Page:The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, v1.djvu/157
USE OF THE WORD "PEOPLE."
the period of the American Revolution—such as "that people," "that loyal and respectable people," "this enlightened and spirited people," etc., etc. The speakers who made use of this colloquial phraseology concerning the inhabitants of a distant continent, in the freedom of extemporaneous debate, were not framing their ideas with the exactitude of a didactic treatise, and could little have foreseen the extraordinary use to be made of their expressions nearly a century afterward, in sustaining a theory contradictory to history as well as to common sense. It is as if the familiar expressions often employed in our own time, such as "the people of Africa," or "the people of South America," should be cited, by some ingenious theorist of a future generation, as evidence that the subjects of the Khedive and those of the King of Dahomey were but "one people," or that the Peruvians and the Patagonians belonged to the same political community.
Mr. Everett, it is true, quotes two expressions of the Continental Congress to sustain his remarkable proposition that the colonies were "a people." One of these is found in a letter addressed by the Congress to General Gage in October, 1774, remonstrating against the erection of fortifications in Boston, in which they say, "We entreat your Excellency to consider what a tendency this conduct must have to irritate and force a free people, hitherto well disposed to peaceable measures, into hostilities." From this expression Mr. Everett argues that the Congress considered themselves the representatives of "a people." But, by reference to the proceedings of the Congress, he might readily have ascertained that the letter to General Gage was written in behalf of "the town of Boston and Province of Massachusetts Bay," the people of which were "considered by all America as suffering in the common cause for their noble and spirited opposition to oppressive acts of Parliament." The avowed object was "to entreat his Excellency, from the assurance we have of the peaceable disposition of the inhabitants of the town of Boston and of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, to discontinue his fortifications." These were the "people" referred to by the Congress; and the children of the Pilgrims,