Page images



ists got

It is only by a study of the process through which the thirteen How the colonies became thirteen independent confederated states that revolutionone can hope to understand the general features of our federal possession system. The first fact to note is that the American Revolution of the govwas primarily the work of an active and determined group of men ernment. in each community who organized themselves first into committees of correspondence for stirring up and sustaining the fervor of revolt, and then, as the quarrel grew apace, seized the institutions of government which they found at hand, or constructed new instruments of their own. Boston led the way in the establishment of committees of correspondence by a resolution setting up a committee for that city, and this example was speedily followed by other towns. The colonial assemblies then began, in a somewhat irregular fashion, to appoint committees to represent the colonies as political units, and thus the organized basis of the new nation was laid.

7. The Boston Committee of Correspondence, 1772

RESOLVED as the opinion of the Inhabitants of this Town that they have ever had, and ought to have a right to Petition the King or his Representatives for the Redress of such Grievances as they feel or for preventing of such as they have reason to apprehend, and to communicate their Sentiment to other Towns.

of the correspondence committee.

It was then moved by Mr. Samuel Adams, That a Committee of The work Correspondence be appointed to consist of twenty-one Persons to state the Rights of the Colonists and of this Province in particular, as Men, as Christians, and as Subjects; to communicate and publish the same to the several Towns in this Province and to the World as the sense of this Town, with the Infringements


reasons for the call

of the


Five representatives appointed.

and Violations thereof that have been, or from time to time may be made Also requesting of each Town a free communication of their Sentiments on this Subject - And the Question being accordingly put - Passed in the Affirmative. Nem. Cont...

8. Massachusetts Calls the First Continental Congress

The committees of correspondence were not slow in realizing the necessity of a strong union among the revolutionary forces of all the colonies in order to resist the authority of Great Britain, and in 1774 the Massachusetts House of Representatives, defying the governor's messenger who was knocking at the door to announce a dissolution, passed a resolution calling a congress of colonial representatives to meet at Philadelphia on September 1.

In the House of Representatives, June 17, 1774.

This House having duly considered, and being deeply affected with the unhappy differences which have long subsisted, and are increasing, between Great Britain and the American Colonies, do resolve, that a meeting of Committees, from the several Colonies on this Continent is highly expedient and necessary, to consult upon the present state of the Colonies, and the miseries, to which they are, and must be reduced, by the operation of certain Acts of Parliament respecting America; and to deliberate and determine upon wise and proper measures to be by them recommended to all the Colonies, for the recovery and establishment of their just rights and liberties, civil and religious, and the restoration of union and harmony between Great Britain and the Colonies, most ardently desired by all good men.

Therefore, resolved, That the Honourable James Bowdoin, Esq., the Honourable Thomas Cushing, Esq., Mr. Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Robert Treat Paine, Esquires, be and they are hereby appointed a Committee on the part of this province, for the purposes aforesaid, any three of whom to be a quorum, to meet such Committees or Delegations from the other Colonies, as have been or may be appointed, either by their respective

Houses of Burgesses or Representatives, or by Convention, or by the Committees of Correspondence appointed by the respective Houses of Assembly, to meet in the City of Philadelphia, or any other place that shall be adjudged most suitable by the Committee on the first day of September next; and that the Speaker of the House be directed, in a letter to the Speakers of the Houses of Burgesses or Representatives in the several Colonies, to inform them of the substance of these resolves.

9. Appointment of the South Carolina Delegates to the First Continental Congress

chusetts is


The other colonies met the call of Massachusetts by appointing The call delegates to the general conference, and thus originated the of Massaunion out of which the present American nation has grown. No uniform method was followed by the discontented leaders in selecting their delegates, but the spirit of the movement for union is revealed in the document recording the action of South Carolina in choosing her representatives. It will be noted that it was merely a ratification of the steps taken by an irregular general meeting of the inhabitants held a few weeks earlier.

In the commons, house of Assembly, Tuesday, the 2d day of August 1774. Colonel Power acquainted the house, that during the recess of this house, viz: on the 6th, 7th & 8th days of July last at a general meeting of the inhabitants of this colony, they having under consideration the acts of parliament lately passed with regard to the port of Boston and Colony of Massachusetts Bay as well as other American grievances, had nominated and appointed the hon ble. Henry Middleton, John Rutledge, Thomas Lynch, Christopher Gadsden, & Edward Rutledge, Esq. deputies on the part and behalf of this Colony, to meet the deputies of the other Colonies of North America, in general Congress, the first Monday in September next at Philadelphia, or at any other time or place that may be generally agreed on, there to consider the acts lately passed, and bills depending in parliament with regard to the port of Boston and Colony of Massachusetts-Bay,

[blocks in formation]

which acts & bills in the precedent and consequences affect the whole Continent of America - also the grievances under which America labours by reason of the several acts of parliament that impose taxes or duties for raising a revenue, and lay unnecessary restraints and burdens on Trade; and of the statutes, parliamentary acts, and royal instructions, which make an invidious distinction between his majesty's subjects in Great Britain and America, with full power and authority to concert, agree to, and effectually prosecute such legal measures, as in the opinion of the said deputies, and of the deputies so to be assembled, shall be most likely to obtain a repeal of the said acts, and a redress of those grievances: and thereupon moved that this house do resolve to recognize, ratify, and confirm said appointment of the deputies for the purposes aforesaid.

Resolved, N. C. D. That this house do recognize, ratify, and confirm the appointment of the said deputies for the purposes mentioned in the said motion.



Jun'. Clerk.

10. The Declaration of Independence

The first Continental Congress failed to achieve anything by negotiations with Great Britain. A second was called in 1775, and after what purported to be attempts at reconciliation with the mother country, it declared the thirteen United Colonies to be forever independent. The famous document announcing the momentous decision of the Congress has the highest historical and political value. In addition to setting forth the colonists' views of their grievances, it enunciated significant democratic doctrines entertained by Jefferson and a few of the other radical leaders. Though these doctrines were not accepted by the more conservative statesmen, like Washington, Hamilton, and Gouverneur Morris, they were destined to give a new direction to political theorizing in America.

In Congress, July 4, 1776.



When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate 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 separation.

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, 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 to 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind 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. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »