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1774.]

ADDRESS TO THE CANADIANS.

125

been recommitted, was then adopted. One of the objections which had been most frequently urged against the Quebec bill, both in England and America, was its establishment of the Catholic religion; but this delicate topic was carefully avoided by Congress in their address.

They say that when, by the fortune of war, Canada became a part of the British dominions, they expected that as courage and generosity are closely allied, their brave enemies would become hearty friends, and would enjoy all the rights conferred by the English Constitution; but that these expectations had been disappointed by the present flagitious ministers.

The first of these rights is that of choosing representatives, who make their laws, and who alone can take their property from them.

Another is the right of trial by jury.

Another is liberty of person-protected by the writ of habeas corpus.

A fourth right is that of holding lands by the tenure of easy rents.

The last right is freedom of the press.

These valuable rights, indispensable to freedom and happiness, have been taken from them. Nor are the French laws permanently secured to the people of Canada, as they are to remain in force only until they are altered by the Governor and Council.

They are few in numbers compared with the colonies addressing them, and it would be far better for them to have the rest of North America friends than their enemies. They say that difference of religion offers no obstacle to amity between them; of which the Swiss cantons afford a memorable proof.

The Canadians are then cautioned against those who, from interested motives, will oppose the object of this

126

CONGRESS CLOSES ITS SESSION.

[CHAP. II.

address. They are not asked to commence hostilities, but to unite in a social compact; and, forming a provincial Congress, to send deputies to the Continental Congress to be held in May next.

They give an abstract of their principal measures, one of which was an unanimous resolution, that Congress considered the violation of the rights of Canadians as a violation of their own.

The committee who prepared this able address were Mr. Lee, Mr. Cushing of Massachusetts, and Mr. Dickinson, who was its draftsman.

Having previously appointed the tenth day of May for their next meeting, this memorable body terminated its session of fifty-two days.

Let us here pause a moment to do justice to the merits of these men. Never did a deliberative body better execute the important duties that devolved upon them. Their first object was to produce unanimity at home, as the best means of obtaining a redress of their grievances, and of defending themselves, should force be finally resorted to. To effect this, their resolutions in answer to those of Suffolk; their address to the people of the colonies; and indeed all the other papers they published, were calculated to produce entire conviction that they had been grossly injured; and that it was the settled purpose of the British government to degrade the colonies to a state of servile dependence.

They endeavored to strengthen themselves by inviting the co-operation of the other colonies, and especially of the people of Canada, who were the most numerous, and of whose ancient prejudices they were most apprehensive.

They then made a strong appeal both to the interests, and to the sense of justice of the British nation, by their

1774.]

CHARACTER OF THE FIRST CONGRESS.

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suspension of all commercial intercourse with them, and by the addresses to the king and the people of Great Britain. All this too was done with a force, an ability, and, at the same time, a calm dignity of manner which called forth the praises of the most distinguished men of their day,' and which has ever made the Congress of 1774, above all others, the theme of just pride to the American people.

2

Such were the acts of this august body of patriots; and if, on a nearer inspection, cavillers have seen that even here the love of notoriety, the ambition of originating measures, the vanity of authorship or of oratory were exhibited in their proceedings, these instances of human infirmity ought not to deduct from our pride and admiration- for they were but temporary, they extended only to a portion of the body, and in no instance appeared to have had any influence on their measures. Where men have encountered danger and difficulty to do right, and have done it with singular sagacity and ability, we are not warranted in looking with microscopic and envious eyes on the subordinate personal feelings which accompanied without disturbing their acts. These acts, then, are the proper objects of our regard, and they must always place the men of the first Congress in the fore

1 Edmund Burke and Lord Chatham. See Annual Register and Parl. Debates.

2 On this subject we may cite a passage from Mr. Adams's Diary, which some may think quite as characteristic of the honest but faultfinding patriot as of those on whom he animadverts:

"Monday [Sept. twenty-fourth]. In Congress nibbling and quibbling as usual. There is no greater mortification than to sit with half a dozen wits, deliberating upon a petition, address, or memorial. These great wits, these subtle critics, these refined geniuses, these learned lawyers, these wise statesmen, are so fond of showing their parts and powers, as to make their consultations very tedious." - II. Diary, p. 401.

128

MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE.

[CHAP. II.

most rank, among the guardians of a people's rights, and the defenders of civil freedom.

The papers put forth by Congress, though they all failed of their intended effect abroad, were entirely successful at home. They united the great body of the American people in one main purpose, and procured from them a more willing and strict obedience to the mere recommendations of Congress, than laws armed with penalties can ever enforce. In this process they had the ready aid of most of the provincial legislatures.

In Massachusetts General Gage had issued writs for electing members of the legislature to meet at Salem on the first of October; but, seeing the general temper of the people, he had by proclamation countermanded those writs. The people, however, proceeded to make the election, and the members elected, having assembled at Salem, declared themselves a provincial Congress; a result which public sentiment had already indicated. They adjourned, first to Concord, and then to Cambridge, where they exercised all the functions of govern

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Their first measures were to prepare for the defence of the province by providing military stores, and for enrolling twenty-two thousand militia then called "minute men, and all receivers of taxes were required to pay over the money collected by them to the treasurer appointed by the provincial Congress. The proclamation of General Gage, denouncing their proceedings, was utterly disregarded.

Let us now advert to the course of the British Legislature and ministry concerning America.

At the meeting of Parliament on the last of November, the king in his opening speech mentioned "the daring spirit of resistance and disobedience to the law," which

1774.]

LORD CHATHAM.

129

prevailed in Massachusetts Bay, which had been countenanced and encouraged in other colonies, and his determination to support the supreme authority of Parliament over all his dominions. But notwithstanding this decla ration there was an apparent irresolution1 on the part of the ministers as to the course they meant to pursue toward America; and they were so far from asking an increase of military force, that a reduction of four thou sand seamen was proposed by them; and some weeks elapsed before the papers received from America were communicated to Parliament.

At length William Pitt, now become Lord Chatham, who had for some time withdrawn himself from public affairs, appeared in the House of Lords, and moved an address to the king for recalling the troops from Boston. He supported it in his wonted style of lofty eloquence, and concluded in these words: "If the ministers thus persevere in misadvising and misleading the king, I will not say that they can alienate the affections of his subjects, but I will affirm that they will make his Crown not worth his wearing. I will not say that the king is betrayed, but I will pronounce that the kingdom is undone.” His motion was rejected by sixty-eight to eighteen.

A petition was then presented in the House of Commons from Dr. Franklin and two other American agents, stating that the petition from the American Congress to the king which they had been authorised to present, had been referred by the king to the House, and they asked to be heard on the subject; but, after a warm debate, a large majority decided that to hear them would be to give countenance to an illegal assembly.

In February Lord Chatham brought forward a bill for

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