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He has constrained our fellow-citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.
In every stage of these oppressions, we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them, from time to time, of the attempts, by their legislature, to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them, by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They, too, have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace, friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare 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 connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish com
merce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do. And, for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
The foregoing declaration was, by order of Congress, engrossed, and signed by the following members :
Massachusetts Bay. CÆSAR RODNEY,
BENJAMIN HARRISON, WILLIAM FLOYD,
THOMAS NELSON, JR. PHILIP LIVINGSTON, FRANCIS LIGHTFOOT LEE FRANCIS LEWIS,
South Carolina. JOHN HART,
EDWARD RUTLEDGE, ABRAHAM CLARK. THOMAS HEYWARD, JR. Pennsylvania.
THOMAS LYNCH, JR. ROBERT MORRIS,
ARTHUR MIDDLETON. BENJAMIN RUSH.
Georgia. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, BUTTON GWINNETT, JOHN MORTON,
LYMAN HALL, GEORGE CLYMER
GEORGE WALTON. JAMES SMITH,
LIVES OF THE SIGNERS.
SAMUEL ADAMS. The memories of few men will perhaps be cherished, by their posterity, with a more jealous and grateful admi. ration than those of the patriotic individuals, who first signed the political independence of our country. They hazarded by the deed not only their lands and possessions, but their personal freedom and their lives; and when it is considered that most of them were in the vigor of existence, gifted with considerable fortunes, and with all the offices and emoluments at the disposal of royalty within their reach, the sacrifice which they risked appears magnified, and their disinterested patriotism more worthy of: remembrance. Although many of them can rest their sole claim to lasting distinction upon the one great act with which they were adventitiously connected, still their lives present a valuable transcript of the times in which they lived, and afford examples of inflexible honesty, heroic decision, and noble energy of mind, quite as interesting as any records of the eccentricities of genius, or the grasping efforts of ambition.
Not one of the least ardent and uncompromising asserters of the rights and liberties of his country, was the subject of our present sketch-SAMUEL ADAMS. This gentleman, descended from a respectable family, which emigrated to America with the first settlers of the land, was born at Quincy, in Massachusetts, September 22d, 1722. In 1736, he became a member of Harvard Col. lege, and took his degree of Master in 1743. On this latter occasion, he proposed the following question, in which he maintained the affirmative: “Whether it be lawful to resist the supreme magistrate, if the commonwealth cannot be otherwise preserved ?”
On quitting the university, he commenced the study of
the law; but soon afterwards, at the request of his mother, became a clerk in the counting-house of Thomas Cushing, at that time an eminent merchant. The genius of Adams was not suited to commercial pursuits. His devotion to politics, and his interest in the welfare of his country, diverted his attention from his own business concerns; and he retired from his mercantile connexions poorer by far than when he entered into them. In 1763, when a committee was appointed by the people of Boston to remonstrate against the taxation of the colonies by the British ministry, the instructions of that committee were drawn by Mr. Adams, and gave a powerful proof of his ability and zeal. He soon became an influential leader in the popular assemblies, and was bold in denouncing the oppressive acts of the mother country.
In 1765, he was chosen a representative to the General Court of the State, from the town of Boston. Here he soon made himself conspicuous, and became clerk of the legislative body. About this time he was the author of several spirited essays, and plans of resistance to the ex actions of the British ministry. He suggested the first Congress at New York, which was a step to the establishment of a Continental Congress, ten years after.
In 1770, two regiments of troops were quartered in the town of Boston, apparently to superintend the conduct of the inhabitants. This measure roused the public indignation to the utmost, and soon gave occasion to a quarrel between a party of soldiers and citizens, in which eleven of the latter were killed or wounded, by a guard, under the command of Captain Preston. This rencontre, which is well known under the name of the “Boston Massacre,” and will long remain memorable as the first instance of bloodshed between the British and Americans, did not tend to allay the excitement caused by the presence of the troops. On the following morning a meeting of the citizens was called, and Samuel Adams first rose to ad. dress the assembly. His style of eloquence was bold and impressive, and few could exercise a more absolute control over the passions of a multitude. A committee, of which he was one, was chosen to wait upon Governor Hutchinson, with a request that the troops might be in
stantly removed. The Governor replied, that the troops were not under his command: but Adams, with his usual intrepidity, would brook no prevarication or excuse, and declared that if he permitted them to remain, it would be at his peril. The Governor, alarmed at the personal danger which threatened him, finally consented to the demand, and further hostilities were, for a time, suspended.
The injudicious management of his private affairs rendered Mr. Adams poor. When this was known in Eng land, it was proposed to bribe him, by the gift of some lucrative office. A suggestion of the kind being made to Governor Hutchinson, he replied, that " such was the obstinacy and inflexible disposition of the man, that he could never be conciliated by any office or gift whatever.” A higher compliment could not have been paid him. The offer however was made, it is said, and rejected. About the year 1773, Governor Gage renewed the experiment. Colonel Fenton waited upon Mr. Adams, with the assurance of Governor Gage, that any benefit he might ask would be conferred on him, on condition that he would forsake the popular faction; while, at the same time, significant threats were thrown out, of the consequences which might ensue, if he persisted in his opposition to the measures of the ministry. The reply of the undaunted patriot was characteristic: “Go, tell Governor Gage,” said he,“ that my peace has long since been made with the King of kings; and that it is the advice of Samuel Adams to him, no longer to insult the feelings of an already exasperated people."
Under the irritation produced by this answer, Governor Gage issued a proclamation, which comprehended the following language : “I do hereby, in his majesty's name, offer and promise his most gracious pardon to all persons, who shall forthwith lay down their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects: excepting only from the benefits of such pardon, SAMUEL ADAMS and JOHN HANCOCK, whose offences are of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration but that of condign punishment."
Mr. Adams was a member of the first Continental Congress, which assembled in Philadelphia, in 1774; and he