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may be tho't proper and necessary by the Congress, for forming foreign alliances, or any plan of operations for necessary and mutual defense : and also that they move and promote, as fast as may be convenient, a regular and permanent plan of union and confederation of the Colonies for the security and preservation of their just rights and liberties, and for mutual defense and security-saving that the administration of Government and the power ought to be left and remain to the respective Colonial Legislatures ; and that such plan be submitted to the respective Legislatures for their previous consideration and assent."
Thus it appears that Connecticut, June 14th, 1776, virtually declared herself independent twenty days before ihe date of the formal Declaration of Independence, prepared by the Continental Congress.
It is remarkable that she puts in the proviso at the close, namely, “that the administration of government and the power ought to be left and remain to the respective colonial legislatures ; and that such plan be submitted to the respective legislatures for their previous consideration and assent.”
Connecticut proceeded firmly, but cautiously.
I. We have already adverted to the influence of the ministers in producing opposition to the Stamp Act, and thus producing its repeal by the British Parliament. In addition to what has been said, it should be borne in mind that the Governor of the State and the General Assembly did not encourage the doings of the mob which compelled the stampmaster, Jared Ingersoll, to resign his office. The mob and its considerate doings may be accounted for by the supposition that it grew out of the opposition of the ministers to the Stamp Act.
So too, as already mentioned, “when the tidings of the • Boston Port Bill' reached Connecticut in May, 1774, the General Assembly ordered a day of humiliation and prayer, on which the ministers could address the people.
“ The Congregational ministers saw further into the designs of the British administration than the bulk of the colony, and by their publications and conversation increased and strengthened the opposition.” (Gordon's Independence of America, vol. I, p. 168.)
II. For a hundred and forty years the ministers of Con
necticut had been educating the people in the family, in the church, in the common schools, sometimes in schools in their houses, and in Harvard and Yale Colleges, for the attainment and enjoyment of liberty. And, though the Declaration of Independence was made sooner, perhaps, than some of them expected, the people were not unprepared. Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was the deacon of a Congregational church in New Milford. William Williams, another signer of that Declaration, was the son of a Congregational minister in Lebanon, a graduate of Harvard College, and himself a deacon of the church. Samuel Huntington, another signer, was a member of the Congregational church in Norwich, and was “mouth to the people when destitute of preaching." Oliver Wolcott was a member of the Congregational church in Litchfield, and a graduate of Yale College. Oliver Ellsworth, who took so prominent a part in framing the present Federal Constitution of the United States, was a graduate of New Jersey college, and, for a year, a student in theology. Deacon Roger Sherman, already mentioned, was another framer of the Constitution. William Samuel Johnson, another framer of the Constitution, was the son of a minister, and a graduate of Yale College.
Jonathan Trumbull was for several years a preacher of the gospel. From the adopted daughter of General Washington, I learned, in 1816, that the Christian idea entered into the mind of Washington when he often spoke of Governor Trumbull as “ Brother Jonathan."
Major-General Israel Putnam was an exemplary member of the Congregational church. Major-General Samuel Holden Parsons, a graduate of Harvard College, was son of a Congregational minister of Connecticut. Major-General James Wadsworth was an earnest supporter of religious institutions, and a graduate of Yale College. Major-General David Wooster was a graduate of Yale College. Major-General Jabez Huntington was a graduate of Yale College. Silas Deane was a graduate of Yale College.
Of the twenty-five members of the Continental Congress sent by Connecticut, twenty-one were graduates of some college, and seventeen of Yale College-reckoning from 1765 to 1787.
Another class of men should be mentioned, namely: Timothy Dwight, poet, chaplain in the army, and preacher ; John Trumbull, son of Governor Trumbull, a painter, and aide-decamp of Washington; John Trumbull, son of Rev. John Trumbull, and author of “ McFingal ;" Joel Barlow, a graduate of Yale College, poet, and chaplain in the army ; David Humphreys, a son of a minister, a graduate of Yale College, poet, diplomatist, and aide-de-camp of General Washington.
Another distinguished graduate of Yale College was Nathan Hale, the blessed martyr, who in standing face to face with death, could exclaim in the devotion of his patriotism, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for
Besides these greater lights, there were lesser lights scattered throughout the whole colony. Indeed, every town had its own constellation, the leading star in which was generally the minister, while the other stars were the acting justice of the peace, the highest military officer of a train band, company, or regiment, the lawyer, the doctor, and some teacher of a school.
The whole people were, indeed, trained up by the minister and the leading laymen, to “know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain."
III. The ministers of Connecticut taught the people their political rights.
When the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Jefferson, was published to the world, the ministers of Connecticut could feel the magic of his pen. The central doctrine of that instrument was as familiar to their minds as household words, though they had never before seen it expressed in such felicitous terms as the following, namely: “That governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying
its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” They welcomed these words, for they contained in them, substantially, the justification of the colonists in what they had done for a hundred and forty years, to cast off the laws of England, and to be governed by their own local laws.
This article in the Declaration was regarded as the articulus velstantis vel cadentis patriæ. In their political creed this doctrine was the article on which Connecticut, their country, must stand or fall. The following quotation from a sermon delivered by Timothy Dwight, at Northampton, in 1781, shows not only what the distinguished author, but what clergymen in general, thought on this subject:
By this convulsion the world hath seen, for the first time, an extensive empire, founded on the only just basis, the free and general choice of its inhabitants. All others were founded in conquest and blood. Here, within a few years, the rights of human nature have been far more clearly unfolded than in any other age or country. Here constitutions of civil government have, for the first time, been formed, without an invasion of God's prerogative to govern his church, and without any civil establishments of religion.”
The ministers taught the people to believe what they themselves believed, namely, that the people of Connecticut were qualified to choose their own form of government, and make their own laws.
They also, during the Revolution, taught them that “ the sins of Great Britain are, in degree, enormous, and in multitude innumerable," as Mr. Dwight declared them to be in the same sermon.
IV. The ministers taught the people their political duties as well after, as before the new order of things. In their instructions they often descended to great particularities in their statements. Thus, Dr. Goodrich, of Durham, a man of great ability, and yet of a very calm and composed mind, was accustomed to tell his people that it was their duty to support the war of the Revolution by their means, by their prayers, with heart and hand ; and in what way they ought to do this. He would show how they ought to do this as parents, or children, as husbands or as wives, in office and out of office; and having carried his people along with him, in full sympathy with himself, he would say: " Let the young woman refuse to give her heart and her hand to the young man who will not give his heart and his hand to the war for the independence of the states. Shame on him. He deserves no favor at your hands."
An extract from a letter of General Greene, written in the year 1775, gives the feelings which greeted certain Connecticut men, who had returned home before the term of their enlistment had expired. (See Irving's Life of Washington, vol. ii, p. 109.) “The homeward bound warriors seem to have run the gauntlet along the road ; for their conduct on quitting the army drew upon them such indignation that they could hardly get any thing to eat on their journey; and when they arrived at home they met with such a reception (to the credit of the Connecticut women be it recorded) that many were soon disposed to return again to the camp.” The women on this occasion, seem to have been in sympathy with the feeling among the ministers.
From the individuality of character for which the people of Connecticut have always been distinguished, it might be expected that there would be a considerable variety of opinion concerning the separation from the mother country. Some continued to feel loyalty towards the king, and openly professed this attachment to him. Others secretly indulged this feeling, though they moved along with the mass of the people in sustaining the measures that grew out of the Declaration of Independence. Some of the ministers themselves, probably, had some of the same feelings, and found it difficult to lay down rules of conduct that would be satisfactory to all their people. I have often heard it mentioned, that the ministers of Connecticut showed great wisdom in their public ministrations, and in their private conversation with the people of their charge ; and that to those who still continued to indulge feelings of loyalty toward the