Virginia Delegates to the Virginia Convention, 18 May 1776
On May 18, 1776, George Wythe wrote a letter from the delegates of Virginia at the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, to the members of the fifth Virginia Convention in Williamsburg (Edmund Pendleton, presiding). Enclosed were resolutions reached after a report by a committee comprised of Benjamin Harrison, Edward Rutledge, Robert Goldsborough, Robert Treat Paine, and Caesar Rodney. The report regarded two letters from General Charles Lee of April 19 and May 7, 1776, about preparations for defending the Virginia colony. Also enclosed with the letter was a printed copy of a resolution of May 15, which ordered the publication of a 'preamble' prepared by John Adams, Edward Rutledge, and Richard Henry Lee. The preamble, written by Adams, exhorted the adoption and strengthening of local governments independent from Great Britain. It was printed as a broadside and widely distributed.
The letter was read at the Virginia Convention on May 27, 1776, then referred to the Committee on the State of the Colony. A draft copy was preserved in the papers of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson used the paper to make notes on coin production, including a table comparing the value of European gold and silver coins on the reverse.
Letter text, 18 May 1776
Philadelphia, 18 April [May], 1776.
The inclosed resolutions were reported by a committee appointed to consider of a letter from general Lee to the president. We have nothing to observe upon them unless it be, that the surgeons whom the director general of the hospital is empowered to appoint, and the regimental surgeons to be nominated by the convention, according to a resolution lately forwarded to you, are different officers. Upon the arrival of two ships of war, two frigates and one tender at Quebeck, the 6th instant, the garrison, consisting, with the forces the vessels brought, of no more than about a thousand men, made a sally upon our army there, and routed it. The resolution of the 15th of May we send a printed copy of, lest the manuscript, which we desired the secretary to furnish us with, should not come time enough to go by this opportunity. We are,
- Your most obedient servants.
- Journals of the Continental Congress, ed. Worthington C. Ford, Vol. 4, January 1-June 4, 1776 (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1906), 363-365.
- Journals of the Continental Congress, 357-358. The text of the preamble reads:
Whereas, his Britannic 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 humble petitions of the colonies for redress of grievances and reconciliation with Great Britain, has been, or is likely to be given; but the whole force of that kingdom, aided by foreign mercenaries, is to be exerted for the destruction of the good people of the colonies; And whereas it appears absolutely irreconcilable to reason and good Conscience, for the people of these colonies now to take the oaths and affirmations necessary for the support of any government under the Crown of Great Britain, and it is necessary that the exercise of every kind of authority under the said Crown should be totally suppressed, and all the powers of government exerted, under the authority of the people of the colonies, for the preservation of internal peace, virtue, and good order, as well as for the defense of our lives, liberties, and properties, against the hostile invasions and cruel depredations of our enemies...[.]
- David McCullough, John Adams, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001) 108-100.
- Published as "Proceedings of a Public Meeting in Favor of Independence", 20 May 1776, Philadelphia. No. 15015 in Charles Evans, American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America, 1639–1800, (New York: P. Smith, 1941).
- Journal of the Convention, May, 1776 (Richmond, Virginia: Ritchie, Trueheart, and Du-val, 1816), 25.
- Reproduced in Letters to the Delegates of Congress, ed. Paul H. Smith, Vol 4., May 16-August 15, 1776, (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1979), 37.
- In The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1 General Correspondence 1651-1827, (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1974).
- This draft was misdated by George Wythe. The letter mentions a resolution of May 15, and enclosed resolutions passed on the 18th, so it must have been written in May, not April.
- See resolve of May 6, Journals of the Continental Congress, 330.
Read this letter in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition.
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