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Our National Anniversary by Benson J. Lossing

 

ON the morning of a brilliant day in October, 1760, the heir apparent to the British throne and his groom of the stole, were riding on horseback near Kew Palace, on the banks of the Thames. The heir was George, son of the deceased Frederick, Prince of Wales; the groom was John Stuart, Earl of Bute, an impoverished descendant of an ancient Scottish chieftain. The prince was young, virtuous, and amiable; the earl was in the prime of mature manhood, pedantic, gay, courtly in bearing, and winning in deportment. He came as an adventurer to the court of George the Second, for he possessed nothing but an earldom, a handsome person, and great assurance; he lived in affluence in the royal household of Frederick, because he played Lothario well not only in the amateur theatre, but in the drawing-room of the princess, and soon became her petted favorite.

The Prince of Wales died, and rumor with her half-lying tongue often whispered in the public ear the suspicion that the earl and the dowager princess were unmindful of the requirements of virtue. Public credulity believed the scandal, and the public mind became troubled because the pupilage of the future sovereign was under the guidance of the shallow earl. He was a tutor more expert in the knowledge of stage-plays, the paraphernalia of the acted drama, and the laws of fashion and etiquette necessary for the beau and the courtier, than in comprehension of the most simple principles of jurisprudence, the duties of a statesman, or the solid acquirements necessary for a reigning prince or his chief adviser. It was evident that the groom of the stole would be the prime minister of the realm when George should possess the throne of his grandfather, and this expectation made virtuous men and true patriots unhappy.

The prince and his inseparable companion had just reined up at the portal of the garden of the dowager, at Kew, when a solemn peal tolled out from the bells of London. While they were listening, a messenger came in haste to the prince and announced the sudden death of the old king. He was soon followed by William Pitt, the greatest commoner in England, the idol of the people, and, as prime minister, the actual ruler of the affairs of the empire. Pitt confirmed the sad tidings, and made preliminary arrangements for proclaiming the accession of George the Third.

EARL OF BUTE. EARL OF BUTE.

The earl and his pupil remained that day and night at Kew, in company with Doddington and a few other friends, and the next morning rode up to St. James's, in London, to meet the great officers of state. At that interview, Pitt presented the young king with an address to be pronounced at a meeting of the Privy Council. The minister was informed that one had already been prepared. This announcement opened to the sagacious mind of Pitt a broad and gloomy view of the future. He perceived that Bute was to be the ruling spirit in the new cabinet; that he whom he despised for his weakness and illiberality, his pedantic assumption of superior scholarship, and his merited unpopularity with the people, was to be the bosom friend and adviser of the king. Pitt well knew his unfitness, and deplored the consequences. Unwilling to be held in the least responsible for errors which were certain to abound in the administration of affairs, he soon withdrew to his mansion at Hayes, and watched, with all the interest and anxiety of a statesman and patriot, the gradual weaving of the web of difficulty in which the impotent men who surrounded the king, were soon ensnared.

By virtue of his office as groom of the stole, Bute was sworn in a Privy Councilor, and, by degrees he obtained the control of the cabinet. For nearly ten years his unwise advice and defective statesmanship, in the cabinet and in the parlor, led George the Third into many and grave errors, which finally resulted in the loss of the fairest portion of his American possessions. Had Pitt been allowed to guide the public policy and direct the honest but stubborn mind of the king at the beginning of his long reign of half a century, these United States might have remained a part of the British Empire fifty years longer. But that great man, whose genius as a statesman, eloquence and wisdom as a legislator, and whose thorough knowledge of human nature and the past history of the world, made him peerless, and whose administration of government during almost the entire progress of The Seven Years' War, had carried England to a height of prosperity and influence which she had never before approached, was superseded by a fop; his eminent worth was overlooked; his services were apparently forgotten, and he was allowed to retire from office and leave the young sovereign and his government in the hands of weak, crafty, and selfish men. The people venerated Pitt; they despised the very name of Stuart. They deprecated the influence of the king's mother as being unfavorable to popular freedom. A placard which appeared upon the Royal Exchange, bearing, in large letters, the significant expression of "No petticoat government—no Scotch minister—no Lord George Sackville," prefigured those popular tumults which soon afterward disturbed the metropolis and extended to the American colonies. That placard was the harbinger of that great Declaration, the adoption of which by a representative Congress of the Anglo-American people fifteen years afterward, is the occasion of our National Anniversary.

From the accession of Charles the Second, just one hundred years before George the Third ascended the throne, the English colonies in America struggled manfully for prosperity against the unjust and illiberal commercial policy of Great Britain. With a strange obtuseness of perception in regard to the elements of national prosperity, which the truths of modern political economy now clearly illustrate to the common mind, the British government sought to fill its coffers from the products of colonial industry, by imposing upon their commerce such severe restrictions that its expansion was almost prohibited. The wisdom and prudent counsels of men like Robert Walpole were of no avail; and, down to the accession of George the Third, the industrial pursuits of the colonists, under the regulations of the Board of Trade, were subjected to restraints and impositions which amounted to actual oppression. The Americans often petitioned for justice, but in vain. Continental wars continually drained the imperial treasury, and the inventive genius of British statesmen continually planned new schemes for the creation of a revenue adequate to meet the enormous expenditures of government. Despite the Navigation Act and kindred measures, sometimes enforced with rigor, and sometimes with laxity, the American Colonies grew rich and powerful. Despite the injustice of the mother country, they were eminently loyal. During the long war between France and England which was waged in the wilds of America, and which called into fierce action the savage tribes of the forests, the colonies contributed men and money with a lavish prodigality to sustain the honor of Great Britain, and the Gallic power on our continent was crushed, chiefly by provincial strength. The fidelity, the generosity, the prowess, and the loyalty of the Americans commanded the admiration of England, and should have excited her grateful desires to reciprocate and requite the service. On the contrary, the exhibition of the wealth and strength of the colonies during that war, excited her jealousy, led to greater exactions, and were made a pretense for more flagrant acts of injustice. She seemed to regard the Americans as industrious bees, working in a hive in her own apiary, in duty bound to lay up stores of honey for her especial use, and entitled to only the poor requital of a little treacle.

Relying upon the steady loyalty of the colonists, and their pecuniary ability, the advisers of the king looked to them for unceasing and substantial aid in replenishing the exhausted exchequer. Hitherto many of the commercial regulations had been evaded; now a rigid enforcement of the revenue laws was commenced. By the advice of Bute the king determined to "reform the American charters." Secret agents were sent to traverse the colonies for the purpose of ascertaining the temper of the people, of conciliating men of wealth and influence, and of obtaining such information as might be useful to ministers in preparing a plan for drawing a portion of the surplus wealth of the Americans into the imperial treasury. The first reform measure was the issuing of Writs of Assistance to revenue officers. These were warrants to custom-house officials, giving them and their deputies a general power to enter houses and stores where it might be suspected that contraband goods were concealed. This was a violation of one of the dearest principles of Magna Charta which recognizes the house of every Briton as his castle. The idea of such latitude being given to "the meanest deputy of a deputy's deputy" created general indignation and alarm. It might cover the grossest abuses, and no man's privacy would be free from the intrusions of these ministerial hirelings. The colonies saw in this the budding germ of despotism, and resolved to oppose its growth. The voice of James Otis the younger, a ripe scholar of six-and-thirty, and then the Advocate General of the colony of Massachusetts Bay, first denounced the scheme and declared the great political postulate which became the basis of all subsequent resistance to kingly domination, that "Taxation, without Representation, is Tyranny." Like the deep and startling tones of an alarm-bell, echoing from hill to hill, his bold eloquence aroused the hearts of thinking men from the Penobscot to the St. Mary; and his published arguments, like an electric shock, thrilled every nerve in the Atlantic provinces. "Otis was a flame of fire," said John Adams, in describing the scene in the Massachusetts Assembly, when the orator uttered his denunciations. "With a promptitude of classical allusion and a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events and dates, a profusion of legal authority, a prophetic glance of his eyes into futurity and a rapid torrent of impetuous eloquence, he hurried away all before him. The seeds of patriots and heroes were then and there sown. Every man of an immensely crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take up arms against Writs of Assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child, Independence, was born. In fifteen years, that is, in 1776, he grew up to manhood, and declared himself free."

JAMES OTIS. JAMES OTIS.

Poor Otis! The bludgeon of a ministerial myrmidon paralyzed his brilliant intellect, and he was not allowed to participate in the scenes of the Revolution which ensued. Just as the white banner of peace began to wave over his country, after a struggle of twenty years to which he gave the first impulse, an electric bolt from the clouds mercifully released his wearied spirit from its earthly thrall.

The people were now fairly aroused. "Give us a just representation in the national council," they said, "and we will cheerfully submit to the expressed will of the majority." Great Britain was too proud to listen to conditions from her children; too blind to perceive the expediency of fair concession. She haughtily refused the reciprocity asked, and menaced the recusants. In the war just closed, the colonists had discovered their inherent strength, and they were not easily frightened by the mother's frown. Upon the postulate of Otis they planted the standard of resistance and boldly kept it floating on the breeze until the War of the Revolution broke out.

PATRICK HENRY. PATRICK HENRY.

Heedless of the portentous warnings already given, the British ministry conceived another scheme for taxing the Americans. The famous Stamp Act was elaborated in council, discussed in parliament, and made a law by sanction of the king's signature in the spring of 1765. That act imposed certain duties upon every species of legal writing. It declared invalid and null every promissory note, deed, mortgage, bond, marriage license, business agreement, and every contract which was not written upon paper, vellum, or parchment impressed with the stamp of the imperial government. For these, fixed rates were stipulated. In this measure the Americans perceived another head of the Hydra, Despotism. The Writs of Assistance touched the interests of commercial men; the Stamp Act touched the interests of the whole people. The principle involved was the same in each; the practical effect of the latter was universally felt. Fierce was the tempest of indignation which followed the annunciation of its enactment, and throughout the colonies the hearts of the people beat as with one pulsation. Sectional differences were forgotten. The bold notes of defiance uttered in New England and New York were caught up and echoed with manifold vehemence in Virginia. Patrick Henry, the idle boy of Hanover, had just burst from the chrysalis of obscurity, and was enchanting his countrymen with the brilliancy of his eloquence. He had been but a few days a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, when intelligence of the passage of the Stamp Act reached the Old Dominion. Upon a scrap of paper torn from the fly-leaf of an old copy of "Coke upon Littleton," he wrote those famous resolutions which formed the first positive gauntlet of defiance cast at the feet of the British monarch. The introduction of those resolutions startled the apathetic, alarmed the timid, surprised the boldest. With voice and mien almost superhuman in cadence and aspect, Henry defended them. In descanting upon the tyranny of the odious Act, he shook that assembly with alarm, and as he exclaimed in clear bell-tones of deepest meaning, "Cæsar had his Brutus—Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third—" cries of "Treason! Treason!" came from every part of the House. Henry faltered not for an instant; but rising to a loftier altitude, and fixing on the Speaker an eye of the most determined fire, he finished the sentence with vehement emphasis—"George the the Third—may profit by their example. If that be treason, make the most of it." The resolutions were adopted, and from that day Massachusetts and Virginia were the head and heart of the American Revolution.

We will not tarry to notice the various measures subsequently adopted by the British Government to tax the Americans without their consent, and the scenes of excitement which every where prevailed in the colonies. The taxes imposed were light, some of them almost nominal; the colonists complained only of the principle involved in the avowal of government, that it possessed the right to impose taxes without the consent of the governed. This was the issue, and both parties were unyielding. For ten years the people complained of wrongs, petitioned for redress, and suffered insults. They were forbearing, because they were fond of the name of Englishmen. The mother country was blind, not voluntarily wicked. The British ministry did not deliberately counsel the king to oppress his subjects, for he would have spurned such advice with indignation; yet the measures which they proposed, and which the king sanctioned, accomplished the ends of positive tyranny and oppression. Forbearance, at length, became no longer a virtue, and, turning their backs upon Great Britain, the Americans prepared for inevitable war. They understood the maxim of revolutionists, that "in union there is strength." A spontaneous desire for a continental council was every where manifested. Its proposition by the Massachusetts Assembly was warmly responded to. The people met in primary assemblies, appointed representatives, and on the 5th of September, 1774, forty-three delegates from twelve colonies assembled in convention, in Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia. Others soon came, and the first Continental Congress began its labors.

When the preliminary organization of Congress was completed, and the delegates were assembled on the morning of the 7th, there was great solemnity. After the Rev. Mr. Duché had prayed in behalf of the assembly for Divine guidance, no one seemed willing to open the business of Congress. There was perfect silence for a few minutes, when a plain man, dressed in "minister's gray," arose and called the delegates to action. The plain man was a stranger to almost every one present. "Who is he?" went from lip to lip. "Patrick Henry," was the soft reply of Pendleton, his colleague. The master spirit of the storm in Virginia ten years before, now gave the first impulse to independent continental legislation. Day after day the interests of the colonies were calmly discussed; the rights of the people declared; the principles and blessings of civil freedom extolled, and a determination to maintain and enjoy them, at all hazards, boldly avowed. The king and parliament were petitioned; the people of England and America were feelingly addressed, and yet, during the session, from the 5th of September to the 26th of October, not a word was uttered respecting political independence. Reconciliation was the theme; and that body of noble patriots, the noblest ever assembled, returned to their constituents indulging the hope that there would be no occasion for the assembling of another Congress.

When the proceedings of this first general council reached the king, he was greatly offended, and, instead of accepting the loyal propositions for insuring mutual good-will, and listening to the just petitions of his subjects, he recommended coercive measures. Parliament provided for sending more troops to America to enforce submission to the new and oppressive laws. The town of Boston, the hot-bed of the rebellion, was made a garrison, and subjected to martial law. Blood soon flowed at Lexington and Concord, and two months later the sanguinary battle of Bunker Hill was fought. In the mean while another congress had assembled at Philadelphia on the 10th of May; and Ethan Allen and his compatriots had captured the strong fortresses of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, on Lake Champlain. The whole country was in a blaze. The furrow and the workshop were deserted, and New England sent her thousands of hardy yeomen to wall up the British troops in Boston—to chain the tiger, and prevent his depredating elsewhere. A Continental Army was organized, and the supreme command given to George Washington, the hero of the Great Meadows and of the Monongahela. With Titan strength the patriots piled huge fortifications around Boston, and for nine months they kept their unnatural enemy a prisoner upon that little peninsula. Then they drove him in haste out upon the broad Atlantic, and gave peace to the desolated city. And yet the patriots talked not of political independence. Righteous concession would have secured reconciliation. The dismembering blow had not yet fallen. Great Britain was blind and stubborn still.

Perplexed by dissensions in parliament, and the manifest growth of sympathy for the Americans in his metropolis, the king was desirous of making honorable concessions. Foolish ministers and ignorant and knavish politicians prated of British honor, and advised the adoption of rigorous measures for throwing back the swelling tide of rebellion in America. It was an easy thing to advise, but difficult to plan, and hard to execute the schemes proposed. The army of the empire was too much scattered at distant points to furnish efficient detachments for the American service. It would have been dangerous to send out levies raised from the home districts, because the leaven of republicanism was there at work. Material for an invading force was therefore sought in foreign markets. Petty German princes happened to have a good supply on hand, and toward the close of 1775, one of the darkest crimes recorded upon the pages of English history, was consummated. Seventeen thousand Germans, known here as Hessians, were hired by the British ministry, and sent to plunder our seas, ravage our coasts, burn our towns, and destroy the lives of our people. The king pronounced his subjects in America to be rebels, and virtually abdicated government here, by declaring them out of his protection, and waging war against them. His representatives, the royal governors, were expelled from our shores, or driven to the protection of British arms. All hope for reconciliation faded; petitions and remonstrances ceased; the sword was drawn and the scabbard thrown away. The children of Great Britain, who had ever regarded her with reverence and filial affection, and who never dreamed of leaving the paternal roof until the unholy chastisements of a parent's hand alienated their love, were expelled from the threshold, and were compelled to seek shelter behind the bulwark of a righteous rebellion. Now their thoughts turned to the establishment of themselves as an independent nation.

The precise time when aspirations for political independence first became a prevailing sentiment among the people of the colonies, can not be determined. No doubt the thought had been born in many minds, and the desire cherished in many hearts, years before they received tangible shape in explicit declarations. James Warren, Samuel Adams, Dr. Franklin, Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry, Timothy Dwight, Thomas Paine, and others seem to have been early impressed with the idea, that a total separation from Great Britain was the only cure for existing evils. But it was only a few months before the subject was brought before Congress, that it became a topic for public discussion.

In 1773 Patrick Henry said, in conversation, "I doubt whether we shall be able, alone, to cope with so powerful a nation as Great Britain; but," he said, rising from his chair with animation, "where is France? where is Spain? where is Holland? the natural enemies of Great Britain. Where will they be all this while? Do you suppose they will stand by, idle and indifferent spectators of the contest? Will Louis XVI. be asleep all this time? Believe me, no! When Louis XVI. shall be satisfied by our serious opposition, and our Declaration of Independence, that all prospect of a reconciliation is gone, then, and not till then, will he furnish us with arms, ammunition, and clothing; and not with them only, but he will send his fleets and armies to fight our battles for us. He will form a treaty with us, offensive and defensive, against our unnatural mother. Spain and Holland will join the confederation. Our independence will be established, and we shall take our stand among the nations of the earth!" Never did seer or prophet more clearly lift the veil of the future, and yet few sympathized with him. Doctor Franklin talked of total political emancipation in 1774, and Timothy Dwight recommended it early in 1775, and yet Jay, Madison, Richard Penn, and others positively assert, that until after the meeting of the second Continental Congress, there was no serious thought of independence entertained. In reply to an intimation from a friend in 1774, that Massachusetts was seeking independence, Washington wrote, "Give me leave to add, and I think I can announce it as a fact, that it is not the wish or interest of that government, or any other upon this continent, separately or collectively, to set up for independence." But when fleets and armies came to coerce submission to injustice and wrong; when King, Lords, and Commons became totally "deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity," the colonies were obliged to "acquiesce in the necessity" which compelled them to dissolve the political bands that united them to the parent state.

At the beginning of 1776, Thomas Paine sent forth his remarkable pamphlet, called Common Sense. Its vigorous paragraphs dealt hard blows upon the British ministry, and its plain truths carried conviction to the hearts of thousands throughout our land that rebellion was justifiable. In it he boldly proposed a speedy declaration of independence. "It matters very little now," he said, "what the King of England either says or does; he hath wickedly broken through every moral and human obligation, trampled nature and conscience beneath his feet; and by a steady and constitutional spirit of insolence and cruelty, procured for himself a universal hatred. It is now the interest of America to provide for herself. She hath already a large and young family, whom it is more her duty to take care of, than to be granting away her property to support a power which is become a reproach to the names of men and Christians.... It may be asked, Which is the easiest and most practicable plan, reconciliation or independence? I answer generally, That independence being a single, simple line, contained within ourselves, and reconciliation a matter exceedingly perplexed and complicated, and in which a treacherous, capricious court is to interfere, gives the answer without a doubt.... Instead of gazing at each other with suspicious or doubtful curiosity, let each of us hold out to his neighbor the hearty hand of friendship, and unite in drawing a line, which, like an act of oblivion, shall bury in forgetfulness every former dissension. Let the names of Whig and Tory be extinct; and let none other be heard among us, than those of a good citizen; an open and resolute friend; and a virtuous supporter of the rights of mankind, and of the free and independent states of America."

"Common Sense" was printed and scattered by thousands over the land. In the army it was read by the captains at the head of their companies, and at public gatherings its strong but just language was greeted with loud acclaim. Neighbor read it to neighbor, and within three months after its appearance a desire for absolute independence of Great Britain glowed in almost every patriot bosom, and found expression at public meetings, in the pulpit, and in social circles.

The Colonial Assemblies soon began to move in the matter. North Carolina was the first to take the bold, progressive step toward independence. By a vote of a convention held on the 22d of April, 1776, the representatives of that State in the Continental Congress were authorized "to concur with those in the other colonies, in declaring independence." Eleven months earlier than this, a meeting at Charlotte, in Mecklenburg County, forswore allegiance to the British crown.

On the 10th of April, the General Assembly of Massachusetts requested the people of that colony, at the approaching election of new representatives, to give them instructions on the subject of independence. Pursuant to this request, the people of Boston, in town meeting assembled on the 23d, instructed their representatives to use their best endeavors to have their delegates at Philadelphia "advised, that in case Congress should think it necessary for the safety of the united colonies, to declare themselves independent of Great Britain, the inhabitants of that colony, with their lives and the remnants of their fortunes, would most cheerfully support them in the measure."

The Convention of Virginia passed a similar resolution on the 17th of May, and then proceeded to the establishment of a regular independent government for the colony. In its instructions the Virginia Convention directed its representatives to propose a declaration of independence. The General Assembly of Rhode Island adopted a similar resolution the same month, and also directed the usual oath of allegiance, thereafter, to be given to the State of Rhode Island, instead of to the King of Great Britain.

On the 8th of June the New York delegates in Congress asked for special instructions on the subject, but the Provincial Assembly, deeming itself incompetent to instruct in so grave a matter without the previous sanction of the people, merely recommended the inhabitants to signify their sentiments at the election just at hand. The New York delegates were never instructed on the subject, and those who signed the Declaration did so upon their own responsibility. But when a copy of the Declaration reached the Provincial Assembly of New York, then in session at White Plains, that body passed a resolution of approval, and directed their delegates to act in future, as the public good might require.

The Assembly of Connecticut, on the 14th of June, instructed their delegates "to give the assent of the colony to such Declaration, when they should judge it expedient." On the 15th the New Hampshire Provincial Congress issued similar instructions; and on the 21st the new delegates from New Jersey were directed to act in the matter according to the dictates of their own judgments.

THE STATE HOUSE, OR INDEPENDENCE HALL, AS IT APPEARED IN 1776. THE STATE HOUSE, OR INDEPENDENCE HALL, AS IT APPEARED IN 1776.

In the Pennsylvania Assembly, several months previously, the subject of independence had been hinted at. The Conservatives were alarmed, and procured the adoption of instructions to their delegates, adverse to such a measure. In June these restrictions were removed, and they were neither instructed nor officially permitted to concur with the other colonies in a declaration of independence. But a convention of the people, held in Philadelphia on the 24th of June, expressed their willingness and desire to act in concert with those of the other colonies, and requested the representatives of that province to vote affirmatively.

The Convention of Maryland, by a resolution adopted at about the close of May, positively forbade their delegates voting for independence; but through the influence of Carroll, Chase, Paca, and others, the prohibition was recalled on the 28th of June, and they were empowered to give a vote for Maryland concurrent with the other provinces. Delaware, South Carolina, and Georgia refrained from action on the subject, except such as occurred at small district meetings, and their delegates were left free to vote as they pleased. So rapid was the change in public opinion after the British troops were driven out of Boston, that within the space of sixty-five days, the representatives of ten of the thirteen colonies were specially instructed by their constituents to sever the political tie which bound them to Great Britain.

The Continental Congress, now in permanent session, was assembled in the State House in Philadelphia, a spacious building yet standing—a relic of rarest interest to the American, because of the glorious associations which hallow it.

"This is the sacred fane wherein assembled
The fearless champions on the side of Right;
Men at whose Declaration empires trembled,
Moved by the Truth's clear and eternal light.

"This is the hallowed spot where first, unfurling,
Fair Freedom spread her blazing scroll of light;
Here, from Oppression's throne the tyrant hurling,
She stood supreme in majesty and might."

JOHN HANCOCK. JOHN HANCOCK.
ROBERT MORRIS. ROBERT MORRIS.

Stimulated by affirmative action in the various colonies, the desire for independence became a living principle in the hall of the Continental Congress, and that principle found utterance, albeit with timorous voice. John Hancock, an opulent merchant of Boston, and from the commencement of difficulties in 1765, a bold, uncompromising, zealous, and self-sacrificing patriot, was seated in the presidential chair, to which he had been called a year previously, when Peyton Randolph, the first incumbent, was summoned to the bedside of his dying wife in Virginia. The equally bold and uncompromising Adamses were his colleagues, from Massachusetts Bay. On his right sat Franklin of Pennsylvania, Sherman of Connecticut, Rutledge of South Carolina, and young Jefferson of Virginia. On his left was the eloquent Dickenson of Pennsylvania, and his colleague, Robert Morris, the financier of the Revolution, whose capital and credit, controlled by untiring energy and love of country, sustained the cause of freedom in the darkest hours of its struggles with tyranny. Near him was the lovely and refined Arthur Middleton of South Carolina, with a heart full of philanthropy, and a mind at ease while he saw his immense fortune melting away before the fire of revolution. In front was Richard Henry Lee, the Cicero of that august assembly, and by his side sat the venerable John Witherspoon of Princeton College, the equally impressive and earnest preacher of the gospel of Christ and the gospel of civil liberty. Near the President's chair sat the attenuated, white-haired secretary, Charles Thomson, who for fifteen years held the pen of the old Congress, and arranged, with masterly hand, its daily business. On every side were men, less conspicuous but equally zealous, bearing upon their shoulders a responsibility unparalleled in the history of the world in importance, whether considered in the aspect of immediate effects or prospective results.

On the 10th of May, the initial step toward independence was taken by Congress, when it was resolved, "that it be recommended to the several assemblies and conventions of the United Colonies, where no government, sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs, hath hitherto been established, to adopt such a government as shall, in the opinions of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and America in general." A preamble to this resolution was prepared by a committee, consisting of John Adams, Edward Rutledge, and Richard Henry Lee, in which the principles of independent sovereignty were clearly set forth. It was declared "irreconcilable to reason and a good conscience for the colonists to take the oaths required for the support of the government under the crown of Great Britain." It was also declared necessary, that all royal rule should be suppressed, and all "the powers of government exerted under the authority of the people of the colonies, for the preservation of internal peace, virtue, and good order, as well as for the defense of their lives, liberties, and properties, against the hostile invasions, and civil depredations of their enemies." This language was certainly very bold, but not sufficiently positive and comprehensive, as a basis of energetic action, in favor of independence. The hearts of a majority in Congress now yearned with an irrepressible zeal for the consummation of an event which they knew to be inevitable; yet there seemed to be no one courageous enough in that assembly to step forth and take the momentous responsibility of lifting the knife that should dismember the British Empire. The royal government would mark that man as an arch-rebel, and all its energies would be brought to bear to quench his spirit, or to hang him on a gibbet.

RICHARD HENRY LEE. RICHARD HENRY LEE.

We have seen that Virginia instructed her representatives in Congress to propose independence: she had a delegate equal to the task. In the midst of the doubt, and dread, and hesitation, which for twenty days had brooded over the National Assembly, Richard Henry Lee arose, and with his clear, musical voice read aloud the resolution, "That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; and that all political connection between us and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be totally dissolved." John Adams immediately arose and seconded the resolution. To shield them from the royal ire, Congress directed the secretary to omit the names of its mover and seconder in the journals. The record says, "Certain resolutions respecting independence being moved and seconded, Resolved, That the consideration of them be deferred until to-morrow morning; and that the members be enjoined to attend punctually at ten o'clock, in order to take the same into their consideration."

The resolution was not taken up for consideration, until three days afterward, when it was resolved to "postpone its further consideration until the first day of July next; and in the mean while, that no time be lost, in case Congress agree thereto, that a committee be appointed to prepare a declaration to that effect." That committee was appointed on the eleventh of June, and consisted of Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, and Robert R. Livingston of New York. Mr. Lee would doubtless have been appointed the chairman of the committee, had not intelligence of the serious illness of his wife compelled him, the evening previous to its formation, to ask leave of absence. At the hour when the committee was formed, Mr. Lee was in Wilmington, on his way to Virginia. Mr. Jefferson, the youngest member of the committee, was chosen by his colleagues to write the Declaration, because of his known expertness with the pen; and in an upper chamber of the house of Mrs. Clymer, on the southwest corner of Seventh and High-streets, in Philadelphia, that ardent patriot drew up the great indictment against George the Third, for adjudication by a tribunal of the nations.

JOHN DICKENSON. JOHN DICKENSON.

On the first of July, pursuant to agreement, Mr. Lee's resolution was taken up in the committee of the whole house, Benjamin Harrison of Virginia (father of the late President Harrison), in the chair. Jefferson's draft of a declaration of independence, bearing a few verbal alterations by Franklin and Adams, was reported at the same time, and for three consecutive days its paragraphs were debated, altered, and agreed to, one after another. No written record has transmitted to us the able arguments put forth on that occasion, and the world has lost all except a few reminiscences preserved by those who listened to, and participated in the debates. While all hearts were favorable to the measure, all minds were not convinced that the proper time had arrived for "passing the Rubicon." Among the opponents of the resolution was John Dickenson of Pennsylvania, whose powerful arguments in a series of Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer, published eight years before, had contributed greatly toward arousing the colonies to resistance. He did not regard the measure as impolitic at all times, but as premature and impracticable at that time. He urged the want of money, munitions of war, of a well-organized and disciplined army; the seeming apathy of several colonies, manifested by their tardiness in declaring their wishes on the subject; the puissance of Great Britain by sea and land, and the yet unknown course of foreign governments during the contest which would follow. Richard Henry Lee, on the other hand, had supported his resolution with all his fervid eloquence, in Congress and out of it, from the day when he presented it. He prefaced his motion with a speech, which his compatriots spoke of in terms of highest eulogium. He reviewed with voluminous comprehensiveness the rights of the colonists, and the violation of those rights by the mother country. He stated their resources, descanted upon the advantages of union daily drawing closer and closer as external danger pressed upon them, and their capacity for defense. He appealed to the patriotism of his compeers, portrayed the beauties of liberty with her train of blessings of law, science, literature, arts, prosperity and glory; and concluded with these beautiful thoughts: "Why, then, sir, do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic! Let her arise, not to devastate and conquer, but to re-establish the reign of peace and law. The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us; she demands of us a living example of freedom, that may exhibit a contrast, in the felicity of the citizen, to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum, where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repose. She entreats us to cultivate a propitious soil, where that generous plant, which first sprung and grew in England, but is now withered by the blasts of Scottish tyranny [alluding to Bute, Lord Mansfield, and other Scotch advocates of the right of Great Britain to tax America], may revive and flourish, sheltering under its salubrious and interminable shade, all the unfortunate of the human race. If we are not this day wanting in our duty to our country, the names of the American legislators of '76 will be placed by posterity at the side of those of Theseus, of Lycurgus, of Romulus, of Numa, of the three Williams of Nassau, and of all those whose memory has been, and forever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens."

EDWARD RUTLEDGE. EDWARD RUTLEDGE.

Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, the youngest member of Congress, being only twenty-five, was one of Mr. Lee's chief supporters, by his persevering industry, his charming conversation, and his impressive eloquence in debate. He was loved as a son by that stern and unyielding Puritan, Samuel Adams, then at the vigorous old age of fifty-four. He, too, with a voice that was never heard with inattention, supported the resolution; and indignantly rebuking what he was pleased to call a "temporizing spirit" among those who timidly opposed it, he exclaimed, "I should advise persisting in our struggle for liberty and independence, though it were revealed from Heaven that nine hundred and ninety-nine were to perish, and only one of a thousand were to survive, and retain his liberty! One such freeman must possess more virtue, and enjoy more happiness, than a thousand slaves; and let him propagate his like, and transmit to them, what he hath so nobly preserved." Such lofty sentiments possessed great potency at that perilous hour, when the stoutest heart was tremulous with emotion.

SAMUEL ADAMS. SAMUEL ADAMS.

Dr. Witherspoon, of the same ripe age as Mr. Adams, who had left the seat of learning at Princeton and the quiet pathways of a Christian shepherd, and took a seat in the national council, also urged, with all the power and pathos of his eloquence, delivered in broad Scotch accents, and marked by broad Scotch common sense, the immediate adoption of the resolution. While John Dickenson was eloquently pleading with his compeers, to postpone further action on the subject, and said "the people are not ripe for a declaration of independence," Doctor Witherspoon interrupted him and exclaimed, "Not ripe, sir! In my judgment we are not only ripe, but rotting. Almost every colony has dropped from its parent stem, and your own province, sir, needs no more sunshine to mature it!"

JOHN WITHERSPOON. JOHN WITHERSPOON.

Although it was evident from the first, that a majority of the colonies would vote for the resolution, its friends were fearful that unanimous assent could not be obtained, inasmuch as the Assemblies of Pennsylvania and Maryland had refused to sanction the measure, and New York, South Carolina and Georgia were silent. The delegates from Maryland were unanimously in favor of it, while those from Pennsylvania were divided. When, on the first of July, a vote was taken in Committee of the whole House, all the colonies assented, except Pennsylvania and Delaware; four of the seven delegates of the former voting against it, and the two delegates from Delaware, who were present, were divided. Thomas M'Kean favored it, and George Read (who afterward signed it), opposed it. Mr. M'Kean burning with a desire to have his State speak in favor of the great measure, immediately sent an express after his colleague, Cæsar Rodney, the other Delaware delegate, then eighty miles away. Rodney was in the saddle within ten minutes after the arrival of the messenger, and reached Philadelphia on the morning of the fourth of July, just before the final vote was taken. Thus Delaware was secured. Robert Morris and John Dickenson of Pennsylvania were absent; the former was favorable, the latter opposed to the measure. Of the other five who were present, Doctor Franklin, James Wilson, and John Morton were in favor of it; Thomas Willing, and Charles Humphreys were opposed to it; so the State of Pennsylvania was also secured. At a little past meridian, on the Fourth of July 1776, a unanimous vote of the thirteen colonies was given in favor of declaring themselves Free and Independent States. A number of verbal alterations had been made in Mr. Jefferson's draft, and one whole paragraph, which severely denounced Slavery was stricken out, because it periled the unanimity of the vote. In the journal of Congress for that day, is this simple record:

"Agreeably to the order of the day, the Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into their further consideration, the Declaration; and after some time, the President resumed the chair, and Mr. Harrison reported, that the Committee have agreed to a Declaration, which they desired him to report. The Declaration being read, was agreed to as follows:

"A DECLARATION OF THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED.

"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world:

"He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

"He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and, when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

"He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature—a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.

"He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the repository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

"He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

"He has refused, for a long time after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise—the state remaining, in the meantime, exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without and convulsions within.

"He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states—for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

"He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

"He has made judges dependent on his will alone for the tenure of their offices and the amount and payment of their salaries.

"He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

"He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.

"He has affected to render the military independent of, and superior to the civil power.

"He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws—giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation.

"For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;

"For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states;

"For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;

"For imposing taxes on us without our consent;

"For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury;

"For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

"For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies;

"For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering, fundamentally, the forms of our governments;

"For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

"He has abdicated government here by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

"He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

"He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun, with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

"He has constrained our fellow-citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

"He has excited domestic insurrections among us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.

"In every stage of these oppressions, we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

"Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them, from time to time, of attempts, by their legislature, to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them, by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They, too, have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

"We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in general Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and 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; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

LIBERTY BELL. LIBERTY BELL.

It was almost two o'clock in the afternoon when the final decision was announced by Secretary Thomson, to the assembled Congress in Independence Hall. It was a moment of solemn interest; and when the secretary sat down, a deep silence pervaded that august assembly. Tradition says that it was first broken by Dr. Franklin, who remarked, "Gentlemen, we must now all hang together, or we shall surely hang separately." Thousands of anxious citizens had gathered in the streets of Philadelphia, for it was known that the final vote would be taken on that day. From the hour when Congress convened in the morning, the old bell-man had been in the steeple. He had placed a boy at the door below, to give him notice when the announcement should be made. As hour succeeded hour, the graybeard shook his head, and said, "They will never do it! they will never do it!" Suddenly a loud shout came up from below, and there stood the little blue-eyed boy clapping his hands, and shouting, "Ring! Ring!" Grasping the iron tongue of the old bell, backward and forward he hurled it a hundred times, its loud voice proclaiming "Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." The excited multitude in the streets responded with loud acclamations, and with cannon peals, bonfires, and illuminations, the patriots held a glorious carnival that night in the quiet city of Penn.

The Declaration of Independence was signed by John Hancock, the President of Congress, only, on the day of its adoption, and thus it went forth to the world. Congress ordered it to be entered at length upon the journals; it was also ordered to be engrossed upon parchment for the delegates to sign it. This last act was performed on the second day of August ensuing, by the fifty-four delegates then present. Thomas M'Kean, of Delaware, and Dr. Thornton, of New Hampshire, subsequently signed it, making the whole number fifty-six. Upon the next two pages are their names, copied from the original parchment, which is carefully preserved in a glass case, in the rooms of the National Institute, Washington City. It is our pride and righteous boast, and it should be the pride and boast of mankind, that not one of those patriots who signed that manifesto ever fell from the high moral elevation which he then held: of all that band, not one, by word or act, tarnished his fair fame.

The great Declaration was every where applauded; and, in the camp, in cities, villages, churches, and popular assemblies, it was greeted with every demonstration of joy. Washington received it at head-quarters, in New York, on the ninth of July, and caused it to be read aloud at six o'clock that evening at the head of each brigade. It was heard with attention, and welcomed with loud huzzas by the troops. The people echoed the acclaim, and on the same evening they pulled down the leaden statue of the king, which was erected in the Bowling-Green, at the foot of Broadway, in 1770, broke it in pieces, and consigned the materials to the bullet-moulds.

SIGNATURES ON THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. SIGNATURES ON THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

At noon, on the seventeenth of July, Colonel Crafts read the Declaration to a vast assemblage gathered in and around Faneuil Hall, in Boston, and when the last paragraph fell from his lips, a loud huzza shook the old "Cradle of Liberty." It was echoed by the crowd without, and soon the batteries on Fort Hill, Dorchester, Nantasket, Long Island, the Castle, and the neighboring heights of Charlestown, Cambridge, and Roxbury boomed forth their cannon acclamations in thirteen rounds. A banquet followed, and bonfires and illuminations made glad the city of the Puritans.

More Sigs SIGNATURES ON THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

On the eighth, John Nixon read it from the Walnut-street front of the State House, in Philadelphia, to a great concourse of people gathered from the city and the surrounding country. When the reading was finished, the king's arms over the seat of Justice in the courtroom, was torn down and burnt in the street; and at evening bonfires were lighted, the city was illuminated, and it was not until a thunder-storm at midnight compelled the people to retire, that the sounds of gladness were hushed. Newport, Providence, Hartford, Baltimore, Annapolis, Williamsburg, Charleston, Savannah, and other towns near the seaboard, made similar demonstrations, and loyalty to the king, hitherto open-mouthed, was silent and abashed.

From every inhabited hill and valley, town and hamlet of the old thirteen States, arose the melodies of Freedom, awakened by this great act of the people's proxies; and thousands of hearts in Europe, beating strongly with hopes for the future, were deeply impressed and comforted. Bold men caught the symphony, and prolonged its glad harmony, even beyond the Alps and the Apennines, until it wooed sleeping slaves from their slumbers in the shadows of despotism forth into the clear light, panoplied in the armor of absolute right and justice. France was aroused, and turning in its bed of submission like the giant beneath old Ætna, to look for light and liberty, an earthquake shock ensued which shook thrones, crumbled feudal altars whereon equality was daily sacrificed, and so rent the vail of the temple of despotism, that the people saw plainly the fetters and instruments of unholy rule, huge and terrible, within the inner court. They pulled down royalty, overturned distinctions, and gave the first impulse to the civil and social revolutions which have since spread from that focus, to purify the political atmosphere of Europe. Back to our glorious manifesto the struggling nations look; and when they wish to arraign their tyrants, that indictment is their text and guide. Its specific charges against the ruler of Great Britain, of course have no relevancy in other cases, but the great truths set forth in the Declaration are immutable. Always appropriate as a basis of governmental theory and practice, at all times and in all places, they can not fail to receive the hearty concurrence of the wise and good in all lands, and under all circumstances. They were early appreciated by the philosophers and statesmen of Europe, and that appreciation augments with the flight of years.

"With what grandeur, with what enthusiasm, should I not speak of those generous men who erected this grand edifice by their patience, their wisdom, and their courage!" wrote the Abbé Raynal, in 1781, when descanting upon our Declaration. "Hancock, Franklin, and the two Adamses, were the greatest actors in this affecting scene: but they were not the only ones. Posterity shall know them all. Their honored names shall be transmitted to it by a happier pen than mine. Brass and marble shall show them to remotest ages. In beholding them shall the friend of freedom feel his heart palpitate with joy; feel his eyes float in delicious tears. Under the bust of one of them has been written: he wrested thunder from heaven, and the sceptre from tyrants. Of the last words of this eulogy shall all of them partake. Heroic country, my advanced age permits me not to visit thee. Never shall I see myself among the respectable personages of thy Areopagus; never shall I be present at the deliberations of thy Congress. I shall die without seeing the retreat of toleration, of manners, of laws, of virtue, and of freedom. My ashes shall not be covered by a free and holy earth: but I shall have desired it; and my last breath shall bear to heaven an ejaculation for thy prosperity."

"I ask," exclaimed Mirabeau, in the tribune of the National Assembly of France, "if the powers who have formed alliances with the States have dared to read that manifesto, or to interrogate their consciences after the perusal? I ask whether there be at this day one government in Europe—the Helvetic and Batavian confederations, and the British isles excepted, which, judged after the principles of the Declaration of Congress on the fourth of July 1776, is not divested of its rights?" And Napoleon, afterward alluding to the same scene, said, "The finger of God was there!"

The fourth of July, marked by an event so momentous, is properly our great National Anniversary. For three-quarters of a century it has been commemorated by orations, firing of cannon, ringing of bells, military parades, fireworks, squibs, and bonfires; and, alas! too often the day has been desecrated by bacchanalian revels. The deep feelings which stirred the spirits of those who participated in the scenes of the Revolution, on the recurrence of the anniversary, warm not the hearts of their children. With them the Declaration of Independence was a great, and ever-present reality; with us it is only a glorious abstract idea. We are in the midst of the fruition of their faith and earnest aspirations; and, surrounded by the noon-tide radiance of the blessings which have resulted from that act, we can not appreciate the glory of the morning star of our destiny as a nation. Let us henceforth aim to be less superficial in our views of the National Anniversary. Let orators cease grandiloquent displays of bombastic rhetoric, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," and discourse with the sober earnestness of true philosophy upon the antecedents—the remote springs—of that event, every where visible in the history of the world; and by expatiating upon the principles set forth in our manifesto, and their salutary effect upon the well-being of mankind, give practical force to their vitality. Huzzas are not arguments for thinking men; and now, when thought is every where busy in the formation of omnipotent opinion, the American should cast off the garb of national pride, and with the cosmopolitan spirit of a true missionary of Freedom, point to the eternal bond of Union which binds our sovereign States together, and explain the character of its strength and vigor. Placed by the side of the principles involved in our struggle for Independence, the men and their councils, battles, sieges, and victories, wane into comparative insignificance. They are but the nerves and muscles, the sinews and the blood of the being we apotheosize—the mere aids of the mighty brain, the seat of the controlling spirit of the whole. Let us always revere those essential aids, and cherish them in our heart of hearts, but worship only the puissant Spirit on our National Anniversary.