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OF THE COLONIES AND OF CONGRESS.
TION OF STATE GOVERNMENTS.
The revolutionary movement was commenced in 1774, when the colonies sent delegates to the first continental congress, which met at Philadelphia, the 5th of September. It was a voluntary convention of delegates ; some of whom were appointed by public meetings and informal conventions of the people, and some of them by the legislatures of the several colonies. They met to confer together, in relation to the common interests, and the common dangers of the colonies.
The information of the passage, by the British parliament, of the Boston Port Bill, and other arbitrary measures, received in America in May, 1774, caused a storm of excitement in all the colonies from New Hampshire to South Carolina. Public meetings were immediately held in the principal cities, committees of correspondence appointed, and correspondence opened between the patriots of the several colonies. There was an association in the City of New York, known as the “Sons of Liberty,” who, in a letter to a committee in Boston, first suggested the idea of a general congress. Similar suggestions were made about the same time, (May 17th and 20th), by public meetings in the cities of Providence and Newport. The Connecticut legislature being then in session, passed a series of resolutions, in which they condemned the arbitrary and oppressive acts of parliament, and recommended a continental congress; but fixed no time nor place for holding it. Spirited meetings were held also in New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South CaroJina; strong resolutions were passed, and committees of correspondence appointed.
On the 7th of June, 1774, the colonial legislature of Massachusetts, known as the General Court, passed a series of resolutions, recommending an entire abstinence from the use of all British goods, and of all articles subject to duties imposed by parliament. They also adopted a resolution that "a meeting of committees from the suveral colonies on this continent is highly expedient and necessary, , to consult upon the present state of the country, and the miseries to which we are and must be reduced by the operation of certain acts of parliament; and to deliberate and determine on wise and proper measures to be recommended to all the colonies for the recovery and re-establishment of our just rights and liberties, civil and religious, and the restoration of union and harmony between Great Britain and America, which is most ardently desired by all good men." September the first was designated as the time, and Philadelphia the place, of meeting. Thomas Cushing, James Bowdoin, Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Robert Treat Paine, were thereupon chosen delegetes. On being informed of the proceedings, the colonial Governor, (Gage), sent the provincial Secretary to adjourn the court.
On the third of June, the legislative assembly of Connecticut authorized the appointment of a delegation to a general congress; and they were appointed soon afterwards by the committee of correspondence.
On the fifteenth of June, the legislative assembly of Rhode Island appointed delegates.
Delegates to the general congress were appointed for the colony of New Hampshire, by a convention of delegates, which met at Exeter on the eighth of June. Delegates were appointed for the colonies of Maryland and New Jersey by si silar conventions, in June and July, of the same year.
In the City of New York, a poll was opened by the mayor and aldermen, and five delegates to the general congress were elected by the people, on the 28th of July. The delegates so chosen were adopted by public meetings in the City of Albany, and some towns in Dutchess aud West Chester counties. The counties of Orange, Kings, and Suffolk, severally sent delegates.
Delegates to congress were appointed by the colonial legislature of Pennsylvania, on the 21st of July; and by the legislature of Deluware on the 1st of August.
A convention of delegates from many of the counties of Virginia, appointed delegates to the continental congress on the 1st of August; and a similar convention assembled at Newbern, on the 25th of August, appointed delegates to represeut the colony of North Carolina.
A public meeting held at Charleston, July 6th, attended by persong from all parts of the province, appointed delegates to represent South Carolina in the first continental or gcncral congress. Theinfluence of Gov, Wright prevented the appointment of any delegates for Georgia.
The first congress, among other measures, adopted an address to the people and a petiton to the King and parliament of Great Britain, for a redress of grievances. Very few, if any, at that time, entertained ideas of the independence of the colonies.
The time of the first congress and the most of the first session of the second congress, was taken up in consultation, in defending, and affirming their rights, and in memorializing the British government and people to respect their rights and redress their wrongs. But in the pride and consciousness of power, the government of the mother country disregarded the appeals and the natural and civil rights of the colonies, resolved to reduce them to submission by military force, and sent fleets and armies to effect their selfish purposes.
The war of the revolution commenced April, 1775 ; the most of the royal governors were soon after driven from the seats of government of the several colonies, and the colonial governments virtually dissolved.
The provincial legislatures of Massachusetts, New York, and some other colonies, appointed committees of their own members, to exercise the executive powers of the colony in place of the royal Governors, until their difficulties with the mother country might be settled. But some of the colonies were for some time without any government, after the royal governors had fled or been driven from the seat of government. New Hampshire being without a government, her delegates, on the 18th of October, 1775, asked the general congress to sanction the institution of a government by the people, for themselves, as the only means of preventing anarchy and confusion ; and yet the majority of the members of congress, still dreaming of conciliation, hesitated to recommend such a proceeding. But the first of November brought over the King's proclamation, and information that the colonies were threatened with more troops and ships of war, and with more severe coercive measures.
On the 3d of November, congress took action upon the subject, and resolved, “ That it be recommended to the provincial convention of New Hampshire, to call a full and free representation of the people, and that the representatives, if they think it necessary, establish such a form of government, as, in their judgment, will best produce the happiness of the people, and most effectually secure peace and good order in the province, during the continuance of the present dispute between Great Britain and the colonies.” The same advice was given to South Carolina the next day, on a similar application.
Virginia being also without an executive government, and Lord Dunmore, the late royal governor, having issued a proclamation to the royalists and slaves, and being engaged in collecting troops and stores to make war on the people, congress, on the 4th of De cember, invited the people to institute a government for themselvs.
A provincial convention of delegates elected by the people of New Hampshire, in accordance with the recommendation of congress, met on the 5th of January, 1776, adopted an organic law, as an addition or amendment to the royal charter, and organized a provisional government for the colony, as near as practicable in accordance with the charter, without any governor. They provided for a council of twelve to act as a senate or second branch of the legislature, and also as the supreme executive during its sessions ; at other times the executive power was exercised by a committee of public safety, over which the president of the council presided.
The first constitution for the state was adopted in 1784.
Early in February, 1776, a convention of delegates from the several parishes and districts of South Carolina met in convention, and on the 26th of March, adopted for the state, the first American constitution ever established ; in which provision was made for the election of a chief executive officer, called president of the state. The president, a vice president, the judges of the supreme and other courts, and various other officers, were to be elected by the legislature. On the 27th, John Rutledge was chosen president, Harvey Laurens, vice president, and William Harvey Drayton, chief justice. On the following day, (March 28th), the oaths of office were administered to the new officers, and the state government formally organized.
On the 4th of May, 1776, the general assembly of Rhode Island passed an act by which they declared the inhabitants of that colony discharged from all allegiance to the King of Great Britain. This was equivalent to a declaration of independence. As the freemen of the colony were authorized by the charter, to choose, annually, a governor, magistrates, and representatives to form a colonial legislature, no change in the government was necessary ;
and the people continued to live under the charter uutil 1842, when they framed their first state constitution. The assembly immediately authorized its delegates in congress to join in a treaty with any prince, state, or nation, for the security of the colonies. It also directed them to favor measures for the strictest union of the colonies ; yet at the same time, they were charged " to secure to the colony, in the strongest and most perfect manner, its present established
form and all powers of government, so far as they relate to its internal police, and the conduct of its own affairs, civil and religious." Here are the principles of state rights, and of the local sovereignty and independence of the states, very clearly expressed.
On the 6th of May, 1776, about 130 delegates, elected by the people of the several counties of Virginia, in accordance with the recommendation of congress and the colonial legislature, comprising the ablest men in the colony, met in convention to form a state coustitution. On the 12th of June, the convention adopted unanimously, a declaration or bill of righss, and on the 29th of the same month, they adopted, also unanimously, a constitution for the state. Having resolved themselves into a temporary general assembly, they elected Patrick Henry, governor. They also elected a privy council, and immediately organized the state government.
On the 10th of May, 1776, congress passed a resolution, recommending that the several colonies form governments for themselves. This was of itself almost equivalent to a declaration of independence. Congress, at the same time, appointed John Adams, of Massachusetts, Edward Rutledge, of South Carolina, and Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, to prepare a suitable preamble to the resolution. The committee reported a preamble which was adopted by congress, on the 15th of May, after a spirited debate. The preamble and resolutions were as follows:
Whereas his Britanic majesty, in conjunction with the lords and commons of Great Britain, has, by a late act of parliament, excluded the inhabitants of these united colonies from the protection of his crown. And whereas, no answer whatever, to the