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generally known, as having been addressed to all the governors, he was anxious that the answer of our Assembly, likely to be the first, should harmonise with what he knew to be the sentiments and wishes of the body be had recently left. He feared that Mr. Nicholas, whose mind was not yet up to the mark of the times, would undertake the answer, and therefore pressed me to prepare it. I did so, and with his aid, carried it through the House, with long and doubtful scruples from Mr. Nicholas and James Mercer, and a dash of cold water on it here and there, enfeebling it somewhat, but finally with unanimity, or a vote approaching it. This being passed, I repaired immediately to Philadelphia, and conveyed to Congress the first notice they had of it. It was entirely approved there. I took my seat with them on the A1st of June. On the 24th, a com
а mittee which had been appointed to prepare a declaration of the causes of taking up arms, brought in their report (drawn I believe by J. Rutledge) which, not being liked, the House recommitted it, on the 26th, and added Mr. Dickinson and myself to the committee. On the rising of the House, the committee having not yet met, I happened to find myself near Governor W. Livingston, and proposed to him to draw the paper. He excused himself, and proposed that I should draw it. On my pressing him with urgency, We are as yet but new acquaintances, Sir,' said he, why are you so earnest for my doing it?'— Because,' said I, I have been informed
" that you drew the Address to the people of Great Britain, a production, certainly, of the finest pen in America.'—- On that,' says he, perhaps, Sir, you may not have been correctly informed. I had received the information in Virginia from Colonel Harrison on his return from that Congress. Lee, Livingston, and Jay had been the committee for that draught. The first, prepared by Lee, had been disapproved and recommitted. The second was drawn by Jay, but being presented by Governor Livingston, had led Colonel Harrison into the error. The next morning, walking in the hall of Congress, many members being assembled, but the House not yet formed, I observed Mr. Jay, speaking to R. H. Lee, and leading him by the button of his coat to me. "I understand, Sir," said he to me, that this gentleman informed you, that Governor Livingston drew the Address to the people of Great Britain.' I assured him, at once, that I had not received that information from Mr. Lee, and that not a word had ever passed on the subject between Mr. Lee and myself; and after some explanations the subject was dropped. These gentlemen had had some sparrings in debate before, and continued ever very hostile to each other.
I prepared a draught of the declaration committed to us. It was too strong for Mr. Dickinson. He still retained the hope of reconciliation with the mother country, and was unwilling it should be lessened by offensive statements. so honest a man, and so able a one, that he was greatly indulged even by those who could not feel his scruples. We therefore requested him to take the paper, and put it into a form he could approve. He did so, preparing an entire new statement, and preserving of the former only the last four paragraphs and half of the preceding one. proved and reported it to Congress, who accepted it. Congress gave a signal proof of their indulgence to Mr. Dickinson, and of their great desire not to go too fast for any respectable part of our body, in permitting him to draw their second petition to the King according to his own ideas, and passing it with scarcely any amendment. The disgust against its humility was general; and Mr. Dickinson's delight at its passage was the only circumstance which reconciled them to it. The vote being passed, although further observation on it was out of order, he could not refrain from rising and expressing his satisfaction, and concluded by saying, there is but one word, Mr. President, in the paper which I disapprove, and that is the word Congress ;' on which Ben Harrison rose and said, there is but one word in the paper, Mr. President, of which I approve, and that is the word Congress.'
On the 22d of July, Dr. Franklin, Mr. Adams, R. H. Lee, and myself were appointed a committee to consider and report on Lord North's conciliatory resolution. The answer of the Virginia Assembly on that subject having been approved, I was requested by the committee to prepare this report, which will account for the similarity of feature in the two instruments.
On the 15th of May, 1776, the convention of Virginia instructed their delegates in Congress, to propose to that body to declare the colonies independent of Great Britain, and appointed a committee to prepare a declaration of rights and plan of government.
*In Congress, Friday, June 7, 1776. The delegates from
* Here, in the original manuscript, commence the two preceding sheets' referred to by Mr. Jefferson, page 21, as containing 'notes' taken by him whilst these things were going on. They are easily distinguished from the body of the MS. in which they were inserted by him, being of a paper very different, in size, quality, and colour, from that on which the latter is written.
Virginia moved, in obedience to instructions from their constituents, that the Congress should declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved ; that measures should be immediately taken for procuring the assistance of foreign powers, and a Confederation be formed to bind the colonies more closely together.
The House being obliged to attend at that time to some other business, the proposition was referred to the next day, when the members were ordered to attend punctually at ten o'clock.
Saturday, June 8. They proceeded to take it into consideration, and referred it to a committee of the whole, into which they immediately resolved themselves, and passed that day and Monday the 10th in debating on the subject.
It was argued by Wilson, Robert R. Livingston, E Rutledge. Dickinson and others
That, though they were friends to the measures themselves, and saw the impossibility that we should ever again be united with Great Britain, yet they were against adopting them at this time :
That the conduct we had formerly observed was wise ar proper now, of deferring to take any capital step till the voice of the people drove us into it:
That they were our power, and without them our declarations could not be carried into effect :
That the people of the middle colonies (Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, the Jerseys, and New York) were not yet ripe for bidding adieu to British connection, but that they were fast ripening, and, in a short time, would join in the general voice of America :
That the resolution, entered into by this House on the 15th of May, for suppressing the exercise of all powers derived from the crown, had shewn, by the ferment into which it had thrown these middle colonies, that they had not yet accommodated their minds to a separation from the mother country:
That some of them had expressly forbidden their delegates to consent to such a declaration, and others had given no instructions, and consequently no powers to give such consent:
That if the delegates of any particular colony had no power to declare such colony independent, certain they were, the others could not declare it for them; the colonies being as yet perfectly independent of each other :
That the assembly of Pennsylvania was now sitting above stairs, their convention would sit within a few days, the convention of New York was now sitting, and those of the Jerseys and Delaware counties would meet on the Monday following; and it was probable these bodies would take up the question of Independence, and would declare to their delegates the voice of their state :
That if such a declaration should now be agreed to, these delegates must retire, and possibly their colonies might secede from the Union :
That such a secession would weaken us more than could be compensated by any foreign alliance :
That in the event of such a division, foreign powers would either refuse to join themselves to our fortunes, or, having us so much in their power as that desperate declaration would us, they would insist on terms proportionably more hard and prejudicial :
That we had little reason to expect an alliance with those to whom alone, as yet, we had cast our eyes :
That France and Spain had reason to be jealous of that rising power, which would one day certainly strip them of all their American possessions :
That it was more likely they should form a connection with the British court, who, if they should find themselves unable otherwise to extricate themselves from their difficulties, would agree to a partition of our territories, restoring Canada to France, and the Floridas to Spain, to accomplish for themselves a recovery of these colonies :
That it would not be long before we should receive certain information of the disposition of the French court, from the agent whom we had sent to Paris for that
purpose : That if this disposition should be favourable, by waiting the event of the present campaign, which we all hoped would be successful, we should have reason to expect an alliance on better terms :
That this would in fact work no delay of any effectual aid from such ally, as, from the advance of the season and distance of our situation, it was impossible we could receive any assistance during this campaign:
That it was prudent to fix among ourselves the terms on which we would form alliance, before we declared we would form one at all events :
And that if these were agreed on, and our Declaration of Independence ready by the time our Ambassador should be prepared to sail, it would be as well, as to go into that Declaration at this day.
On the other side, it was urged by J. Adams, Lee, Wythe and others, that no gentleman had argued against the policy or the right of separation from Britain, nor had supposed it possible we should ever renew our connection; that they had only opposed its being now declared :
That the question was not whether, by a Declaration of Independence, we should make ourselves what we are not ; but whether we should declare a fact which already exists:
That, as to the people or parliament of England, we had always been independent of them, their restraints on our trade deriving efficacy from our acquiescence only, and not from any rights they possessed of imposing them, and that so far, our connection had been federal only, and was now dissolved by the commencement of hostilities:
That, as to the King, we had been bound to him by allegiance, but that this bond was now dissolved by his assent to the late act of parliament, by which he declares us out of his protection, and by his levying war on us, a fact which had long ago proved us out of his protection; it being a certain position in law, that allegiance and protection are reciprocal, the one ceasing when the other is withdrawn :
That James the II. never declared the people of England out of his protection, yet his actions proved it, and the parliament declared it:
No delegates then can be denied, or ever want, a power of declaring an existent truth:
That the delegates from the Delaware counties having declared their constituents ready to join, there are only two colonies, Pennsylvania and Maryland, whose delegates are absolutely tied up, and that these had, by their instructions, only reserved a right of confirming or rejecting the measure:
That the instructions from Pennsylvania might be accounted for from the times in which they were drawn, near a twelvemonth ago, since which the face of affairs has totally changed:
That within that time, it had become apparent that Britain was determined to accept nothing less than a carte-blanche, and that the King's answer to the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of London, which had come to hand four days ago, must have satisfied every one of this point :
That the people wait for us to lead the way:
That they are in favour of the measure, though the instructions given by some of their representatives are not:
That the voice of the representatives is not always consonant with the voice of the people, and that this is remarkably the case in these middle colonies :