by CATHERINE DRINKER BOWEN
FROM Christ Church belfry and Saint Peter’s, from Romish chapel and Lutheran, from Presbyterian steeple to the high tower of the State House, Philadelphia’s bells pealed welcome to the Continental Congress. Forty-four gentlemen, handsome in powdered wigs, knee breeches and smart, black three-cornered hats, crossed the liltle cobbled court from Chestnut Street to the high, white-painted doorway of Carpenters’ Hall. It was ten in the morning of Monday, September 5th, a fine clear day with the heat mercifully lifted and a fresh breeze blowing across the Northern Liberties. The delegates were in good spirits, talkative, friendly. They had met by appointment at the City Tavern and walked in a body through the streets while passers-by fell back, gazing in open curiosity at the distinguished strangers, often giving them greeting or salute.
The business of the moment was to examine Carpenters’ Hall, decide if it was to be the meeting place of Congress. Joseph Galloway, Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, was expected to make a formal offer of the State House (later called Independence Hall) two short blocks up the street —a building three times as large, very spacious and beautiful within. The question and the choice had a significance far beyond material convenience. As leader of the moderate party, Galloway’s influence would be stronger in the traditional atmosphere of the State House. To him, the official home of a great province seemed the logical, dignified place for this Congress to convene. Carpenters’ Hall on the other hand was a private building, belonging to the Carpenters’ Company, a guild formed early in the century and by now very powerful in city polilics. To choose it as permanent meeting place would be an open concession to the mechanics and laborers, the extreme liberty men who in Galloway’s view were already too influential in government affairs.
The east room was the one proposed for Congress. The door was open, the delegates filed in. They found a cheerful, small bright chamber, its walls painted a light buff, with a low, white-paneled fireplace. Morning sun poured through the big windows. There was a desk for the-chairman, and rows of hickory armchairs, painted black. Made by the Carpenters, the delegates were told. Most commodious, especially for large gentlemen. Benjamin Harrison of Virginia, whose bulk was magnificent, let himself down into one.
The members settled down, the various delegations in groups together. John, in his chair between Sam Adams and Cushing, reflected that the room was certainly small. Yet its air of intimacy was not only agreeable but somehow reassuring. Looking about him, John was pleased to recognize two thirds of the faces. The Massachusetts men had done well to come a week early; acquaintance with one’s colleagues gave one a sense of confidence. Not all the members, of course, had yet arrived. The North Carolina deputies were still on the road; communities everywhere continued to elect representatives.
Among forty-odd delegates, the extreme liberty men could be counted, John noted ruefully, on one’s fingers: Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry; Gadsden of South Carolina, Roger Sherman of Connceticut, Governor Hopkins of Rhode Island. Stephen Hopkins was the veteran of this convention. Since the Albany Congress of '54, he had been shouting defiance at Britain. He was a fine-looking old man who wore the sober Quaker’s dress and broad-brimmed hat; his gray hair hung to his shoulders. John had always admired him; Hopkins could be counted on to speak out when plain speech was needed.
But with so large a conservative majority against them, the liberty men were aware they must be discreet, work diligently to win supporters. They had no definite program. At most they hoped to achieve a blockade of trade with Britain, some plan of commercial nonintercourse strong enough, severe enough, to force repeal of the Intolerable Acts, a lifting of the Boston blockade and a change of the system of colonial taxation. At the worst they feared Congress might rise, in the end, having achieved nothing beyond petitions to Parliament, memorials to the King, and humble appeals to the ministers at London. Sam Adams of course wished for unutterable things, but he was wise enough to know he would not get them. John himself was mistrustful of the efficacy of a commercial blockade.
In Carpenters’ Hall someone was speaking, putting a question: Did this Hall satisfy the gentlemen? . . . There was a murmur of approval, and although Duane and Jay, the New York moderates, rose to object, the motion was made and quickly seconded: Carpenters’ Hall was to be the home of Congress. Mortification showed plainly in Galloway’s face.
PEYTON RANDOLPH of Virginia was unanimously chosen President, or Chairman; he bowed his thanks and walked to the desk, a plump, slow-moving gentleman of fifty-three who looked sixty in his powdered wig. Members noted approvingly that he was dressed in plain stuff of American manufacture.
Thomas Lynch of South Carolina rose next to propose as Secretary of the Congress “a gentleman of family, fortune and character in this city, Mr. Charles Thomson.” In his chair by the window, Galloway started, his long upper lip drew down. Why, Thomson was not even a member of the Congress (thanks largely to Galloway’s own preelection efforts). Again Duane and Jay objected and lost the vote: Thomson was named Secretary, a messenger sent into the city to find and fetch him. Galloway glanced angrily at the Massachusetts men. This morning’s work, it was plain, could not have been accomplished without much preliminary maneuvering out of doors. In future he must be more watchful. There was small doubt who was behind this sinister choice of both Hall and Secretary.
Peyton Randolph, calling for order, requested the delegations to stand in turn while their credentials were read. The two New Hampshire men were first, with Major Sullivan as spokesman. Sullivan was tall, muscular, owed his military title to the local militia; at home he was known as a successful and highly disputatious lawyer. The New Hampshire deputies had been elected, Congress heard now, by eighty-five deputies of the several towns, meeting at Exeter. Their instructions were “to devise, consult, and adopt measures to secure and perpetuate their rights, and to restore that peace, harmony and mutual confidence which once subsisted between the parent country and her Colonies.”
Massachusetts came next. Once more the phrase was repeated: “The restoration of harmony and union most ardently desired by all (food men.” . . . This Congress, John Adams reflected drily, did not lack reminders concerning its essential purpose. Harmony and union. . . . Much water had run under the bridge since the writing of the various instructions, early in the summer. The past two months had seen tarrings, featherings, riots, ugly disturbances throughout the continent. The political temper had advanced. On the journey from Boston, John had been surprised, at first, when the Tories gathered to bid them Godspeed. But what other position could a Tory take? Either the Congress was an act of rebellion and should be broken up (something no royal governor felt powerful enough to attempt), or the Tories must take the position that Congress was gathering for pacific purposes.
Rhode Island. . . . Connecticut. . . . The delegations rose in their turn. Roger Sherman’s graybrown hair was cut short all round, above the ears. He looked plain, strong, unbendable as oak. Connecticut made no mention of “ peace or harmony.”
. . . New York — now, here was a strange-sounding election! No House of Representatives, no convention of towns or Committee of Correspondence, had chosen these deputies! “By duly certified polls, taken by proper persons in seven wards, it appears that James Duane, Philip Livingston, . . .” New York had no instructions at all. Evidently her constituents preferred not to commit themselves to a program. . . . New Jersey. . . . Pennsylvania. . . . “For establishing peace and harmony,” said Pennsylvania’s spokesman, sonorously.
Of them all, the fiercest instructions came from the small territory known as the Lower Counties on Delaware: Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex. Thomas McKean’s voice, reciting them, was vehement; plainly he was enjoying himself. McKean was an old hand at conventions; he had been a member of the Stamp Act Congress in ‘65. He was an erect, man of about forty, carefully dressed and wigged, with a slim figure and a quick, nervous way of moving. He spoke well. . . . “For taking away the property of the Colonists without their consent.
For new-modelling the government of the Mossachusetts-Bay. ...”
Wonderful, thought the Massachusetts men, how the colonies hammered away about Boston, the blockade, the Intolerable Acts, the judges robbed independence! John wished suddenly that his wife could hear these words. How heartened she would be! No matter what Congress finally achieved or did not achieve, something invaluable, amazing, had already been accomplished. These instructions proved it. The people’s determination had balked at no obstacle. Governor Wentworth of New Hampshire (John’s old college friend) had done his level best to prevent the election of delegates from his province. Yet here they were, two stout New Hampshire men, sitting not three chairs away.
South Carolina was last to speak. Her instructions were superb . . . the acts and bills of Parliament in regard to Massachusetts Bay affect the whole Continent of America . . .” As the words emerged, John could scarcely forbear to cheer. Peyton Randolph ordered the doors locked; the real business of Congress was about to begin. Utmost secrecy must be maintained. The members pledged themselves not to divulge by word or letter what transpired. It was suggested that a committee be appointed to discuss procedure.
JOHN ADAMS rose. “How are the delegates to vote?” he asked. “By colonies, one vote to a colony? Or by the poll?” (By the poll meant counting heads, with a majority winning.)
It was the question of questions, beside which all other procedure dwindled to unimportance. Congress was bound by the instructions of its constituents. Yet the various delegations by no means represented their colonies fairly as to numbers. Massachusetts, with a population estimated at nearly four hundred thousand, had only four deputies. New York with half the population had five; so did poor, small, thinly populated New Jersey. There was no guarantee that near-by colonies like New York or Maryland would not send a dozen extra deputies any day, to sway the vote for some particular measure. Virginia in all her majesty most assuredly expected to wield larger influence than some small province whose voice, so far, had scarcely been raised for liberty. Virginia was rich and powerful in her own right. Her seven delegates
with one exception — represented large tidewater plantations, shippers of tobacco to Europe and England.
Patrick Henry spoke out, for the mighty colony of Virginia. Important precedents were about to be established, he said. In the councils of America it would be a great injustice if a little colony were given the same weight as a great one.
Major Sullivan of New Hampshire was instantly on his feet. His voice was rough, loud. “A little colony has its stake as well as a great one!” Governor Ward of Rhode Island was quick to agree. “We come,” he said, “if necessary, to make a sacrifice of our all. By such sacrifice the weakest colony would suffer as much as the greatest.”
The New Jersey men nodded vehemently. Benjamin Harrison of Virginia stood up. He was a large, slow , luxurious-looking gentleman, beautifully dressed in smooth blue broadcloth, his wig faultlessly curled and powdered. His plantations, as everyone knew, were immense; he had been a member of the House of Burgesses for a quarter of a century. “My province must be granted her proper share of influence,” he boomed sententiously. “If disrespect be put upon my countrymen, I am very apprehensive we shall not see them at another convention.”
Patrick Henry, who had listened restlessly to his colleague, sprang to his feet. “ We must vote by the poll,”he said. “Not by colonies! To vote by colonies will defeat the purpose of this Congress.” He spoke directly to Harrison. “Where are now your landmarks, your boundaries of colonies? We are in a state of nature, Sir!”
A state of nature. Every man in the room knew the phrase, yet today it struck with most startling effect. In each mind was instantly a vision conjured up by the great John Locke: man in his original state, denizen of the forest, innocent of control. Man in his political infancy, ready to make new compacts, new arrangements of government and sovereignty. In a state of nature, man owed allegiance to none but God, and stood ready to make his “original compact ” under no eye but God’s. It was a concept that had demolished the divine right of kings, swept a Stuart off his throne. No one present denied its value. Yet the delegates had by no means expected to have recourse to it here in Philadelphia, and on the first day of meeting.
The room was silent, every eye on the speaker. They saw a lean man just under forty, dressed in a plain suit of parson’s gray, his brown wig unpowdered, carelessly arranged. Henry’s forehead was high, his brows dark and straight. His eyes, blue and very bright, were set deep in his head. About his narrow face was something burning, intense — something dedicated that left no room for self-indulgence. Henry did not pronounce his words as Harrison did, or Washington, but flatly, with a little drawl, after the manner of the frontier. (“Man’s natteral parts,” he had been heard to say, “are much improved by larnin’.”)
Patrick Henry had been a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses a full nine years. He represented an element greatly feared, the rough unorganized democracy of the border. Yet he had won and held the respect of his colleagues. They were proud of him, of his orator’s tongue, his fire, of his extraordinary command of any assemblage— once he began to speak — be it courtroom or legislature. Now they glanced complacently around the room. Even Benjamin Harrison, about to be refuted, looked pleased. “See now this meteor from Virginia!” he seemed to say. “Gaze on this bright comet from the greatest colony in North America!”
Henry’s right hand was raised. “ Let freemen be represented by numbers alone! ” he said. “Throughout the continent, government is dissolved. Landmarks are dissolved!” He repeated himself. “Where are now your boundaries? The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian but an American !”
For a moment he stood motionless, letting his gaze sweep the room. Then he subsided to his chair, took out a handkerchief and wiped his face vigorously. Forty-three delegates sat spellbound, hypnotized altogether. It was crazy, what they had just heard, they knew well it was crazy. An American! In God’s name what was that? Government is dissolved. Well, it wasn’t dissolved, not by the length of a constitution. As for landmarks and boundaries, since morning in this little room, men had become more conscious of boundaries than ever in their lives. Boundaries lay rigid between the delegations, tight, crippling as chains, well-nigh impassable. . . . Madness, what this voice had said. Yet in this madness and this man, by God there was contagion!
A chair moved, someone coughed, there was a murmur of voices. Thomas Lynch rose, for the planters of Carolina. He was in his fifties, a little heavy and slow. (“A solid, firm, judicious man,” John had called him.) “I differ from the gentleman from Virginia,” Lynch said courteously. “Something more than numbers must be considered. Property must be considered. A compound of numbers and property should determine the influence of each colony.”
John Jay of New York spoke next. He was twenty-nine, a slight, youthful figure. Already there was in his face and bearing something composed, thoughtful, palpably disinterested—something that commanded respect. “I cannot yet think all government is at an end,”he said reasonably. “We are here not to frame a new constitution but to correct the faults of an old one. At this point it is hopeless to determine the comparative wealth, the exact populations of the various colonies. That would be the work of months.” Let the Congress, Jay finished, give one vote to each colony. But let not this method be entered on the Journals as a precedent. Let it be a temporary, working arrangement.
Peyton Randolph, the President of Congress, rose behind his desk. It was three o’clock; an adjournment was moved. The delegates left their places and, filing through the door into the hallway, went out and down the steps, crossed the little court, and walked home to dinner.
Miss Jane Port’s house was on Arch Street near Front, about five blocks from Carpenters’ Hall. Arrived at their doorstep, the Massachusetts men, pausing, could see, over the rise of ground that hid the river, the masts of a great schooner moving to the wharf. Heavy carts rolled down Front Street; there was a smell of tar. Sailors’ voices shouted from the docks.
Things had gone well today, Sam Adams said with satisfaction. Their party had won on two counts — the Carpenters’ Hall as meeting place, and Charles Thomson for Secretary. Their work out of doors last week had not been in vain. “I hope,” Sam added cheerfully, “that Mr. Joseph Galloway is enjoying his dinner. I trust his appetite is not impaired. As we parted today, I bade him a polite adieu.”
The others laughed. But how lofty and to the point had been Mr. Henry’s speech, John remarked. He had taken notes; they were in his pocket. The man’s voice was like an angel’s. Sam shrugged. Very fine, he agreed. Too strong, of course, for the Congress to swallow. Yet an excellent tonic for certain members. He hoped sincerely it would fortify those whose blood was thin.
Sam spoke pleasantly. But he looked tired, his head and hands shook. A large grease spot had appeared by the second button of the beautiful claret-colored coat; the skirts were mussed as if Congress had sat a year. “I am much concerned,” Sam went on gravely, “over this fanatic fear of our New England religion. It means more than appears on the surface. The southern men actually believe we Congregationalists have ambitions to rule the continent. I am sure of it. Something must be done, else there will be real division.”
The four agreed. Still lalking, they went in the door. The dark hall smelled strongly of cabbage; it was steamy, close. Miss Jane Port, their landlady, magnificent in side curls and a high starched cap with purple ribbons, darted from a doorway and sank to the floor before them in a curtsy. Startled, the men bowed vaguely and followed each other up the stairs.
CONGRESS, next morning, proceeded to its business quietly, with as much regularity as if these fortyodd strangers had been meeting every day for months. Jay’s motion of yesterday was seconded: the vote would be one to a colony. No member, it was decided, would speak more than once on the same point without leave. It was resolved to name two grand committees: one to state the rights of the colonies, the other to examine and report on matters of trade and taxation.
When all this was accomplished — it took, with other procedure, until two o’clock — Cushing of Massachusetts came forward with a proposal. In view of the seriousness of the emergency, he moved that Congress be opened tomorrow with a prayer. Such was the practice in the British Parliament and in various legislative bodies here on the continent.
John Jay spoke immediately, in strong disapproval. Who could deliver a prayer in this place — an Episcopalian, a Quaker, a Congregationalist, a Presbyterian, an Anabaptist? It was now that Sam Adams stood up. His voice was soft, his manner pleasingly diffident. He was a stranger in Philadelphia, he began. But might he suggest, for such a prayer, a Philadelphia clergyman, Mr. Duché of the Episcopal Church? He himself was of a different religious persuasion. But he hoped he was no bigot. He could hear a prayer from a gentleman of piety and virtue who was at the same time a friend to his country. He had ascertained that Mr. Duché was all of these things.
Every eye opened wide. Sam Adams, moving for an Episcopal prayer? Then it was possible the New England orthodoxy was not so ambitious, unyielding, as they had been led to believe.
The motion for Duché was carried without objection. The room broke into talk. In the midst of it there was a knock at the door. An express rider was admitted. He had an urgent dispatch for the Congress, he said. From Massachusetts.
. . . President Randolph took the paper, broke the seal. Alarm showed on his face. He read the message aloud: Gage’s soldiers had seized the powder stores “at some town near Boston.” . . . The people had risen . . . six men were killed. All the country was in arms down to Connecticut.
. . . British cannon had fired on Boston the whole night.
The room sat as if stunned. Every head turned toward the Massachusetts men. “What town?” Cushing asked. Was it Charlestown? Five hundred pounds of powder were stored there. How had the fight started? . . . In the streets? Who fired first, the troops or the people?
The messenger shook his head. He knew nothing beyond the message he carried. The room broke into talk. Horror and dismay were on every face. War! The word went from mouth to mouth. Congress adjourned; the members hurried to the street. Ten minutes later, the State Mouse bell tolled muffled, and from across the city, bell towers answered one by one. All afternoon the mournful sound continued. Philadelphia was disorganized, business suspended.
The Massachusetts men had little sleep that night. Next morning, walking to Congress, they were stopped again and again. “ Is it war?” people asked fearfully. “Does this mean war?”
It was a dull, warm day, the air heavy, lifeless. In Carpenters’ Hall the delegates took their seats. Until this rumor was confirmed they must proceed to their business, not be shocked into panic. But the news had most certainly raised the temper of Congress. . . . The door opened; the Reverend Mr. Duché walked slowly up the aisle. His black silk robe was bordered with velvet; a clerk behind him carried the Bible. Men looked up, it was obvious they were very glad to see him; this was a morning when every heart desired prayer. Watching narrowly, Sam Adams was well pleased. Among the southern Episcopalians were some of the warmest friends to liberty on the continent.
In the silence, flies buzzed at the windows; on the wall the sun, appearing briefly, made a sharp pattern and faded. Duché took his place before the desk, opened the prayer book, and after reading prayers, looked up, pausing; then announced the psalter for the day-the Thirty-fifth Psalm, He had a voice of great sweetness and warmth: he read slowly, with no show of dramatics: “Plead my cause, 0 lord, with them that strive with me: fight against, them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.”. . .
The effect was electric. Men bowed their heads and wept. Surely, these sacred words had been written for this day, for this company and this hour! Closing the book, Duché broke into an extemporaneous prayer. The members fell to their knees. When his voice ceased, they took their seats again, renewed, heartened.
Congress, rising in a body, gave the clergyman a vote of thanks. “One of the most sublime, catholic, well-adapted prayers I over heard,”wrote Governor Ward of Rhode Island that night, himself a Baptist. A masterly stroke, this move of the New England men, it was everywhere conceded. A generous gesture, one that would be well rewarded.
Two days later, on Thursday, a fresh express rode in from Massachusetts. The rumor of bombardment was false. Boston was safe! General Gage had indeed tried to seize the powder at Charlestown and had placed guns on Boston Neck-something the Province had been dreading for months. The countryside, aroused, had gathered its militia; twenty thousand men were ready to march on Boston. But after making sure their powder stores were safe, they had disbanded without a shot fired. . . . Philadelphia repeated it joyfully. Not a shot fired! No blood shed, no lives lost! The relief was profound. Joyful bells pealed across the city. Congress, released from nightmare, breathed freely and, locking its doors, talked once more of policy and peace, of “the restoration of that harmony and union so much to be desired between the colonies and Great Britain.”
Very shortly afterward, John had a letter from Abigail, describing the Powder Alarm, as men called it now. Already, John had heard three times from Abby, vivid letters that he kept by him; letters telling of the children —of John Quincy who was reading Rollins’s Ancient History aloud to her; of the cows, patient sufferers from the drought; of the meeting of towns in Suffolk County; and of Abby’s great longing for her husband’s return.
The political news she gave was full and explicit; John began to depend on it, he told her, above all his letters from the north, even James Warren’s.
. . . Royal warrants had been sent out from Boston, Abby wrote, summoning juries for the courts. Not six miles from town the messenger was overtaken by sixty liberty men on horseback who forced him to get down and burn the warrants before their eyes. . . . Governor Gage was mounting cannon on Beacon Hill, digging entrenchments, t hrowing up breastworks. . . .
THE days passed. New delegates appeared in Congress: Johnson and Tilghman from Maryland, Wisner from Orange County in New York, George Ross from Pennsylvania, and the North Carolina delegation of three. John and Sam Adams represented Massachusetts on the grand committee to prepare a Declaration of Rights. There were twenty-two members. They sat in an upstairs room in Carpenters’ Hall and met every morning, working very hard, sometimes all day. To ascertain and express the united sense of twelve colonies on this matter of rights was difficult in the extreme. Easy enough to agree that the Intolerable Acts must be repealed, and the Boston Port Bill. After all, it was to protest these measures that Congress had convened in the first place. But when it came to political theory, to the basic principles of sovereignty and allegiance, the committee reached a deadlock. Were the colonies to base their rights wholly on the British constitution and the colonial charters? Or should they include the law of nature?
The law of nature, like the state of nature, was as familiar as the days of the week. The “incomparable Mr. Locke” had defined it; so had Grotius, Harrington, Burlamaqui, Montesquieu, and all the great writers on government. The law of nature meant God’s law, by which man is born to liberty. By the law of nature, the right to personal liberty was coexistent with man — it was his proud, divine inheritance. No Parliament, no King, could wrest it from him. “I was very strenuous for retaining and insisting on the law of nature,” John wrote afterward, “as a resource to which we might be driven by Parliament much sooner than we expected.”
But the others were mistrustful. The law of nature was vague, all-embracing; it lent itself to dangerous, rebellious doctrine. In the end, after hours of debate, persuasion, and reassurance, the moderates gave in: “The deputies declare" — so read the clause as finally agreed on — “that the inhabitants of the English Colonics in North America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of theEnglish constitution and the several charters or compacts, have the following rights: —
1. “That they are entitled to life, liberty & property, and they never have ceded to any sovereign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.”
Any sovereign power whatever. . . . The phrase was conciliatory; it could refer to France as well as England. After all, it was scarcely a decade since the colonies had ceased fight ing France. . . . “ Liberty property": in men’s minds the words were complementary; one set off the other. Even Sam Adams believed it. A man had a right to his land, to his harvest that was the fruit of his toil, to his chest of clothes, his savings great or small. Rich and poor alike possessed this right, and government existed to safeguard it.
Not without reason had the Stamp Masters of '65 been forced, at peril of their lives, to chant that phrase under Liberty Tree: “Life, liberty and property! Huzza! Huzza! Huzza!” And it was still the watchword; men were ready to die for it. To alter it by a word would require the passage of two years’ time. Now, in late September of ‘74, some two dozen hard-working gentlemen sat at a table on the second floor of Carpenters’ Hall and hammered out, line for line, paragraph by paragraph, the Declaration of Rights for all America. . . .
Clause 4: What authority should be ceded to Parliament? Should Parliament be permitted to regulate the trade of the empire, and with what restrictions? . . . The New Yorkers attacked the question as if it were new, never broached before. Two Adamses exchanged glances. John stretched his neck, fingered a stock wilted and very damp around the edges. . . . Since the year ‘61, he and his cousin had thrashed out this problem of parliamentary authority, laboring by speech, pamphlet, and newspaper to convince their countrymen in Massachusetts. In God’s name, must they begin again at this late date to convince their countrymen in North America? A subcommittee was formed, to reduce the thing to smaller, more manageable terms. The talk commenced all over again; it spun on and on.
Long before the debate was finished — about a week, indeed, after the committees had begun their work — something happened which strengthened enormously the radical side. This time it was no rumor, no sensational tale of blood and battle. Paul Revere rode down from Massachusetts, bearing the resolutions passed by the convention of towns in Suffolk. Suffolk County was Boston’s county, the heart of the Province; Sam Adams had been waiting forthese Resolves. The scroll was long, covering many pages. Peyton Randolph began to read aloud. The room sat very quiet, recognizing instantly the importance of what they heard.
The Suffolk Resolves were the boldest statement ever made on the continent. They spoke of Britain in terms of utmost violence . . . “the arbitrary will of a licentious minister. ... The streets of Boston thronged with military executioners.....A murderous law is framed to shelter villains from the hand of justice. . . . Our enemies have flattered themselves that they shall make an easy prey of this numerous, brave and hardy people, from the apprehension that they are unacquainted with military discipine. We therefore advise. . . .”
What Suffolk County advised was even more to the point than her lurid language. Let a strong militia be formed, with every town and district “exerting utmost diligence to acquaint themselves with the art of war.” The late acts of Parliament wore to be disobeyed, all taxes paid henceforth not to Britain but to the treasury of a provincial independent government, hereby formed. The Britishmade judges were “under undue influence" and must be wholly disregarded. Clause 14 committed Suffolk County to a thorough program of commercial nonintercourse with Britain, both as to outgoing and incoming goods-“with additions, alterations and exceptions only as the General Congress of the colonies may agree to.”
Four Massachusetts men, sitting bolt upright, felt their heartheats quicken. They scarcely dared look about them. It seemed impossible that Congress would put its approval to such a statement and such a program. . . . “Me cheerfully acknowledge George the Third to be our rightful sovereign,” Randolph’s voice went on (Ah, this might help), “and heartily recommend to all persons of this community, not to engage in any routs, riots or attacks upon the properties of any person whatsoever; but by a steady, manly, uniform and persevering opposition, to convince our enemies that in a cause so solemn, our conduct shall merit the applause and admiration of the brave and free of every age and every country.”
Randolph’s voice ceased. The room burst into spontaneous applause. Men rose from their seats, hurried to the Massachusetts delegates, seized them by the hand, congratulated them. In the general confusion, nobody noticed Galloway and Duane, silent in their corner. Congress passed a vote of full approval, entered it in the Journals as unanimous-over the stringent protest of Duane and Galloway. “For Congress to countenance such a statement,” Galloway said furiously, “is tantamount to a complete declaration of war.”Overruled, he and Duane wrote out personal certificates of disapproval, signed them, and exchanged the papers.
And while these loyal gestures to empire were making, four Massachusetts men, the plaudits of Congress ringing in their ears, walked out of Carpenters’ Hall and homo across the city in the afternoon sunshine, almost overwhelmed with joy. “One of the happiest days of my life,” John wrote that night in his diary. “ This day convinced me that America will support Massachusetts or perish
with her.” (To be continued)