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Provincial Congresses


Governor Gage summoned a meeting of the Massachusetts Assembly at Salem, under the provisions of the new and obnoxious act of Parliament. Perceiving the increasing boldness of the people under the stimulus of the proceedings of the Continental Congress, he countermanded the summons. The members denied his right to do so. They met at Salem, ninety in number, on the appointed day, Oct. 5, 1774; waited two days for the governor, who did not appear; and then organized themselves into a Provincial Congress, with John Hancock as president and Benjamin Lincoln, secretary. They adjourned to Concord, where, on the 11th, 260 members took their seats. There they adjourned to Cambridge, when they sent a message to the governor, telling him that, for the want of a legal assembly, they had formed a provisional convention. They complained of unlawful acts of Parliament, expressed their loyalty to the King, and protested against the fortifying of Boston Neck by the governor. Gage denounced them. This act increased their zeal. They appointed a committee of safety, to whom they delegated large powers. They were authorized to call out the militia of the province, and perform other acts of sovereignty. Another committee was authorized to procure ammunition and military stores, for which purpose more than $60,000 were appropriated. A receiver-general, Henry Gardiner, was appointed, into whose hands the constables and taxcollectors were directed to pay all moneys received by them. They made provision for arming the province, and appointed Jeremiah Preble, Artemas Ward, and Seth Pomeroy general officers of the militia. They also authorized the enrolment of 12,000 minute-men, and, assuming both legislative and executive powers, received the allegiance of the people generally. So passed away royal rule in Massachusetts, and the sovereignty of the people was established in the form of the Provincial Congress. Gage issued a proclamation denouncing their proceedings, to which no attention was paid.

The Provincial Congress of New Hampshire assembled at Exeter, on May 17, 1775, when ninety-eight counties, towns, parishes, and boroughs were represented by deputies. Matthew Thornton was chosen president, and Eleazar Thompson secretary. They established a post-office at Portsmouth, provided for procuring arms, recommended the establishment of home manufactures, commissioned Brigadier-General Folsom first commander, and provided for the issue of bills of credit.

On May 2, 1775, the provincial committee of correspondence of New Jersey directed the chairman to summon a Provincial Congress of deputies to meet in Trenton, on the 23d of that month. Thirteen counties were represented—namely, Bergen, Essex, Middlesex, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, Monmouth, Hunterdon, Burlington, Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem, and Cape May. Hendrick Fisher was chosen president; Johathan D. Sargent secretary; and William Paterson and Frederick Frelinghuysen assistants. The Provincial Assembly had been called (May 15) by Governor Franklin to consider North's conciliatory proposition. They [327] declined to approve it, or to take any decisive step in the matter, except with the consent of the Continental Congress, then in session. They adjourned a few days afterwards, and never met again. Royal authority was at an end in New Jersey. The Provincial Congress adopted measures for organizing the militia and issuing $50,000 in bills of credit for the payment of extraordinary expenses.

On the recommendation of the committee of sixty of the city of New York, delegates chosen in a majority of the counties of the province met at the Exchange in New York, May 22, 1775. They adjourned to the next day, in order to have a more complete representation, when delegates appeared from the following counties: New York, Albany, Dutchess, Ulster, Orange, Westchester, Kings, Suffolk, and Richmond. The Congress was organized by the appointment of Peter Van Brugh Livingston, president; Volkert P. Douw, vice-president; John McKesson and Robert Benson, secretaries; and Thomas Petit, door-keeper. They forwarded to the Continental Congress a financial scheme, devised by Gouverneur Morris, for the defence of the colonies by the issue of a Continental paper currency, substantially the same as that afterwards adopted. They also took measures for enlisting four regiments for the defence of the province, and for erecting fortifications, recommended by the Continental Congress, at the head of York Island and in the Hudson Highlands. The Provincial Congress agreed to furnish provisions for the garrison at Ticonderoga. There was a strong Tory element in the Congress, which caused much effort towards conciliation, and a plan was agreed to, in spite of the warm opposition of leading Sons of Liberty. It contemplated a repeal of all obnoxious acts of Parliament, but acknowledged the right of the mothercountry to regulate trade, and the duty of the colonists to contribute to the common charges by grants to be made by the colonial assemblies, or by a general congress, specially called for that purpose. But this plan met with little favor, and in time the Provincial Congress of New York became more thoroughly patriotic. It showed hesitation, however, in several important emergencies, especially in the matter of declaring the independence of the colonies. It ceased to exist in the summer of 1777, when a State government was organized.

On Aug. 21, 1775, a Provincial Congress, consisting of 184 deputies, assembled at Hillsboro, N. C. They first declared their determination to protect the Regulators, who were liable to punishment; declared Governor Martin's proclamation to have a tendency to stir up tumult and insurrection in the province dangerous to the King's government, and directed it to be publicly burned by the common hangman. They provided for raising troops; authorized the raising, in addition to a regular force, of ten battalions, to be called minute-men, and they authorized the emission of bills of credit to the amount of $150,000.

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