The Declaration of Independence: Its History Chapter 1 1774

The Declaration of Independence: Its History; Chapter 1 Year 1774

Old photo of Independence Hall; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where the Declaration was signed

Old photo of Independence Hall Assembly Room; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where the Declaration was signed

NOTE: There are many greater works on the history of the Declaration of Independence, due to the constraints of the blog format I am sharing this more concise one.

“I have sometimes asked myself whether my country is better for my
having lived at all? I do not know that it is. I have been the
instrument of doing the following things; but they would have been
done by others; some of them perhaps a little better.”
The declaration of independence; Jefferson’s Autobiography

Preface to The Declaration of Independence: Its History

THIS work is offered to the American people not only in the hope that it may be welcomed as a readable and reliable history of the Declaration of Independence but in the hope that it may in some degree tend to keep alive in their hearts the love of Liberty that possessed the [Founding] Fathers.

Benjamin Rush writes, to Rev. Mr. Gordon, at Roxbury, Mass., December 10, 1778: “Put us not off with Great Britain’s acknowledging our independance Alas! the great Ultimatum of our modern patriots. It is liberty alone that can make us happy. And without it the memorable 4th of July 1776 will be execrated by posterity as the day in which pandora’s box was opened in this country. I am impatient to see your history.”

That there are numerous quotations between its covers is due to a belief of the author that the subject called less for his own views than for facts, and also to a belief that the very words afforded the most pleasing presentation.

From some of those whose names have come down to us, numerous quotations have been made; from others, none at all. In this, there has been no intent to slight any particular person or Colony. Many of the patriots were engaged in other fields, equally important to the cause, and had nothing to do directly with the Declaration. Many others, we believe, never put their thoughts or described their deeds on paper. Still more perhaps were unfortunate (or fortunate) enough to have their writings either destroyed or lost. Indeed, John Adams writes to William Tudor, June 5, 1817: “The letters he [Samuel Adams] wrote and received, where are they? I have seen him, at Mrs. Yard’s in Philadelphia, when he was about to leave Congress, cut up with his scissors whole bundles of letters into atoms that could never be reunited, and throw them out of the window, to be scattered by the winds. This was in summer, when he had no fire …”

As to the accuracy of the history, it can be said that, without regard to the labor involved, original sources, wherever practicable, have been examined personally.

The author gratefully acknowledges courtesies extended to him by Charles Francis Adams, by James G. Barnwell and Bunford Samuel, of The Library Company of Philadelphia, by Edmund M. Barton, of the American Antiquarian Society, by John D. Crimmins and W. M. Reynolds, by Wilberforce Eames and Victor H. Paltsits, of the New York Public Library (Lenox), by Worthington Chauncey Ford, of the Library of Congress, by Simon Gratz, by Dr. Samuel A. Green, of the Massachusetts Historical Society, by S. M. Hamilton, formerly of the Bureau of Rolls and Library of the Department of State, by Dr. I. Minis Hays, of The American Philosophical Society, by John W. Jordan, of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, by Robert H. Kelby, of the New York Historical Society, by Otto Kelsey, Comptroller of the State of New York, by J. Pierpont Morgan and Junius S. Morgan, by John Boyd Thacher, by George C. Thomas and A. Howard Ritter and by Arnold J. F. van Laer, of the New York State Library, in the examination of original manuscripts; by Worthington Chauncey Ford, in the securing of photographs of manuscripts, etc.; by Z. T. Hollingsworth; by Joseph F. Sabin; and by others mentioned.

J. H. H. [John Hampden Hazelton]
New York; 1905

SEVENTEEN HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FOUR

SEVENTEEN hundred and seventy-four saw the people at large for the first time recognize that the cause of Boston was a common cause.

Accordingly, it was determined to hold a meeting of Delegates from the various Colonies; and Philadelphia was chosen as the place and the 5th of September as the day of meeting.

When the time approached, “Washington”, says Irving, “was joined at Mount Vernon by Patrick Henry and Edmund Pendleton, and they performed the journey together on horseback. It was a noble companionship. Henry was then in the youthful vigor and elasticity of his bounding genius; ardent, acute, fanciful, eloquent. Pendleton, schooled in public life, a veteran in council, with native force of intellect, and habits of deep reflection. Washington, in the meridian of his days, mature in wisdom, comprehensive in mind, sagacious in foresight.”

We have even a more interesting account of the journey of the Delegates of Massachusetts.

She had selected James Bowdoin, Samuel and John Adams, Thomas Cushing and Robert Treat Paine. Bowdoin having declined the appointment, the others set out from Boston, from Cushing’s house, in one coach, August 10th.

On the 15th, they were in Hartford, whither Silas Deane came to meet them; and, from him, they received an account of the New York Delegates, with whom they were unacquainted. On the 16th, about dusk, they arrived in New Haven; and “all the bells in town were set to ringing”. There, the next day, at the tavern (Isaac Bears’), Roger Sherman called upon them, and expressed the opinion “that the Parliament of Great Britain had authority to make laws for America in no case whatever.”

On the 20th, they ” Lodged at Cock’s, at Kingsbridge”; then breakfasted at Day’s; and arrived in New York “at ten o’clock, at Hull’s, a tavern, the sign the Bunch of Grapes “, whence they ” went to private lodgings at Mr. Tobias Stoutenberg’s, in King Street, very near the City Hall one way, and the French Church the other.” John Adams writes in his Diary: “The streets of this town are vastly more regular and elegant than those in Boston, and the houses are more grand, as well as neat. They are almost all painted, brick buildings and all.”

At 9 o’clock on the 26th, they “crossed Paulus Hook Ferry to New Jersey, then Hackinsack Ferry, then Newark Ferry, and dined at Elizabethtown”; and thence on to Brunswick. About noon on the 27th, they came to the tavern in Princeton, “which holds out the sign of Hudibras, near Nassau Hall College. The tavern keeper’s name is Hire.” Here they spent Sunday also, when they heard Dr. John Witherspoon preach, and, from Jonathan D. Sergeant, learned of the Delegates from Pennsylvania and Virginia, with whom also they were unacquainted, and still more of the Delegates from New York.

Having breakfasted, on Monday, at Trenton, they crossed the Delaware and passed through Bristol to Frankford, five miles from Philadelphia, where a number of gentlemen came from that city to meet them —among them, Thomas M:Kean, Thomas Mifflin, John Sullivan, Nathaniel Folsom and (?) Rutledge. They ” then rode into town, and dirty, dusty, and fatigued as we were,” writes John Adams in his Diary, “we could not resist the importunity to go to the tavern, the most genteel one in America”, where they met Thomas Lynch. Adams, on taking a walk around the city the next day, was much impressed with its “regularity and elegance”, in comparison with the “cowpaths” of Boston. On the last day of August, he and his associates moved their “lodgings to the house of Miss Jane Port, in Arch Street, about halfway between Front Street and Second Street”.

On September 1st, in the evening, the Massachusetts Delegates, together with the Delegates from the other Colonies who had arrived in Philadelphia, 25 in number, met at Smith’s, the new City Tavern. The Adamses, Cushing and Paine were introduced, the next day, to Peyton Randolph, Benjamin Harrison and Richard Henry Lee. On the 3d, they met Matthew Tilghman (perhaps) and Caesar Rodney.

Two days later (Monday, the 5th of September, the day which had been set for the meeting), “At ten”, writes John Adams in his Diary, “the delegates all met at the City Tavern, and walked to the Carpenters’ Hall, where they took a view of the room, and of the chamber where is an excellent library; there is also a long entry where gentlemen may walk, and a convenient chamber opposite to the library. The general cry was, that this was a good room …”

Thus began what has since become known as the First Continental Congress.

The Journal shows us that, on this day, Cushing, Samuel and John Adams and Paine of Massachusetts, Sullivan and Folsom of New Hampshire, Stephen Hopkins and Samuel Ward of Rhode Island, Eliphalet Dyer, Deane and Sherman of Connecticut, James Duane, John Jay, Philip Livingston, Isaac Low and William Floyd of New York, James Kinsey, William Livingston, John De Hart, Steven Crane and Richard Smith of New Jersey, Joseph Galloway, Samuel Rhoads, Mifflin, Charles Humphreys, John Morton and Edward Biddle of Pennsylvania, Rodney, McKean and George Read of Delaware, Robert Goldsborough, William Paca and Samuel Chase of Maryland, Randolph, Washington, Henry, Richard Bland, Harrison and Pendleton of Virginia and Henry Middleton, John and Edward Rutledge, Christopher Gadsden and Thomas Lynchof South Carolina were present. R. H. Lee of Virginia and Thomas John son, Jr., of Maryland took their seats on the next day. Tilghman of Maryland did not attend until the 12th; William Hooper and Joseph Hewes of North Carolina, Henry Wisner and John Alsop of New York and George Ross of Pennsylvania until the 14th; Richard Caswell of North Carolina until the 17th; John Herring of New York until the 26th; Simon Boerum of New York until October 1st; and John Dickinson of Pennsylvania until October 17th.

Randolph was unanimously chosen President; and Charles Thomson of Pennsylvania became Secretary.

This Congress agreed not to import, after the 1st of December, any goods, wares or merchandise from Great Britain or Ireland, or any East India tea, or any molasses, syrups, paneles, coffee or pimento from the British plantations or Dominica, or any wines from Madeira or the Western Islands or any foreign indigo; and the Delegates embodied in the agreement a nonconsumptive clause, binding themselves, as an effectual security for the observation of the non-importation. It was the beginning of the American Union.

Toward declaring independence, however, the First Continental Congress took no action whatever; nor does such a measure seem to have been considered even as a possibility.

Indeed, the association spoken of, of October 20th, itself avowed allegiance to his Majesty; and the address of this Congress to the King stated that the Colonists yielded to no other British subjects in affectionate attachment to his Majesty’s person, family and government.

Nor was there any real thought of independence among the people at large; though Hooper writes, to James Iredell, April 26th: “They [the Colonies] are striding fast to independence, and ere long will build an empire upon the ruin of Great Britain; will adopt its constitution purged of its impurities, and from an experience of its defects will guard against those evils which have wasted its vigor and brought it to an untimely end … I know too well your reverence for our Constitution not to forgive it in another, although it borders upon enthusiasm.” On May 31st, John Scollay writes — from Boston! — to Arthur Lee: “We have too great a regard for our parent State (although cruelly treated by some of her illegitimate sons) to withdraw our connection.” The General Assembly of New Jersey declared, July 21st, that their people and, indeed, the whole country ” detest all thoughts of an independence . . .” Even Washington, in a letter to Captain Mackenzie, written in October, says: “Give me leave to add, and I think I can announce it as a fact, that it is not the wish or interest of that government [Massachusetts], or any other upon this continent, separately or collectively, to set up for independence.”

These views are borne out by a letter dated April 12, 1776, from “A. B.” to Alexander Pardie: “It may, with certainty, be affirmed, that, among the ends which the Colonies (from South-Carolina to New York, inclusively) had in view when they began the present contest, independence held no place; and that the New England Governments, if they had it in view at all, considered it as a remote and contingent object.”

Most of the few who desired a separation lived in or about Boston. “A view to independence grows more and more general” appears in a letter from Dr. Benjamin Church intercepted by Washington at Cambridge in October.

There, Samuel Adams was a central figure. On April 4th, he writes to Arthur Lee: “… if the British administration and government do not return to the principles of moderation and equity, the evil which they profess to aim at preventing by their rigorous measures, will the sooner be brought to pass, viz.— the entire separation and independence of the Colonies … It requires but a small portion of the gift of discernment for anyone to foresee that Providence will erect a mighty empire in America . . .”

Of the opinions of John Adams during this year respecting independence, we have found no contemporaneous record; but a letter to Timothy Pickering, describing the trip to Philadelphia, written many years later (August 6, 1822) says: “I can write nothing which will not be suspected of personal vanity, local prejudice or Provincial & State partiality … As Mr Hancock was sick and confined Mr Bowdoin was chosen at the head of the Massachusetts delegation to Congress. His relations thought his great fortune ought not to be hazarded. Cushing, two Adams’s and Paine . . . were met at Frankfort by Dr Rush, Mr Miffin, Mr Bayard and several others of the most active Sons of Liberty, in Philadelphia, who desired a conference with us. We invited them to take Tea with us in a private apartment. They asked leave to give us some information and advice, which we thankfully granted. They represented to us, that the friends of Government in Boston and in the Eastern States, in their correspondence with their friends in Pennsylvania and all the Southern States, had represented us as four desperate adventurers. Mr Cushing was a harmless kind of man; but poor, and wholly dependent upon his popularity for his subsistence. Mr Samuel Adams was a very artful designing man, but desperately poor and wholly dependent on his popularity with the lowest vulgar for his living. John Adams and Mr Paine were two young Lawyers of no great talents reputation or weight, who had no other means of raising themselves into consequence but by courting popularity. We were all suspected of having Independence in view. Now, said they, you must not utter the word Independence, nor give the least hint or insinuation of the idea, neither in Congress or any private conversation; if you do — you are undone; for the idea of Independence is as unpopular in Pennsylvania and in all the middle and Southern States as the Stamp Act itself. No Man dares to speak of it. Moreover, you are the Representatives of the suffering State . . . you are thought to be too warm, too zealous, too sanguine, you must be therefore very cautious. You must not come forward with any bold measures: you must not pretend to take the lead. You know Virginia is the most populous State in the Union. They are very proud of their ancient Dominion, as they call it; they think they have a right to take the lead, and the Southern States and the middle States too, are too much disposed to yield it to them. This . . . made a deep impression on my mind and it had an equal effect on all my Colleagues. This conversation and the principles, facts and motives suggested in it, have given a colour, complection and character to the whole policy of the United States, from that day to this. Without it . . . Mr. Jefferson [would never] have been the Author of the declaration of Independence, nor Mr. Richard Henry Lee the mover of it . . . Although this advice dwelt deeply on my mind, I had not in my nature prudence and caution enough always to observe it … It soon became rumoured about the City that John Adams was for Independence; the Quakers and Proprietary gentlemen, took the alarm; represented me as the worst of men; the true-blue-sons of Liberty pitied me; all put me under a kind of Coventry. I was avoided like a man infected with the Leprosy. I walked the Streets of Philadelphia in solitude, borne down by the weight of care and unpopularity. But every ship for the ensuing year, brought us fresh proof of the truth of my prophesies, and one after another became convinced of the necessity of Independence.”

Of Virginians, very many think that [Patrick] Henry contributed more than any other man to light the fires of the Revolution; and Wirt goes much farther — claiming for him the credit of being the first of all the leading men of the Colonies to suggest independence. In the account of this patriot’s burst of eloquence, in 1773, he tells us that one of the audience reported that “the company appeared to be startled; for they had never heard anything of the kind even suggested.” Henry, in speaking of Great Britain, (his biographer continues) said: “I doubt whether we shall be able, alone, to cope with so powerful a nation. But where is France? Where is Spain? Where is Holland? the natural enemies of Great Britain — Where will they be all this time? . . . Will Louis the XVI, be asleep all this time? Believe me, no! When Louis the XVI, shall be satisfied by our serious opposition, and our Declaration of Independence, that all prospect of reconciliation is gone, then, and not till then, will he furnish us with arms, ammunition, and clothing; and not with these only, but he will send his fleets and armies to fight our battles for us; he will form with us a treaty offensive and defensive, against our unnatural mother. Spain and Holland will join the confederation! Our independence will be established! and we shall take our stand among the nations of the earth.”

Even Wirt’s claim, however, is outdone by Dr. Joseph Johnson. He says: “We claim for Christopher Gadsden that he first spoke of Independence in 1764, to his friends under Liberty Tree, and there renewed the subject in 1766, rather than submit to the unconstitutional taxes of Great Britain.”
Copyright © 2014 © 2015 TeaPartyEdu http://teapartyedu.net Foundation Truths http://captainjamesdavis.net The Patriot Brotherhood @CaptainJDavis ™

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