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NEW YORK AND PENNSYLVANIA
ET us take a brief glance at the situation in New
The Provincial Congress of New York convened in the Assembly Chamber of the City Hall in New York City on May 14th. On the 15th, Alsop was present; and, five days later, Francis Lewis appeared.
Jay also had been elected to this Congress and had left' Philadelphia ; and Duane?, who had remained there, sent him a copy of the resolution of Congress of May 15th on the day after its publication, and R. R. Livingston (also at Philadelphia) wrote* him concerning it on the next day.
On the 18th, Duane again wrote him, saying: “[Z] I wrote you, my dear Sir, a hasty scrawl by the post
most important subject. You know the Maryland Instructions and those of Pensylvania. I am greatly in doubt whether either of their Assemblies or Conventions will listen to a recommendation the preamble of which so openly avows independence & separation. The lower Counties (Delaware) will probably adhere to Pensylvania. New Jersey you can gain a good judgment of from the reception this important
Resolution has met with. The orators of Virginia with Col. Henry? at their head are against a Change of Government; the body of the people, Col. Nelson, on whose authority & you have this sent, thinks are for it ... There seems therefore no reason that our Colony shou'd be too precipitate in changing the present mode of Government. I wou'd first be well assured of the opinion of the Inhabitants at large. Let them be rather followed than driven on an occasion of such moment. But, above all, let us see the conduct of the middle Colonies before we come to a decision: It cannot injure us to wait a few weeks: the advantage will be great for this trying question will clearly discover the true principles & the extent of the Union of the Colonies.”
Following (doubtless) — May 24th o — the receipt of this letter, Jay also attended upon the Provincial Congress; and, on the last day of the month, this body called upon the people to elect Deputies to a Convention (to meet, July 9th), authorized to act upon the question of the formation of a new government (for New York).
A letter dated New York City the same day (May 31st) says: “I do not learn that a word has been said in our Convention (Provincial Congress] upon the subject of a Declaration of Independence . .
The “Committee of Mechanics in union”, however, of which Lewis Thibou was chairman, sitting at Mechanic Hall in the same city, two days before (the 29th)," for ourselves and our constituents, hereby publicly declare[d] that, should you, gentlemen of our honourable Provincial Congress, think proper to instruct our most honourable Delegates in Continental Congress to use their utmost
endeavours in that august assembly to cause these United Colonies to become independent of Great Britain, it would give us the highest satisfaction; and we hereby sincerely promise to endeavour to support the same with our lives and fortunes."
This address was answered by the Provincial Congress, June 4th: “We ... cannot presume to instruct the Delegates of this Colony on the momentous question to which your address refers, until we are informed it is brought before the Continental Congress, and the sense of this Colony be required through this Congress.”
Scarcely had the ink dried upon this answer, when — the next day
- a copy of the resolution of the Convention of Virginia of May 15th, directing her Delegates to propose to Congress to declare independence, reached New York and was read in the Provincial Congress. This was two days before R. H. Lee offered in Congress the initial resolution in accordance with these instructions. Francis Lewis, and doubtless Alsop, had departed for Philadelphia -o; but Jay was still present.
Three days later, Philip Livingston" appeared in the Provincial Congress; and, on the roth ", the President, Nathaniel Woodhull, received a letter from Floyd, Wisner, R. R. Livingston and Francis Lewis (who had lately arrived), dated Philadelphia, June 8th, which said: “Your Delegates here expect the question of Independence will very shortly 13 be agitated in Congress. Some of us consider ourselves as bound by our instructions not to vote on that question. The matter will admit of no delay. We have, therefore, sent an express, who will wait your orders.” This was read at once with closed
doors ”, and, in the evening, was discussed — both Jay and Philip Livingston being present.
On the evening of the next day (the 11th), Jay introduced several resolutions (seconded by Henry Remsen), which, after being amended, were adopted. The amended resolutions set forth that the Provincial Congress had no power to take any action whatever on the subject of independence but that it could and did recommend “to all the Freeholders and other Electors in this Colony, at the ensuing election, to be held in pursuance of a Resolution, of the [Provincial] Congress of the 31st day of May last past ... [besides authorizing their Deputies to vote upon the subject of a government] to inform their said Deputies of their sentiments relative to the great question of Independency.
At the same time, Jay and Remsen were directed to draft a reply to the letter of the Delegates. This draft, which seems to have been adopted as drawn, reads as follows: “... the [Provincial] Congress ... are unanimously of opinion that you are not authorized by yourinstructions to give the sense of this colony on the question of declaring it to be, and continue, an independent State ; nor does this Congress incline to instruct you on that point; it being a matter of doubt whether their constituents intended to vest them with a power to deliberate and determine on that question.
Indeed, the majority of this Congress are clearly of the opinion that they have no such authority.”
Francis Lewis, R. R. Livingston, Alsop 4, Floyd and Wisner, in acknowledging it (June 17th 15), in a letter in the handwriting of Livingston, said: “[Al] We rec! great pleasure from knowing the sentim?: of the hon:
the Convention (Provincial Congress], relative to the important subject on which we thought it our duty to ask their opinion. We are very happy in having it in our power to assure them, that we have hitherto taken no steps inconsistent with their intention as expressed in their letter, by which we shall be careful to regulate our future
Conduct. —” Nothing further was done in New York ?? until the meeting of the Convention 18 — at the Court House in White Plains - on July 9th 19.
A letter and a note, as well as a second letter and a copy of the Declaration of Independence, received meanwhile from Philadelphia — were then laid before that body.
The first letter - in the handwriting of Clinton, dated July 2d and signed by Clinton, Wisner, Floyd, Francis Lewis and Alsop - said: “[Al; - ] The important Question of Indepency was agitated yesterday 20 in a Committee of the whole Congress, and this Day will be finally determined in the House — We know the Line of our Conduct on this Occasion ; we have your Instructions, and will faithfully pursue them — New Doubts and Difficulties however will arise should Independency be declared ; and that it will not, we have not the least Reason to expect nor do we believe that (if any) more than one Colony (and the Delegates of that divided) will vote against the Question ; every Colony (ours only excepted) having withdrawn their former Instructions, and either positively instructed their Delegates to vote for Independency; or concur in such Vote if they shall judge it expedient What Part are we to act after