Address to the Inhabitants of the Colonies
In the Journals of the Continental Congress (1906), the draft of an address by George Wythe to the inhabitants of the colonies is reproduced, in a footnote for the resolutions for May 29, 1776. The resolution states:
Resolved, That an animated address be published to impress the minds of the people with the necessity of their now stepping forward to save their country, their freedom and property.
That a committee of four be appointed to prepare the address.
The members chosen, Mr. [Thomas] Jefferson, Mr. [George]Wythe, Mr. S[amuel] Adams, and Mr. [Edward] Rutledge..
Worthington C. Ford, the editor of the Journals of the Continental Congress, reports:
In the papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vth Series, VIII, is found the following fragment, in the writing of George Wythe. It was probably intended to be the address:
Draft text, 29 May 1776
"The delegates of the united colonies of New Hampshire, &c. to the inhabitants of the said colonies.
"There seems no reason now to expect an accommodation of the dispute between Great Britain and these colonies. All overtures towards it on our part have been ineffectual; and on the other hand no terms have been offered to us, but obedience to unconstitutional authority is required. Arms must decide, whether we shall be subject to laws made by men who are not appointed approved of or controulable by us, whose interest it is to oppress us, and whose pride and resentment will be gratified by humbling US; or [whether] shall be subject to laws made by men we ourselves choose and may change, who bear their just proportions of the burthens they impose upon the community, and whose true glory it is to advance its posterity; in other words, whether we shall resign ourselves to the government of arbitrary rulers, and our property [of] to the disposition of those who are under many temptations, but no restraint, to take it away from us; or shall reserve so much of our natural liberty as permits the doing of every thing but what we ought not, what good men desire not, to do, and may [part of or] dispose of our property for such public uses, and in such manner and measure as we judge fit. If the enemy conquer, we must be wretched; if not, we may be happy; in either event, our posterity must be involved in our fate. Uniting [closely] firmly, resolving wisely, and acting vigorously, it is morally certain, we cannot be subdued. Those among us, if there be any, who will not join with us, it is hoped, are as contemptible for their numbers as for their baseness of soul. This is the reason when others may prove that love for their country which they profess themselves to be inspired with, and shew that they are what they would appear to be. There are none of us who cannot do some good service in this great conflict. The aged may supply their want of strength by counsel. The young will probably never meet with another opportunity to signalise [an illegible line] their valour so much to their honour. Whilst you are asserting the rights of mankind, and delivering your country from bondage, those who fall cannot die in a better cause, nor can those who survive with victory earn a nobler triumph. But indeed will be the expense of armaments we must for a time sustain: but what do men who know the value of liberty think too great a price to purchase it with! and what is property worth, or rather can we have property, if we enjoy not liberty. Let us all then"
Words in brackets were struck out.
- Journals of the Continental Congress, ed. Worthington C. Ford, Vol. 4, January 1-June 4, 1776 (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1906), 401-402.
- Journals of the Continental Congress, 402.