Page images
PDF

agreed to send delegates to the Congress were twelve; namely, the four New England States and the two Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. In all these the mode of appointing the delegates was by no means the same. Thus in Massachusetts they were appointed by the legitimate Assembly just before its Dissolution, and with a race for time against the Governor. In Virginia they owed their nomination to a new House of Burgesses elected for that object without the Governor's authority, and bearing the name of a Convention. In two or three other provinces the vote of a Committee , or even the cry of a multitude, was deemed sufficient.* Nor was the number of the delegates uniform; it varied in the several Colonies from eight to two. This disparity, however, did not affect the votes, since it was agreed that each Colony should have oue vote, whatever might be the number of its deputies. In the directions and instructions which each Colony gave its representatives on this occasion there was also much variety; some being couched in moderate, some in violent, others again in vague and general, terms.

When fully assembled the members of Congress amounted to fifty-five. Most of them were lawyers. On the 4th of September nearly all appeared in Philadelphia. Next day they met for public business at the Carpenters' Hall; and as their first step they unanimously chose for President Peyton .Randolph, of Virginia, the late Speaker of the House of Burgesses. The Virginian deputies indeed, among whom were Henry and Washington, seem to have been much superior to their brethren from the other provinces. Thus speaks of them a gentleman of Philadelphia: "There are some fine fellows come from Virginia, .but they "are very high. The Bostonians are mere milksops to them.

• The latter was the case in New York where, as Chief Justice Marshall says, "it is probable that no legislative act authorizing an election to "Congress could have been obtained." Yet the members thus chosen contrary to law "were very readily received into Congress." (Life of Washington, note to vol. 11. p. 157. cd. 1805.)

1774.

TWO PARTIES IN PRESENCE.

16

"We understand they are the capital men of their Colony "both in fortune and understanding."*

Having selected their President, the Congress next determined that their deliberations should take place with closed doors, and that their proceedings, except such as they might themselves choose to publish, should be kept inviolably secret. By this system they added greatly to the effect of their final measures, and bore on all public occasions the appearance of entire concord and undivided vigour; while on the contrary, if we may trust the disclosures of one of their own members, Mr. Joseph Galloway, long irresolution and numerous controversies had prevailed among them. It is clear indeed that at this period in America there were even on the patriotic side two opposite parties in presence. The first, and as I believe by far the smaller, though comprising a large part of Virginia and nearly the whole of Massachusetts, was already ripe for civil war. To the other party belonged such men as Mr. Dickinson of Pennsylvania, the author of the "Farmer's Letters." These men felt as yet no disaffection to the Throne, no enmity to England; they had hitherto, in their own opinion and intention, opposed only her encroachments but not her just authority; and while firmly determined to have redress for their grievances, they were no less firmly determined to uphold their connexion. — An Englishman viewing these things after the event cannot but observe with pain, and also in a national sense with self-reproach, how strong had been, and was still, the tie of duty and affection which (always excepting Massachusetts) bound the Colonies to England. During the Session and from the seat of the first Congress we find an American statesman and patriot, as yet a friend to the mother country, but afterwards Adjutant General to Washington, write as follows to Lord Dartmouth: "Believe me, my Lord, no King ever had more

* Life and Correspondence of President Reed, by his grandson William Reed, vol. i. p. 75., an authentic and important contribution to general history.

"loyal subjects, or any country more affectionate Colonists, "than the Americans Were. I who am but a young man well "remember when the King was always mentioned with a "respect approaching to adoration; and to be an English"man was alone a sufficient recommendation for any office "of friendship or civility. But I confess with the greatest "concern that these happy days seem passing swiftly away; "and unless some scheme of accommodation can be speedily "formed the affection of the Colonists will be irrecoverably "lost."*

In the further course of this General Congress the extreme Anti- English party gave way to the less forward. They wisely felt that all their hopes depended on united action, and determined not indeed to relinquish but postpone their ulterior views. By their concessions the measures of the Congress — all apparently unanimous — were upon the whole marked by moderation, combined with dignity and firmness. They indeed go the length of approving in word the Resolves of the Suffolk County meeting, but themselves avoided the violence which that meeting had displayed. They drew up an able Declaration of Rights, claiming for themselves all the liberties of Englishmen, which they said they had neither surrendered, forfeited, nor lost, by emigration. From these premises they deduced that several recent Acts of Parliament, and more especially those of the last Session against the province of Massachusetts , were violations of their rights, and that the repeal of such Acts was essential to the restoration of harmony between Great Britain and her Colonies. As practical means to this end the Congress passed Resolutions to suspend all imports, or use of imports, from Great Britain or Ireland, or any of their dependencies, after the first day of December next, and all exports to those countries after the 10th of September in the year ensuing, unless American grievances should be redressed before that time. An Association to carry out these Resolutions was then formed and subscribed

* Mr. Reed to the Earl of Dartmouth, Sept. 25. 1774.

[ocr errors]

1774.

PUBLIC FEELING IN CANADA.

17

by every Member present; and with almost equal ardour was that Association as soon as known approved and joined throughout the twelve Colonies.

In the Resolutions then published, and thus forbidding exports to Great Britain or Ireland, there appear these words, strangely devoid of eongruity: "except rice to "Europe." But this interpolation was inserted to gratify the delegates from Carolina, who otherwise had threatened to secede. Such was the cautious regard to local interests required at this period to secure a seeming unanimity.

The Congress likewise published several Addresses, as one to the people of Great Britain, another to the people of Canada, and a Petition to the King. The preparation of each of these state-papers had been referred to a small Committee, but, as was commonly thought, the Address to the English people was composed by Mr. John Jay of New York, and the Petition to the King by Mr. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. The Address to the people of Canada, though like the rest by no means wanting in eloquence, displayed much misapprehension as to the feeling in that country. By the Quebec Act of last Session the administration of the province had been vested in a Governor and Council nominated by the Crown; and the Trial by Jury though granted in criminal was withheld in civil cases. In the British Parliament the fervid Opposition orators — as Dunning and Chatham — had denounced these provisions in the strongest terms as robbing British subjects of their British rights. Yet in whom at that period could a right of election have been safely vested? In the English Protestants still so few in numbers? Or in the French Roman Catholics still so recent in allegiance? Above all it was not considered that the mass of the people in Canada born and bred under the old French civil laws were accustomed to no other, and according to the evidence produced at the Bar of the House of Commons were desirous of no other.* Such

* See Pari. Hist. vol. xvii. p. 1367, &c. Thus, for instance, in the Mahon, History. VI. 2

evidence, though resting on experienced and respectable authority, was overlooked in the American Congress as it had been by the Opposition in the British Parliament. It was imagined that the Canadians were secretly pining and dissatisfied at the acts of the British Government, — an idea wholly erroneous, which caused at this time a fruitless Address, and after the war had commenced a baffled expedition.

The Congress having completed the business before them passed a Resolution for convening another Congress on the 10th of May in the ensuing year, and then on the 26th of October quietly dissolved themselves. — Even while their sittings still continued the breach in Massachusetts between the administration and the people far from closing had grown wider. The Governor had issued Writs for a new Assembly to meet at Salem in the beginning of October. But finding the resignations in his new Council so many that the Council had no longer the legal numbers to do business, he changed his purpose, and issued a Proclamation to countermand his Writs. That Proclamation was* treated by the patriots as so much waste paper. In open defiance of it they met at Salem, from whence next day they adjourned to Concord, an inland town still further removed from the Governor's control. There they voted themselves a provincial Congress, and began to administer the affairs of the Colony as though they had been legally convened. They entrusted the principal power to a select body of their own Members to be called the "Committee of Safety," a pre

examination of General Carleton who had commanded in the province:

"Mr. Mackworth. Did you find the Canadians disapprove the Trial by "Jury? (in civil cases.)

"General Carleton. Very much. They have often said to me that they "thought it very extraordinary that English gentlemen should think their "property safer in the determination of tailors, shoemakers, mixed with "people in trade, than in that of the Judges.

"Lord North. Did they express wishes of having an Assembly?

"General Carleton. Much the contrary. In the conversations I have "had with them they have all said that when they found what disputes the "other Colonies had with the Crown upon account of Assemblies they "would much rather be without them."

« PreviousContinue »