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ure from the common paths of ordinary justice, they were able to conduct the affairs intrusted to them, and preserve at the same time their popularity and their integrity. It is the consequence of war, particularly civil war, that the rights of unoffending and peaceable citizens are oftentimes sacrificed for the benefit of the dominant party, whichever by the fortune of the day may happen to be so, while the existing authority appropriates for itself or the public, whatever property is sufficiently of value to attract its notice.
That cases of this sort must have occurred in the progress of the American revolution, is not now to be questioned ; but wherever they did occur during that period, when under the direction of the provincial congress, the spirit of patriotism supplied the place of law, they were found to have resulted from circumstances which exonerated the individuals of the committee from all suspicion or complaint. Indeed the whole period of the controversy with the mother country is marked by a regard for private rights, worthy of the cause in which the people were engaged, and nowhere is that general feeling more deserving of commendation than in the conduct of the committee of safety even amid the frequent and imperious demands, which might sometimes have been an apology, if not a justification, for different conduct.
The course adopted by the committee of the provincial congress, was that which the opinion of the body collectively indicated as the path of duty. In the novel and alarming situation of the country, the deliberations and acts of this band of patriots marked the prudence, the firmness, the intelligence and the strong American feeling by which they were influenced. Educated in principles of loyalty, and attached by habit and early associations to the monarchy, they had not originally any idea of national independence; but feeling a constitutional right to the enjoyment of British liberty, and conscious that the dignity of their own character required its preservation, they contented themselves with claiming nothing beyond their chartered rights, but did not hesitate, at any possible peril, to demand their entire possession. They were unwilling to be rebels, but they resolved not to be slaves.
This cautious course, required by loyalty on the one side and patriotism on the other, this opposition to the king's ministry and the laws of parliament, with a professed respect for the king's person and royal authority, it was difficult always to maintain. Regard for the rights of the province led them to oppose themselves to the rights of the crown, and it is probable that their early reverence for the royal authority might render them more circumspect in maintaining popular privileges. They do not, however, appear to have faultered in the work they began. Every moment of their remaining together was a continued violation of their allegiance in the opinion of the governour, whose strong military force might have made his opinion their law. The courage they displayed in maintaining their principles, and the firmness, almost the rashness of their resolution to continue their sessions, implied a resource for protection not the less formidable because it was not immediately obvious, and discouraged the military representative of majesty from any hostile assault upon their personal liberty.
This first provincial congress continued its sessions, at intervals, until the tenth of December, when it was dissolved by its own authority.
Second Provincial Congress of Massachusetts........Letters of John
A new provincial congress, of which Mr. Gerry was a member, assembled in Cambridge, in February 1775 ; and after a few days' session adjourned to meet again in March.
Like their predecessors, this congress endeavoured by a well written and animating address to instruct the public mind, and excite and regulate that patriotic spirit which the emergency required. With the characteristic piety of their forefathers they set apart a day for religious duty, acknowledging the power of an overruling providence, and seeking from the goodness of Heaven that wisdom and strength, which were necessary for their safe conduct in the perilous condition of
Though nearly the same persons were returned to this congress who had sat in the former, it was apparent from the tone of their speeches, and the measures they adopted, that a pacific termination of the existing troubles was no longer expected. They seemed to realize the arbitrary determination of the ministry to subject them to a
disgraceful vassalage, and they prepared themselves to resist it with the sword.
The British general with a view to possess himself of the continental military stores in Essex county detached a part of his troops from Boston by water to Marblehead, and thence through Salem to Danvers, but without success. The circumstance was mortifying to their pride, and proportionally excited the spirit of the provincials.
It was the occasion of the following letter.
MR. HANCOCK TO MR. GERRY.
Boston, FEB. 28, 1775. DEAR SIR, We are all extremely pleased at the conduct of Marblehead and Salem. The people there have certainly convinced the governour and troops that they will fight, and I am confident this movement will make the general more cautious how he sends parties out in future to attempt the like. The matter was conducted with the greatest secrecy. We knew nothing of it in town until 10 o'clock on Monday. I hear nothing of sending troops to York or any where else. Should any thing occur worthy of your notice you shall be informed. Mr. Adams and all friends are well, and much pleased with your conduct.
conduct. I hope when the day of trial