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finite feuds and animosity. Independence, in short, is the only way to union and harmony ; to vigour and despatch in business, our eye will be single, and our whole body full of light; any thing short of it will, as appears to me, be our destruction, infallible destruction, and that speedily. Amen.
Joseph HAWLEY, Mr. Gerry.
First project of Independence........ Correspondence with Major Haw
ley.......With General Warren........ Impediments in the way of Independence....... Independence declared.
THE financial difficulties in which the colonies were placed, and the formidable force which was preparing for their overthrow, did not deter influential men from proposing measures of a bold and decisive character.
The question of independence had been seriously, though not very publicly discussed in Massachusetts. It was with great regret that many, even of the leading men in the councils of that colony had admitted that it would be necessary to fight, but they were not slow in perceiving that the battle, when begun, would end in the independence or the ruin of their country.
This important proposition was debated again and again in the confidential intercourse of the prominent members of the congress at Watertown, long before the object was openly avowed. Its hazards and its benefits were weighed and compared, and a determination formed to prepare the minds of the people for the necessity and advantage of this great and momentous change in their political condition.
The organization of a military and naval force, the appointment of a commander in chief and subordinate officers, and the conducting of open hostility in the face of an avowed enemy, no longer rendered very sensible those nice distinctions, which had been attempted to reconcile resistance to ministers with allegiance to the throne. It be came necessary for the Americans to admit that resistance was rebellion, or to assume the character of an independent nation, and claim the rights of sovereignty and self government.
The necessity of the alternative did not dimino ish the danger of the choice. It could not be concealed, nor was it attempted to be concealed by the patriots of 1776, that the act, which was required by their country, might be fatal to themselves. They could not but feel that while, on one hand, the establishing of a new nation would ensure them imperishable glory, the result of an abortive attempt to sever the connexion of the colonies with the mother country would ruin their constituents, and subject themselves to the disgrace and the penalty of treason.
personal considerations had little weight with the architects of the American republic. The glory or the shame, the reward or the punishment, which by a change of condition might ennoble or destroy them, neither accelerated or retarded the momentous event. Its consequence to the nation, and not the personal gratification of the
agents, was the great consideration by which it was effected. The project of independence was neither begun with indecent haste, nor delayed by unreasonable apprehension. It was discussed with the coolness and deliberation, which became the dignity of an assembly selected for its wisdom from three millions of people, and which felt the responsibility of a measure that would fix their fate and their children's forever.
A scheme, whose operation was overshadowed in the uncertainty of future time, was viewed in different perspective by the individuals and the colonies whose interest it would decide. Men of capacious and extensive range of thought early saw the results which resistance would accomplish ; those who were bold and adventurous, or constitutionally of an ardent and sanguine temper, looked on the anticipated consequences, if not with satisfaction always, yet certainly without alarm. A more timid and cautious class of statesmen dreaded what they called the dangerous precipitancy of their colleagues, and suffered doubts and fears to triumph over hope. These were coasting-crast navigators, fearful of adventuring out of sight of land, making always for the shore, and seeking some port of shelter from the first murmurings of the storm. They would engage in no expedition, whatever might be its promise, unless preparation was first made for successful retreat. The congress of the colonies in 1776 consisted of these two classes of political characters. The high and irreproachable patriotism of all its members is entitled to the most honourable attestation; but in boldness of purpose, in grand and lofty conception of the destinies of the people, in a knowledge of the true nature of the crisis at which they had arrived, in the intelligence which could realize that timid or temporary measures were alike hazardous and futile, and that the nation was to be preserved only by great and resistless exertions, in the qualifications, finally, by which a statesman proves his competency to the high duties of the station, the congress at Philadelphia was distinguished by all the variety of mind that could be collected in any deliberative assembly.
The delegates from Massachusetts, by the circumstances in which that colony was placed, had been early called to a consideration of the great argument by which their rights were supported, and to a consideration of ulterior measures, when reason and argument should no longer be of any avail. They had been selected from that school, in which the lessons of liberty were first taught, for their political forethought, intelligence and decision, and the point at which they had now arrived had not come upon them by surprise. The same elevated sentiments animated the ardent statesmen of the south. At a distance from immediate danger, they had watched calmly and dispassionately the movement of royal power, and thrown themselves into the controversy not merely