Front Page Titles (by Subject) CONGRESS AND INDEPENDENCE. 1 - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781)
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CONGRESS AND INDEPENDENCE. 1 - John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781) 
The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A.M. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890-93). Vol. 1 (1763-1781).
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CONGRESS AND INDEPENDENCE.1
It has long been the art of the enemies of America to sow the seeds of Dissensions among us and thereby weaken that union on which our salvation from tyranny depends. For this purpose jealousies have been endeavoured to be executed, and false reports, wicked slanders and insidious misrepresentations industriously formed and propagated.
Well knowing that while the people reposed confidence in the Congress the designs of the ministry would probably be frustrated, no pains have been spared to traduce that respectable assembly and misrepresent their designs and actions. Among other aspersions cast upon them, is an ungenerous and groundless charge of their aiming at Independence, or a total separation from G. Britain. Whoever will be at the trouble of reviewing their Journal will find ample testimony against this accusation, and for the sake of those who may not have either leisure or opportunity to peruse it, I have selected the following paragraphs which abundantly prove the malice and falsity of such a charge.
Page 59.—The Congress in giving orders for securing the stores taken at Crown Point and Ticonderogah direct “That an exact inventory be taken of all such cannon and stores, in order that they may be safely returned, when the Restoration of the former Harmony between Great Britain & these Colonies, so ardently wished for by the latter, shall render it prudent and consistent with the over-ruling Law of self Preservation.”
Page 63.—The Congress after resolving that the Colonies ought to be put in a state of Defence, thus proceed—“But as we most ardently wish for a Restoration of the Harmony formerly subsisting between our mother country and these Colonies, the interruption of which must, at all events be exceedingly injurious to both countries, that with a sincere Design of contributing by all the means in our Power, (not incompatible with a just regard for the undoubted Rights and true interests of these Colonies) to the Promotion of their most desirable Reconciliation an humble and dutiful Petition be presented to his Majesty, Resolved that measures be entered into for opening a negotiation, in order to accommodate the unhappy Disputes subsisting between Great Britain andthese Colonies, and that this be made a Part of the Petition to the King.”
Page 64.—The Congress recommend to the Convention of New York “to persevere the more vigorously in preparing for their Defence, as it is very uncertain whether the earnest endeavours of the Congress to accommodate the unhappy Differences between Great Britain and the Colonies, by conciliatory measures will be successful.”
Page 84.—The Congress in order to rescue the Province of Massachusetts Bay from anarchy, advise their “Assembly or Council exercise the Powers of Government until a Governor of his Majesty’s appointment will consent to govern the colony according to its charter.”
Page 87.—The Congress in their vote for a general fast recommend that we should “offer up our joint supplications to the all wise, omnipotent and merciful Disposer of all Events (among other things) to bless our rightful Sovereign King George the third, that a speedy end may be put to the civil Discord between Great Britain and the American Colonies without further effusion of Blood, and that all America may soon behold a gracious Interposition of Heaven for the Redress of her many Grievances, the Restoration of her invaded Rights, and a Reconciliation with the parent State on terms constitutional and honourable to both.”
Page 149.—The Congress after declaring the Reasons which Compelled them to recur to arms, then express themselves—“Lest this Declaration should disquiet the minds of our friends and fellow subjects in any Part of the Empire, we assure them that we mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsisted between us, and which we sincerely wish to see restored. Necessity has not yet driven us into that desperate measure, or induced us to excite any other nation to war against them. We have not raised armies with ambitious Designs of separating from Great Britain, and establishing independent States.”
150.—“We most humbly implore the Divine goodness to dispose our adversaries to Reconciliation on reasonable terms.”
Page 155.—In the Petition to the King, every line of which breaths affection for his Majesty & Great Britain, are these remarkable sentences:
“Attached to your Majesty’s Person, Family, and Government, with all the Devotion that Principle and affection can inspire, connected with Great Britain by the strongest ties that can unite Societies, and deploring every Event that lends in any degree to weaken them, we solemnly assure your Majesty, that we not only most ardently desire the former Harmony between her and these colonies may be restored, but that a Concord may be established between them upon so firm a basis as to perpetuate its blessings uniterrupted by any future Dissentions to succeeding Generations in both countries.” “We beg leave further to assure your Majesty that notwithstanding the sufferings of your loyal colonists during the course of this present controversy our Breasts retain too tender a Regard for the Kingdom from which we derive our origin, to request such a Reconciliation as might in any manner be inconsistent with her Dignity or welfare.”
Page 163.—In the last address of the Congress to the People of Great Britain are the following Passages:
“We are accused of aiming at Independence; but how is this accusation supported? by the allegations of your ministers, not by our actions. Abused, insulted and contemned, what steps have we pursued to obtain Redress? We have carried our dutiful Petitions to the Throne; we have applied to your justice for Relief.”
Page 165.—“Give us leave most solemnly to assure you that we have not yet lost sight of the object we have ever had in view, a Reconciliation with you on constitutional Principles, and a Restoration of that friendly Intercourse which to the advantage of both, we till lately maintained.”
Page 172.—In the address of the Congress to the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Livery of London, there is this Paragraph, vizt:
“North America, my Lords, wishes most ardently for a lasting connection with Great Britain on terms of just and equal liberty.”
From these testimonies it appears extremely evident that to charge the Congress with aiming at a separation of these Colonies from Great Britain, is to charge them falsely and without a single spark of evidence to support the accusation. Many other passages in their Journal might be mentioned, but as that would exceed the limits of this paper, I shall reserve them for some future publication.
It is much to be wished that people would read the Proceedings of the Congress and consult their own judgments, and not suffer themselves to be duped by men who are paid for deceiving them.
[1 ]In the early stages of the discussion on the expediency of formally separating from the mother country, Jay, with the majority of his colleagues in Congress and the leaders of the day, took a conservative position. The above paper was doubtless intended, with many others printed at the time, to forestall precipitate action on so vital a question. Whether it was published in the form here given does not appear, but a longer communication signed “Seek Truth,” following the same line of argument and containing the same or like extracts from the records of Congress, is to be found in Force’s “American Archives,” 4th Ser., vol. v., p. 1011, suggesting the possibility that it may have been Jay’s own elaboration of this first draft preserved among his papers. As the situation changed and a Declaration of Independence became the one necessary and saving step, few men labored more zealously to make it an accomplished fact than Jay. See his resolutions in N. Y. Convention, July 9, 1776.