Monday, June 13, 2011

June 14, 1776: Hopes of Reconciliation "Extinguished"

As New Jersey's Caesar Rodney anticipated, the King's response to a petition from the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London convinced many Americans that separation and independence from Britain might prove necessary.

On June 14, 1776, John Morton, the Speaker of the House in the Pennsylvania Assembly, signed the Assembly's instructions to the colony's delegates in the Continental Congress. Although the November 1775 instructions to the delegates forbade any vote for independence, "The situation of publick affairs is since so greatly altered, that we now think ourselves justifiable in removing the restrictions laid upon you by those instructions." Not only Parliamentary measures, the Pennsylvania Assembly remarked, but the King's treaties for foreign mercenaries "and his answer to the Petition of the Lord-Mayor, Aldermen, and Commons of the City of London, manifest such a determined and implacable resolution to effect the utter destruction of these Colonies, that all hopes of a reconciliation on reasonable terms are extinguished."

The Assembly explained that, during "this fatal controversy," the Assembly's first wish was the happiness of the Colonies, their reconciliation with Britain their second. "Ardently have we prayed for the accomplishment of both. But if we must renounce the one or the other, we humbly trust in the mercies of the supreme Governour of the Universe, that we shall not stand condemned before his Throne, if our choice is determined by that overruling law of self-preservation, which his Divine wisdom has thought fit to implant in the hearts of his creatures."

Also on June 14, 1776, the General Assembly of Connecticut instructed the colony's delegates to move for a declaration that "the United American Colonies" are "free and independent States," and to agree to any measures necessary to secure foreign alliances. In a message to the Speaker of the Virginia Convention, Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull acknowlegde the example of "the ancient and patriotick Colony of Virginia," who "have nobly advanced to authorize and instruct their honourable Delegates to propose in Continental Congress to declare the United Colonies free and independent States, form foreign alliances, and forward a more perfect confederation of the Colonies...."
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