Suffolk Resolves

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Suffolk Resolves  (1774) 
The Suffolk Resolves was a declaration made in September, 1774, by the leaders of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, of which Boston is the major city. The Resolves were recognized by statesman Edmund Burke as a major development in colonial animosity leading to adoption of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776, and he urged British conciliation with the American colonies, to little effect.

Resolved by the Continental Congress

Saturday, September 17, 1774, A. M.

Whereas the power but not the justice, the vengeance but not the wisdom of Great-Britain, which of old persecuted, scourged, and exiled our fugitive parents from their native shores, now pursues us, their guiltless children, with unrelenting severity: And whereas, this, then savage and uncultivated desart, was purchased by the toil and treasure, or acquired by the blood and valor of those our venerable progenitors; to us they bequeathed the dearbought inheritance, to our care and protection they consigned it, and the most sacred obligations are upon us to transmit the glorious purchase, unfettered by power, unclogged with shackles, to our innocent and beloved offspring. On the fortitude, on the wisdom and on the exertions of this important day, is suspended the fate of this new world, and of unborn millions. If a boundless extent of continent, swarming with millions, will tamely submit to live, move and have their being at the arbitrary will of a licentious minister, they basely yield to voluntary slavery, and future generations shall load their memories with incessant execrations.—On the other hand, if we arrest the hand which would ransack our pockets, if we disarm the parricide which points the dagger to our bosoms, if we nobly defeat that fatal edict which proclaims a power to frame laws for us in all cases whatsoever, thereby entailing the endless and numberless curses of slavery upon us, our heirs and their heirs forever; if we successfully resist that unparalleled usurpation of unconstitutional power, whereby our capital is robbed of the means of life; whereby the streets of Boston are thronged with military executioners; whereby our coasts are lined and harbours crouded with ships of war; whereby the charter of the colony, that sacred barrier against the encroachments of tyranny, is mutilated and, in effect, annihilated; whereby a murderous law is framed to shelter villains from the hands of justice; whereby the unalienable and inestimable inheritance, which we derived from nature, the constitution of Britain, and the privileges warranted to us in the charter of the province, is totally wrecked, annulled, and vacated, posterity will acknowledge that virtue which preserved them free and happy; and while we enjoy the rewards and blessings of the faithful, the torrent of panegyrists will roll our reputations to that latest period, when the streams of time shall be absorbed in the abyss of eternity.—Therefore, we have resolved, and do resolve,

  1. That whereas his majesty, George the Third, is the rightful successor to the throne of Great-Britain, and justly entitled to the allegiance of the British realm, and agreeable to compact, of the English colonies in America--therefore, we, the heirs and successors of the first planters of this colony, do cheerfully acknowledge the said George the Third to be our rightful sovereign, and that said covenant is the tenure and claim on which are founded our allegiance and submission.
  2. That it is an indispensable duty which we owe to God, our country, ourselves and posterity, by all lawful ways and means in our power to maintain, defend and preserve those civil and religious rights and liberties, for which many of our fathers fought, bled and died, and to hand them down entire to future generations.
  3. That the late acts of the British parliament for blocking up the harbour of Boston, for altering the established form of government in this colony, and for screening the most flagitious violators of the laws of the province from a legal trial, are gross infractions of those rights to which we are justly entitled by the lasws laws of nature, the British constitution, and the charter of the province.
  4. That no obedience is due from this province to either or any part of the acts above-mentioned, but that they be rejected as the attempts of a wicked administration to enslave America.
  5. That so long as the justices of our superior court of judicature, court of assize, &c. and inferior court of common pleas in this county are appointed, or hold their places, by any other tenure than that which the charter and the laws of the province direct, they must be considered as under undue influence, and are therefore unconstitutional officers, and, as such, no regard ought to be paid to them by the people of this county.
  6. That if the justices of the superior court of judicature, assize, &c. justices of the court of common pleas, or of the general sessions of the peace, shall sit and act during their present disqualified state, this county will support, and bear harmless, all sheriffs and their deputies, constables, jurors and other officers who shall refuse to carry into execution the orders of said courts; and, as far as possible, to prevent the many inconveniencies which must be occasioned by a suspension of the courts of justice, we do most earnestly recommend it to all creditors, that they shew all reasonable and even generous forbearance to their debtors; and to all debtors, to pay their just debts with all possible speed, and if any disputes relative to debts or trespasses shall arise, which cannot be settled by the parties, we recommend it to them to submit all such causes to arbitration; and it is our opinion that the contending parties or either of them, who shall refuse so to do, onght to be considered as co-operating with the enemies of this country.
  7. That it be recommended to the collectors of taxes, constables and all other officers, who have public monies in their hands, to retain the same, and not to make any payment thereof to the provincial county treasurer until the civil government of the province is placed upon a constitutional foundation, or until it shall otherwise be ordered by the proposed provincial Congress.
  8. That the persons who have accepted seats at the council board, by virtue of a mandamus from the King, in conformity to the late act of the British parliament, entitled, an act for the regulating the government of the Massachusetts-Bay, have acted in direct violation of the duty they owe to their country, and have thereby given great and just offence to this people; therefore, resolved, that this county do recommend it to all persons, who have so highly offended by accepting said departments, and have not already publicly resigned their seats at the council board, to make public resignations of their places at said board, on or before the 20th day of this instant, September; and that all persons refusing so to do, shall, from and after said day, be considered by this county as obstinate and incorrigible enemies to this country.
  9. That the fortifications begun and now carrying on upon Boston Neck, are justly alarming to this county, and gives us reason to apprehend some hostile intention against that town, more especially as the commander in chief has, in a very extraordinary manner, removed the powder from the magazine at Charlestown, and has also forhidden the keeper of the magazine at Boston, to deliver out to the owners, the powder, which they had lodged in said magazine.
  10. That the late act of parliament for establishing the Roman Catholic religion and the French laws in that extensive country, now called Canada, is dangerous in an extreme degree to the Protestant religion and to the civil rights and liberties of all America; and, therefore, as men and Protestant Christians, we are indispensubly obliged to take all proper measures for our security.
  11. That whereas our enemies have flattered themselves that they shall make an easy prey of this numerous, brave and hardy people, from an apprehension that they are unacquainted with military discipline; we, therefore, for the honour, defence and security of this county and province, advise, as it has been recommended to take away all commissions from the officers of the militia, that those who now hold commissions, or such other persons, be elected in each town as officers in the militia, as shall be judged of sufficient capacity for that purpose, and who have evidenced themselves the inflexible friends to the rights of the people; and that the inhabitants of those towns and districts, who are qualified, do use their utmost diligence to acquaint themselves with the art of war as soon as possible, and do, for that purpose, appear under arms at least once every week.
  12. That during the present hostile appearances on the part of Great-Britain, notwithstanding the many insults and oppressions which we most sensibly resent, yet, nevertheless, from our affection to his majesty, which we have at all times evidenced, we are determined to act merely upon the defensive, so long as such conduct may be vindicated by reason and the principles of self-preservation, but no longer.
  13. That, as we understand it has been in contemplation to apprehend sundry persons of this county, who have rendered themselves conspicuous in contending for the violated rights and liberties of their countrymen; we do recommend, should such an audacious measure be put in practice, to seize and keep in safe custody, every servant of the present tyrannical and unconstitutional government throughout the county and province, until the persons so apprehended be liberated from the bands of our adversaries, and restored safe and uninjured to their respective friends and families.
  14. That until our rights are fully restored to us, we will, to the utmost of our power, and we recommend the same to the other counties, to withhold all commercial intercourse with Great-Britain, Ireland, and the West-Indies, and abstain from the consumption of British merchandise and manufactures, and especially of East-Indies, and piece goods, with such additions, alterations, and exceptions only, as the General Congress of the colonies may agree to.
  15. That under our present circumstances, it is incumbent on us to encourage arts and manufactures amongst us, by all means in our power, and that be and are hereby appointed a committee1, to consider of the best ways and means to promote and establish the same, and to report to this convention as soon as may be.
  16. That the exigencies of our public affairs, demand that a provincial Congress be called to consult such measures as may be adopted, and vigorously executed by the whole people; and we do recommend it to the several towns in this county, to chuse members for such a provincial Congress, to be holden at Concord, on the second Tuesday of October, next ensuing.
  17. That this county, confiding in the wisdom and integrity of the continental Congress, now sitting at Philadelphia , pay all due respect and submission to such measures as may be recommended by them to the colonies, for the restoration and establishment of our just rights, civil and religious, and for renewing that harmony and union between Great-Britain and the colonies, so earnestly wished for by all good men.
  18. That whereas the universal uneasiness which prevails among all orders of men, arising from the wicked and oppressive measures of the present administration, may influence some unthinking persons to commit outrage upon private property; we would heartily recommend to all persons of this community, not to engage in any routs, riots, or licentious attacks upon the properties of any person whatsoever, as being subversive of all order and government; but, by a steady, manly, uniform, and persevering opposition, to convince our enemies, that in a contest so important, in a cause so solemn, our conduct shall be such as to merit the approbation of the wise, and the admiration of the brave and free of every age and of every country.
  19. That should our enemies, by any sudden manoeuvres, render it necessary to ask the aid and assistance of our brethren in the country, some one of the committee of correspondence, or a select man of such town, or the town adjoining, where such hostilities shall commence, or shall be expected to commence, shall despatch couriers with written messages to the select men, or committees of correspondence, of the several towns in the vicinity, with a written account of such matter, who shall despatch others to committees more remote, until proper and sufficient assistance be obtained, and that the expense of said couriers be defrayed by the county, until it shall be otherwise ordered by the provincial Congress.

At a meeting of delegates from the several towns and districts in the county of Suffolk, held at Milton, on Friday, the 9th day of September, 1774--Voted,

That Dr. Joseph Warren, of Boston, &c. be a committee2 to wait on his excellency the governor, to inform him, that this county are alarmed at the fortifications making on Boston Neck, and to remonstrate against the same, and the repeated insults offered by the soldiery, to persons passing and repassing into that town, and to confer with him upon those subjects.

Attest, William Thompson, Clerk.

"To his excellency Thomas Gage, Esq. captain-general, and commander in chief of his majesty's province of Massachusetts-Bay.

"May it please your excellency,

"The county of Suffolk, being greatly, and, in their opinion, justly alarmed at the formidable appearances of hostility, now threatening his majesty's good subjects of this county, and more particularly of the town of Boston, the loyal and faithful capital of this province, beg leave to address your excellency, and represent, that the apprehensions of the people are more particularly encreased by the dangerous design, now carrying into execution, of repairing and manning the fortifications at the south entrance of the town of Boston, which, when completed, may, at any time, be improved to aggravate the misereis of that already impoverished and distressed city, by intercepting the wonted and necessary intercourse between the town and country, and compel the wretched inhabitants to the most ignominious state of humiliation and vassalage, by depriving them of the necessary supplies of provision, for which they are chiefly dependant on that communication. We ahve been informed, that your excellency, in consequence of the spplication of the select men of Boston, has, indeed, disavowed any intention to injure the town in your present manoeuvres, and expressed your purpose to be for the security of the troops and his majesty's subjects in the town, we are therefore at a loss to guess, may it please your excellency, from whence your want of confidence in the loyal and orderly people of this vicinity could originate; a measure, so formidable, carried into execution from a pre-conceived though causeless jealousy of the insecurity of his majesty's troops and subjects in the town, deeply wounds the loyalty, and is an additional injury to the faithful subjects of this county, and affords them a strong motive for this application. We therefore intreat your excellency to desist from your design, assuring your excellency, that the people of this county, are by no means disposed to injure his majesty's troops; they think themselves aggrieved and oppressed by the late acts of parliament, and are resolved, by Divine assistance, never to submit to them, but have no inclination to commence a war with his majesty's troops, and beg leave to observe to your excellency, that the ferment now excited in the minds of the people, is occasioned by some late transactions, by seizing the powder in the arsenal at Charlestown; by withholding the powder lodged in the magazine of the town of Boston, from the legal proprietors; insulting, beating, and abusing passengers to and from the town by the soldiery, in which they have been encouraged by some of their officers; putting the people in fear, and menacing them in their nightly patrole into the neighbouring towns, and more particularly by the fortifying the sole avenue by land to the town of Boston.

"In duty therefore to his majesty and to your excellency, and for the restoration of order and security to this county, we the delegates from the severla towns in this county, being commissioned for this purpose, beg your excellency's attention to this our humble and faithful address, assuring you, that nothing less than an immediate removal of the ordnance, and restoring the entrance into the town to its former state, and an effectual stop of all insults and abuses in future, can place the inhabitants of this county in that state of peace and tranquillity, in which every free subject ought to be."

His excellency was waited on to know if he would receive the committee with the above written address, but desiring he might have a copy of it in a private way, that so when he received it from the committee, he might have an answer prepared for them, he was accordingly furnished with a copy. His excellency then declared, that he would receive the committee on Monday, at 12 o'clock.

The Congress, taking the foregoing into consideration,

Resolved unan, That this assembly deeply feels the suffering of their countrymen in the Massachusetts-Bay, under the operation of the late unjust, cruel, and oppressive acts of the British Parliament--that they most thoroughly approve the wisdom and fortitude, with which opposition to these wicked ministerial measures has hitherto been conducted, and they earnestly recommend to their brethren, a perseverance in the same firm and temperate conduct as expressed in the resolutions determined upon, at a [late] meeting of the delegates for the county of Suffolk, on Tuesday, the 6th instant, trusting that the effect[s] of the united efforts of North America in their behalf, will carry such conviction to the British nation, of the unwise, unjust, and ruinous policy of the present administration, as quickly to introduce better men and wiser measures Resolved unan, That contributions from all the colonies for supplying the necessities, and alleviating the distresses of our brethren at Boston, ought to be continued, in such manner, and so long as their occasions may require.

Ordered, That a copy of the above resolutions be transmitted to Boston by the president.

Ordered, That these resolutions, together with the resolutions of the County of Suffolk, be published in the newspapers.

The committee appointed to examine & report the several statutes, which affect the trade and manufactures of the colonies, brought in their report, which was ordered to lie on the table.

Adjourned till Monday morning.

Notes:

  1. The names of those appointed on this committee were Joseph Palmer, of Braintree; Ebenezer Dorr, of Roxbury; James Boies and Edward Preston, of Milton, and Nathaniel Guild, of Walpole.
  2. The names of this committee were printed in the newspaper accounts, and were as follows: Dr Benjamin Church, Boston; Deacon Joseph Palmer, Germantown; Capt. Lemuel Robinson, Dorchester; Capt. William Heath, Roxbury; Col. Ebenezer Thayer, Braintree; William Holden, Esq. Dorchester; Col. William Taylor, Milton; Capt. John Homans, Dorchester; Isaac Gardiner, Esq., Brooklyn; Mr. Richard Woodward, Dedham; Capt. Benjamin White, Brooklyn; Dr. Samuel Gardiner, Milton; Nathaniel Summer, Esq., Dedham; Capt Thomas Aspinwall, Brooklyn.
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.