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[142]

In our own native land, in defence of the freedom that is our birthright, and which we ever enjoyed till the late violation of it — for the protection of our property, acquired solely by the honest industry of our fore-fathers and ourselves, against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms. We shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed, and not before.

Two days later (8 July) a last petition to the king once more protested loyalty and devotion, and prayed the interposition of the crown to bring about reconciliation. At the end of the month, however, in an elaborate report drawn by Jefferson, Lord North's offer of conciliation was emphatically, almost contemptuously, rejected. In August a royal proclamation declared the colonies in rebellion. Franklin, meantime, had quietly slipped out of England and returned to America, where he was at once elected to Congress. He had withstood to the last the encroachments of parliamentary authority in England, and was now to witness the passing of royal authority in America. With the rejection of petitions on the one side and of compromise on the other, Paine could well urge that the time had come to act.

For the writing of the Declaration of Independence (4 July, 1776) Jefferson had had some preparation, in a way, through two publications already favourably known to members of the Congress. In 1774 he had published at Williamsburg A Summary View of the Rights of British America, Set Forth in Some Resolutions Intended for the Instruction of the Present Delegates of the People of Virginia now in Convention, in which, with somewhat flamboyant boldness of phrase, he had offered to the king “the advice of your great American council,” and had appealed to him to open his breast “to liberal and expanded thought,” that the name of George the Third might not be “a blot in the page of history.” In June, 1775, he bad framed an Address of the House of burgesses, on the subject of Lord North's conciliatory resolution, which was adopted by the house and served as the model for the report on the same resolution which was approved by the Congress in July. He had also, as we have seen, collaborated with Dickinson in the preparation of the Declaration of the causes and necessity of taking up arms.

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