Yesterday’s Research Finds

new jersey

New Jersey, 1776 (Wikipedia Commons)

Yesterday I read the minutes of the New Jersey Provincial Congress that met in Burlington, Trenton, and New Brunswick between June 10 and August 21, 1776.  Here are some of my favorite passages:

June 14, 1776:

“That in the opinion of this congress, the said William Franklin, Esquire, by such proclamation, has acted in direct contempt and violation of the resolve to the Continental Congress of the 15th day of May last. “That in the opinion of this congress, the said William Franklin, Esquire, by such proclamation, has acted in direct contempt and violation of the resolve to the Continental Congress of the 15th day of May last. 

“Resolved, That, In the opinion of this congress, the said William Franklin, Esquire, has discovered himself to be an enemy to the liberties of this country; and that measures ought to be immediately taken for securing the person of the said William Franklin.” 

June 18, 1776:

Nathan Heard to Samuel Tucker (President of Provincial Congress):

I this morning, with major Deane, went to governor Franklin, and desired him to comply with the order of Congress, and sign the parole sent me, which he absolutely refused to do, and forbid me, at my peril, to carry the order into execution.  We then left the governor’s house, and ordered a company of militia, which were in readiness, to attend, and have placed a guard of about sixty men at and around his house.  I expect he will persist in refusing to comply, and therefore send this per express, and beg the further directions of the Congress respecting this matter as soon as possible…

July 1, 1776

“Whereas by a regulation of the late Congress, the several committees in this colony, were authorized and directed to disarm all the non-associators and persons notoriously disaffected within their bounds.  And whereas it appears that the said regulations hath not been carried into effect in some parts of the colony; and it being absolutely necessary, in the present dangerous state of public affairs when arms are much wanted for the publick defense, that it should be instantly executed.  That the several colonels in this colony do, without delay, proceed to disarm all such persons within their districts, whose religious principles will not permit them to bear arms; and likewise all such as have hitherto refused and still refuse to bear arms; that the arms so taken be appraised by some indifferent person or persons; that the said colonels give vouchers for the same and that the appraisement and receipt be left in the hands of the person disarmed. (Italics mine)

July 18, 1776:

In this interesting situation—viewing on the one hand—an active, inveterate and implacable enemy, increasing fast in strength, daily receiving large reinforcements, and industriously preparing to strike some decisive blow: on the other—a considerable part of the inhabitants supinely slumbering on the brink of ruin—and moved with affections, apprehensions, the convention think it incumbent upon them to warn their constituents of the impending danger.  On you, our friends and brethren, it depends, this day, to determine—whether you, your wives, your children, and millions of your descendants yet unborn, shall wear the galling, the ignominious yoke of slavery; or nobly inherit the generous, the inestimable blessings of freedom.  The alternative is before you—can you hesitate in your choice?  Can you doubt which to prefer?  Say!  Will you be slaves?  Will you toil and labour and glean together a little property, merely that it may be at the disposal of a relentless and rapacious conqueror?  Will you, of choice, become hewers of wood and drawers of water?  Impossible!  You cannot be so amazingly degenerate as to lick the hand that is raised to shed your blood!  Nature and nature’s God have made you free!  Liberty is the birthright of Americans! the gift of heaven! and the intent it is forced!…Your happiness and misery, virtuous independence or indignant servitude, hang trembling in the balance!—Happily we know!  We can anticipate your virtuous choice—With confident satisfaction we are assured, that not a moment will delay your important decision—that you cannot feel hesitation, whether you will tamely and degeneratively bend your necks to the irretrievable wretchedness of slavery—or by your instant and animated exertions enjoy the fair inheritance of heaven—born freedom, and transmit it unimpaired to your posterity.”

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