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Action of the several Colonies on the Subject of Independence.
Adoption of the Declaration.
the first introduction of the resolution, that a majority of the colonies would vote for it, its friends were fearful that a unanimous vote of the colonies could not be obtained, inasmuch as the Assemblies of Maryland and Pennsylvania had refused to sanction the measure, and South Carolina, Georgia, and New York were silent. The delegates from Maryland were unanimously in favor of it, while those from Pennsylvania were divided. On the 24th of June, at a convention held in Philadelphia, the people expressed their willingness, by resolution, “ to concur in a vote of Congress, declaring the united colonies free and independent states ;" and by the unwearied exertions and great influence of Charles Carroll, William Paca, Samuel Chase, and others, the Convention of Maryland recalled their former instructions on the 28th of June, and empowered their delegates" to concur with the other colonies in a declaration of independence." The most important barriers to unanimity were now broken down. When a vote was taken in committee of the whole House, all
July 1. the colonies assented to the Declaration, except Pennsylvania and Delaware ; four of the seven delegates of the former voting against it, and the two delegates who were present from Delaware were divided—Thomas M.Kean favoring it, George Read opposing it. Mr. M.Kean, burning with a desire to have his state speak in favor of the great measure, immediately sent an express after Cæsar Rodney, the other delegate from Delaware, then eighty miles distant. Rodney was in the saddle within ten minutes after he received Mr. M.Kean's letter, and arrived in Philadelphia on the morning of the 4th of July, just before the final vote was taken. Thus Delaware was secured. On that day the Declaration was taken up for final decision. Robert Morris and John Dickenson, of Pennsylvania, were absent. The former was in favor of, the latter was against the measure. Of the other five who were present, Doctor Franklin, James Wilson, and John Morton were in favor of it, and Thomas Willing and Charles Humphreys were opposed to it; so the vote of Pennsylvania was also secured in favor of the Declaration. The question was taken, and on the 4th of July, 1776, a unanimous vote of the thirteen colonies' was given in favor of the great Declaration which pronounced them FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.' The annun. ciation was made in the following plain manner in the journal of Congress for that day :
Agreeably to the order of the day, the Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into their further consideration the Declaration ; and, after some time, the president resumed the chair,' and Mr. Harrison reported that the committee have agreed to a decl tion, which they desired him to report. The Declaration being read, was agreed to as follows:
A DECLARATION BY THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident—that all men are created equal; that they are
Georgia was not represented in the Congress of 1774. On the 20th of July, 1775, Congress received a letter from the convention of that colony, setting forth that it had acceded to the general Association, and appointed delegates to attend Congress.-See Journals of Congress, 1., 161.
2 On the 9th of September, 1776, Congress resolved, “That in all Continental commissions, and other instruments, where heretofore the words United Colonies' have been used, the style be altered, for the fu. ture, to the United States.'"
"-Ibid., ii., 328. From that day the word colony is not known in our history
3 John Hancock was then President of Congress. He was chosen to that post on the 19th of May, 1775, as successor to Peyton Randolph, who was called to liis home in Virginia. Randolph was now dead.
4 The great importance of this event does not seem to have been realized even by many men in public life. Anderson, in his Constitutional Gazette, announced the fact thus, as a mere on dit, without commentary or further reference to the subject : "On Tuesday last the Continental Congress declared the united Colonies free and independent States."
The Declaration of Independence as Adopted.
endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes ; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies ; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operations till his assent should be obtained ; and, when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the Legislature—a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the repository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused, for a long time after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected ; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining, in the mean time, exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states ; for that purpose obstructing the laws for the naturalization of foreigners ; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers, to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our Legislatures. Ho has affected to render the military independent of, and superior to the civil power.
. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation :
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;
For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states ;
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world ;
The Declaration of Independence as Adopted.
For transporting us beyond seas, to be tried for pretended offenses ;
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies ;
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering, fundamentally, the forms of our governments ;
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection, and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries, to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow-citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections among us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms : our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.'
Nor have we been wanting in our attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them, from time to time, of attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They, too, have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind—enemies in warin peace, friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in general Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states : that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved ; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
It was two o'clock in the afternoon when the final decision was announced by Secretary Thomson to the assembled Congress in Independence Hall. It was a moment of solenn interest; and when the secretary sat down, a deep silence pervaded that august assembly.
· The undisputed records of our colonial history bear ample testimony to the truth of every charge contained in this indictment. These I have cited in a small volume containing Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the l'eclaration of Independence, and the Declaration Historically Considered.
Ringing of the Liberty Bell.
Signers of the Declaration.
Its Reception in New York and elsewhere
Thousands of anxious citizens had gathered in the streets of Philadelphia, for it was known that the final decision was to be made on that day. From the hour when Congress convened in the morning, the old bellman had been in the steeple. He placed a boy at the door below, to give him notice when the announcement should be made. As hour succeeded hour, the gråy-beard shook his head, and said, " They will never do it! they will never do it!" Suddenly a loud shout came up from below, and there stood the blue-eyed boy, clapping his hands and shouting, “Ring ! ring !" Grasping the iron tongue of the old bell against which we are now leaning, backward and forward he hurled it a hundred times, its loud voice proclaiming " Liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof." The excited multitude in the streets responded with loud acclamations, and with cannon-peals, bonfires, and illuminations, the patriots held a glorious carnival that night in the quiet city of Penn.
The Declaration of Independence was signed by John Hancock, the president of Congress, only, on the day of its adoption, and thus it went forth to the world. Congress ordered it to be entered at length upon the journals. It was also ordered to be engrossed upon parchment, for the delegates to sign it. This last act was performed on the second day of August following, by the fifty-four delegates then present; it was subsequently signed by two others,' making the whole number FIFTY-six.' A fac simile of their signatures, carefully copied from the original at Washington City, is given on the two following pages. The Declaration was every where applauded ; and in the camp, in cities, churches, and popular assemblies, it was greeted with every demonstration of joy. Washington received it at head-quarters in New York on the 9th of July,' and caused it to be read, at six o'clock that evening, at the head of each brigade. It was heard with attention, and welcomed with loud huzzas by the troops ; and on that same evening the populace pulled down the leaden equestrian statue of George III., which was erected in the Bowling Green, at the foot of Broadway, in 1770, and broke it in pieces. The material was afterward consigned to the bullet-molds. Other' demonstrations of mingled joy. and indignation were made in New York then, which will be more fully noticed hereafter.
The Declaration was read to a vast assemblage collected in and around Fancuil Hall, in Boston, by Colonel Crafts, at noon, on the 17th of July. When the last paragraph escaped his lips, a loud huzza shook the old “ Cradle of Liberty.” It was echoed from without; and soon the batteries on Fort Hill, Dorchester, Nantasket, and Long Island boomed forth their cannon acclamations in thirteen rounds. A banquet followed, and bonfires and illuminations made glad the city of the Puritans. In Philadelphia, the grand demonstration was made on the 8th of July. From the platform of an observatory, erected near the Wal
1 These were Thomas M'Kean, of Delaware, and Matthew Thornton, of New Hampshire. The former, on account of absence with a regiment of City Associators, of which he was colonel, did not sign it until October. Doctor Thornton was not a member of Congress when the Declaration was signed, but, being elected in the autumn following, he obtained permission to sign the instrument, and affixed his signature to it in November.
The delegates represented the several states as follows: New Hampshire : Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton. Massachusetts : John Hancock, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry. Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery. Connecticut : Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott. New York : William Floyd, Philip Living. ston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris. New Jersey : Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark. Pennsylvania : Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross. Delaware : Cæsar Rodney, George Read, Thomas M‘Kean. Maryland : Samuel Chase, Thomas Stone, William Paca, Charles Carroll, of Carrollton. Virginia : George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton. North Carolina : William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn. South Carolina : Edward Rutledge, Thomas Hayward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton. Georgia : Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton.
3 On the same day, the Provincial Assembly of New York, then in session at White Plains, adopted a resolution expressive of their approbation of the measure, at the same time pledging their lives and fortunes in support of it. They also, by resolution, gave their delegates in Congress liberty to act in future, upon all public measures, in accordance with their best judgments. See Journals of Congress, ii., 250.
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