The following is the draught of the articles referred to in connection with the declaration of rights and grievances made by the Congress of 1774, one of the most important papers of the revolutionary history. In order to facilitate the comparison of the two, they are here placed in parallel columns. The verbal alterations are marked in italics.
Heads of Grievances and Rights.
Whereas, since the accession of the present King, Parliament has claimed a power of right to bind the people of the Colonies in North America by statutes in all cases whatsoever; and for carrying the said power into execution, has, by some statutes, expressly taxed the people of the said Colonies, and by divers other statutes under various pretences, but in fact for the purpose of raising a revenue, has imposed “rates and duties,” payable in the said Colonies, established a Board of Commissioners, and extended the jurisdiction of Courts of Admiralty therein, for the collection of such “rates and duties.”
And whereas some of the said statutes are also intended to render all Judges in the said Colonies dependent upon the Crown only.
And whereas since the said accession, statutes have been made for quartering and supplying troops to be kept in the said Colonies.
And whereas since the conclusion of the last war, orders have been issued by the King, that the authority of the commander-in-chief, and under him, of the Brigadier-General in the Northern and Southern departments, in all military affairs shall be supreme, and must be obeyed by the troops as such, in all the civil governments in America.
And whereas a statute was made in the seventh year of this reign “for suspending the proceedings of the Assembly of New York, &c.” and Assemblies in these Colonies have of late years been very frequently dissolved.
And whereas, during the present reign, dutiful and reasonable petitions to the Crown, from the representatives of the people in these Colonies, have been repeatedly treated with contempt.
And whereas, it has been lately resolved in Parliament, that, by force of a statute made in the thirty-fifth year of Henry VIII., Colonists may be carried to England, and tried there, on accusations for offences committed in those Colonies. And by a statute made in the twelfth year of this reign such trials are directed in the cases therein mentioned.
And whereas in the last session of Parliament three statutes were made and declared to have force within the Province of Massachusetts Bay, one of them “for discontinuing, &c. the landing, &c. goods, wares, and merchandises, at the town and within the harbor of Boston,” &c.; another, “for the better regulating the government, &c.;” and the third, “for the impartial administration of justice,” &c.*
And whereas, in the same session, another statute was made, “for making more effectual provision for the government of the Province of Quebec,” &c.
And whereas the good people of these Colonies, justly alarmed by the proceedings of Parliament and Administration, have duly appointed and directed delegates to meet and sit in General Congress at Philadelphia, in this month of September, 1774, in order to such establishment as that their religion, laws, and liberties, may not be subverted; upon which appointment and direction, the said delegates being now assembled in a full and free representative* of these Colonies, taking into their most serious consideration the best means for attaining the ends aforesaid, do, in the first place, (as their ancestors in like case have usually done,) for vindicating and asserting their rights and liberties, declare—
1. That the power of making laws for ordering or regulating the internal polity of these Colonies, is, within the limits of each Colony, respectively and exclusively vested in the Provincial Legislature of such Colony; and that all statutes for ordering or regulating the internal polity of the said Colonies, or any of them, in any manner or in any case whatsoever, are illegal and void.
2. That all statutes, for taxing the people of the said Colonies, are illegal and void.
3. That all the statutes before mentioned, for the purpose of raising a revenue, by imposing “rates and duties” payable in these Colonies, establishing a Board of Commissioners, and extending the jurisdiction of Courts of Admiralty, for the collection of such “rates and duties,” are illegal and void.
4. That Judges, within these Colonies, ought not to be dependent on the Crown only; and that their commissions ought to be during good behavior.
5. That the raising or keeping a standing army within these Colonies in time of peace, unless it be with the consent of the Provincial Legislatures, is illegal, pernicious, and dangerous; and that every statute for quartering or supplying troops within the said Colonies is illegal and void.
6. That the orders aforesaid for rendering the authority of the Commander-in-chief, and under him, of the Brigadiers-General, supreme, are illegal and void.
7. That for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening, and preserving of the laws, Assemblies ought to be held in each of these Colonies frequently, and at least once in every year; that such Assemblies ought not to be prorogued or dissolved, before they have had sufficient time to deliberate, determine, and bring to conclusion their counsels on public affairs; that any statute for suspending the proceedings of any such Assembly, is illegal and void; and that every dissolution of an Assembly within these Colonies, during the present reign, on pretence of misbehavior in the representatives of the people, has been arbitrary and oppressive.
8. That it is the right of the subjects to petition the King; and that a contemptuous treatment of such petitions has a most pernicious tendency.
9. That the resolution in Parliament on the statute made in the thirty-fifth year of Henry VIII., was arbitrary and erroneous; and that any statute directing the trials of Colonists to be had in England or elsewhere, on accusation for offences committed in the Colonies, is illegal and void.
10. That the three statutes made in the last session of Parliament, and declared to have force within the Province of Massachusetts Bay, are oppressive to the people of that Province, dangerous to the liberties of these Colonies, illegal and void.
11. That the statute made in the same session, “for making more effectual provision for the government of the Province of Quebec,” &c. is not only unjust to the people in that Province, but dangerous to the interests of the Protestant religion and of these Colonies, and ought to be repealed.
12. And they do claim, demand, and insist, on all and singular the rights and liberties before mentioned as indubitably belonging to them; and no declarations, judgments, doings, proceedings, or statutes, to the prejudice of the people in any of the premises, ought in any wise to be drawn hereafter into consequence or example; and these, their undoubted rights and liberties, with the blessing of Divine Providence, which they humbly and ardently implore in favor of their just exertions to preserve the freedom of rendering to their Creator the worship they judge most acceptable to him, and of promoting the happiness of his creatures, they are resolved, to the utmost of their power, to maintain and defend.
DECLARATION AS ADOPTED.
“Whereas, since the close of the last war, the British Parliament, claiming a power, of right, to bind the people of America by statutes in all cases whatsoever, hath in some acts expressly imposed taxes on them, and in others, under various pretences, but in fact for the purpose of raising a revenue, hath imposed rates and duties payable in these Colonies, established a Board of Commissioners, with unconstitutional powers, and extended the jurisdiction of Courts of Admiralty, not only for collecting the said duties, but for the trial of causes merely arising within the body of a county.”
And whereas in consequence of other statutes, judges, who before held only estates at will in their offices, have been made dependent on the Crown alone for their salaries, and standing armies kept in times of peace.
And whereas it has lately been resolved in Parliament, that, by force of a statute made in the thirty-fifth year of the reign of King Henry VIII. colonists may be transported to England, and tried there upon accusations for treasons and misprisions, or concealment of treasons, committed in the Colonies, and by a late statute, such trials have been directed in cases therein mentioned.
And whereas in the last session of Parliament three statutes were made; one entitled “An act to discontinue, in such manner and for such time as are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading or shipping of goods, wares, and merchandise, at the town, and within the harbor of Boston, in the Province of Massachusetts Bay in North America;” another entitled “An act for the better regulating the government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay in New England;” and another entitled “An act for the impartial administration of justice, in the cases of persons questioned for any act done by them in the execution of the law, or for the suppression of riots and tumults in the Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England;” and another statute was then made, “for making more effectual provision for the government of the Province of Quebec,” &c. All which statutes are impolitic, unjust, and cruel, as well as unconstitutional, and most dangerous and destructive of American rights.
And whereas Assemblies have been frequently dissolved, contrary to the rights of the people, when they attempted to deliberate on grievances; and their dutiful, humble, loyal, and reasonable petitions to the Crown, for redress, have been repeatedly treated with contempt by his Majesty’s Ministers of State.
The good people of the several Colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Newcastle Kent and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, justly alarmed at these arbitrary proceedings of Parliament and Administration, have severally elected, constituted, and appointed deputies, to meet and sit in General Congress, in the city of Philadelphia, in order to obtain such establishment, as that their religion, laws, and liberties, may not be subverted. Whereupon the deputies so appointed, being now assembled, in a full and free representation of these Colonies, taking into their most serious consideration the best means of attaining the ends aforesaid, do in the first place, as Englishmen, their ancestors, in like cases have usually done, for asserting and vindicating their rights and liberties, declare,—
That the inhabitants of the English Colonies in North America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English Constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following rights:—
Resolved, N. C. D. 1. That they are entitled to life, liberty, and property, and they have never ceded to any sovereign power whatever a right to dispose of either, without their consent.
2. That our ancestors, who first settled these Colonies, were, at the time of their emigration from the mother country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural born subjects, within the realm of England.
3. That by such emigration they by no means forfeited, surrendered, or lost any of those rights, but that they were, and their descendants now are, entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all such of them, as their local and other circumstances enable them to exercise and enjoy.
4. That the foundation of English liberty, and of all free government, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council; and as the English colonists are not represented, and from their local and other circumstances cannot be properly represented in the British Parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several Provincial Legislatures, where their right of representation can alone be preserved, in all cases of taxation and internal polity, subject only to the negative of their sovereign, in such manner as has been heretofore used and accustomed. But, from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interest of both countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British Parliament as are, bonâ fide, restrained to the regulation of our external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members; excluding every idea of taxation, internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects in America, without their consent.
5. That the respective Colonies are entitled to the common law of England, and more especially to the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage, according to the course of that law.
6. That they are entitled to the benefit of such of the English statutes as existed at the time of their colonization, and which they have, by experience, respectively found to be applicable to their several local and other circumstances.
7. That these, his Majesty’s Colonies, are likewise entitled to all the immunities and privileges granted and confirmed to them by royal charters, or secured by their several codes of provincial laws.
8. That they have a right peaceably to assemble, consider of their grievances, and petition the King; and that all prosecutions, prohibitory proclamations, and commitments for the same, are illegal.
9. That the keeping a standing army in these Colonies, in times of peace, without the consent of the Legislature of that Colony in which such army is kept, is against law.
10. It is indispensably necessary to good government, and rendered essential by the English Constitution, that the constituent branches of the Legislature be independent of each other; that therefore the exercise of legislative power in several Colonies, by a Council appointed during pleasure by the Crown, is unconstitutional, dangerous, and destructive to the freedom of American legislation.
All and each of which the aforesaid deputies, in behalf of themselves and their constituents, do claim, demand, and insist on, as their indubitable rights and liberties; which cannot be legally taken from them, altered or abridged, by any power whatever, without their own consent, by their representatives in their several Provincial Legislatures.
In the course of our inquiry, we find many infringements and violations of the foregoing rights, which, from an ardent desire that harmony and mutual intercourse of affection and interest may be restored, we pass over for the present, and proceed to state such acts and measures as have been adopted since the last war, which demonstrate a system formed to enslave America.
Resolved, N. C. D. That the following Acts of Parliament are infringements and violations of the rights of the Colonists; and that the repeal of them is essentially necessary, in order to restore harmony between Great Britain and the American Colonies, namely,—
The several acts of 4 George III. c. 15 and c. 34; 5 George III. c. 25; 6 George III. c. 52; 7 George III. c. 41 and c. 46; 8 George III. c. 22, which impose duties for the purpose of raising a revenue in America, extend the power of the Admiralty courts beyond their ancient limits, deprive the American subject of trial by jury, authorize the Judge’s certificate to indemnify the prosecutor from damages that he might otherwise be liable to, requiring oppressive security from a claimant of ships and goods seized, before he shall be allowed to defend his property, and are subversive of American rights.
Also 12 George III. c. 24, intituled “An act for the better securing His Majesty’s dock-yards, magazines, ships, ammunition and stores,” which declares a new offence in America, and deprives the American subject of a constitutional trial by jury of the vicinage, by authorizing the trial of any person charged with the committing any offence described in the said act, out of the realm, to be indicted and tried for the same in any shire or county within the realm.
Also the three acts passed in the last session of Parliament, for stopping the port and blocking up the harbor of Boston, for altering the charter and government of Massachusetts Bay, and that which is intituled “An act for the better administration of justice,” &c.
Also the act passed in the same session, for establishing the Roman Catholic religion in the Province of Quebec, abolishing the equitable system of English laws, and erecting a tyranny there, to the great danger, (from so total a dissimilarity of religion, law, and government) of the neighboring British Colonies, by the assistance of whose blood and treasure the said country was conquered from France.
Also the act passed in the same session for the better providing suitable quarters for officers and soldiers in his Majesty’s service in North America.
Also, that the keeping a standing army in several of these Colonies, in time of peace, without the consent of the Legislature of that Colony in which such army is kept, is against law.
To these grievous acts and measures Americans cannot submit; but in hopes their fellow subjects in Great Britain will, on a revision of them, restore us to that state in which both countries found happiness and prosperity, we have, for the present, only resolved to pursue the following peaceable measures.
1. To enter into a non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreement or association.
2. To prepare an address to the people of Great Britain, and a memorial to the inhabitants of British America; and
3. To prepare a loyal address to his Majesty, agreeable to resolutions already entered into.
end of volume ii.
Editors Note: This is Volume 2 of the 10 Volume “The Works of John Adams”, (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). The author, Charles Henry Adams is John Adams grandson. The copyright for the original text is in the Public Domain because its copyright has expired. The font, and formatting of this version of The Works of John Adams, as well as all other Americanist Library and Founders Corner selections are, unless otherwise specified, Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell.