Congress Attempts to Steel the Resolve of “Friends and Countrymen”: the Inhabitants of the United States of America
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“If we have courage to persevere, we shall establish our liberties and independence.” [CONTINENTAL CONGRESS].
Broadside. An Address of the Congress to the Inhabitants of the United States of America. York-Town, [Pa.,], Hall & Sellers, . 1 p., Docketed on verso and signed by William Lee.
“Friends and Countrymen: Three years have now passed away, since the commencement of the present war: a war without parallel in the annals of mankind….You cannot but remember how reluctantly we were dragged into this arduous contest....We were then quite defenceless–without arms, without ammunition, without clothing, without ships, without money, without officers skilled in war; with no other reliance but the bravery of our people, and the justice of our cause. We had to contend with a nation great in arts and in arms….
But, however great the injustice of our foes in commencing this war, it is by no means equal to the cruelty with which they have conducted it....But our dependence was not upon man; it was upon him who hath commanded us to love our enemies, and to render good for evil. And what can be more wonderful than the manner of our deliverances? How often have we been reduced to distress, and yet been raised up?...This hath been…marked almost by the direct interposition of Providence….At length that God of Battles…hath conducted us through the paths of danger and distress…It hath now become morally certain that, if we have courage to persevere, we shall establish our liberties and independence….
[Now, Parliament speaks of] “terms of accommodations…to ensnare us with the insidious offers of peace. They would seduce you into a dependence, which necessarily, inevitably leads to the most humiliating slavery…. And, do they believe that you will accept these fatal terms? Because you have suffered the distresses of war, do they suppose that you will basely lick the dust before the feet of your destroyers?....[They hope] to lull you with the fallacious hopes of peace, until they can assemble new armies….Be not therefore deceived….Arise then!...and gird you for the battle. It is time to turn the headlong current of vengeance upon the head of the destroyer…. You must drive them away from this land of promise, a land flowing indeed with milk and honey….”
Revolutionaries Samuel Chase, Gouverneur Morris, and Richard Henry Lee issued this strongly-worded broadside to bolster public resolution to continue the war. In addition to shoring up public support on the home front, the three men reject a suggestion by George Germain, Lord North’s Secretary of State, that America be granted independence to join Britain’s war with France. They argue that even though American armies faced hardships, the situation had improved considerably since the beginning of the Revolution. Moreover, the American cause was just, and blessed by Providence. Aimed at the home front, this broadside reminded Americans of the reasoning behind the war, urged them to reject the temptations of British offers, and offered an optimistic perspective for its ultimate success.
William Lee (1739-1795) was an agent for Virginia tobacco merchants in London. While there, he was appointed Sheriff, and along with Stephen Sayes, also an American, lobbied for American colonial rights. Along with brothers Arthur, Francis Lightfoot, and Richard Henry Lee, William was active in the Continental Congress and other political efforts. During the Revolution, he was an American diplomat posted to Berlin and Vienna. While stationed in there, he tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to enlist Austria and Prussia for the American cause.
Fewer than ten copies are known, only two of which we found in the last 50 years of major auction records. Evans 16097; Hildeburn 3662.