Thursday, May 19, 2011

March 19, 1776: "Independance" a "delicate Subject"

On March 19, 1776, James Duane of New York is still mulling over the implications of a Congressional resolution (and its revolutionary preamble) composed by John Adams.

In another letter to John Jay, Duane tries to gauge the sentiments in the colonies: "You knwo the Maryland Instructions and those of Pennsylvania. I am greatly in doubt whether either of their Assemblies or Conventions will listen to a Recommendation the preamble of which so openly avows Independance & Separation. The lower Counties [the Lower Counties on the Delaware, that is, the colony of Delaware] will probably adhere to Pensylvania. New Jersey you can form a good Judgment of from the Reception this important Resolution has met with."

Duane added, "The orators of Virginia with Col. [Patrick] Henry at their Head are against a Change of Government. The Body of the People, Col. Nelson...thinks are for it. The late election of Deputies for the Convention of New York sufficiently proves that those who assumed clandestine power & gave Laws even to the Convention & Committees were ussupported by the people. There seems therefore no Reason that our Colony shou'd be too precipitate in changing the present mode of Government."

Duane wrote, "I would wish first to be well assured of the Opinion of the Inhabitants at large. Let them be rather followed than driver on an Occasion of momentuous Concern. But, above all, let us see the Conduct of the middle Colonies before we come to a Decision. It cannot injure us to wait a few weeks...for this trying Question will clearly discover the true principals & the Extent of the Union of the Colonies. This, my dear Sir, is a delicate Subject on which I cannot enlarge at present."

Duane asked Jay to hurry at least one of the other delegates back to Congress, hopefully more acquainted with prevailing sentiment of New Yorkers.

Paul Herbert Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789: Vol. 4: May-August 1776 (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1979), 34-35.
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