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of empire, you will decline, I fear, from the decision of this day : and the Americans will rise to independence, to power, to all the greatness of the most renowned States; for they build on the solid basis of general public liberty.” “If you persist in your resolution. all hope of reconciliation is extinct. The Americans will triumphthe whole continent of North America will be dismembered from Great Britain, and the wide arch of the raised empire fall. But I

hope the just vengeance of the people will overtake the authors of these pernicious counsels, and the loss of the first Province of the

empire, be speedily followed by the loss of the heads of those Min

isters who first invented them.”



On the 21st of June, 1775, Mr. Jefferson took his seat in the grand Council of select Arbiters, to whom America had committed the direction of her united destinies. In the origination of this Council, he had exercised a leading agency; and through the whole process of its establishment, he had persevered, with all that ardor. which the force of his opinions uniformly engendered in the pursuit of great public enterprises. The emotions with which he entered upon this new scene, the object of his steadfast devotion, and the subject of an early, fixed, and animating presentiment, may well be imagined. Here indeed, were centered all those expectations for his country, and for mankind, which had enabled him to surmount past emergencies with ease, and which braced him for a terrible futurity. His fame had preceded him. The novelty and extraordinary boldness of his revolutionary papers, had marked him as a prodigy in political ethics. He brought with him, also, a high reputation for literature, science, and a singular talent for composition. “Writings of his,” says John Adams, “were handed about, remarkable for their peculiar felicity of expression.” These circumstances made him an object of curiosity among the members. His presence was courted. Curiosity was soon changed into admiration; and admiration, in many instances, ripened into attachments,

which, cherished by his warm and tenacious sensibilities, the fiercest conflicts of opinion were never afterwards permitted to extinguish. In the language of the same distinguished cotemporary, and one who could feelingly attest the last observation, “he seized upon my heart.” The sentiment was reciprocal. He was now ushered upon a theatre, broad enough to match his own standard of thought, and desire of action. His patriotism had comprehended the whole territory of British America, and would stop at nothing short. The Union had had its birth place in his capacious mind. It had been first breathed from his lips. He had pointed to it, in all his propositions; and hurled it in defiance, at the British Premier. The consolidation of the moral and physical energies of the continent, was the first object of his ambition ; and that object was now in a fair course of accomplishment. The scene, moreover, was exquisitely adapted to his intellectual taste. Here was the great arena for the attack and defence of principle. The cool champions of reason, and the lightning sons of eloquence were gathered to the combat; and momentous questions of political law were required to be discussed. Now was the time, thought he, which should try the ‘creeds' as well as the souls of men. On one side, was the full grown partisan of revolution; on the other, the lingering adherent of conciliation. Here, were the ‘half-way guests of John Dickinson—there, the whole length ‘followers of their own reason;' the servid impetuosity of youth, and the frigid caution of old age, were there; yet all assembled in solemn array, around a common altar, and ready to swear eternal cohesion upon one point, that of a common deliverance or a common ruin. The materials were worthy the occasion, and the results were proportioned to both. The triumph of reason was signal and overwhelming. The decisions of that Assembly have long since passed into political axioms. They are revered as authority, at this day, and are dictating, in awful majesty, to the trembling autocrats of the earth. Congress had been in session about six weeks when Mr. Jefferson arrived; yet an opportunity had been reserved, in anticipation, for impressing the tone of his sentiments upon the most important State-paper that had yet been meditated. On the 24th of June, the committee which had been appointed to prepare a Declaration of the causes of taking up arms, brought in their report. The report, being disapproved by the majority, was recommitted, and Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Dickinson were added to the committee. This document was designed as a manifesto to the world, justificatory of their resistance to the parent government, and required a sound and skillful disposition. The committee requested Mr. Jefferson to execute the draught. He excused himself; but on their pressing him with urgency, he consented. He brought it from his study, and laid it before the committee. It was too strong for Mr. Dickinson, as was anticipated by the writer. He still retained the hope of reconciliation with the mother country. and was unwilling it should be lessened by offensive statements. “He was so honest a man,” says our reminiscent, “and so able a one, that he was greatly indulged even by those who could not feel his scruples.” They therefore requested him to take the paper, and re-mould it according to his own views. He did so : preparing an entire new statement, and retaining of the former draught, only the last four paragraphs and half of the preceding one. The committee approved and reported it. In Congress, it encountered the shrugs and grimaces of the revolution party, in every quarter of the House; and the desire of unanimity, ever predominant, was the only motive which silenced their repugnance to its lukewarmness. A humorous circumstance attending its adoption, is related by Mr. Jefferson. It shows the great disparity of opinion which prevailed in that body, and the mutual sacrifices which were constantly required to preserve an unbroken column. “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.” This production enjoys a high reputation. The fact that Mr. Jefferson had any agency in its preparation, or that so strong a discrimination of sentiment existed in the Congress of '75, has never been stated by any writer; nor indeed have any of those interesting minutiae, connected with our ancient history, come to the light, until since the publication of his private ‘memoranda.” As a literary performance, and as a specimen of revolutionary fortitude, almost incredible, the effect of which was to charge the entire responsibility of the war upon Great Britain, it possesses great merit. But in a political point of view, it is insufferably tame and humiliating; though even in that light, it was the best, perhaps, that the circumstances of the times allowed, inasmuch as it coincided with the sentiments of the great majority of the American people. It abandoned the whole ground which Mr. Jefferson had taken in his draught, the ground which he had uniformly maintained in his previous writings, and the one which Congress themselves adopted, the next year, as the only orthodox and tenable statement of their cause. It intimated a desire for an amicable compact, something like Magna Charta, in which doubtful, undefined points should be ascertained, so as to secure that proportion of authority and liberty, which would be for the general good of the whole empire. It claimed only a partial exemption from the authority of Parliament; expressed a willingness in the Colonies to contribute, in their own way, to the expenses of government; but made a traverse, at last, in preferring the horrors of war, to submission to the unlimited supremacy of Parliament." Such were the doctrines which influenced a very great majority of Congress, and so continued for a twelve-month. The actual revolutionists were a feeble body in the House. The decision of character requisite to assume a posture so heretical at this time, and so pregnant with the auguries of woe, desolation and death, appeared almost supernatural. It was enjoyed by few even of that race of men. The opinions which Mr. Jefferson had advanced at the outset, contained the essence of independence; and the ardor of his convictions had, as on all other occasions, excited a corresponding tenor of action. The eye of reason and philosophy, with which he viewed the contest, presented to him the strangest inconsistencies in the antagonist opinions; and it was a part of his religion to postpone no principle of right to the principle of expediency, farther than was indispensable to the maintenance and greatest good of that right. It is not surprising, therefore, that he was “disgusted' with the nature of those grounds upon which the majority chose to submit their cause to the umpirage of the world. But he knew, that public opinion was the only force which America possessed, and, that that was “growing apace under the fostering hand of the King and Parliament.’ He therefore, submitted with patience to the restraints which its present condition imposed. Nor is it to be inferred, that even he aimed at independence as a measure desirable in the abstract ; but as an awful alternative only,–a matter of the last resort. In this spirit, he had mingled with his protestations of right, and his solemn asseverations of eternal resistance, expressions of a cordial desire for a re-establishment of the union, upon a just and equitable basis. But such an union, he had long been convinced was not within the most distant contemplation of the British Court; and those expressions were retained by him, more as a matter of form than any thing else. After stating the grounds upon which they rested the justification of their appeal to arms, the manifesto concludes in the language of Mr. Jefferson's draught. It is worthy of remark, that, while all historians have concurred in ascribing the entire production to Mr. Dickinson, they have, at the same time, generally quoted only Mr. Jefferson's conclusion. “We are reduced to the alternative of choosing an unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated ministers, or resistance by force—the latter is our choice. We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery. Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them, if we basely entail hereditary bondage upon them. “Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great; and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable. We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of the Divine favour towards us, that his providence would not permit us to be called into this severe controversy, until we were grown up to our present strength, had been previously exercised in warlike operation, and possessed of the means of defending ourselves. With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath

* Ramsay.

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