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for enlistment; and every person under the age of twentyone years, who had enlisted in the army or navy, was, within twenty-four hours thereafter, entitled to his discharge on refunding the amount of money and articles with which he had been supplied. It was, at the same time, recommended to creditors, who had claims against persons in the army or navy for less than thirty-five dollars, not to arrest the debtors until their terms of service had expired.
On the 17th of February, a standing committee of five was appointed for superintending the treasury, and Congress directed the emission of the further sum of four million dollars in bills of credit. On the 27th of February, the middle and southern colonies were divided into two military departments, in the following manner: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the lower counties on Delaware, and Maryland, to constitute one ; Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, to constitute another; the former to be put under the command of a major-general, two brigadiergenerals, and a proper staff; the latter under a major-general, three brigadier-generals, with a suitable staff.
On the 9th of March, it was resolved, that no oath, by way of test, should be exacted of the inhabitants of the colonies by military officers. On the 14th of March, a resolution was passed recommending a general disarming of disaffected persons throughout the culonies. On the 16th of March, the 17th of May following was appointed a day of general humiliation, fasting, and prayer. On the 21st of March, Congress recommended to the several provincial assemblies to exert their utmost endeavors to promote the culture of hemp, fax, and cotton, and the growth of wool, in the United Colonies ; to take the earliest measures for erecting and establishing, in each colony, a society for the improveinent of agriculture, arts, manufactures, and commerce; and forth with to consider of the ways and means of introducing and improving the manufactures of duck, sail-cloth, and steel. On the 23d of March, resolutions were adopted authorizing the fitting out of private armed vessels, to cruise against the enemies of the United Colonies.
On the 1st of April, a resolution was passed for the institution and establishment of a treasury office of accounts, tu be kept in the place where Congress might hold its sessions, and to be under the direction and superintendence of the
standing committee for the treasury. It was resolved, moreover, that an auditor-general, and a competent number of assistants and clerks, should be appointed, for stating, arranging, and keeping of the public accounts. On the 2d of April, the form of a commission for private armed vessels was agreed upon. On the 3d of April, instructions to the commanders of private armed vessels were considered and adopted. They authorized the capture of all ships and other vessels belonging to the inhabitants of Great Britain, on the high seas, or between high-water and low-water marks, except vessels bringing persons who intended to settle and reside in the United Colonies, or conveying arms, ammunition, and warlike stores, for the use of such inhabitants of America as were friendly to the cause of liberty. On the 6th of April, several resolutions of a commercial nature were agreed to, authorizing exportations and importations, with certain exceptions, of the merchandise and products from and to countries other than such as were subject to the king of Great Britain ; and it was recommended to the assemblies of the different colonies that officers should be appointed to superintend the execution of such regulations as might be made concerning trade. On this occasion, the importation of slaves was expressly prohibited. On the 16th of April, it was recommended to the council of safety of Maryland to cause the person and papers of Governor Eden to be seized and secured, in consequence of a belief that he had been carrying on a correspondence with the British ministry highly dangerous to the liberties of America. On the 17th of April
, a bounty of eight dollars was allowed to the owner of every vessel for each able seaman, imported and discharged in American ports, over and above the ship's company. On the 19th of April, letters directed to any general in the Continental service, commanding in a separate department, were allowed to be carried free of postage.
On the 6th of May, it was resolved that ten millions of dollars be raised, for the purpose of carrying on the war, for the year 1776; and measures were taken for treating with the Indians. On the 9th of May, a resolution passed for the cmission of five millions of dollars in bills of credit, in part of the ten millions of dollars voted for the service of the
year 1776. On the 10th of May, it was resolved to recommend 10 the respective assemblies and conventions of the United
Colonies, where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs had been established, to adopt such a government as should, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and of America in general. A preamble to this resolution, agreed to on the 15th of May, stated the intention to be totally to suppress the exercise of every kind of authority under the British crown.
On the 7th of June, certain resolutions respecting independency were moved and seconded. On the 10th of June, it was resolved, that a committee should be appointed to prepare a declaration to the following effect: “ That the United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” On the preceding day, it was determined that the committee for preparing the declaration should consist of five; and they were chosen accordingly, in the following order : Mr. Jefferson, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Sherman, and Mr. R. R. Livingston. On the 11th of June, a resolution was passed to appoint a committee to prepare and digest the form of a Confederation to be entered into between the colonies, and another committee to prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers. On the 12th of June, it was resolved, that a committee of Congress should be appointed, by the name of a board of war and ordnance, to consist of five members. On the 25th of June, a declaration of the deputies of Pennsylvania, met in provincial conference, expressing their willingness to concur in a vote declaring the United Colonies free and independent states, was laid before Congress, and read. On the 28th of June, the comunittee appointed to prepare a declaration of independence brought in a draft, which was read and ordered to lie on the table.
On the 1st of July, a resolution of the Convention of Maryland, passed the 28th of June, authorizing the deputies of that colony to concur in declaring the United Colonies free and independent states, was laid before Congress and read. On the same day, Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the resolution respecting independency. On the 2d of July, a reso
lution declaring the colonies free and independent states, was adopted. A declaration to that effect was, on the same and the following days, taken into further consideration. Finally, on the 4th of July, the Declaration of Independence was agreed to, signed, and directed to be sent to the several assemblies, conventions, and committees, or councils of safety, and to the several commanding officers of the Continental troops, and to be proclaimed in each of the United States, and at the head of the army.
[In the Writings of Thomas JEFFERSON, Vol. I. p. 10, the following
proceedings, on the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, are disclosed:
In Congress, Friday, June 7, 1776. The delegates from Virginia moved, in obedience to instructions from their constituents, that the Congress should declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; that measures should be immediately taken for procuring the assistance of foreign powers, and a confederation be formed to bind the colonies more closely together.
The house being obliged to attend, at that time, to some other business, the proposition was referred to the next day, when the members were ordered to attend punctually at ten o'clock.
SATURDAY, June 8. They proceeded to take it into consideration, and referred it to a committee of the whole, into which they immediately resolved themselves, and passed that day and Monday, the 10th, in debating on the subject.
It was argued by Wilson, Robert R. Livingston, E. Rutledge, Dickinson, and others,
That, though they were friends to the measures themselves, and saw the impossibility that we should ever again be united with Great Britain, yet they were against adopting them at this time:
That the conduct we had formerly observed was wise and proper now, of deferring to take any capital step till the voice of the people drove us into it:
That they were our power, and without them our declarations could not be carried into effect :
That the people of the middle colonies (Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, the Jerseys, and New York) were not yet ripe for bidding adieu to British connection, but that they were fast ripening, and, in a short time, would join in the general voice of America:
That the resolution entered by this house on the 15th of May, for suppressing the exercise of all powers derived from the crown, had shown, by the ferment into which it had thrown these middle colonies, that they had not yet accommodated their minds to a separation from the mothe: country:
That some of them had expressly forbidden their delegates to consent to such a declaration, and others had given no instructions, and consequently no powers to give such consent :
That, if the delegates of any particular colony had no power to declare such colony independent, certain they were, the others could not declare it for them; the colonies being as yet perfectly independent of each other :
That the Assembly of Pennsylvania was now sitting above stairs; their Convention would sit within a few days; the Convention of New York was now sitting; and those of the Jerseys and Delaware counties would meet on the Monday following; and it was probable these bodies would take up the question of independence, and would declare to their delegates the voice of their state:
That, if such a declaration should now be agreed to, these delegates must retire, and possibly their colonies might secede from the Union :
That such a secession would weaken us more than could be compensated by any foreign alliance :
That, in the event of such a division, foreign powers would either refuse to join themselves to our fortunes, or, having us so much in their power as that desperate declaration would place us, they would insist on terms proportionably more hard and prejudicial:
That we had little reason to expect an alliance with those to whom alone, as yet, we had cast our eyes :
That France and Spain had reason to be jealous of that rising power, which would one day certainly strip them of all their American possessions :
That it was more likely they should form a connection with the British court, who, if they should find themselves unable otherwise to extricate themselves from their difficulties, would agree to a partition of our territories, restoring Canada to France, and the Floridas to Spain, to accomplish for themselves a recovery of these colonies :
That it would not be long before we should receive certain information of the disposition of the French court, from the agent whom we had sent to Paris for that purpose :
That, if this disposition should be favorable, by waiting the event of ibe present campaign, which we all hoped would be successful, we should have reason to expect an alliance on better terms :
That this would in fact work no delay of any effectual aid froin such aily, as, from the advance of the season and distance of our situation, it was impossible we could receive any assistance during this campaign:
That it was prudent to fix among ourselves the terms on which we would form alliance, before we declared we would form one at all events :
And that, if these were agreed on, and our declaration of independence ready by the time our ambassador should be prepared to sail, it would be as well as to go into that declaration at this day.
On the other side, it was argued by J. Adams, Lee, Wythe, and others, tnat no gentleman had argued against the policy or the right of separation from Britain, nor had supposed it possible we should ever renew our cunnection; that they had only opposed its being now declared :
That the question was not whether, by a declaration of independence, we should inake ourselves what we are not; but whether we should decare a fact which already exists :
rhat, as to the people or Parliament of England, we had always been independent of them, their restraints on our trade deriving efficacy from VOL. I.