Annals of Mendon - Resolves, 1773
counties. The first of them all, probably, was the town of Mendon, Worcester County, Mass, which in
1773 adopted these resolutions. William Cullen Bryant and Sydney Howard Gay, A Popular History
of the United States, volume 3 p. 472.
In a warrant for a town meeting to be held Feb. 10, 1773, the second article is in the following words,
viz: "To see what the town will act relative to the Letter of Correspondence from the Town of Boston to
At a town meeting of the freeholders and other inhabitants of the town of Mendon, legally qualified,
warned and assembled, at the First Precinct Meeting House, in said Mendon, February ye 10th, 1773,
Mr. John Tyler was chosen Moderator.
Then was laid before the meeting the letter or pamphlet of the Committee of Correspondence of the
town of Boston, " Shewing, in Sundry Respects, where sundry of our Invaluable Charter Rights and
Privileges were Infringed upon, by sundry late Acts of the Parliament of Great Britain, Imposing Duties
or Taxations on the Colonists in America and the Province or Colony of the Massachusetts Bay in
It was tried by a vote if the town would act on the important matter, and voted in the affirmative.
Then voted to choose a committee of seven freeholders of said town " to Consider a matter of so
Great Importance and prepare Resolves proper for said meeting to Act and Resolve on, at the
adjournment of this meeting.''
Chose for said committee Joseph Dorr, Esq., James Sumner, John Tyler, Deacon Edward Rawson,
Lieut. Joseph Johnson and William Torrey, when the meeting was adjourned until the first day of
March at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, at the meeting house.
March 1. At a town meeting by adjournment from Feb. 10, 1773, the chairman of the committee
appointed to prepare resolves to be laid before the town for their consideration at this time, relative "to
our Rights and Privileges as Men, Christians and Subjects, and the Infringement of them by Sundry
Acts of the British Parliament, acquainted the Moderator that he was ready to make Report and read
the same as follows, viz:
1. Resolved, That all men have naturally an Equal Right to Life, Liberty and Property.
2. Resolved, That all just and lawful Government must necessarily originate in the free Consent of the
3. Resolved, That the Good, Safety and Happiness of the People is the great end of Civil Government,
and must be considered as the only rational object in all Original Compacts and Political Institutions.
4. Resolved, That a principle of Self Preservation, being deeply planted by the God of Nature in every
human breast, is as necessary not only to the well being of Individuals, but also to the Order of the
Universe, as Attraclion and Cohesion are to the preservation of material bodies and the order of the
Natural World, Therefore
5. Resolved, That a Voluntary Renunciation of any Powers or Privileges, included or necessarily
connected with a principle of Self Preservation is necessarily acting counter to the Great Author of
Nature, the Supreme Legislator, Therefore,
6. Resolved, That a Right to Liberty and Property (which is one of the Natural Means of Self
Preservation) is absolutely unalienable, and can never, lawfully, be given up by ourselves or taken
from us by others.
7. Resolved, That the claim of the Parliament of Great Britain to the power of Legislation for the
Colonies, in all cases whatever, is extremely alarming and threatens the total deprivation of every
thing that is dear and valuable in life, and is, we humbly conceive, abhorrent from the spirit and
genius of the British Constitution which is Liberty; destructive of the Immunities and Privileges granted
us in our Royal Charter, which assures to the Inhabitants of this Province all the Liberties and
Immunities of free and natural born subjects of England ; and in reality is not reconcilable to the most
obvious principles of Reason, as it subjects us to a State of Vassalage and denies those essential
Natural Rights, which, being the gift of GOD ALMIGHTY, is not in the power of man to alienate.
8. Resolved, That the late Revenue Act, by which the. Commons of Great Britain have assumed and
exercised a Power of Giving and Granting to his Majesty the property of the Colonists, without their
consent, is a grievous Infringement of the Right of disposing of our own Estates.
9. Resolved, That the unlimited power vested in the Commissioner of the Customs of creating inferior
Officers and Collectors and the exhorbitant power to these under officers and Ministers to enter, at
pleasure, any houses or other places and to break open trunks, chests, &c. upon bare suspicion
of goods concealed, is a grievous Violation of the Sacred Right of Domestic Security.
10. Resolved, That introducing and quartering Standing Armies in a free country in times of peace,
without the consent of the People, is a violation of their rights as Free Men.
11. Resolved, That the enormous Extension of the Power of the Courts of Vice Admiralty, in a great
measure deprives the People in the Colonies of the Inestimable Right to Trials by Juries.
12. Resolved, That the Act passed in the last session of Parliament, entitled "An Act for the better
preserving his Majesty's Dock Yards, Magazines, Ships, Ammunition and Stores," by virtue of which
Act the Inhabitants of the Colonies may, for certain supposed offences committed against said Act, be
arrested and carried, from their families, to any part of Great Britain, there to be tried, is an
Infringement not only of our Constitutional Privileges as Colonists, but of our Natural essential Rights
13. Resolved, That the Acts for prohibiting Slitting Mills for manufacturing our own iron and restraining
the Manufacture and Transportation of Hats, as they deprive us of the natural advantages of our own
climate, the produce of our own country and the honest fruits of our own Labour and Industry are very
unreasonable and injurious.
14. Resolved, That the Act restraining the transportation of Wool (the produce of our own Farms) even
over a ferry, subjects the Inhabitants of this Province to a great an unreasonable Expense, and a
violation of our Charter Privileges, whereby all Havens, Rivers &c. are expressly granted to the
Inhabitants of the Province and their Successors, to their own proper use and behoof forever.
15. Resolved, That the fixing a Stipend to the Office of the Governor of this Province, to be paid out of
the American Revenue, rendering him independent of the free Grants of the People, has a necessary
tendency to destroy that Balance of Power which ought to exist between the several branches of the
16. Resolved, That the affixing Stipends to the offices of the judges of the Superiour Court of
Judicature and rendering them independent of the People and dependent on the Crown for Support
may hereafter (considering the depravity of human nature,) be improved to purposes big with the
most fatal consequences to the good People of this Province.
17. Resolved, That the wresting out of our hands Castle William, the principal fortress of this Province,
and garrisoning it with his Majesty's regular Troops is a violation of our Charter Privileges.
18. Resolved, That it is the mind and desire of this Town that the judges of the Superiour Court of
Judicature and all other Officers who receive grants from the Province should have an honourable
support agreeable to the dignity and importance of their respective stations.
19. Resolved, That the Representative of this Town be and he is hereby instructed to use his utmost
endeavours, in a constitutional manner, for the Redress of the aforementioned grievances ; and that
he in no wise consent to the giving up of any of our Rights, whether derived to us by nature or
by Compact or Agreement.
Finally, When we reflect on the arduous enterprize of our Forefathers in transporting themselves to the
wilds of America, the innumerable fatigues and dangers, the vast expense of treasure and blood that
attended their beginning and carrying on a Settlement here among the Savages of the Desert and at
the same time consider the prodigious accession of wealth and power to the mother Country from
their extended settlements, it still sets a keener edge on a sense of our numerous grievances and we
cannot help viewing the late rigorous and burdensome Impositions laid on us by the hand of the
Parent country, as a departure from those truly noble and magnanimous Principles of Liberty which
used heretofore to add a distinguishing Lustre and Glory to the British Crown.
Voted that the foregoing Resolves be entered in the Town Book that our Children, in years to come,
may know the sentiments of their Fathers in Regard to our Invaluable Rights and Liberties.
Voted that the Town Clerk be directed and he is accordingly directed to transmit a fair attested copy of
the foregoing Resolves and proceedings of the Town to the Committee of Correspondence for the
Town of Boston. John George Metcalf, Annals of the Town of Mendon.
Compare to the Declaration of Independence Mendon Menu
Joseph Dorr Jr. and The American Revolution
Mendon's Joseph Dorr Jr. was an active participant in the American Revolution. His service as a
representative in the Massachusetts General Court in the 1760s introduced him to fellow legislator,
Samuel Adams, who had a significant influence on his political thinking. The Harvard educated Dorr
used his superior writing and oratory skills to inspire Mendon voters to approve and endorse the
concepts of the Sons of Liberty and to lay the groundwork for one of the most important documents of
colonial times. His devotion to the cause for independence was remarkable.
Dorr's influence as a leader was most evident at town meetings. On October 14, 1765, voters
denounced Britain's Stamp Act, and again on May 21, 1767, they agreed not to buy, sell, or use any
products from Britain that had a tax. He shared letters that he received from Boston, and he kept
Mendon people informed about revolutionary happenings.
A town meeting held on March 1, 1773, at the meeting house at the north end of Old Cemetery, was
the setting for his most important oration. He and a committee that he chaired prepared nineteen
resolutions in response to a letter from Boston's Committee of Correspondence. The resolutions
clearly defined in writing what the revolutionary issues were about. They stated that all men have
naturally an equal right to life, liberty, and property, and that a just and lawful government must
originate with the free consent of the people. They also stated that quartering an army in a free country
in times of peace, without the consent of the people, was a violation of rights of free men. Several
more resolutions of a similar tone were approved. The eloquence and clarity of Dorr's resolutions
seemed to strengthen the focus of the revolutionary cause, and drew the attention of colonial leaders.
Three years later, after July 4, 1776, town clerks in every town in the thirteen colonies were required to
make a hand-written copy of the Declaration of Independence. As Mendon town clerk, Joseph Dorr Jr.
was copying the document in his exquisite penmanship, he most assuredly came across some
words and phrases that were familiar to him. He had seen them before.
The aging Thomas Jefferson, in 1826, left instructions before his death, that one of the inscriptions on
his tombstone would be that he was the author of the Declaration of Independence. Most certainly he
was, but several of the principles on which it was based were eloquently written, narrated, discussed,
and approved at Mendon's March 1, 1773, town meeting. Historian, William Cullen Bryant, stated in
his 1881 book, A Popular History of the United States, (vol. 3, p.472) that the first two public
documents that influenced the Declaration of Independence were Thomas Paine's "Common Sense"
and Mendon's nineteen resolutions.
Joseph Dorr Jr.'s parents rest in peace in Old Cemetery about twenty feet from where the meeting
house once stood. The building was sold, dismantled, and rebuilt as a residence at 8 Hastings
Street. A barn now occupies the historic site. The spirited rhetoric and eloquent orations have been
replaced with silence. Mendon historian, Reverend Carlton Staples, wrote that the resolutions
"embodied the sentiments of the Declaration of Independence more than three years before that
immortal document came from Jefferson's hand," and that the words describe "the fundamental
principles of our national existence." The graves of Reverend and Mrs. Dorr are the only reminders
that long ago, on March 1, 1773, their son and his committee put into writing a document of
resolutions that helped the colonies to establish their identity. His active participation also included
his service as a delegate to the Provincial Congress and as a member of the Committee of
Correspondence. He also served as Mendon's selectman, town clerk, treasurer, and justice of the
peace. Joseph Dorr Jr.'s involvement in the American Revolution had a significant impact on our
nation, perhaps more than we will ever know!
The Dorr family lived at a site that is now 59 North Avenue. The house was replaced with the present
house in the mid 1800s.
Richard Grady, May 2012
at the Old Cemetery near the center of Mendon.
Below - The Dorr stones at the Old Cemetery , and
other views of the cemetery.
February 10, 1773 -- Boston's Committee of Correspondence sends a letter to Massachusetts towns
expressing concern about unjust taxation without representation and other injustices from Parliament.
March 1, 1773 -- Mendon Resolves : Mendon responds to letter with nineteen eloquently written
resolves which clearly identify, define, and focus on injustices of Parliament's treatment of colonies.
Authors were Joseph Dorr and Edward Rawson.
December 16, 1773 -- Boston Tea Party in Boston Harbor retaliates for tax on tea.
March 24, 1774 -- Parliament tries to punish colonies with Intolerable Acts.
May 20, 1774 -- Parliament tries to control and shut down the Massachusetts colonial government by
imposing the Massachusetts Government Act.
July 14, 1774 -- Second set of Mendon Resolves : Mendon responds to the Intolerable Acts and Mass.
Gov. Act with three new resolves. They resolve not to trade with or purchase or consume any imported
products from Great Britain.
September 5, 1774 -- October 26,1774 -- First Continental Congress is held in Philadelphia.
September 9, 1774 -- Suffolk Resolves : Suffolk County, led by Boston's Joseph Warren, responds to
Massachusetts Government Act and Intolerable Acts. They call for the boycott of imported British
goods. Paul Revere rides on horseback to Philadelphia to deliver Suffolk Resolves to Continental
September 17, 1774 -- First Continental Congress adopts Suffolk Resolves.
September 28, 1774 -- Mendon votes to create a Committee of Correspondence.
October 11, 1774 -- Joseph Dorr and Edward Rawson attend First Provincial Congress in Concord,
MA. John Hancock is chairman.
Mendon's town meeting on March 1, 1773, at the Fourth Meetinghouse, was one of the most
important meetings in the town's history. The outcomes had significant impacts, not only on our town,
but on the thirteen colonies under British rule. A group of six scholarly residents eloquently proposed
a document and supported it with fiery orations that shook the rafters of the wooden building. The
spirited voters gave approval, and the document gained the attention of Boston's Committee of
Correspondence and Sons of Liberty. The document helped to define and focus on the issues of
colonial discontent with Great Britain, and it became an influence on the thinking in the early days of
the American Revolution.
The purpose of the meeting was to respond to a letter that the town had received at a February 10
meeting, three weeks earlier. It was from Boston's Committee of Correspondence in regards to the
punitive Acts of Parliament that had shut down the Massachusetts state government and closed the
port of Boston. Voters at the February meeting created a committee to propose a response and
present it on March 1st. The committee included Joseph Dorr Esq., Edward Rawson, James Sumner,
John Tyler, Lt. Joseph Johnson, and William Torrey. The presentation was orated by their chairman,
Joseph Dorr. It was in the form of nineteen resolves or resolutions. The following are a few examples.
1. Resolved, that all men have naturally an equal right to life, liberty, and property. 2. Resolved, that all
just and lawful government must necessarily originate in the free consent of the people. 3. Resolved,
that the good, safety, and happiness of the people is the great end of civil government and must be
considered as the only rational object in all original compacts and political institutions. 10. Resolved,
that introducing and quartering standing armies in a free country in times of peace, without the
consent of the people, is a violation of their rights as free men. 19....voted that the foregoing Resolves
be entered into the Town Book , that our children in years to come, may know the sentiments of their
fathers in regard to their invaluable rights and liberties.
Dorr served in the General Court (Mass. Legislature) during the 1760's, and Rawson served during
the 1770's. With their Boston ties, they were closely acquainted with Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul
Revere, Joseph Warren, and other leaders of the revolutionary cause. Mendon had representation at
all meetings of the Committee of Correspondence and the Provincial Congress. Clamors for freedom
from tyranny from the radicals in Boston echoed off the walls of Mendon's meetinghouse at the north
end of Old Cemetery. Historian William Cullen Bryant wrote that Mendon's Resolves and Thomas
Paine's "Common Sense" were the first writings that influenced Thomas Jefferson's authorship of the
Declaration of Independence. The town meeting on March 1, 1773 was one of the most important in
our town's history. It not only influenced our town, but to some extent, the early beginnings of our nation!
Richard Grady -- April 13, 2014
The paragraphs above are from an article by Charles Washburn
titled Who Was the Author of the Declaration of Independence?
WHO WAS THE AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE?
BY CHARLES G. WASHBURN
ON May 20, 1925, it chanced that I was present, in an official capacity, at the celebration, in the City of
Charlotte, North Carolina, of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the "Mecklenberg
Resolution" which contained a "Declaration of Independence" made, it was claimed, more than a year
before that of the Congress of July 4,1776. Those interested in the Charlotte Convention declared "that the
cause of Boston was the cause of all" and an order was issued to each Captain's Company in the County
of Mecklenburg to elect two persons to compose a delegation to meet in Charlotte on May 19, 1775, to
devise ways and means to aid and assist their suffering brethren in Boston. By an interesting coincidence
on that day, it is said, official news of the Battle of Lexington, which occurred on the 19th day of the
preceding month arrived by express. Of the five resolutions adopted by the Convention, I will quote the third
which runs as follows: 3. Resolved that we do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people,
are and of right ought to be, a sovereign and self-governing association, under the control of no power
other than that of our God and of the General Government of the Congress; to the maintenance of which
independence, we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual co-operation, our lives, our fortunes, and our
most sacred honor. Since the declaration was first brought to the attention of the public in 1819, a lively
discussion, at times acrimonious, has arisen as to its authenticity. Concerning this I need express no
opinion but content myself with introducing some correspondence on the subject between John Adams
and Thomas Jefferson. John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson from Quincy on 22 June, 1819:
May I enclose you one of the greatest curiosities and one of the deepest mysteries that ever occurred to
me? It is in the Essex Register of June 5th, 1819. It is entitled the Raleigh Register Declaration of
Independence. How is it possible that this paper should have been concealed from me to this day? Had it
been communicated to me in the time of it, I know, if you do not know, that it would have been printed in
every whig newspaper upon this continent. You know, that if I had possessed it, I would have made the hall
of Congress echo and reecho with it fifteen months before your Declaration of Independence. What a poor,
ignorant, malicious, shortsighted, crapulous mass is Tom Paine's "Common Sense," in comparison with
this paper! Had I known it, I would have commented upon it, from the day you entered Congress till the
fourth of July, 1776. The genuine sense of America at that moment was never so well expressed before,
nor since. Richard Caswell, William Hooper, and Joseph Hewes, the then representatives of North
Carolina in Congress, you knew as well as I, and you know that the unanimity of the States finally
depended on the vote of Joseph Hewes, and was finally determined by him. And yet history is to ascribe the
American Revolution to Thomas Paine ! Sat verbum sapienti.
In his reply to Mr. Adams dated Monticello, July 9,1819, Mr. Jefferson wrote :
But what has attracted my peculiar notice, is the paper from Mecklenburg County last, of June the 22d. And
you seem to think it genuine. I believe it spurious. I deem it to be a very unjustifiable quiz, like that of the
volcano, so minutely related to us as having broken out in North Carolina, some half a dozen years ago.
in that part of the country, and perhaps in that very county of Mecklenburg, for I do not remember its precise
locality. If this paper be really taken from the Raleigh Register, as quoted, I wonder it should have escaped
Ritchie, who culls what is good from every paper, as the bee from every flower; and the National
Intelligencer, too, which is edited by a North Carolinian; and that the flre should blaze out all at once in
Essex, one thousand miles from where the spark is said to have fallen. But if really taken from the Raleigh
Register, who is the narrator, and is the name subscribed real, or is it fictitious as the paper itself? It
appeals, too, to an original book, which is burnt, to Mr. Alexander, who is dead, to a joint letter from Caswell,
Hughes, and Hooper, all dead, to a copy sent to the dead Caswell, and another sent to Doctor Williamson,
now probably dead, whose memory did not recollect, in the history he has written of North Carolina, this
gigantic step of its county of Mecklenburg. Horry, too, is silent in his history of Marion, whose scene of
action was the country bordering on Mecklenburg. Ramsay, Marshall, Jones, Girardin, Wirt, historians of the
adjacent States, aU silent. When Mr. Henry's resolutions, far short of independence, flew like lightning
through every paper, and kindled both sides of the Atlantic, this flaming declaration of the same date, of the
independence of Mecklenburg county of North Carolina, absolving it from the British allegiance, and
abjuring all political connection with that nation, although sent to Congress too, is never heard of. It is not
known even a twelve month afteç, when a similar proposition is first made in that body. Armed with this
bold example, would not you have addressed our timid brethren in peals of thunder on their tardy fears?
Would not every advocate of independence have rung the glories of Mecklenburg county in North Carolina,
in the ears of the doubting Dickinson and others, who hung so heavily on us? Yet the example of
independent Mecklenburg county, in North Carolina, was never once quoted. The paper speaks, too, of the
continued exertions of their delegation (Caswell, Hooper, Hughes) "in the cause of hberty and
independence." Now you remember as well as I do, that we had not a greater tory in Congress than
Hooper; that Hughes was very wavering, sometimes firm, sometimes feeble, according as the day was
clear or cloudy; that Caswell, indeed, was a good whig, and kept these gentlemen to the notch, while he
was present; but that he left us soon, and their line of conduct became then uncertain until Penn came,
who fixed Hughes and the vote of the State. I must not be understood as suggesting any doubtfulness in
the State of North Carolina. No State was more fixed or forward. Nor do I affirm, positively, that this paper is
a fabrication; because the proof of a negative can only be presumptive. But I shall believe it such until
positive and solemn proof of its authenticity be produced. And if the name of McKnitt be real, and not a part
of the fabrication, it needs a vindication by the production of such proof. For the present, I must be an
unbeliever in the apocryphal gospel.
John Adams wrote to William Bentley from Quincy on 15th July, 1819: A few weeks ago I received an Essex
Register, containing resolutions of independence by a county in North Carolina, fifteen months before the
resolution of independence in Congress. I was struck with so much astonishment on reading this
document, that I could not help enclosing it immediately to Mr. Jefferson, who must have seen it, in the time
of it, for he has copied the spirit, the sense, and the expressions of it verbatim, into his Declaration of the
4th of July, 1776. Had I seen that declaration at the time of it, it should have been printed in every whig
newspaper on this continent. Its total concealment from me is a mystery, which can be unriddled only by
the timidity of the delegates in Congress from North Carolina, by the influence of Quakers and proprietary
gentlemen in Pennsylvania, the remaining art and power of toryism throughout the continent at that time.
That declaration would have had more effect than Tom Paine's "Common Sense, " which appeared so long
after it. I pray you to intercede with the printers to transmit me half a dozen copies of that Register, which
contains it, and I will immediately transmit the money for them, whatever they may cost. That paper must be
more universally made known to the present and future generation.
One day in looking over the World's Almanac, that invaluable "Source Book" for amateur historians, my eye
fell upon the following note : "The earliest known attempt in the American Colonies of a Declaration of
Independence was at a town meeting at Mendon, Worcester County, Massachusetts, in 1773." This, you
will observe, antedated the alleged date of the Mecklenburg declaration by more than two years. My
curiosity being aroused and my doubts as well, I examined the record of the action taken at Mendon. The
second article of the warrant for a town meeting to be held February 10,1773, was as follows:
To see what the town will act relative to the letter, dated Nov. 20, 1772, of correspondence from the Town of
Boston to this town (of Mendon) showing in sundry respects where sundry of our invaluable charter rights
and privileges were infringed upon by sundry late acts of the Parliament of Great Britain, imposing duties or
taxation on the Colonists in America and the Province or Colony of the Massachusetts Bay in particular.
It was voted to appoint a Committee of seven to consider the matter and report at an adjourned meeting.
The Committee reported on March 1, 1773, a resolution consisting of nineteen sections, not in any sense a
declaration of independence but a declaration of rights and grievances. Believing that human nature then
was very much what it is now and that the disposition of the committee in expressing its views would be to
go along the lines of least resistance, I rather assumed that this resolution would be found to be a
paraphrase of the declarations contained in the letter of Correspondence from the Town of Boston. I cannot
refer to all the sections, but only to the following:
1. Resolved that all men have naturally an equal right to life, liberty and property.
2. That all just and lawful government must necessarily originate in the consent of the people.
3. Resolved that introducing and quartering standing armies in a free country in times of peace without the
consent of the people is a violation of their rights as free men. These three are sufficient for my present
purpose. The nine sections of the resolution were adopted and also a tenth, which ran as follows :
Resolved that the representative of this town be instructed to use his utmost endeavors in a Constitutional
manner, for the redress of the aforementioned grievances and that he in no wise consent to the giving up of
our rights whether derived to us by nature or by compact or agreement. In order to substantiate my theory it
was, of course, necessary to examine the letter sent to Mendon by the Committee of Correspondence in
Boston. The so-called letter was, in fact, a pamphlet, no doubt familiar to all of you, issued to the Town of
Boston, as the result of a Town Meeting held on Wednesday, October 28, 1772, at which a Committee
consisting of James Otis, Samuel Adams, Dr. Joseph Warren, Dr. Benjamin Church and others was
appointed to report to the Town, as soon as may be, as a Committee of Correspondence to state the rights
of the Colonists and of this Province in particular, as men, as Christians and as subjects, to communicate
and publish the same to several towns in this Province and to the world as the sense of the Town, with the
infringements and violations thereof that have been made or from time to time may be made; also
requesting of each Town a free communication of their sentiments on this subject.
The meeting finally assembled in Faneuil Hall on Friday, November 30, 1772, to hear the report of the
Committee. John Hancock was the moderator. The Chairman of the Committee, James Otis, made the
report which was in three parts. First. A statement of the rights of the Colonies and of this Province in
particular. This was considered by Samuel Adams, and the first one he mentioned was, A right to life,
liberty and property. A natural right. Then came the Second part— A declaration of violation of these rights,
by Dr. Joseph Warren, and then the Third part— A letter of correspondence to the other towns by Benjamin
Every one of the grievances noticed in the Mendon resolution is found in the pamphlet of the Committee of
Correspondence. The first point made by Samuel Adams is that man has the right to life, liberty and
property. A natural right. The first section of the Mendon resolution is "Resolved that all men have naturally
an equal right to life, liberty and property." Now follow on to the recital of grievances in the Continental
Congress of 1774 and in the declaration of independence adopted on July 4, 1776. Note the first
declaration : We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed
by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness. That to secure these rights Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed.
These declarations are found in almost exactly these words in the pamphlet of the Committee of
Correspondence in the replies made by the towns; also in the Declaration of Independence and some of
them even in the Constitution of the United States. I turned to the records of another and smaller town,
feeling certain that I would find there some reference to this subject and I was not disappointed. The action
was not as elaborate or as definite as that taken by the Town of Mendon, but it appears that at a Town
meeting held in March, 1773, seven days after the Mendon Committee had reported, which was adjourned
to May 17, 1773, a so-called "Committee of Rights" reported.favoring, in substance, a loyal remonstrance
and petition to the King, containing an enumeration of grievances and praying for their removal and that all
acts and ministerial proceedings that might be unconstitutional and anti-commercial might cease, and
was further of opinion that a proper correspondency of towns and colonies would be both salutory and
necessary to the end that in a Constitutional way, with a proper dependence on Him who has the hearts of
all men at his disposal, we may obtain the full enjoyment of all our rights and privileges, civil and religious,
and of having that love and harmony subsist between Great Britain and her Colonies which may make both
to enjoy and seek each others prosperity. And as to our rights and privileges with the infringements on the
same, we look upon it that they are truly and well stated by the Committee of the Town of Boston, to whom
we return our thanks for the early and persevering method taken in Constitutional ways for the support of
There is no suggestion here of any desire for independence, but only that "love and harmony" may subsist
between Great Britain and her Colonies. I cannot dwell upon this interesting subject further, but I make the
suggestion, not altogether new and perhaps not generally accepted, that Thomas Jefferson, in the
Declaration, in enumerating the grievances under which our countrymen were then suffering, simply gave
utterance to the common expressions, the common aspirations of the people. I am not seeking to
depreciate in any way the great gifts of Thomas Jefferson, but merely to point out that the Declaration of
Independence was the culmination of the thought of years which finally took form in some generally
accepted expressions which Jefferson skillfully embodied in the " Declaration. " In the Continental
Congress, Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, made a motion on June 17, 1776 declaring for Independence. It
was seconded by John Adams. A committee was appointed to consider the matter, composed of Jefferson,
John Adams, Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston. Adams gives the following interesting
account in his letter to Timothy Pickering of August 6, 1822, of a conversation he had with Jefferson as to
who should draught the declaration: Jefferson proposed to me to make the draught. I said, "I will not." "You
should do it." "Oh, no." "Why will you not? You ought to do it." "I will not." "Why?" "Reasons enough." "What
can be your reasons?" "Reason first. You are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this
business. Reason second. I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise.
"Reason third. You can write ten times better than I can." "Well," said Jefferson, "if you are decided, I will do
as well as I can." "Very well; when you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting. "
John Adams goes on to say. As you justly observe, there is not an idea in it but what had been hackneyed
in Congress for two years before. The substance of it is contained in the declaration of rights and the
violation of those rights, in the Journals of Congress, in 1774. Indeed, the essence of it is contained in a
pamphlet, voted and printed in the town of Boston, before the first Congress met, composed by James
Otis, as I suppose, in one of his lucid intervals, and pruned and polished by Samuel Adams. . . . The
instrument was reported, as I believe, in Jefferson's handwriting as he first drew it. Congress cut off about
a quarter of it, as I expected they would, but they obliterated some of the best of it, and left aU that was
exceptionable, if anything in it was. I have long wondered that the original draught has not been published. I
suppose the reason is, the vehement philippic against negro slavery.
Similarly the Constitution of the United States was not, as Gladstone once said, "The most wonderful work
struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man, but the result of a slow and painful evolution of
thought stimulated by grim necessity. For the earth bringe th forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the
ear, after that the full corn in the ear."
Such is the method of growth in nature and such must be the method of enduring progress in the affairs of
men. You may recall the conversation in Dickens' fascinating novel, "The Tale of Two Cities," between
Defarge and his wife, of cruel heart and relentless purpose, in which Defarge, inclining to repine over the
slow approach of the French Revolution, said to her in a moment of depression:
"It is a long time." "It is a long time," repeated his wife, " and when is it not a long time, it is the rule. " "It
does not take a long time to strike a man with lightning, ' ' Defarge ventured to reply. " How long, "
demanded Madam, composedly, " does it take to make and store the lightning, tell me? " "It does not take
long," said Madam, "for an earthquake to swallow a town. Tell me how long it takes to prepare the
earthquake? But when it is ready, it takes place and grinds to pieces everything before it. "
It took a long time to prepare for American Independence. It was a painful and slow process to make a
nation out of a conglomeration of independent states, a process not fully completed until the surrender of
Lee to Grant at Appomatox, but once accomplished has made us the greatest among the nations of the
world. It has been demonstrated, I think, that the Committee of Safety in Boston was responsible for the
action of the New England towns in enumerating their grievances and demanding their redress. What was
behind the Committee of Safety? The Town Meeting of Boston. Who was behind the Town Meeting?
Samuel Adams. His was the uncompromising and iron will which turned every event to the advantage of
the revolting Colonists. The conviction that the independence of the Province must be asserted took root
among the people very slowly. Not one of the American Agents in England imagined that the Colonies
would think of disputing the Stamp Act at the point of the sword, and even Otis said, "It is our duty to
submit." In the instructions to one of our agents is found the expression: "We shall ever pray that our
sovereign and his posterity may reign in British America 'till time shall be no more.' " But Sam Adams was
relentless. His goal from the first, when he was almost alone, had been complete independence. When it
came to ratifying the Federal Constitution of 1787 to succeed the impotent confederation of states, it also
proved to be a slow and tortuous process. Less than one-twentieth of the population voted in the election of
representatives to the ratifying conventions. The vote of eighteen men, ten in Massachusetts, six in Virginia
and two in New York would have defeated it. In the Convention held in Boston in January, 1788, to consider
its adoption by Massachusetts, the vote in the affirmative was 187 and in the negative 168. Nothing but its
adoption, in an hesitating and doubtful spirit, to be sure, saved the country from utter ruin. The Boston
Gazette of January 28, 1788, contains the following fable in verse which pretty clearly expresses the state of
mind of many of the people at that time :
A Fox closely pursu'd, tho't it prudent and meet To a Bramble for refuge, all in haste to retreat; He enter'd the
covert, but entering he found. That briars and thorns did on all sides abound And that tho' he was safe, yet
he never could stir. But his sides they would wound, or tear off his fur, He shrugg'd up his shoulders, but
would not complain. To repine at sráall evüs (quoth Reynard) is vain; That no bliss is perfect I very well
know, [ But from the same source good and evil both flow; And full sorely my skin, though these briars may
rend. Yet they keep off the dogs, and my life will defend. For the sake of the good, then, let evil be borne. For
each sweet has its bitter, each bramble its thorn.
Returning to the main topic, may I venture to put to this learned body a rhetorical question? If the person to
whom the germinal principle attaches should be considered the father—is not Samuel Adams entitled to
the distinction of being called the Father of his Country and would the fame of Washington, a late convert to
independence, suffer in the least if he were to be hailed as Savior of his Country? And may not we more
accurately, giving due credit to Locke and Hooker, attribute to the Conimittee of Correspondence in Boston
the authorship of certain phrases and principles in the Declaration of Independence and do homage to
Jefferson as the accomplished editor, or, as he once put it, "the draughtsman" of that immortal instrument.