MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, We, your majesty's faithful subjects, of the
colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence
Plantations, Connnecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the counties
of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina,
and South Carolina, on behalf of ourselves and the inhabitants of these
colonies, who have deputed us to represent them in general Congress, by
this our humble petition beg leave to lay our grievances before the throne.
A standing army has been kept in these colonies ever since the conclusion
of the late war, without the consent of our Assemblies; and this army,
with a considerable naval armament, has been employed to enforce the collection
of taxes. The authority of the commander-in-chief, and under him the brigadier-general,
has, in time of peace, been rendered supreme in all the civil governments
The commander-in-chief of all your majesty's forces in North America
has, in time of peace, been appointed governor of a colony.
The charges of usual officers have been greatly increased and new, expensive,
and oppressive offices have been multiplied.
The judges of admiralty and vice-admiralty courts are empowered to receive
their salaries and fees from the effects condemned by themselves.
The officers of the customs are empowered to break open and enter houses
without the authority of any civil magistrate, founded on legal information.
The judges of courts of common law have been made entirely dependent
on one part of the Legislature for their salaries as well as for the duration
of their commissions.
Counselors, holding their commissions during pleasure, exercise legislative
Humble petitions, from the representatives of the people, have been
The agents of the people have been discountenanced, and governors have
been instructed to prevent the payment of the salaries.
Assemblies have been repeatedly and injuriously dissolved.
Commerce has been burdened with many useless and oppressive restrictions.
By several acts of Parliament, made in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh,
and eighth years of your majesty's reign, duties are imposed on us for
the purpose of raising a revenue; and the powers of admiralty and vice-admiralty
courts are extended beyond their ancient limits, whereby our property is
taken from us without our consent, the trial by jury in many civil cases
is abolished, enormous forfeitures are incurred for slight offenses, vexatious
informers are exempted from paying damages to which they are justly liable,
and oppressive security is required from owners before they are allowed
to defend their right. Both Houses of Parliament have resolved that colonists
may be tried in England for offenses alleged to have been committed in
America, by virtue of a statute passed in the thirty-fifth year of Henry
the Eighth, and in consequence thereof attempts have been made to enforce
that statute. A statute was passed in the twelfth year of your majesty's
reign, directing that persons charged with committing any offense therein
described, in any place out of the realm, may be indicted and tried for
the same in any shire or county within the realm, whereby inhabitants of
these colonies may, in sundry cases by that statute made capital, be deprived
of a trial by their peers of the vicinage.
In the last session of Parliament, an act was passed for blocking up
the harbor of Boston; another, empowering the governor of the Massachusetts
Bay to send persons indicted for murder in that province to another colony,
or even to Great Britain, for trial, whereby such offenders may escape
legal punishment; a third for altering the chartered constitution of government
in that province, and a fourth for altering the limits of Quebec, abolishing
the English and restoring the French laws, whereby great numbers of British
Frenchmen are subjected to the latter, and establishing an absolute government
and the Roman Catholic religion throughout those vast regions that border
on the westerly and northerly boundaries of the free, Protestant, English
settlements; and a fifth for the better providing suitable quarters for
officers and soldiers in his majesty's service in North America.
To a sovereign who glories in the name of Britain, the bare recital
of these acts must, we presume, justify the loyal subjects who fly to the
foot of his throne and implore his clemency for protection against them.
From this destructive system of colony administration, adopted since
the conclusion of the last war, have flowed those distresses, dangers,
fears, and jealousies that overwhelm your majesty's dutiful colonists with
affliction; and we defy our most subtile and inveterate enemies to trace
the unhappy differences between Great Britain and these colonies from an
earlier period, or from other causes, than we have assigned.
Had they proceeded on our part from a restless levity of temper, unjust
impulses of ambition, or artful suggestions of seditious persons, we should
merit the opprobrious terms frequently bestowed upon us by those we revere.
But, so far from promoting innovations, we have only opposed them, and
can be charged with no offense unless it be one to receive injuries, and
be sensible of them.
Had our Creator been pleased to give us existence in a land of slavery,
the sense of our condition might have been mitigated by ignorance and habit.
But, thanks be to his adorable goodness, we were born the heirs of freedom,
and ever enjoyed our right under the auspices of your royal ancestors,
whose family was seated on the throne to rescue and secure a pious and
gallant nation from the popery and despotism of a superstitious and inexorable
tyrant. Your majesty, we are confident, justly rejoices that your our title
to the crown is thus founded on the title of your people to liberty; and,
therefore, we doubt not but your royal wisdom must approve the sensibility
that teaches your subjects anxiously to guard the blessing they received
from divine Providence, and thereby to prove the performance of that compact
which elevated the illustrious house of Brunswick to the imperial dignity
it now possesses.
The apprehension of being degraded into a state of servitude from the
preeminent rank of English freemen, while our minds retain the strongest
love of liberty, and clearly foresee the miseries preparing for us and
our posterity, excites emotions in our breasts which, though we can not
describe, we should not wish to conceal. Feeling as men, and thinking as
subjects, in the manner we do, silence would be disloyalty. By giving this
faithful information, we do all in our power to promote the great objects
of your royal cares, the tranquility of your government and the welfare
of your people.
Duty to your majesty, and regard for the preservation of ourselves and
our posterity, the primary obligations of nature and society, command us
to entreat your royal attention; and, as your majesty enjoys the signal
distinction of reigning over freemen we apprehend the language of freemen
will not be displeasing. Your royal indignation, we hope, will rather fall
on those designing and dangerous men, who, daringly interposing themselves
between your royal person and your faithful subjects, and for several years
past incessantly employed to dissolve the bonds of society, by abusing
your majesty's authority, misrepresenting your American subjects, and prosecuting
the most desperate and irritating projects of oppression, have at length
compelled us, by the force of accumulated injuries, too severe to be any
longer tolerable, to disturb your majesty's repose by our complaints.
These sentiments are extorted from hearts that much more willingly would
bleed in your majesty's service. Yet so greatly have we been misrepresented,
that a necessity has been alleged of taking away our property from us without
our consent, "to defray the charge of the administration of justice, the
support of civil government, and the defense, protection, and security
of the colonies." But we beg leave to assure your majesty that such provision
has been and will be made for defraying the first two articles as has been
and shall be judged, by the Legislatures of the several colonies, just
and suitable to their respective circumstances; and, for the defense, protection,
and security of the colonies, their militia, if properly regulated, as
they earnestly desire may immediately be done, would be fully sufficient,
at least in times of peace; and in case of war, your faithful colonists
will be ready and willing, as they ever have been, when constitutionally
required, to demonstrate their loyalty to your majesty, by exerting their
most strenuous efforts in granting supplies and raising for ces. Yielding
to no British subjects in affectionate attachment to your majesty's person,
family, and government, we too dearly prize the privilege of expressing
that attachment by those proofs that are honorable to the prince who receives
them and to the people who give them, ever to resign it to any body of
men upon earth.
Had we been permitted to enjoy in quiet the inheritance left us by our
forefathers, we should at this time have been peaceably, cheerfully, and
usefully employed in recommending ourselves by every testimony of devotion
to your majesty, and of veneration to the state from which we derive our
origin. But though now exposed to unexpected and unnatural scenes of distress
by a contention with that nation in whose parental guidance, on all important
affairs, we have hitherto, with filial reverence, constantly trusted, and
therefore can derive no instruction in our present unhappy and perplexing
circumstances from any former experience, yet we doubt not the purity of
our intention and the integrity of our conduct will justify us at that
grand tribunal before which all mankind must submit to judgment.
We ask but for peace, liberty, and safety. We wish not a diminution
of the prerogative, nor do we solicit the grant of any new right in our
favor. Your royal authority over us, and our connection with Great Britain,
we shall always carefully and zealously endeavor to support and maintain.
Filled with sentiments of duty to your majesty, and of affection to
our parent state, deeply impressed by our education, and strongly confirmed
by our reason, and anxious to evince the sincerity of these dispositions,
we present this petition only to obtain redress of grievances and relief
from fears and jealousies occasioned by the system of statutes and regulations,
adopted since the close of the late war, for raising a revenue in America;
extending the powers of courts of admiralty and vice admiralty; trying
persons in Great Britain for offenses alleged to be committed in America,
affecting the province or Massachusetts Bay; and altering the government
and extending the limits of Quebec; by the abolition of which system the
harmony between Great Britain and these colonies, so necessary to the happiness
of both, and so ardently desired by the latter, and the intercourses will
be immediately restored. In the magnanimity and justice of your majesty
and Parliament, we confide for a redress of our other grievances, trusting
that, when the causes of our apprehensions are removed, our future conduct
will prove us not unworthy of the regard we have been accustomed, in our
happier days, to enjoy; for, appealing to that Being who searches thoroughly
the hearts of his creatures, we solemnly profess that our councils have
been influenced by no other motives than a dread of impending destruction.
Permit us, then, most gracious sovereign, in the name of all your faithful
people in America, with the utmost humility, to implore you, for the honor
of Almighty God, whose pure religion our enemies are undermining; for your
glory, which can be advanced only by rendering your subjects happy, and
keeping them united; for the interests of your family, depending on an
adherence to the principles that enthroned it; for the safety and welfare
of your kingdoms and dominions, threatened with almost unavoidable dangers
and distresses, that your majesty, as the loving father of your whole people,
connected by the same bonds of law, loyalty, faith, and blood though dwelling
in various countries, will not suffer the transcendent relation formed
by these ties to be further violated, in uncertain expectation of effects
that, if attained, never can compensate for the calamities through which
they must be gained.
We, therefore, most earnestly beseech your majesty that your royal authority
and interposition may be used for our relief, and that a gracious answer
may be given to this petition.
That your majesty may enjoy every felicity through a long and glorious
reign, over loyal and happy subjects, and that your desce ndants may inherit
your prosperity and dominions till time shall be no more, is, and always
will be, our sincere and fervent prayer.
By order of the Congress,
Henry Middleton, President.