GRIEVANCES OF THE COLONISTS TO THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT by Richard Henry Lee 1775

rhenryleeGrievances Of The Colonists To The British Government by Richard Henry Lee (Cicero of America)

Born In Stratford, Va., 1788. Died at Chantilly, Va., 1794

THE COLONIES TO THE MOTHER COUNTRY.
[From the Address adopted by Congress, July 8, 1775.]

AFTER the most valuable right of legislation was infringed; when the powers assumed by your Parliament, in which we are not represented, and from our local and other circumstances cannot properly be represented, rendered our property precarious; after being denied that mode of trial to which we have long been indebted for the safety of our persons and the preservation of our liberties; after being in many instances divested of those laws which were transmitted to us by our common ancestors, and subjected to an arbitrary code, compiled under the auspices of Roman tyrants; after those charters, which encouraged our predecessors to brave death and danger in every shape, on unknown seas, in deserts unexplored, amidst barbarous and inhospitable nations, were annulled; when, without the form of trial, without a public accusation, whole colonies were condemned, their trade destroyed, their inhabitants impoverished; when soldiers were encouraged to imbrue their hands in the blood of Americans, by offers of impunity; when new modes of trial were instituted for the ruin of the accused, where the charge carried with it the horrors of conviction; when a despotic government was established in a neighboring province, and its limits extended to every part of our frontiers; we little imagined that anything could be added to this black catalogue of unprovoked injuries: but we have unhappily been deceived, and the late measures of the British ministry fully convince us, that their object is the reduction of these colonies to slavery and ruin. ….

If still you retain those sentiments of compassion by which Britons have ever been distinguished; if the humanity which tempered the valor of our common ancestors has not degenerated into cruelty, you will lament the miseries of their descendants.

To what are we to attribute this treatment? If to any secret principle of the constitution, let it be mentioned; let us learn that the government we have long revered is not without its defects, and that while it gives freedom to a part, it necessarily enslaves the remainder of the empire. If such a principle exists, why for ages has it ceased to operate? Why at this time is it called into action? Can no reason be assigned for this conduct? or must it be resolved into the wanton exercise of arbitrary power? And shall the descendants of Britons tamely submit to this? No, sirs! We never will; while we revere the memory of our gallant and virtuous ancestors, we never can surrender those glorious privileges for which they fought, bled, and conquered. Admit that your fleets could destroy our towns, and ravage our sea-coasts; these are inconsiderable objects, things of no moment to men whose bosoms glow with the ardor of liberty. We can retire beyond the reach of your navy, and, without any sensible diminution of the necessaries of life, enjoy a luxury, which from that period you will want—the luxury of being free.

We know the force of your arms, and was it called forth in the cause of justice and your country, we might dread the exertion; but will Britons fight under the banners of tyranny? Will they counteract the labors, and disgrace the victories of their ancestors? Will they forge chains for their posterity? If they descend to this unworthy task, will their swords retain their edge, their arms their accustomed vigor? Britons can never become the instruments of oppression, till they lose the spirit of freedom, by which alone they are invincible.

Our enemies charge us with sedition. In what does it consist? In our refusal to submit to unwarrantable acts of injustice and cruelty? If So, show us a period in your history in which you have not been equally seditious. We are accused of aiming at independence; but how is this accusation supported? By the allegations of your ministers—not by our actions. Abused, insulted, and contemned, what steps have we pursued to obtain redress? We have carried our dutiful petitions to the throne. We have applied to your justice for relief. We have retrenched our luxury, and withheld our trade. ….

The great bulwarks of our constitution we have desired to maintain by every temperate, by every peaceable means; but your ministers (equal foes to British and American freedom) have added to their former oppressions an attempt to reduce us, by the sword, to a base and abject submission. On the sword, therefore, we are compelled to rely for protection. Should victory declare in your favor, yet men trained to arm3 from their infancy, and animated by the love of liberty, will afford neither a cheap nor easy conquest Of this, at least, we are assured, that our struggle will be glorious, our success certain; since even in death we shall find that freedom which in life you forbid us to enjoy.

Let us now ask, What advantages are to attend our reduction? The trade of a ruined and desolate country is always inconsiderable, its revenue trifling; the expense of subjecting and retaining it in subjection, certain and inevitable. What then remains but the gratification of an ill-judged pride, or the hope of rendering us subservient to designs on your liberty?

Soldiers who have sheathed their swords in the bowels of their American brethren, will not draw them with more reluctance against you. When too late, you may lament the loss of that freedom which we exhort you, while still in your power, to preserve.

On the other hand, should you prove unsuccessful; should that connection which we most ardently wish to maintain, be dissolved; should your ministers exhaust your treasures, and waste the blood of your countrymen in vain attempts on our liberty, do they not deliver you, weak and defenceless, to your natural enemies?

Since, then, your liberty must be the price of your victories, your ruin of your defeat—what blind fatality can urge you to a pursuit destructive of all that Britons hold dear?

If you have no regard to the connection which has for ages subsisted between us; if you have forgot the wounds we have received fighting by your side for the extension of the empire; if our commerce is not an object below your consideration; if justice and humanity have lost their influence on your hearts, still motives are not wanting to excite your indignation at the measures now pursued. Your wealth, your honor, your liberty are at stake.

OF THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM; AND OF TRAITORS by John Dickinson 1732-1808

Henry Dont Tread FlagOF THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM; AND OF TRAITORS.
[by John Dickinson 1732-1808]

KINGS or parliaments could not give the rights essential to happiness, as you confess those invaded by the Stamp Act to be. We claim them from a higher source—from the King of kings, and Lord of all the earth. They are not annexed to us by parchments and seals . They are created in us by the decrees of Providence which establish the laws of our nature . They are born with us; exist with us; and cannot be taken from us by any human power, without taking our lives. In short, they are founded on the immutable maxims of reason and justice . It would be an insult on the divine Majesty to say, that he has given or allowed any man or body of men a right to make me miserable. If no man or body of men has such a right, I have a right to be happy. If there can be no happiness without freedom, I have a right to be free. If I cannot enjoy freedom without security of property, I have a right to be thus secured. If my property cannot be secure, in case others over whom I have no kind of influence may take it from me by taxes under pretence of the public good, and, for enforcing their demands, may subject me to arbitrary, expensive, and remote jurisdictions, I have an exclusive right to lay taxes on my own property either by myself or those I can trust; of necessity to judge in such instances of the public good; and to be exempt from such jurisdictions. ….

Galatians_5-1Every man must remember, how, immediately after the tempest of the late war was laid, another storm began to gather over North America. Every wind that blew across the Atlantic brought with it additional darkness. Every act of the administration seemed calculated to produce distress and to excite terror. We were alarmed—we were afflicted. Many of our colonies sent home petitions; others ordered their agents to make proper applications on their behalf. What was the effect? They were rejected without reading. They could not be presented, “without breaking through a rule of the house.” They insisted upon a right, that, it “was previously determined should not be admitted.” The language of the ministry was “that they would teach the insolent North Americans the respect due to the laws of their mother country.” They moved for a resolution “that the parliament could legally tax us.” It was made. For a bill; it was framed. For its dispatch; it was passed. The badges of our shame were prepared, too gross, too odious—even in the opinion of that administration—to be fastened upon us by any but Americans. Strange delusion! to imagine that treachery could reconcile us to slavery. They looked around; they found Americans—0 Virtue! they found Americans to whom the confidence of their country had committed the guardianship of her rights—on whom her bounty had bestowed all the wreck of her fortunes could afford—ready to rivet on their native land, the nurse of their infancy, the protectrix of their youth, the honorer of their manhood, the fatal fetters which their information had helped to forge. They were to be gratified with part of the plunder in oppressive offices for themselves and their creatures. By these, that they might reap the rewards of their corruption, were we advised—by these, that they might return masters who went out servants, were we desired—to put on the chains, and then with shackled hands to drudge in the dark, as well as we could, forgetting the light we had lost “If1forget thee, let my right hand forget her cunning—if I do not remember thee, may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,”

“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; 
it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles 
of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” 
quote John Quincy Adams

A DUTY TO POSTERITY
[From the Same.]

HONOR, justice and humanity call upon us to hold and to transmit to our posterity, that liberty, which we received from our ancestors. It is not our duty to leave wealth to our children; but it is our duty to leave liberty to them. No infamy, iniquity, or cruelty can exceed our own if we, born and educated in a country of freedom, entitled to its blessings and knowing their value, pusillanimously deserting the post assigned us by Divine Providence, surrender succeeding generations to a condition of wretchedness from which no human efforts, in all probability, will be sufficient to extricate them; the experience of all states mournfully demonstrating to us that when arbitrary power has been established over them, even the wisest and bravest nations that ever flourished have, in a few years, degenerated into abject and wretched vassals.

A PATRIOT’S THANKSGIVING by John Woolman; Quaker and Early Anti-Slavery Spokesman

johnwoolman[The Snare Broken: A Thanksgiving Discourse, occasioned by the Repeal of the Stamp Act, Preached May 23, 1766.]

“WE have never known so quick and general a transition from the depth * * of sorrow to the height of joy, as on this occasion; nor, indeed, so great and universal a flow of either on any other occasion whatever. It is very true, we have heretofore seen times of great adversity. We have known seasons of drought, dearth, and spreading mortal diseases; the pestilence walking in darkness, and the destruction wasting at noonday. We have seen wide devastations made by fire; and amazing tempests, the heavens on flame, the winds and the waves roaring. We have known repeated earthquakes, threatening us with speedy destruction. We have been under great apprehensions by reason of formidable fleets of an enemy on our coasts, menacing fire and sword to all our maritime towns. We have known times when the French and savage armies made terrible havoc on our frontiers, carrying all before them for a while; when we were not without fear that some capital towns in the colonies would fall into their merciless hands. Such times as these we have known; at some of which almost every “face gathered paleness,” and the knees of all but the good and brave waxed feeble. But never have we known a season of such universal consternation and anxiety among people of all ranks and ages, in these colonies, as was occasioned by that parliamentary procedure which threatened us and our posterity with perpetual bondage and slavery. For they, as we generally suppose, are really slaves to all intents and purposes, who are obliged to labor and toil only for the benefit of others; or, which comes to the same thing, the fruit of whose labor and industry may be lawfully taken from them without their consent, and they justly punished if they refuse to surrender it on demand, or apply it to other purposes than those which their masters, of their mere grace and pleasure, see fit to allow. Nor are there many American understandings acute enough to distinguish any material difference between this being done by a single person, under the title of an absolute monarch, and done by a far-distant legislature, consisting of many persons, in which they are not represented; and the members whereof, instead of feeling and sharing equally with them in the burden thus imposed, are eased of their own in proportion to the greatness and weight of it . . .

The repeal, the repeal, has at once, in a good measure, restored things to order, and composed our minds by removing the chief ground of our fears. The course of justice between man and man is no longer obstructed; commerce lifts up her head, adorned with golden tresses, pearls, and precious stones. All things that went on right before are returning gradually to their former course; those that did not we have reason to hope will go on better now; almost every person you meet wears the smiles of contentment and joy; and even our slaves rejoice as though they had received their manumission. Indeed, all the lovers of liberty in Europe, in the world, have reason to rejoice; the cause is, in some measure common to them and us. Blessed revolution! glorious change! How great are our obligations for it to the Supreme Governor of the world!

John Woolman; Born In Northampton, West New Jersey, 1730. Died at York, England, 1772.

 

HOW HE TESTIFIED IN MEETING AGAINST SLAVERY.
[Ths Works of John Woolman. 1774.]

THE monthly-meeting of  Philadelphia having been under a concern on account of some Friends [Quakers]  who, this summer (1758), had bought negro slaves: the said meeting moved it to their quarterly-meeting, to have the minute reconsidered in the yearly-meeting, which was made last on that subject; and the said quarterly-meeting appointed a committee to consider it and report to their next; which committee having met once and adjourned, and I going to Philadelphia to meet a committee of the yearly-meeting, was in town the evening on which the quarterly-meeting’s committee met the second time, and finding an inclination to sit with them, was, with some others, admitted; and Friends had a weighty conference on the subject And, soon after their next quarterly-meeting I heard that the case was coming to our yearly-meeting, which brought a weighty exercise upon me, and under a sense of my own infirmities and the great danger I felt of turning aside from perfect purity, my mind was often drawn to retire alone and put up my prayers to the Lord, that he would be graciously pleased to strengthen me; that, setting aside all views of self-interest and the friendship of this world, I might stand full v resigned to his holy will.

In this yearly-meeting several weighty matters were considered; and, toward the last, that in relation to dealing with persons who purchase slaves. During the several sittings of the said meeting my mind was frequently covered with inward prayer, and I could say with David, “That tears were my meat day and night” The case of slave-keeping lay heavy upon me, nor did I find any engagement to speak directly to any other matter before the meeting. Now, when this case was opened several faithful Friends spake weightily thereto, with which I was comforted; and, feeling a concern to cast in my mite, I said, in substance, as follows:

“In the difficulties attending us in this life nothing is more precious than the mind of truth inwardly manifested, and it is my earnest desire that in this weighty matter we may be so truly humbled as to be favored with a clear understanding of the mind of truth, and follow it; this would be of more advantage to the society than any medium not in the clearness of divine wisdom. The case is difficult to some who have them; but if such set aside all self-interest and come to be weaned from the desire of getting estates, or even from holding them together, when truth requires the contrary, I believe way will open that they will know how to steer through those difficulties.”

Many Friends appeared to be deeply bowed under the weight of the work, and manifested much firmness in their love to the cause of truth and universal righteousness on the earth; and though none did openly justify the practice of slave-keeping in general, yet some appeared concerned lest the meeting should go into such measures as might give uneasiness to many brethren;—alleging that if Friends patiently continued under the exercise the Lord, in time to come, might open a way for the deliverance of these people. And I, finding an engagement to speak, said: “My mind is often led to consider the purity of the Divine Being, and the justice of his judgments; and herein my soul is covered with awfulness; I cannot omit to hint of some cases where people have not been treated with the purity of justice, and the event hath been lamentable. Many slaves on this continent are oppressed, and their cries have reached the ears of the Most High. Such are the purity and certainty of his judgments that he cannot be partial in our favor. In infinite love and goodness he hath opened our understandings, from one time to another, concerning our duty toward this people; and it is not a time for delay. Should we now be sensible of what he requires of us, and through a respect to the private interest of some persons, or through a regard to some friendships which do not stand on an immutable foundation, neglect to do our duty in firmness and constancy, still waiting for some extraordinary means to bring about their deliverance, it may be by terrible things in righteousness God may answer us in this matter.”

Many faithful brethren labored with great firmness, and the love of truth, in a good degree, prevailed. Several Friends who had negroes expressed their desire that a rule might be made to deal with such Friends as offenders who bought slaves in future. To this it was answered, that the root of this evil would never be effectually struck at until a thorough search was made into the circumstances of such Friends who kept negroes, with respect to the righteousness of their motives in keeping them, that impartial justice might be administered throughout Several Friends expressed their desire that a visit might be made to such Friends who kept slaves; and many Friends said that they believed liberty was the negroes’ right; to which, at length, no opposition was made publicly. A minute was made, more full on that subject than any heretofore, and the names of several Friends entered, who were free to join in a visit to such who kept slaves.