Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress
October 14, 1774
Whereas, since the close of the last war, the British parliament, claiming a power, of right, to bind the people of America by statutes in all cases whatsoever, hath, in some acts, expressly imposed taxes on them, and in others, under various presences, but in fact for the purpose of raising a revenue, hath imposed rates and duties payable in these colonies, established a board of commissioners, with unconstitutional powers, and extended the jurisdiction of courts of admiralty, not only for collecting the said duties, but for the trial of causes merely arising within the body of a county:
And whereas, in consequence of other statutes, judges, who before held only estates at will in their offices, have been made dependant on the crown alone for their salaries, and standing armies kept in times of peace: And whereas it has lately been resolved in parliament, that by force of a statute, made in the thirty-fifth year of the reign of King Henry the Eighth, colonists may be transported to England, and tried there upon accusations for treasons and misprisions, or concealments of treasons committed in the colonies, and by a late statute, such trials have been directed in cases therein mentioned:
And whereas, in the last session of parliament, three statutes were made; one entitled, ":An act to discontinue, in such manner and for such time as are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading, or shipping of goods, wares and merchandise, at the town, and within the harbour of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts-Bay in New England;": another entitled, ":An act for the better regulating the government of the province of Massachusetts-Bay in New England;": and another entitled, ":An act for the impartial administration of justice, in the cases of persons questioned for any act done by them in the execution of the law, or for the suppression of riots and tumults, in the province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New England;": and another statute was then made, ":for making more effectual provision for the government of the province of Quebec, etc.": All which statutes are impolitic, unjust, and cruel, as well as unconstitutional, and most dangerous and destructive of American rights:
And whereas, assemblies have been frequently dissolved, contrary to the rights of the people, when they attempted to deliberate on grievances; and their dutiful, humble, loyal, and reasonable petitions to the crown for redress, have been repeatedly treated with contempt, by his Majesty's ministers of state:
The good people of the several colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North- Carolina and South-Carolina, justly alarmed at these arbitrary proceedings of parliament and administration, have severally elected, constituted, and appointed deputies to meet, and sit in general Congress, in the city of Philadelphia, in order to obtain such establishment, as that their religion, laws, and liberties, may not be subverted: Whereupon the deputies so appointed being now assembled, in a full and free representation of these colonies, taking into their most serious consideration, the best means of attaining the ends aforesaid, do, in the first place, as Englishmen, their ancestors in like cases have usually done, for asserting and vindicating their rights and liberties, DECLARE,
That the inhabitants of the English colonies in North-America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following RIGHTS:
Resolved, N.C.D. 1. That they are entitled to life, liberty and property: and they have never ceded to any foreign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.
Resolved, N.C.D. 2. That our ancestors, who first settled these colonies, were at the time of their emigration from the mother country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural- born subjects, within the realm of England.
Resolved, N.C.D. 3. That by such emigration they by no means forfeited, surrendered, or lost any of those rights, but that they were, and their descendants now are, entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all such of them, as their local and other circumstances enable them to exercise and enjoy.
Resolved, 4. That the foundation of English liberty, and of all free government, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council: and as the English colonists are not represented, and from their local and other circumstances, cannot properly be represented in the British parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures, where their right of representation can alone be preserved, in all cases of taxation and internal polity, subject only to the negative of their sovereign, in such manner as has been heretofore used and accustomed: But, from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interest of both countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British parliament, as are bonfide, restrained to the regulation of our external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members; excluding every idea of taxation internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects, in America, without their consent.
Resolved, N.C.D. 5. That the respective colonies are entitled to the common law of England, and more especially to the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage, according to the course of that law.
Resolved, N.C.D. 6. That they are entitled to the benefit of such of the English statutes, as existed at the time of their colonization; and which they have, by experience, respectively found to be applicable to their several local and other circumstances.
Resolved, N.C.D. 7. That these, his Majesty's colonies, are likewise entitled to all the immunities and privileges granted and confirmed to them by royal charters, or secured by their several codes of provincial laws.
Resolved, N.C.D. 8. That they have a right peaceably to assemble, consider of their grievances, and petition the king; and that all prosecutions, prohibitory proclamations, and commitments for the same, are illegal.
Resolved, N.C.D. 9. That the keeping a standing army in these colonies, in times of peace, without the consent of the legislature of that colony, in which such army is kept, is against law.
Resolved, N.C.D. 10. It is indispensably necessary to good government, and rendered essential by the English constitution, that the constituent branches of the legislature be independent of each other; that, therefore, the exercise of legislative power in several colonies, by a council appointed, during pleasure, by the crown, is unconstitutional, dangerous and destructive to the freedom of American legislation.
All and each of which the aforesaid deputies, in behalf of themselves, and their constituents, do claim, demand, and insist on, as their indubitable rights and liberties, which cannot be legally taken from them, altered or abridged by any power whatever, without their own consent, by their representatives in their several provincial legislature.
In the course of our inquiry, we find many infringements and violations of the foregoing rights, which, from an ardent desire, that harmony and mutual intercourse of affection and interest may be restored, we pass over for the present, and proceed to state such acts and measures as have been adopted since the last war, which demonstrate a system formed to enslave America.
Resolved, N.C.D. That the following acts of parliament are infringements and violations of the rights of the colonists; and that the repeal of them is essentially necessary, in order to restore harmony between Great Britain and the American colonies, viz.
The several acts of Geo. III. ch. 15, and ch. 34.-5 Geo. III. ch.25.-6 Geo. ch. 52.-7 Geo.III. ch. 41 and ch. 46.-8 Geo. III. ch. 22. which impose duties for the purpose of raising a revenue in America, extend the power of the admiralty courts beyond their ancient limits, deprive the American subject of trial by jury, authorize the judges certificate to indemnify the prosecutor from damages, that he might otherwise be liable to, requiring oppressive security from a claimant of ships and goods seized, before he shall be allowed to defend his property, and are subversive of American rights.
Also 12 Geo. III. ch. 24, intituled, ":An act for the better securing his majesty's dockyards, magazines, ships, ammunition, and stores,": which declares a new offence in America, and deprives the American subject of a constitutional trial by jury of the vicinage, by authorizing the trial of any person, charged with the committing any offence described in the said act, out of the realm, to be indicted and tried for the same in any shire or county within the realm.
Also the three acts passed in the last session of parliament, for stopping the port and blocking up the harbour of Boston, for altering the charter and government of Massachusetts-Bay, and that which is entitled, ":An act for the better administration of justice, etc.":
Also the act passed in the same session for establishing the Roman Catholic religion, in the province of Quebec, abolishing the equitable system of English laws, and erecting a tyranny there, to the great danger (from so total a dissimilarity of religion, law and government) of the neighboring British colonies, by the assistance of whose blood and treasure the said country was conquered from France.
Also the act passed in the same session, for the better providing suitable quarters for officers and soldiers in his majesty's service, in North-America.
Also, that the keeping a standing army in several of these colonies, in time of peace, without the consent of the legislature of that colony, in which such army is kept, is against law.
To these grievous acts and measures, Americans cannot submit, but in hopes their fellow subjects in Great Britain will, on a revision of them, restore us to that state, in which both countries found happiness and prosperity, we have for the present, only resolved to pursue the following peaceable measures:
1. To enter into a non-importation, non- consumption, and non-exportation agreement or association.
2. To prepare an address to the people of Great-Britain, and a memorial to the inhabitants of British America: and
3. To prepare a loyal address to his majesty, agreeable to resolutions already entered into.²
WE, his Majesty's most loyal Subjects, the Delegates of the several Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the three Lower Counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, and South-Carolina, deputed to represent them in a Continental Congress, held in the city of Philadelphia, on the fifth day of September, 1774, avowing allegiance to his Majesty, our affection and regard for our fellow-subjects in Great-Britain and elsewhere, affected with the deepest anxiety, and most alarming apprehensions at those grievances and distresses, with which his Majesty's American subjects are oppressed, and having taken under our most serious deliberation, the state of the whole continent, find, that the present unhappy situation of our affairs, is occasioned by a ruinous system of Colony Administration adopted by the British Ministry about the year 1763, evidently calculated for enslaving these Colonies, and with them, the British Empire. In prosecution of which system, various Acts of Parliament have been passed for raising a revenue in America, for depriving the American subjects, in many instances, of the constitutional trial by jury, exposing their lives to danger, by directing a new and illegal trial beyond the seas, for crimes alledged to have been committed in America; and in prosecution of the same system, several late, cruel, and oppressive Acts have been passed respecting the town of Boston and the Massachusetts-Bay, and also an Act for extending the province of Quebec, so as to border on the western frontiers of these Colonies, establishing an arbitrary government therein, and discouraging the settlement of British subjects in that wide extended country; thus by the influence of civil principles and ancient prejudices to dispose the inhabitants to act with hostility against the free Protestant Colonies, whenever a wicked Ministry shall chuse so to direct them.
To obtain redress of these grievances, which threaten destruction to the lives, liberty, and property of his Majesty's subjects in North-America, we are of opinion, that a non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreement, faithfully adhered to, will prove the most speedy, effectual, and peaceable measure: and therefore we do, for ourselves, and the inhabitants of the several Colonies, whom we represent, firmly agree and associate under the sacred ties of virtue, honour, and love of our country, as follows:
I. That from and after the first day of December next, we will not import into British America, from Great-Britain or Ireland, any goods, wares or merchandize whatsoever, or from any other place any such goods, wares or merchandize, as shall have been exported from Great-Britain or Ireland; nor will we, after that day, import any East India tea from any part of the world; nor any molasses, syrrups, paneles, coffee, or piemento, from the British plantations, or from Dominica; nor wines from Madeira, or the Western Islands; nor foreign Indigo.
II. That we will neither import, nor purchase any slave imported, after the first day of December next; after which time, we will wholly discontinue the slave trade, and will neither be concerned in it ourselves, nor will we hire our vessels, nor sell our commodities or manufactures to those who are concerned in it.
III. As a non-consumption agreement, strictly adhered to, will be an effectual security for the observation of the non-importation, we, as above, solemnly agree and associate, that, from this day, we will not purchase or use any tea imported on account of the East-India Company, or any on which a duty hath been or shall be paid; and from and after the first day of March next, we will not purchase or use any East-India tea whatever; nor will we, nor shall any person for or under us, purchase or use any of those goods, wares, or merchandize, we have agreed not to import, which we shall know, or have cause to suspect, were imported after the first day of December, except such as come under the rules and directions of the tenth article herein after mentioned.
IV. The earnest desire we have, not to injure our fellow-subjects in Great-Britain, Ireland, or the West-Indies, induces us to suspend a non-exportation until the tenth day of September 1775: at which time if the said Acts and parts of Acts of the British Parliament herein after mentioned, are not repealed, we will not, directly or indirectly, export any merchandize or commodity whatsoever, to Great-Britain, Ireland, or the West-Indies, except rice to Europe.
V. Such as are merchants, and use the British and Irish Trade, will give orders, as soon as possible, to their factors, agents, and correspondents, in Great-Britain and Ireland, not to ship any goods to them, on any pretence whatsoever, as they cannot be received in America; and if any merchant, residing in Great-Britain or Ireland, shall directly or indirectly ship any goods, wares, or merchandize, for America, in order to break the said non-importation agreement, or in any manner contravene the same on such unworthy conduct being well attested it ought to be made public; and, on the same being so done, we will not from thenceforth have any commercial connexion with such merchant.
VI. That such as are owners of vessels will give positive orders to their Captains or Masters, not to receive on board their vessels any goods prohibited by the said non-importation agreement, on pain of immediate dismission from their service.
VII. We will use our utmost endeavours to improve the breed of sheep and increase their numbers to the greatest extent; and to that end, we will kill them as sparingly as may be, especially those of the most profitable kind; nor will we export any to the West-Indies, or elsewhere; and those of us who are or may become over-stocked with, or can conveniently spare any sheep, will dispose of them to our neighbours, especially to the poorer sort, on moderate terms.
VIII. That we will in our several stations encourage frugality, economy, and industry; and promote agriculture, arts, and the manufactures of this country, especially that of wool; and will discountenance and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation, especially all horse-racing, and all kinds of gaming, cock-fighting, exhibitions of shews, plays, and other expensive diversions and entertainments. And on the death of any relation or friend, none of us, or any of our families, will go into any further mourning dress, than a black crape or ribband on the arm or hat for gentlemen, and a black ribband and necklace for ladies, and we will discontinue the giving of gloves and scarfs at funerals.
IX. That such as are venders of goods or merchandize, will not take advantage of the scarcity of goods that may be occasioned by this association, but will sell the same at the rates we have been respectively accustomed to do, for twelve months last past.-And if any vender of goods or merchandize, shall sell any such goods on higher terms, or shall in any manner, or by any device whatsoever, violate or depart from this agreement, no person ought, nor will any of us deal with any such person, or his or her factor or agent, at any time thereafter, for any commodity whatever.
X. In case any merchant, trader, or other persons shall import any goods or merchandize after the first day of February next, the same ought forthwith, at the election of the owner, to be either re-shipped or delivered up to the committee of the county or town wherein they shall be imported, to be stored at the risk of the importer, until the non-importation agreement shall cease, or be sold under the direction of the committee aforesaid; and in the last mentioned case, the owner or owners of such goods, shall be reimbursed (out of the sales) the first cost and charges; the profit, if any, to be applied towards relieving and employing such poor inhabitants of the town of Boston, as are immediately sufferers by the Boston port bill; and a particular account of all goods so returned, stored, or sold, to be inserted in the public papers; and if any goods or merchandizes shall be imported after the said first day of February, the same ought forthwith to be sent back again, without breaking any of the packages thereof.
XI. That a Committee be chosen in every county, city, and town, by those who are qualified to vote for Representatives in the legislature, whose business it shall be attentively to observe the conduct of all persons touching this association; and when it shall be made to appear to the satisfaction of a majority of any such Committee, that any person within the limits of their appointment has violated this association, that such majority do forthwith cause the truth of the case to be published in the Gazette, to the end that all such foes to the rights of British America may be publickly known, and universally contemned as the enemies of American liberty; and thenceforth we respectively will break off all dealings with him or her.
XII. That the Committee of Correspondence in the respective Colonies do frequently inspect the entries of their custom-houses, and inform each other from time to time of the true state thereof, and of every other material circumstance that may occur relative to their association.
XII. That all manufactures of this country be sold at reasonable prices, so that no undue advantage be taken of a future scarcity of goods.
XIV. And we do further agree and resolve, that we will have no trade, commerce, dealings or intercourse whatsoever, with any Colony or Province, in North-America, which shall not accede to, or which shall hereafter violate this association, but will hold them as unworthy of the rights of freedmen, and as inimical to the liberties of their country.
And we do solemnly bind ourselves and our Constituents, under the ties aforesaid, to adhere to this association until such parts of the several Acts of parliament passed since the close of the last war, as impose or continue duties on tea, wine, molasses, syrups, paneles, coffee, sugar, piemento, indigo, foreign paper, glass, and painters colours, imported into America, and extend the Powers of the Admiralty Courts beyond their ancient limits, deprive the American Subject of trial by jury, authorize the judge's certificate to indemnify the prosecutor from damages, that he might otherwise be liable to from a trial by his peers, require oppressive security from a claimant of ships or goods seized, before he shall be allowed to defend his property, are repealed.-And until that part of the Act of the 12 G.III chap. 24, entitled, ":An Act for the better securing his Majesty's dock-yards, magazines, ships, ammunition, and stores,": by which any persons charged with committing any of the offences therein described, in America, may be tired in any shire or county within the realm, is repealed-And until the four Acts passed in the last session of parliament, viz. That for stopping the port and blocking up the harbour of Boston-That for altering the charter and government of the Massachusetts Bay-And that which is intitled ":An Act for the better administration of justice,": &c.-and that, ":For extending the limits of Quebec, &c.": are repealed. And we recommend it to the Provincial Conventions, and to the Committees in the respective Colonies, to establish such farther regulations as they may think proper, for carrying into execution this Association.
The foregoing Association being determined upon by the Congress, was ordered to be subscribed by the several Members thereof; and thereupon we have hereunto set our respective names accordingly.
New-Hampshire. John Sullivan, Nat. Folsom.
Massachusetts Bay. Thomas Cushing, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine.
Rhode-Island. Stephen Hopkins, Sam. Ward.
Connecticut. Eliphalet Dyer, Roger Sherman, Silas Deane.
New-York. Isaac Low, John Alsop, John Jay, James Duane, William Floyd, Henry Wisener, S. Bocrum.
New-Jersey. James Kinsey, William Livingston, Stephen Crane, Richard Smith.
Pennsylvania. Joseph Galloway, John Dickinson, Charles Humphreys, Thomas Miffin, Edward Biddle, John Morton, George Ross.
New-Castle, &c. Caesar Rodney, Thomas McKeane, George Read. Maryland. Matthew Tilghman, Tho. Johnson, William Pace, Samuel Chase.
Virginia. Richard Henry Lee, George Wshington, P. Henry, jun. Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, Edmund Pendleton.
North-Carolina. William Hooper, Joseph Hawes, R. Caswell.
South-Carolina. Henry Middleton, Tho. Lynch, Christopher Gadsden, John Rutledge, Edward Rutledge.
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