling brethren. We must 
endeavor to forget our former love for them, and 
hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies 
in war, in peace friends. We might have been a free 
and a great people together ; but a communication of 
grandeur and of freedom it seems is below their 
dignity. Be it so since they will have it. The road 
to happiness and to glory is open to us too, we will 
tread it apart from them. ..." These sentences 
were intended to be inserted in the paragraph just 
before that beginning " We, therefore, the Repre 
sentatives," and were to follow the sentence, " They 
too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of con 
sanguinity." Their excision displays no pusillan 
imity, as Jefferson would have it, but rather a better 
appreciation of the necessity for the retention of 
essentials and the discarding of dispensable details. 


The other paragraph had reference to the slave- 
trade and was more denunciatory of the King than 
any of the remainder. It read : " he has waged cruel 
war against human nature itself, violating its most 
sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a 
distant people who never offended him, captivating 
and carrying them into slavery in another hemi 
sphere, or to incur miserable death in their trans 
portation thither. This piratical warfare, the op 
probrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of this 
CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain determined to 
keep open a market where MEN should be bought 
and sold. He has prostituted his negative for sup 
pressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or re 
strain this execrable commerce. And that this as 
semblage of horrors might want no fact of distin 
guished die, he is now exciting those very people to 
rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty 
of which he has deprived them, by murdering the 
people upon whom he also obtruded them : thus pay 
ing off former crimes committed against the liberties 
of one people, with crimes which he urges them to 
commit against the lives of another." This is un 
questionably one of the most forcible clauses that 
issued from Jefferson s pen, and its rejection, for the 
reasons which he ascribes, served to promote con 
sistency of action on the part of the colonies, and 
prevent the forcing of an issue which the country 


was not yet in a position to face. But its omission 
was a serious blow to Jefferson, who all his days 
was a firm advocate of the suppression of the slave 
trade and of slavery. 

The remaining changes that the Declaration under 
went, were for the most part verbal and slight, and 
all tended in the direction of greater precision and 
terseness of expression. Thus concluded in com 
mittee of the whole on the afternoon of the fourth, 
it was reported to the Congress by Harrison, was 
read again, and received the final sanction of the 
Congress as the justification for the act that estab 
lished a new nation among the powers of the world. 

But 1 three of the many state documents that issued 
from the Continental Congress, during the nearly 
fifteen years of its existence, were regarded as of 
sufficient importance to have the signatures of the 
members appended : the Articles of Association, the 
Declaration of Independence, and the Articles of 
Confederation. Together they form the funda 
mental acts of union previous to the Constitution. 
The first two were of the nature of pledges on the 
part of the colonies to support one another in the 

1 Much information has been derived in the preparation of 
the following pages, from Judge Mellen Chamberlain s essay 
on the Authentication of the Declaration of Independence in 
the volume, "John Adams, etc.", Boston, 1898. But the 
results have been arrived at by independent researches as 


fight against the common enemy, and the last was 
designed to be an instrument by which the federal 
relations of the states were to be regulated. Re 
specting the dates on which the Association and the 
Confederation were signed no question has ever 
been raised. It is to be regretted that the same 
statement does not hold regarding the Declara 
tion of Independence. Ever rising in pictur 
esque importance as the most familiar, and per 
haps the most significant of the acts of the 
time, a wealth of tradition has grown up about 
its signing and promulgation. Unfortunately much 
of this is false and meaningless, notably that which 
connects the so-called Liberty Bell with the events 
of the day. 1 For the diffusion of the popular mis 
conception respecting the signing there is ample war 
rant, in that the two principal sources of information 
which should be authoritative, are misleading. 

1 With the rehabilitation by which Independence Hall 
profited from the Centennial year, went the elevation of the 
bell to the position of unwarranted prominence which has 
since that time become more marked still. There is no 
shadow of authority even for associating the ringing of the 
bell with the announcement of the agreement upon independ 
ence. The mythical legend of the blue-eyed boy waiting out 
side the door to give the signal to the man in the bell tower is 
the product of the fertile imagination of one of Philadelphia s 
early romancers, George Lippard, who first gave currency to 
it in his appropriately called " Legends of the Revolution, 
The 4th of July, 1776," 391 et seq. 


They are an incorrectly printed journal of the pro 
ceedings of the Congress, and a carelessly composed 
heading to the engrossed document. 

To understand how the errors crept in and what 
they signify, it is necessary to have before us the 
paragraphs of the printed Journal. And it must also 
be borne in mind that the proceedings of the Con 
gress for the year 1776 were first printed, by order 
of the Congress, by Robert Aitken, in the spring of 
1777. After recording that the Declaration had 
been agreed to in committee of the whole, and was 
reported to the Congress, this sentence occurs in the 
Journal for July 4 : " The declaration being read 
was agreed to as follows." The declaration is then 
printed in its proper place, but in larger type than 
that used for the remainder of the entries. After its 
conclusion and in the ordinary type, we find the sen 
tence, " The foregoing declaration was by order of 
Congress engrossed and signed by the following 
members," followed by fifty-five names, headed by 
Hancock s, the remainder being arranged in single 
column, 1 in geographical order beginning with New 
Hampshire and ending with Georgia. This entry 
has been the occasion of most of the confusion of 
subsequent years. Though the statement is not made 

1 This is the arrangement in the Aitken edition of the Jour 
nal, Philadelphia, 1777. In some of the later editions the 
signatures were in double columns. 


that the members signed on the date under which 
their names are entered, and it is a well-known fact 
that more than a fourth of the members whose names 
appear were not present on that day, some of them 
not even being members at that time, none the less 
the fact that the names appear with the proceedings 
of July 4, has caused the popular error to creep in 
which couples the signing and the adoption of the 
document as events of the same date. 

For a full elucidation of this matter, it is neces 
sary to reproduce the subsequent entries bearing 
upon the signing and official promulgation of the 
document. On the same day (July 4) the printed 
Journal informs us that a resolution was adopted 
to send copies of the document to the several as 
semblies, conventions, and committees or councils of 
safety, to the commanding officers of the continental 
troops; and to have it proclaimed in each of the 
United States 1 and at the head of the army. On 
the i Qth, four days after it was made known to the 
Congress that New York had given her tardy as 
sent to the wishes of the remainder, it was deter 
mined to have the Declaration " passed on the 4th, 
. . . fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title 
and style of The Unanimous Declaration of the 
Thirteen United States of America ; and that the 

1 This is the first use of the phrase " United States " after 
the Declaration. 


same, when engrossed, be signed by every member 
of Congress." On the second of August the Jour 
nal records that " The Declaration of Independence, 
being engrossed, and compared at the table, was 
signed by the members." These last two entries 
appear in print only in the Secret Journal, first pub 
lished in 1821, as if it was the intention thereby to 
protect for a time the members who subscribed their 
names to an act that would have rendered them 
liable to trial for treason, if the revolution had been 
suppressed by the British government. And, fur 
ther, the first official reference to signing the De 
claration, coming as it does two weeks after its 
adoption, would seem to indicate, also, that the idea 
of thus consummating the act was an afterthought. 
On the 8th of January of the following year, 
when the approach of the British to Philadel 
phia had rendered it necessary to transfer tem 
porarily the scene of activities to Baltimore, the 
Congress agreed for the first time to have an au 
thentic copy of the Declaration printed with the 
names of the members who had subscribed it, and 
to send one to each of the states with the re 
quest " to have the same put upon record." 1 The 

1 This was the first issue of the Declaration giving the 
names of the signers. It was printed at " Baltimore in Mary 
land, by Mary Katharine Goddard." Copies of this broadside 
are very rare, the only k~own copies being in the New York 
Public Library (Lenox), the Boston Public Library, and 
among the archives of the state of Massachusetts, cxlii, 23. 


records as reproduced above are the only references 
to the Declaration in the printed Journal subsequent 
to July 4. 

Turning now to the original manuscripts, we find 
in the entry for July 4 a significant disagreement 
with the printed Journal. In the first place there 
are two manuscript Journals among the volumes of 
the Continental Congress papers, now deposited in 
the Library of Congress, covering the proceedings 
of that day. One is known as the Rough Journal, 
and the other as the Transcript. From the latter, 
as indicated by a note in the handwriting of Charles 
Thomson, the Journal was printed. But in neither 
is to be found a copy of the Declaration with the 
signatures of the members appended, nor any copy 
of the signatures. In the Ivough Journal, we find 
a blank space over which has been placed a printed 
broadside of the Declaration, attached to the page by 
red wafers. Following this, on the next page, we 
read: "Ordered that the Declaration be authenti 
cated -and printed. That the committee appointed to 
prepare the Declaration superintend and correct the 
press." This entry occurs in no other manuscript 
nor in any printed Journal, and its omission is to be 
explained only upon the supposition that in copying 
the proceedings of the day for the printer these sen 
tences were overlooked by the usually careful Sec 
retary, Thomson. For, had there been any desire 


to withhold them from publication, they would have 
appeared upon the pages of the Secret Journal, upon 
which they are not to be found. In the other manu 
script, the Transcript, the Declaration is copied out 
in full in its proper place in Thomson s handwrit 
ing. From this it would appear that a copy of the 
manuscript of the Declaration was sent to Dunlap, 
the printer, immediately after the adoption of the 
resolution providing for its authentication and print 
ing, and that performing his work with all possible 
alacrity, he had copies struck off not later than the 
day following that on which it was received, namely 
on the 5th. The authentication of this broadside, as 
required by vote of the Congress, was accomplished 
by affixing the signatures of Hancock, President, and 
Charles Thomson, Secretary, the words " by Order 
and in Behalf of the Congress," being added. 

With this evidence both from print and manu 
script before us, we are now in position to enter 
upon an examination of the question of the date of 
the signing. And if we are to arrive at anything 
approaching accuracy, all statements not strictly 
contemporary with the actual event must be disre 
garded. Nothing but additional confusion has re 
sulted from placing reliance upon the recollections 
of the participants, as embodied in letters written 
more than forty years after the occurrences to which 
they refer. The memories of the Fathers are not 


to be trusted for details, after the lapse of so long 
a period, any more than those of ordinary mortals. 
In attempting to marshal the evidence of real weight 
then, we are at once struck by the fact that there are 
extremely few statements of value on which reliance 
can be placed. And the further point is revealed, 
that diligent search has not discovered any account 
of the signing which we know took place on August 
2, except the formal record in the Journal. 

We have seen that the authority of prime im 
portance, the original manuscript Journal, contains 
no reference to any act of signing on July 4. The 
only entries respecting such an act are those bear 
ing date of July 19 and August 2, as given above. 
Next in importance may be considered Jefferson s 
entry in his autobiography (written certainly within 
a very short time after the events which he makes 
note of, and perhaps even as he states " whilst these 
things were going on ") wherein he records that 
after the Declaration had been agreed to it was 
" signed by every member present except Mr. Dick 
inson." 1 This is the only direct statement to be 
found that the signing took place on this day, and 
as will be shown, it is manifestly incorrect. Suffice 
it to state here that Robert Morris, in addition to 
Dickinson, could not have signed on that day, as 
he also absented himself in order that the vote of 
Pennsylvania might be cast for independence. 

1 Jefferson s Works, I, 28. 


As against Jefferson s assertion we have three 
contemporary references of signal importance. 
Samuel Chase of Maryland signed on August 2. 
On July 5, when still absent from Philadelphia for 
the purpose of keeping Maryland in line, he wrote 
from Annapolis to John Adams, asking, " How shall 
I transmit to posterity that I gave my assent ? " To 
this John Adams sent the well known reply on July 
9, " As soon as an American Seal is prepared, I con 
jecture the Declaration will be subscribed by all the 
members, which will give you the opportunity you 
wish for, of transmitting your name among the vo 
taries of independence." 1 Again, Elbridge Gerry, 
who had left Philadelphia on account of ill-health, 
twelve days after the Declaration was adopted, wrote 
to John and Samuel Adams from Kingsbridge, 
New York, on July 21, as follows: " Pray sub 
scribe for me y e Declaration of Independency if 
y e same is to be signed as proposed. I think we 
ought to have y e privilege, when necessarily absent, 
of voting and signing by proxy." 2 These state 
ments are to be interpreted in only one way, namely, 
that there could have been no signing on July 4, ^ 
even on paper, as Jefferson contended many years 
later when driven into a corner. 3 No scrap or trace 

J J. Adams, Works, IX, 421, and note. 

2 MS. Letter in Lenox Library, N. Y., Samuel Adams 

3 Works, I, 38. 


of such a document has ever been discovered, nor 
any reference to it except this one of Jefferson s. 
As all the other documents of importance to which 
signatures are attached are in existence, having been 
carefully preserved by Secretary Thomson, he would 
certainly not have allowed an original of such value 
to have been destroyed. Taken in connection with 
Chase s query and John Adams s reply, the words 
of Gerry " to be signed as proposed," and " signing 
by proxy " practically preclude the possibility of a 
signing on July 4. 

Turning now to a consideration of individual del 
egates who were present and might have signed on 
July 4, we are confronted by the fact that had a 
signing then taken place, the list would have been 
strikingly different from that with which we are 
familiar. New Hampshire s interests were then 
looked after by Josiah Bartlett and William Whip- 
pie. Those of Massachusetts by John Hancock, the 
two Adamses, Robert Treat Paine and Elbridge 
Gerry. Stephen Hopkins and William Ellery rep 
resented Rhode Island, while Roger Sherman and 
Samuel Huntington served Connecticut. The dele 
gates from New York in Congress on that day were 
William Floyd, Francis Lewis, George Clinton, 
Henry Wisner, John Alsop, Robert R. Livingston, 
Philip Livingston, and possibly, Lewis Morris. 
Those from New Jersey were Richard Stockton, 


John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, Abraham 
Clark, and probably John Hart. Disturbed Penn 
sylvania had to put her reliance on James Wilson, 
Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, Thomas Willing 
and Charles Humphreys ; and little Delaware upon 
Caesar Rodney, George Read, and Thomas McKean. 
Maryland had in Congress William Paca, Thomas 
Stone, and John Rogers; Virginia, Thomas Jeffer 
son, Benjamin Harrison, Carter Braxton, and prob 
ably also Thomas Nelson, Jr., and Francis Light- 
foot Lee; North Carolina, Joseph Hewes and John 
Penn; South Carolina, Edward Rutledge, Thomas 
Hey ward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., and Arthur Mid- 
dleton; and finally, Georgia s delegation was made 
up of Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George 
Walton. It has been possible to determine definitely 
that of these forty-nine men all but forty-five were 
in Philadelphia on July 4. As to the remaining 
four, though no evidence has been discovered to 
show that they were absent, no positive statement has 
been found indicating their presence. These were 
the men in Congress on July 4, who voted for the 
Declaration, and whose names would have been af 
fixed to the paper if it had been signed on that day. 
Comparing them with the list of those who signed 
on or after August 2, marked discrepancies appear. 
In the first place, as has already been stated, New 
York s entire delegation, for lack of instructions, 


even abstained from voting upon the question of in 
dependence, and assuredly would not have signed a 
document for which they had not voted ; and George 
Clinton, John Alsop, R. R. Livingston, and Henry 
Wisner, who were in Philadelphia on July 4, but not 
on August 2, never affixed their signatures, though 
Livingston might have done so, as he attended the 
Congress later on for several terms. Secondly, on 
July 20, Pennsylvania s entire membership was re 
arranged, and only four of those who had repre 
sented her previous to that time, Franklin, Morris, 
Morton, and Wilson, were re-elected. Similar 
changes occurred in many of the other delegations. 
Passing over for the moment the names of those who 
were not in the Congress on August 2, when the gen 
eral signing took place, we are enabled to determine 
that some of those whose signatures are affixed to 
the Declaration, could not have signed on July 4, by 
showing that either they were then not members of 
the Congress, or, if members, were absent from their 
posts. Thus William Williams, whose name appears 
among Connecticut s signers, did not reach Philadel 
phia until towards the end of July, having been 
directed to repair to that city on the eleventh, by the 
Council of Safety of his state. 1 Of Pennsylvania s 
signers, Rush, Clymer, Smith, Taylor, and Ross were 

1 Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., 2d Series, III, 375; Force, sth, I, 


not members until July 20. l Chase and Charles 
Carroll, of Carrollton, were in attendance upon the 
Maryland Convention at Annapolis, and were being 
re-elected delegates on the very day when some sup 
pose them to have been in Philadelphia, signing the 
Declaration. 2 Similarly George Wythe, on that day, 
was chairman of the committee of the whole of the 
Virginia Convention, 3 and with him was Richard 
Henry Lee, who because of sickness in his family 
had left Philadelphia on June 13.* Again, on July 8 
Hewes of North Carolina asks solicitously about the 
welfare of Hooper, whom he had expected in Phila 
delphia long before. 5 

Attempting now to determine the names of some 
of those who were present on the day officially ap 
pointed for signing the engrossed document (August 
2), we reach the conclusion that a far greater num 
ber than has generally been supposed were not in 
Philadelphia on that day either. Attention has been 
repeatedly drawn to the absence of Matthew Thorn 
ton and Thomas McKean. Thornton was not elected 
a member until September 2, and did not take his 
seat in Congress until the fourth of the following 

1 Journal of Congress. 

2 Journal of Congress, July 18. 

3 Force, 4th, VI, 1608. 
*Ibid., 834. 

Ibid., 5th, I, 117. 



November. 1 He is differentiated from all the other 
signers, in that he is the only one who took no part 
in the discussion and vote on independence, and 
did not arrive in Philadelphia until more than three 
months after the general signing had taken place. 
His signing is to be explained only by an unusually 
liberal interpretation of the resolution of July 19, 
which provided that after engrossment the document 
should be signed by every member of the Congress. 
But this resolution could not have intended that all 
members subsequently elected should sign, or else a 
series of extra sheets would have had to be provided 
for the purpose. Colonel McKean was for a long 
period absent from the Congress with his regiment, 
and he is himself authority for the statement that 
he signed some time in 178 1. 2 And the first pub 
lished list of signers, in 1777, omits his name. 

But little notice has, however, been taken of no 
less significant absences than these. Oliver Wolcott, 
broken in health, did not remain in Philadelphia for 
the final decision on independence. He knew how 
his colleagues would cast the vote of their colony, 
and that his continued attendance was not therefore 
requisite, so he left about the end of June, and could 
not have been back in Philadelphia again before the 

1 Journal of Congress. 

2 Buchanan s McKean Family. 


end of September. 1 In the meantime William Wil 
liams, his substitute, had signed, and there was in 
reality no occasion for Wolcott to append his sig 
nature. But having taken part in the early agita 
tion and debates he was allowed to sign under the 
general rule. 

Elbridge Gerry, too, so important a factor in the 
early days of the discussion about asserting inde 
pendence, who had left Philadelphia for rest and re 
cuperation on July i6, 2 did not return until Septem 
ber 3, 3 a month after he is supposed to have signed. 
On August 24, he was at Hartford, Connecticut, and 
in a letter to General Gates writes that he is on his 
way to Philadelphia, " from which I have been ab 
sent for about a month for health." 4 The two fa 
mous Virginians, George W T ythe and Richard Henry 
Lee, we have seen, were in Virginia on July 4. They 
remained there for a considerable period after that 
date, and were also absent from Philadelphia on 
August 2. On July 20, Jefferson mentions in a 
letter that he intends to set out on his return home 
not later than August n, to visit his wife who is ex 
tremely ill, and adds that he hopes to see Lee and 

1 He was in New York on July i and at his home at Litch- 
field on July 15. Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., 2d Series, III, 374, 
and Force, sth, I, 970. 

z Force, 5th, I, 348. 

3 John Adams, Letters to His Wife, I, 161. 

4 Force, sth, I, 1146. 


Wythe in Philadelphia before he departs. On the 
fifth of August he deplores the fact that Lee is un 
able to attend until the twentieth, as it prevents his 
visiting Mrs. Jefferson. 1 Examining the Journal, we 
find that Lee s name first reappears there on August 
27, and Wythe s not until nearly a month later. Lee 
after the earlier date and Wythe after September 23 
are repeatedly selected to serve on important com 
mittees. Had they been present before, it is entirely 
probable that they would have been chosen for 
similar service, as their counsel was much sought in 
those days, when attendance on the Congress was 
slim. Lee, therefore, must have signed some time 
after the end of August, and Wythe probably a 
month later, though their signatures lead Virginia s 
column on the document. It is altogether likely, too, 
that Pennsylvania s large delegation did not all affix 
their signatures on the same day, as it was unusual 
for so many delegates from one state to be in attend 
ance at one time. As they came and went at inter 
vals, they probably signed whenever, after the second 
of August, they, happened to be in attendance on the 

The engrossed document is itself largely respon 
sible for the erroneous views which have been held 
respecting the date of the signing. Being headed by 
the legend, " In Congress, July 4, 1776," and ending 

1 Works, II, 72, 74- 


with the fifty-six signatures, the natural inference to 
be made, until better information was obtainable, was 
that this official document was signed on that day. 
It is further misinforming, not only as regards the 
date of signing, but in its title, " The unanimous 
Declaration of the thirteen united States," under 
the date July 4. For on that day, as has been shown, 
New York s delegates had no authority to vote, so 
that unanimity was procured by their silence, but 
twelve colonies, therefore, taking part in the final 
ballot. And again, seven of the names that are 
affixed are those of men who were not members of 
the Congress on July 4 Thornton, Williams, Rush, 
Clymer, Smith, Taylor and Ross; while exactly the 
same number were in the Congress on that date 
but never signed at any time Clinton, Alsop, R. R. 
Livingston, Wisner, Willing, Humphreys and 

With all these data before us the inference is allow 
able that to but few men did the actual act of signing 
assume the large importance that it has since at 
tained. The unanimous adoption of the Declaration 
was the important event, the signing a mere final 
touch, an after-thought. But two men, Chase and 
Gerry have recorded any anxiety respecting per 
mission to sign. The others signed in accordance 
with the resolution passed on July 19, as a matter of 
course, and all except McKean, had signed when 


the copies of the Declaration, with the signatures of 
the members, were printed and distributed in ac 
cordance with the resolution of January 18, 1777. 

Finally, a word may be added respecting the loca 
tion of the signatures on the engrossed document. 
They are arranged in six columns in geographical 
order. Beginning at the left hand, the generous 
space of an entire column is given to Georgia a 
treatment quite out of keeping with the extent of 
her efforts to support and advance independence at 
this time. In the next are those of North and 
South Carolina, followed by those of Maryland and 
Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware, New York 
and New Jersey. The representatives of these 
states having all signed, but one column more was 
left for all of New England, and the thirteen signa 
tures from that region are crowded into the remain 
ing space. When Thornton signed, there was no 
place for him to write his name with the New 
Hampshire delegation, so he was compelled to put 
it at the very end of the document, below the repre 
sentatives of Connecticut. Nor was there room to 
allow for the grouping, with a space between each 
state, as is the case in all the other columns, except 
where great Pennsylvania s overwhelming numbers 
invade little Delaware s small allotment of territory. 

If, as has been shown, there could have been no 
signing on July 4, this does not militate against 


the fact that the men who signed, and their succes 
sors in the Congress, had a full appreciation of the 
importance of the day. Beginning with 1777, each 
succeeding anniversary, during the whole period of 
the existence of the Continental Congress, was ob 
served in appropriate manner with a banquet, toasts, 
fireworks and bonfires, and, much as we do in our 
time, committees were always appointed to see to it 
that no fitting detail was omitted that might render 
the occasion one of proper festivity and rejoicing. 


When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration 
of Independence he could have had little notion of 
the fame that would be his in consequence. Nor 
could he have had more than a slight conception, 
far-seeing statesman though he was, of the ultimate 
influence that it was to have, not only upon the 
political ideas of America, but of the world as well. 
To say that, at home and abroad it is the most 
famous and familiar of our state documents, is but 
to record a platitude. But to seek the explanation 
of this fact is quite a different matter. Nor is it 
too much to state that, in spite of the familiar terms 
in which we speak of it, of the many occasions on 
which it has been read in public and in private, 
of the criticism to which it has been subjected on 
the one hand and the honeyed words of praise that 
have been heaped upon it on the other, it is within 
the mark, I repeat, to say that it is the least com 
prehended of all the great documents produced as 
a result of our political development. 

The reason for this is not far to seek. To the 
people of the generation for whom it was written, it 



required no interpreters to make its meaning clear. 
It dealt with affairs that were so much of every 
day concern as to be entirely intelligible to all, to 
be thoroughly understanded of the people. But as 
time went by, the men to whom the Declaration made 
this direct, forcible, appeal passed away, leaving no 
precise interpretation of the commonplaces which 
they comprehended so clearly as to lead them to 
believe that all who came after must understand 
with like readiness. Subsequent generations as 
suming to understand what they did not, have 
thoughtlessly taken it at but a part of its full value, 
and even then have derived a return far in excess 
of the outlay of time required for its perusal. My 
task will be, therefore, to endeavor to put before 
the reader of these pages something of the aspect 
that the Declaration had in 1776, and the meaning 
it conveyed to the men of the time; in the full 
belief, that such an analysis will add largely to our 
understanding of the origin of its enormous influ 
ence, and greatly enhance rather than diminish our 
appreciation of it. 

In the words of Professor Tyler, the endeavor to 
reach a right estimate of the Declaration has been 
hindered by the two opposite states of mind with 
which its consideration is approached : " on the one 
hand, a condition of hereditary, uncritical awe and 
worship of the American Revolution and of this 


state paper as its absolutely perfect and glorious 
expression; on the other hand, a later condition of 
cultivated distrust of the Declaration, as a piece of 
writing lifted up into inordinate renown by the pas 
sionate and heroic circumstances of its origin, and 
ever since extolled beyond reason by the blind en 
ergy of patriotic enthusiasm." 1 

Of the criticism to which it has been subjected 
there has been no lack, almost from the very day of 
its publication. " It has been attacked again and 
again, either in anger or contempt, by friends as 
well as by enemies of the American Revolution, by 
liberals in politics as well as by conservatives. It 
has been censured for its substance, it has been cen 
sured for its form; for its misstatements of fact, 
for its fallacies in reasoning; for its audacious nov 
elties and paradoxes, for its total lack of all novelty, 
for its repetition of old and threadbare statements, 
even for its downright plagiarisms ; finally for its 
grandiose and vaporing style." 2 

All the strictures passed upon the Declaration, 
however, meriting attention may be grouped under 
the heads of want of originality ; of being but a mass 
of " glittering generalities " founded upon an im 
possible political philosophy, not actually believed in 
by the men who gave currency to it, arid now a 

1 Tyler s Literary Hist, of American Revolution, I, 498. 

2 Ibid., 499. 


" creed outworn " ; and, finally, of attacking the 
King with unwarranted severity, of holding him 
alone responsible for the commission of acts of 
which he was but the instrument, denouncing him 
without warrant as a " prince, whose character is 
thus marked by every act which may define a ty 
rant " desiring to establish an absolute tyranny over 
the colonists. 

The all-embracing reply to be made at this point 
is that the Declaration has not only survived the 
criticism of its enemies and the adulation of its 
friends, but still lives a vigorous life capable 
of influencing unknown future generations. No 
document has ever been put to such severe, intimate, 
popular use and service. And in that use and ser 
vice, had it been incapable of withstanding the test, 
had it contained inherent defects of serious conse 
quence, distortions of facts as well as fallacies of 
reasoning, inadequency in general and in detail, it 
would long since have been relegated to the curi 
osity cabinet of the antiquarians, together with 
many another state paper, the product of the same 

By the accident of circumstance it became at one 
and the same time the herald proclaiming the birth 
of our nation, and the justification for that birth as 
well. Combining in itself two such mighty func 
tions, it could never have survived the severe test of 


time had it not been provided with human elements 
of a profound character. Possessing these in large 
degree, far larger than we now appreciate, 
throbbing with life in each of its nervous sentences, 
it is by this inherent vitality that it has made its 
appeal to the masses and the classes of men, who, 
not fully understanding it, yet instinctively have a 
respect and regard for it transcending all else in 
American political history. The manner of teach 
ing our history has had some effect in crystallizing 
this sentiment, but no amount of teaching could 
have produced this had the doctrine not been 
worthy of its teachers. In brief, it has been put to 
almost every-day use, and as yet gives no evidence 
of suffering attrition from the contact, even though 
temporarily injured in one of its most vital parts 
as the result of the political developments of recent 

Considering in detail the criticisms mentioned 
above, we find that as respects its claim to originality 
it was first wounded in the house of its friends. 
John Adams was among the earliest to find fault 
with it on this ground, though he could never have 
composed a document so terse and brief. In the 
evening of his days, he still smarted from a know 
ledge of the greater popularity of Jefferson as 
compared with his own. He could never get 
over that this idol of the people should receive 


so much more of the credit for his share in the 
events of the revolution than himself. Accord 
ingly, when the Declaration had withstood nearly 
a half century of assault, and reflected something 
of the lustre of renown gained by its distinguished 
author during his later political career, Adams 
thought to accomplish the impossible by trying to 
minimize its importance from the point of view of 
originality. He thought to condemn it by charging 
that it contained " not an idea . . . but what had 
been hackneyed in Congress for two years before. 
The substance of it is contained in the declaration 
of rights and the violation of those rights, in the 
Journals of Congress, in 1774. Indeed the essence 
of it is contained in a pamphlet . . . composed by 
James Otis." 1 He was entirely unaware, that in 
writing these words he had missed the point com 
pletely, and was unwittingly according the Declara 
tion the highest praise that has ever been bestowed 
upon it. His criticism, which betrays a failing 
strength, for in his earlier and more vigorous years 
he could not have made so commonplace an obser 
vation, is one for which we should nevertheless be 
grateful, since it gave Jefferson the opportunity of 
penning that dignified, comprehensive, and telling 
reply in which, admitting that all that Adams said 

1 The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, 
1764. For Adams letter see Works, II, 514 note. 


might be true, of which he was no judge, he adds : 
" Richard Henry Lee charged it as copied from 
Locke s treatise on government. Otis pamphlet I 
never saw, and whether I had gathered my ideas 
from reading or reflection I do not know. I know 
only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet 
while writing it. I did not consider it as any part 
of my charge to invent new ideas altogether, and 
to offer no sentiment which had ever been expressed 
before. Had Mr. Adams been so restrained, Con 
gress would have lost the benefit of his bold and im 
pressive advocations of the rights of Revolution. 
For no man s confident and fervent addresses, more 
than Mr. Adams s, encouraged and supported us 
through the difficulties surrounding us, which, like 
the ceaseless action of gravity, weighed on us by 
night and by day. Yet, on the same ground, we 
may ask what of these elevated thoughts were new, 
or can be affirmed never before to have entered the 
conceptions of man. 

" Whether, also, the sentiments of Independence 
and the reasons for declaring it, which make so 
great a portion of the instrument, had been hack 
neyed in Congress for two years before the fourth of 
July, 76, ... let history say. This, however, I 
will say for Mr. Adams, that he supported the De 
claration with zeal and ability, fighting fearlessly for 
every word of it. As to myself, I thought it a 


duty to be, on that occasion, a passive auditor of the 
opinions of others, more impartial judges than I 
could be, of its merits or demerits. During the 
debate I was sitting by Doctor Franklin, and he ob 
served that I was writhing a little under the acri 
monious criticisms on some of its parts ; and it was 
on that occasion, that by way of comfort, he told 
me the story of John Thompson the hatter and his 
new sign." 1 

No words by way of explanation or in addition 
can diminish or increase the force of this calm pres 
entation of Jefferson s conception of the task before 
him, nor any serve as completer answer to the 
charge made. Originality of substance was the last 
quality the Declaration should have had if it was 
adequately to subserve its purpose. 

Of the utter failure to comprehend the true signifi 
cance and meaning of the Declaration, on the part of 
the later generations, no better example exists than 
that furnished by the renowned advocate Rufus 
Choate, who in 1856 first spoke of "the glittering 
and sounding generalities of natural right which 
make up the Declaration of Independence/ 2 This 
high-sounding phrase, as rhetorical as any part of 
the instrument which it seeks to criticise, has been 
quoted with such constant repetition and approval 

v Jefferson s Works, X, 267-268. 

2 Letter to the Whigs of Maine, 1856. 


as to have contributed an idiom to our language. 
For that service alone it should be welcomed. If, 
however, this characterization is to be regarded as 
giving in any degree an adequate summary of the 
Declaration, as is assumed by the author of the most 
substantial of the recent histories of American litera 
ture, 1 its falsity will become apparent from a reading 
of the analysis supplied in the succeeding chapters. 
In the sense, however, that by the glitter of its golden 
phrases the Declaration to some extent blinded the 
men of the time, and prevented them from perceiving 
the full magnitude of the contest in which they were 
about to engage, Mr. Choate s words are measurably 
true. But such was not the idea he wished to con 
vey, and such is not the understanding of those who 
have given his thought a currency that no counterfeit 
should have procured. He viewed it from its rhe 
torical side alone, overlooking the deep underlying 
basis of fact that it contained. In so doing he failed 
to discern that the leaders in the Congress at that 
time, had other occupations than signing their names 
to documents that were mere pieces of rhetoric. 
That the Declaration contains rhetorical passages 
none can deny, but that it is all idle vaporing no one 
familiar with the history of the antecedent con 
troversy, and the pointed references of each of its 
clauses, can admit. Moreover, the constant use and 

1 Wendell s Literary History of America, 106. 


service to which the Declaration has been put, have 
caused its fundamental concepts to assume some 
thing of the nature of generalities to the masses of 
men. This is the natural consequence from the 
universal acceptance of maxims which at one time 
had to prove their quality before obtaining standing. 

By the vast advances made in recent years in scien 
tific method, many old and cherished theories of past 
ages have been uprooted. The political ideas of the 
Fathers seem no more likely to survive than any 
other part of the philosophy of their time. This is 
natural, since in a dynamic society the discovery of 
new phenomena must give rise to new interpretations 
of them. But so far little conscious, discernible im 
press has been made by the latter-day doctrines of 
political science upon our political life. The whole 
body of the science is as yet too new to have done 
so, and until it has proved its mettle through trial, 
the masses of men will continue, certainly in this 
country, to adhere with tenacity to the old doc 
trines that have served as inspiration to so many 
generations. And just as the political philosophy of 
the eighteenth century now seems outworn, and has 
been supplanted by the evolutionary philosophy, so 
the latter will in all likelihood prove to be no more 
the final word upon the subject than its predecessor. 

The answer to the charge of indicting merely the 
King when Parliament was as much to blame for the 


maladministration of American affairs as himself, 
has to some extent been given in the earlier pages. 
To have now held Parliament, or Parliament and 
King jointly, and not the King alone, responsible for 
the act which they were driven to commit, would 
have been to stultify the whole course of procedure 
of the colonies in the controversy. From its incep 
tion it was based on opposition to the ministry and 
Parliament, and on the assumption that the King and 
his acts were to be differentiated from the former. 1 
It began with the denial of the right of Parliament 
to have control over the colonies, not only in matters 
of taxation but in general affairs as well, except so 
far as was necessary to promote the welfare of the 
British empire. Fundamentally it had its origin in 
the concept that the rights to life, liberty, and prop 
erty, and " the rights, liberties and immunities of 
free and natural born subjects," 2 were the colonists 
by inheritance, and had been guaranteed to them 
" by the plighted faith of government and the most 
solemn compacts with British sovereigns " not, it 
is to be noted, with the British Parliament. 3 They 

1 See in this connection the early attempts in Pennsylvania 
to overthrow the proprietary government with the object of 
having the colony converted into a royal province under the 
crown. Sheperd, Hist, of Prop. Govt. in Penna. passim, 
Lincoln, op. cit., Chapter VI. 

2 Declaration of Rights, 1774. 

8 Address to People of Great Britain, Oct. 21, 1774. 


held further, 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 en 
titled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in 
the 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, they would submit to the 
regulation of their external commerce " for the pur 
pose of securing the commercial advantages of the 
whole empire, to the mother country . . . excluding 
every idea of taxation internal or external, for rais 
ing a revenue on the subjects in America, without 
their consent." 1 

This then was their theory: the social contract 
idea of the origin of government, on which their 
relations with the British empire were based; the 
right to representation, and through their represen- / 
tatives the control of their property, subject only to 
a limited, vague, ill-defined, parliamentary super 
vision. A considerable number of the more logical, 
among them notably Jefferson, prior to the meeting 

1 Declaration of Rights, 1774, Article 4. 


of the Congress of 1774, had gone further, and dis 
claiming the authority of Parliament to bind the 
colonies in any respect whatever, spoke of the " acts 
of power, assumed by a body of men, foreign to our 
constitutions and unacknowledged by our laws." 1 
But since they admitted that full allegiance was 
owing to the crown, by reason of solemn compact, 
this was not seriously called in question in any docu 
ment, except in one paragraph of the address to the 
colonies of October, I774, 2 and this may be as 
sumed to be a slip. Going further, they stated ex 
plicitly in their first petition that they desired no 
diminution of the royal prerogative. Though how 
they could reconcile this with some of the passages 
in the address to the colonies of 1774, is not quite 
clear. However, entire consistency was never a 
characteristic of any revolution. 

On the other hand the " legislature," " parlia 
ment," " the ministry," and " administration," are 
repeatedly denounced and held responsible for the 
ills from which they are suffering. 3 As has been 
shown, the first occasion on which official expression 
was given to the grounds on which the United Col- 

1 Summary View, Ford s Jefferson, I, 439. 

2 Journal, October 21, 1774. The sentence begins, "By or 
der of the King." 

8 Address to People of Great Britain, and Address to Col 
onies, 1774. Declaration of Causes of Taking up Arms, July 
6, 1775, etc. 


onies would base their contentions, and the lengths 
to which Parliament was to be allowed to go in ex 
ercising control, was in the Declaration of Rights 
of 1774. The very fact of determining then to issue 
addresses to the King, and to the people of Great 
Britain and America, with studied care ignoring Par 
liament from now on, except to denounce it, was in 
itself a renunciation of parliamentary supremacy 
more bold than any of the Congress other measures. 
Nine months later, after again professing a willing 
ness to submit to the acts of trade and navigation 
passed before 1763, the position of Congress was re 
stated in the very words used before. 1 In the official 
answer to Lord North s motion, in the main the 
handiwork of Jefferson, 2 made a few weeks later, 
such paragraphs as this are found : " As the colonies 
possess a right of appropriating their gifts, so are 
they entitled at all times to inquire into their applica 
tion. ... To propose, therefore, as this resolution 
does, that the moneys given by the colonies shall be 
subject to the disposal of parliament alone, is to pro 
pose that they shall relinquish this right of inquiry, 
and put it in the power of others to render their 
gifts ruinous, in proportion as they are liberal." 
Again : "We conceive that the British parliament has 

1 July 8, 1775, Address to the Inhabitants of Great Britain. 

2 Works, I, 1 8, 476. See p. 39, supra. Journal of Congress, 
July 31, 1775. 


no right to intermeddle with our provisions for the 
support of civil government, or administration of 
justice. . . . While parliament pursues their plan of 
civil government within their own jurisdiction, we 
also hope to pursue ours without molestation." And 
a little further on in the same document we find an 
enumeration of the acts which can never be sub 
mitted to since they evince a desire for " the exercise 
of indiscriminate legislation over us." 

Side by side with these disclaimers of parlia 
mentary supremacy went protests of the most abso 
lute loyalty to the King. 1 And as if to render them 
the more forcible, they are accompanied by un 
equivocal denials that their conduct is actuated by 
a desire to separate from the British union and estab 
lish an independent government. 2 The unprepared 
condition of the country for war, is the best proof 
of the truth of these assertions, as well as the strong 
est answer to those who maintain that the whole agi 
tation was but a veil to cloak a movement having as 
its ultimate object the establishment of independence. 
The country was not more prepared for independ 
ence than it was for war, at this time, a year before 
the final act was consummated, and had any idea of 
separation from the mother country been definitely 
announced, it would have wrecked the whole revolu- 

1 Petitions of 1774 and 1775. 
"Journal, July 6, 1775. 


tionary organization. Scarcely half a dozen of the 
members of the Congress favored it, and they were 
the radicals among radicals, and their weakness was 
demonstrated by the overwhelming manner in which 
their opposition to sending a second petition was 
brushed aside. 

The definite renunciation of all idea of parlia 
mentary control of any kind came in December, 1775, 
in answer to the King s proclamation of August 23* 
the sole reply ever accorded to their last petition. 
In this we find also the most definite statement of the 
colonial view of the relations between the crown and 
the colonies, as yet put forward. Moreover, the 
wager of battle thrown down by the King is taken 
up, and now for the first time the rights of the crown 
are seriously called into question. In the King s pro 
clamation the colonists were accused of " forgetting 
the allegiance which they owe to the power that has 
protected and maintained them." To this the reply 
is made : " What allegiance is it that we forgot ? 
Allegiance to parliament? We never owed we 
never owned it. ... We condemn, and with arms in 
our hands, a resource which freemen will never part 
with, we oppose the claim and exercise of unconsti 
tutional powers, to which neither the crown nor par 
liament were ever entitled. . . . We know of no 
laws binding on us, but such as have been trans- 

1 See p. 47. 


mitted to us by our ancestors, and such as have been 
consented to by ourselves." 

The time had arrived, now, to take a further step 
in the enunciation of the theory on which the opposi 
tion to the British contentions was based. This was 
done in the document cited above in the following 
specific and thoroughly adequate terms from the 
point of view of English constitutional history: 
" We view him [the king] as the constitution repre 
sents him. That tells us he can do no wrong. The 
cruel and illegal attacks, which we oppose, have no 
foundation in the royal authority. We will not on 
our part lose the distinction between the King and 
his ministers; happy would it have been for some 
former princes, had it always been preserved on the 
part of the crown." 1 And in thus emphasizing the 
view that Parliament and the ministry were distinct 
from the crown, they were but giving voice to the 
doctrine of the separation of powers first announced 
by Locke, and more recently made familiar in the 
well-known work of Montesquieu, which every po 
litical thinker of this time had at his elbow. 

Thus, having constantly drawn the distinction 
between the King on the one hand, and the ministry 
and Parliament on the other, and having already 
repudiated the ministry and Parliament in the terms 

1 This remarkably strong paper was drawn up by R. H. Lee, 
Wilson, and W. Livingston. 


recorded in the last few pages, there was nothing 
left for the colonies but to renounce, at the 
last stage, their allegiance to the crown. This was 
done for the first time in the resolutions of May 
15, I776, 1 and finally, and for all time, in the 
Declaration of Independence. By way of conclud 
ing the discussion of this point the words of Daniel 
Webster, who has so clearly interpreted the colonial 
position, may well be reproduced here : " The in 
habitants of all the colonies, while colonies, admitted 
themselves bound by their allegiance to the King; 
but they disclaimed altogether, the authority of Par 
liament; holding themselves, in this respect to 
resemble the condition of Scotland and Ireland, be 
fore the respective unions of those kingdoms with 
England, when they acknowledged allegiance to the 
same King, but each had its separate legislature. 
The tie therefore, which our revolution was to break, 
did not subsist between us and the British govern 
ment, in the aggregate ; but directly between us and 
the King himself. The colonists had never admitted 
themselves subject to Parliament. That was pre 
cisely the point of the original controversy. They 
had uniformly denied that Parliament had authority 
to make laws for them. There was, therefore, no 
subjection to Parliament to be thrown off. But 
allegiance to the King did exist, and had been uni- 
1 See p. 91. 



formly acknowledged; and down to 1775, the most 
solemn assurances had been given that it was not 
intended to break that allegiance, or to throw it 
off. Therefore, as the direct object, and only effect 
of the Declaration, according to the principles on 
which the controversy had been maintained, was to 
sever the tie of allegiance which bound us to the 
King, it was properly and necessarily founded on 
cts of the crown itself, as its justifying causes. . . . 
Consistency with the principles upon which resist 
ance began, and with all the previous state papers 
issued by Congress required that the Declaration 
should be bottomed on the misgovernment of the 
King; and therefore it was properly framed with 
that aim and to that end. The King was known 
indeed, to have acted, as in other cases, by his 
ministers, and with his Parliament; but as our an 
cestors had never admitted themselves subject 
either to ministers or Parliament, there were no 
reasons to be given for now refusing obedience to 
their authority. This clear and obvious necessity 
of founding the Declaration on the misconduct of 
the King himself, gives to that instrument its per 
sonal application, and its character of direct and 
pointed accusation." * 

To so much as concerns the charges in the 
Declaration respecting the establishment of an ab- 

1 Speech in Faneuil Hall, Boston, Aug. 2, 1826. 


solute tyranny, and of a conduct, " marked by every 
act which may define a tyrant," but few words, in 
passing, are necessary. If the charges against the 
king had any basis in fact, they assuredly displayed 
a desire to establish a tyranny, as that term is under 
stood in English constitutional history, and as it is 
defined by Locke. And the personal dominance 
which George III established over his Parliament 
and ministers, dating from 1768, by the most cor 
rupt methods debauching the whole of the ruling 
classes for his own purposes, 1 was marked, if not 
" by every act which may define a tyrant," at least by 
sufficient to warrant recourse to that rhetorical char 
acterization, when the exigencies of the occasion 
made requisite. 

1 See Lecky, Hist, of England in i8th Century, and Green, 
Short Hist, of English People. Also Donne s Correspondence 
of George III with Lord North. 


Consideration having been given to the erroneous 
conceptions respecting the Declaration, that have 
arisen as the result of approaching it with inade 
quate preparation for its proper understanding, it 
is necessary at this point to give attention to the 
purpose it was intended to subserve, and to regard 
it from the point of view of the success with which 
this was attained. For the accomplishment of this 
object it is requisite that so far as possible it be 
interpreted, not in terms of twentieth century phi 
losophy or politics, but from the standpoint of the 
men who had a share in the events from which the 
Declaration arose, and of which it was, to an ex 
tent, the outward expression. No part of the writ 
ing of history is more difficult than that which aims 
to put ourselves in the place of the men participating 
in great historic movements, and to attempt to view 
the results of their achievements from their own 
attitude of mind, to penetrate the well-springs of 
their motives. Yet, unless this be undertaken, no 
substantially correct results can be achieved. Ac 
cordingly it is for us to consider now the motives 


actuating Jefferson s selection to prepare the Dec 
laration, and the nature of the task put before 

The stupendous magnitude of the work was ap 
preciated by none so well as by him, and might 
readily have caused even a greater man to hesitate 
long before engaging in it. Yet the choice of the 
Congress, and of the committee fell upon him, with 
singular unanimity, as the one best fitted by his 
attainments to produce a document of the character 
desired. This was no mere chance, for, though 
his voice was silent, his pen had given full expres 
sion to his thoughts. He was no orator, but, " a 
silent member in Congress," yet " prompt, frank, ex 
plicit, and decisive upon committees and in con 
versation." 1 

Among all the countless disquisitions upon the 
rights of the colonies, and the wrongs to which 
the colonists believed they had been subjected, pro 
duced during the previous fifteen years of contro 
versy, one, written in 1774, and given the title A 
Summary View of the Rights of British America, 2 
stood out in especial prominence, marking its au 
thor as a greater among great men. Jefferson de 
signed it to serve the double purpose of furnishing 
instructions to the Virginia delegates to the first 

1 J. Adams Works, II, 514, note. 
2 Ford s Jefferson, I, 421 et seq. 


Continental Congress, and to give that body a com 
mon ground on which to establish its statement of 
grievances and demands for redress. That in some 
of its contentions it was too advanced to be suitable 
to the exigencies of the time and failed of its object, 
is not of importance in this connection. But it is 
to the point, that it displayed a scholarly knowledge 
of the history of the various colonies, a depth of in 
sight into the essentials of the controversy, framed 
withal with a felicity and lucidity of expression, 
such as was possessed by none of his contempor 
aries. In the brief twenty-three pages of this essay 
he touched upon every phase of the colonial conten-^ 
tions, and thereby established his reputation as a 
forceful, sagacious, philosophical thinker. 1 

To prepare a Declaration of Independence, how 
ever, was a far different task. That document, in a 
few lines, had to cover not only all the ground 
of the Summary View, but to recapitulate as well 
the rapid developments of the two/ full years that 
had elapsed since its production. As it was de 
signed to appeal to all the colonies, it had to 
treat not only of the grievances common to all, but 
of those that bore most heavily upon any particular 
colony, were peculiar to that colony, and conse 
quently of transcending importance to itself. Yet 

1 See also his proposed constitution for Virginia, Works, II, 
7 et seq. 


in so doing the balance of the whole had to be 
carefully preserved, that no single part might rise 
to undue prominence by the over-weight of any 
other. But it could not stop here. It had to be 
couched in such terms as would serve as justifica 
tion, to the world at large no less than to the in 
habitants of the colonies, for the act which it pro 
claimed. Dealing with things familiar to every 
frequenter of the taverns, to every reader of the 
gazettes and pamphlets, it had to make its appeal to 
the thoughtful as well as to the unthinking, to the 
philosophers as well as to the groundlings, and in 
such a manner that they would not be wearied by 
its perusal, but stirred to enthusiasm as they pro 
ceeded. It had to include the best of the pre- . 
vious productions, but only their essentials. Not 
less a party platform of national scope than a polit 
ical manifesto, the warmth of its phraseology must 
win over the wavering and fire the more advanced 
with a desire to come forward to enlist and fight 
for their rights and liberties, since troops were at 
this time much more needed than wordy rhetoric. 
As such it took the place of the " animated address," 
resolved upon at the end of May, which was " to im 
press the minds of the people with the necessity 
of now stepping forward to save their country, their 
freedom, and property," but which never saw the 


light, since the issuance of* the Declaration made 
this unnecessary. 1 

All these qualities it must have and more besides. 
It must foster the rapidly advancing though far from 
strong sentiment of union, so that those who once 
gave assent to it would support each other no matter 
what the future had in store for them. And it must 
needs do this in such manner that no other course 
should appear practicable. It was to be the expres 
sion of a minority party, but of so well-organized 
a minority, that it could hope ultimately to effect the 
conversion of that party, by accessions to its ranks, 
into an unquestioned, dominating majority. It 
could not, therefore, be non-partisan, yet it must con 
vince by argument as well as drive by force of its 
inherent power. And no slight portion of its 
strength was to be gained from couching it in a 
phraseology made familiar during the fifteen years 
of controversy, and having a basis in the whole of 
English and colonial constitutional development. It 
had to make charges, but none that could not be 
reasonably supported ; and in indicting a King and a 
nation it had to word this indictment in such terms 
that it would not be thrown out of court by the coun 
try and the world. The position of the revolutionists 

1 Secret Journal of Congress, Domestic, May 29, 1776. The 
committee to prepare this address consisted of Jefferson, 
Wythe, S. Adams and Rutledge. 


had to be fortified so that it could withstand attack, 
and, having the choice of situation, it had to make 
the most of the enemy s weakness, nor yet disregard 
its strength. 

Since it was to be, as has been well said by Pro 
fessor Tyler, " an impassioned manifesto of one 
party, and that the weaker party in a violent race 
quarrel ; of a party resolved, at last, upon the ex 
tremity of a revolution, and already menaced by the 
inconceivable disaster of being defeated in the very 
act of armed rebellion against the mightiest power 
on earth," it " is not to be censured because being 
avowedly a statement of its side of the quarrel, it 
does not also contain a moderate and judicial state 
ment of the opposite side; or because, being neces 
sarily partisan in method, it is likewise both par 
tisan and vehement in tone." 1 Jefferson s position 
was that of advocate, and he so regards himself, and 
it was his duty, therefore, to present his case in the 
strongest possible terms, leaving his opponent to take 
care of himself. 

But above all, had the Declaration comprised all 
the qualities which have been mentioned as necessary 
to its fulfilling the objects for which it was designed, 

it would never have survived as it has, and attained 


to its vast influence upon our political life, had it 
been lacking in three essential characteristics. These 

1 Literary Hist, of American Revolution, I, 509. 


are its underlying philosophy, its human elements, 
and its literary form. Of the philosophy more will 
be said presently. Suffice it now to call attention to 
the fact that it had been preached to such an extent, 
that through the Declaration it could make its appeal 
direct to the mind of even the most unthinking. The 
human element of the Declaration appears in almost 
every phrase, from the first respecting the refusal 
of assent to laws most wholesome and necessary for 
the public good, to the last of exciting domestic 
insurrection and endeavoring to bring on the in 
habitants of the frontiers, the merciless Indian sav 
ages. Had it not been possible thus to address the 
emotions of the individual and make him feel that his 
all was at stake, and had it not been done in such 
forceful, stirring, convincing manner, the revolu 
tion could never have been carried to a successful 

No one is better qualified to speak of the literary 
form of the Declaration than Professor Tyler. The 
praise he accords it is of the highest, but none famil 
iar with his scholarly attainments will regard it as 
undiscriminating or lavish. " Most writings," he 
holds, " have had the misfortune of being read too 
little. There is however a misfortune perhaps a 
greater misfortune which has overtaken some liter 
ary compositions, and these not necessarily the 
noblest and best, of being read too much. At any 


rate, the writer of a piece of literature which has 
been neglected, need not be refused the consolation 
he may get from reflecting that he is, at least, not 
the writer of a piece of literature that has become 
hackneyed. Just this is the sort of calamity which 
seems to have befallen the Declaration of Independ 
ence. . . . 

" Had the Declaration of Independence, been, what 
many a revolutionary state paper is, a clumsy, ver 
bose and vaporing production, not even the robust 
literary taste and the all-forgiving patriotism of the 
American people could have endured the weariness, 
the nausea, of hearing its repetition, in ten thousand 
different places, at least once every year for so long 
a period. Nothing which has not supreme literary 
merit has ever triumphantly endured such an ordeal, 
or ever been subjected to it. No man can adequately 
explain the persistent fascination which this state 
paper has had, and which it still has, for the Ameri 
can people, or for its undiminishing power over 
them, without taking into account its extraordinary 
literary merits its possession of the witchery of 
true substance wedded to perfect form : its massive- 
ness and incisiveness of thought, its art in the mar 
shalling of the topics with which it deals, its sym 
metry, its energy, the definiteness and limpidity of 
its statements, its exquisite diction at once terse, 
musical, and electrical; and as an essential part of 


this literary outfit, many of those spiritual notes 
which can attract and enthrall our hearts, veneration 
for God, veneration for man, veneration for princi 
ple, respect for public opinion, moral earnestness, 
moral courage, optimism, a stately and noble pathos, 
finally, self-sacrificing devotion to a cause so great 
as to be herein identified with the happiness, not of 
one people only, or of one race only, but of human 
nature itself." 1 

If the Declaration be adjudged as reaching the 
high standards, and fulfilling the variety of pur 
poses here set forth, with success even measurable, 
it will be admitted that few other public documents 
can be subjected to such a trial and emerge in tri 
umph. Yet as the attempt is being made to view it 
from the aspect of the men to whom it was intended 
to appeal, so their opinion of it is of primary value. 
Amid the general chorus of approval with which it 
was acclaimed by the leaders, not less than by the 
rank and file of the party to whom it was directed, 
but one voice of strength in opposition is raised 
sufficiently loud to be heard. Robert Morris, in a 
letter to his friend Joseph Reed, gave as his reason 
for voting against and opposing the Declaration 
that " it was an improper time, and will neither 
promote the interests nor redound to the honor of 
America ; for it has caused division when we wanted 

1 Tyler, I, 519-521. 


union, and will be ascribed to very different prin 
ciples than those which sought to give rise to such 
an important measure." 1 And here, it may be 
added, the opposition rests upon the opportuneness of 
the act, rather than the manner of its consumma 
tion. As against this, we may put the calm opinion 
of Washington, expressed in acknowledging to Han 
cock the receipt of the Declaration : " It is certain 
that it is not with us to determine in many instances 
what consequences will flow from our counsels ; 
but yet it behooves us to adopt such, as, under the 
smiles of a gracious and all-kind Providence will 
be most likely to promote our happiness. I trust 
the late decisive part they have taken is calculated 
to that end, and will secure to us that freedom and 
those privileges, which have been and are refused 
to us, contrary to the voice of nature and the British 
constitution." When proclaimed before all the 
army under his command, the Declaration received 
" their most hearty assent : the expressions and be 
haviour of both officers and men, testifying their 
warmest approbation of it." 1 To Schuyler he spoke 
of it as an act " impelled by necessity, and a repe 
tition of injuries no longer sufferable, and being 
without the most distant prospect of relief, they 
[Congress] have asserted the claims of the colonies 

1 Reed s Reed, I, 201, July 20, 1776. 

2 Sparks Washington, III, 457. 


to the rights of humanity, absolved them from all 
allegiance to the British crown, and declared them 
Free and Independent States." 1 And in his orders 
to the army, he spoke of it as having been impelled 
" by the dictates of duty, policy, and necessity." 2 
The more enthusiastic Samuel Adams declared it 
" has given vigour to the spirits of the people." 3 
His younger kinsman, John Adams, spoke of it as 
" a Declaration setting forth the causes which have 
impelled us to this mighty revolution, and the rea 
sons which will justify it in the sight of God and 
man," 4 and again, as likely to " cement the Union, 
and avoid those heats, and perhaps convulsions, 
which might have been occasioned by such a dec 
laration six months ago." 5 And William Whipple 
tells us that " This declaration has had a glorious 
effect has made these colonies all alive : all the Col 
onies forming Governments, as you will see by the 
papers." And in another letter, dated a few days 
later, he writes : " This Colony 6 and New Jersey are 
all alive . . . men of fortune don t think themselves 
too good to march in the character of private sol 
diers . . . in short the Declaration of Independ- 

., 464. 
Ibid., 45 8. 
Force, 5th, I, 347. 
4 Works, IX, 418. 
6 Ibid., 420. 
6 Pennsylvania. 


ence has done wonders." 1 Josiah Bartlett, ^L of 
coming the adoption of the Declaration byifflbe. 
York, rejoiced that it now had " the sanction of t- 
Thirteen United States," adding, that " the unparal 
leled conduct of our enemies have united the col 
onies more firmly than ever." 2 

Such was the high esteem in which both the act 
and the expression of it were held by the leaders 
of the time, and if to them it seemed adequate to the 
great occasion, we should accept their opinion as the 
final word. True, the Declaration of Independence 
and the ultimate acknowledgment of our national 
existence were separated by many trying years of 
weary contest, and the issue seemed more than once 
suspended in the balance by a mere thread. But 
this does not alter the fact that the Declaration of 
Independence was regarded as an opportune and 
comprehensive statement of the reasons impelling to 
that act at the time, that without it open assistance 
from France was not to be procured, and that after 
its proclamation no overtures looking to a conclu 
sion of the struggle were for a moment considered, 
that were not based on public acknowledgment of 
the United States as an independent nation. 

1 Langdon-Elwyn Papers, Lenox Library, New York, 139- 
140. The letter is dated July 22, 1776. 
Force, sth, I, 348. 


" Happy is the nation," writes Sir Leslie Stephen, 
" which has no political philosophy, for such a phi 
losophy is generally the offspring of a recent or the 
symptom of an approaching revolution." 1 The phi 
losophy of the American Revolution, though repre 
sentative of the latter concept, has underlying it the 
story of a political development that has its roots 
deep down in English history of the seventeenth cen 
tury. That was the age of intellectual and political 
revolt in England, which attained its final fruition in 
the following century in America. The Puritan 
Revolution stirred the political sense of the nation 
not less than its religious emotions, The intensive 
study which the Old Testament received in conse 
quence, reacted in marked degree upon the political 
ideas of the time. As Borgeaud aptly puts it, " the 
first political manifestoes of modern democracy were 
formulated in England in the seventeenth century 
and they were the fruit of the religious revolutions 
caused by the Reformation." 2 

1 English Thought in the i8th Century, 3& ed., II, 131. 

2 Rise of Modern Democracy in Old and New England, 105. 



The theories of natural rights and the origin of 
government in contract had their rise at this time. 
Men were then more prone than now to seek for evi 
dences of the Divine Hand in the institution of mun 
dane affairs. And as ideas of government, lay and 
clerical, were receiving earnest study and new appli 
cation, their origins were sought for in the sacred 
books. In these were to be found the earliest re 
corded instances of the genesis of government. With 
minds open to interpretations that fell in with pre 
conceived views, the covenants recorded as made 
between God and the Jewish people, were seized 
upon as proof-positive of the contractual nature of 
the first governmental forms. 1 With circum 
stances arising to give their thoughts ready employ 
ment, it is not to be wondered that the contract 
theory was applied on the one side by Hobbes to\ 
bolster up the divine authority of kings, on the 
other by Locke to give warrant to the supremacy 
of the legislative arm of the government as the direct 
representative of the people. 

If, therefore, we would seek out the immediate 
sources of the political philosophy of the American 
Revolution, we must look for them in the history of 

1 1 am aware of the learned treatise by Dr. Sullivan (Kept. 
Am. Hist. Assn., 1903, Vol. I, 67 et seq.) tracing the social 
compact idea through classical and mediaeval authors. But 
they did not have so immediate an effect at this time as the 
Old Testament. 


English thought in the seventeenth century, and in 
the great state papers which clothed it in constitu 
tional form. 1 The principal expounders of the polit 
ical philosophy of this period were Hooker, Hobbes 
and Locke, and their very names are indicative of 
the historical events to which they gave literary ex 
pression. All of them based the origin of govern 
ment upon a social contract, the outgrowth of a time 
when life in a state of nature no more proved fea 
sible. To Hooker and Ho^bbes the state of nature 
was a condition of anarchy, of warfare and constant 
strife, to end which men established forms of gov 
ernment...-^^ Locke, efih-4he~-co4ar-y, it was a 
" golden age," and political societies were created 
to protect and secure persons and property, when 
men became corrupt and no longer respected each 
other s rights. 

As Hobbes reflected the spirit of the Puritan Revo 
lution, 2 so Locke " expounded the principles of the 
Revolution of 1688, and his writings became the 

1 See in this connection, besides the works of Hooker, 
Hobbes, Locke, Sydney, and the political writings of Milton, 
the excellent and suggestive study by A. L. Lowell in his 
Essays on Government, Merriam s Am. Pol. Theories, Sir 
Leslie Stephens English Thought in the i8th Century, Sir 
James Fitzjames Stephens Horcs Sabbaticce, Vols. II and 
III, Bryce s Studies in History and Jurisprudence, McLaugh- 
lin in Am. Hist. Rev., Vol. V, No. 3, 467 et seq., and Ritchie s 
Natural Rights. 

2 The Leviathan appeared in 1651. 


political bible of the following century, the source 
from which later writers drew their arguments, and 
the authority to which they appealed in default of 
arguments." 1 And just as the events of 1688 and 
the final establishment of the supremacy of Parlia- x 
ment could not have occurred without the previous 
period of revolution and reaction, so Locke s Treat- . 
ises on Government (issued in 1690), it may safely 
be said, would never have seen the light of day 
had he not lived through this formative time, and 
had the thoughts of Hooker and Hobbes and Sir 
Robert Filmer not been set down to spur him on to 
the expression of his views. Since Locke proved 
the " formal expounder of Whiggism " 2 in America 
to a greater extent even than in England, it is to his 
ideas that it will prove most profitable to devote 
attention. " His chief influence," it has been well 
said, " was in popularizing a convenient formula for 
enforcing the responsibility of governors," 3 and his 
arguments were not less familiar to every political 
thinker and writer in America, than was the Old 
Testament to the Old and New England Puritans. 

Beginning in his second Treatise (the first being 
entirely devoted to a labored refutation of Filmer s 
Patriarcha) with a consideration of the state of na- 

1 Sir Leslie Stephen, op. cit., II, 135. 

2 Ibid. 

3 Ibid., 143. 



ture, he proceeds to discuss the purposes of political 
or civil society and their beginnings, the forms of 
commonwealths, the powers of the several branches 
of governments (placing the treatment of the legisla 
tive power in advance of that of the executive), 
and then, after treating in order such subjects as 
the prerogative, conquest, usurpation and tyranny, 
he concludes most appropriately with an elaborate 
chapter on the dissolution of governments. 

In the state of nature/Amen are in a condition of 
" perfect freedom to order their actions and dis 
pose of their possessions and persons as they think 
fit, within the bounds of the law of nature." 
Further, " it is a state of equality wherein all the 
power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having 
more than another." This state, however, " though 
a state of liberty, is not a state of license." " It has 
a law to govern it which obliges every one, and rea 
son, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will 
but consult it, that being all equal and independent 
no one ought to harm another in his life, health, 
property, or possessions," the " unalienable rights " 
of the Declaration of Independence. The law of 
nature confers upon man, therefore, all the rights of 
person and property. It is not to acquire property 
rights that man enters into political society, but in 
order to protect and secure those he already has, 
to avoid the destructive state of war that may arise 


at any time, and to remedy the inconveniences that 
have grown up in the state of nature. 

Thus " men being by nature all free, equal, and . 
independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and I > 
subjected to the political power of another, without/ 
his own consent." As soon as men agree to asso 
ciate to form a political society, they enter into a 
social compact with each other, and consent to be 
guided by the will of the majority to make and exe 
cute laws for the general good. " Property," in 
Locke s conception, is used in a very extensive sense ; 
it comprises all rights of any nature, especially those 
of a personal character, and it is the product of man s 
own labor. 

As to the forms of government, he makes the fa 
miliar classification into monarchies, aristocracies 
and democracies, and then gives consideration to the 
various branches of government. Of these the leg- . 
islative is all-important, mirroring thus the Whig 
view of the supremacy of Parliament as against the 
Stuart contention of the divine right of kings.? 
" This legislative is not only the supreme power of 
the commonwealth, but sacred and unalterable in 
the hands where community have once placed it." 
But, though the legislative is supreme, " and there 
fore all obedience, which by the most solemn ties 
any one can be obliged to pay, ultimately terminates 
in this supreme power, and is directed by those laws 


which it enacts," it is none the less subject to four 
limitations. First, it can not be " absolutely arbi 
trary over the lives and fortunes of the people," since 
" nobody can transfer to another more power than 
he has in himself, and nobody has an absolute arbi 
trary power over himself, or over any other, to 
destroy his own life, or take away the life or prop 
erty of another." " Secondly, the legislative or su 
preme authority cannot assume to itself a power to 
rule by extemporary, arbitrary decrees, but is bound 
to dispense justice and decide the rights of the sub 
ject by promulgated standing laws, and known au 
thorized judges." For " absolute arbitrary power, 
or governing without settled standing laws, can 
neither of them consist with the ends of society and 
government, which men would not quit the state 
of nature for, and tie themselves up under, were it 
not to preserve their lives, liberties and fortunes." 
" Thirdly, the supreme power cannot take from any 
man any part of his property without his own con 
sent," since the very aim of government is to pre 
serve property, and if it be taken away without con 
sent " they have no property at all." This idea of 
the consent to the appropriation of property as fun 
damental, is elaborated with much particularity, and 
in his recapitulation is re-stated thus : " They must 
not raise taxes on the property of the people without 
the consent of the people, given by themselves or 


their deputies." " Fourthly, the legislative cannot 
transfer the power of making laws to any other 
hands, for it being but a delegated power from the 
people, they who have it can not pass it over to others 
. . . nor can they be bound by any laws but such 
as are enacted by those whom they have chosen and 
authorized to make laws for them." 

Next he discusses the relations of the legislative 
and the executive to the people. The executive he 
makes dependent upon the legislative, and over them 
both " there remains still in the people a supreme 
power to remove or alter the legislative, when they 
find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed 
in them." The prerogative of the executive, though 
necessarily extensive, has bounds set to it by the 
laws made by the legislative ; since " prerogative 
can be nothing but the people s permitting their 
rulers to do several things of their own free choice 
where the law was silent, . . . for the public good 
and their acquiescing in it when so done." Having 
next put limits to the right of conquest which he 
calls " a foreign usurpation," he considers usurpa 
tion which " is a kind of domestic conquest, with this 
difference that an usurper can never have right on 
his side, it being no usurpation but when one is got 
into the possession of what another has right to." 
Of tyranny, he says, " whosoever in authority ex 
ceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use 


of the forces he has under his command, to compass 
that upon the subject which the law allows not, 
ceases in that to be a magistrate ; and acting without 
authority, may be opposed as any other man who 
by force invades the right of another/ 

The concluding chapter on the " dissolution of 
governments " is thus led up to. For this two 
causes may be assigned. The first occurs when by 
the arbitrary will of " a single person or prince," the 
legislative is altered, by setting up his own will in 
its place, by hindering its time and place of meeting 
and freedom of action, or by changing the " ways 
of election . . . without the consent or contrary to 
the common interest of the people." The alterna 
tive cause of dissolution occurs when the legislative 
and the prince act contrary to their trust, " when they 
endeavor to invade the property of the subject, and 
to make themselves, or any part of the community 
masters or arbitrary disposers of the lives, liberties 
or fortunes of the people." " Whenever the legis 
lators endeavor to take away and destroy the prop 
erty of the people, or to reduce them to slavery 
under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a 
state of war with the people, who are thereupon 
absolved from any further obedience, and are left to 
the common refuge which God hath provided for 
all men against force and violence. Whenever, 
therefore, the legislative shall trangress this funda- 


mental rule of society, and either by ambition, fear, 
folly, or corruption, endeavor to grasp themselves, 
or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power 
over the lives, liberties and estates of the people; 
by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the 
people had put into their hands for quite contrary 
ends, and it devolves to the people, who have a right 
to resume their original liberty, and by the estab 
lishment of a new legislative (such as they shall 
think fit), provide for their own safety and security, 
which is the end for which they are in society." 

Such is, in outline, the theory of government as 
expounded by John Locke. It displays in almost 
every part the doctrines made familiar by the Revo 
lution of 1688. Moreover, as the political excite 
ment died down in England with the settlement in 
1689 of the great question that had agitated the 
country for half a century, and as the Whigs, the 
exponents of these ideas, were in almost constant 
power until the accession of George III, contributing 
so greatly to the ascendancy of the country, there 
naturally ensued a period of political contentment. 
During this, as the supremacy of Parliament had 
been established, the theory of the social compact 
and of the division of the powers of government 
was gradually lost sight of, so that when a forceful 
monarch like George III came to the throne, he was 
able by his dominating personality and his easy con- 


science to make himself practical dictator, within the 
bounds of the British constitution. 

But in America other conditions produced differ 
ent results. In the nearly seventy years succeed 
ing the Revolution of 1688, great problems of 
government were being worked out anew. That 
period saw the evolution of the legislature in all the 
colonies to a position of authority greater almost 
within its confined limits, than had been attained by 
Parliament at home. And whereas the conditions 
in England allowed of the predominance of a force 
ful individual over the will of the nation, the more 
democratic character of political institutions in 
America saw the ever-increasing strengthening of 
the will of the people through their legislatures. 
During all this period parliamentary authority was 
little exercised over the colonies, while, on the other 
hand, much controversy arose between the King, 
as one party to a compact (of which the charters 
were the outward expression), and the colonists 
through their legislatures as the other. The colonists 
came to ignore the British Parliament in large meas 
ure, to look upon their own legislatures as taking its 
place in their life, and to view the crown, from 
which had issued their charters and privileges, as 
the connecting bond between them and the home gov 
ernment. When, therefore, the attempt was made 
to revive some of the lost authority of Parliament, 


under Grenville in 1763, it met first with remon 
strance, then with opposition, and later with revo 
lution. But the authority of the crown, even though 
it might be thought to be abused, was not seriously 
questioned. The limits to it, it was assumed, had 
been set by the Revolution of 1688, and it was only 
when these were believed to have been exceeded that 
the final stage of opposition to what was regarded 
as the unconstitutional aggression of the crown, was 
entered upon. 

n this contest *the theories of the origin and end 
of government, and the relations of the colonies to 
Great Britain were threshed over to such an extent 
that every thinking man knew the value of the grain 
winnowed out. Otis, the Adamses, Stephen Hop 
kins, Daniel Dulany, Richard Bland, Dickinson, 
Wilson, Hamilton, and Jefferson, to mention only 
the more important, all lent a helping hand. And 
though they differed in details and occasionally in 
results, they were in substantial agreement upon the 
following points. Before the time of the institution 
of government men were in a state of nature, and in 
possession of certain natural rights, life, liberty and 
property, which are antecedent to all rights acquired 
under government, and hence transcend them. In 
this state each man is perfectly free and independent, 
and no man is born ruler of others, but all are cre 
ated free and equal in the right to rule themselves. 


As certain inconveniences arise under these condi 
tions, however, men enter into a social contract, by 
their own consent agreeing to form governments 
and give up certain of their inherent rights, that they 
may thereby ensure others to themselves and to the 
body politic which they institute, but especially that 
they may be rendered the more secure in the pos 
session of their property. As their consent is neces 
sary to this action, it follows that none of their 
property can be taken without this consent, given in 
person or by representatives chosen for that pur 
pose. Hence " taxation without representation is 
tyranny." The right to representation, and of de 
termination as to the disposal of property, was not 
one derived from the British constitution, but is one 
of the inherent rights of man which no authority can 
take away. Taxation without representation was 
slavery, taxation with representation was freedom. 
They had grown accustomed to the latter and would 
not submit to the former. Underlying the theory 
of natural rights and of the consent of the governed 
was the doctrine of popular sovereignty. " That 
the people are the basis of all legitimate political 
authority was a proposition which was little disputed 
at this time. . . . The inherent and inalienable 
sovereignty of the people was therefore assumed as 
a political principle of incontestable validity, a pre 
mise which could not be assailed. Although fre- 


quent reference was made to this doctrine, there was 
little attempt at scientific discussion of the idea : it 
seemed, indeed, to be so generally recognized that 
elaborate argument upon the question was super 
fluous." 1 Side by side with these views went that 
of the sacredness of the right of revolution, which 
was accepted with no less unanimity than that of 
popular sovereignty. . To defend their property 
against aggression was not only a right but a duty, 
and if in that defense governments were overturnedA 
it was but the alternative to submission and slaveryy 
But brief consideration of this analysis of the 
views of the Fathers is requisite to discern in how 
much they breathe the spirit of Locke throughout. 
By them none was more often quoted, none more 
frequently appealed to, to justify the rectitude of 
their convictions. To no writer was he unfamiliar, 
and his very words were reproduced by many to 
help make a telling point. And of no one are these 
statements so true as of Jefferson, to whose meta 
physical mind Locke seems to have made an especial 
appeal. Hooker and Hobbes and Sydney, too, re 
ceive their fair share of attention, but in no sense 
to the same extent as Locke. There was a time, 
now happily gone forever, when it was the fashion 
sneeringly to pass by the philosophy of the Declara 
tion with a brief reference to its French origin. 

1 Merriam, op. cit., 53-4. 


But this was the result of a superficial confusion 
of apparent similarity with derivation. A year 
before Rousseau s Contrat Social made its appear 
ance, Otis had produced the first of his pamphlets, 
and before Rousseau s work was known in this 
country, had issued his Rights of the Colonists 
Asserted. These two works, full of the English 
political thought of the seventeenth century, were 
the direct antecedents to all the polemics of the fol 
lowing years, and contained the substance of the 
ideas that grew to be the familiars of the people. 
Montesquieu, it is true, was well-known and often 
cited in their arguments, but the views he held dis 
tinctly showed the influence of his visit to England 
and of the philosophy of Locke. In fact, the doc 
trine of the separation of powers, upon which Mon 
tesquieu laid so much stress, and which is perhaps 
the best known of his contributions to political sci 
ence, is not much more than a reproduction of the 
gist of Locke s twelfth chapter. But we search the 
American pamphlets of the time in vain for any 
references to Rousseau s theories. And why should 
they have been resorted to when in their own lan 
guage their own views were expressed to such good 
purpose and effect? 

But it would never have been possible to base a 
revolution in large measure upon a political philoso 
phy, had the principles of that philosophy not been 


so frequently reiterated as to become the common 
property of the people, and if its application to Eng 
lish history had not been so well understood. The 
contentions of the colonial leaders of thought were 
voiced in some sixty pamphlets, to mention only the 
more important, produced between the years 1761 / 
and 17/6. Not one failed to ground its argument 
as much upon theories of natural right and social J 
compact, as upon rights possessed under the British 
constitution. This does not take into account the 
great multitude of contributions that filled the 
gazettes, from the days of Otis s stand against 
Writs of Assistance to those of 1776, when discus 
sions favoring and opposing independence crowded 
the columns of every number of every issue. But 
this was not all. Petitions and resolutions of co 
lonial assemblies and committees, drawn by the very 
men who were disseminating their views by means 
of pamphlets, served but to echo the sentiments of 
the disputants, making them resound throughout 
the land. Interpretations of the British constitu 
tion and of its relation to the colonies, went side by 
side with the assumption of natural rights, espe-] 
daily in the earlier stages, as witness the Declara 
tion of Rights of 1774. ^Therefore, when the time 
was ripe to state the reasons for it and to declare 
independence, the popular mind had been well pre 
pared for its reception. Every man knew, or 


thought he knew perfectly, what were his rights by 
nature as well as those which were his by reason of 
his understanding of the British constitution. And 
every man knew, or thought he knew, how in the 
previous fifteen years these rights had been in 
fringed upon. When the time for independence 
came he could therefore be appealed to for support 
upon philosophic as well as upon constitutional 
grounds, with the full assurance that these appeals 
would fall upon welcoming ears."/ 

i In stating the case finally, it had to be put upon the 
highest plane that the exigencies would allow, to 
intermingle with a maximum of fact a modicum of 
idealism. The opening paragraphs of the Declara- 
tion of Independence represent this idealistic phi 
losophy. Jefferson, practical man that he was, no 
more pretended to believe that the ideals which he 
was giving voice to were attainable, or were at 
tained, at the time he was writing the Declaration, 
than he later believed that the constitution was the 
most perfect instrument of government that could 
be devised. But this was no reason for not setting 
down the current high-minded conceptions of the 
origin and end of government. When, therefore, 
he wrote of the self-evident truths, " that all men are 

. created equal, that they are endowed by their Crea 
tor with certain inalienable Rights; that among 
these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happi- 


ness. That to secure these rights, Governments are 
instituted among Men, deriving their just powers 
from the consent of the governed, That whenever 
any Form of Government becomes destructive of 
these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or 
abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying 
its foundation on such principles and organizing 
its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most 
likely to effect their Safety and Happiness," he was 
but giving terse expression to the widely diffused 
convictions of the period. And in doing this he 
sought out the best model, and repeated the con 
cepts, often even the very phraseology and argu 
ments, of his master John Locke. 1 

And as Jefferson was stating a political and not 
a moral philosophy, when he wrote that all men 
are created equal, 2 he conceived equality iii the 
sense of political equality, which was the general 

1 A reading of Locke s second Treatise will show how thor 
oughly every sentence and expression in it vere graven on 
Jefferson s mind. Note especially paragraphs 4, 54, 220, 222, 
225, 230. 

z No error is more common than to quote this clause " all 
men are created free and equal." In the preparation of his 
careful summary, Jefferson aimed to include no terms over 
which controversy might arise unnecessarily. To a slave- 
holding people the inclusion of the word " free " might have 
occasioned this. Accordingly we find in his original manu 
script draft the words " & independent " following " equal," 
crossed out. 


understanding. Not of equality in every respect, 
but of equality before the law, in rights, privileges, 
and legal capacities. Here again he followed 
Locke, who held, " Though I have said that all 
men by nature are equal, I cannot be supposed to 
understand all sorts of equality. Age or virtue 
may give men a just precedency. Excellency of 
parts and merit may place others above the common 
level . . . and yet all this consists with the equality 
which all men are in respect of jurisdiction or do 
minion one over another, which was the equality 
I there spoke of as proper to the business in hand, 
being that every man hath his natural freedom 
without being subjected to the will or authority of 
any other man." 1 And Jefferson in his later life 
put these theories into practice in his battles for the 
u^mocracy, 2 as Lincoln did in his fight against 
slavery. 3 

It is, however, when Jefferson comes to give the 
reasons for overturning the existing form of gov 
ernment that we find ourselves in the immediate 
presence of Locke, listening to his very voice. The 
, third and fourth sentences of the second paragraph 
. of the Declaration 4 are, in remarkable phraseology, 

Second Treatise, 54. 

2 For Jefferson s later views see Works, IX, 425, 426, and 
Merriam, op. cit., Chapter IV. 

* Works, I, 232. 

* " Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long 
established should not be changed for light and transient 


an epitome of the salient points of Locke s last cTiap- 
ter. It was necessary to assume the establishment of 
a tyranny that abolished the freedom which was 
theirs by natural right, or else there was no justifica 
tion for a revolution, since government should be 
dissolved only by reason of the specific usurpations 
already cited. 

The investigation into the adequacy of the facts 
which Jefferson next proceeds to submit to a candid 
world, to prove the righteousness of his reasoning, 
will form the subject of the next chapters. And 
bound up with these facts are the colonial conten 
tions respecting the constitutional relations between 
the colonies and the home government, and the 
rights and privileges to which by their charters 
they were entitled as free-born English citizens, as 
announced in the declaration of rights of 1774. 

The influence of the Declaration upon our polit 
ical institutions (or rather the influence of the ideas 

causes ; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that man 
kind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, 
than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which 
they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and 
usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a 
design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their 
right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to 
provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been 
the patient sufferance of these Colonies, and such is now 
the necessity which constrains them to alter their former 
Systems of Government." 


of which is was the summary expression) has been 
profound. The concepts outlined above were the 
fundamental ideas of the men who were given the 
task of establishing the plans of government fash 
ioned during and immediately following the revolu 
tion. And inasmuch as no small part of their 
preaching was that the ultimate seat of power was 
in the people, to the people was given a greater 
share in the control of government than the world 
had ever before been witness to. 1 No constitution 
failed to include the philosophy of the Declaration 
in some form, though it was not adopted to 
the same extent by all. It appears in those of 
Massachusetts and Virginia, in respect of the rea 
sons for instituting governments, and in them all 
in respect of the looseness of government, since it 
was held that government was a necessary evil and 
the less of it there was the better for the happiness 
of the individual and society. This idea was given 
its most striking expression in the Articles of Con 
federation, which soon proved to be but the " rope 
of sand " its framers designed. 

Again, the separation of powers, made familiar 
by Montesquieu, was characteristic of all, though 
the legislature, so much exalted by Locke as the 

1 See the constitutions of Massachusetts, Virginia, North 
and South Carolina, and Pennsylvania, in Poore s Charters 
and Constitutions. 


exponent of the popular will, was now given as 
great prominence as Parliament had acquired in 
England. Coincident to this was the jealousy^^of 
the executive, and his power was consequently re 
stricted in many ways, and made practically sub 
ordinate to the will of the legislature, the imme 
diate representative of the sovereign people. Fur 
ther, to render the people as nearly supreme as 
possible, the frequency of elections was repeatedly 
insisted on. 1 

But it is not to the constitutions of the period of 
the revolution alone, that the philosophy of the 
Declaration has been limited. It has affected 
the whole fabric of our constitutional and legal 
development, and to an especial degree in its social 
compact phases. Notably this was the case at the 
time of the formation of the constitution, when men 
thought and spoke constantly of agreement and 
consent in the terms of the compact philosophy. 2 
It has pervaded all our law, 3 so that " in reading 
Locke we cannot fail to be struck with the resem 
blance between some of his deductions and the doc 
trines of our own jurists ; and we might almost sup 
pose that the Treatises on Government were in- 

1 Merriam, op. cit., 74 et seq. 

2 See the brilliant article of Professor A. C. McLaughlin in 
Am. Hist. Rev., Vol. V, 467 et seq. 

3 A. L. Lowell, Essays on Government, 155-156. 


tended to be a commentary on the principles of 
American Constitutional Law." And it is only 
within comparatively recent times that the judiciary 
is beginning to free itself from these concepts, funda 
mental in the establishment of our political institu 

The impress made by the theory of natural rights 
and the social compact on our political and legal 
history has been so deep, that many more years of 
development will be required before these ideas can 
be completely superseded. And if this is ever suc 
cessfully done, it will be accomplished by an uncon 
scious rather than by any conscious process. They 
furnished the incentive to the revolution, as well as 
the argument for the contest against slavery. The 
roots of this theory are so deeply imbedded in the 
political history of England and America, under 
lying which is a stratum of the Old Testament teach 
ing derived through the Puritan Revolution, that it 
will continue to be popular until that day, when the 
Declaration of Independence is no longer taught in 
the schools and ceases to be read before admiring 

Nor can the evolutionary theory of the origin of 
government and society, now generally accepted in 
some form by teachers of political science, be made 
the basis for any such popular uprisings as have 
been the outcome of the older philosophy. The lat- 


ter is instinct with life and can therefore readily 
be made to appeal to the emotions of men, through 
which alone great movements are achieved. The 
organic philosophy appeals only to man s reason, 
and as yet only to that of the higher thinkers. 
Upon such a foundation no great social or political 
movement ever was nor ever yet can be builded. 
Future generations will have recourse, in their up 
risings, to the old guide, or else will seek a new, as 
yet not in evidence. 



BEFORE undertaking an explanation of the griev 
ances recited in the Declaration, it may be well to 
pass in review the method by which the British gov 
ernment exercised supervision over the colonies. 
The commercial policy inaugurated by Charles I in 
1645, and extended in the Navigation Act of Octo 
ber, 1651, was continued under Cromwell anql his 
successors. 1 By December, 1660, the trade of the 
American colonies had become of sufficient impor 
tance to induce Charles II to put its superintend 
ence and management in the hands of a standing 
Council for Trade and Foreign Plantations. 2 

1 Beer, Commercial Policy of England toward the American 
Colonies, Columbia College Studies, III, No. 2, 29, 37. The 
Navigation Acts are in MacDonald, Select Charters III. of 
Am. Hist., 1606-1775. 

2 Board of Trade Journals, I, fo. i. The copy of the min 
utes of the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, cited 
in these pages under the caption, " Board of Trade Journals," 
is that recently copied for the Historical Society of Pennsyl 
vania, an exact reproduction, page for page, of the originals. 
The statements respecting the various councils and commit 
tees, known generally as the Board of Trade, have been pro 
cured from the volumes just mentioned, and from Documents 
Relating to the Colonial History of New York, I, xxviii- 



Fourteen years later, by reason of political consid 
erations, the commission of the existing council was 
revoked, and their books and papers were ordered 
to be delivered to the clerk of the Privy Council. 1 
On March 12 of the following year (1675), Charles 
II, by order in council, referred the affairs, of which 
the old council had taken cognizance, to a commit 
tee of the Privy Council consisting of the Lord 
Chancellor, Lord Treasurer, Lord Privy Seal, and 
others, who were to meet once a week and report 
their proceedings from time to time to the King in 
council. This arrangement was continued under 
James II and William III, though the latter gave 
to the committee the title of Board for Trade and 
Foreign Plantations. The importance which the 
trade of the colonies assumed, during the first few 
years of the reign of the last mentioned monarch, 
caused him to issue a commission, on May 15, 1696, 
establishing a permanent organization for this 
Board. The principal officers of state, including 
the Keeper of the Great Seal, the President of 
the Privy Council, and others, were created Com 
missioners of Trade and Plantations. Virtually 
without further change, they continued to control 
colonial affairs until March II, 1752, when their 
functions were extended to include the recommen 
dation of persons to fill vacancies in colonial gov- 

1 December 21, 1674. 


ernorships and other offices, and they were made 
practically the sole medium for correspondence with 
the colonies. On August 8, 1766, the board, which 
had acquired a position of quasi-independence, had 
its prerogatives somewhat curtailed by an order in 
council requiring that letters of instructions should 
be issued to the governors of the colonies directing 
them to correspond with the Secretary of State, 
sending duplicates to the Board of Trade. On 
January 20, 1768, the office of Secretary of State 
for the Colonies was instituted, and Hillsborough 
became its first incumbent. No further change was 
made in the method of carrying on official relations 
with the colonies until 1782, when the secretaryship 
for the colonies was abolished. 

The usual procedure, during the period of the 
revolutionary agitation, was for the governors to 
transmit reports, the acts passed by the legislatures, 
together with the journals of the assemblies and 
councils, and any petitions that may have been for 
mulated, to the Board of Trade. By that body they 
were given careful consideration, the acts being 
referred invariably to the solicitor-general for an 
opinion as to their consonance with the laws of Eng 
land and with the provisions of the colonial charters. 
His report was usually final, and recommendations 
by the Board respecting the allowance or disallow 
ance of acts of the colonial legislatures, in the latter 


case accompanied by the reasons therefor, with 
suggestions for amendment or alteration, were 
transmitted to the King in council. The King in 
conjunction with the Lords of the Committee of 
Council for Plantation Affairs made the final dis 
position, and the results were transmitted to the 
colonial governors, in the earlier period by the Board 
of Trade, and later by the Secretary for the Colonies. 
This elaborate machinery for the supervision of 
colonial affairs worked sometimes with consider 
able smoothness, at others with great difficulty, 
for the control thus exercised was far from being 
nominal in character. The proceedings in the col 
onies were often given minute examination, and the 
royal prerogative of disallowing a colonial act was 
put in practice on frequent occasions. In reaching 
their determinations the Board was aided by the 
agents whom practically all the colonies maintained 
in London to look after their affairs. These agents, 
among whom Franklin and Burke were the most 
noted, often represented several colonies, and ap 
peared before the Board whenever they could 
thereby advance the interests of the colonies. At 
times they were given hearings extending over a 
number of sessions. But the process of transmit 
ting all laws to England was a tedious requirement 
occasioning much delay, was a never-ending source 
of irritation to the colonies, and caused them to 
resort to various subterfuges to circumvent it. 


The deeds that led directly to the revolution are 
easy to discover, as they lie upon the surface of 
events, and are not readily to be overlooked. But 
beneath these were more deep-seated causes, that 
may be said to have taken their origin with the 
founding of the colonies. The Navigation Acts 
aimed to control the colonial commerce for the 
benefit of England. By restrictions on such colo 
nial manufactures as woolens, hats, and the prod 
ucts of iron, it was intended to make the colonies 
"the vent of England s manufactures." 1 The 
bounties granted for the production of naval stores 
and related products, and the later concessions de 
signed to render submission to taxation by Parlia 
ment palatable, were by no means a compensation, 
either in degree or in kind, for the unwelcome 
restrictions. 2 As long as the colonies were in their 
infancy they stood in need of the tutelage of the 
home government. As they grew to manhood they 
found it possible to stand by themselves, were able 
in most respects to safeguard their own welfare. 
During this period of development, and largely aid 
ing in it, control by the British authorities was most 
lax. At the very time when the fostering care of 
the home government came no longer to be re 
quired, the turn in the tide of the British colonial 

l Beer, op. cit., 66. 
2 Ibid., passim. 


policy set in under Grenville. Close supervision 
then succeeded gross neglect. It was as if a parent 
had allowed his offspring to attain majority with 
out any serious attempt at influencing the forma 
tion of his character, and then suddenly undertook 
to enforce the authority that had been kept so long 
in abeyance. 

Again, just when this stage of development was 
reached, the requirement that all laws be sent to 
England for revision, and for allowance or disallow 
ance, proved most irksome and worked inevitably 
towards disunion. The exercise of close super 
vision over practically every colonial enactment, 
though recognized as a perfectly legal exaction, was 
one that readily gave rise to many abuses and much 

It was not without reason, therefore, that emphasis 
was put upon this serious grievance in the Declara 
tion, that it was given the position of honor in the 
opening paragraphs, and that in the first two | 
charges against the King, 1 Jefferson leaps at once } 
into the thick of the controversy. In the terse 
words of these two grievances he has included the 

1 " He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome 
arid necessary for the public good." 

" He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate 
and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation 
till his Assent should be obtained ; and when so suspended has 
utterly neglected to attend to them." 


whole of the great question of the constitutional 
relations of the colonies to the crown, that agitated 
England and America for all of a century. 

Excepting only Rhode Island, Connecticut, and 
Maryland, all the colonies had fully experienced 
what it meant to enact laws " wholesome and neces 
sary for the public good," only to have them re 
peatedly rejected by the King in council. In addi 
tion, the royal governors were often specifically 
instructed to withhold assent from certain kinds of 
legislation. Every man had felt the strong arm of 
the home government interfering, not only in the 
public, but in his private affairs as well. To such an 
extent had this been carried, that after 1773 not 
even a divorce could be granted in any of the col 
onies, for the penalty was instant dismissal to the 
governor who gave countenance to such a law. 
That same year witnessed at least twenty important 
colonial laws rejected by the King upon various pre 
texts. 1 The leading men in America were keenly 
alive to the irritating effects of this course, and 
Jefferson had already given expression to the feel 
ing existing, when he wrote, in 1774, " for the most 
trifling reasons, and sometimes for no conceivable 
reason at all, his majesty has rejected laws of the 
most salutary tendency/ 2 What Jefferson had in 

1 Board of Trade Journal, 1773. 

2 Works, I, 440. 


mind, however, was the repeated disallowance of 
certain laws passed by the colonies to promote their 
welfare, but which came into conflict with the pol 
icy of the home authorities. Such were the laws 
of Virginia, and other Southern colonies, designed to 
prohibit the slave-trade and the introduction of con 
victs, and those of nearly all the colonies for issuing 
bills of credit and for naturalizing aliens. Massachu 
setts, as is well known, had her great disputes over 
laws relating to the question of compensating, in 
her own way, the sufferers from the Stamp Act 
riots, as well as over methods of taxation and the 
appropriation of money for salaries of government 

Steps to restrict the importation pL slaves were 
taken at an early date, but every law of this nature 
was disallowed by the crown, on the ground that an 
important branch of British trade would thereby be 
interfered with. 1 Thus fared the acts framed in 
South Carolina in 1760, in New Jersey in 1763, and 
in Virginia in 1772. The rejection of Virginia s 
law caused particular irritation, since it was tha 
latest in a long series of similar ineffectual acts, and 
had been accompanied by an especial appeal to the 
Kirfg that the governor might be allowed to assent 
to it. A royal instruction was issued to the gover 
nor of New Hampshire, upon his appointment in 

1 Dubois, Suppression of the Slave Trade. 


1761, preventing him from signing any law impos 
ing duties on negroes imported into that colony, and 
subsequent royal instructions required the colonists 
to desist from their opposition to the slave-trade. 
The strength of feeling on this subject is exhibited 
in the stand taken by the Congress of 1774, which 
by the Articles of Association prohibited the impor 
tation of slaves, and the slave-trade after December 
i, of that year. And again, on April 6, 1776, when 
the ports of the country were thrown open to trade 
with the world, the only qualification was the re 
solve to import no slaves into any of the colonies. 

The attempts to prevent the entrance of convicts, 
regarded, if possible, with even less favor than 
slaves, met with no greater success. Many of this 
class, under the English law which allowed those 
convicted of crime the option, in some cases, between 
imprisonment, death, or transportation to America, 
preferred to leave England. Their arrival met 
with opposition, particularly in Virginia, Maryland 
and Pennsylvania, which colonies endeavored by 
laws passed early in their history, to restrict the 
entrance of this undesirable class. But every such 
act was disallowed. Franklin spoke of this in 
1768 as having " long been a great grievance to the 
plantations in general/ 1 and John Dickinson wrote 
in the same year, " the emptying their jails upon 

1 Works, Sparks ed., II, 496, IV, 252. 


us and making the Colonies a Receptacle for the 
Rogues and Villains: an Insult and Indignity not 
to be thought of, much less borne without Indigna 
tion and Resentment." 1 

Also, owing to the scarcity of specie, bills of 
credit were then an absolute necessity in order that 
the colonists might be enabled to carry on trade by 
means other than those of mere barter. But the 
policy of King and Parliament was against the al- 
lowance of any issues of paper money. First came 
the breaking up of the Massachusetts and Pennsyl 
vania land bank schemes, 2 by an act of Parliament 
in 1751, which restrained the northern colonies from 
making any new issues or reissuing old bills, except 
in sudden emergencies. Then in September, 1764, 
basing its action on a report of Lord Hillsborough, 
president of the Board of Trade, Parliament passed 
an act prohibiting any issues of bills of credit from 
being made legal tender, and placing restrictions 
upon them in other respects. Frequent petitions 
against this act effected no result. 3 In 1765, when 
Governor Moore was sent to New York, he received 
a royal instruction to assent to no law whatever for 
striking bills of credit, though this was modified 

1 Almon s Prior Docs., 224. Life and Writings of Dickin 
son, II, 413. Address of Philadelphia Merchants, April 25, 

2 Shepherd, Penna. under Proprietary Govt., 422. 

3 Franklin s Works, VII, 429-430. 


somewhat in the following year when permission 
was granted to issue bills under certain restrictions, 
and if not in contravention of the act of 1764. 
Laws of New Jersey 1 (1758 and 1769), of Penn 
sylvania (1759), and of New York (1769 and 
I77o) 2 for issuing these bills were disallowed by the 
King in spite of urgent petitions in their favor. 

When Massachusetts, in 1766, compensated those 
who suffered from the riots^ occasioned by the at 
tempted enforcement of the Stamp Act, pardoning 
the offenders at the same time, the law was 
promptly disallowed. Not only this, but the King 
by order in council, May 13, 1767, required the gov 
ernor to have a law passed compensating the suf 
ferers, " unmixed with any other matter whatso 
ever." 3 A few years later, when the controversy 
thickened, the Governor of Massachusetts and the 
Assembly of that colony were continually at logger 
heads. The disallowance by the former of the bill 
passed in 1771,* taxing the new Customs Commis 
sioners, created by the Townshend Act, served not 
only to increase the existing feeling of irritation at 
having such a body of foreign and uncontrolled 
officers in their midst, but also tended to interfere 

1 TV. /. Archives, ist ser., X, 115. 

2 Docs. Rel Col. Hist, of N. Y., VIII, 202-205, 215. 

8 Almon s Prior Docs., 141-142; Mass. Hist. Coll., 6th 
Series, IX, 82 et seq. 
*Mass. State Papers, 306-307. 


seriously with the necessary legislation of the col 
ony. The disallowance of naturalization laws need 
not detain us here, for we shall have occasion to 
speak of them below. 

Passing to the second charge, we find it but a , 
refinement, or rather an elaboration, of the preced 
ing. The first intimation that a closer control over 
colonial legislation was intended, came when Parlia 
ment addressed the King, in 1740,* requesting that 
governors of the colonies be instructed to assent to 
no law that failed to contain a clause suspending its 
action until transmitted to England for considera 
tion. This was followed by a royal instruction of 
March, 1752, requiring a revision of the laws in 
force in all the royal provinces, and ordering at the 
same time their transmission to England, and the 
insertion in each of a clause " suspending and defer 
ring the execution thereof until the royal will and 
pleasure may be known thereon." 2 A case in point 
arose in New York, in 1759, when Governor De 
Lancey was instructed to assent to no law empower 
ing justices of the peace to try minor causes, unless 
such act contained the suspending clause. 3 The en- ; -\ 
deavor to suppress lotteries, then so great a factor 

1 Answer to the Declaration of Independence, 5th ed., Lon 
don, 1776, p. 21. Commons Journal, XXIII, 528. 

2 Docs. Rel. Col. Hist. N. Y., VI, 755-756. 
*Ibid., VII, 406. 


in the economic and social life of the colonies, was 
a stroke of policy that made its effects felt se 
riously in all the colonies. Down to 1769 they 
flourished unrestricted, but in June of that year the 
royal governors were enjoined from assenting to 
any law creating them that lacked the suspending 
clause, a practical veto upon all attempts at raising 
funds by such means. 1 Special instructions (1771) 

f ^ prohibited Governor Martin of Virginia from sign- 
! ing any law of this character, on the reasonable 
ground that the practice " doth tend to disengage 
those who become adventurers therein from that 
spirit of industry and attention to their proper call 
ings and occupations on which the public welfare 
so greatly depends." 2 

As respects the latter portion of this second 
charge, the neglect of laws suspended in their 
action until the royal assent was obtained, we have 
a typical instance in four laws passed in Virginia, 
in i77Cv and transmitted to England at once. They 

ufc^ were not even considered by the Lords Commis 
sioners for Trade and Plantations until nearly three 
years after their enactment. 3 Three were then con 
firmed, but a fourth was set aside for final action at 
a later date, until more information respecting it 

1 Ibid. t VIII, 174-175. 

2 A/". C. Col. Recs., VIII, 515. 

8 Board of Trade Journal, 1773, Vol. 81, 49-50. 


could be obtained from the governor of Virginia. 
Jefferson gave expression to the feeling in Virginia 
when he wrote, in 1774, " his Majesty permitted our 
laws to lie neglected in England for years, neither 
confirming them by his assent, nor annulling them 
by his negative; so that such of them as suspend 
themselves until his majesty s assent be obtained, 
we have feared, might be called into existence at 
some future and distant period, when the time and 
change of circumstances shall have rendered them 
destructive to his people here. ... his majesty by 
his instruction has laid his governors under such 
restrictions that they can pass no law of any moment 
unless it have such suspending clause ; so that, how 
ever immediate may be the call for legislative inter 
position, the law cannot be executed until it has 
twice crossed the Atlantic, by which time the evil 
may have spent its whole force." 1 

Closely related to this grievance was the oppo- \ 
sition created by the increase, after 1770, in the num 
ber of royal instructions issued to the governors. 
Every royal governor, moreover, upon setting out 
for his post, was furnished with instructions by 
which he was to be guided in the conduct of his 
office. New policies were frequently initiated in 
this way, and gave rise to many clashes between the 
governors and the legislatures. The veto power of 

1 Summary View, Works, I, 440-441. 


the governor, under his instructions, was always a 
source of irritation, and was looked upon as an in 
fringement upon the legislative independence of the 
assemblies. 1 So far as regards Massachusetts, 
Samuel Adams contended that instructions were 
given the force of laws, and thus came to be sub 
versive of charter privileges. 2 And Pownall held 
that " in some cases of emergency, and in the cases 
of the concerns of individuals, the instruction has 
been submitted to, but the principle never." 3 

With the third charge, 4 however, we reach the 
first grievance in the list that meant much to the 
men of the days of the revolution, but which con 
veys no message to us. It has to do with the erec 
tion of additional counties out of newly-settled dis 
tricts, and with their representation in the colonial 
assemblies. As the population spread out from the 
centers into the more remote regions, the inhabitants 
demanded representation in the legislatures. The 
colonists claimed this power as a right. But the 
crown, in accordance with the English law, regarded 
the issuance of writs for representation as a preroga- 

1 Greene, The Provincial Governor, 162-163. 

9 Mass. State Papers, 307. 

8 Administration of the Colonies, 39. 

4 " He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommoda 
tion of large districts of people, unless those people would 
relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a 
right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only." 


tive of the sovereign, to be exercised in the colonies 
through the royal governors. Holding such con 
flicting views, clashes were inevitable. They came 
in New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, and Vir- \}j 
ginia, the colonies most actively engaged in peo 
pling their western lands. New York tried to give 
representation to two newly erected counties, Cum 
berland 1 (1766) and Albany (1768), but was pre 
vented in each case. More than that, in the latter 
instance the King graciously consented to the di 
vision of the county and the election of two members 
from it to the Assembly, but only on condition that 
in the law establishing the new county no mention 
should be made of representation. 2 The year 1767 
witnessed the issuance of a royal instruction em 
bodying, in most stringent form, the design to con 
trol absolutely the whole matter of representation 
in the assemblies, and the qualifications of electors 
and the elected as well. 3 Virginia felt this bore with 
particular severity upon her, and her leading men 
knew well that Governor Martin had, in 1771, re 
ceived explicit orders to carry out this instruction to 
the letter. Jefferson regarded it as a great griev 
ance and an infringement on the rights of freemen. 

1 Docs. Rel. Col Hist, of N. Y., VII, 918. Journal of N. 
Y. Legislative Council, II, 1594-1596. 

2 Docs. Rel. Col. Hist, of N. Y., VIII, 100. 

3 Ibid., 946. 


According to his view, the people living on the 
western borders and having no local courts, nor 
any local government, found the administration of 
justice almost an impossibility. " Does his Majesty 
seriously wish," wrote he, " and publish it to the 
world, that his subjects should give up the glorious 
right of representation, with all the benefits derived 
from that, and submit themselves the absolute slaves 
of his sovereign will P" 1 

x In New Hampshire the dispute was of early ori 
gin, and resulted for a time in the defeat of the 
contention of the assembly which aimed to give to 
that body the control over representation. But in 
the last days of the old order the controversy was 
revived, when rights of various kinds were being 
examined with careful scrutiny and were being as 
serted with vigor, if not always with discretion. 
Upon this very point, of the admission of new mem 
bers from the towns of Plymouth, Orford, and 
Lime, " called in " by the King s writ by Governor 
Wentworth, the assembly made its final stand, and it 
breathed its last breath, on July 18, 1775, with this 
contention on its lips. 2 

We come next to the three charges 3 respecting the 

1 Works, I, 441. 

2 Force, 4th, II, 1175, 1678-1679. The reply of Governor 
Wentworth to the claims of the Assembly is an able docu 
ment, and thoroughly sound in its reasoning. 

8 " He has called together legislajiyjaJjodjgs at places un 
usual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their 


removal of assemblies, their dissolution, and the 
failure to convoke them after long periods. These 
need detain us but a moment, since the details of the 
removal of the Massachusetts Assembly to Cam 
bridge 1 and Salem, 2 and that of South Carolina to 
Beaufort, 3 are many and varied, and are to be found 
in all histories of the times. Moreover, all accounts 
tell of the dissolution of the Virginia Assembly, in ^3j 
1765, after the passage of Patrick Henry s famous 
resolutions; of that of Massachusetts, in 1768, for 
refusing to review the action on the Circular Letter ; 
and of those of South Carolina and Georgia for 
daring to withstand Lord Hillsborough s order to 
treat that letter " with the contempt it deserves." 
In like manner, the passage of the ringing Virginia * ^\ 
Resolves, in May, 1769, against the revival of the 
statute of Henry VIII, permitting of the transporta- 

public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into 
compliance with his measures." 

" He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for 
opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of 
the people." 

" He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, 
to cause others to be elected ; whereby the Legislative powers, 
incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at 
large for their exercise ; the State remaining in the mean 
time exposed to all the dangers from invasion from without, 
and convulsions within." 

1 1769-1772- 

2 1 774. 




tion to England for trial of persons accused of trea 
son, led to another dissolution. And when a Con- 
tinental Congress was being called together, in 1774, 
all but three of the colonies had to elect delegates 
by means of provincial conventions or committees 
of correspondence, because their assemblies had been 
dissolved by the governors. The last of the charges 
relates undoubtedly to the calling of the Boston town 
meeting of September, 1768, to urge upon the gov 
ernor the necessity for convening the Assembly, 
which had been dissolved because of its action on 
the Circular Letter, while troops, but recently or 
dered to Boston to quell the disturbances there, 
" exposed the citizens to all the dangers of invasion 
from without and convulsions from within." And 
in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Vir 
ginia, in the autumn of 1775, affairs of government 
had come to such a pass that an appeal to the Con 
gress was made for advice. The answer came to 
establish governments that will " best promote the 
happiness of the people," and " most effectually se 
cure peace and good order." 1 

IWe turn now from the familiar details of dis 
solved assemblies to the little known affairs of land 
grants and naturalization. 2 The proclamation of 

1 See p. 34. 

2 " He has endeavored to prevent the population of these 
States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws of Naturaliza- 


the autumn of 1763,* in which the King expressed 
his intention to erect new colonies out of lands that 
the colonists claimed by right of charter, meant the 
serious curtailment of these claims and the obstruc 
tion of the migration westward, and marked the 
initiation of a new policy. It restricted the limits 
of the colonies claiming rights to the South Seas 
to " the heads or sources of any of the rivers which 
fall into the Atlantic Ocean." Beyond the " heads 
or sources " was a reserved domain, out of which the 
governors were prohibited from making any grants 
whatever. Worse still, those who had settled in 
these regions were peremptorily ordered to vacate, 
on the pretext that the lands were reserved for the 
Indians. But the movement had already set toward 
the west, and no such restrictions could check it. 
Land companies, in which Franklin and men of his 
stamp were interested, made petition for the right 
to found colonies, but met only with refusal. Yet 
the westward migration could not be stayed, al 
though this was attempted by means of an Order 
in Council of I773, 2 prohibiting the royal governors 
from issuing any patents until further instructions 

tion of Foreigners ; refusing to pass others to encourage their 
migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appro 
priations of Lands." 

1 MacDonald, Sel. Charters, i6o6-i775> 267. 

2 April 7, 1773. N. C. Col. Recs., IX, 632-3. 


were given. These followed a year later, 1 and were 
even more grievous, in that they raised the " condi 
tions of new appropriations of lands." The royal 
lands were to be sold at specified times to the highest 
bidders, at the upset price of sixpence per acre, and 
with the reservation of an annual quit-rent of one 
half-penny an acre to the King. No lands were to 
be disposed of except in this way. Jefferson had 
this in mind when he wrote the Declaration, and 
when he said, in 1774, " His Majesty has lately taken 
on him to advance the terms of purchase, and of 
holding to the double of what they were, by which 
means the acquisition of lands being rendered diffi 
cult, the population of our country is likely to be 
checked." 2 Only the advance of the revolution pre 
vented the carrying out of these provisions, which 
were everywhere regarded as harsh and unjust. 

Closely allied to the question of granting lands 
was that of the naturalization of aliens. This was 
very generally practiced by the colonies, not so much 
with a view to conferring political rights as for the 
purpose of attracting desirable immigrants to open 
up their undeveloped territory. Where the right to 
transmit his property to posterity was accorded him, 

February 3, 1774. Docs. Rel. Col. Hist. N. Y., VIII, 410- 

2 Works, I, 444. See also on " raising the conditions of 
new Appropriations of lands," ibid., 452-453. 


there would the immigrant settle. Such acts of nat 
uralization met with no comment from the home 
government till the proclamation of 1763 was issued. 
From that time on, however, few of these acts 
passed the ordeal of the Commissioners for Trade 
and Plantations without recommendation for dis 
allowance. Finally, in November, 1773, came the 
royal instruction prohibiting absolutely the natural 
ization of any aliens, and the passage of any acts to 
that end. It was a heavy blow to the prosperity of 
the larger land-holding colonies, Virginia, New 
York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, the settlement 
of which bade fair now to be seriously interfered 

That part of the same charge .mentioning the 
refusal to assent to laws encouraging immigration, 
has reference to an act passed in North Carolina in 
1771. It exempted persons coming immediately 
from Europe from all forms of taxation for four 
years. It was disallowed, however, by the King, 
in February, 1772, on the ground that it related 
especially to certain Scotch immigrants, since its 
provisions applied only to persons coming imme 
diately from Europe, and thus might have an evil 
effect upon the " landed Interests and Manufac 
turers of Great Britain and Ireland." 1 

1 N. C. Col. Recs., IX, 251-252. 


We come next to the complaint of the interfer 
ence with the administration of justice by the refusal 
of assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers. 1 
The man whose mind evolved the Declaration knew 
that in such a state paper the most crying wrongs of 
each colony must, in some measure, be enumerated. 
Though it would be best, for the most part, to con 
fine the charges to those restrictive measures that 
concerned all alike, the most serious local grievances 
of each colony must not be disregarded. The col 
ony whose cause is here advocated is North Carolina. 
And unquestionably the political consideration that 
she had been the earliest to declare in favor of inde 
pendence, was the occasion for this signal recogni 
tion of her wrongs. Beyond the pages of local his 
tories we seek in vain for the explanation of this 
important episode in her history, even though it at 
tained a prominence so great as to find a place in the 

The controversy held in mind by Jefferson was an 
old one, and began when, in January, 1768, Governor 
Tyron signed a law, passed at a previous session 
of the Assembly of North Carolina, providing, 
among other things, for establishing superior courts 
of justice. The law was to be in force for five 
years only, and from then to the end of the next 

1 " He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by re 
fusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers." 


regular session of the Assembly For three years 
all went well, because the Lords Commissioners for 
Trade and Plantations paid little attention, in the 
interval, to colonial laws. Fault was then found 
with this " superior court act," because of a clause 
that made the property of persons who had never 
been in the colony liable to attachment on the suit 
of the creditor. This was in contravention of the 
letter and the spirit of the laws of England. Though 
the Lords Commissioners considered it a serious 
departure from legal form, they agreed, neverthe 
less, that if the Assembly would amend the act in 
this particular, they would not recommend its dis 
allowance. 2 No action, in response to this hint, was 
taken by the North Carolina Assembly, and after 
waiting a due season about a year, the King 
issued an instruction prohibiting his governor from 
giving assent to any law containing the attachment 
clause, unless it included a provision suspending its 
operation until the royal pleasure was made known. 3 
This had come in February, 1772, and was well 
timed, for the law was to expire by limitation the 
next year, and, consequently, if proper provision 
were not made by the Assembly, no superior courts 

1 Iredell s N. C. Laws, Edenton, 1791, 231. N. C. Col. Recs., 
VII, 551, 557, 573, 58o, 588, 610, 623, 693, 921, No. 5- 

2 Ibid., VIII, 264-267. 

3 Ibid., IX, 235- 


would exist in the province. In February, 1773, 
therefore, when the Assembly passed a new court 
act, making provision for superior and inferior 
courts and retaining the objectionable attachment 
clause, the contest was on in bitter earnest. The 
first law enacted contained no suspending clause. 
This the governor, Martin, vetoed. 1 Then the As 
sembly yielded so far as to add the suspending 
clause, but retained the attachment provision. 
Though signed by the governor, it was, of course, 
disallowed by the King, and meanwhile, as there 
were no courts in the province, the governor was in 
structed to establish them on his own responsibility. 
This he did, but the Assembly refused to recognize 
his authority, and made no appropriation for the 
salaries of the judges. Persisting in their determi 
nation to have the kind of bill they wanted and to 
control their own affairs, they passed the one pre 
viously disallowed, when they convened again in 
March, 1774. They were then prorogued for their 
obstinacy, and practically did not sit again while 
North Carolina was under British rule. Thus, as 
a result of the controversy, not only was the Assem 
bly dissolved, because it failed to do as it was bid, but 
from 1773 until North Carolina assumed State gov- 

1 March 6, 1773. Ibid., 583. See also Raper s North Caro~ 
Una, 157-158. 


ernment in 1776, there were no courts in the prov 
ince. 1 

Our first thought, in endeavoring to account for 
the next charge, 2 is likely to be of the long-standing 
controversies in New York and Massachusetts over 
the payment of the salaries of the judiciary, and the 
conditions of their tenure of office. The question 
at issue, in both instances, hinged upon granting 
salaries by colonial appropriation, or permitting 
payment to be made by the crown. The policy, 
adopted by Great Britain at an early date (1761), 
was to refuse to permit judges to hold office during 
good behavior, as in England, and to insist, instead, 
that they hold only during the King s pleasure. 
Made to yield, with no good will, to this enforce 
ment of the royal prerogative, the colonists resisted 
to the utmost the extension that made it possible to 
enforce obnoxious laws and decrees by the whole 
power of a judiciary dependent, not only for its 
tenure, but for its stipends as well, upon the abso- 

1 A r . C. Col. Recs., IX, xxvi. There were contests in 
South Carolina also, in respect of the erection of courts, but 
they were of minor importance to those in North Carolina. 
See McCrady, S. C. under Royal Government, 628 ; and 5". C. 
in the Revolution, 120-121 ; Smith, S. C, as a Royal Prov., 
134 et seq. 

2 " He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for . 
the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of 
their salaries." 


lute good will of the crown. The term of tenure 
established, to fix salaries was but a repressive step 
in advance, although the question did not develop 
till 1767. Then that ill-advised Townshend Act, 
known colloquially as the " glass, lead, and paint 
act," passed Parliament, and became the law of the 
realm. 1 The preamble stated boldly its design of 
raising a revenue to make " a more certain and ade 
quate Provision for defraying the Charge of the 
Administration of Justice and the Support of Civil 
Government, in such Provinces where it shall be 
found necessary." A paragraph in the bill, ex 
plaining how this was to be carried out, showed that 
it was no idle declaration of intention merely. To 
the inhabitants of the colonies, already goaded 
nearly to the point of rebellion because of excessive 
control of their internal affairs, this meant an intol 
erable interference with their rights, and was not to 
be borne. The colonial contention was that inas 
much as judges held office during the King s pleas 
ure, if they also received their salaries from any 
other source than the people to whom they were to 
dispense justice, all control over them would be lost, 
and no redress could be had, when corruption and 
incompetence displaced integrity and learning. 
Furthermore, the extension of the jurisdiction of 

J June 29, 1767. 7 Geo. Ill, c. 46. The act is in Mac- 
Donald, Select Charters, 323. 


OF // 



the admiralty courts, in 1764 and I768, 1 with great 
enlargement of their powers, foreshadowed, it was 
thought, the possible extinction of trial by jury in 
civil as well as in maritime causes. 2 The judges of 
these courts were royal appointees receiving their 
salaries, supposedly, from fines and the proceeds of 
the sale of condemned vessels; but, as this source 
failed to bring in any revenue, they were paid di 
rectly out of the royal exchequer. 

The greatest of the controversies over judicial 
salaries, however, is the famous one begun in Mass 
achusetts on that evil day in February, 1773, when 
Governor Hutchinson announced to the Assembly 
of the province that the King had made provision 
for the justices of the superior court, and that con 
sequently no appropriation was necessary for their 
maintenance. 3 The Assembly voiced their opposi 
tion in vigorous terms, at first in letters of remon 
strance and finally in the well known resolutions of 
March 3, 1773. 4 And reference was made to this 
grievance in the Declaration of Rights and the ad- 

1 See Address to Colonies, Oct. 21, 1774, Journal of Con 

2 The 4ist paragraph of the Sugar Act of 1764 (4 Geo. Ill, 
c. 15) contained the provisions for enforcing the act, and 
the recourse to admiralty courts. A part of the act is in 
MacDonald, op. cit., 273 et seq.; the full text in Statutes at 
Large, XXVI, 33-52. 

3 Mass. State Papers, 365. 

id., 396. 



dress to the colonies of 1774, and redress de 
manded. 1 

From the controversy over judges to that over 
commissioners for the enforcement of customs laws 
is but a step. Their appointment is made the basis 
of the grievance charging that a multitude of new 
officers had been sent to America " to harass the 
people and eat out their substance." 2 For, com 
bined with the decision of Townshend to pass an 
act of taxation, was the determination to enforce it 
at all hazards. As there was no governmental ma 
chinery in America through which to act, a new 
engine of oppression was instituted by the first of 
the Townshend Acts. 3 Its provisions were exceed 
ingly modest in that the King was simply authorized 
to appoint commissioners of customs to reside in 
America, with power and jurisdiction similar to the 
British commissioners. They in turn were empow 
ered to appoint an indefinite number of deputies, 
and it was this multiplication of officers that aroused 
the hostility of the colonists. Their salaries, more 
over, were to be paid out of the receipts from the 
customs, and constituted the most serious aggres- 

1 Journal of Congress, Oct. 14, 1774. 

2 " He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent 
hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out 
their substance." 

8 June 29, 1767. The act is cited as 7 Geo. Ill, c. 41, and 
is in MacDonald, op. cit., 321. 


sion of this nature to which the colonists took ex 

But little less irritation was caused by the 
policy initiated by Grenville, in 1764, when he de 
termined upon rigorously enforcing the existing 
trade laws with a view to putting an end to smug 
gling. In accordance with this intention, he placed 
Admiral Colville, naval commander-in-chief on the 
coasts of North America, virtually at the head of 
the revenue service. And each captain of a vessel 
was instructed to take the customs house oath, and 
aid in the seizure of those engaged in the illicit 
trade which had been connived at for years. 1 Fur 
ther, as offences against the revenue act were to be 
tried in courts of admiralty or vice-admiralty, their 
increase with new officers became necessary. The 
first of the new courts with previously unheard-of 
jurisdiction was opened at Halifax, in 1764, and 
the act of 1768 made provision for their extension 
throughout the other colonies. 

The next charge has to do with the maintenance 
of troops in the colonies without the consent of the 
legislatures. 2 To this may be joined that in which 
complaint is made of rendering the military inde 
pendent of and superior to the civil power, 3 as also 

1 Bancroft, original ed., V, 160-162. 

8 " He has kept among us in times of peace, Standing Ar 
mies without the Consent of our legislatures." 

8 " He has affected to render the Military independent of 
and superior to the Civil power." 


the later accusation of quartering troops upon the 
people. 1 After the peace of 1763, the troops that 
t\ had been sent over were not withdrawn and provi 
sion had to be made for their support. This was 
done by the extension of the provisions of the re 
cently passed Mutiny Act to the American colonies, 
in a separate act known as the " Quartering Act." 2 
After the Stamp Act riots several companies of 
royal artillery reached Boston in the autumn of 
1766, and were quartered at the expense of the 
province, by order of Governor Bradford and the 
Council. Against this the Assembly remonstrated 
on the ground that they alone had the right to make 
appropriations for this purpose. 8 In 1768, as 
trouble was anticipated over the enforcement of the 
Townshend Acts, large increases of troops were 
sent to Boston, New York, and elsewhere, and in 
each case gave rise to controversy about provision 
for their maintenance. The clash at Boston, in 
March, 1770, known as the " Boston Massacre," was 
the culminating event of this dispute. 

The appointment of General Gage as governor 
of Massachusetts in 1774, under the Massachusetts 
Government Act, 4 making him at the same time 

1 " For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us." 

3 April, 1765. The provisions of this act are in MacDonald, 
op. cit., 306. The act is cited as 5 Geo. Ill, c. 33. 

8 Winsor, Narr. and Crit. Hist., VI, 38. Mass. State 
Papers, 105-108. 

4 14 Geo. Ill, c. 45. MacDonald, op. cit., 343. 


commander-in-chief of the troops in America and 
the supreme executive authority in the colony, was 
a combination of the military with the civil jurisdic 
tion which aroused stern opposition throughout the 
colonies, as rendering " the Military independent of 
and superior to the Civil power." All of these acts 
were remonstrated against in the Declaration of 
Rights and the address to the colonies of 1774. 
With the accusation last referred to we come to the 
end of the first division of grievances. 


THE master mind of Jefferson perceived that for 
rhetorical effect he must adopt a manner sufficiently 
emphatic to inspire enthusiasm, and yet not weary 
with a long recital of " abuses and usurpations," 
recounted in the same monotonous style. There 
fore, the form of indictment now undergoes a 
change for a few brief paragraphs. The King 
alone is now not held solely responsible, but is ac 
cused of combining " with others to subject us to 
a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unac 
knowledged by our laws : giving his Assent to their 
Acts of pretended Legislation," in part, the very 
words used by Jefferson two years before. 1 
Though Parliament is thus made to bear a share 
of the burden, it is nowhere mentioned by name, 
and the principal weight is still put upon the shoul 
ders of the King. 

Of the first of the new order of grievances we 
have already spoken sufficiently. 2 The next, how 
ever, which complains of soldiers escaping by mock 
trials from the consequences of any murders that 

1 Works, I, 439- 

2 " For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us." 



they might commit, needs further comment. 1 It 
can refer to no other law than that known generally 
as the act " for the impartial administration of jus 
tice," which passed Parliament on May 20, I774- 2 
This was one of the acts repeatedly decried in the 
state papers of the earlier Congress, 3 and moved 
Jefferson to denounce those who would submit to 
the enforcement of its provisions as " cowards who 
would suffer a countryman to be torn from the 
bowels of their society, in order to be thus offered 
a sacrifice to parliamentary tyranny," meriting 
" that everlasting infamy now fixed on the authors 
of the act!" 4 The act had been passed to provide 
for such contingencies as had arisen after the " Bos 
ton Massacre " the trial of persons accused of 
murder while in the discharge of their official duties. i 
By its terms those in His Majesty s service, mili 
tary as well as civil, accused of murder committed 
while executing the laws of the realm in Massachu 
setts, might obtain a change of venue to some other 
province, or to Great Britain, " if it shall appear, 

1 " For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment 
for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabit 
ants of these States." 

2 14 Geo. Ill, c. 39. MacDonald, op. cit., 351. See also 
Answer to the Declaration of Independence, 5th ed., London, 
1776, 60, 62. 

8 Declaration of Rights. Address to the Colonies. 

4 Works, I, 439. 



to the satisfaction of the . . . governor, . t . that 
an indifferent trial cannot be had within the said 
province." Provision was made also for the trans 
portation of witnesses as well, and, most grievous 
of all, the accused might be admitted to bail upon 
the order of the governor, it mattered not how fla 
grant the crime charged against him. As there was 
little likelihood that a British official, military or civil, 
would be brought to trial in England for commit 
ting the crime of executing .the law in America, this 
was regarded as an unwarrantable invasion of colo 
nial rights. 

Having thus far dealt in the main with the polit 
ical side of the grievances, Jefferson, in order that 
nothing of importance may be omitted, now turns 
to those oppressions that bore most heavily upon the 
economic life of the people. And if there be a 
weakness in the Declaration, it is the failure to dwell 
to any extent upon the narrow British economic 
policy toward the colonies, which meant using 
them for the benefit of the manufacturers and tra 
ders at home. In the beginning, as has been noted, 1 
the opposition to the enforcement of trade laws, 
restrictions upon manufactures, and the right to 
taxation, was based as largely upon economic as 
upon political grounds. But the material economic 
grievances were soon lost to view in the eloquent 

1 See p. 7. 


maintenance of the right to political liberty that re 
sounded through the land. Yet Jefferson had de 
voted no small part of his Summary View* to a 
consideration of the burdens put by law upon the 
commerce and manufactures of the colonies, in the 
interests of the British merchants. 

To cut off the trade of the colonists with all parts 
of the world except Great Britain, as written in the 
Declaration, 2 was a policy first adopted in the days 
of Charles I and Cromwell, and persisted in to the 
end. But the particularly serious acts of aggres 
sion were those instituted by Grenville, in 1764, 
when he revived the Molasses Act of 1733, by which 
an end was intended to be put to the rum traffic of 
New England, and the rigorous measures already 
referred to for enforcing the existing though nearly 
obsolete trade laws. An idea of the full meaning 
of the last intention may be gathered when we 
recall that, all in all, about fifty acts had been passed 
by Parliament, between 1688 and 1765, for the pur 
pose of binding the colonial trade. Coming down 
to a later day, we have the well-known acts of 1774, 
which closed the port of Boston, and the acts of 
March, April, and December, I775, 3 which effectu- 

1 Works, I, 434- 

2 " For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world." 
8 14 Geo. Ill, c. 19. 15 Geo. Ill, c. 10. 16 Geo. Ill, c. 5. 
MacDonald, op. cit,, 368, 391. 


ally prohibited all trade with the colonies, thereby 
cutting them off from all the world. The last men 
tioned act superseded the earlier, was most strin 
gent in its provisions, and punished with confisca 
tion as prizes all vessels caught contravening it. 

We come now to the consideration of that clause 
. jp which has become the chief est of the familiars of 
our history taxation without consent. 1 Reference 
was here intended to (i) the Sugar Act of 1764, 
(2) the Stamp Act, (3) the Townshend Acts, and 
(4) the Tea Acts of 1770 and 1773. By the Sugar 
Act of 1764, the determination was announced to 
execute more strictly the trade laws, and, by raising 
a revenue from the colonies, to help pay off Eng 
land s debt, more than doubled by the war just con 
cluded. The Molasses Act of I733, 2 the first of the 
revenue acts, was aimed to interdict the commerce 
between the French West Indies and the colonies 
of the continent, especially New England, and was 
directly in the interest of the British West Indies 
which lost in trade, it was claimed, what their 
French rivals gained. Though in form a revenue 
act, the duties on rum and spirits, molasses syrup, 
and sugar imported from the French West Indies 
to the other colonies, were placed so high as to be 
prohibitory, and therefore the act worked out in 

1 " For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent." 
2 6 Geo. II, c. 13. MacDonald, op. cit., 249. 


practice merely as a regulation of commerce. 1 
Since, however, it was never strictly enforced, its 
provisions were constantly violated and smuggling 
was carried on openly. The wind thus sown was 
reaped in the whirlwind of disregard for laws, ex 
cept those enacted by colonial legislatures, charac 
teristic of the period of the revolution. 

The Sugar Act of 1764* revived the Molasses 
Act, but reduced the duties avowedly for revenue 
purposes and made it perpetual. Its title began 
with the words, " an act for granting certain duties 
in the British colonies and plantations in America," 
and the preamble proceeded : " Whereas it is expe 
dient that new provisions and regulations should 
be established for improving the revenue of this 
Kingdom . . . ; and whereas it is just and neces 
sary, that a revenue be raised, in your Majesty s 
said dominions in America, for defraying the ex 
penses of defending, protecting, and rearing the 
same ; . . . we, ... the commons of Great Britain 
. . . have resolved to give and grant . . . the sev 
eral rates of duties hereinafter mentioned." 

In view of the recent colonial acquisitions by this 
country, and the methods adopted for their govern 
ment, the tenth paragraph is of striking insignifi 
cance. It provides that all moneys arising from the 

1 Beer, op. cit., 121. 

2 4 Geo. Ill, c. 15. MacDonald, op. cit., 271. 


operation of the act, after the expenses of levying 
and collection were paid, were to be turned into the 
royal exchequer, to be kept separate from all other 
funds, and to be " disposed of by parliament, towards 
defraying the necessary expenses of defending, pro 
tecting and securing the British Colonies and Plan 
tations in America." If the Fathers ultimately 
came to rebel against such a provision, is it any 
more likely that the colonial Fathers of the future 
will not be similarly moved? The principle in both 
cases is the same, and though we may enforce our 
measures with more tact, they contain elements of 
grave danger to our political welfare. 

The Stamp Act is so well known as to require 
but brief comment. The main opposition to it was 
drawn about its revenue clauses. But not the 
least objectionable of its features was the minute 
ness of its provisions by reason of which it touched 
upon the life of the colonists at every point, letting 
none escape. No man or woman who had business 
in the courts of law or before an ecclesiastical court, 
none engaged in trade, none who held public office, 
none who secured a grant or made a conveyance 
of land, none who read a pamphlet or an almanac 
or a newspaper, could fail to come in contact with 
this tax at some time. The idle were caught in the 
meshes of its net along with the industrious, for no 
man could indulge in a game of cards, or hazard a 


stake at dice, without having this unwelcome token 
of the power of Parliament rise up to greet him. 

Only less irritating than the Stamp Act were the 
Townshend Acts of 1767, three in number, that 
establishing customs commissioners, already re 
ferred to, the revenue act, known as the " glass, 
lead and paint " act, 1 and the tea act. 2 As if the 
taxation feature of the revenue act was thought not 
to be sufficient to arouse the opposition of the col 
onists, the last paragraph of this act legalized writs 
of assistance in the colonies, over which the contro 
versy with England had started in 1761. Thus 
antagonized, the colonists instituted non-importa 
tion agreements, which bore so heavily upon Eng 
land s merchants that the revenue act was repealed 
in 1770. Served thus with the first taste of the 
results of effective opposition to unpalatable enact 
ments, non-importation followed by non-exportation 
agreements were resorted to in 1774. 

When the revenue act of 1767 was repealed in 
I77<D, 3 the duty on tea imported into America was 
retained, along with the provisions of the tea act of 
1767, which granted a remission of the British 
duties paid on all teas exported to America and Ire- 

*7 Geo. Ill, c. 46, June 29, 1767. 

2 7 Geo. Ill, c. 56, July 2, 1767. Both these acts are in 
MacDonald, 323, 327. 
8 10 Geo. Ill, c. 17. 


land, and was obviously in the interests of the East 
India Tea Company. The retention of this duty in 
1770, though Americans were enabled to procure 
tea more cheaply than it could be purchased in 
England, led to the well-known tea disturbances 
throughout the country, the most notorious and dis 
orderly of which was the " Boston Tea Party." 
Elsewhere the landing of tea was opposed with 
equal efficacy, though not accompanied by such 
theatrical turbulence. As this tea act expired in 
1772, another act was passed in May, I773, 1 by 
which the cost of tea in America was still further 
reduced, but a small tax being retained. Franklin 
expressed the prevailing opinion when he wrote, 
" They [the ministry] have no idea that any people 
can act for any principle but that of interest; and 
they believe that three pence on a pound of tea, of 
which one does not perhaps drink ten pounds in a 
year, is sufficient to overcome all the patriotism of 
an American." 2 

The wide extension of the jurisdiction of admir 
alty courts in 1764 (to which were entrusted the 
enforcement of the Sugar Act), and their increase 
in numbers in 1768, are responsible for the idea 
contained in the next charge 3 which is closely re- 

1 13 Geo. Ill, c. 44. 
3 Works, Sparks ed., VIII, 49- 

8 " For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial 
by Jury." 


lated to the succeeding. 1 No cause was ever tried 
in an admiralty court before a jury, and to author 
ize, besides, the transportation of offenders for trial 
was thought to add exile to injustice. Transporta 
tion for trial beyond the seas meant the revival of 
an old law, passed in the reign of Henry VIII, 2 by 
which it was made possible to send a person, ac 
cused of treason in any part of the realm, to Eng 
land for trial. The first intimation that this act was 
to be extended to America came in 1769, after the 
failure of Massachusetts to rescind her Circular Let 
ter, and the riots that took place upon the seizure 
of John Hancock s sloop, the "Liberty." Parlia 
ment early in that year, in an address to the King, 
made the suggestion that the time was favorable 
for the revival of the law just mentioned. Matters 
rested in this uncertain state until June, 1772, when, 
after the revenue vessel " Gaspee " was burned to 
the water s edge in NarragaliseTt_Bay, the determi 
nation to punish violators of the revenue acts, and 
these destructive rioters in particular, was greatly 
intensified. A commission was therefore instituted 
late in 1772 to investigate this offense. These com 
missioners had extensive powers, yet the weightiest 
part of their instructions was that which ordered 

1 " For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pre 
tended offenses." 
2 35 Henry VIII. 


them to transport the offenders to England for 
trial. 1 

In the autumn of 1772, just previous to the ap 
pointment of this commission, and before the know 
ledge of the " Gaspee " incident had even reached 
England, an act had been passed " for the better 
securing and preserving His Majesty s Dock Yards, 
Magazines, Ships, Ammunition and Stores," 2 which 
included the detested transportation provision. It 
aroused great opposition, for it deprived the colo 
nists of their dearly cherished right of " a constitu 
tional trial by a jury of the vicinage." The law, 
already referred to, " for the impartial administra 
tion of Justice," while designed to protect the rev 
enue and other officials, also belongs to this category 
of ills, because of its transportation clauses. 

The possible enforcement of the Quebec Act of 

I774, 3 with its far-reaching provisions for extending 

,*> the use of the civil as against the common law, was 

made the ground of the next grievance. 4 As it 

never went into force in any respect, however, it is 

1 Winsor, Narr. and Crit. Hist., VI, 53. 

2 12 Geo. Ill, c. 24. 

8 14 Geo. Ill, c. 83. MacDonald, op. cit., 355. 

* " For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a 
neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary gov 
ernment and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at 
once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same 
absolute rule into these Colonies." 


difficult to tell exactly what its effects might have 
been. Yet the extension of the limits of the prov 
ince created by the proclamation of 1763, so as to 
include all the country west of the Alleghanies and 
south to the Ohio River, meant a further encroach 
ment upon the territory of those colonies that 
claimed charter rights to much of the land thus 
included. The reasons already given, therefore, 
added to the opportunities for further aggression 
that the enforcement of this act might offer, ren 
dered it one of the laws looked on with the greatest 
disfavor by the colonists. It appeared to them as 
but another unwarrantable extension of the royal 
prerogative, against which they had for so long been 
contending without avail. 

What the Quebec Act lacked in definiteness, how- ..- 
ever, was more than supplied by the very evident 
intent of the bill regulating the government of Mas 
sachusetts. 1 If any acts of aggression may be set 
down as the immediate cause of the outbreak of 
the revolution this and its sister, the Boston Port 
Act, may be so regarded. None carried with them 
so much consternation and dismay. None aroused 
at the same time so much stern opposition. Their 
great importance, therefore, made it necessary that 

1 " For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most val 
uable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our 


reference should be made to them in the Declara 
tion. If the power to take away or alter a single 
charter was once recognized, the rights of no colony 
were safe from destruction. The principle, if car 
ried to its logical conclusion, meant the possible abo 
lition of all the laws developed by the English in 
America through a period of a hundred and fifty 
years, and the substitution in their stead of such 
manner and form of government as the will of an 
arbitrary sovereign might dictate. When, there 
fore, the first-mentioned act 1 abolished, with one 
stroke, the council as it had been developed; cur 
tailed the power of the assembly ; practically put an 
end to that great institution for the redress of griev 
ances, the town meeting; made serious changes in 
the manner of selecting the judiciary and jurors ; 
and virtually made the governor the supreme power 
in the province, we cannot wonder that this act of 
revenge upon Massachusetts, which foreshadowed 
what might be expected to happen elsewhere, 
aroused a spirit of opposition throughout the colo 
nies such as had never before been called forth. 
Therein lay the main part of the grievance. Yet 
the earlier decision (1772) to sever the governor 
of Massachusetts completely from any dependence 
upon the assembly for his salary, and thereby to 

make his freedom of action the greater, was also 
1 14 Geo. Ill, c. 45. MacDonald, op. cit., 343. 


an innovation in settled custom that was viewed with 
grave disfavor. Also, when the great contest was 
on in North Carolina, over the establishment of 
courts, the attempt of the governor to pay no heed 
to the recalcitrant assembly, by endeavoring to erect 
courts on his own responsibility, was likewise re 
garded as " altering fundamentally " an established 
form of government. 

Nor could the colonies ever become reconciled to 
that short-sighted policy which, because of the spir 
ited resistance of the New York Assembly to the 
demands made upon it, could offer no other solu 
tion of the difficulty than the suspension of the legis 
lature until it bent the knee and yielded. 1 The 
colonies were accustomed to the exercise of the 
governor s power of veto and prorogation. This 
had been submitted to from the beginning, and was 
regarded as a constitutional mode of enforcing royal 
authority. But to go much further, and, for so 
trivial an action on the part of the New York As 
sembly, as the failure to make what was considered 
adequate provision for the troops quartered there, 
to suspend indefinitely its legislative functions by 
act of Parliament, 2 was regarded as an exercise of 

1 " For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring 
themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases 

2 7 Geo. Ill, c. 59, June 15, 1767. MacDonald, op. cit., 318. 


unwarranted authority to which the colonists never 
became reconciled. Although New York was forced 
to yield, her cause was made the cause of all, and 
the voice of protest against this act resounded far 
and wide. It was, moreover, an enforcement of the 
Declaratory Act of i?66, 1 little heeded at first, but 
now seen to be fraught with the utmost danger to 
colonial rights. By the provisions of that act the 
imperial crown and Parliament of Great Britain 
were declared to have conjointly full power to make 
laws " to bind the colonies and people of America, 
subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases 
whatever." And the Tea Acts of 1770 and 1773, 
were regarded as but other instances of the enforce 
ment of the policy thus announced. 

We have come now to the end of the grievances 
that had their origin previous to the beginning of 
the armed struggle. For the last five 2 of all the 
long, unhappy list, the King is once more held to 
sole responsibility. They have to do with the harsh 

*6 Geo. Ill, c. 12. MacDonald, 316. 

2 " He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out 
of his Protection and waging War against us." 

" He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt 
our towns, and destroyed the Lives of our people." 

" He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign 
Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and 
tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & 
perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and 
totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation." 


events of the beginning of the war the skirmishes 
and battles; the proclamation of August 23, 1775, 
declaring the colonists in rebellion and announcing 
the intention to suppress the revolutionists with a 
high hand, and the speech *ii bin the throne in Oc 
tober of the same year breathing a like purpose. 
These led to war in earnest, and with its beginning 
the royal governors, ever in a perplexing situation, 
thought it necessary to flee, before the possible 
disgrace of capture fell to their lot. First Gov 
ernor Dunmore of Virginia, in June, 1775, soon 
followed by Tryon of New York, Martin of North 
Carolina, and Campbell of South Carolina, " abdi 
cated government," in the terms of the Act of Set 
tlement of 1689 and left the inhabitants of those 
colonies to their own devices in creating new forms 
of government. 

The other acts complained of need no explanation, 
for they all form part of the familiar history of the 
commencement of the war. The burning of Fal- 
mouth and Charlestown, Norfolk and Charleston; 
the employment of Hessians " foreign mercenar 
ies " to fight the cause of England ; and the act of 
Parliament of December, I775, 1 which authorized 
the capture and condemnation of trading ships, and 
compelled " fellow Citizens taken captive on the 
high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to 

1 1 6 Geo. Ill, c. 5. MacDonald, op. cit., 392. 


become the executioners of their friends and Breth 
ren, or to fall themselves by their Hands," 1 require 
no comment to make their meaning clear. 

The last grievance 2 refers to a possible condition 
of affairs, ever dreatfedr md against which precau 
tions had been taken by numerous acts of legislation. 
Those acquainted with life in the South are aware 
of the fear engendered by the thought of a servile 
war. Nothing more horrible could be imagined; 
only the letting loose of bands of well-armed Indians 
to plunder and devastate the country was to be com 
pared with it. When, therefore, Dunmore, in the 
spring of 1775, in order to enforce his decrees, 
threatened to arm negroes and Indians, the alarm 
created was widespread, and it had much to do with 
bringing into existence a well-trained militia. The 
governors of North and South Carolina were known 
to be adopting similar measures, and the latter was 
denounced as " having used his utmost endeavors 
to destroy the lives, liberties and properties of the 
people." Along with this came the endeavor to en- 

1 " He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive 
on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to 
become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or 
to fall themselves by their Hands." 

2 " He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and 
has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, 
the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare 
is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and con 


gage the Indians as allies, and Gage issued instruc 
tions to that effect in the summer of 1775. The 
Indian agent Stuart, on the borders of South Caro 
lina, made overtures and won to him the Creeks 
and Chicksaws, while Sir Guy Carleton was making 
similar progress with the Six Nations in the North. 1 

If impartial consideration be given to the forceful 
recapitulation of the colonists contentions in the 
Declaration, and to the analysis here set down, it 
must be admitted that the differences were serious, 
even though some may not regard them as sufficient 
to warrant recourse to arms. Moreover, they had 
reason and right, if not entire reason nor all-con 
vincing right, to sustain them, amply adequate to 
justify the course they had pursued. Further, it 
must be allowed, that if, in the statement of the 
colonial side, the constitutional right of Great 
Britain to enact legislation for the government of 
the colonies is denied, full cause for such denial had 
been given in the earlier failure to exercise that 
right. The colonies had been allowed to work out 
their destinies in their own way with only trifling 
interference. This was in large measure due to 
England s neglect to make the most of her colonial 
possessions on the continent, ignoring them for the 
wealth that was more easily to be acquired from her 
West Indian possession. When she awoke to the 

1 Winsor, Narr. and Crit. Hist., VI, Chapter VIII. 


possibilities lying in the development of the other 
colonies, the time had passed when they might be 
put to use mainly for her own advancement. The 
colonists had learned, during the period of neglect, 
in what directions lay the opportunities for their own 
development. They could not abandon them, short 
of a complete overturn of existing conditions, and 
to this they would not submit, since they were strong 
enough to make an effective resistance. Assertion 
of rights and recital of grievances had been met 
by determination to enforce submission. Memorials 
and resolutions appealing to the King, to Parlia 
ment, even to the English people, had been put 
aside and disregarded, or else had been succeeded 
by measures more obnoxious than those against 
which protest had been registered. In the Declara 
tion of Rights and the other documents of the first 
Congress, repeal of practically all the acts, now 
cited as warrant for breaking off the connection 
with Great Britain, had been pleaded for in general 
as well as in specific terms. Every method known 
to the colonists to bring about the reforms desired 
had been tried with no results. They had now 
either to retreat or fight on to victory. 

The belief in their own strength, in the righteous 
ness of their cause, is epitomized in the Declaration. 
The arguments had been made before, and the briefs 
submitted. The decision was now proclaimed that 


the time had arrived for them to stand up by them 
selves in the court of nations, " to acquiesce in the 
necessity " which caused the separation, and to hold 
Great Britain, as they held " the rest of mankind, 
enemies in war, in peace friends." Therefore, as 
petitions to the King and appeals to the people of 
Great Britain had proved fruitless of results, there 
was no other course for them, the " Representa 
tives of the United States of America, in General 
Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme 
Judge of the world for the rectitude " of their inten 
tions, than, " in the Name and by authority of the 
good People " of the colonies to " solemnly publish 
and declare, 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; and that as Free and Indepen 
dent States, they have full Power to levy War, con 
clude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, 
and to do all other Acts and Things which Inde 
pendent States may of right do." And for the sup 
port of that Declaration, with a firm reliance on the 
protection of Divine Providence, they mutually 
pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and 
their sacred honor. 


The Declaration of Independence as drafted by 
Jefferson, and the engrossed copy, are printed in the 
succeeding pages for purposes of comparison. The 
originals are in the Department of State at Washing 
ton. The draft reproduced here is the one found 
among Jefferson s papers when they were acquired 
by the government. Facsimiles of it are in Ran 
dolph s Jefferson, and in Ford s, Writings, vol. II. 
This is apparently not the report of the committee, 
which has not been preserved, but appears to be the 
draft from which Jefferson may have made^the final 
copy submitted by the committee as its report to the 
Congress. Jefferson made other copies, one of which 
is inserted in the manuscript of his Autobiography, 
and another is among the Madison papers, both in 
possession of the government. Still other copies are 
among the Richard Henry Lee papers, in the Ameri 
can Philosophical Society (reproduced in facsimile 
in Proc.y vol. XXXVII), the Adams papers in the 
Massachusetts Historical Society (printed in Ford s 
Jefferson s Writings, vol. II), in the Emmet collec 
tion, Lenox Library, and a fragment is in the pos 
session of Mrs. Washburn, of Boston. 

The portions of the draft stricken out by the Con 
gress are printed in italics, and those inserted are 
enclosed within brackets. 


A Declaration by the Representatives of the 
Congress assembled. 

When in the course of human events it becomes 
necessary for one people to dissolve the political 
bands which have connected them with another, and 
to assume among the powers of the earth the sepa 
rate and equal station to which the laws of nature 
& of nature s god entitle them, a decent respect for 
the opinions of mankind requires that they should 
declare the causes which impel them to the separa 

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all 
men are created equal ; that they are endowed by 
their creator with inherent & inalienable rights, that 
among these are life, liberty, & the pursuit of happi 
ness ; that to secure these rights, governments are in 
stituted among men, deriving their just powers from 
the consent of the governed ; that whenever any form 
of government becomes destructive of these ends, it 
is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & 
to institute new government, laying its foundation 
on such principles & organising its powers in such 
form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their 


[In CONGRESlPpry 4, 1776. The unanimous 
Declaration of the thirteen united STATES of 

When in the Course of human events, it becomes 
necessary for one people to dissolve the political 
bands which have connected them with another, and 
to assume among the powers of the earth, the sepa 
rate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature 
and of Nature s God entitle them, a decent respect 
to the opinions of mankind requires that they should 
declare the causes which impel them to the separa 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all 
men are created equal, that they are endowed by 
their Creator with [certain unalienable] Rights, that 
among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of 
Happiness. That to secure these rights, Govern 
ments are instituted among Men, deriving their just, 
powers from the consent of the governed. That 
whenever any Form of Government becomes destruc 
tive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to 
alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Govern 
ment, laying its foundation on such principles and 
organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall 


safety & happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate 
that governments long established should not be 
changed for light & transienj^^ses : and accord 
ingly all experience hath |newn Ifchat mankind are 
more disposed to suffer wran^evils are sufferable, 
than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to 
which they are accustomed. But when a long train 
of abuses & usurpations, begun at a distinguished 
period, & pursuing invariably the same object, 
evinces a design to reduce them under absolute 
Despotism, 1 it is their right, it is their duty, to throw 
off such government & to provide new guards for 
their future security. Such has been the patient 
sufferance of these colonies, & such is now the neces 
sity which constrains them to expunge their former 
systems of government. The history of the present 
King of Great Britain 2 is a history of unremitting 
injuries and usurpations, among which appears no 
solitary fact to contradict the uniform tenor of the 
rest, but all have in direct object the establishment of 
an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this 
let fact be submitted to a candid world, for the truth 
of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by false 

x The words "under absolute Despotism" are in Franklin s 
handwriting, and are in place of the words " to arbitrary 

2 The words "King of Great Britain" were substituted by 
Adams for " his present majesty." 


seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happi 
ness. j^Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Govern 
ments long established should not be changed for 
light and transient causes; and accordingly all ex 
perience hath shown, that mankind are more dis 
posed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to 
right themselves by abolishing the forms to which 
they are accustomed?/ But when a long train of 
abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same 
Object evinces a design to reduce them under abso 
lute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to 
throw off such Government, and to provide new 
Guards for their future security. Such has been the 
patient sufferance of these Colonies ; and such is now 
the necessity which constrains them to [alter] their 
former Systems of Government.^The history of the 
present King of Great Britain is a history of [re 
peated] injuries and usurpations, all [having] in 
direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyr 
anny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be 
submitted to a candid world. ^ 


He has refused his assent to laws the most whole 
some and necessary for the public good : 

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of 
immediate & pressing importance, unless suspended 
in their operation till his assent should be obtained, 
and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to 
attend to them. 

He has refused to pass other laws for the accom 
modation of large districts of people unless those 
people would relinquish the right of representation 
in the legislature, a right, inestimable to them, & 
formidable to tyrants only : 

He has called together legislative bodies at places 
unusual, uncomfortable & distant from the de 
pository of their public records, for the sole purpose 
of fatiguing them into compliance with his meas 

He has dissolved Representative houses repeatedly 
& continually for opposing with manly firmness his 
invasions on the rights of the people: 

He has refused for a long time after such Dissolu 
tions 1 to cause others to be elected whereby the legis 
lative powers incapable of annihilation, have returned 
to the people at large for their exercise, the state re 
maining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers 
of invasion from without, & convulsions within : 

1 The words " after such Dissolutions " were suggested by 


He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most 
wholesome and necessary for the public good. 

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of 
immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended 
in their operation till his Assent should be obtained ; 
and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected 
to attend to them. 

He has refused pass other Laws for the accom 
modation of large districts of people, unless those 
people would relinquish the right of Representation 
in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and 
formidable to tyrants only. 

He has called together legislative bodies at places 
unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the de 
pository of their public Records, for the sole purpose 
of fatiguing them into compliance with his meas 

He has dissolved Representative Houses re 
peatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his in 
vasions on the rights of the people. 

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolu 
tions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the 
Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have 
returned to the People at large for their exercise ; the 
State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the 
dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions 


He has endeavored to prevent the population of 
these states, for that purpose obstructing the laws 
for naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass 
others to encourage their migrations hither, & 
raising the conditions of new appropriations of 

He has suffered the administration of justice 
totally to cease in some of these states, refusing his 
assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers : 

He has made our judges dependant on his will 
alone, for the tenure of their offices and the amount 
& payment 1 of their salaries : 

He has erected a multitude of new offices by a 
self-assumed power, & sent hither swarms of officers 
to harrass our people & eat out their substance : 

He has kept among us in times of peace standing 
armies & ships of war without the consent of our 

He has affected to render the military, independ 
ent of & superior to the civil power : 

He has combined with others to subject us to a 
jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions and un 
acknowledged by our laws ; giving his assent to their 
acts of pretended legislation, for quartering large 
bodies of armed troops among us; for protecting 
them by a mock-trial from punishment for any mur 
ders which they should commit on the inhabitants of 

1 The words " and payment " were suggested by Franklin. 


He has endeavoured to prevent the population of 
these States ; for that purpose obstructing the Laws 
for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass 
others to encourage their migrations hither, and 
raising the conditions of new Appropriations of 

He has [obstructed the Administration of Justice, 
by] refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing 
Judiciary powers. 

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, 
for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and 
payment of their salaries. 

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and 
sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, 
and eat out their substance. 

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing 
Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. 

He has affected to render the Military independ 
ent of and superior to the Civil power. 

He has combined with others to subject us to a 
jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and un 
acknowledged by our laws ; giving his Assent to their 
Acts of pretended Legislation: For quartering 
large bodies of armed troops among us; For pro 
tecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for 
any Murders which they should commit on the In- 


these states ; for cutting off our trade with all parts 
of the world ; for imposing taxes on us without our 
consent ; for depriving us 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 
bounds so as to render it at once an example & fit 
instrument for introducing the same absolute rule 
into these colonies; for taking away our charters, 
abolishing our most valuable Laws, 1 and altering 
fundamentally the forms of our governments; for 
suspending our own legislatures & declaring them 
selves invested with power to legislate for us in all 
cases whatsoever : 

He has abdicated government here, withdrawing 
his governors, & declaring us out of his allegiance & 

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, 
burnt our towns & destroyed the lives of our 
people : 

He is at this time transporting large armies of 
Scotch and other foreign mercenaries to compleat 
the works of death desolation & tyranny already 
begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy un 
worthy the head of a civilized nation. 

1 The words " abolishing our most valuable Laws " were 
added by Franklin. 


habitants of these States : For cutting off our Trade 
with all 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 pre 
tended 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 
fit 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 
themselves invested with power to legislate for us in 
all cases whatsoever. 

He has abdicated Government here, [by] declar 
ing us out of his Protection [and waging War 
against us] . 

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, 
burnt our towns, and destroyed the Lives of our 

He is at this time transporting large Armies of 
foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, Is 
desolation and tyranny, already begun with circum 
stances of Cruelty & perfidy [scarcely paralleled in 
the most barbarous ages, and totally] unworthy the 
Head of a civilized nation. 


He has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of 
our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose 
known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruc 
tion of all ages, sexes, & conditions of existence. 

He has incited treasonable insurrections of our fel 
low-citizens with the allurements of forfeiture & con 
fiscation of property. 

He has constrained others taken captives on the 
high seas, to bear arms against their country, to be 
come the executioners of their friends & brethren, or 
to fall themselves by their hand : 

He has waged cruel war against human nature 
itself, violating it s most sacred rights of life & 
liberty in the persons of a distant people who never 
offended him, captivating & carrying them into 
slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable 
death in their transportation thither. This piratical 
warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the 
warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain deter 
mined to keep open a market where MEN should 
be bought and sold. He has prostituted his negative 
for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit 
or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this 


He has constrained [our fellow Citizens] taken 
Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their 
Country, to become the executioners of their friends 
and Brethren, or fall themselves by their Hands. 

He has [excited domestic insurrections amongst 
us, and has] endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants 
of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose 
known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished de 
struction of all ages, sexes and conditions. 



assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distin 
guished die, he is now exciting these very people to 
rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty 
of which he has deprived them, by murdering the 
people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus pay 
ing off former crimes committed against the liberties 
of our people, with crimes which he urges them to 
commit against the lives of another. 

In every stage of these oppressions " we have 
petitioned for redress in the most humble terms," 
our repeated petitions have been answered only 1 by 
repeated injuries. " A prince whose character is 
thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant," 
is unfit to be the ruler of a people who mean to be 
free. "Future ages will scarce believe that the hardi 
ness of one man adventured within the short compass 
of twelve years only " to build a foundation so broad 
& undisguised, for tyranny over a people fostered 
and fixed in principles of freedom. 

Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our 
British brethren. We have warned them from time 
to time of attempts by their legislature to extend a 
jurisdiction over these our states. We have re 
minded them of the circumstances of our emigration 
& settlement here, no one of which could warrant so 
strange a pretension: that these were effected at the 
cxpence of our own blood & treasure, unassisted by 
the wealth or the strength of Great Britain: that in 

1 " Only " added by Franklin. 


In every stage of these Oppressions We have 
Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms : 
Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by 
repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus 
marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is 
unfit to be the ruler of a [free] people. 

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our 
British brethren. We have warned them from time 
to time of attempts by their legislature to extend [an 
unwarrantable] jurisdiction over [us]. We have 
reminded them of the circumstances of our emigra 
tion and settlement here. We [have] appealed to 
their native justice and magnanimity, and [we have 
conjured them by] the ties of our common kindred 
to disavow these usurpations, which, [would in- 


constituting indeed our several forms of government, 
we had adopted one common king, thereby laying a 
foundation for perpetual league and amity with 
them: but that submission to their parliament was 
no part of our constitution, nor ever in idea of his 
tory may be credited; and we appealed to their native 
justice & magnanimity, as well as to the ties of our 
common kindred to disavow these usurpations which 
were likely to interrupt our connection & correspond 
ence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice 
and consanguinity, & zvhen occasions have been 
given them, by the regular course of their laws, of 
removing from their councils the disturbers of our 
harmony, they have by their free election re-estab 
lished them in power. At this very time too they are 
permitting their chief magistrate to send over not 
only soldiers of our common blood, but Scotch & 
foreign mercenaries to invade & destroy us 1 these 
facts have given the last stab to agonising affection, 
and manly spirit bids us to renounce for ever these 
unfeeling brethren. We must endeavor to forget 
our former love for them, and to hold them as we 
hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace 
friends. We might have been a free & a great 
people together; but a communication of grandeur 
& of freedom it seems is below their dignity. Be it 
so since they will have it. The road to happiness & to 
glory is open to us too, we will climb it apart from 

* " And destroy us " added by Franklin. 


evitably] interrupt our connections and correspond 

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and 
of consanguinity. 

[We must, therefore] acquiesce in the necessity, 
which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as 
we held the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in 
Peace Friends. 


them, and acquiesce in the necessity which denounces 
our eternal separation. 

We therefore the representatives of the United 
States of America in General Congress assembled 
do in the name & by authority of the good people of 
these states reject and renounce all allegiance & sub 
jection to the kings of Great Britain & all others 
who may hereafter claim by, through, or under them; 
we utterly dissolve all political connection which 
may heretofore have subsisted betzveen us & the 
people or parliament of Great Britain; and finally we 
do assert and declare these colonies to be free and 
independant states and that as free & independant 
states they have full power to levy war conclude 
peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, & to do 
all other acts and things which independant states 
may of right do. And for the support of this decla 
ration we mutually pledge to each other our lives, 
our fortunes, & our sacred honour. 


We, therefore the Representatives of the united 
States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, 
[appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for 
the rectitude of our intentions], do, in the Name, 
and by Authority of the good People of these Col 
onies, [solemnly publish and declare, 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] ; 
and that as Free and Independent States, they have 
full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract 
Alliances, establish 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 divine Providence] , 
we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our For 
tunes and our sacred Honor. 


ACT of settlement (1689), 

Adams, Charles Francis, Life 
and tvorks of John Adams, 

Adams, John, 20, 23, 24, 60, 
79, 90, 113, 114, 141, 142, 
173; Life of, by C. F. 
Adams, 2 ; on rights of the 
colonies, 14; Diary, 20; 
compromise proposition of, 
24 ; on independence, 28, 
29 ; in Congress, 58, 84 ; on 
the expected commissioners 
of the King, 65 ; on form 
ing new governments, 80 ; 
endeavors to force union, 
91 ; on renouncing jurisdic 
tion of the crown, 95 ; Let 
ters to his wife, 95 ; sec 
onds motion for indepen 
dence, 102; debate of, on 
adoption of resolutions of 
independence, 104-106; 
member of committee to 
prepare Declaration of In 
dependence, 107; Declara 
tion of Independence sub 
mitted to, 121 ; on resolu 
tions for independence, 
123 ; speech for indepen 
dence, 124; criticises Dec 
laration of Independence, 
J56, 157; reply of Jefferson 
to, 157-159; on the Dec 
laration of Independence, 
182; on government, 195; 
Works, 23, 24, 40, 41, 43, 
90, 91, 102, 113, 114, 122, 
124, 141, 173. 

Adams, Samuel, 58, 79, 142, 
176; on rights of the col 
onies, 14; on independence, 
28, 29, 59 ; in Congress, 
84 ; on the signing of the 
Declaration of Indepen 
dence by, 141 ; manuscript 
letter of, in Lenox library, 
141 ; on the Declaration of 
Independence, 182; on gov 
ernment, 195 ; on royal in 
structions issued to gov 
ernors, 222. 

Address, proposed, on inde 
pendence, 175, 176. 

Address of Philadelphia mer 
chants, 1768, 218. 

Address to the colonies, 1774, 
164, 235. 

Address to the inhabitants of 
Great Britain, 1775, 165. 

Address to the people of 
Great Britain, 1774, 162, 

Address to the people of 
Quebec, 27. 

Admiralty courts, 248, 249 ; 
extension of jurisdiction 
of, 234, 235, 237. 

Agents, colonial, in London, 

Aitken, Robert, proceedings 
of Congress for 1776 print 
ed by, 135. 

Alexander, James, member of 
committee to prepare ad 
dress against independence, 

Aliens, naturalization of, 228. 




Almon, John, Prior docu 
ments, 217, 218. 

Alsop, John, 142, 144. 

American Revolution, might 
have been postponed many 
years, 4 ; influence of Con 
gress upon, 32, 33 ; prepara 
tion for, 69 ; political phi 
losophy of, 184, 198-200; 
original causes that led to 
the, 212. See also War of 

Answer to the Declaration of 
Independence, 5th ed., Lon 
don, 1776, 219, 241. 

Army, standing, in the col 
onies, 26, 237. 

Army, continental, on the 
formation of a, 34 ; in 
crease of, 6 1 ; distribution 
throughout colonies of the, 

Assemblies, colonial, 12; ad 
ministrative power of, 15 ; 
the proroguing of, 16; 
members of Congress elect 
ed by, 77 ; on representa 
tion of newly-settled dis 
tricts in the, 222, 223, 224 ; 
removal and dissolution of, 
225, 226. 

Association of 1774, Articles 
of, 22, 23, 68 ; non-exporta 
tion part of, goes into ef 
fect, 40 ; reenactment of 
parts of, 73 ; date of sign 
ing, 134; importation of 
slaves prohibited by, 216. 

Austin, James T., Gerry, 90. 

BALTIMORE Committee, places 
Eden s correspondence be 
fore Congress, 87 ; de 
nounced by Maryland 
Council of Safety, 88. 

Bancroft, George, 124; His 
tory of the United States 
of America, 67, 237. 

Bartlett, Josiah, 142; on the 
Declaration of indepen 
dence, 183. 

Bills of credit, issuance of, 
48 ; British policy against 
issuance of, 217. 

Bland, Richard, on rights of 
the colonies, 14; on gov 
ernment, 195. 

Board of trade and foreign 
plantations, established as 
Council for Trade (1660), 
208; reorganized (1765), 
209 ; permanently estab 
lished (1696), 209; pre 
rogatives of, curtailed 
(1766), 210; method of 
procedure of, during revolu 
tionary agitation, 210, 211. 

Board of trade journals, 208, 
214, 220. 

Borgeaud, Charles, Rise of 
modern democracy in Old 
and New England, 184. 

Boston, proclamation prohib 
iting people from leaving 
town of, 47 ; evacuation of, 
73 ; town meeting of, 1768, 

"Boston Massacre" (1770), 4, 
238, 241. 

Boston Port Act, 243, 251 ; 
effect of, 19. 

" Boston tea party," 248. 

Boucher, Jonathan, on rights 
of kings and governments, 

Bradford, William, 238. 

Buchanan, Thomas McKean, 
McKean family, 128, 146. 

Burke, Edmund, 211; on 
liberty, 12. 


Braxton, Carter, 143. 
Bryce, James, Studies in his 
tory and jurisprudence, 186. 

CAMPBELL, Governor William 
abdicates government, 255. 

Canada, invitation to unite 
with colonies, 83. 

Carleton, Sir Guy, engages 
Indians as allies, 257. 

Carroll, Charles, influence 
upon Maryland politics of, 
113 ; on signing of Declara 
tion of Independence by, 

Chamberlain, Mellen, Authen 
tication of the Declaration 
of Independence, 133. 

Charles I, 208. 

Charles II, 208, 209, 243. 

Charleston, burning of, 255. 

Charlestown, burning of, 255. 

Chase, Samuel, unofficially 
supports independence, 58 ; 
in Congress, 84; influence 
of, upon Maryland politics, 
112-114; on signing of 
Declaration of Indepen 
dence by, 141, 142, 145, 

Choate, Rufus, on the Dec 
laration of Independence, 
159, 160. 

Clark, Abraham, 143. 

Clinton, George, 142, 144. 

Clymer, George, on signing 
of Declaration of Indepen 
dence by, 144, 149. 

Collins, Edward D., on com 
mittees of correspondence, 

Colonies, acts of Parliament 
affecting commerce and in 
dustry of, i, 2 ; beginning 
of controversy between 

Parliament and, 6 ; Parlia 
mentary control gradually 
renounced by, 7 ; removal 
of economic burdens of, 9 ; 
constant development along 
democratic lines of, 1 1 ; 
administrative powers of, 
i i ; change in the nature 
of the dispute of, 12; 
rights of, 13, 14, 15, 23, 
!79> *99> 200; administra 
tive development of, 15; 
formation of parties in, 
31 ; administrative bodies 
of, controlled by Congress, 
33 ; decrease of conserva 
tives in, 42 ; proclamation 
by Congress in name of 
United, 47 ; conservative 
spirit in, 50 ; declared by 
the King to be in rebellion, 
52 ; commercial relations 
of, regulated by Congress, 
68 ; foreign relations of, 
75 ; political revolutions in, 
79, 80 ; resolutions to de 
clare independence of, 100; 
theories of, on government, 
163 ; first official expression 
of contentions of, 164, 165 ; 
denial of the right of Par 
liament to control the, 162- 
167 ; protests by, of loyalty 
to the King, 162, 164, 166 ; 
answer of, to proclamation 
of the King, 167, 168; re 
nounce allegiance to the 
crown, 169; increase of 
authority of the legislature 
in, 194, 204, 205 ; contro 
versy between the King 
and the, 194 ; authority of 
the crown over, 195 ; po 
litical conceptions of lead 
ers of thought of, 204 ; 



official relations of Great 
Britain with, 208-211; re 
strictions on commerce of, 
212 ; constitutional relations 
to the crown of, 214; in 
crease of royal instructions 
issued to the governors of, 
221, 222; economic griev 
ances of, 242, 243 ; denial 
by, on constitutional right 
of Great Britain to enact 
colonial legislation, 257. 
Rights of, See also Dec 
laration of rights. 

Colonies, laws of, British 
supervision over, 213, 214; 
disallowance by the King 
of, 214-219; on restricting 
slave trade, 215; on re 
stricting entrance of con 
victs, 215, 216; on issuing 
bills of credit, 217; first in 
timation in 1740 of closer 
British control over, 219 ; 
royal instructions in 1752 
requiring revision of, 219; 
on suppression of lotteries, 
219, 220; British neglect 
of, while suspended in ac 
tion awaiting royal assent, 

Colville, Admiral, placed at 
head of revenue service, 

Commissioners of customs in 
America, 236. 

Commissioners of the King, 
prospective, 63-66. 

Committee of secret corre 
spondence, personnel of, 75. 

Committee to prepare a Dec 
laration of Independence, 
1 06, 107 ; lays document 
before Congress, 121. 

Committees of correspon 
dence, ramifications of, 4 ; 
origin of, 16, 17; Collins 
on, 17; Congress and the, 
17, 18; violation of Asso 
ciation to be controlled by, 

Concord, effect of hostilities 
at, 30. 

Confederation, plan of a, 104; 
committee to draft Articles 
of, 1 01 ; importance of, 
125 ; date of signing Ar 
ticles of, 134. 

Congress of 1765, revolu 
tionary memorials of, 3 ; 
delegates to, elected by the 
assemblies, 5 ; proves effi 
cacy of united action, 5 ; 
memorial to Lords and 
Commons and petition to 
the King, 6 ; state papers 
of, 7 ; moderation of the 
acts of, 8. 

Congress of 1774, five dele 
gations to, elected by as 
semblies, 5 ; Committees of 
correspondence and, 17, 18; 
credentials of delegates to, 
19, 20 ; committed to non 
importation and non-ex 
portation agreements, 20 ; 
Suffolk County resolves en 
dorsed by, 21 ; on legisla 
tion without representation, 
22 ; letter of, to Gen. Gage, 
22 ; Declaration of rights 
adopted by, 23, 24 ; Address 
to the people of Great 
Britain by, 26 ; independent 
government not demanded 
by, 28 ; Address to the 
people of the colonies and 
Petition to the King by, 
27 ; dissolved, 29 ; on the 


28 5 

slave trade, 216; election 
of delegates to, 226. 
Congress of 1775-76, con 
vened, 30 ; responsibilities 
of, 30 ; assumes direction 
of colonial affairs, 31 ; 
growth of power and au 
thority of, 32, 33 ; support 
of, by the colonies, 33 ; ef 
fect of the enlargement of 
the powers of, 35 ; em 
phasis of British aggres 
sion the continual policy 
of, 36, 41 ; unconscious 
working of, toward inde 
pendence, 37, 38 ; second 
Petition to the King by, 
38; rejects Lord North s 
plan of conciliation, 39 ; 
adjournment and recon 
vening of, 40 ; reply of, to 
proclamation of King de 
claring rebellion, 41 ; effect 
of proclamation upon, 42, 
43 ; on sending a new peti 
tion, 46 ; proclamation of 
Dec. 6, 47 ; sovereign policy 
of, 48 ; strength of con 
servative in, 50 ; continued 
increase in power and au 
thority of, 51 ; increasing 
strength of radical party in, 
59 ; influence upon, of the 
engaging of foreign mer 
cenaries, 67 ; regulates com 
mercial relations of the 
colonies, 68-70, 74 ; in 
creased power of, 69 ; on 
the question of open ports, 
71 ; opens ports, 73 ; plans 
to secure supplies of war, 
74, 75 ; attributes of, 77 ; 
instructions to delegates of, 
77 ; casts influence on side 
of democracy, 80 ; reaction 

in, 8 1 ; revolutionary char 
acter of, 81, 82 ; measures 
resorted to by, 82 ; projects 
itself into Pennsylvania 
politics, 82, 83 ; antagon 
ism of Pennsylvania As 
sembly to, 83, 85, 86; ad 
vocates of independence in, 
84 ; takes measures to show 
sympathy with democracy 
of Pennsylvania, 86 ; Mary 
land feels the hand of, 87 ; 
arrest of Gov. Eden or 
dered by, 87 ; Maryland 
Council of Safety aroused 
to opposition to, 88 ; at 
tempts to overcome inertia 
of conservative colonies, 
89 ; recommends local gov 
ernments, 91, 92, 93, 94; 
extension of jurisdiction 
of, 95 J ignores Maryland s 
reactionary resolutions, 96 ; 
decides to call for more 
troops, 97, 98; Virginia 
resolutions to declare inde 
pendence submitted to, 100, 
101 ; debate on indepen 
dence postponed one day, 
102; debates in, on inde 
pendence, 103-106; unim 
portant position of New 
York delegation in, 116; 
New York delegates to, 
given no instructions on 
independence, 118-119, 126, 
143, 144; on resolutions 
for independence, 123-125 ; 
vote of, on resolutions, 
125-129; Declaration of 
Independence adopted by, 
133 ; state documents is 
sued by, 133, 134; mem 
bers of, who voted for 



Declaration of Indepen 
dence, 142, 143. 

Congress, Journal of. See 
Journal of Congress. 

Connecticut, radical dele 
gates of, control vote of 
colony, 58, 59 ; on inde 
pendence, 114. 

Continental army. See Army, 

Continental Congress. See 
Congress of 1774; Con 
gress of 1775-76. 

Convicts, opposition of col 
onies to introduction of, 
215, 216. 

Conway, Moncure Daniel, 
Life of Paine, 55. 

Cromwell, Oliver, 208, 243 ; 
popular uprisings under, n. 

Gushing, Thomas, letter of, 

DEANE, Silas, contract of 
Congress with, 74, 75 ; 
Deane papers, 74, 75 ; in 
Congress, 84. 

Declaration of causes of 
taking up arms, July 1775, 

Declaration of Independence, 
committee selected to pre 
pare a, 106, 107; draft of, 
reported to Congress, 121 ; 
debate on, 130; omitted 
paragraphs from draft of, 
131, 132; adoption by Con 
gress of, 133 ; tradition 
about date of signing of, 
134, 135; signing and pro 
mulgation of, 134-139; en 
grossment of, 136, 137; 
first official reference to 
signing of, 137; first au 
thentic copy of, with names 

of signers, 137; manuscript 
of, 139 ; authentication of, 
138, 139; date of signing 
of, 139-149 ; signers of, 
140-149 ; on the engrossed 
copy of, 148-149 ; location 
of signatures on the en 
grossed copy of, 150; ob 
servance of anniversary of 
signing of, 151 ; lack of 
comprehension of, 152, 153, 
159 ; on the criticism of, 
J 54> 155; criticism of, by 
John Adams, 156, 157; in 
herent vitality of, 155, 156; 
rhetorical side of, 160 ; de 
nies the right of Parlia 
ment to control the col 
onies, 163; purpose of, 172, 
174-177; human elen\ nts 
of, 178; liferafy"~form" -jf, 
178180; contemporary 

opinion of, 180-183 ; the 
" unalienable rights " of, 
1 88; upon French origin 
of, 197; political philos 
ophy of, 200-205 ; on the 
right to change form of 
government, 202, 203 ; in 
fluence of, upon American 
political institutions, 203 ; 
on British supervision over 
colonial laws, 213, 222; on 
representation, 222 ; on the 
removal and dissolution of 
assemblies, 224, 225 ; on 
naturalization, immigration, 
and lands, 226, 227 ; on in 
terference with the admin 
istration of justice, 230 ; 
on the tenure of office and 
payment of salaries of the 
judiciary, 233 ; on erection 
of a multitude of offices, 
236; on a standing army, 


28 7 

237 ; on rendering the mili 
tary independent of civil 
power, 237 ; on quartering 
troops upon the people, 
238 ; holds Parliament as 
well as King responsible 
for abuses, 240 ; on protec 
tion of soldiers from pun 
ishment, 241 ; on economic 
grievances of the colonies, 
242 ; on trade, 243 ; on 
taxation, 244 ; on trial by 
jury, 247 ; on transporta 
tion of offenders, 248 ; on 
the Quebec Act of 1774, 
250 ; on altering estab 
lished forms of govern 
ment, 251 ; on suspension 
of legislatures, 253 ; on the 
waging of war against the 
colonies, 254, 256 ; on in 
citing domestic insurrec 
tion, 256. See also Inde 

Declaration of rights of 1774, 
13, 165, 199; adopted by 
Congress, 23 ; on the au 
thority of Parliament in 
the colonies, 24, 25 ; pre 
amble of, 24, 25 ; features 
of, 25-27; cited, 162, 163; 
on the judiciary, 235. 

Declaratory act, 3 ; passed by 
the Rockingham ministry, 
4 ; passage of, 8 ; political 
controversy carried on by 
means of, 9, 10; on the 
legality of Parliamentary 
dominance over the col 
onies, 1 5 ; enforcement of, 

DeLancey, Governor James, 

Delaware, resolutions of, on 

non-importation (1774), 19, 

20 ; instructions of, against 
independence, 45, 77 ; con 
test for independence in, 
80 ; McKean s influence 
upon the politics of, no; 
loses vote on resolutions 
for independence, 125 ; vote 
on independence, 127, 128. 

Dickinson, John, 78, 107, 109 ; 
on the rights of the col 
onies, 14 ; petition to the 
King drafted by, 27 ; op 
poses an aggressive policy, 
44 ; chairman of committee 
to confer with New Jersey, 
46 ; member of committee 
to prepare address against 
independence, 56 ; on inde 
pendence, 76, 79, 1 02, 103, 
104, 128, 129; prime mover 
in reaction, 81 ; opposes 
plan of confederation, 104; 
against resolutions for in 
dependence, 123 ; speech 
against independence, 124, 
125; vindication of, 125; 
on the signing of the Dec- 
claration of Independence 
by, 140; on government, 
195 ; on introduction of 
convicts into the colonies, 
216, 217; Life and writings 
of, 217. 

Documents relating to the 
colonial history of New 
York, 208, 218, 219, 223, 

Donne, Correspondence of 
George III with Lord 
North, 171. 

Duane, James, member of 
committee to prepare ad 
dress against independence, 
56 ; protests against local 
governments, 94. 



Dubois, William E. B., Sup 
pression of the slave trade, 

Dulany, Daniel, on rights of 
the colonies, 14; on gov 
ernment, 195. 

Dunlap, John, printer of the 
Declaration of Indepen 
dence, 139. 

Dunmore, Governor, Norfolk 
destroyed by, 52 ; abdicates 
government, 255 ; threatens 
to arm Negroes and In 
dians, 256. 

EDEN, Robert, influence of, 
upon Maryland politics, 87- 
89 ; arrest of, ordered by 
Congress, 87 ; banishment 
of, by Maryland Council of 
safety, 88. 

Ellery, William, 142 ; enters 
Congress, 92. 

Equality, political, 201, 202. 

FALMOUTH, burning of, 255. 

Filmer, Sir Robert, 187 ; 
Patriarcha, 187. 

Flick, Alexander C, Loyal- 
ism in New York, 116. 

Floyd, William, 142. 

Ford, Jefferson, 164, 173. 

Franklin, Benjamin, 78, 129, 
143, 144, 159, ^211, 227; 
view of, concerning separa 
tion of colonies, 3 ; respon 
sibility of, for Paine s 
Common Sense, 54 ; allies 
himself with radicals of 
Pennsylvania, 56 ; unoffi 
cially supports indepen 
dence, 58 ; member of Com 
mittee of secret correspon 
dence, 75 ; in Congress, 84 ; 
plan of, for a confedera 

tion, 104; member of com 
mittee to prepare Declara 
tion of Independence, 107; 
absent from Congress in 
June, no; Declaration of 
Independence submitted to, 
121 ; on introduction of 
convicts into the colonies, 
216; on the taxation of 
tea, 248. 

Franklin, William, relations 
of, with the Provincial con 
gress of New Jersey, in ; 
banishment of, 112. 

Frothingham, Richard, Rise 
of the Republic, no. 

GADSDEN, Christopher, in Con 
gress, 84. 

Gage, Thomas, letter of Con 
gress to, 22 ; as governor 
of Massachusetts and com- 
mander-in-chief of the 
army, 238, 239; engages 
Indians as allies, 257. 

Gaspee, the revenue vessel, 
burned, 249. 

Gates, General, called to 
councils of Congress, 96. 

George III, 193 ; autocratic 
direction of England s af 
fairs by, 10, ii ; proclama 
tion of, declaring rebellion 
in the colonies, 41, 255 ; 
speech of, on rebellion of 
the colonies, 51, 52; an 
swer of, to the address and 
petition of the Lord Mayor 
and aldermen of London, 
101 ; denounced by Dec 
laration of Independence, 
132, 155; proclamation of, 
167 ; answer of colonies to 
the proclamation, 167, 168 ; 
tyranny of, 170, 171 ; con- 



troversy between the col 
onies and, 194. 

Georgia, not represented at 
Stamp act congress, 5 ; nor 
Congress of 1774, 5; dele 
gates absent from Congress 
in 1776, 50; instructions to 
delegates of, 96 ; favors 
adoption of the resolutions 
for independence, 104, 105 ; 
votes for resolutions of in 
dependence, 126; on sla 
very, 130; dissolution of 
Assembly of, 225. 

Gerry, Elbridge, 147; in Con 
gress, 58, 84 ; on the sign 
ing of the Declaration of 
Independence by, 141, 142, 

147, 149. 

" Glass, lead and paint act," 
234, 247, 248. 

Goddard, Mary Katharine, 
Declaration of Indepen 
dence printed by, 137. 

Government, theory of the 
origin of, 13, 14; theory of 
colonists on, 163 ; con 
tractual theories of origin 
of, 185, 186; Locke on, 
1 86, 193 ; legislative, 189- 
191 ; relations of the legis 
lative and the executive to 
the people, 191 ; dissolution 
of, 192 ; theories of the 
origin and end of, 195 ; 
contractual, 196; evolu 
tionary theory of the origin 
of, 206. 

Governments, local, author 
ized by Congress, 9194. 

Great Britain, inconsistency 
of, in carrying out colonial 
policy, i, 2 ; commercial 
relations of the colonies 
with, 7 ; negotiations of, 


with foreign mercenaries, 
66, 67, 73 ; Prohibitory act 
of (i775), 72; reply of col 
onies to Prohibitory act, 
73 ; acts of aggression of, 
93 J John Adams on sepa 
ration from, 95 ; revolution 
of 1688, 193 ; colonial in 
terpretation of the consti 
tution of, 199, 200; official 
relations of the colonies 
with, 208-211; attitude of, 
toward slavery, 215, 216; 
on the constitutional right 
of, to enact legislation for 
the colonies, 257; neglect 
of colonial possessions, 257. 

Green, John Richard, Short 
history of the English 
people, 171. 

Greene, Evarts B., The pro 
vincial governor, 222. 

Grenville, George, 195, 213; 
colonial policy of, 2, 3 ; 
rigorous enforcement of 
trade laws by, 237 ; acts of 
aggression instituted by, 

Gwinnet, Button, 96, 143. 

HALL, Lyman, 96, 143. 

Hamilton, Alexander, on gov 
ernment, 195. 

Hancock, John, 135, 139, 142, 
181, 249 ; friction between 
Maryland delegates and, 89 ; 
president of Congress, 123. 

Harrison, Benjamin, 101, 106, 
126, 133, 143 ; member of 
Committee of secret cor 
respondence, 75 ; on inde 
pendence, 76 ; manuscript 
notes by, on the original 
manuscript of the Virginia 
resolutions, 101. 



Hart, John, 143. 

Henry VIII, 249. 

Henry, Patrick, 225 ; on in 
dependence, 28, 29. 

Hessian troops, employment 
of, 67, 255. 

Heyward, Thomas, Jr., 143. 

Hewes, Joseph, 143, 145 ; 
North Carolina s interests 
guarded by, 97. 

Hillsborough, Lord, 217, 225; 
repressive measures of, 9 ; 
became first Secretary of 
state for the colonies, 210. 

Hobbes, Thomas, 185, 187, 
197; on government, 186; 
Leviathan, 186. 

Hooker, Richard, 197 ; on 
government, 186, 187. 

riooper, William, 104, 145; 
member of committee to 
prepare address against in 
dependence, 56 ; opposes 
plan of confederation, 104. 

Hopkins, Stephen, 142 ; on 
rights of the colonies, 14; 
on government, 195. 

Hopkinson, Francis, 143. 

Howe, Sir William, procla 
mation, concerning Boston, 
47; at Sandy Hook, 122. 

Humphreys, Charles, votes 
against independence, 129, 

Huntington, Samuel, 58, 142. 

INDEPENDENCE, first steps to 
ward, 6 ; not advocated by 
Congress of 1774, 28; ad 
vance toward, 37 ; not pub 
licly advocated by Con 
gress, 37 ; popular move 
ment toward, 42, 43 ; rapid 
development of sentiment 
of, 48, 49, 51 ; motion 

against, 56, 57 ; public sen 
timent for, 58 ; preparation 
for, 6 1 ; reluctance of col 
onists to declare for, 62, 
63 and open ports, 71 ; in 
structions of five colonies 
against, 77, 78, 81 ; attitude 
of conservatives toward, 
79 ; fight in Congress for, 
85 ; increase in popularity 
of, 89 ; status of the senti 
ment of, the first of June, 
1776, 99; motion in Con 
gress for, 100; vote on, 
postponed one day, 102; 
debates on, 103-106; vote 
on, postponed three weeks, 
106 ; New York on, 116; 
resolutions for, by New 
York, 120; consideration 
of resolutions for, 123 ; de 
bates on resolutions for, 
123; vote for, 125-129; 
denial by colonies of desire 
for, 1 66 ; popular mind pre 
pared for reception of, 199, 
200. See also Declaration 
of Independence. 

Independence Hall, Philadel 
phia, 134. 

Indians, threat to arm, 256. 

Iredell, James, North Caro 
lina laws, 231. 

JAMES II, 105, 209. 

Jay, John, 112 ; address to the 
people of Great Britain pre 
pared by, 26 ; member of 
committee to confer with 
New Jersey, 46 ; on inde 
pendence, 76, 79. 

Jefferson, Thomas, 79, 143, 
147, 152, 165, 176, 230, 240, 
242 ; on independence, 28, 
29 ; returns to Congress, 



92 ; notes of debates on in 
dependence made by, 102; 
chairman of committee to 
prepare Declaration of In 
dependence, 107; Declara 
tion of Independence draft 
ed by, 121, 122; on para 
graphs omitted from Dec 
laration of Independence, 
130; on the signing of the 
Declaration of Indepen 
dence by, 140; popularity 
of, 156; reply of, to John 
Adams criticism, 157-159; 
disclaims authority of Par 
liament, 163, 164; position 
of, in relation to the Dec 
laration of Independence, 
173, 177 J Summary view of 
the rights of British Amer 
ica, 173, 174, 243; proposed 
constitution for Virginia 
prepared by, 1 74 ; on gov 
ernment, 195 ; influence of / 
Locke upon, 197, 201-203 N 
on government as voiced in 
the Declaration of Inde 
pendence, 200, 201 ; on 
equality, 201, 202 ; on dis 
allowance by the King of 
colonial laws, 213, 214; on 
the King s neglect of Vir 
ginia laws, 221 ; on repre 
sentation, 223, 224 ; Works, 
104, 121, 130, 140, 148, 159, 
165, 174, 202, 224, 228, 240, 
241, 243. 

Journal of Congress, 1774: 
19, 21, 23, 24, 34, 164, 236; 
1775: 34, 35, 39, 40, 42, 46, 
69, 70, 86, 165, 166; 1776: 
66, 67, 70, 74, 77, 82, 83, 84, 
86, 87, 92, 94, 96, 97, 107, 
112, 123, 145, 146, 235; 
July 4, 1776, upon the Dec 

laration of Independence, 
135, 136; manuscripts of, 

Judiciary, on the establish 
ment of, 230-233 ; on the 
tenure of office and pay 
ment of salaries of, 232- 

LAND companies refused the 
right to found colonies, 

Land grants, restrictions of 
limits for, 227. 

Lands, acquisition of, 228. 

Langdon-Elwyn papers, 183. 

Lecky, William E. H., His 
tory of England in the i8th 
century, 171. 

Lee, Francis Lightfoot, 143. 

Lee, Richard Henry, 168; 
address to the people of 
the colonies prepared by, 
27 ; in Congress, 84 ; reso 
lutions introduced by, 100; 
debate of, on adoption of 
resolutions for indepen 
dence, 104106; on signing 
of Declaration of Indepen 
dence by, 145, 147, 148; 
charges of, against Jeffer 
son, 158. 

Legislative assemblies. See 
Assemblies, colonial. 

Lewis, Francis, 142. 

Lexington, effect of hostili 
ties at, 30. 

Liberty, the sloop, riots upon 
seizure of, 249. 

Liberty Bell, unwarranted 
prominence of, 134. 

Lincoln, Abraham, 202. 

Lincoln, Revolutionary move 
ment in Pennsylvania, 45, 
56, 86, 108. 



Lippard, George, Legends of 
the revolution, 134. 

Livingston, Philip, 142. 

Livingston, Robert R., 121, 
142, 144; opposes adoption 
of resolutions for indepen 
dence, 102, 103, 104; mem 
ber of committee to prepare 
Declaration of Indepen 
dence, 107. 

Livingston, William, 168; 
motion of, 60. 

Locke, John, 185, 198 ; col 
onists reception of political 
ideas of, n ; doctrine of, 
on the separation of pow 
ers, 1 68; on government, 
186-193 ; Treatises on gov 
ernment, 187; influence of, 
upon the colonial Fathers, 
197; influence of, upon 
Jefferson, 201 ; on equality, 
202 ; resemblance between 
deductions of, and of mod 
ern jurists, 205, 206. 

Lords of the Committee of 
Council for Plantation af 
fairs, 211. 

Lotteries, legislation respect 
ing, 2. 

Lowell, Abbott Lawrence, 
Essays on government, 186, 

Lynch, Thomas, Jr., 143. 

McCRADY, Edward, South 
Carolina under royal gov 
ernment, 20, 233 ; South 
Carolina in the revolution, 
63, 100, 115, 127, 233. 

MacDonald, William, Select 
charters illustrative of Am 
erican history, 8, 208, 227, 
234-236, 238, 241, 243-245, 
247, 250, 252-255. 

McKean, Thomas, 84, 112, 
129, 143. 

McLaughlin, Andrew Cun 
ningham, 1 86, 205. 

Martin, Alexander, 220, 223 ; 
abdicates government, 255. 

Maryland, resolutions of, on 
non-importation (1774), 19, 
20; instructions of, against 
independence, 45, 77; con 
test for independence in, 
80 ; controversy between 
the Council of safety of, 
and Congress, 87-89 ; reac 
tionary resolutions of, 96 ; 
on independence, 113, 114, 
123 ; votes for resolutions 
for independence, 125 ; ef 
fort of, to restrict entrance 
of convicts, 216. 

Maryland Convention, Pro 
ceedings of, 88, 89, 113, 

Maryland Council of safety, 
Journal and correspondence 
of, 65. 

Massachusetts, advice by 
Congress respecting gov 
ernment, 34 ; radical dele 
gates of, control vote of 
colony, 58, 59 ; on inde 
pendence, 100, 114, 115; 
constitution of, 204, dis 
putes over laws of, 215 ; 
breaking up of land bank 
schemes of, 217 ; laws of, 
disallowed by the King, 
218; removal of Assembly 
of, 225 ; dissolution of As 
sembly of, 225, 226 ; on the 
judiciary, 233, 235 ; failure 
to rescind Circular letter 
of, 249 ; act regulating gov 
ernment of, 251, 252; sal 
ary of governor of, 252. 



Massachusetts historical so 
ciety, Proceedings, 144, 147. 
Massachusetts State papers, 

2l8, 222, 235, 238. 

Merriam, Charles Edward, 
American political theories, 
1 86, 197, 205 ; on sover 
eignty, 196, 197. 

Middleton, Arthur, 143. 

Military, independent of civil 
power, 237, 239. 

Milton, John, 186. 

Molasses act (1733), 243, 
245; (1764), 243, 245. 

Montesquieu, Baron, on sepa 
ration of powers, 198, 204. 

Montgomery, General, death 
of, 57; services in memory 
of, 59- 

Moore, Sir Henry, 217. 

Morris, Lewis, 142, 144. 

Morris, Robert, 71, 78, 107; 
on independence, 75, 76, 
79, 129 ; letter of, to Joseph 
Reed, 129 ; on the signing 
of the Declaration of Inde 
pendence by, 140 ; opposi 
tion of, to Declaration of 
Independence, 180. 

Morton, John, 129, 143, 144. 

Mutiny act, extension of pro 
visions of, to the colonies, 

NARRAGANSETT Bay, burning 
of the Gaspee in, 249. 

Naturalization, generally prac 
ticed by the colonies, 228 ; 
passage of acts of, prohib 
ited, 229. 

Nature, law of, as related to 
government, 188, 189. 

Nature, state of, 186; denned 
by Locke, 188, 189. 

Navigation act (1651), 208; 
acts, 212. 

Negroes, threat to arm, 256. 

Nelson, Thomas, Jr., 143. 

New England, favors a dec 
laration of independence 
by Congress, 99 ; favors the 
adoption of the resolutions 
for independence, 104, 105, 

New Hampshire, not repre 
sented at Stamp act con 
gress, 5 ; advised by Con 
gress to form a government, 
34, 43, 80, 226 ; appeal of, 
to Congress for advice on 
government, 49, 226 ; on 
independence, 114; royal 
instructions to, against op 
position to slave trade, 215 ; 
on representation, 223, 224. 

New Jersey, resolutions of, 
on non-importation (1774), 
19, 20 ; instructions of, 
against independence, 45, 
77 ; proposes sending a new 
petition to the King, 46; 
contest for independence in, 
80 ; revolutionary changes 
in, no, in; relations of 
Gov. Franklin and the 
Provincial Congress of, 
in; declares for a new 
government and for inde 
pendence, 112; votes for 
resolutions for indepen 
dence, 125 ; laws of, de 
signed to prohibit slave 
trade, 215; laws of, re 
specting bills of credit, 
218; on representation, 223. 

New Jersey Archives, 46, 

New Jersey Congress, letter 



of, to the Continental Con 
gress, in. 

New York, instructions of, 
against independence, 45, 
77 ; reluctance of, to de 
clare for independence, 63 ; 
contest for independence 
in, 80 ; pressure of Con 
gress upon conservative 
element of, 94 ; political 
and religious division in, 
116; position in Congress 
of, of minor importance, 
116; resolutions of Provin 
cial Congress of, on form 
ing new governments, 117; 
vacillation and inconsist 
ency of Provincial Con 
gress of, 118-120; dele 
gates of, given no instruc 
tions on independence, 118- 
119, 126, 143, 144; Provin 
cial Congress of, removed 
to White Plains, 119; 
adopts resolutions to sup 
port the Declaration of In 
dependence, 120; Conven 
tion of, reports Howe at 
Sandy Hook, 122; laws of, 
respecting bills of credit, 
217, 218; royal instructions 
to governors of, respecting 
legislation, 219 ; on repre 
sentation, 223 ; on the ju 
diciary of, 233 ; suspension 
of Assembly of, 253, 254. 

New York Legislative coun 
cil, Journal of, 223. 

Niles, Hezekiah, Principles 
and acts of the revolution, 

Non-exportation agreements, 
20, 26, 40, 41, 247. 

Non-importation, Articles of 
Association upon, 22. 

Non-importation agreements, 
9, 19, 20, 26, 247. 

Norfolk, burning of, 52, 255. 

North, Lord, 64, 65 ; on plan 
of conciliation of, 39 ; an 
swer of colonies to motion 
of, 165. 

North Carolina, not repre 
sented at Stamp act con 
gress, 5 ; resolutions on 
non-importation (1774), 20 ; 
delegates absent from Con 
gress in 1776, 50; contest 
for independence in, 80 ; 
instructions of, in favor of 
independence, 96, 97, 99 ; 
votes for resolutions of in 
dependence, 125 ; constitu 
tion of, 204 ; on the estab 
lishment of superior courts 
of justice in, 230, 233, 253 ; 
on attachment of property 
in, 231 ; Assembly of, dis 
solved, 232 ; laws of, ex 
empting immigrants from 
taxation, disallowed by the 
King, 229. 

North Carolina colonial rec 
ords, 220, 227, 229, 231, 

OTIS, James, 199 ; Rights of 
the British colonies assert 
ed and proved, 12, 157, 189 ; 
on the rights of the col 
onies, 13, 14; on govern 
ment, 195. 

PACA, William, 143. 

Paine, Robert Treat, 142. 

Paine, Thomas, appearance 
of Common Sense by, 52 ; 
influence of Common Sense, 
53 ; origin of Common 



Sense, 53-55 ; dessemina- 
tion of Common Sense, 61. 

Paper money, 82. See also 
Bills of credit. 

Parliament, acts of, affecting 
commerce and industries of 
the colonies, i, 2; projects 
itself into American affairs, 
6 ; beginning of controversy 
between colonies and, 6 ; 
remonstrance against au 
thority of, 7, 14; opposition 
of colonies to control by, 
162-167; establishment of 
supremacy of, in England, 
187; attempt of, to revive 
authority in colonies (1763), 
194, 195 ; address King in 
1740 upon colonial legisla 
tion, 219 ; act of, " for the 
impartial administration of 
justice" (i774), 241, 242; 
acts of, on colonial trade 
(1688-1765), 243, 244; act 
of, authorizing captives to 
bear arms against their 
country (1755), 255. 

Penn, John, 143. 

Pennsylvania, resolutions of, 
on non-importation (1774), 
19, 20 ; attitude toward in 
dependence of conserva 
tives of, 43 ; efforts of 
the conservative party to 
keep control of government 
of, 44, 45 ; instructions 
of, against independence, 
45, 77 ; attempt to break 
up conservative party in, 
54 ; radicals of, gain in 
power, 56 ; reluctance of, 
to declare for indepen 
dence, 63 ; Conference of 
Committees of, 109; new 
instructions of, to dele 

gates, 109; dissolution of 
Assembly of, 109 ; votes 
against resolutions for in 
dependence, 126; political 
situation of, 128 ; votes for 
independence, 129 ; attempts 
to overthrow proprietary 
government in, 162; con 
stitution of, 204 ; effort of, 
to restrict entrance of con 
victs, 216 ; laws, respecting 
bills of credit, 218; con 
servative policy of, 78, 79, 
90 ; contest for indepen 
dence in, 80 ; antagonism 
of Assembly of, to Con 
gress, 83, 85, 86 ; attempt 
to overthrow the Assembly 
of, 94 ; protestations of in 
habitants of Philadelphia 
against the Assembly of, 
107, 1 08; change of form 
of government of, 108, 109; 
on independence, 108-110, 
128, 129; inhabitants of, 
protest against competency 
of the Pennsylvania As 
sembly, 107, 1 08. 

Pitt, William, on the Declara 
tory act, 15. 

Political organizations, inter 
colonial, 4. 

Poore, Benjamin Perley, 
Charters and constitutions, 

Ports, opening of, 62, 69, 70, 
7i ,73, 78. 

Pownall, Thomas, on royal 
instructions issued to gov 
ernors, 222 ; Administra 
tion of the colonies, 222. 

Privateering, authorization of, 
73, 84. 

" Prohibitory Act," 78, 244. 

Property, conception of, by 


Loeke, 188, i%; 

Act," 238. 
Quebec act (1774), 250, 251. 

Qoebec, fall of (17*), 57- 

- . ____ - -.- . __ ._ . 


Cfcaries Lee. 

George, M3; L*f* ** 
oj, no; 

by, 144. MS. 

Edward, 60, 106, 

:-: :-- :.; : -_: ::::fti 

independence, 102, 103. 
Carolina potirks, 127. 

: v : - : 

Rd, Joseph, 3, 180; Uje 
^ nnrip^rndtmtt of, 45, 
64, 65, 181 ; on Ac pro- 
posed coonnssioners of tke 
King, is; Letterx f Jku 
; : f. 

* Restnioing Ads" (i/75), 

- "- " "- 

-- : " 
Bf nii^iiM. nrmfafM of Ac 

~ :f 

Sine In*, Ins _ 

tinBtmtA. by tbe crown, 
S; irnliaUti iy Articfa 
of ^TMfi^iia, 74, 216. 
Skvoy, draft of Declaration 
of Independence on, 130, 



Smith. Richard. Diary, 40, 
56, 57, 60, 72, 104. 

Smith, Dr. William, oration 
of, 59- 

Smuggling, 437. 

South Carolina, votes against 
non-importation agreement 
(1774), 26; advised by 
Congress to form a gov 
ernment, 34, 80, 226; dele 
gates absent from Congress 
in 1776, 50; reluctance of, 
to declare for independence, 
63 ; political revolutions in, 
79, 80; contest for inde 
pendence in, 80 ; on inde 
pendence, 99, 115, 116; 
first vote of, against resolu 
tions for independence, 
127; final vote of, for in 
dependence, 127 ; on sla 
very, 130; constitution of, 
204 ; laws of, designed to 
prohibit slave trade, 215; 
removal of Assembly of, 
225 ; dissolution of Assem 
bly of, 225 ; appeal to Con 
gress of, for advice on gov 
ernment, 226 ; on the es 
tablishment of courts of 
justice in, 233. 

Southern colonies, laws of, 

Sovereignty, the beginning of, 
48 ; doctrine of popular, 
196, 197. 

Sparks. Jared, Washington, 
29, 181. 

Stamp act, 246 ; repeal of, 3, 
8, 10 ; resistance by Con 
gress to, 5 ; economic rea 
sons for non-enforcement 
of, 7, 8 ; five years succeed 
ing passage of, 10; on riots 
occasioned by, 218. 

Stamp act congress. See 

Congress of, 1765. 
Staples, Rlwde Island in the 

Continental Congress, 93. 
Stephen, Sir Leslie, on po 
litical philosophy, 184; 

English thought in the iSth 

century, 184, 186, 187. 
Stephen, Sir James Fitz 

James, Hora Sabbatica, 16, 

Stevens, Benjamin Franklin, 

Facsimiles, 63. 
Stille, Charles, Dickinson, 45, 

104, 125. 

Stockton. Richard, 142. 
Stone, Thomas, 143 ; letter 

of, 65. 
Stuart, the Indian agent, 

makes overtures to Gen. 

Gage, 257. 
Suffolk county resolutions, 

endorsement by Congress 

of, 21. 
Sugar act (1764), 6, 235, 244, 

Sullivan. William, on social 

compact, 185. 
Sydney, Algernon, 186, 197. 

TAYLOR, George, on signing 
of Declaration of Indepen 
dence by, 144, 149. 

Taxation, acts of Parliament 
for raising revenue by di 
rect, 6 ; principle of, at 
issue, 12 ; without consent, 
163, 244-248. 

Taxation, without represen 
tation, 7, 12, 13, 25, 163, 

Tea, non-importation of, 22 ; 
opposition to landing of, 

r F ~ V! E 



Tea act of 1770, 9, 10, 247, 
248, 254; of 1773, 248, 254. 

Thomson, Charles, 138, 142; 
the original manuscript of 
the Virginia resolutions 
endorsed by, 101 ; tran 
script of the Declaration 
of Independence by, 139. 

Thornton, Matthew, signing 
of Declaration of Indepen 
dence by, 146, 149, 150. 

Trade compromise of Nov. i, 
1775, 69. 

Trade laws, economic reasons 
for non-enforcement of, 7 ; 
enforcement of, with view 
to end smuggling, 237 ; en 
forcement of, 243, 244. 

Treaties, committee to pre 
pare a plan of, 107. 

Trial by jury, 7, 25, 248, 249, 

Troops, quartering of, with 
out consent of colonists, 4, 

Tryon, William, 230 ; con 
spiracy against Washington 
instituted by, 119, 122; ab 
dicates government, 255. 

Tories, resolutions to sup 
press, 57 ; suppression of, 
82, 83 ; influence of, in New 
York politics, 116. 

Townshend acts (1767), pas 
sage of, 5 ; partial repeal 
of, 9, 10; on the Town 
shend revenue act, known 
as "Glass, lead and paint 
act," 234, 247, 248 ; on en 
forcement of taxation laws 
in the, 236. See also Tea 

Tyler, Moses Coit, Literary 
history of American revo 
lution, 154, 179, 1 80; on 

the Declaration of Inde 
pendence, 177, 178-180. 
Tyranny, 191, 192. 

UNION, effectiveness of, 5, 6 ; 
represented by Congress, 
32 ; sentiment regarding, 
strengthened by Congress, 
35, 36, 39 J strengthened by 
Lord North s plan of con 
ciliation, 40 ; fundamental 
acts of, 133, 134. 

United colonies. See colonies. 

United States, first use of the 
phrase, 136; relation of po 
litical science to the po 
litical life of, 161 ; consti 
tutional and legal develop 
ment of, 205, 206. 

Usurpation, 191. 

VIRGINIA, not represented at 
Stamp act congress, 5 ; 
resolutions of, on non-im 
portation (1774), 19, 20; 
advised by Congress to 
form a government, 34, 80, 
226 ; majority of delegates 
favor independence, 50 ; re 
luctance of, to declare for 
independence, 63 ; instruc 
tions of, to propose inde 
pendence, 96, 97, 99 ; reso 
lutions for independence 
by, 100, 101 ; manuscript of 
the resolutions, 101 ; fac 
simile of the resolutions, 
1 01 ; on the accepting of 
the resolutions, 104, 105 ; 
vote for resolutions of In 
dependence, 125 ; constitu 
tion of, 204 ; laws of, de 
signed to prohibit slave 
trade, 215 ; effort of, to re 
strict entrance of con- 



victs, 215, 216; royal in 
structions to government 
of, upon suppression of lot 
teries, 220 ; British neglect 
of laws of (1770), 220, 
221 ; on representation, 
223 ; dissolution of As 
sembly of, 225 ; appeal to 
Congress for advice on 
government of, 226. 

WALTON, George, 143. 

War of independence, early 
events of, 255, 256. 

War office, establishment of 
a, considered by Congress, 
57; institution of a, 107. 

Ward, Henry, in Congress, 
84; death of, 85. 

Washington, George, 65, 73 ; 
impatience of, at delay in 
declaring independence, 64 ; 
called to councils of Con 
gress, 96 ; reports to Con 
spiracy in New York, 122; 
on the Declaration of inde 
pendence, 181-182. 

Webster, Daniel, on al 
legiance of the colonies to 
the king, 169, 170. 

Wendell, Barrett, Literary 
history of America, 160. 

Wentworth, John, 224. 

West Indies, trade of, with 
the colonies, 244. 

Whigs, under Rockingham 
administration, 4 ; return 
to power of Rockingham, 

Whiggism, expounded by 
Locke, 187. 

Whipple, William, 142; on 
the Declaration of Inde 
pendence, 182. 

William III, establishes a 
permanent Board for trade 
and foreign plantations, 

Williams, William, on the 
signing of the Declaration 
of Independence by, 144, 
147, 149. 

Willing, William, 143 ; votes 
against independence, 129. 

Wilson, James, 143, 144, 168; 
motion by, 56 ; defeat of 
motion, 57, 58 ; protests 
against local governments, 
94 ; opposes adoption of 
resolutions of indepen 
dence, 102, 103, 104; on 
independence, 128 ; votes 
for independence, 129; on 
government, 195. 

Winsor, Justin, Narrative 
and critical history, 29, 
238, 250, 257. 

Witherspoon, John, 143. 

Wolcott, Oliver, 60; in Con 
gress, 58 ; on signing of 
Declaration of Indepen 
dence by, 146, 147. 

Wyoming, border warfare of, 
83, 86. 

Wythe, George, 60, 85, 176; 
member of committee to 
confer with New Jersey, 
46; in Congress, 84; de 
bate of, on adoption of the 
resolutions for indepen 
dence, 104-106; on signing 
of Declaration of Indepen 
dence by, 145, 147, 148. 


*- * 




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