Page:American Historical Review, Volume 12.djvu/544

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
534
C. H. Van Tyne

can be drawn from the Conduct of those who used them."[1] If they were honest it seems axiomatic that the members of the Continental Congress could not regard themselves, or be regarded by the men who read their papers, as the sovereign head of a united people, when they and the people wished to be loyal subjects of the British king, and acknowledged his sovereignty.

In the very "Declaration on Taking Arms,"[2] Congress showed the desire and expectation of reconciliation. Just as non-importation and non-exportation were not illegal in the colonial view, but a peaceful means of forcing the repeal of obnoxious laws,[3] so armies and loyalty were not incompatible.[4] There is no doubt, as Trevelyan suggests, that many American revolutionists were like the Puritan country gentlemen at the beginning of the struggle against Charles I., who held that to bear arms against the Crown was consistent with the duty of a loyal subject; and loyal subjects they were bound to remain.[5] The attitude of men to the warlike measures is perhaps most strikingly shown in the seemingly paradoxical position of Zubly, Georgia's delegate (October 6, 7, 1775), who seconded a motion for preparing a plan for an American fleet, though on the previous day he had said that if any one proposed to break off from Great Britain, he would inform his constituents. "I apprehend", he added, "the man who should propose it would be torn to pieces like DeWitt."[6] The idea of loyalty to the British king and a co-existent desire for an American national state are incompatible, therefore if Congress was doing seemingly sovereign acts, it was merely in the capacity of a party committee[7] leading a rebellious faction in the empire in an attempt to force the concession of its rights. This liberal faction happened to have its greatest strength in America, and the committee therefore acted in the interests of American Whigs only.

But there came a time when the contemplation of a series of

  1. Journals, IV. 137.
  2. Ibid., II. 139, 155. They assure all the subjects of the empire that they "mean not in any wise to affect that union with them". See also David Humphreys, Miscellaneous Works, 271.
  3. Journals, II. 205; IV. 138.
  4. See how the taking of Crown Point and Ticonderoga are explained. Ibid., II. 167, 171. Such was the spirit as to opening ports and allowing privateers. Ibid., 201; IV. 231.
  5. Trevelyan, The American Revolution, part II., vol. I., p. 112.
  6. Journals of Congress, III. 483, 486.
  7. Its work of this kind is best seen in its measures against the Tories, ibid., 280; IV. 25, 49. In this light Congress seems to be only a convention of delegates representing the Whig party in America, not all the American people. The Loyalists held this view throughout the war.