« PreviousContinue »
CHAP. III. it otherwise, we must be dead to every idea of 1774. justice, lost to all feelings of humanity, could
we indulge one thought to seize on wealth, and raise our fortunes on the ruin of our suffering neighbours.” .
About this time rough draughts of the two remaining bills relative to the province, of Massachussetts Bay, as well as that for quartering troops in America, were received in Boston, and circulated through the continent. They served to confirm the wavering, and to render the moderate indignant, while the vio. lent became still more so.
An agreement was framed by the committee of correspondence at Boston, entitled, “a solemn league and covenant,” wherein the subscribers bound themselves in the most solemn manner, and in the presence of God, to suspend all commercial intercourse with Great Britain from the last day of the ensuing month of August, until the Boston port bill and the other late obnoxious laws, should be repealed. They also bound themselves in the same manner, not to consumé, or purchase from any other, any goods whatever, which arrived after the specified time, and to break off all commerce, trade and dealings, with any who did, as well as with the importers of such goods. They renounced in the same manner all intercourse and connexion with those, who should refuse to subscribe to that covenant, or to bind
themselves by some similar agreement; and CHAP.IlI. they annexed to the renunciation of intercourse, 1774. the dangerous penalty of publishing to the world the names of those who should refuse this evidence of their attachment to the rights and interests of their country.
General Gage published against this covenant a strong proclamation, in which it was termed “ an unlawful, hostile, and traitorous combi. nation, contrary to the allegiance due to the king, destructive of the legal authority of parliament, and of the peace, good order, and safety of the community." All persons were warned against incurring the pains and penalties, due to such dangerous offences; and all magistrates charged to apprehend and secure for trial such as should be in any manner guilty of them. But the time when the proclamations of governors were to be attended to had passed away, and the penalties in the power of the committee of correspondence were much more dreaded than those which could be inflicted by the civil magistrate.
In whatever province legislatures were convened, or delegates assembled in convention, resolutions were entered into, manifesting indeed different degrees of resentment, but all concurring in the same great leading principles. It was every where declared that the cause of Boston was the cause of all British America; that the late acts, respecting that devoted town,
CHAP. III. were unjust, tyrannical, and unconstitutional; 1774. that the opposition to this ministerial system
of oppression, ought to be universally and perseveringly maintained, that all intercourse with the parent state ought to be suspended, and domestic manufactures encouraged; and that a general congress should be formed for the purpose of uniting and guiding the councils, and directing the efforts of North America.
The committees of correspondence selected Philadelphia for the place, and the beginning of September for the time, of the meeting of
this important council. September. On the fourth of September, the delegates
from eleven provinces appeared at the place appointed,* and the next day they assembled at the carpenters hall, when Peyton Randolph, late speaker of the house of burgesses of Virginia, was unanimously chosen president. The respective credentials t of the members
* Those of North Carolina did not arrive until the 14th.
+ The members of this congress were, generally, elected by the authority of the colonial legislatures; but in some instances, a different system had been pursued. In New Jersey and Maryland the elections were made by committees chosen in the several counties for that particular purpose; and in New York, where the royal party was very strong, and where it is probable that no legislative act authorizing an election of members to represent that colony in congress could have been obtained, the people themselves assembled in those places where the spirit of opposition to the claims of parliament prevailed, and
were then read and approved; and this august CHAP. III. and patriotic body, having determined that each 1774. colony should have only one vote, whatever might be the number of its deputies; that their deliberations should be with closed doors; and that their proceedings, except such as they might determine to publish, should be kept inviolably secret; entered on the solemn and important duties assigned to them.*
Committees were appointed to state the rights, claimed by the colonies, which had been infringed by acts of the British parliament passed since the year 1763; to prepare a petition to the king, and addresses to the people of Great Britain, to the inhabitants of the province of Quebec, and to the twelve colonies represented in congress.
elected deputies who were very readily received into ; congress.
The powers too, with which the representatives of the several colonies were invested, were not only variously expressed, but were of various extent. Most generally they were authorized to consult and advise on the means most proper to secure the liberties of the colonies, and to restore the harmony formerly subsisting between them and their mother country. In some instances, the powers given appeared to contemplate only such measures as would operate on the commercial connexion between the two countries; in others the discretion of the deputies was unlimited.
* See Note, No. XI. at the end of the volume.
CHAP. III. Resolutions* of the county of Suffolk, in 1774. Massachussetts, of a very animated and com.
prehensive nature, and commending, among other important subjects, a provincial congress, and that the collectors of taxes and all officers who have public monies in their hands, retain the same until the civil government of the province be placed upon a constitutional foundation, or until it shall otherwise be ordered by the provincial congress; having been taken
into consideration, it was unanimously resolved, berio.“ that this assembly deeply feels the suffering
of their countrymen in Massachussetts 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 meeting of the delegates for the county of Suffolk, on tuesday the sixth instant; trusting that the effect 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,
* See Note, No. XII. at the end of the volume.