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Instructions to the Commissioners


In Congress, March 20, 1776.


GENTLEMEN: You are, with all convenient despatch, to repair to Canada, and make known to the people of that


country the wishes and intentions of Congress with respect to them.

Represent to them that the arms of the United Colonies, having been carried into that Province for the purpose of frustrating the designs of the British Court against our common liberties, we expect not only to defeat the hostile machinations of Governour Carleton against us, but that we shall put it in the power of our Canadian brethren to pursue such measures, for securing their own freedom and happiness, as a generous love of liberty and sound policy shall dictate to them.

Inform them that, in our judgment, their interest and ours are inseparably united. That it is impossible we can be reduced to a servile submission to Great Britain without their sharing in our fate; and, on the other hand, if we obtain, (as we doubt not we shall,) a full establishment of our rights, it depends wholly on their choice whether they will participate with us in those blessings, or still remain subject to every act of tyranny which British Ministers shall please to exercise over them. Urge all such arguments as your prudence shall suggest, to enforce our opinion concerning the mutual interests of the two countries, and to convince them of the impossibility of the war being concluded to the disadvantage of the Colonies, if we wisely and vigorously co-operate with each other. To convince them of the uprightness of our intentions towards them, you are to declare that it is our inclination that the people of Canada may set up such a form of Government as will be most likely in their judgment to promote this happiness; and you are, in the strongest terms, to assure them that it is our earnest desire to adopt them into our Union as a sister Colony, and to secure the same general system of mild and equal laws for them and for ourselves, with only such local differences as may be agreeable to each Colony respectively. Assure the people of Canada that we have no apprehension that the French will take any part with Great Britain; but that it is their interest, and we have reason to believe their inclination, to cultivate a friendly intercourse with these Colonies.

You are, from this and such other reasons as may appear most proper, to urge the necessity the people are under of immediately taking some decisive step to put themselves under the protection of the United Colonies. For expediting such a measure, you are to explain to them our method of collecting the sense of the people, and conducting our affairs regularly, by Committees of Observation and Inspection in the several Districts; and by Conventions and Committees of Safety in the several Colonies. Recommend these modes to them. Explain to them the nature and principles of Government among freemen; developing, in contrast to these, the base, cruel, and insidious designs involved in the late act of Parliament for making a more effectual provision for the government of the Province of Quebeck. Endeavour to stimulate them, by motives of glory, as well as interest, to assume a part in a contest by which they must be deeply affected; and to aspire to a portion of that power by which they are ruled; and not to remain the mere spoils and prey of conquerors and lords.

You are further to declare that we hold sacred the rights of conscience, and may promise to the whole people solemnly, in our name, the free and undisturbed exercise of their religion, and to the clergy the full, perfect, and peaceable possession and enjoyment of all their estates; that the government of everything relating to their religion and clergy shall be left entirely in the hands of the good people of that Province, and such Legislature as they shall constitute; provided, however, that all other denominations of Christians be equally entitled to hold offices, and enjoy civil privileges, and the free exercise of their religion, and be totally exempt from the payment of any tithes, or taxes, for the support of any religion. Inform them that you are vested by this Congress with full powers to effect these purposes; and, therefore, press them to have a complete representation of the people assembled in Convention, with all possible expedition, to deliberate concerning the establishment of a form of Government and an union with the United Colonies. As to the terms of the union, insist upon the propriety of their being similar to those upon which the other Colonies unite. Should they object to this, report to this Congress those objections, and the terms on which alone they will come into our Union.


Should they agree to our teams, you are to promise, in the names of the United Colonies, that we will defend and protect the people of Canada against all enemies, in the same manner as we will defend and protect any of the United Colonies.

You are to establish a free Press, and to give directions for the frequent publication of such pieces as may be of service to the cause of the United Colonies.

You are to settle all disputes between the Canadians and the Continental Troops, and to make such regulations relating thereto as you shall judge proper.

You are to make a strict and impartial inquiry into the cause of the imprisonment of Colonel Dufee, Lieutenant-Colonel Nefeu, Major St˙ George Dupree, and Major Gray, officers of Militia; and of John Fraser, Esq˙, late a Judge of Police at Montreal, and take such order concerning them as you shall judge most proper.

In reforming any abuses you may observe in Canada, establishing and enforcing regulations for preservation of peace and good order there, and composing differences between the troops of the United Colonies and the Canadians, all officers and soldiers are required to yield obedience to you.

And to enforce the decisions that you, or any two of you may make, you are empowered to suspend any military officer from the exercise of his commission till the pleasure of the Congress shall be known, if you, or any two of you, shall think it expedient.

You are also empowered to sit and vote as members of Councils of War in directing fortifications and defences to be made or to be demolished; and to draw orders upon the President for any sums of money, not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars in the whole, to defray the expenses of the works.

Lastly, you are, by all the means you can use, to promote the execution of the resolutions now made, or hereafter to be made in Congress.

Additional Instructions.

You are empowered and directed to promote and encourage the trade of Canada with the Indian Nations, and grant passports for carrying it on, as far as it may consist with the safety of the troops and the publick good.

You are also directed and authorized to assure the inhabitants of Canada their commerce with foreign nations shall, in all respects, be put on an equal footing with and encouraged and protected in the same manner, as the trade of the United Colonies.

You are also directed to use every wise and prudent measure to introduce and give credit and circulation to the Continental money in Canada.

In case the former resolution of Congress, respecting the English American Troops in Canada, has not been carried into effect, you are directed to use your best endeavours to form a battalion of the New-York Troops in that country, and to appoint the Field and other officers, out of the gentlemen who have continued there during the campaign, according to their respective ranks and merit; and if it should be found impracticable, you are to direct such of them as are provided in the four battalions now raising in New-York, to repair to their respective corps. To enable you to carry this resolution into effect, you are famished with blank commissions by the President.

By order of Congress:

JOHN HANCOCK, President.