Missives of October, Part 2

This final letter of October 26th is to the king. This letter has returned to the style of the flattering preamble with phrases such as most excellent Majesty, Most Gracious Sovereign, faithful subjects, and humble petition. These are not men who are taking lightly the position of the king in his role as God’s man over the people. They treat him with due deference without mockery or scorn.

IN CONGRESS IN PHILADELPHIA

October 26, 1774

To the King’s most excellent Majesty:

MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, — We, your majesty’s faithful subjects, of the colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, on behalf of ourselves and the inhabitants of these colonies, who have deputed us to represent them in general Congress, by this our humble petition beg leave to lay our grievances before the throne.


In the first eleven of the grievances they do not lay blame on the king even thought it is obvious the actions must have been his. For example, they say “A standing army” and “this army” even though they know it’s the king’s army. Also, “Counselors, holding their commissions during pleasure” refers to the king’s pleasure. This letter walks a fine line of complaining while not blaming the king. Yet.


A standing army has been kept in these colonies ever since the conclusion of the late war, without the consent of our Assemblies; and this army, with a considerable naval armament, has been employed to enforce the collection of taxes. The authority of the commander-in-chief, and under him the brigadier-general, has, in time of peace, been rendered supreme in all the civil governments of America.

The commander-in-chief of all your majesty’s forces in North America has, in time of peace, been appointed governor of a colony.

The charges of usual officers have been greatly increased and new, expensive, and oppressive offices have been multiplied.

The judges of admiralty and vice-admiralty courts are empowered to receive their salaries and fees from the effects condemned by themselves.

The officers of the customs are empowered to break open and enter houses without the authority of any civil magistrate, founded on legal information.

The judges of courts of common law have been made entirely dependent on one part of the Legislature for their salaries as well as for the duration of their commissions.

Counselors, holding their commissions during pleasure, exercise legislative authority.

Humble petitions, from the representatives of the people, have been fruitless.

The agents of the people have been discountenanced, and governors have been instructed to prevent the payment of the salaries.

Assemblies have been repeatedly and injuriously dissolved.

Commerce has been burdened with many useless and oppressive restrictions.


The next paragraphs lay the blame largely on Parliament.


By several acts of Parliament, made in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth years of your majesty’s reign, duties are imposed on us for the purpose of raising a revenue; and the powers of admiralty and vice-admiralty courts are extended beyond their ancient limits, whereby our property is taken from us without our consent, the trial by jury in many civil cases is abolished, enormous forfeitures are incurred for slight offenses, vexatious informers are exempted from paying damages to which they are justly liable, and oppressive security is required from owners before they are allowed to defend their right.

Both Houses of Parliament have resolved that colonists may be tried in England for offenses alleged to have been committed in America, by virtue of a statute passed in the thirty-fifth year of Henry the Eighth, and in consequence thereof attempts have been made to enforce that statute.

A statute was passed in the twelfth year of your majesty’s reign, directing that persons charged with committing any offense therein described, in any place out of the realm, may be indicted and tried for the same in any shire or county within the realm, whereby inhabitants of these colonies may, in sundry cases by that statute made capital, be deprived of a trial by their peers of the vicinage.

In the last session of Parliament, an act was passed for blocking up the harbor of Boston; another, empowering the governor of the Massachusetts Bay to send persons indicted for murder in that province to another colony, or even to Great Britain, for trial, whereby such offenders may escape legal punishment; a third for altering the chartered constitution of government in that province, and a fourth for altering the limits of Quebec, abolishing the English and restoring the French laws, whereby great numbers of British Frenchmen are subjected to the latter, and establishing an absolute government and the Roman Catholic religion throughout those vast regions that border on the westerly and northerly boundaries of the free, Protestant, English settlements; and a fifth for the better providing suitable quarters for officers and soldiers in his majesty’s service in North America.


In the following paragraphs they again assert the sovereignty of the king and their loyalty. They deny any seditious intent in their petitions.


To a sovereign who glories in the name of Britain, the bare recital of these acts must, we presume, justify the loyal subjects who fly to the foot of his throne and implore his clemency for protection against them.

From this destructive system of colony administration, adopted since the conclusion of the last war, have flowed those distresses, dangers, fears, and jealousies that overwhelm your majesty’s dutiful colonists with affliction; and we defy our most subtile and inveterate enemies to trace the unhappy differences between Great Britain and these colonies from an earlier period, or from other causes, than we have assigned.

Had they proceeded on our part from a restless levity of temper, unjust impulses of ambition, or artful suggestions of seditious persons, we should merit the opprobrious terms frequently bestowed upon us by those we revere. But, so far from promoting innovations, we have only opposed them, and can be charged with no offense unless it be one to receive injuries, and be sensible of them.


In this next paragraph the men state that it was the goodness of the Creator that allowed them to be born in freedom and be subject under this king whose ancestors were “seated on the throne” (chosen to rule) in order to “rescue” Britain from “popery (the Pope) and “superstition” (the Catholic faith). They speak of the king’s “royal wisdom” and the “blessing of divine Providence” they wish to guard.


Had our Creator been pleased to give us existence in a land of slavery, the sense of our condition might have been mitigated by ignorance and habit. But, thanks be to his adorable goodness, we were born the heirs of freedom, and ever enjoyed our right under the auspices of your royal ancestors, whose family was seated on the throne to rescue and secure a pious and gallant nation from the popery and despotism of a superstitious and inexorable tyrant. Your majesty, we are confident, justly rejoices that your our title to the crown is thus founded on the title of your people to liberty; and, therefore, we doubt not but your royal wisdom must approve the sensibility that teaches your subjects anxiously to guard the blessing they received from divine Providence, and thereby to prove the performance of that compact which elevated the illustrious house of Brunswick to the imperial dignity it now possesses.


The remainder of the petition is filled with pledges of loyalty and duty to the king. It is Parliament that has caused the problem, not the king. They call him an “honorable prince.” They wish him “felicity” and a “long and glorious reign”. This will change in the not too distant future.


The apprehension of being degraded into a state of servitude from the preeminent rank of English freemen, while our minds retain the strongest love of liberty, and clearly foresee the miseries preparing for us and our posterity, excites emotions in our breasts which, though we can not describe, we should not wish to conceal. Feeling as men, and thinking as subjects, in the manner we do, silence would be disloyalty. By giving this faithful information, we do all in our power to promote the great objects of your royal cares, the tranquility of your government and the welfare of your people.

Duty to your majesty, and regard for the preservation of ourselves and our posterity, the primary obligations of nature and society, command us to entreat your royal attention; and, as your majesty enjoys the signal distinction of reigning over freemen we apprehend the language of freemen will not be displeasing. Your royal indignation, we hope, will rather fall on those designing and dangerous men, who, daringly interposing themselves between your royal person and your faithful subjects, and for several years past incessantly employed to dissolve the bonds of society, by abusing your majesty’s authority, misrepresenting your American subjects, and prosecuting the most desperate and irritating projects of oppression, have at length compelled us, by the force of accumulated injuries, too severe to be any longer tolerable, to disturb your majesty’s repose by our complaints.

These sentiments are extorted from hearts that much more willingly would bleed in your majesty’s service. Yet so greatly have we been misrepresented, that a necessity has been alleged of taking away our property from us without our consent, “to defray the charge of the administration of justice, the support of civil government, and the defense, protection, and security of the colonies.” But we beg leave to assure your majesty that such provision has been and will be made for defraying the first two articles as has been and shall be judged, by the Legislatures of the several colonies, just and suitable to their respective circumstances; and, for the defense, protection, and security of the colonies, their militia, if properly regulated, as they earnestly desire may immediately be done, would be fully sufficient, at least in times of peace; and in case of war, your faithful colonists will be ready and willing, as they ever have been, when constitutionally required, to demonstrate their loyalty to your majesty, by exerting their most strenuous efforts in granting supplies and raising for ces. Yielding to no British subjects in affectionate attachment to your majesty’s person, family, and government, we too dearly prize the privilege of expressing that attachment by those proofs that are honorable to the prince who receives them and to the people who give them, ever to resign it to any body of men upon earth.

Had we been permitted to enjoy in quiet the inheritance left us by our forefathers, we should at this time have been peaceably, cheerfully, and usefully employed in recommending ourselves by every testimony of devotion to your majesty, and of veneration to the state from which we derive our origin. But though now exposed to unexpected and unnatural scenes of distress by a contention with that nation in whose parental guidance, on all important affairs, we have hitherto, with filial reverence, constantly trusted, and therefore can derive no instruction in our present unhappy and perplexing circumstances from any former experience, yet we doubt not the purity of our intention and the integrity of our conduct will justify us at that grand tribunal before which all mankind must submit to judgment.

We ask but for peace, liberty, and safety. We wish not a diminution of the prerogative, nor do we solicit the grant of any new right in our favor. Your royal authority over us, and our connection with Great Britain, we shall always carefully and zealously endeavor to support and maintain.

Filled with sentiments of duty to your majesty, and of affection to our parent state, deeply impressed by our education, and strongly confirmed by our reason, and anxious to evince the sincerity of these dispositions, we present this petition only to obtain redress of grievances and relief from fears and jealousies occasioned by the system of statutes and regulations, adopted since the close of the late war, for raising a revenue in America; extending the powers of courts of admiralty and vice admiralty; trying persons in Great Britain for offenses alleged to be committed in America, affecting the province or Massachusetts Bay; and altering the government and extending the limits of Quebec; by the abolition of which system the harmony between Great Britain and these colonies, so necessary to the happiness of both, and so ardently desired by the latter, and the intercourses will be immediately restored. In the magnanimity and justice of your majesty and Parliament, we confide for a redress of our other grievances, trusting that, when the causes of our apprehensions are removed, our future conduct will prove us not unworthy of the regard we have been accustomed, in our happier days, to enjoy; for, appealing to that Being who searches thoroughly the hearts of his creatures, we solemnly profess that our councils have been influenced by no other motives than a dread of impending destruction.

Permit us, then, most gracious sovereign, in the name of all your faithful people in America, with the utmost humility, to implore you, for the honor of Almighty God, whose pure religion our enemies are undermining; for your glory, which can be advanced only by rendering your subjects happy, and keeping them united; for the interests of your family, depending on an adherence to the principles that enthroned it; for the safety and welfare of your kingdoms and dominions, threatened with almost unavoidable dangers and distresses, that your majesty, as the loving father of your whole people, connected by the same bonds of law, loyalty, faith, and blood though dwelling in various countries, will not suffer the transcendent relation formed by these ties to be further violated, in uncertain expectation of effects that, if attained, never can compensate for the calamities through which they must be gained.

We, therefore, most earnestly beseech your majesty that your royal authority and interposition may be used for our relief, and that a gracious answer may be given to this petition.

That your majesty may enjoy every felicity through a long and glorious reign, over loyal and happy subjects, and that your descendants may inherit your prosperity and dominions till time shall be no more, is, and always will be, our sincere and fervent prayer.

By order of the Congress,
Henry Middleton, President.

The Missives of October

October of 1774 was a busy month of writing for the Continental Congress. First up was the Declaration and Resolves, also known as the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, on October 14th.

This letter is to Parliament and lacks the preamble of the letters to His Majesty.

IN CONGRESS IN PHILADELPHIA

October 14, 1774

Whereas, since the close of the last war, the British parliament, claiming a power, of right, to bind the people of America by statutes in all cases whatsoever, hath, in some acts, expressly imposed taxes on them, and in others, under various presence’s, but in fact for the purpose of raising a revenue, hath imposed rates and duties payable in these colonies, established a board of commissioners, with unconstitutional powers, and extended the jurisdiction of courts of admiralty, not only for collecting the said duties, but for the trial of causes merely arising within the body of a county:

And whereas, in consequence of other statutes, judges, who before held only estates at will in their offices, have been made dependent on the crown alone for their salaries, and standing armies kept in times of peace:

And whereas it has lately been resolved in parliament, that by force of a statute, made in the thirty-fifth year of the reign of King Henry the Eighth, colonists may be transported to England, and tried there upon accusations for treasons and misprisions, or concealments of treasons committed in the colonies, and by a late statute, such trials have been directed in cases therein mentioned:

And whereas, in the last session of parliament, three statutes were made; one entitled, “An act to discontinue, in such manner and for such time as are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading, or shipping of goods, wares and merchandise, at the town, and within the harbour of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts-Bay in New England; — another entitled, “An act for the better regulating the government of the province of Massachusetts-Bay in New England; — and another entitled, “An act for the impartial administration of justice, in the cases of persons questioned for any act done by them in the execution of the law, or for the suppression of riots and tumults, in the province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New England; — and another statute was then made, “for making more effectual provision for the government of the province of Quebec, etc. — All which statutes are impolitic, unjust, and cruel, as well as unconstitutional, and most dangerous and destructive of American rights:

And whereas, assemblies have been frequently dissolved, contrary to the rights of the people, when they attempted to deliberate on grievances; and their dutiful, humble, loyal, and reasonable petitions to the crown for redress, have been repeatedly treated with contempt, by his Majesty’s ministers of state: The good people of the several colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina and South-Carolina, justly alarmed at these arbitrary proceedings of parliament and administration, have severally elected, constituted, and appointed deputies to meet, and sit in general Congress, in the city of Philadelphia, in order to obtain such establishment, as that their religion, laws, and liberties, may not be subverted: Whereupon the deputies so appointed being now assembled, in a full and free representation of these colonies, taking into their most serious consideration, the best means of attaining the ends aforesaid, do, in the first place, as Englishmen, their ancestors in like cases have usually done, for asserting and vindicating their rights and liberties, DECLARE,

That the inhabitants of the English colonies in North-America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following RIGHTS:

Resolved, N.C.D. 1. That they are entitled to life, liberty and property: and they have never ceded to any foreign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.

Resolved, N.C.D. 2. That our ancestors, who first settled these colonies, were at the time of their emigration from the mother country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural-born subjects, within the realm of England.

Resolved, N.C.D. 3.That by such emigration they by no means forfeited, surrendered, or lost any of those rights, but that they were, and their descendants now are, entitled to the exercise andenjoyment of all such of them, as their local and other circumstances enable them to exercise and enjoy.

Resolved, N.C.D. 4. That the foundation of English liberty, and of all free government, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council: and as the English colonists are not represented, and from their local and other circumstances, cannot properly be represented in the British parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures, where their right of representation can alone be preserved, in all cases of taxation and internal polity, subject only to the negative of their sovereign, in such manner as has been heretofore used and accustomed: But, from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interest of both countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British parliament, as are bonfide, restrained to the regulation of our external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members; excluding every idea of taxation internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects, in America, without their consent.

Resolved, N.C.D. 5. That the respective colonies are entitled to the common law of England, and more especially to the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage, according to the course of that law.

Resolved, N.C.D. 6. That they are entitled to the benefit of such of the English statutes, as existed at the time of their colonization; and which they have, by experience, respectively found to be applicable to their several local and other circumstances.

Resolved, N.C.D. 7. That these, his Majesty’s colonies, are likewise entitled to all the immunities and privileges granted and confirmed to them by royal charters, or secured by their several codes of provincial laws.

Resolved, N.C.D. 8. That they have a right peaceably to assemble, consider of their grievances, and petition the king; and that all prosecutions, prohibitory proclamations, and commitments for the same, are illegal.

Resolved, N.C.D. 9. That the keeping a standing army in these colonies, in times of peace, without the consent of the legislature of that colony, in which such army is kept, is against law.

Resolved, N.C.D. 10. It is indispensably necessary to good government, and rendered essential by the English constitution, that the constituent branches of the legislature be independent of each other; that, therefore, the exercise of legislative power in several colonies, by a council appointed, during pleasure, by the crown, is unconstitutional, dangerous and destructive to the freedom of American legislation.

All and each of which the aforesaid deputies, in behalf of themselves, and their constituents, do claim, demand, and insist on, as their indubitable rights and liberties, which cannot be legally taken from them, altered or abridged by any power whatever, without their own consent, by their representatives in their several provincial legislature.

In the course of our inquiry, we find many infringements and violations of the foregoing rights, which, from an ardent desire, that harmony and mutual intercourse of affection and interest may be restored, we pass over for the present, and proceed to state such acts and measures as have been adopted since the last war, which demonstrate a system formed to enslave America.

Resolved, N.C.D. 11. That the following acts of parliament are infringements and violations of the rights of the colonists; and that the repeal of them is essentially necessary, in order to restore harmony between Great Britain and the American colonies, viz.

The several acts of Geo. III. ch. 15, and ch. 34.-5 Geo. III. ch.25.-6 Geo. ch. 52.-7 Geo.III. ch. 41 and ch. 46.-8 Geo. III. ch. 22. which impose duties for the purpose of raising a revenue in America, extend the power of the admiralty courts beyond their ancient limits, deprive the American subject of trial by jury, authorize the judges certificate to indemnify the prosecutor from damages, that he might otherwise be liable to, requiring oppressive security from a claimant of ships and goods seized, before he shall be allowed to defend his property, and are subversive of American rights.

Also 12 Geo. III. ch. 24, entitled, “An act for the better securing his majesty’s dockyards, magazines, ships, ammunition, and stores, — which declares a new offence in America, and deprives the American subject of a constitutional trial by jury of the vicinage, by authorizing the trial of any person, charged with the committing any offence described in the said act, out of the realm, to be indicted and tried for the same in any shire or county within the realm. Also the three acts passed in the last session of parliament, for stopping the port and blocking up the harbour of Boston, for altering the charter and government of Massachusetts-Bay, and that which is entitled, “An act for the better administration of justice, etc.—

Also the act passed in the same session for establishing the Roman Catholic religion, in the province of Quebec, abolishing the equitable system of English laws, and erecting a tyranny there, to the great danger (from so total a dissimilarity of religion, law and government) of the neighboring British colonies, by the assistance of whose blood and treasure the said country was conquered from France.

Also the act passed in the same session, for the better providing suitable quarters for officers and soldiers in his majesty’s service, in North-America.

Also, that the keeping a standing army in several of these colonies, in time of peace, without the consent of the legislature of that colony, in which such army is kept, is against law.

To these grievous acts and measures, Americans cannot submit, but in hopes their fellow subjects in Great Britain will, on a revision of them, restore us to that state, in which both countries found happiness and prosperity, we have for the present, only resolved to pursue the following peaceable measures:

1. To enter into a non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreement or association.

2. To prepare an address to the people of Great-Britain, and a memorial to the inhabitants of British America: and

3. To prepare a loyal address to his majesty, agreeable to resolutions already entered into.

Signed, PEYTON RANDOLPH, President.

The letter continues to blame Parliament for the violations of their rights as Englishmen and there are many phrases that will be repeated in future letters that will also appear in a more polished form in the final Declaration of 1776.


On October 21st the Congress wrote the Address to the People of Great Britain. Again they laid out there grievances. They appeal to the “virtue, justice and public spirit of the English Nation.

“To that justice we now appeal. You have been told that we are seditious, impatient of government, and desirous of independence. Be assured that these are not facts, but calumnies. Permit us to be as free as yourselves, and we shall ever esteem a union with you to be our greatest glory, and our greatest happiness; we shall ever be ready to contribute all in our power to the welfare of the empire; we shall consider your enemies as our enemies, and your interest as our own.”

The letter closes with another jab at the Parliament and a polite mention of the King.

“But we hope that the magnanimity and justice of the British nation will furnish a Parliament of such wisdom, independence, and public spirit as may save the violated rights of the whole empire from the devices of wicked ministers and evil counselors, whether in or out of office, and thereby restore that harmony, friendship, and fraternal affection between all the inhabitants of His Majesty’s kingdoms and territories so ardently wished for by every true and honest American.”

By order of the Congress,
Henry Middleton, President.


This letter is followed by one on October 24th entitled To The Inhabitants of the Several Anglo-American Colonies. They state that their hopes rest on Divine Favour and that

“we have diligently, deliberately, and calmly inquired into and considered those exertions, both of the legislative and executive power of Great Britain, which have excited so much uneasiness in America, and have with equal fidelity and attention considered the conduct of the colonies. Upon the whole, we find ourselves reduced to the disagreeable alternative of being silent and betraying the innocent, or of speaking out and censuring those we wish to revere. In making our choice of these distressing difficulties, we prefer the course dictated by honesty and a regard for the welfare of our country.”


On October 26th the Congress sent an Address to the Inhabitants of the Province of Quebec. In it they ask the province to join in solidarity in asking for redress of the grievances in the address to the Parliament. The lengthy letter closes with these paragraphs:

We do not ask you, by this address, to commence acts of hostility against our common sovereign. We only invite you to consult your own glory and welfare, and not to suffer yourselves to be inveigled or intimidated by infamous ministers, so far as to become the instruments of their cruelty and despotism, but to unite with us in one social compact, formed on the generous principles of equal liberty, and cemented by such an exchange of beneficial and endearing offices as to render it perpetual. In order to complete this highly desirable union, we submit it to your consideration, whether it may not be expedient for you to meet together in your several towns and districts, and elect deputies who, afterward meeting in a Provincial Congress, may choose delegates to represent your province in the Continental Congress to be held at Philadelphia on the tenth day of May, 1775.

In this present Congress, beginning on the fifth of the last month, and continued to this day, it has been with universal pleasure, and a unanimous vote, resolved that we should consider the violation of your rights, by the act for altering the government of your province, as a violation of our own, and that you should be invited to accede to our confederation, which has no other objects than the perfect security of the natural and civil rights of all the constituent members, according to their respective circumstances, and the preservation of a lasting and happy connection with Great Britain on the statutory and constitutional principles herein before mentioned. For effecting these purposes, we have addressed an humble and loyal petition to his majesty, praying relief of our and your grievances, and have associated to stop all importations from Great Britain and Ireland, after the first day of December, and all exportations to those kingdoms and the West Indies, after the tenth day of next September, unless the said grievances are redressed.

That Almighty God may incline your minds to approve our equitable and necessary measures, to add yourselves to us, to put your fate, whenever you suffer injuries which you are determined to oppose, not on the small influence of your single province, but on the consolidated powers of North America and may grant to our joint exertions an event as happy as our cause is just, is the fervent prayer of us, your sincere and affectionate friends and fellow subjects.

By order of the Congress,
Henry Middleton, President.


The final letter, also on October 26th, is to the king. They return to respectful preamble to His Majesty followed by their grievances in which they lay most of the blame on Parliament.

To the King’s most excellent Majesty:

MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, — We, your majesty’s faithful subjects, of the colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, on behalf of ourselves and the inhabitants of these colonies, who have deputed us to represent them in general Congress, by this our humble petition beg leave to lay our grievances before the throne.

Because of the length of this particular letter and its many religious overtones I will write about it in tomorrow’s post.