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vote on any such question, as they are interested persons.'
The moment when this was pronounced, it flew like an electric stroke through every countenance in the room, for the gentleman who made the motion held as high an office under the old government as I did under the new, and many other members present held offices under the royal government
This whole scene was a comedy to Charles Thomson, whose countenance was in raptures all the time. When all was over, he told me he had been highly delighted with it, because he had been witness to many of their conversations, in which they had endeavored to excite and propagate prejudices against
He says that in May there were continued altercations in Congress over General Wooster, Commodore Hopkins and a Mr. Wrixon and that “[J] These three consumed an immense quantity of time, and kept up the passions of the parties to a great height. One design was to divert us from our main object.”
The “main object " was a declaration of independence or its equivalent.
As early as January 9th, as shown by the Diary of Richard Smith : “ Wilson moved and was strongly supported that the Congress may expressly declare to their Constituents and the World their present Intentions respecting an Independency, observing that the Kings Speech directly charged Us with that Design, he was opposed but Friday was fixed for going into that Affair. Several Members said that if a Foreign Force shall be sent here, they are willing to declare the Colonies in a State of Independent Sovereignity.”
Of this motion, Samuel Adams writes, to John Adams, who, as we have seen, was then on leave of absence : “[SA] The Motion alarmd me
me — I thought Congress had already been explicit enough and was apprehensive that we might get ourselves on dangerous Ground Some of us prevaild so far as to have the Matter postpond, but could not prevent the assigning a Day to consider it — I may perhaps have been wrong in
opposing this Motion, and I ought the rather to suspect it, because the Majority of your Colony as well as of the Congress were of a different Mind [.]”
The Diary of Richard Smith shows also (under the following dates): “[January 24th] most of the Day was spent on a Proposal to address the People of America our Constituents deducing the Controversy ab Initio and informing them of our Transactions and of the present State of Affairs, much was said about Independency and the Mode and Propriety of stating our Dependance on the King, a Com was appointed to draw the Address.” “[February 13th] Wilson brought in the Draught of an Address to our Constituents which was very long, badly written and full against Independency [.]” “[February 16th] Wyth also offered Propositions whereof the first was that the Colonies have a Right to contract Alliances with Foreign Powers, an Objection being offered that this was Independency there ensued much Argument upon that Ground
. “[February 21st] W Livingston moved that the Thanks of the Congress be given to D! Smith for his Oration on Gen. Montgomery and that he be desired to make it public, this was objected to for several Reasons the chief was that the D: declared the
Sentiments of the Congress to continue in a Dependency on G Britain which Doctrine this Congress cannot now approve, Principal Speakers for the Motion Duane, Wilson, Willing, against it Chase, John Adams, Wyth E Rutledge, Wolcott, Sherman at length M! Livingston withdrew his Motion.”
[February 29th] 4 Hours were spent in Grand Com on Trade without any Conclusion ... the Points now agitated were the Expediency and Probability of contracting foreign Commercial Alliances and chiefly with France and Spain, and the Advantages and Disadvantages of attempting to carry on Trade in our present Circumstances, much was said about declaring our Independency on G Britain when it appeared that 5 or 6 Colonies have instructed their Delegates not to agree to an Independency till they, the Principals are consulted ..."
Wythe, during the discussions, sometime before March ist, as shown by John Adams' debates, declared: “[J] If we should offer our trade to the Court of France, would they take notice of it any more than if Bristol or Liverpool should offer theirs, while we profess to be subjects ? No. We must declare ourselves a free people.”
Reed writes, from Philadelphia, to Pettit, March 3d: "[U] I look upon separation from the Mother Country as a certain event, though we are not yet so familiarized to the idea as thoroughly to approve it . . . The Congress are paving the way to a Declaration of Independence, but I believe will not make it until the minds of the people are better prepared for it than as yet they are.”
The important entries on the subject in the Diary of Richard Smith during this month are as follows: “[March 9th] Instruc[tions for the Commissioners] going to Canada ... took up 3 or 4 Hours . . . that Part recommend'g to them (to] form a Constitution and Governm! for themselves without Limitation [of] Time which Jay and others said was an Independency and there was much Argum! on this Ground [.]” “[March 22d] Wyth reported the Preamble about Privateering, he and Lee moved an Amend! wherein the King was made the Author of our Miseries instead of the Ministry, it was opposed on Supposition that this was effectually severing the King from Us forever and ably debated for 4 Hours when Maryland interposed its Veto and put it off till Tomorrow, Chief Speakers for the Amend! Lee, Chase, Sergeant, Harrison, against it Jay, Wilson, Johnson.”
On the 23d (of March), John Adams, in his letter to Gates, writes: "[NY] I agree
that in Politicks the Middle Way is none at all . . . We have hitherto conducted half a War, acted upon the Line of Defence &c &c — But you will see by tomorrows Paper, that for the future We are likely to wage three Quarters of a War.
The Continental Ships of War, and Provincial Ships of War, and Letters of Mark and Privateers are permitted to cruise upon British Property, wherever found on the Ocean. This is not Independency you know, nothing like it. If a Post or two more, should bring you unlimited latitude of Trade to all Nations, and a polite Invitation to all nations, to trade with you, take care that you dont call it, or think it Independency.
No such Matter — Independency is an Hobgoblin, of so frightfull Mein, that it would throw a delicate Person into Fits to look it in the Face.”
On April 12th, he sends an epistle to his wife in which we read: “[J] The ports are opened wide enough at last, and privateers are allowed to prey upon British trade. This is not independency, you know.
What is? Why, government in every colony, a confederation among them all, and treaties with foreign nations to acknowledge us a sovereign State, and all that.”
A letter from him dated two days later 116 to declarations of independency, be patient. Read our privateering laws and our commercial laws. What signifies a word ?
Had the telegraph then threaded the country as now, he would already have known, by the morning of the 13th, that, while he was writing his wife, North Carolina was, as we have seen, empowering her “Delegates to concur with the Delegates of the other Colonies in declaring Independency .
Less than a month later (May ioth), Congress took into consideration and adopted a resolution“[J] brought before the Committee of the whole house, in concert between ” R. H. Lee and John Adams, which the latter considered “[J] an epocha, a decisive event.” 117
The words of the resolution, as given in the Journal, were: “That it be recommended to the respective Assemblies and conventions of the united colonies where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs have been hitherto established to adopt such government as shall in the opinion of the representatives of the