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the General Government of the Congress; to the maintenance of which in. dependence, we solemnly pledge to each other, our mutual coöperation, our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred honor.
4. Resolved, That as we now acknowledge the existence and control of no law or legal officer, civil or military, within this County, we do hereby ordain and adopt, as a rule of life, all, each and every of our former laws wherein, nevertheless, the Crown of Great Britain never can be considered as holding rights, privileges, immunities, or authority therein.
5. Resolved, That it is also further decreed, that all, each and every military officer in this County, is hereby reinstated to his former command and authority, he acting conformably to these regulations, and that every member present of this delegation shall henceforth be a civil officer, viz. a Justice of the Peace, in the character of a ' Committee-man,' to issue process, hear and determine all matters of controversy, according to said adopted laws, and to preserve peace, and union, and harmony, in said County, and to use every exertion to spread the love of country and fire of freedom throughout America, until a more general and organized government be established in this province.'
This printed copy of the alleged Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, thus given to the public forty-four years after the event, was accompanied by a historical statement purporting to have been written at the time; and presently, much controversy arising, this statement was substantially confirmed by the affidavits of many old citizens of Mecklenburg who remembered such a declaration.
“How is it possible,” wrote John Adams to Jefferson (June 22, 1819), that this paper should have been concealed from me to this day? Had it been communicated to me in the time of it, I know, if you do not know, that it would have been printed in every whig newspaper upon the continent. You know that if I had possessed it, I would have made the hall of Congress echo and reëcho with it fifteen months before your Declaration of Independ
What a poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous mass is Tom Paine's Common Sense 'in comparison with this paper. Had I known it, I would have commented upon it from the day you entered Congress till the fourth of July, 1776. The genuine sense of America at that moment was never so well expressed before or since.”
Jefferson's interesting reply (July 9, 1819) may be found in the complete edition of Jefferson's Works, vol. vii, p. 128, in Randall's Life of Jefferson, vol. iii, p. 572 (appendix No. 2, on the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence), and elsewhere. He was an “unbeliever in the apocryphal gospel,” believed the paper a fabrication “until positive and solemn proof of its authenticity be produced,” and made it plain that the alleged declaration could not have been known to himself or to any influential person in the North, in 1776. As to the question of “plagiarism ” on Jefferson's part, over which much controversy arose, a little examination would have shown that it was Richard Henry Lee, and not Jefferson, who was really responsible for the introduction of almost all the controverted phrases into the Declaration of Independence. The committee charged with the preparation of the Declaration had been instructed to draw it in conformity with the resolution passed by Congress on the 2d of July, 1776, which resolution, penned by Richard Henry Lee, was as follows: "Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States : that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Brinin is, and of right ought to be, dissolved." The pledge of “our lives and fortunes occurs constantly in the political litera, ure of 1775 and 1776, and was one of the commonplaces of the time.
In 1838, Mr. Peter Force, the editor of the American Archives, brought to light what most scholars have since regarded as the solution of the matter, viz., a series of resolutions adopted by “the Committee-men of Mecklenburg County on the 31st of May, 1775, and widely disseminated at the time both in southern and northern newspapers. These resolutions (given in Randall's appendix, and in Graham's and Welling's papers, referred to be low) were a virtual declaration of independence, but differed essentially from the declaration alleged to have been drawn up eleven days previously. There may have been a meeting on the earlier day, and certain resolutions may then have been passed; but they were probably not in the terms of the paper which was given to the public in 1819 and which, whenever compiled by its author, was doubtless compiled not with the aid of any written records, but from general recollections, as we know to have been the case in another version, which appeared subsequently. A very thorough and searching article by James C. Welling, taking this position, which is also the position of Mr. Randall, appeared in the North American Review for April, 1874. The authenticity of the Mecklenburg Declaration is ably defended by Hon. William A. Graham, in an address delivered at Charlotte, N. C., February 4; 1875, and since published in book form. This address considers Mr. Welling's article and all the previous important literature on the subject.
“When your lordships look at the papers transmitted us from America, when you consider their decency, firmness, and wisdom, you cannot but respect their cause, and wish to make it your own. For myself, I must declare and avow, that in all my reading and observation — and it has been my favorite study — I have read Thucydides and have studied and admired the master states of the world – that for solidity of reasoning, force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion, under such a complication of difficult circumstances, no nation or body of men can stand in preference to the general congress at Philadelphia. I trust it is obvious to your lordships that all attempts to impose servitude upon such men, to establish despotism over such a mighty, continental nation, must be vain, must be fatal. We shall be forced ultimately to retract. Let us retract while we can, not when we must. Avoid this humiliating, disgraceful necessity. With a dignity becoming your exalted situation, make the first advances to concord, to peace, and happiness; for that is your true dignity, to act with prudence and justice. That you should first concede is obvious from sound and rational policy. Concession comes with better grace and more salutary effect from superior power. It reconciles superiority of power with the feelings of men, and establishes solid confidence on the foundations of affection and gratitude. Every motive of justice and of policy, of dignity and of prudence, urges you to allay the ferment in America, by a removal of your troops from Boston, by a repeal of your acts of parliament, and by demonstration of amicable dispositions towards your colonies.
On the other hand, every danger and every hazard impend to deter you from perseverance in your present ruinous measures. Lord Chatham.
“ Whatever might be the importance of American independence in the history of England, it was of unequalled moment in the history of the world. If it crippled for a while the supremacy of the English nation, it founded the supremacy of the English race. From the hour of American Independence the life of the English People has flowed not in one current, but in two; and while the older has shown little signs of lessening, the younger has fast risen to a greatness which has changed the face of the world. In 1783 America was a nation of three millions of inhabitants, scattered thinly along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It is now a nation of forty millions, stretching over the whole continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In wealth and material energy, as in numbers, it far surpasses the mothercountry from which it sprang. It is already the main branch of the English People; and in the days that are at hand the main current of that people's history must run along the channel not of the Thames or the Mersey, but of thé Hudson and the Mississippi. But distinct as these currrents are, every year proves more clearly that in spirit the English People is one. The distance that parted England from America lessens every day. The ties that unite them grow every day stronger. The social and political differences that threatened a hundred years ago to form an impassable barrier between them grow every day less. Against this silent and inevitable drift of things the spirit of narrow isolation on either side of the Atlantic struggles in vain. It is possible that the two branches of the English People will remain for ever separate political existences. It is likely enough that the older of them ay again break in twain, and that the English People in the Pacific may assert as distinct a national life as the two English Peoples on either side the Atlantic. But the spirit, the influence, of all these branches will remain one. And in thus remaining one, before half a century is over it will change the face of the world. As two hundred millions of Englishmen fill the valley of the Mississippi, as fifty millions of Englishmen assert their lordship over Australasia, this vast power will tell through Britain on the old world of Europe, whose nations will have shrunk into insignificance before it. What the issues of such a world-wide change may be, not even the wildest dreamer would dare to dream. But one issue is inevitable. In the centuries that lie before us, the primacy of the world will lie with the English People. English institutions, English speech, English thought, will become the main features of the political, the social, and the intellectual life of mankind.” – John Richard Green. See chapter on the Independence of America, in his History of the English People.
Old South Leaflets.
Washington's Farewell Address
TO THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED
STATES. FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS :
The period for a new election of a citizen, to administer the executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprize you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered ainong the number of those, out of whom a choice is to be made.
I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured, that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation, which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that, in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest; no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness; but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.
The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement, from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.