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Chapter 45:

Condition of the central provinces.

July—October, 1775.

in the colonies which were not immediately involved
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in the war, the officers of the crown should have shown self-possession and forbearance. Adopting this system, William Franklin, the governor of New Jersey, was ever on the alert to soothe, divide, or confuse the patriots, professed an equal regard for the rights of the people and the royal prerogatives, continued the usual sessions of the assembly, and where the authority of his office was diminished, confined himself to complaint, remonstrance or advice. But the self-organized popular government moved side by side with that of the king; the provincial congress which assembled in May, and again by adjournment in August, directed a general association, took cognizance of those who held back, assumed the regulation of the militia, apportioned a levy of ten thousand pounds, excused the Quakers from bearing arms, though not from contributing [72] to relieve distress; and by providing for the
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yearly election of its successors, severed from the colonial legislature the appointment of future delegates to the general congress. The new provincial congress, chosen with all the forms of law by the qualified voters of each county, came together in October, and while they anxiously prayed for the re-establishment of harmony with Britain, they so far looked to the contingency of war as to offer to raise four thousand minute men, and actually to enrol two regiments for the continental service. It was on this occasion that William Alexander, commonly called the Earl of Stirling, a man of courage, intelligence, and promptitude, though a member of the royal council, entered the army as colonel of the battalion of East New Jersey. The attempt to raise money by taxation having failed, the expenses were met by a reluctant issue of thirty thousand pounds in bills of credit.

The disposition of New Jersey to languor was confirmed by Pennsylvania, where, from the first, Dickinson acted in concert with the proprietary government; and the ardent patriots, who had less command of public confidence, less influence with the religious parties, less tried ability in statesmanship, less social consideration in the city which was then the most populous and most wealthy in British America, yielded to his guidance. The first Pennsylvania convention in June, 1774, electing as its president the opulent merchant Thomas Willing, long an opponent of independence, aimed at no continuing political organization, and even referred the choice of the Pennsylvania delegates to congress to the house of representatives, in which loyalists held the majority, and [73] Galloway exercised unrestricted sway. At the second

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convention, held in January, 1775, the president, Joseph Reed, exerted all his influence, in public and in private, to defeat the intention of arming and disciplining the province; and to confine the votes as much as possible to the encouragement of manufactures and agriculture; and while with a clear eye he foresaw that the coming summer would form an epoch in history, he desired to be known to the ministry as a person who, though opposed to parliamentary taxation, had such weight and influence in the province, that the British government upon the whole might wish him to be on their side. It was noticed that Dickinson did not make his appearance in the meeting till the day before its dissolution; and then only to ward off the taunts of his enemies. The convention once more left every thing to the legislature; though a motion prevailed, empowering the committee of Philadelphia to give notice, if a provincial congress should again become necessary.

The events at Lexington and Bunker Hill did not shake the purpose of Dickinson to prevent the meeting of another convention. His wish that the province should move in unbroken array, led him even to importune his opponent Galloway, not to refuse a seat in the next continental congress; and Galloway was excused only at his own urgent request. Had Pennsylvania entrusted the direction of measures of resistance to a convention, composed of men free from religious scruples about taking up arms and unshackled by oaths of allegiance, all domestic conflict would have been evaded. But the wealth and social [74] influence of Philadelphia deprecated a revolutionary

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government, which must emanate from undetermined constituencies and exercise powers undefined; they, therefore, for a time, made common cause with the proprietary. The family of Penn had ceased to be the object of hostile animosities, and had recovered public regard; attached to the Anglican church, their episcopacy was yet of a mild form, free from intolerance and proselyting zeal; and from their interests and their position they were the most sincere friends to conciliation with Britain. Their apostacy from the Society of Friends was so far forgiven, that their policy received the support of the rigid Quakers, whose religious scruples confined them to longsuffer-ing, or peace, or at furthest, to passive resistance. To these elements of power, Dickinson, who still claimed to lead the patriot party of Pennsylvania, added his influence.

The system was wise, if nothing was intended beyond efforts for the restoration of harmony; but it did not provide for ulterior measures. The proprietary and his immediate friends had ties of loyalty which they never would break, and to defeat independence, were swayed by interested motives which would increase in strength in proportion as the necessity for independence should appear. Insincerity, therefore, marked the character of the assembly; no vigorous action proceeded spontaneously from its members. Many of them, who had long held their seats and hankered after a re-election, were led step by step to seemingly bold resolutions; the friends of the proprietary desired to keep up such an appearance as would prevent a transfer of the direction of [75] affairs to a popular convention; the governor and the

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assembly understood their relative position perfectly; he joined with them in such acts as could be justified before the king; they, by their own separate vote, adopted the measures which could not receive his official sanction. In this manner the house, in June, appointed a committee of safety, but with Dickinson at its head; and placed at its disposition thirty-five thousand pounds in bills of credit. At the adjourned session in September, the various memorials were presented from primary meetings, in the hope of quickening the energy of their representatives; but they were laid on the table. The coalition was too powerful to be overthrown in the house, but murmurs and well-founded suspicions began to prevail out of doors; Franklin saw the folly of temporizing, dispassionately expressed his opinions, and bided his time.

The provinces of Delaware and Pennsylvania were under one executive head; and were so nearly united that their inhabitants interchangeably took service in one or both. MacKean, an efficient member of the committee of Philadelphia, was the leading delegate from Delaware for the continent. The conduct of that little colony was unequivocal; its assembly unreservedly assented to the measure of keeping up an armed force, and unanimously assumed their share of the expense. Its first convention, its assembly, and its council of safety, moved together in harmony. The people of Maryland, happier than that of Pennsylvania, escaped intestine dissensions and insured unanimity, by passing overy the proprietary government, and intrusting the conduct of resistance [76] to a series of conventions. The prudent, the slow,

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the hesitating were allowed an influence; but from the first, all parties acquiesced in the principle of deriving all power from the people; and the province, however its movement was sometimes retarded, proceeded courageously in an unbroken line. In November, 1774, it adhered to the association, adopted in the general congress, and its patriotism was confirmed by the austerity of religious zeal. At an adjourned session in December, the Maryland convention, fifty five members being present from sixteen counties, resolved unanimously to resist to the utmost of their power taxation by parliament, or the enforcement of the penal acts against Massachusetts. To this end they voted with equal unanimity a well regulated militia, to be composed of all the freemen of the colony, between fifteen and sixty. They resolved also, that all former difficulties about religion or politics from henceforth should cease, and be forever buried in oblivion; and the benign aurora of the coming republic lighted the Catholic to the recovery of his rightful political equality in the land which a Catholic proprietary had set apart for religious freedom. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who, under the British government, had not had so much as a vote at the polls, was placed unanimously on the committee of correspondence.

It was throughout the continent a subject of regret that the zeal of Dulany had grown cool. As he kept silent, the foremost man in Maryland was Samuel Chase, like Dulany a lawyer; less circumspect and less careful of appearances; but strong, downright, brave and persevering; capable of error from rashness [77] or self-will, but not capable of faltering in the

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cause which he approved. Vehement even to a fault, he did not always speak softly or shun coarse invective; but his undaunted spirit, his fierce independence of mind, his unbending energy, his scorn of semblance without substance, of servility, of plausible hypocrisy that glossed servility over, his eloquence, which sprung from his heart and expressed the vigor of his nature, his uncompromising energy, justly won for him the confidence of Maryland.

That province, like other colonies, had hoped for the recovery of American rights through the interruption of trade; but in April, 1775, a day or two before the arrival of news from Lexington, on occasion of a rumor that New York city was to be fortified and garrisoned, they gave their delegates discretion to proceed ‘even to the last extremity, if indispensably necessary for the safety and preservation of their liberties and privileges.’

The proprietary at this time had no hold on public affection from historic recollections; for he was an illegitimate infant child of the late libertine Lord Baltimore, the last of that name; and it might seem a shame to a commonwealth that its executive power should be transferable by testamentary disposition even to a bastard. Yet the party of the proprietary was strong and wary; had struck deep root into the soil of Maryland itself, and counted Dulany among its friends. The lieutenant governor, Robert Eden, had made himself acceptable and even beloved; had no power to do mischief, and made no attempt to raise the king's standard, maintaining a prudent reserve and acquiescing in what he could not prevent or alter; [78] so that he and the proprietary party were regarded

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in the strife as neutrals, not hostile to the American claims of right.

The convention which met at Annapolis on the twenty sixth of July resolved fully to sustain Massachusetts, and meet force by force. They saw ‘no alternative but base submission or manly resistance.’ They therefore ‘approved of the opposition by arms to British troops.’ The temporary government which was instituted, was, in its form, a universal association of the people of Maryland, one by one. Recognising the continental congress as invested with a general supervision, it managed internal affairs through a provincial council of safety, and subordinate executive committees, which were appointed in every county, parish, or hundred. It directed the enrolment of forty companies of minutemen; established a military code; authorized the emission of more than a quarter of a million of dollars, in bills varying in amount from sixteen dollars to two thirds of a dollar; and it extended the franchise to all freemen having a visible estate of forty pounds sterling, so that Protestant and Catholic might henceforward go to the polls together. The government thus instituted, was administered with regularity and lenity.

By the prudent inactivity of the governors of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, those four colonies awaited the decision of Great Britain in tranquillity; south of the Potomac, Dunmore precipitated a conflict, which the people of Virginia, educated in the love of constitutional monarchy, and disinclined to change for the sake of change, would gladly have avoided. In spite of their [79] wishes, the retreat of the governor from Williamsburg

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foreshadowed the end of the colonial system. The house endeavored not to take things out of their old channel. They revived the memory of Lord Botetourt, and asked only for an administration like his; they reposed full trust in the royal council, a thoroughly loyal body of the king's own selection; and asked only that the governor would conform to its advice. In vain; Dunmore, by a message, on Saturday the twenty fourth of July, summoned the house before him at what he called ‘his present residence;’ that is, on board of a British man-of-war; unless they would come, he would not give his assent even to such of their acts as he approved. Had they appeared, the whole legislature might have found themselves kept as hostages and prisoners. There were parties in Virginia as everywhere else, more or less disinclined to a final rupture. As yet the great majority earnestly desired a continuance of their ancient constitution; but this message could not but be voted unanimously a high breach of the rights and privileges of the house; and in this manner the colonial legislature ceased to exist. In concurrence with the council, the house appropriated money for the expense of ratifying the treaty with the Indians on the Ohio, and then adjourned till the twelfth of October; but no quorum ever again assembled. In the one hundred and fifty sixth year from the institution of legislative government in Virginia, in the person of his governor, the king abdicated his legislative power in the oldest and most loyal of his colonies; henceforward Virginia, reluctantly separating herself from the tried and cherished system of constitutional monarchy, must take care of herself. [80]

On the seventeenth of July, 1775, her people as-

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sembled at Richmond in a convention, which was now, without a rival, the supreme government on her soil. Every procedure was marked by that mixture of courage and moderation which in times of revolution is the omen of success. The military preparations had nothing in view beyond defence; a proposal of volunteer companies in Williamsburg to secure the public money was discountenanced and rejected. Two regiments of regular troops in fifteen companies were called into being; sixteen regiments of minutemen were to keep themselves in readiness for actual service; for the command of the first regiment of regulars, the convention, passing over Hugh Mercer, now a resident of Virginia, elected Patrick Henry, who thus became, for a few months, in rank at least, the provincial commander-in-chief. For the relief of scrupulous consciences in the army, it was made an instruction, that dissenting clergymen might pray with the soldiers and preach to them. Delegates to serve in general congress for a year were elected; and among them once more Richard Bland. Of the same lineage with Giles Bland, who, ninety nine years before had perished as a martyr to liberty, having in his veins the blood of Powhatan and Pocahontas, trained in the college of William and Mary, and afterwards in the university of Edinburgh, he was venerable with age, public service, and a long career of vigilant, unswerving fidelity to civil liberty. Profoundly versed in the history and charters and laws of Virginia, in 1766 he had displayed the rights of the colonies with an uncompromising vigor and prophetic insight, such as Dickinson, who wrote after [81] him, never could equal. His deep blue eyes are now
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dimmed; his step has lost its certainty; he rises to decline the appointment; all eyes rest on him, and the convention hangs on his words: ‘I am an old man, almost deprived of sight; the honorable testimony of my country's approbation shall ever animate me, as far as I am able, to support the glorious cause in which America is now engaged; but advanced age renders me incapable of an active part in the weighty concerns which must be agitated in the great council of the united colonies, and I desire that some abler person may supply my place.’ The convention having unanimously thanked him for his fidelity, released him from further service only on account of his years. A strong party, at the head of which were Henry, Jefferson, and Carrington, turned for his successor to George Mason, a man of yet rarer virtues, now for the first time a member of a political body. He was a patriot, who renounced ambition, making no quest of fame, never appearing in public life but from a sense of duty and for a great end. ‘He will not refuse,’ said Jefferson and Henry, ‘if ordered by his country.’ But he was still suffering from an overwhelming domestic grief; as he gave his reasons for his refusal, tears ran down the presiding officer's cheeks; and the convention listened to him with the sympathy of a family circle. At the same time that Mason declined, he recommended Francis Lee, who was accordingly chosen in the room of Bland, yet only by one vote over a candidate who was noted for loyalty and dread of a democratic republic.

A spirit of moderation prevailed in the election of the committee of safety for the province; Edmund [82] Pendleton, who ever desired it might be remembered

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that ‘a redress of grievances, and not a revolution of government, was his wish,’ was placed at its head.

To defray the charges of the late Indian war, and to provide for her defence, Virginia, following the general example, directed an emission of three hundred and fifty thousand pounds in paper currency; the smallest bill to be for one shilling and three pence. George Mason urged the continuance of the land tax and the poll tax, which would have annually sunk fifty thousand pounds; but his opposition was vain; and taxation was suspended for a year.

Having made preparations for security, both against invasions and a servile insurrection, the members of the convention once more declared before God and the world, that they did bear faith and true allegiance to his majesty George the Third, their only lawful and rightful king; and would, so long as it might be in their power, defend him and his government, as founded on the laws and well known principles of the constitution; but that they were also determined to defend their lives and properties, and maintain their just rights and privileges, even at the extremest hazards. ‘Rather than submit to the rights of legislating for us, assumed by the British parliament,’ wrote Jefferson from Monticello, ‘I would lend my hand to sink the whole island in the ocean.’

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