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Continental Congress Address to Inhabitants of the Colonies Urging Unity Against British Tyranny, also prints Letter to Inhabitants of Quebec
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Friends and Countrymen:... we find ourselves reduced to the disagreeable alternative, of being silent and betraying the innocent, or of speaking out and censuring those we wish to revere. In making our choice of these distressing difficulties, we prefer the course dictated by honesty, and a regard for the welfare of our country....

it is clear beyond a doubt, that a resolution is formed, and now is carrying into execution, to extinguish the freedom of these colonies, by subjecting them to a despotic government…

[CONTINENTAL CONGRESS]. Newspaper. Pennsylvania Gazette, November 9, 1774 (No. 2394). Philadelphia: David Hall and William Sellers. Front-page printing of Memorial “To the Inhabitants of the Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode-Island, and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of New-Castle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina” (October 21, 1774); and Letter “To the Inhabitants of the Province of Quebec” (October 26, 1774). Copy sent to Thomas and John Fleet, Boston printers. 4 pp. 10 x 16¼ in.

Inventory #30035.20       Price: $12,500

See Postscript from the same date, offered separately, with the Articles of Association and the Address “To the People of Great-Britain” written by John Jay.

On October 11, 1774, the Continental Congress resolved unanimously that “a memorial be prepared for the people of British America, stating to them the necessity of a firm, united, and invariable observation of the measures recommended by the Congress, as they tender the invaluable rights and liberties derived to them from the laws and constitution of their country.” Congress appointed Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, William Livingston of New Jersey, and John Jay of New York as a committee to prepare both this memorial and a separate Address to the People of Great Britain. Lee prepared a first draft of the Memorial, while Jay wrote a first draft of the Address. On October 18 and 19, Congress considered a draft of the Address, and suggested amendments.

In order to encourage participation in “The Association,” the Memorial to the inhabitants of the American colonies recited the acts of Parliament to which Congress objected and which would “extinguish the freedom of these Colonies by subjecting them to a despotic Government.” The Memorial also justified the “commercial mode of opposition” as one that would prove both “efficacious” and not preclude “a hearty reconciliation with our fellow-citizens on the other side of the Atlantic.

On October 20-21, Congress considered and debated the draft Memorial by paragraphs, amended it, and ordered that it “be immediately committed to the press & that no more than one hundred and twenty copies…be struck off without further orders from the Congress.”

On October 21, Congress also resolved to send an address to the people of Quebec, and letters to the colonies of St. John’s, Nova Scotia, Georgia, East Florida, and West Florida, “who have not deputies to represent them in this Congress.” They appointed Thomas Cushing of Massachusetts, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, and John Dickinson of Pennsylvania as a committee to prepare the address and letters. On October 24, the committee presented a draft, which Congress debated and re-committed to the committee. On October 26, Congress debated a revised draft by paragraphs, amended it, and then approved it.

This letter was the first of three letters sent by the Continental Congresses in 1774, 1775, and 1776 directly to the people of the Province of Quebec. Despite the repeated appeals of the Continental Congresses for them to join the American revolutionary cause, Quebec and the other northern provinces of St. John’s (Prince Edward Island) and Nova Scotia remained loyal to Great Britain. At the time, the Province of Quebec included much of modern southern and eastern Quebec, southeastern Ontario, Labrador, and the future American states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and portions of Illinois and Wisconsin.

Excerpts from Memorial to the Inhabitants of the Colonies

(note: the entire address is displayable, printed on p.1)

Friends and Countrymen: We, the Delegates appointed by the good people of these Colonies, to meet at Philadelphia…assembled, and taken into our most serious consideration the important matters recommended to the Congress.” (p1/c2)

In every case of opposition by a People to their Rulers, or of one state to another, duty to Almighty God, the Creator of all, requires that a true and impartial judgment be formed…That neither affection on the one hand, nor resentment on the other, being permitted to give a wrong bias to reason, it may be enabled to take a dispassionate view of all circumstances, and to settle the public conduct on the solid foundations of wisdom and justice.” (p1/c2)

we have diligently, deliberately and calmly, enquired into and considered those exertions, both of the legislative and executive power of Great-Britain, which have excited so much uneasiness in America, and have with equal fidelity and attention considered the conduct of the Colonies. Upon the whole, we find ourselves reduced to the disagreeable alternative, of being silent and betraying the innocent, or of speaking out and censuring those we wish to revere. In making our choice of these distressing difficulties, we prefer the course dictated by honesty, and a regard for the welfare of our country.

Soon after the conclusion of the late war, there commenced a memorable change in the treatment of these Colonies.... The inhabitants of these Colonies...were scarcely allowed sufficient time to consider this Act, before another, well known by the name of the Stamp Act, and passed in the fifth year of this Reign, engrossed their whole attention.

In the next year, the Stamp-act was repealed; not because it was founded in an erroneous principle, but as the repealing Act recites, because ‘the continuance thereof would be attended with many inconveniences, and might be productive of consequences greatly detrimental to the commercial interest of Great Britain.’

In the same year, and by a subsequent Act, it was declared, ‘that his Majesty, in Parliament, of right, had power to bind the people of these Colonies by Statutes IN ALL CASES WHATSOEVER.’” (p1/c2)

The immediate tendency of these Statutes is, to subvert the right of having a share in legislation, by rendering Assemblies useless; the right of property, by taking the money of the Colonists without their consent; the right of trials by jury, by substituting in their place trials in Admiralty and Vice-Admiralty Courts, where single Judges preside, holding their Commissions during pleasure; and unduly to influence the Courts of common law, by rendering the Judges thereof totally dependent on the Crown for their salaries.” (p1/c3)

A large body of Troops, and a considerable armament of ships of war have been sent to assist in taking their money without their consent.… Expensive and oppressive offices have been multiplied, and the acts of corruption industriously practised to divide and destroy.” (p5/c1)

Humble and reasonable Petitions from the Representatives of the people have been frequently treated with contempt; and Assemblies have been repeatedly and arbitrarily dissolved.

The hostile and unjustifiable invasion of the town of Boston soon followed these events in the same year; tho’ that Town, the province in which it is situated, and all the colonies, from abhorrence of a contest with their parent state, permitted the execution even of those Statutes, against which they so unanimously were complaining, remonstrating, and supplicating.” (p5/c2)

Administration, determined to subdue a spirit of freedom, which English Ministers should have rejoiced to cherish, entered into a monopolizing combination with the East-India Company, to send to this continent vast quantities of Tea, an article on which a duty was laid by a Statute that, in a particular manner, attacked the liberties of America, and which therefore the inhabitants of these Colonies had resolved not to import.

On the intelligence of these transactions arriving in Great-Britain, the public spirited town last mentioned was singled out for destruction, and it was determined the province it belongs to should partake of its fate. In the last session of Parliament therefore were passed the acts for shutting up the port of Boston, indemnifying the murderers of the inhabitants of Massachusetts-Bay, and changing their chartered constitution of government. To enforce these acts, that province is again invaded by a fleet and army.

To mention these outrageous proceedings, is sufficient to explain them. For tho’ it is pretended that the province of Massachusetts-Bay has been particularly disrespectful to Great-Britain, yet in truth the behaviour of the people, in other colonies, has been an equal ‘opposition to the power assumed by Parliament.’ No step however has been taken against any of the rest. This artful conduct conceals several designs. It is expected that the province of Massachusetts-Bay will be irritated into some violent action, that may displease the rest of the continent, or that may induce the people of Great-Britain to approve the meditated vengeance of an imprudent and exasperated ministry: If the unexampled pacifick temper of that province shall disappoint this part of the plan, it is hoped the other colonies will be so far intimidated as to desert their brethren, suffering in a common cause, and that thus disunited all may be subdued.

To promote these designs, another measure has been pursued. In the session of Parliament last mentioned, an act was passed for changing the government of Quebec, by which act the Roman Catholic religion, instead of being tolerated, as stipulated by the treaty of peace, is established; and the people there are deprived of a right to an assembly; trials by jury, and the English laws in civil cases abolished, and instead thereof, the French laws established, in direct violation of his Majesty’s promise by his royal proclamation, under the faith of which many English subjects settled in that province: and the limits of that province, are extended so as to comprehend those vast regions, that lie adjoining to the northernly and westernly boundaries of these colonies.” (p5/c2)

The authors of this arbitrary arrangement flatter themselves, that the inhabitants, deprived of liberty, and artfully provoked against those of another religion, will be proper instruments for assisting in the oppression of such, as differ from them in modes of government and faith.

From the detail of facts herein before recited, as well as from authentic intelligence received, it is clear beyond a doubt, that a resolution is formed, and now carrying into execution, to extinguish the freedom of these colonies, by subjecting them to a despotic government.” (p5/c2)

Notwithstanding the vehemence with which affairs have been impelled, they have not yet reached that fatal point. We do not incline to accelerate their motion, already alarmingly rapid; we have chosen a method of opposition, that does not preclude a hearty reconciliation with our fellow-citizens on the other side of the Atlantic.” (p5/c3)

The people of England will soon have an opportunity of declaring their sentiments concerning our cause. In their piety, generosity, and good sense, we repose high confidence; and persuaded, that they, the defenders of true religion, and the asserters of the rights of mankind, will take part against their affectionate protestant brethren in the colonies, in favour of our open and their own secret enemies, whose intrigues, for several years, past have been wholly exercised in sapping the foundations of civil and religious liberty.

Against the temporary inconveniences you may suffer from a stoppage of trade, you will weigh in the opposite balance, the endless miseries you and your descendants must endure from an established arbitrary power. You will not forget the honour of your country, that must from your behaviour take its title, in the estimation of the world, to glory or to shame;…reflect, that if the peaceable mode of opposition recommended by us be broken, and rendered ineffectual, as your cruel and haughty ministerial enemies, from a contemptuous opinion of your firmness, insolently predict will be the case, you must inevitably be reduced to chuse, either a more dangerous contest, or a final, ruinous and infamous submission.

Motives thus cogent, arising from the emergency of your unhappy condition, must excite your utmost diligence and zeal to give all possible strength and energy to the pacific measures calculated for your relief: But we think ourselves bound in duty to observe to you, that the schemes agitated against these Colonies have been so conducted, as to render it prudent that you should extend your views to the most unhappy events, and be in all respects prepared for every contingency. Above all things we earnestly intreat you, with devotion of spirit, penitence of heart, and amendment of life, to humble yourselves and implore the favour of Almighty GOD: and we fervently beseech his divine goodness to take you into his gracious protection.

Excerpts from Letter to the Inhabitants of the Province of Quebec

since we have lived to see the unexpected time, when Ministers of this flagitious temper, have dared to violate the most sacred compacts and obligations, and as you, educated under another form of government, have artfully been kept from discovering the unspeakable worth of that form you are now undoubtedly entitled to, we esteem it our duty, for the weighty reasons herein after mentioned, to explain to you some of its most important branches.” (p6/c1)

the first grand right, is that of the people having a share in their own government by their representatives chosen by themselves, and, in consequence, of being ruled by laws, which they themselves approve, not by edicts of men over whom they have no control.

The next great right is, that of trial by jury.

The last right we shall mention, regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated, into more honourable and just modes of conducting affairs.

These are the rights, without which a people cannot be free and happy.... These are the rights you are entitled to and ought at this moment in perfection, to exercise.

We do not ask you, by this address, to commence acts of hostility against the government of our common Sovereign. We only invite you to consult your own glory and welfare, and not to suffer yourselves to be inveigled or intimidated by infamous ministers so far, as to become the instruments of their cruelty and despotism, but to unite with us in one social compact, formed on the generous principles of equal liberty, and cemented by such an exchange of beneficial and endearing offices as to render it perpetual.” (p6/c3)

In this present Congress, beginning on the fifth of the last month, and continued to this day, it has been, with universal pleasure and an unanimous vote, resolved: That we should consider the violation of your rights, by the act for altering the government of your province, as a violation of our own, and that you should be invited to accede to our confederation, which has no other objects than the perfect security of the natural and civil rights of all the constituent members, according to their respective circumstances, and the preservation of a happy and lasting connection with Great-Britain, on the salutary and constitutional principles herein before mentioned.

Additional Content

This issue also contains resolutions of the Massachusetts provincial assembly of October 26, 28 and 29, calling on the militia to be prepared and approving non-importation and non-consumption agreements (p2/c2-3); a proclamation from Governor John Penn regarding Pennsylvania’s disputed border with Maryland (p3/c2); and several notices and advertisements, including rewards for several Irish, Dutch, and English servants who had run away (p4/c1-2) and an advertisement for Poor Richard’s Almanack for 1775 (p4/c3).

The subscribers to this copy were Thomas Fleet (1732-1797) and John Fleet (1734-1806), publishers of the Boston Evening Post. They continued the family printing business after the death of their father Thomas Fleet (1685-1758).

Full Text of the “Memorial to the Inhabitants of the Colonies...” October 21, 1774

Full Text of “Address to the Inhabitants of the Province of Quebec,” October 26, 1774

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