Instructions for the Deputies appointed to meet in General Congress

v1:689

Instructions for the Deputies appointed to meet in General Congress on the part of this Colony.

The unhappy disputes between Great Britain and her American Colonies, which began about the third year of the reign of his present Majesty, and since continually increasing, have proceeded to lengths so dangerous and alarming, as to excite just apprehensions in the minds of his Majesty' s faithful subjects of this Colony, that they are in danger of being deprived of their natural, ancient, constitutional, and chartered rights, have compelled them to take the same into their most serious consideration; and being deprived of their usual and accustomed mode of making known their grievances, have appointed us their Representatives to consider what is proper to be done in this dangerous crisis of American affairs.

It being our opinion that the united wisdom of North America should be collected in a general Congress of all the Colonies, we have appointed the Honourable Peyton Randolph, Esquire, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, and Edmund Pendleton, Esquires, Deputies to represent this Colony in the said Congress, to be held at Philadelphia, on the first Monday in September next. And that they may be the better informed of our sentiments touching the conduct we wish them to observe on this important occasion, we desire that they will express, in the first place, our faith and true allegiance to his Majesty King George the Third, our lawful and rightful Sovereign; and that we are determined, with our lives and fortunes, to support him in the legal exercise of all his just rights and prerogatives; and however misrepresented, we sincerely approve of a constitutional connection with Great Britain, and wish most ardently a return of that intercourse of affection and commercial connection that formerly united both countries, which can only be effected by a removal of those causes of discontent which have of late unhappily divided us.

It cannot admit of a doubt, but that British subjects in America are entitled to the same rights and privileges as their fellow-subjects possess in Britain; and, therefore, that the power assumed by the British Parliament, to bind America by their statutes, in all cases whatsoever, is unconstitutional, and the source of these unhappy differences.

The end of Government would be defeated by the British Parliament exercising a power over the lives, the property, and the liberty of American subjects, who are not, and from their local circumstances cannot, be there represented. Of this nature we consider the several Acts of Parliament for raising a revenue in America; for the extending the jurisdiction of the Courts of Admiralty; for seizing American subjects, and transporting them to Britain to be tried for crimes committed in America; and the several late oppressive Acts respecting the town of Boston and Province of the Massachusetts Bay.

The original Constitution of the American Colonies possessing their Assemblies with the sole right of directing their internal polity, it is absolutely destructive of the end of their institution that their Legislatures should be suspended, or prevented, by hasty dissolutions, from exercising their Legislative powers.

Wanting the protection of Britain, we have long acquiesced in their Acts of Navigation restrictive of our commerce, which we consider as an ample recompense for such protection; but as those Acts derive their efficacy from that foundation alone, we have reason to expect they will be restrained so as to produce the reasonable purposes of Britain, and not be injurious to us.

To obtain redress of these grievances, without which the people of America can neither be safe, free, nor happy, they were willing to undergo the great inconvenience that will be derived to them from slopping all imports whatsoever from Great Britain, after the first day of November next, and also to cease exporting any commodity whatsoever to the same place, after the 10th day of August, 1775. The earnest desire we have to make as quick and full payment as possible of our debts to Great Britain, and to avoid the heavy injury that would arise to this country from an earlier adoption of the non-exportation plan, after the people have already applied so much of their labour to the perfecting of the present crop, by which means they have been prevented from pursuing other methods of clothing

v1:690

and supporting their families, have rendered it necessary to restrain you in this article of non-exportation; but it is our desire that you cordially co-operate with our sister Colonies in general Congress, in such other just and proper methods as they or the majority shall deem necessary for the accomplishment of these valuable ends.

The Proclamation issued by General Gage, in the Government of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, declaring it treason for the inhabitants of that Province to assemble themselves to consider of their grievances, and form Associations for their common conduct on the occasion; and requiring the Civil Magistrates and officers to apprehend all such persons, to be tried for their supposed offences, is the most alarming process that ever appeared in a British Government; that the said General Gage hath thereby assumed and taken upon himself powers denied by the Constitution to our legal Sovereign; that he, not having condescended to disclose by what authority he exercises such extensive and unheard of powers, we are at a loss to determine whether he intends to justify himself as the Representative of the King, or as the Commander-in-chief of his Majesty' s forces in America. If he considers himself as acting in the character of his Majesty' s Representative, we would remind him that the statute, twenty-fifth, Edward the Third, has expressed and defined all treasonable offences, and that the Legislature of Great Britain hath declared that no offence shall be construed to be treason but such as is pointed out by that statute, and that this was done to take out of the hands of tyrannical Kings and of weak and wicked Ministers that deadly weapon which constructive treason had furnished them with, and which had drawn blood of the best and most honest men in the Kingdom; and that the King of Great Britain hath no right, by his Proclamation, to subject his people to imprisonment, pains, and penalties.

That if the said General Gage conceives he is empowered to act in this manner, as the Commander-in-chief of his Majesty' s forces in America, this odious, and illegal Proclamation must be considered as a plain and full declaration that this despotick viceroy will be bound by no law, nor regard the constitutional rights of his Majesty' s subjects, whenever they interfere with the plan he has formed for oppressing the good people of the Massachusetts Bay; and, therefore, that the executing, or attempting to execute, such Proclamation, will justify resistance and reprisal.