Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 9: New York Resolves Unanimously

On June 30, 1776, the British fleet under Admiral Richard Lord Howe appeared off Staten Island. The fleet carried the British Army, under the Admiral's brother General Sir William Howe. The Convention of the Representatives of New York, with hundreds of others, left New York City on June 30.

On July 9, 1776, the Convention reconvened in White Plains to consider the Declaration of Independence issued by the Continental Congress. The Convention of the Representatives of New York "Resolved unanimously, That the reasons assigned by the Continental Congress for declaring the United Colonies free and independent States, arc cogent and conclusive; and that while we lament the cruel necessity which has rendered that measure unavoidable, we approve the same, and will, at the risk of our lives and fortunes, join with the other Colonies in supporting it."

The Convention sent a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Convention's resolution to the County Committee of Westchester. The Convention asked the Westchester Committee to publish both documents, "with the beat of drum," at White Plains the following Thursday (July 11). The Convention also resolved that copies be sent "to the other County Committees within the State of New York, with orders to cause the same to be published in the several Districts of their respective Counties."

Brandies historian David Hackett Fischer wrote that George III considered the Howe brothers his cousins. For an interesting account of the Howe brothers and their likely relation to the Hanoverian kings of England, please consult David Hackett Fischer, Washington's Crossing(New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), pages 66-67.
Paul Herbert Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789: Vol. 4: May 16-August 14, 1776 (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1979), page 372 note 1; Peter Force, ed., American Archives, Fourth Series, 6 vols. and Fifth Series, 3 vols. (Washington, D.C.: M. St. Clair and Peter Force, 1837-1853) Series 5, Volume 1: Page 205; David Hackett Fischer, Washington's Cross (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), pages 66-67.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Bayonet is Their Pride: August 10, 1776

American officer Aaron Burr wrote to his uncle Timothy Edwards on 10 Aug. 1776. Burr relayed information from two Americans returning from England, apparently after going to receive ordination (i.e., "to take the gown") as Anglican clergymen. (The Episcopal Church had no bishop in America to ordain priests):

By two Virginia gentlemen who went to England to take the gown, who returned in a packet and landed on Staten Island, where they tarried several days, and were permitted to cross to Elizabethtown [New Jersey] on Thursday last, we have some intelligence of the enemy....

These Virginia gentlemen lodged in a house with several King's officers. They hold us in the utmost contempt. Talk of forcing all our lines without firing a gun. The bayonet is their pride. They have forgot Bunker' s Hill.

In Washington's Crossing, Brandies Historian David Hackett Fischer described the bayonet as "the terror weapon of the eighteenth century." David Hackett Fischer, Washington's Crossing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 97.

For the fear of an Anglican bishop in America before independence, and acceptance of bishops after independence, please consult Derek H. Davis, Religion and the Continental Congress, 1774-1789: Contributions to Original Intent (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) and Chris Beneke, Beyond Toleration: The Religious Origins of American Pluralism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). For "take the Gown" as an expression for ordination, please consult Donald Henderson Stewart, The Opposition Press of the Federalist Period (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1969), 406.

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 5, 1776: Our Most Fatal Enemy

In a July 5, 1776 letter to Joseph Ward, John Adams wrote, “The Small Pox has been our most fatal Enemy. Our People must reconcile themselves, to inocculating Hospitals.”

Before Edward Jenner developed vaccination in 1796, the more risky procedure of inoculation offered smallpox immunity to survivors. Historian Elizabeth A. Fenn suggested the disastrous effects of smallpox on Continental efforts in Canada helped Americans overcome misgivings about inoculation.

By January 1778, Gen. George Washington undertook the mass inoculation of soldiers and officers in the Continental Army. In her landmark book Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82, Fenn wrote that Washington’s “little-recognized resolution to inoculate the Continental forces must surely rank among his most important decisions of the war.”

Elizabeth A. Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001), pages 27-28, 39, 134.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

July 4, 1776

Abraham Clark, one of the pro-independence delegates New Jersey sent to the Continental Congress in June, wrote to Elias Dayton, a colonel in Continental Army, “Our Seeming bad Success in Canada, I dare say gives you great uneasiness…. In the Course of Such a War we must expect some Losses. We are told a Panick Seized the Army. If so it hath not reached the Senate. At the Time our Forces in Canada were retreating before a Victorious Army, while Genl. Howe with a Large Armament is Advancing towards N. York, Our Congress Resolved to Declare the United Colonies Free and independent States.”

Paul Herbert Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789: Vol. 4: May 16-August 14, 1776 (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1979), 378.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 3: In a Few Days, a Declaration

July3, 1776: John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail Adams, “Yesterday the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps never was nor will be decided among men. A resolution was passed, without one dissenting Colony, ‘that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States….’ You will see, in a few days, a Declaration setting forth the causes which have impelled us to this mighty revolution, and the reasons which will justify it in the sight of God and man.”

New York did not dissent, but abstained from the vote.

Paul Herbert Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789: Vol. 4: May 16-August 14, 1776 (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1979), 359, 372 and 374.

Friday, July 1, 2011

July 2: Resolved, These Colonies Are & of Right Ought to Be

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress approved two resolutions on independence:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right, ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connexion between them, and the state of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Resolved, That this Congress will, to morrow, again resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into their further consideration the declaration on independence.

The delegates from New York supported independence and they heard from home that their constituents supported it. Thomas Jefferson noted, however, that the New York delegates were still bound by instructions from the New York Convention dated about a year before, "when reconciliation was still the general object, they were enjoined by them to do nothing which should impede that object."

In his account of the July 1 proceedings, Jefferson wrote, "They therefore thought themselves not justifiable in voting on either side, and asked leave to withdraw from the question, which was given them."

On July 2, the New York delegates wrote to the New York Convention to ask "whether we are to consider our Colony bound by the Vote of the Majority in Favour of Indepency and vote at large on such Questions as may arise in Consequence thereof or only concur in such Measures as may be absolutely necessary for the Common safety and defence of America exclusive of the Idea of Indepency. We fear it will be difficult to draw the Line...."

Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789: Vol. 5: June 5-October 8, 1776 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1906), 507; Paul Herbert Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789: Vol. 4: May 16-August 14, 1776 (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1979), 359, 372.