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Continental Congress Address to the Inhabitants of the Colonies Urging Unity Against British Tyranny, and their Separate Address to the 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…”

In addition to the Continental Congress’ address to the inhabitants of the colonies, urging unity in the face of British oppression, this paper and supplement contain 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); a proclamation from Governor John Penn regarding Pennsylvania’s disputed border with Maryland (p3); Congresses’ October 26 Address “to the Inhabitants of the Province of Quebec” (p5-6); and several notices and advertisements, including rewards for several Irish, Dutch, and English servants who had run away (p4 & 6) and an advertisement for Poor Richard’s Almanack.

[REVOLUTIONARY WAR]. Newspaper. Address by the Continental Congress “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. Printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), November 9, 1774 (No. 2394). Copy sent to Thomas and John Fleet, Boston printers. 4 pp., with Postcript, 2 pp. 10 x 16¼ in.

Inventory #30035.20       Price: $9,500

Excerpts: (note: the entire address is displayable, printed on p.1 and postscript 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…

           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 publick conduct on the solid foundations of Wisdom and Justice….

           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…. 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.’

           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 Trial 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….

           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….

           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; though 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.

           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 publick 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 Catholick 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, are abolished, and instead thereof the French Laws are 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 Northerly and Westerly boundaries of these Colonies.

           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 authentick 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 despotick Government…

Notwithstanding the violence 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….

           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 cannot …be 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 choose, 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 pacifick 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 mournful events, and be, in all respects, prepared for every contingency. Above all things, we earnestly entreat 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.”

Historical Background

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.” They also decided to prepare an address to King George III and an address to the people of Great Britain. Congress appointed a committee of Richard Henry Lee, William Livingston, and John Jay to prepare drafts, and the committee decided that Lee would write the draft of the memorial to the colonists, while Jay wrote a draft of the address to the people of Great Britain.

Lee presented the draft, and it was read to Congress on October 19. On October 20-21, Congress considered and debated the draft 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.” Congress also resolved to send letters to the people of Quebec, St. John’s, Nova Scotia, Georgia, and East and West Florida, “who have not deputies to represent them in this Congress.”

The Pennsylvania Gazette (1728-1800) was first published in 1728 in Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin and Hugh Meredith purchased it in October 1729. Franklin became sole owner by 1732, printing the newspaper and often contributing articles under pseudonyms. His paper became the most successful in Pennsylvania. In 1748, he entered into partnership with David Hall. The Gazette printed the first political cartoon in America, “Join or Die,” designed by Franklin, in 1754. After Franklin sold his printing business to Hall in 1766, William Sellers became a partner. During the 1770s and through the Revolutionary War, the Pennsylvania Gazette was one of the most prominent and influential newspapers in the new nation.

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 British Colonies,” October 21, 1774

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


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