Friday, October 21, 1774.
To the People of Great Britain, from the Delegates appointed by the several English Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Lower Counties on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, to consider of their Grievances in General Congress, at Philadelphia, September 5, 1774.
Friends and Fellow-Subjects: When a Nation, lead to greatness by the hand of Liberty, and possessed of all the Glory that heroism, munificence, and humanity can bestow, descends to the ungrateful task of forging chains for her friends and children, and instead of giving support to Freedom, turns advocate for Slavery and Oppression, there is reason to suspect she has either ceased to be virtuous, or been extremely negligent in the appointment of her Rulers.
In almost every age, in repeated conflicts, in long and bloody wars, as well civil as foreign, against many and powerful Nations, against the open assaults of enemies, and the more dangerous treachery of friends, have the inhabitants of your Island, your great and glorious ancestors, maintained their independence, and transmitted the rights of Men, and the blessings of Liberty, to you, their posterity.
Be not surprised therefore, that we, who are descended from the same common ancestors; that we, whose forefathers participated in all the rights, the liberties, and the Constitution you so justly boast of, and who have carefully conveyed the same fair inheritance to us, guarantied by the plighted faith of Government, and the most solemn compacts with British Sovereigns, should refuse to surrender them to men who found their claims on no principles of reason, and who prosecute them with a design, that by having our lives and property in their power, they may with the greater facility enslave you.
The cause of America is now the object of universal attention; it has at length become very serious. This unhappy country has not only been oppressed, but abused and misrepresented; and the duty we owe to ourselves and posterity, to your interest, and the general welfare of the British Empire, leads us to address you on this very important subject.
Know then, That we consider ourselves, and do insist, that we are and ought to be as free as our fellow-subjects in Britain, and that no power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent.
That we claim all the benefits secured to the subject by the English Constitution, and particularly that inestimable one of Trial by Jury.
That we hold it essential to English liberty, that no man be condemned unheard, or punished for supposed offences, without having an opportunity of making his defence.
That we think the Legislature of Great Britain is not authorized by the Constitution to establish a Religion fraught with sanguinary and impious tenets, or to erect an arbitrary form of Government in any quarter of the globe. These rights we, as well as you, deem sacred; and yet, sacred as they are, they have, with many others, been repeatedly and flagrantly violated.
Are not the Proprietors of the soil of Great Britain lords of their own property? Can it be taken from them without their consent? Will they yield it to the arbitrary disposal of any man, or number of men whatever? You know they will not.
Why then are the Proprietors of the soil of America less lords of their property than you are of yours? Or why should they submit it to the disposal of your Parliament, or any other Parliament or Council in the world, not of their election? Can the intervention of the sea that divides us cause disparity in rights? Or can any reason be given, why English subjects, who live three thousand miles from the Royal Palace, should enjoy less liberty than those who are three hundred miles distant from it?
Reason looks with indignation on such distinctions, and Freemen can never perceive their propriety. And yet, however chimerical and unjust such discriminations are, the Parliament assert that they have a right to bind us in all cases, without exception, whether we consent or not; that they may take and use our property when and in what manner they please; that we are pensioners on their bounty for all that we possess, and can hold it no longer than they vouchsafe to permit. Such declarations we consider as heresies in English politicks, and which can no more operate to deprive us of our property, than the interdicts of the Pope can divest Kings of sceptres which the laws of the land and the voice of the people have placed in their hands.
At the conclusion of the late war—a war rendered glorious by the abilities and integrity of a Minister, to whose efforts the British Empire owes its safety and its fame: at the conclusion of this war, which was succeeded by an inglorious peace, formed under the auspices of a Minister of principles and of a family unfriendly to the Protestant cause, and inimical to liberty; we say, at this period, and under the influence of that man, a plan for enslaving your fellow-subjects in America was concerted, and has ever since been pertinaciously carrying into execution. Prior to this era you were content with drawing from us the wealth produced by our commerce. You restrained our trade in every way that could conduce to your emolument. You exercised unbounded sovereignty over the sea. You named the Ports and Nations to which alone our merchandise should be carried, and with whom alone we should trade; and though some of these restrictions were grievous, we nevertheless did not complain. We looked up to you as to our parent state, to which we were bound by the strongest ties, and were happy in being instrumental to your prosperity and your grandeur.
We call upon you yourselves to witness our loyalty and attachment to the common interest of the whole Empire. Did we not, in the last war, add all the strength of this vast Continent to the force which repelled our common enemy? Did we not leave our native shores, and meet disease and death, to promote the success of British arms in foreign climates? Did you not thank us for our zeal, and even reimburse us large sums of money, which you confessed we had advanced beyond our proportion, and far beyond our abilities? You did.
To what causes, then, are we to attribute the sudden change of treatment, and that system of slavery which was prepared for us at the restoration of peace?
Before we had recovered from the distresses which ever attend war, an attempt was made to drain this country of all its money, by the oppressive Stamp Act. Paint, Glass, and other commodities, which you would not permit us to purchase of other Nations, were taxed. Nay, although no Wine is made in any country subject to the British state, you prohibited our procuring it of foreigners, without paying a tax imposed by your Parliament, on all we imported. These and many other impositions were laid upon us most unjustly and unconstitutionally, for the express purpose of raising a Revenue. In order to silence complaint, it was, indeed, provided that this revenue should be expended in America, for its protection and defence. These exactions however can receive no justification from a pretended necessity of protecting and defending us; they are lavishly squandered on Court favourites and Ministerial dependants, generally avowed enemies to America, and employing themselves, by partial representations, to traduce and embroil the Colonies. For the necessary support of Government here we ever were and ever shall be ready to provide. And whenever the exigencies of the state may require it, we shall, as we have heretofore done, cheerfully contribute our full proportion of men and money. To enforce this unconstitutional and unjust scheme of taxation, every fence that the wisdom of our British ancestors had carefully erected against arbitrary power, has been violently thrown down in America; and the inestimable right of Trial by Jury taken away in cases that touch both life and property. It was ordained, that whenever offences should be committed in the Colonies against particular Acts imposing various duties and restrictions upon trade, the prosecutor might bring his action for the penalties in the Courts of Admiralty; by which means the subject lost the advantage of being tried by an honest uninfluenced jury of the vicinage, and was subjected to the sad necessity of being judged