Page:American Archives, Series 4, Volume 1.djvu/527
CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, OCTOBER 21, 1774.
then be? What advantages or what laurels will you reap from such a conquest?
May not a Ministry with the same Armies enslave you? It may be said you will cease to pay them; but remember the taxes from America, the wealth, and we may add the men, and particularly the Roman Catholicks of this vast Continent, will then be in the power of your enemies; nor will you have any reason to expect, that after making slaves of us, many among us should refuse to assist in reducing you to the same abject state.
Do not treat this as chimerical. Know that in less than half a century, the quit-rents reserved to the Crown, from the numberless grants of this vast Continent, will pour large streams of wealth into the Royal coffers; and if to this be added the power of taxing America at pleasure, the Crown will be rendered independent of you for supplies, and will possess more treasure than may be necessary to purchase the remains of liberty in your Island. In a word, take care that you do not fall into the pit that is preparing for us.
We believe there is yet much virtue, much justice, and much publick spirit in the English Nation. To that justice we now appeal. You have been told that we are seditious, impatient of Government, and desirous of Independency. Be assured that these are not facts, but calumnies. Permit us to be as free as yourselves, and we shall ever esteem a union with you to be our greatest glory and our greatest happiness; we shall ever be ready to contribute all in our power to the welfare of the Empire; we shall consider your enemies as our enemies, and your interest as our own.
But, if you are determined that your Ministers shall wantonly sport with the rights of mankind; if neither the voice of justice, the dictates of the law, the principles of the Constitution, or the suggestions of humanity, can restrain your hands from shedding human blood in such an impious cause, we must then tell you that we will never submit to be hewers of wood or drawers of water for any Ministry or Nation in the world.
Place us in the same situation that we were at the close of the last war, and our former harmony will be restored.
But, lest the same supineness, and the same inattention to our common interest, which you have for several years shown, should continue, we think it prudent to anticipate the consequences.
By the destruction of the trade of Boston the Ministry have endeavoured to induce submission to their measures. The like fate may befall us all. We will endeavour therefore to live without trade, and recur for subsistence to the fertility and bounty of our native soil, which will afford us all the necessaries, and some of the conveniences of life. We have suspended our importation from Great Britain and Ireland; and, in less than a year's time, unless our grievances should be redressed, shall discontinue our exports to those Kingdoms and the West Indies.
It is with the utmost regret, however, that we find ourselves compelled, by the over-ruling principles of self-preservation, to adopt measures detrimental in their consequences to numbers of our fellow-subjects in Great Britain and Ireland. But we hope, that the magnanimity and justice of the British Nation will furnish a Parliament of such wisdom, independence, and publick 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, friendship, and fraternal affection between all the inhabitants of his Majesty's Kingdoms and Territories so ardently wished for by every true and honest American.
The Congress then resumed the consideration of the Memorial to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies, and the same being debated by paragraphs, was approved, and is as follows:
To the Inhabitants of the Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode-Island, and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of New-Castle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina:
Friends and Countrymen: We, the Delegates appointed by the good people of these Colonies, to meet at Philadelphia, in September last, for the purposes mentioned by our respective Constituents, have, in pursuance of the trust reposed in us, assembled and taken into our most serious consideration the important matters recommended to the Congress. Our Resolutions thereupon will be herewith communicated to you. But, as the situation of publick affairs grows daily more and more alarming; and, as it may be more satisfactory to you to be informed by us in a collective body, than in any other manner, of those sentiments that have been approved, upon a full and free discussion, by the Representatives of so great a part of America, we esteem ourselves obliged to add this Address to these Resolutions.
In every case of opposition by a People to their Rulers, or of one state to another, duty to Almighty God, the creator of all, requires that a true and impartial judgment be formed of the measures leading to such opposition, and of the causes by which it has been provoked, or can in any degree be justified, that neither affection on the one hand, nor resentment on the other, being permitted to give a wrong bias to reason, it may be enabled to take a dispassionate view of all circumstances, and to settle the publick conduct on the solid foundations of Wisdom and Justice.
From Councils thus tempered, arise the surest hopes of the Divine favour; the firmest encouragement to the parties engaged, and the strongest recommendation of their cause to the rest of mankind.
With minds deeply impressed by a sense of these truths, we have diligently, deliberately, and calmly inquired into and considered those exertions, both of the Legislative and Executive power of Great Britain, which have excited so much uneasiness in America, and have, with equal fidelity and attention, considered the conduct of the Colonies. Upon the whole, we find ourselves reduced to the disagreeable alternative of being silent and betraying the innocent, or of speaking out and censuring those we wish to revere. In making our choice of these distressing difficulties, we prefer the course dictated by honesty, and a regard for the welfare of our country.
Soon after the conclusion of the late war, there commenced a memorable change in the treatment of these Colonies. By a Statute made in the fourth year of the present Reign, a time of profound peace, alleging "the expediency of new provisions and regulations for extending the Commerce between Great Britain and his Majesty's Dominions in America, and the necessity of raising a Revenue in the said Dominions, for defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the same," the Commons of Great Britain undertook to give and grant to his Majesty many Rates and Duties, to be paid in these Colonies. To enforce the observance of this Act, it prescribes a great number of severe penalties and forfeitures; and, in two sections, makes a remarkable distinction between the subjects in Great Britain and those in America. By the one, the penalties and forfeitures incurred there, are to be recovered in any of the King's Courts of Record, at Westminster, or in the Court of Exchequer, in Scotland; and, by the other, the penalties and forfeitures incurred here, are to be recovered in any Court of Record, or in any Court of Admiralty or Vice Admiralty, at the election of the informer or prosecutor.
The inhabitants of these Colonies, confiding in the justice of Great Britain, were scarcely allowed sufficient time to receive and consider this Act, before another, well known by the name of the Stamp Act, and passed in the fifth year of this Reign, engrossed their whole attention. By this Statute, the British Parliament exercised, in the most explicit manner, a power of taxing us, and extending the jurisdiction of Courts of Admiralty and Vice Admiralty in the Colonies, to matters arising within the body of a County, and directed the numerous penalties and forfeitures thereby inflicted, to be recovered in the said Courts.
In the same year a Tax was imposed upon us, by an Act establishing several new Fees in the Customs. In the next year the Stamp Act was repealed; not because it was founded in an erroneous principle, but as the Repealing Act recites, because "the continuance thereof would be attended with many inconveniences, and might be productive of consequences greatly detrimental to the commercial interest of Great Britain."