Page:American Archives, Series 4, Volume 1.djvu/534

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CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, OCTOBER 26, 1774.

A Standing Army has been kept in these Colonies ever since the conclusion of the late war, without the consent of our Assemblies; and this Army, with a considerable Naval armament, has been employed to enforce the collection of Taxes.

The authority of the Commander-in-Chief, and under him of the Brigadiers General has, in time of peace, been rendered supreme in all the Civil Governments in America.

The Commander-in-chief of all your Majesty's Forces in North America, has, in time of peace, been appointed Governour of a Colony.

The charges of usual offices have been greatly increased; and new, expensive, and oppressive offices have been multiplied.

The Judges of Admiralty and Vice Admiralty Courts are empowered to receive their salaries and fees from the effects condemned by themselves.

The Officers of the Customs are empowered to break open and enter houses, without the authority of any Civil Magistrate, founded on legal information.

The Judges of Courts of Common Law have been made entirely dependent on one part of the Legislature for their salaries, as well as for the duration of their commissions.

Counsellors, holding their commissions during pleasure, exercise Legislative authority.

Humble and reasonable Petitions from the Representatives of the People, have been fruitless.

The Agents of the People have been discountenanced, and Governours have been instructed to prevent the payment of their salaries.

Assemblies have been repeatedly and injuriously dissolved.

Commerce has been burthened with many useless and oppressive restrictions.

By several Acts of Parliament made in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth years of your Majesty's Reign, Duties are imposed on us for the purpose of raising a Revenue; and the powers of Admiralty and Vice Admiralty Courts are extended beyond their ancient limits, whereby our property is taken from us without our consent; the trial by jury, in many civil cases, is abolished; enormous forfeitures are incurred for slight offences; vexatious informers are exempted from paying damages, to which they are justly liable, and oppressive security is required from owners before they are allowed to defend their right.

Both Houses of Parliament have resolved, that Colonists may be tried in England for offences alleged to have been committed in America, by virtue of a Statute passed in the thirty-fifth year of Henry the Eighth, and, in consequence thereof, attempts have been made to enforce that Statute.

A Statute was passed in the twelfth year of your Majesty's Reign, directing that persons charged with committing any offence therein described, in any place out of the Realm, may be indicted and tried for the same in any Shire or County within the Realm, whereby the inhabitants of these Colonies may, in sundry cases, by that Statute made capital, be deprived of a trial by their peers of the vicinage.

In the last sessions of Parliament an Act was passed for blocking up the Harbour of Boston; another empowering the Governour of the Massachusetts Bay to send persons indicted for murder in that Province, to another Colony, or even to Great Britain, for trial, whereby such offenders may escape legal punishment; a third for altering the chartered Constitution of Government in that Province; and a fourth for extending the limits of Quebec, abolishing the English and restoring the French laws, whereby great numbers of British Freemen are subjected to the latter, and establishing an absolute Government and the Roman Catholick Religion throughout those vast regions that border on the Westerly and Northerly boundaries of the free Protestant English settlements; and a fifth, for the better providing suitable Quarters for Officers and Soldiers in his Majesty's service in North America.

To a Sovereign, who glories in the name of Briton, the bare recital of these Acts must, we presume, justify the loyal subjects, who fly to the foot of his Throne, and implore his clemency for protection against them.

From this destructive system of Colony Administration, adopted since the conclusion of the last war, have flowed those distresses, dangers, fears, and jealousies, that over[936]whelm your Majesty's dutiful Colonists with affliction; and we defy our most subtle and inveterate enemies to trace the unhappy differences between Great Britain and these Colonies, from an earlier period, or from other causes than we have assigned. Had they proceeded on our part from a restless levity of temper, unjust impulses of ambition, or artful suggestions of seditious persons, we should merit the opprobrious terms frequently bestowed upon us by those we revere. But so far from promoting innovations, we have only opposed them; and can be charged with no offence, unless it be one to receive injuries and be sensible of them.

Had our Creator been pleased to give us existence in a land of slavery, the sense of our condition might have been mitigated by ignorance and habit. But, thanks be to his adorable goodness, we were born the heirs of freedom, and ever enjoyed our right under the auspices of your Royal ancestors, whose family was seated on the British Throne to rescue and secure a pious and gallant Nation from the Popery and despotism of a superstitious and inexorable tyrant. Your Majesty, we are confident, justly rejoices that your title to the Crown is thus founded on the title of your people to liberty; and, therefore, we doubt not but your royal wisdom must approve the sensibility that teaches your subjects anxiously to guard the blessing they received from Divine Providence, and thereby to prove the performance of that compact which elevated the illustrious House of Brunswick to the imperial dignity it now possesses.

The apprehension of being degraded into a state of servitude, from the pre-eminent rank of English freemen, while our minds retain the strongest love of liberty, and clearly foresee the miseries preparing for us and our posterity, excites emotions in our breats which, though we cannot describe, we should not wish to conceal. Feeling as men, and thinking as subjects, in the manner we do, silence would be disloyalty. By giving this faithful information, we do all in our power to promote the great objects of your Royal cares, the tranquillity of your Government, and the welfare of your people.

Duty to your Majesty, and regard for the preservation of ourselves and our posterity, the primary obligations of nature and of society, command us to entreat your Royal attention; and, as your Majesty enjoys the signal distinction of reigning over freemen, we apprehend the language of freemen cannot be displeasing. Your Royal indignation, we hope, will rather fall on those designing and dangerous men, who, daringly interposing themselves between your Royal person and your faithful subjects, and for several years past incessantly employed to dissolve the bonds of society, by abusing your Majesty's authority, misrepresenting your American subjects, and prosecuting the most desperate and irritating projects of oppression, have at length compelled us, by the force of accumulated injuries, too severe to be any longer tolerable, to disturb your Majesty's repose by our complaints.

These sentiments are extorted from hearts that much more willingly would bleed in your Majesty's service. Yet, so greatly have we been misrepresented, that a necessity has been alleged of taking our property from us without our consent, "to defray the charge of the administration of justice, the support of Civil Government, and the defence, protection, and security of the Colonies." But we beg leave to assure your Majesty that such provision has been and will be made for defraying the two first artiticles, as has been and shall be judged by the Legislatures of the several Colonies just and suitable to their respective circumstances; and, for the defence, protection, and security of the Colonies, their Militias, if properly regulated, as they earnestly desire may immediately be done, would be fully sufficient, at least in times of peace; and, in case of war, your faithful Colonists will be ready and willing, as they ever have been, when constitutionally required, to demonstrate their loyalty to your Majesty, by exerting their most strenuous efforts in granting supplies and raising forces.[1]

Yielding to no British subjects in affectionate attach-

  1. An Estimate of the number of Souls in the following Provinces, made in Congress, September, 1774:

    In Massachusetts 400,000; New-Hampshire 150,000; Rhode-Island 59,678; Connecticut 192,000; New-York 250,000; New-Jersey 130,000; Pennsylvania, including the Lower Counties, 350,000; Maryland 320,000; Virginia 650,000; North Carolina 300,000; South Carolina 225,000. Total 3,026,678.