Second Continental Congress: May 29, 1775
May 29, 1775
Congress approves the draft letter to the inhabitants of Canada. A Committee of Six is created “to consider the best means of establishing posts for conveying letters and intelligence through this continent.” John Adams writes to Abigail Adams: “We have an amazing Field of Business before us.”
Link to date-related documents.
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
The Committee, to whom the letter to the inhabitants of Canada, was recommitted, brought in a draft, written by John Jay which was read and approved and is as follows:
To the Oppressed Inhabitants of Canada
Friends and countrymen,
Alarmed by the designs of an arbitrary Ministry, to extirpate the Rights and liberties of all America, a sense of common danger conspired with the dictates of humanity, in urging us to call your attention, by our late address, to this very important object.
Since the conclusion of the late war, we have been happy in considering you as fellow-subjects, and from the commencement of the present plan for subjugating the continent, we have viewed you as fellow-sufferers with us. As we were both entitled by the bounty of an indulgent creator to freedom, and being both devoted by the cruel edicts of a despotic administration, to common ruin, we perceived the fate of the protestant and catholic colonies to be strongly linked together, and therefore invited you to join with us in resolving to be free, and in rejecting, with disdain, the fetters of slavery, however artfully polished.
We most sincerely condole with you on the arrival of that day, in the course of which, the sun could not shine on a single freeman in all your extensive dominion. Be assured, that your unmerited degradation has engaged the most unfeigned pity of your sister colonies; and we flatter ourselves you will not, by tamely bearing the yoke, suffer that pity to be supplanted by contempt.
When hardy attempts are made to deprive men of rights, bestowed by the almighty, when avenues are cut through the most solemn compacts for the admission of despotism, when the plighted faith of government ceases to give security to loyal and dutiful subjects, and when the insidious stratagems and manoeuvres of peace become more terrible than the sanguinary operations of war, it is high time for them to assert those rights, and, with honest indignation, oppose the torrent of oppression rushing in upon them.
By the introduction of your present form of government, or rather present form of tyranny, you and you wives and your children are made slaves. You have nothing that you can call your own, and all the fruits of your labor and industry may be taken from you, whenever an avaricous governor and a rapacious council may incline to demand them. You are liable by their edicts to be transported into foreign countries to fight Battles in which you have no interest, and to spill your blood in conflicts from which neither honor nor emolument can be derived: Nay, the enjoyment of your very religion, on the present system, depends on a legislature in which you have no share, and over which you have no control, and your priests are exposed to expulsion, banishment, and ruin, whenever their wealth and possessions furnish sufficient temptation. They cannot be sure that a virtuous prince will always fill the throne, and should a wicked or a careless king concur with a wicked ministry in extracting the treasure and strength of your country, it is impossible to conceive to what variety and to what extremes of wretchedness you may, under the present establishment, be reduced.
We are informed you have already been called upon to waste your lives in a contest with us. Should you, by complying in this instance, assent to your new establishment, and a war break out with France, your wealth and your sons may be sent to perish in expeditions against their islands in the West indies.
It cannot be presumed that these considerations will have no weight with you, or that you are so lost to all sense of honor. We can never believe that the present race of Canadians are so degenerated as to possess neither the spirit, the gallantry, nor the courage of their ancestors. You certainly will not permit the infamy and disgrace of such pusillanimity to rest on your own heads, and the consequences of it on your children forever.
We, for our parts, are determined to live free, or not at all; and are resolved, that posterity shall never reproach us with having brought slaves into the world….
As our concern for your welfare entitles us to your friendship, we presume you will not, by doing us injury, reduce us to the disagreeable necessity of treating you as enemies.
We yet entertain hopes of your uniting with us in the defense of our common liberty, and there is yet reason to believe, that should we join in imploring the attention of our sovereign, to the unmerited and unparalleled oppressions of his American subjects, he will at length be undeceived, and forbid a licentious Ministry any longer to riot in the ruins of the rights of Mankind.
Ordered, That the above Letter be signed by the president.
Ordered, That John Dickinson, and Thomas Mifflin be a committee to get 1,000 copies of the letter translated into French, and to be printed, and dispersed among the Inhabitants of Canada.
On motion, Resolved, That no provisions or necessaries of any kind be exported to the island of Nantucket, except from the colony of Massachusetts.
The Congress deeming it of great importance to North America, that the British fishery should not be furnished with provisions from this continent through Nantucket, earnestly recommend a vigilant execution of this resolve to all committees.
Ordered, That the above resolve be immediately published.
As the present critical situation of the colonies renders it highly necessary that ways and means should be devised for the speedy and secure conveyance of Intelligence from one end of the Continent to the other,
Resolved, That Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Lynch, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Willing, Samuel Adams, and Philip Livingston, be a committee to consider the best means of establishing posts for conveying letters and intelligence through this continent.
Adjourned till tomorrow, at 9 o’Clock.
John Adams to Abigail Adams
I have had miserable Health and blind Eyes almost ever since I left you, but, I found Dr. Young here, who after scolding at me, quantum sufficit for not taking his Advice, has pilled and [elevated] me into pretty good Order. My Eyes are better, my Head is better, and so are my Spirits….We have an amazing Field of Business before us….Colonel Washington appears at Congress in his Uniform and, by his great Experience and Abilities in military Matters, is of much service to Us. Oh that I was a Soldier! I will be.
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.