Page:American Archives, Series 4, Volume 2.djvu/1011

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.

The Congress resumed the consideration of the Petition to the King, which being debated by paragraphs, was agreed to, and ordered to be engrossed.

The Order of the Day was postponed, and the Congress adjourned till to-morrow, at nine o'clock.

Thursday, July 6, 1775.

The Congress met according to adjournment.

And resumed the consideration of the Address to the Inhabitants of Great Britain which, after some debate, was recommitted.

The Committee, to whom the Declaration was recommitted, brought in the same, which being read, was taken into consideration, and being debated[1] by paragraphs, was approved, and is as follows:

A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, now met in Congress at Philadelphia, setting forth the causes and necessity of their taking up Arms.

If it was possible for men who exercise their reason, to believe that the divine Author of our existence intended a part of the human race to hold an absolute property in, and an unbounded power over others, marked out by his infinite goodness and wisdom, as the objects of a legal domination never rightfully resistible, however severe and oppressive, the inhabitants of these Colonies might at least require from the Parliament of Great Britain some evidence, that this dreadful authority over them has been granted to that body. But a reverence for our great Creator, principles of humanity, and the dictates of common sense, must convince all those who reflect upon the subject, that Government was instituted to promote the welfare of mankind, and ought to be administered for the attainment of that end. The Legislature of Great Britain, however, stimulated by an inordinate passion for a power, not only unjustifiable, but which they know to be peculiarly reprobated by the very Constitution of that Kingdom, and desperate of success in any mode of contest where regard should be had to truth, law, or right, have at length, deserting those, attempted to effect their cruel and impolitick purpose of enslaving these Colonies by violence, [1866]and have thereby rendered it necessary for us to close with their last appeal from reason to arms. Yet, however blinded that Assembly may be, by their intemperate rage for unlimited domination, so to slight justice and the opinion of mankind, we esteem ourselves bound, by obligations of respect to the rest of the world, to make known the justice of our cause.

Our forefathers, inhabitants of the Island of Great Britain, left their native land, to seek on these shores a residence for civil and religious freedom. At the expense of their blood, at the hazard of their fortunes, without the least charge to the Country from which they removed, by unceasing labour, and an unconquerable spirit, they effected settlements in the distant and inhospitable wilds of America, then filled with numerous and warlike nations of barbarians. Societies or Governments, vested with perfect Legislatures, were formed under Charters from the Crown, and a harmonious intercourse was established between the Colonies and the Kingdom from which they derived their origin. The mutual benefits of this union became in a short time so extraordinary, as to excite astonishment. It is universally confessed, that the amazing increase of the wealth, strength, and navigation of the Realm, arose from this source; and the Minister who so wisely and successfully directed the measures of Great Britain in the late war, publickly declared, that these Colonies enabled her to triumph over her enemies. Towards the conclusion of that war, it pleased our Sovereign to make a change in his Councils. From that fatal moment, the affairs of the British Empire began to fall into confusion, and gradually sliding from the summit of glorious prosperity, to which they had been advanced by the virtues and abilities of one man, are at length distracted by the convulsions that now shake it to its deepest foundations. The new Ministry finding the brave foes of Britain, though frequently defeated, yet still contending, took up the unfortunate idea of granting them a hasty peace, and of then subduing her faithful friends.

These devoted Colonies were judged to be in such a state as to present victories without bloodshed, and all the easy emoluments of statutable plunder. The uninterrupted tenour of their peaceable and respectful behaviour,

  1. FRAGMENT OF A SPEECH MADE IN THE GENERAL CONGRESS OF AMERICA, BY ONE OF THE DELEGATES IN 1775. The greatit God, Sir, who is the searcher of all things, will witness for me, that I have spoken to you from the bottom and purity of my heart. We have heard that this is an arduous consideration. And surely, Sir, we have considered it earnestly. I may think of every gentlemen here, as I know of myself, that, for seven years past, this question has filled the day with anxious thought, and the night with care. The God to whom we appeal must judge us. If the grievances of which we complain did not come upon us unprovoked and unexpected, when our hearts were filled with respectful affection for our Parent State, and with loyalty to our King let slavery, the worst of human ills, be our portion. Nothing less than seven years of insulted complaints and reiterated wrongs, could have shaken such rooted sentiments. Unhappily for us, submission and slavery are the same; and we have only the melancholy alternative left of ruin or resistance. The last potitiont of this Congress to tho King, contained all that our unhappy condition could suggest. It represented our grievances; implored redress, and professed our readiness to contribute for the general want, to the utmost of our abilities, when constitutionally required. The apparently gracious reception it nut with, promised us a. due consideration of it; and that consideration, relief. But, alas! Sir, it seems at that moment tho very reverse was intended. For it now ap. pears, that in a very few days after this specious answer to our Agents, a circular letter was privately written by the s line Secretary of St.ite, to the Governours of the Colonies, before Parliament had been consult;d, pronouncing the Congress illegal, our grhvancjs pretended, and vainly commanding them to prevent our meeting again. Perhaps, Sir, the Ministers of a great Nation never before committed an act of such narrow policy and treacherous duplicity. They found Parliament, however, prepared to support evjry one of their measures. I forbear, Sir, entering into a det.iil of those acts, which, from their atrociousness, must be fM and remembered forever. They are calculated to carry fire and sword, famine and desolation, through these flour, ishing Colonies. They cry, " havock, and let slip the dogs of war." The extremes of rage and revenge, against the worst of enemies, could not dictate measures more desperate and destructive. Thorn are some psoplc who trembln at tho approach of war. They fear that it must put an inevitable stop to the further progress of these Colonies; and ruin irretrievably those benefits, which the industry of centuries has called forth, from this once savage land. I may commend the anxiety of these men, without praising thjir judgment. War, like other evils, is often wholesome. The waters that stagnate corrupt. The storm that works the ocean into rage renders it salutary. Heaven has given us nothing unmixed. The rose is not without the thorn. War calls forth the great virtues and efforts which would sleep in the gentle bosom of peace. Paula sepulta distal inertia eelaia virtut. t In 1774, presented lait Cbriiliuai. It opens resources which would be concealed under the inactivity of tranquil times. It rouses and enlightens. It produces a people of animation, energy, adventure, and greatness. Lot us consult history. Did not the Grecian Republicks prosper amid continual warfare? Their prosperity, their power, their splendour, grew from the all-animating spirit of war. Did not the cottages of shepherds rise into imperial Rome, the mistress of the world, the nurse of heroes, the delight of gods! through the invigorating operation of unceasing wars! Per damna, per coedes, ab ipso duxit opes animumque ferro. How often has Flanders been the theatre of contending powers, conflicting hosts, and blood! yet what country is more flourishing and fertile? Trace back the history of our Parent State. Whether you view her arraying An. gles against Danes; Danes against Sa xons; Saxons against Normans; the Barons against the usurping Princes, or the civil wars of the Red and White Roses, or that between the people and the tyrant Stuart, you see her in a state of almost continual warfare. In almost every reign, to the commencement of that of Henry the VII, her peaceful bosom (in her poet's phrase) was gored with iron war. It was in the peaceful reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Charles II, that she suffered the severest extremities of tyranny and oppression. But amid her civil contentions, she flourished and grew strong. Trained in them, she sent her hardy legions forth, which planted the standard of England upon tho battlements of Paris; extending her commerce and her dominion. " Those noble Eniflufi, ho could entertain With half their forces, the full power of France, Aixl lit another half stniul laughing by, All out of work, and coUl for action." The beautiful fabrick of her constitutional liberty was reared and cemjnted in blood. From this fulness of her strength those scions issued which, taking deep root in this delightful land, have reared their heads, and spread abroad their branches like the cedars of Lebanon. Why fear we, then, to pursue through apparent evil, real good? The war upon which we are to enter is just and necessary. Justiim est brl. /Kin, ubi necessarmm; et pia anna, quibus nulla, nisi in armis, relni. quitur spes. It is to protect these regions, brought to such beauty through the infinite toil and hazard of our fathers and ourselves, from becoming the prey of that more desolating cruel spoiler, than war, pestilence, or famine absolute rule and endless extortion. Our suff;rino-8 have been groat our endurance long. Every effort of pati.'iicj, complaint, and supplication has boen exhausted. They seem only to have hardened the hearts of tho Ministers who oppress us and double our distresses. Lot us, therefore, consult how we shall defend our liberties with dignity and succass. Our Parent State will then think us worthy of her, when she sees that with her liberty we inherit her rigid resolution of maintaining it against all invaders. Let us give her reason to pride herself in the relationship. And thou, great Liberty! intpire our noiils. Mke lives happy in thy pure emlm Or our death floriom in tli) ju defence!