Lesson Plans Treasons Harbour
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It is expected that the province of Massachusetts Bay will be irritated into some violent action that may displease the rest of the continent, or that may induce the people of Great Britain to approve the meditated vengeance of an imprudent and exasperated ministry. If the unexampled pacific temper of that province shall disappoint this part of the plan, it is hoped the other colonies will be so far intimidated as to desert their brethren suffering in a common cause, and that thus disunited all may be subdued.
To promote these designs another measure has been pursued.
In the session of Parliament last mentioned, an act was passed for changing the government of Quebec, by which act the Roman Catholic religion, instead of being tolerated, as stipulated by the treaty of peace, is established, and the people there are deprived of a right to an assembly, trials by jury, and the English laws in civil eases are abolished, and instead thereof the French laws are established, in direct violation of his majesty's promise by his royal proclamation, under the faith of which many English subjects settled in that province; and the limits of that province are extended so as to comprehend those vast regions that lie adjoining to the northerly and westerly boundaries of these colonies.
The authors of this arbitrary enactment flatter themselves that the inhabitants, deprived of liberty and artfully provoked against those of another religion, will be proper instruments for assisting in the oppression of such as differ from them in modes of government and faith.
From the detail of facts herein before recited, as well as from authentic intelligence received, it is clear, beyond a doubt, that a resolution is formed and now carrying into execution to extinguish the freedom of these colonies, by subjecting them to a despotic government. At this unhappy period we have been authorized and directed to meet and consult together for the welfare of our common country. We accepted the important trust with diffidence but have endeavored to discharge it with integrity. Though the state of these colonies would certainly justify other measures than we have advised, yet weighty reasons determined us to prefer those which we have adopted.
In the first place, it appeared to us a conduct becoming the character these colonies have ever sustained, to perform, even in the midst of the unnatural distresses and immediate dangers which surround them, every act of loyalty, and therefore we were induced once more to offer to his majesty the petitions of his faithful and oppressed subjects in America.
The Declaration of Independence
Secondly, regarding with the tender affection which we knew to be so universal among our countrymen, the people of the kingdom from which we derive our origin, we could not forbear to regulate our steps by an expectation of receiving full conviction that the colonists are equally dear to them.
Between these provinces and that body subsists the social band, which we ardently wish may never be dissolved, and which can not be dissolved, until their minds shall become indisputably hostile, or their inattention shall permit those who are thus hostile to persist in prosecuting, with the powers of the realm, the destructive measures already operating against the colonists, and in either case shall reduce the latter to such a situation that they shall be compelled to renounce every regard but that of self preservation.
Notwithstanding the violence with which affairs have been impelled, they have not yet reached that fatal point. We do not incline to accelerate their motion, already alarmingly rapid; we have chosen a method of opposition that does not preclude a hearty reconciliation with our fellow citizens on the other side of the Atlantic. We deeply deplore the urgent necessity that presses us to an immediate interruption of commerce that may prove injurious to them. We trust they will acquit us of any unkind intentions toward them, by reflecting that we are driven by the hands of violence into unexperienced and unexpected public convulsions, and that we are contending for freedom, so often contended for by our ancestors.
The people of England will soon have an opportunity of declaring their sentiments concerning our cause. In their piety, generosity, and good sense, we repose high confidence, and can not, upon a review of past events, be persuaded that they, the defenders of true religion, and the asserters of the rights of mankind, will take part against their affectionate Protestant brethren in the colonies, in favor of our open and their own secret enemies, whose intrigues, for several years past, have been wholly exercised in sapping the foundations of civil and religious liberty.
Another reason that engaged us to prefer the commercial mode of opposition arose from an assurance that the mode will prove efficacious if it be persisted in with fidelity and virtue, and that your conduct will be influenced by these laudable principles can not be doubted. Your own salvation and that of your posterity now depends upon yourselves. You have already shown that you entertain a proper sense of the blessings you are striving to retain.
Against the temporary inconveniences you may suffer from a stoppage of trade, you will weigh in the opposite balance the endless miseries you and your descendants must endure from an established arbitrary power. You will not forget the honor of your country, that must, from your behavior, take its title, in the estimation of the world, to glory or to shame; and you will, with the deepest attention, reflect that if the peaceable mode of opposition recommended by us be broken and rendered ineffectual, as your cruel and haughty ministerial enemies, from a contemptuous opinion of your firmness, insolently predict will be the case, you must inevitably be reduced to choose either a more dangerous contest, or a final, ruinous, and infamous submission.
Motives thus cogent, arising from the emergency of your unhappy condition, must excite your utmost diligence and zeal to give all possible strength and energy to the pacific measures calculated for your relief; but we think ourselves bound in duty to observe to you, that the schemes agitated against these colonies have been so conducted as to render it prudent that you should extend your views to mournful events, and be, in all respects, prepared for every contingency.
Above all things, we earnestly entreat you, with devotion of spirit, penitence of heart, and amendment of life, to humble yourselves, and implore the favor of Almighty God: and we fervently beseech his divine goodness to take you into his gracious protection. John Dickinson. WE, the delegates of the colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, deputed by the inhabitants of the said colonies to represent them in a general Congress at Philadelphia, in the province of Pennsylvania, to consult together concerning the best methods to obtain redress of our afflicting grievances, having accordingly assembled, and taken into our most serious consideration the state of public affairs on this continent, have thought proper to address your province, as a member therein deeply interested.
When the fortune of war, after a gallant and glorious resistance, had incorporated you with the body of English subjects, we rejoiced in the truly valuable addition, both on our own and your account, expecting, as courage and generosity are naturally united, our brave enemies would become our hearty friends, and that the Divine Being would bless to you the dispensations of his overruling providence, by securing to you and your latest posterity the inestimable advantages of a free English constitution of government, which it is the privilege of all English subjects to enjoy.
These hopes were confirmed by the king's proclamation, issued in the year , plighting the public faith for your full enjoyment of those advantages. Little did we imagine that any succeeding ministers would so audaciously and cruelly abuse the royal authority as to withhold from you the fruition of the irrevocable rights to which you were thus justly entitled. But since we have lived to see the unexpected time when ministers of this flagitious temper have dared to violate the most sacred compacts and obligations, and as you, educated under another form of government, have artfully been kept from discovering the unspeakable worth of that form you are now undoubtedly entitled to, we esteem it our duty, for the weighty reasons hereinafter mentioned, to explain to you some of its most important branches.
The intent of good laws is to oppose this effort, and to diffuse their influence universally and equally. Rulers stimulated by this pernicious "effort," and subjects animated by the just "intent of opposing good laws against it," have occasioned that vast variety of events that fill the histories of so many nations. All these histories demonstrate the truth of this simple position, that to live by the will of one man, or set of men, is the production of misery to all men.
On the solid foundation of this principle, Englishmen reared up the fabric of their Constitution with such a strength, as for ages to defy time, tyranny, treachery, internal and foreign wars; and, as an illustrious author [Montesquieu] of your nation, hereafter mentioned observes, "They gave the people of their colonies the form of their own government, and this government carrying prosperity along with it, they have grown great nations in the forests they were sent to inhabit. In this form, the first grand right is that of the people having a share in their own government, by their representatives chosen by themselves, and, in consequence, of being ruled by laws which they themselves approve, not by the edicts of men over whom they have no control.
This is a bulwark surrounding and defending their property, so that no portions of it can legally be taken from them but with their own full and free consent, when they in their judgment deem it just and necessary to give them for public services, and precisely direct the easiest, cheapest, and most equal methods in which they shall be collected. The influence of this right extends still farther. If money is wanted by rulers who have in any manner oppressed the people, they may retain it until their grievances are redressed and thus peaceably procure relief without trusting to despised petitions or disturbing the public tranquility.
The next great right is that of trial by jury. Another right relates merely to the liberty of the person. If a subject is seized and imprisoned, though by order of government, he may, by virtue of this right, immediately obtain a writ termed a habeas corpus from a judge, whose sworn duty it is to grant it, and thereupon procure any illegal restraint to be quickly inquired into and redressed.
A fourth right is that of holding lands by the tenure of easy rents, and not by rigorous and oppressive services, frequently forcing the possessors from their families and their business to perform what ought to be done in all well regulated states by men hired for the purpose. The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of government its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs.
These are the invaluable rights that form a considerable part of our mild system of government; that, sending its equitable energy through all ranks and classes of men defends the poor front the rich, the weak from the powerful, the industrious from the rapacious, the peaceable from the violent the tenants from the lords, and all from their superiors. These are the rights without which a people can not be free and happy, and under the protecting and encouraging influence of which these colonies have hitherto so amazingly flourished and increased.
These are the rights a profligate ministry are now striving by force of arms to ravish from us, and which we are with one mind resolved never to resign but with our lives. These are the rights you are entitled to, and ought at this moment in perfection to exercise. And what is offered to you by the late act of Parliament in their place? Liberty of conscience in your religion? God gave it to you, and the temporal powers with which you have been and are connected firmly stipulated for your enjoyment of it.
If laws divine and human could secure it against the despotic caprices of wicked men, it was secured before. Are the French laws in civil cases restored? It seems so. But observe the cautious kindness of the ministers who pretend to be your benefactors.
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The words of the statute are, "that those laws shall be the rule until they shall be varied or altered by any ordinances of the governor and council. They too are subjected to arbitrary "alterations" by the governor and council; and a power is expressly reserved of appointing "such courts of criminal, civil, and ecclesiastical jurisdiction as shall be thought proper. The crown and its ministers are empowered, as far as they could be by Parliament, to establish even the inquisition itself among you.
Have you an Assembly composed of worthy men, elected by yourselves, and in whom you can confide, to make laws for you, to watch over your welfare, and to direct in what quantity and in what manner your money shall be taken from you? The power of making laws for you is lodged in the governor and council, all of them dependent upon and removable at the pleasure of a minister.
Permanent and Temporary Opportunities
Besides, another late statute, made without your consent, has subjected you to the impositions of excise, the horror of all free states, thus wresting your property from you by the most odious of taxes and laying open to insolent tax gatherers houses, the scenes of domestic peace and comfort, and called the castles of English subjects in the books of their law.
And in the very act for altering your government, and intended to flatter you, you are not authorized to "assess, levy, or apply any rates and taxes but for the inferior purposes of making roads, and erecting arid repairing public buildings, or for other local conveniences within your respective towns and districts.
Ought not the property honestly acquired by Canadians to be held as sacred as that of Englishmen? Have not Canadians sense enough to attend to any other public affairs than gathering stones from one place and piling them up in another? Unhappy people! Nay, more! What would your countryman, the immortal Montesquieu, have said to such a plan of domination as has been framed for you? Hear his words, with an intenseness of thought suited to the importance of the subject: "In a free state, every man who is supposed a free agent ought to be concerned in his own government; therefore the legislative should reside in the whole body of the people or their representatives.
In order to have this liberty, it is requisite the government be so constituted as that one man need not be afraid of another. When the power of making laws and the power of executing them are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty, because apprehensions may arise lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws to execute them in a tyrannical manner.
There is no liberty if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers.