Historical Primary Source

A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, Now Met in Congress at Philadelphia, Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of Their Taking Up Arms – July 6, 1775

If it was possible for men, who exercise their reason to believe, that the divine Author of our existence intended a part of the human race to hold an absolute property in, and an unbounded power over others, marked out by his infinite goodness and wisdom, as the objects of a legal domination never rightfully resistible, however severe and oppressive, the inhabitants of these colonies might at least require from the parliament of Great-Britain some evidence, that this dreadful authority over them, has been granted to that body. But a reverance for our Creator, principles of humanity, and the dictates of common sense, must convince all those who reflect upon the subject, that government was instituted to promote the welfare of mankind, and ought to be administered for the attainment of that end. The legislature of Great-Britain, however, stimulated by an inordinate passion for a power not only unjustifiable, but which they know to be peculiarly reprobated by the very constitution of that kingdom, and desparate of success in any mode of contest, where regard should be had to truth, law, or right, have at length, deserting those, attempted to effect their cruel and impolitic purpose of enslaving these colonies by violence, and have thereby rendered it necessary for us to close with their last appeal from reason to arms. – Yet, however blinded that assembly may be, by their intemperate rage for unlimited domination, so to sight justice and the opinion of mankind, we esteem ourselves bound by obligations of respect to the rest of the world, to make known the justice of our cause.

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The American Revolutionary Era Reading and Study Group

Chapter 6: The International Sons Of Liberty And The Ministerial Plot, 1768–1770 :: From Resistance to Revolution by Pauline Maier

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “giving or restoring it, not only to our brethren of Scotland and Ireland, but even to France itself, were it in our power, is one of the principal articles of Whiggism.”
  • “in the name and behalf of all the true SONS of LIBERTY in America, Great-Britain, Ireland, Corsica, or wheresoever they may be dispersed throughout the world.”
  • “do nothing rashly … nothing against the known laws of the land, that we appear not a faction endeavouring to overturn the system of government, but … free subjects by birth, endeavouring to recover our lost rights.”

Thought Questions

  • Affirm or Refute: “Yet they were, in a sense, already world revolutionaries.”
  • Describe the role newspapers and pamphlets played in this stage of the American Revolution. How did it evolve from early uses and in what ways did this foreshadow further changes?
  • Who was Heraclius II of Georgia and why did he interest colonial leaders?
  • Who was Paschal Paoli and why did he interest colonial leaders?
  • Who was John Wilkes and why did he interest colonial leaders
  • Explain and Expand: “But within the next four years, from 1768 to 1772, Wilkes, Paoli, the Irish, and the Americans all suffered serious reverses.”
  • What was the North Briton Number 45 and why is it significant in British – American history?
  • React and Respond: “an outlaw … of bad personal character, not worth a farthing”
  • Compare and Contrast: The American Stamp Act and the British Cider Bill of 1763
  • Who was John Dickinson
  • Describe: “”
  • Explain and Expand: “When in January 1769 the colonists learned of the King’s speech at the opening of Parliament on November 8, 1768, with its reference to a “state of Disobedience to all Law and Government” in Massachusetts, and to a “Disposition to throw off their Dependence on Great Britain,” they were further embittered.”
  • In what ways was 1769 the year colonial leaders lost their faith in Great Britain?
  • What developments in Ireland interested and impacted the American colonies?
  • What development in Corsica interested the American colonies and impacted the Early Republic?
  • Explain and Expand: “The impact of these and related events was of the greatest significance.”
  • React and Respond: “This background of a growing official reliance on troops, with the sense of impending danger it evoked, explains the English opposition’s readiness to champion the cause of the black Caribs of St. Vincent’s Island in the West Indies.”
  • Explain and Expand: “The Boston Sons of Liberty rejected several drafts of a letter to Wilkes because rapidly developing local events made them obsolete”
  • What was the significance of the December 1769 pamphlet: “To the Betrayed Inhabitants of the City and Colony of New York”?
  • Describe the events that led to the Boston Massacre and the event itself
  • Explain and Expand: “The Boston Massacre of March 1770 seemed to complete the parallel development of English and American events.”
  • Who were the North Carolina Regulators

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Articles and Resources

Further Reading

 

Primary Source Document

To the Betrayed Inhabitants of the City and Colony of New York by Alexander McDougall – Decmeber 1769

[December 1769 – written by Alexander McDougall]

My dear fellow-citizens and countrymen,

In a day when the minions of tyranny and despotism in the mother country and the colonies, are indefatigable in laying every snare that their malevolent and corrupt hearts can suggest, to enslave a free people, when this unfortunate country has been striving under many disadvantages for three years past, to preserve their freedom; which to an Englishman is as dear as his life, – when the merchants of this city and the capital towns on the continent, have nobly and cheerfully sacrificed their private interest to the public good, rather than to promote the designs of the enemies of our happy constitution: It might justly be expected, that in this day of constitutional light, the representatives of this colony would not be so hardy, nor be so lost to all sense of duty to their constituents, (especially after the laudable example of the colonies of Massachusetts Bay and South Carolina before them) as to betray the trust committed to them. This they have done in passing the vote to give the troops a thousand pounds out of any monies that may be in the treasury, and another thousand out of the money that may be issued, to be put out on loan, which the colony will be obliged to make good, whether the bill for that purpose does or does not obtain the royal assent; and that they have betrayed the liberties of the people, will appear from the following consideration, to wit: That the ministry are waiting to see whether the colonies, under their distressed circumstances, will divide on any of the grand points which they are united in, and contending for, with the mother country; by which they may carry their designs against the colonies, and keep in administration. For if this should not take place, the acts must be repealed; which will be a reflection on their conduct, and will bring the reproach and clamour of the nation on them, for the loss of trade to the empire, which their malconduct has occasioned. 

Our granting money to the troops, is implicitly acknowledging the authority that enacted the revenue acts, and their being obligatory on us, as these acts were enacted for the express purpose of taking money out of our pockets without our consent; and to provide for the defending and support of government in America; which revenue we say by our grant of money, is not sufficient for the purpose aforesaid; therefore we supply the deficiency. 

This was the point of view in which these acts were considered, by the Massachusetts and South Carolina Assemblies, and to prevent that dangerous construction, refuted it. On this important point we have differed with these spirited colonies, and do implicitly approve of all the tyrannical con- duct of the ministry to the Bostonians, and by implication censure their laudable and patriotic denial. For if they did right (which every sensible American thinks they did) in refusing to pay the billeting money, surely we have done wrong, very wrong, in giving it. But our Assembly says, that they do their duty in granting money to the troops: Consequently the Massachusetts Assembly did not do theirs, in not obeying the ministerial mandate. If this is not a division in this grand point, I know not what is: And I doubt not but the ministry will let us know it is to our cost; for it will furnish them with arguments and fresh courage. Is this a grateful retaliation to that brave and sensible people, for the spirited and early notice they took of the suspending act? No, it is base ingratitude, and betraying the common cause of liberty. 

To what other influence than the deserting the American cause, can the ministry attribute so pusillanimous a conduct, as this is of the Assembly; so repugnant and subversive of all the means we have used, and opposition that has been made by this and the other colonies, to the tyrannical conduct of the British Parliament! to no other. Can there be a more ridiculous farce to impose on the people than for the Assembly to vote their thanks to be given to the merchants for entering into an agreement not to import goods from Britain, until the revenue acts should be repealed, while they at the same time counteract it by countenancing British acts, and complying with ministerial requisitions, incompatible with our freedom? Surely they cannot.

And what makes the Assembly’s granting this money the more grievous, is, that it goes to the support of troops kept here not to protect but to enslave us: Has not the truth of this remark been lately exemplified in the audacious, domineering and inhuman Major Pullaine, who ordered a guard to protect a sordid miscreant, that transgressed the laudable non-importation agreement of the merchants, in order to break that, which is the only means left them, under God to baffle the designs of their enemies to enslave this continent? This consideration alone ought to be sufficient to induce a free people, not to grant the troops any supply whatsoever, if we had no dispute with the mother country, that made it necessary not to concede anything that might destroy our freedom; reasons of economy and good policy suggest that we ought not to grant the troops money.

Whoever is the least acquainted with the English history, must know, that grants frequently made to the crown, is not to be refused, but with some degree of danger of disturbing the repose of the Kingdom or Colony. This evinces the expediency of our stopping these grants now, while we are embroiled with the mother country, that so we may not, after the grand controversy is settled, have a new bone of contention about the billeting money; which must be the case if we do not put an end to it at this time: for the colony, in its impoverished state, cannot support a charge which amounts to near as much per annum, as all the other expenses of the government besides.
Hence it follows that the assembly have not been attentive to the liberties of the continent, nor to the property of the good people of this colony in particular, we must therefore attribute this sacrifice of the public interest, to some corrupt source. This is very manifest in the guilt and confusion that covered the faces of the perfidious abettors of this measure, when the house was in debate on the subject. Mr. Colden knows from the nature of things, that he cannot have the least prospect to be in administration again; and therefore, that he may make hay while the sun shines, and get a full salary from the Assembly, flatters the ignorant members of it, with the consideration of the success of a bill to emit a paper currency; when he and his artful coadjutors must know, that it is only a snare to impose on the simple; for it will not obtain the royal assent. But while he is solicitous to obtain his salary, he must attend to his posterity, and as some of his children hold offices under the government, if he did not procure an obedience to his requisition, or do his duty in case the Assembly refused the billeting money, by dissolving them, his children might be in danger of losing their offices. If he dissolved the assembly they would not give him his salary. 
The De Lancy family knowing the ascendancy they have in the present house of Assembly, and how useful that influence will be to their ambitious designs, to manage a new Governour, have left no stone unturned to prevent a dissolution.

The Assembly, conscious to themselves, of having trampled on the liberties of the people, and fearing their just resentments on such an event, are equally careful to preserve their seats, expecting that if they can do it at this critical juncture, as it is imagined the grand controversy will be settled this winter, they will serve for seven years; in which time they hope the people will forget the present injuries done to them. To secure these several objects, the De Lancy family, like true politicians, although they were to all appearance at mortal odds with Mr. Colden, and represented him in all companies as an enemy to his country, yet a coalition is now formed in order to secure to them the sovereign lordship of this colony. The effect of which has given birth to the abominable vote, by which the liberties of the people are betrayed. In short, they have brought matters to such a pass, that all the checks resulting from the form of our happy constitution are destroyed. The Assembly might as well invite the council to save the trouble of formalities, to take their seats in the house of Assembly, and place the Lieut. Governor in the Speaker’s chair, and then there would be no waste of time in going from house to house, and his honour would have the pleasure to see how zealous his former enemies are in promoting his interest to serve themselves.

Is this a state to be rested in, when our all is at a stake? No, my countrymen, rouse! Imitate the noble example of the friends of liberty in England; who rather than be enslaved, contend for their right with k-g, lords and commons. And will you suffer your liberties to be tom from you, by your representatives? Tell it not in Boston; publish it not in the streets of Charles-Town! You have means yet left to preserve a unanimity with the brave Bostonians and Carolinians; and to prevent the accomplishment of the designs of tyrants. The house was so nearly divided, on the subject of granting the money in the way the vote passed, that one would have prevented it; you have, therefore, a respectable minority. What I would advise to be done is, to assemble in the fields on Monday next, where your sense ought to be taken on this important point; notwithstanding the impudence of Mr. Jauncey, in his declaring in the house that he had consulted his constituents, and that they were for giving money. After this is done, go in a body to your members, and insist on their joining with the minority, to oppose the bill; if they dare refuse your just requisition, appoint a committee to draw up a state of the whole matter, and send it to the speakers of the several houses of assembly on the continent, and to the friends of our cause in England, and publish it in the news-papers, that the whole world may know your sentiments on this matter, in the only way your circumstance will admit. And I am confident it will spirit the friends of our cause and chagrin our enemies. Let the notification to call the people be so expressed, that whoever absents himself, will be considered as agreeing to what may be done by such as shall meet; – and that you may succeed, is the unfeigned desire of

A SON OF LIBERTY

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Colonial American History - The Atlantic and Pacific Worlds - New Spain and New France - British America

Week 6 :: American Nations By Colin Woodard Chapter 6: The Colonies’ First Revolt

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Puritan property titles were declared null and void, forcing landowners to buy new ones from the crown and to pay feudal rents to the king in perpetuity.”
  • “All of this was done without the consent of the governed, in violation of the rights granted all Englishmen under the Magna Carta.”
  • “no more privileges left . . . [other] than not to be sold for slaves.”
  • “a conquered people could not expect the same rights as English people.”

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Primary Source Document

Letters From an American Farmer: Letter 8 – Peculiar Customs at Nantucket

Primary SourceThe manners of the Friends are entirely founded on that simplicity which is their boast, and their most distinguished characteristic; and those manners have acquired the authority of laws. Here they are strongly attached to plainness of dress, as well as to that of language; insomuch that though some part of it may be ungrammatical, yet should any person who was born and brought up here, attempt to speak more correctly, he would be looked upon as a fop or an innovator. On the other hand, should a stranger come here and adopt their idiom in all its purity (as they deem it) this accomplishment would immediately procure him the most cordial reception; and they would cherish him like an ancient member of their society. So many impositions have they suffered on this account, that they begin now indeed to grow more cautious. They are so tenacious of their ancient habits of industry and frugality, that if any of them were to be seen with a long coat made of English cloth, on any other than the first-day (Sunday), he would be greatly ridiculed and censured; he would be looked upon as a careless spendthrift, whom it would be unsafe to trust, and in vain to relieve. A few years ago two single- horse chairs were imported from Boston, to the great offence of these prudent citizens; nothing appeared to them more culpable than the use of such gaudy painted vehicles, in contempt of the more useful and more simple single-horse carts of their fathers. This piece of extravagant and unknown luxury almost caused a schism, and set every tongue a-going; some predicted the approaching ruin of those families that had imported them; others feared the dangers of example; never since the foundation of the town had there happened anything which so much alarmed this primitive community. One of the possessors of these profane chairs, filled with repentance, wisely sent it back to the continent; the other, more obstinate and perverse, in defiance to all remonstrances, persisted in the use of his chair until by degrees they became more reconciled to it; though I observed that the wealthiest and the most respectable people still go to meeting or to their farms in a single-horse cart with a decent awning fixed over it: indeed, if you consider their sandy soil, and the badness of their roads, these appear to be the best contrived vehicles for this island.

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Primary Source Documents

Letters From an American Farmer: Letter 7 – Manners and Customs at Nantucket

Primary SourcesAs I observed before, every man takes a wife as soon as he chooses, and that is generally very early; no portion is required, none is expected; no marriage articles are drawn up among us, by skilful lawyers, to puzzle and lead posterity to the bar, or to satisfy the pride of the parties. We give nothing with our daughters, their education, their health, and the customary out-set, are all that the fathers of numerous families can afford: as the wife’s fortune consists principally in her future economy, modesty, and skilful management; so the husband’s is founded on his abilities to labour, on his health, and the knowledge of some trade or business. Their mutual endeavours, after a few years of constant application, seldom fail of success, and of bringing them the means to rear and support the new race which accompanies the nuptial bed. Those children born by the sea-side, hear the roaring of its waves as soon as they are able to listen; it is the first noise with which they become acquainted, and by early plunging in it they acquire that boldness, that presence of mind, and dexterity, which makes them ever after such expert seamen. They often hear their fathers recount the adventures of their youth, their combats with the whales; and these recitals imprint on their opening minds an early curiosity and taste for the same life. They often cross the sea to go to the main, and learn even in those short voyages how to qualify themselves for longer and more dangerous ones; they are therefore deservedly conspicuous for their maritime knowledge and experience, all over the continent. A man born here is distinguishable by his gait from among an hundred other men, so remarkable are they for a pliability of sinews, and a peculiar agility, which attends them even to old age. I have heard some persons attribute this to the effects of the whale oil, with which they are so copiously anointed in the various operations it must undergo ere it is fit either for the European market or the candle manufactory.

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Primary Source Documents

Letters From an American Farmer: Letter 6 – Description of the Island of Martha’s Vineyard; and of the Whale Fishery

Primary SourceThis island is twenty miles in length, and from seven to eight miles in breadth. It lies nine miles from the continent, and with the Elizabeth Islands forms one of the counties of Massachusetts Bay, known by the name of Duke’s County. Those latter, which are six in number, are about nine miles distant from the Vineyard, and are all famous for excellent dairies. A good ferry is established between the Edgar Town, and Falmouth on the main, the distance being nine miles. Martha’s Vineyard is divided into three townships, viz. Edgar, Chilmark, and Tisbury; the number of inhabitants is computed at about 4000, 300 of which are Indians. Edgar is the best seaport, and the shire town, and as its soil is light and sandy, many of its inhabitants follow the example of the people of Nantucket. The town of Chilmark has no good harbour, but the land is excellent and no way inferior to any on the continent: it contains excellent pastures, convenient brooks for mills, stone for fencing, etc. The town of Tisbury is remarkable for the excellence of its timber, and has a harbour where the water is deep enough for ships of the line. The stock of the island is 20,000 sheep, 2000 neat cattle, beside horses and goats; they have also some deer, and abundance of sea- fowls. This has been from the beginning, and is to this day, the principal seminary of the Indians; they live on that part of the island which is called Chapoquidick, and were very early christianised by the respectable family of the Mahews, the first proprietors of it.

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Primary Source Document

Letters From an American Farmer: Letter 5 – Customary Education and Employment of the Inhabitants of Nantucket

Primary SourcesThe easiest way of becoming acquainted with the modes of thinking, the rules of conduct, and the prevailing manners of any people, is to examine what sort of education they give their children; how they treat them at home, and what they are taught in their places of public worship. At home their tender minds must be early struck with the gravity, the serious though cheerful deportment of their parents; they are inured to a principle of subordination, arising neither from sudden passions nor inconsiderate pleasure; they are gently held by an uniform silk cord, which unites softness and strength. A perfect equanimity prevails in most of their families, and bad example hardly ever sows in their hearts the seeds of future and similar faults. They are corrected with tenderness, nursed with the most affectionate care, clad with that decent plainness, from which they observe their parents never to depart: in short, by the force of example, which is superior even to the strongest instinct of nature, more than by precepts, they learn to follow the steps of their parents, to despise ostentatiousness as being sinful. They acquire a taste for neatness for which their fathers are so conspicuous; they learn to be prudent and saving; the very tone of voice with which they are always addressed, establishes in them that softness of diction, which ever after becomes habitual. Frugal, sober, orderly parents, attached to their business, constantly following some useful occupation, never guilty of riot, dissipation, or other irregularities, cannot fail of training up children to the same uniformity of life and manners. If they are left with fortunes, they are taught how to save them, and how to enjoy them with moderation and decency; if they have none, they know how to venture, how to work and toil as their fathers have done before them.

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Letters From an American Farmer: Letter 4 – Description of the Island of Nantucket, with the Manners, Customs, Policy, and Trade of the Inhabitants

Primary SourceThe greatest compliment that can be paid to the best of kings, to the wisest ministers, or the most patriotic rulers, is to think, that the reformation of political abuses, and the happiness of their people are the primary objects of their attention. But alas! how disagreeable must the work of reformation be; how dreaded the operation; for we hear of no amendment: on the contrary, the great number of European emigrants, yearly coming over here, informs us, that the severity of taxes, the injustice of laws, the tyranny of the rich, and the oppressive avarice of the church; are as intolerable as ever. Will these calamities have no end? Are not the great rulers of the earth afraid of losing, by degrees, their most useful subjects? This country, providentially intended for the general asylum of the world, will flourish by the oppression of their people; they will every day become better acquainted with the happiness we enjoy, and seek for the means of transporting themselves here, in spite of all obstacles and laws. To what purpose then have so many useful books and divine maxims been transmitted to us from preceding ages?–Are they all vain, all useless?

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Primary Source Documents

Letters From an American Farmer: Letter 3 – What Is An American

Primary SourceI wish I could be acquainted with the feelings and thoughts which must agitate the heart and present themselves to the mind of an enlightened Englishman, when he first lands on this continent. He must greatly rejoice that he lived at a time to see this fair country discovered and settled; he must necessarily feel a share of national pride, when he views the chain of settlements which embellishes these extended shores. When he says to himself, this is the work of my countrymen, who, when convulsed by factions, afflicted by a variety of miseries and wants, restless and impatient, took refuge here. They brought along with them their national genius, to which they principally owe what liberty they enjoy, and what substance they possess. Here he sees the industry of his native country displayed in a new manner, and traces in their works the embryos of all the arts, sciences, and ingenuity which nourish in Europe. Here he beholds fair cities, substantial villages, extensive fields, an immense country filled with decent houses, good roads, orchards, meadows, and bridges, where an hundred years ago all was wild, woody, and uncultivated! What a train of pleasing ideas this fair spectacle must suggest; it is a prospect which must inspire a good citizen with the most heartfelt pleasure. The difficulty consists in the manner of viewing so extensive a scene. He is arrived on a new continent; a modern society offers itself to his contemplation, different from what he had hitherto seen. It is not composed, as in Europe, of great lords who possess everything, and of a herd of people who have nothing. Here are no aristocratical families, no courts, no kings, no bishops, no ecclesiastical dominion, no invisible power giving to a few a very visible one; no great manufacturers employing thousands, no great refinements of luxury. The rich and the poor are not so far removed from each other as they are in Europe. Some few towns excepted, we are all tillers of the earth, from Nova Scotia to West Florida.

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Primary Source Document

Letters From an American Farmer: Letter 2 – On The Situation, Feelings, and Pleasures, of an American Farmer

Primary SourcesAs you are the first enlightened European I have ever had the pleasure of being acquainted with, you will not be surprised that I should, according to your earnest desire and my promise, appear anxious of preserving your friendship and correspondence. By your accounts, I observe a material difference subsists between your husbandry, modes, and customs, and ours; everything is local; could we enjoy the advantages of the English farmer, we should be much happier, indeed, but this wish, like many others, implies a contradiction; and could the English farmer have some of those privileges we possess, they would be the first of their class in the world. Good and evil I see is to be found in all societies, and it is in vain to seek for any spot where those ingredients are not mixed. I therefore rest satisfied, and thank God that my lot is to be an American farmer, instead of a Russian boor, or an Hungarian peasant. I thank you kindly for the idea, however dreadful, which you have given me of their lot and condition; your observations have confirmed me in the justness of my ideas, and I am happier now than I thought myself before. It is strange that misery, when viewed in others, should become to us a sort of real good, though I am far from rejoicing to hear that there are in the world men so thoroughly wretched; they are no doubt as harmless, industrious, and willing to work as we are. Hard is their fate to be thus condemned to a slavery worse than that of our negroes. Yet when young I entertained some thoughts of selling my farm. I thought it afforded but a dull repetition of the same labours and pleasures. I thought the former tedious and heavy, the latter few and insipid; but when I came to consider myself as divested of my farm, I then found the world so wide, and every place so full, that I began to fear lest there would be no room for me. My farm, my house, my barn, presented to my imagination objects from which I adduced quite new ideas; they were more forcible than before. Why should not I find myself happy, said I, where my father was before? He left me no good books it is true, he gave me no other education than the art of reading and writing; but he left me a good farm, and his experience; he left me free from debts, and no kind of difficulties to struggle with.–I married, and this perfectly reconciled me to my situation; my wife rendered my house all at once cheerful and pleasing; it no longer appeared gloomy and solitary as before; when I went to work in my fields I worked with more alacrity and sprightliness; I felt that I did not work for myself alone, and this encouraged me much. My wife would often come with her knitting in her hand, and sit under the shady trees, praising the straightness of my furrows, and the docility of my horses; this swelled my heart and made everything light and pleasant, and I regretted that I had not married before.

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