From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.
March 17.—It may not be amiss to observe, by way of refreshing some people’s memories, that the continent of North America extends from the frozen regions of the north, where the sun scarce deigns to cast a look, to the southern climes that burn beneath his vertical rays, and includes all the variety of soil and climate—that its coast is washed by the Atlantic for fifteen hundred miles—that it is intersected by rivers that may vie with the Thames and the Nile —that it extends westward as far as the imagination can travel, and is in itself an inexhaustible source of national wealth and strength.
A copper-colored species of human beings occupy the immense tract of wilderness in common with wolves and bears; an edging or border of this boundless country is settled by European colonies, all of which, to the northward of the Mississippi, appertain to the British empire. Twelve of these colonies are at present in rebellion, but if fame says true, must, ere long, return, like the prodigal son, to the arms of an affectionate though offended parent.
The inhabitants of the revolted provinces may be classed as follows: First, avowed loyalists, who not only refuse to take an active part in the rebellion, but improve every opportunity to assist the King’s troops, by supplying them with provisions, giving intelligence, bearing arms, &c. Many of these are languishing in prisons, and several have been executed by the rebels in solemn mockery of justice.
A second class consists of people who, though well wishers to Great Britain and her cause, are resolved to keep in terms with the powers that be. These pay taxes, subscribe tests, and take oaths, whenever they are called on; but notwithstanding their complying with the requisitions of the rebels, they are looked upon with a jealous eye, all their motions are watched, and frequently, especially when affairs put on a threatening aspect, they are obliged to renew their oaths of allegiance to the States.
A third sort consider themselves as independent of Great Britain, and wish to establish some permanent system of government amongst themselves, but are always opposed by
A fourth sort, who consider all government as dissolved, and themselves in a state of absolute liberty, where they wish always to remain. This class is so far from being inconsiderable, that in several counties they have been able hitherto to prevent any courts being opened, and to render every attempt to administer justice abortive.
An effort was made in Massachusetts to establish a form of government, but a doubt was started, whether it was the proper business of the few or the many, or in other words, whether such a measure ought to originate with the assembly or the people. The politicians took different sides, and a paper war was commenced. The assembly, however, undertook to draw the outlines of a model, which was rejected by a majority of the town, so that at present, what civil government they have, is the remains of their charter institution, and consists of a council and house of representatives, without a governor.
The dismission of John Adams from the rebel embassy at the court of Versailles, indicates a decline of the influence of the northern faction, and bodes no good to American independence. John Adams is the kinsman and creature of Samuel Adams, the Cromwell of New England, to whose intriguing arts the declaration of independence is in a great measure to be attributed, the history of which will not be unentertaining.
When the northern delegates broached their political tenets in Congress, they were interrogated by some of the southern ones, whether they did or did not aim at independence, to which mark their violent principles seemed to tend? Samuel Adams, with as grave a face as hypocrisy ever wore, affirmed they did not, but in the evening of the same day, in a circle of confidential friends, (as he took them to be,) confessed that the independence of the colonies had been the great object of his life; that whenever he had met with a youth of parts, he had endeavored to instil such notions into his mind, and had neglected no opportunity, either in public or in private, of preparing the way for that event, which now, thank God, was at hand.
He watched the favorable moment when, by pleading the necessity of a foreign alliance, and urging the impracticability of obtaining it without a declaration of independence, he finally succeeded in the accomplishment of his wishes; but now, at the first attempt, the voices in Congress are collected by colonies, and that of each colony is determined by a majority of the delegates of such colony. When a majority is thus obtained, no protest or dissent is entered, and the vote, by a regulation coeval with the Congress, passes for unanimous. On the first trial there were but six votes in Congress for independence, the other seven being against it. The delegates for Pennsylvania were known to be divided. Adams wrought upon the versatility of one of them, a Mr. Dickinson, and so earned his point. Thus a matter of such moment to both countries, and which, the rebels would make us believe, was the unanimous voice of the thirteen colonies, was finally determined by the single suffrage of Mr. Dickinson!1
1 “Decius,” in the London Morning Post; Upcott, v. 201.