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Virginia Votes for Independence

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

Yesterday is rendered memorable by a unanimous resolution of the Virginia convention,1 now sitting at Williamsburg, to instruct their delegates in the Continental Congress to move for a declaration of independence and freedom. It is the result of the most mature deliberation, and we hope will be speedily ratified by the Congress. Let the Doubters read it:2

“Forasmuch as all the endeavors of the United Colonies, by the most decent representations and petitions to the King and Parliament of Great Britain, to restore peace and security to America under the British government, and a reunion with that people upon just and liberal terms, instead of a redress of grievances, have produced, from an imperious and vindictive administration, increased insult, oppression, and a vigorous attempt to effect our total destruction. By a late act, all these colonies are declared to be in rebellion, and out of the protection of the British crown, our properties subjected to confiscation, our people, when captivated, compelled to join in the murder and plunder of their relations and countrymen, and all former rapine and oppression of Americans declared legal and just. Fleets and armies are raised, and the aid of foreign troops engaged to assist these destructive purposes. The king’s representative in this colony hath not only withheld all the powers of government from operating for our safety, but, having retired on board an armed ship, is carrying on a piratical and savage war against us, tempting our slaves, by every artifice, to resort to him, and training and employing them against their masters. In this state of extreme danger, we have no alternative left but an abject submission to the will of those overbearing tyrants, or a total separation from the crown and government of Great Britain, uniting and exerting the strength of all America for defence, and forming alliances with foreign powers for commerce and aid in war. Wherefore, appealing to the Searcher of Hearts for the sincerity of former declarations, expressing our desire to preserve the connection with that nation, and that we are driven from that inclination by their wicked councils, and the eternal laws of self-preservation.

“Resolved unanimously, That the delegates appointed to represent this colony in general Congress, be instructed to propose to that respectable body, TO DECLARE THE UNITED COLONIES FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, absolved from all allegiance to or dependence upon the crown or Parliament of Great Britain; and that they give the assent of this colony to such declaration, and to whatever measures may be thought proper and necessary by the Congress, for forming foreign alliances, and a confederation of the colonies, at such time, and in the manner as to them shall seem best. Provided, that the power of forming government for, and the regulations of the internal concerns of each colony, be left to the respective colonial legislatures.

“Resolved unanimously, That a committee be appointed to prepare a declaration of rights, and such a plan of government as will be most likely to maintain peace and order in this colony, and secure substantial and equal liberty to the people.”3

The procuring of foreign assistance was the immediate object of this resolution, as the alternative of separation or submission was the assigned ground of it. But a political connection on any terms, with a people who have exerted against us every species of barbarity and insult, would have had few advocates.

In consequence of the resolution, universally regarded as the only path which will lead to safety and prosperity, some gentlemen made a handsome collection for the purpose of treating the soldiery, who to-day were paraded in Waller’s grove, before Brigadier-General Lewis, attended by the gentlemen of the committee of safety, the members of the general convention, the inhabitants of the city, and others. The resolution being read aloud to the army, the following toasts were given, each of them accompanied by a discharge of the artillery and small arms, and the acclamations of all present: — 1. The American Independent States. 2. The grand Congress of the United States, and their respective Legislatures. 3. General Washington, and victory to the American arms.

The union flag of the American states waved upon the capitol during the whole of this ceremony, which, being ended, the soldiers partook of the refreshment prepared for them by the affection of their countrymen, and the evening concluded with illuminations, and other demonstrations of joy. Every one seems pleased that the domination of Great Britain is now at an end, so wickedly and tyrannically has it been exercised for these twelve or thirteen years past, notwithstanding our repeated prayers and remonstrances for redress.4


1 There were one hundred and twelve members present.
2 Clift’s Diary.
3 Edmund Pendleton, president, and John Tazewell, clerk of the convention.
4 Pennsylvania Journal, May 29.

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