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This Day In Founding Fathers History – 13 February 2013

On this day in 1776, an address had been drafted by committee and was presented to the Continental Congress:

To the Inhabitants of the Colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, from their Delegates in Congress.

Friends and Countrymen.

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History, we believe, cannot furnish an Example of a Trust, higher and more important than that, which we have received from your Hands. It comprehends in it every Thing that can rouse the Attention and interest the Passions of a People, who will not reflect Disgrace upon their Ancestors nor degrade themselves, nor transmit Infamy to their Descendants. It is committed to us at a Time when every Thing dear and valuable to such a People is in imminent Danger. This Danger arises from those, whom we have been accustomed to consider as our Friends; who really were so, while they continued friendly to themselves; and who will again be so, when they shall return to a just Sense of their own Interests. The Calamities, which threaten us, would be attended with the total Loss of those Constitutions, formed upon the venerable Model of British Liberty, which have been long our Pride and Felicity. To avert those Calamities we are under the disagreeable Necessity of making temporary Deviations from those Constitutions.

*      *      *

That all Power was originally in the People--that all the Powers of Government are derived from them--that all Power, which they have not disposed of, still continues theirs--are Maxims of the English Constitution, which, we presume, will not be disputed. The Share of Power, which the King derives from the People, or, in other Words, the Prerogative of the Crown, is well known and precisely ascertained: It is the same in Great Britain and in the Colonies. The Share of Power, which the House of Commons derives from the People, is likewise well known: The Manner in which it is conveyed is by Election. But the House of Commons is not elected by the Colonists; and therefore, from them that Body can derive no Authority.

*      *      *

From this Root of Bitterness numerous are the Branches of Oppression that have sprung. Your most undoubted and highest-priz'd Rights have been invaded: Heavy and unnecessary Burthens have been imposed on you: Your Interests have been neglected, and sometimes wantonly sacrificed to the Interests, and even to the Caprice of others. When you felt, for your Enemies have not yet made any Laws to divest you of feeling, Uneasiness under your Greivances, and expressed it in the natural Tone of Complaint; your Murmurs were considered and treated as the Language of Faction, and your Uneasiness was ascribed to a restive Disposition, impatient of Controul.

*      *      *

Our Troops are animated with the Love of Freedom. They have fought and bled and conquered in the Discharge of their Duty as good Citizens as well as brave Soldiers. Regardless of the Inclemency of the Seasons, and of the Length and Fatigue of the March, they go, with Cheerfulness, wherever the Cause of Liberty and their Country requires their Service. We confess that they have not the Advantages arising from Experience and Discipline: But Facts have shewn, that native Courage warmed with Patriotism, is sufficient to counterbalance these Advantages. The Experience and Discipline of our Troops will daily increase: Their Patriotism will receive no Diminution: The longer those, who have forced us into this War, oblige us to continue it, the more formidable we shall become.

*      *      *

Let neither our Enemies nor our Friends make improper Inferences from the Solicitude, which we have discovered to remove the Imputation of aiming to establish an independent Empire. Though an independent Empire is not our Wish; it may--let your Oppressors attend--it may be the Fate of our Countrymen and ourselves. It is in the Power of your Enemies to render Independency or Slavery your and our Alternative. Should we--will you, in such an Event, hesitate a Moment about the Choice? Let those, who drive us to it, answer to their King and to their Country for the Consequences. We are desirous to continue Subjects: But we are determined to continue Freemen. We shall deem ourselves bound to renounce; and, we hope, you will follow our Example in renouncing the former Character whenever it shall become incompatible with the latter.

While we shall be continued by you in the very important Trust, which you have committed to us, we shall keep our Eyes constantly and steadily fixed upon the Grand Object of the Union of the Co1onies--the Re-establishment and Security of their constitutional Rights. Every Measure that we employ shall be directed to the Attainment of this great End: No Measure, necessary, in our Opinion, for attaining it, shall be declined. If any such Measure should, against our principal Intention, draw the Colonies into Engagements that may suspend or dissolve their Union with their fellow-Subjects in Great Britain, we shall lament the Effect; but shall hold ourselves justified in adopting the Measure. That the Colonies may continue connected, as they have been, with Britain. is our second Wish: Our first is--That America may be free. 1

1 “An Address to the Inhabitants of the Colonies (1776) – James Wilson, Collected Works of James Wilson, vol. 1,” The Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org