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General Congress held at Philadelphia. Previous instructions to some of the deputies. Acts of the Congress. Approbation of the conduct of the province of Massachusett's Bay, and of the late resolutions passed by the county of Suffolk. Resolutions. Declaration of rights. Letter to General Gage. Association. Resolution for a future Congress. Petition to the king. Memorial to the people of Great-Britain. Address to the inhabitants of Canada. Address to the colonics. The Congress breaks up.
URING these transactions
sett's-Bay, the twelve old colonies, including that whole extent of continent which stretches from NovaScotia to Georgia, had appointed deputies to attend the General Congress, which was held at Philadelphia, and opened on Monday the 5th of September, 1774. Such was the unhappy effect of the measures, pursued, perhaps somewhat too avowedly, and for that reason the less wisely, for reducing America by division, that those twelve colonies, clashing in interests, frequently quarrelling about boundaries and many other subjects, differing in manners, customs, religion, and forms of government, with all the local prejudices, jealousies, and aversions incident to neighbouring states, were now led to assemble by their delegates in a general diet, and taught to feel their weight and importance in a common union. Whatever may be the event, it was undoubtedly a dangerous experiment to bring matters to this crisis.
Several of the colonies had given instructions to their deputies previous to their meeting in congress. In general, they contained the strongest professions of loyalty and allegiance; of affection for the mother country; of constitutional de
pendance on her; and of gratitude
state. They totally disclaimed every idea of independence, or of seeking a separation; acknowledged the prerogatives of the crown, and declared their readiness and willingness to support them with life and fortune, so far as they are warranted by the constitution. The Pensylvanians, in particular, declare that they view the present contests with the deepest concern; that perpetual love and union, an interchange of good offices, without the least infraction of mutual rights, ought ever to subsist between the mother country and them.
On the other hand, they were unanimous in declaring, that they never would give up those rights and liberties which, as they said, descended to them from their ancestors, and which, they said, they were bound by all laws, human and divine, to transmit whole and pure to their posterity; that they are entitled to all the rights and liberties of British-born subjects; that the power lately assumed by parliament is unjust, and the only cause of all
the present uneasiness; and that the late acts respecting the capital and province of Massachusett's-Bay, are unconstitutional, oppressive, and dangerous. · [B] 4
The instructions, however, of the several colonies that pursued that mode, differed considerably from each other. In some great violence appeared. Others were more reasonable. In some nothing was spoken of but their grievances. Others proposed likewise terms on their part to be offered to GreatBritain-Such as an obedience to all the trade laws passed, or to be passed, except such as were specified; and the settling an annual revenue on the crown for public purposes, and disposable by parliament. The deputies however were instructed, that in these and all other points, they were to coincide with the majority of the congress. This majority was to be determined by reckoning the colonies, as having each a vote, without regard to the number of deputies which it should send.
The debates and proceedings of the congress were conducted with the greatest secrecy, nor have parts of them yet transpired, but those which they thought proper to lay before the public. The number of delegates amounted to fiftyone, who represented the several English colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusett's-Bay, RhodeIsland, and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the lower counties on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, and South Carolina.
Sept. 17th. of the Congress was The first public act a declaratory resolution expressive of their disposition with respect to the colony of Massachusett's-Bay, and immediately intended to confirm and encourage that people. In this they expressed, in the most
pathetic terms, how deeply they felt the sufferings of their countrymen in that province, under the operation, as they said, of the late unjust, cruel, and oppressive acts of the British parliament; they thoroughly approved of the wisdom and fortitude with which their opposition to these ministerial measures had hitherto been conducted, as well as of the resolutions passed, and measures proposed, by the delegates of the county of Suffolk ; and earnestly recommended a perseverance in the same firm and temperate conduct, according to the determinations of that assembly. This was immediately published, and transmitted to that province, accompanied with an unanimous resolution, That contributions from all the colonies for supplying the necessities, and alleviating the distresses of their brethren at Boston, ought to be continued in such manner, and so long, as their occasions may require.
By the subsequent resolutions of the Congress, they not only formally approve of the opposition made by that province to the late acts; but further declare, that if it should be attempted to carry them into execution by force, all America should support it in that opposition.-That if it be found absolutely necessary to remove the people of Boston into the country, all America should, contribute towards recompensing them for the injury they might thereby sustain.-They recommend to the inhabitants of Massachusett's Bay, to submit to a suspension of the administration of justice, as it cannot be procured in a legal manner under the rules of the charter, until the effects of the application of the Congress for a
repeal of those acts, by which their charter rights are infringed, is known. And that every person who shall accept, or act under, any commission or authority, derived from the late act of parliament, changing the form of government, and violating the charter of that province, ought to be held in detestation, and considered as the wicked tool of that despotism, which is preparing to destroy those rights, which God, nature, and compact, hath given to America. They besides recommended to the people of Boston and Massachusett'sBay, still to conduct themselves peaceably towards the general, and the troops stationed at Boston, so far as it could possibly consist with their immediate safety; but that they should firmly persevere in the defensive line of conduct which they are now pursuing. The latter part of this instruction evidently alluded to and implied an approbation of the late resolutions of the county of Suffolk, relative to the militia, and to the arming of the people in general. The Congress conclude by a resolution, that the transporting, or attempting to transport any person beyond the sea, for the trial of offences committed in America, being against law, will justify, and ought to meet with resistance and reprisal.
These resolutions being passed, the Congress wrote a letter to General Gage, in which, after repeating the complaints which had been before repeatedly made by the town of Boston, and by the dele, gates of different counties in the province of Massachusett's Bay, they declare the determined resolution of the colonies, to unite for the preservation of their common rights,
in opposition to the late acts of pat liament, under the execution of which the unhappy people of that province are oppressed; that, in consequence of their sentiments upon that subject, the colonies had appointed them the guardians of their rights and liberties, and that they felt the deepest concern, that, whilst they were pursuing every dutiful and peaceable measure to procure a cordial and effectual reconciliation between Great Britain and the colonies, his excellency should proceed in a manner that bore so hostile an appearance, and which even those oppressive acts did not warrant. They represented the tendency this conduct must have to irritate and force a people, however well disposed to peaceable measures, into hostilities, which might prevent the endeavours of the Congress to restore a good understanding with the parent state, and involve them in the horrors of a civil war. In order to prevent these evils, and the people from being driven to a state of desperation, being fully persuaded of their pacific disposition towards the king's troops, if they could be assured of their own safety, they intreated, that the general would discontinue the fortifications in Boston, prevent any further invasions of private property, restrain the irregularities of the soldiers, and give orders that the communications between the town' and country should be open, unmolested, and free.
The Congress also published a declaration of rights, to which, they say, the English colonies of NorthAmerica, are entitled, by the immutable laws of nature, the prin ciples of the English constitution, and their several charters or com
pacts. In the first of these are life, liberty, and property, a right to the disposal of any of which, without their consent, they had never ceded to any sovereign power whatever. That their ancestors, at the time of their migration, were entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities, of free and naturalborn subjects; and that by such emigration, they neither forfeited, surrendered, nor lost, any of those rights. They then state, that the foundation of English liberty, and of all free government, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council; and proceed to shew, that as the colonists are not, and, from various causes, cannot be represented in the British parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures, where their right of representation can alone be preserved, in all cases of taxation and internal policy, subject only to the negative of their sovereign, in such manner as had been heretofore used and accustomed.
In order to qualify the extent of this demand of legislative power in their assemblies, which might seem to leave no means of parliamentary nterference for holding the colonies to the mother country, they declare that from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interest of both countries, they chearfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British parliament, as are, bona fide, restrained to the regulation of their external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members, excluding
every idea of taxation, internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects of America, without their consent.
They also resolved, that the colonies are entitled to the common law of England, and, more especially, to the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage. That they are entitled to the benefit of such of the English statutes as existed at the time of their colonization, and which they have by experience found to be applicable to their several local and other circumstances. That they are likewise entitled to all the immunities and privileges, granted and confirmed to them by royal charters, or secured by their several codes of provincial laws. That they have a right to assemble peaceably, consider of their grievances, and petition the king for redress; and that all prosecutions, and, prohibitory proclamations for so doing, are illegal. That the keeping of a standing army, in times of peace, in any colony, without the consent of its legislature, is contrary to law. That it is essential to the English constitution, that the constituent branches of the legisla ture should be independent of each other; that, therefore the exercise of legislative power, by a council appointed during pleasure by the crown, is unconstitutional, and destructive to the freedom of American legislation.
They declared in behalf of them. selves and their constituents, that they claimed, and insisted on the foregoing articles, as their indubit=" able rights and liberties, which could not be legally taken from them, altered, or abridged, by any power whatever, without their own
consent, by their representatives in their several provincial legislatures. They then enumerated the parts, or. the whole, of eleven acts of parliament, which had been passed in the present reign, and which they declared to be infringements and violations of the rights of the colonists; and that the repcal of them was essentially necessary, in order to restore harmony between GreatBritain and them. Among the acts of parliament thus reprobated, was the Quebec bill, which had already been the cause of so much discussion at home, and which they termed, "An act for establishing -the Roman Catholic religion in the province of Quebec, abolishing the equitable system of English laws, and erecting a tyranny there;" to the great danger, (as they asserted) from so total a dissimilarity of religion, law, and government, of the neighbouring British colonies, by the assistance of whose blood and treasure that country was conquered from Francé.
After specifying their rights, and enumerating their grievances, they declared, that, to obtain redress of the latter, which threatened destruction to the lives, liberty, and property of the people of North-America, a non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation, agree ment, would prove the most speedy, effectual, and peaceable measure; they accordingly entered into an association, by which they bound themselves, and of course their constituents, to the strict observance of the following articles-1st. That after the first day of the following December, they would import no British goods or merchandize whatsoever, nor any East-India tea, from any part of the world; nor any of
the products of the British WestIndia islands; nor wines from Madeira, or the Western islands; not foreign indigo.-2. That, after that day, they would wholly discontinue the slave-trade, and nei ther hire vessels, nor sell commodities or manufactures to any concerned in that trade-3. That from the present date, they will use no tea on which a duty had been or shall be paid; nor after the 1st of March ensuing, any EastIndia tea whatever, nor any British goods, imported after the 1st of December, except such as come under the rules and directions which we shall see in the 10th article.--4, By this article, the non-exportation agreement is suspended to the 10th of September, 1775; after which day, if the acts of parliament which they had before recited are not repealed, all exportation is to cease, except that of rice to Europe. -5. The British merchants are exhorted not to ship any goods in violation of this association, ander penalty of their never holding any commercial intercourse with those that act otherwise.-6. Owners of ships are warned to give such orders to their captains, as will effectually prevent their receiving any of those goods that are prohibited.-7. They agree to improve the breed of sheep, and to increase their number, to the greatest possible extent.-8. This article tends to encourage frugality, aconomy, and industry; to promote agriculture, arts, and manufactures; to discountenance all expensive shows, games, and enter- • tainments; to lessen the expences of funerals; to discontinue the giving of gloves and scarfs, and the wearing of any other mourning than a piece of crape or ribbon.