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Reflections on appointing Delegates to the General Congress


Philadelphia, June 22, 1774.

Of the several modes of appointing Deputies for a general Congress, their nomination by Representatives met in a Legislative capacity would, perhaps, be most generally approved.

If that mode cannot be pursued, the next most advisable, it appears to me, would be, for the freemen, qualified to vole for members of Assembly in the several Colonies, to choose a certain number of Delegates, who should compose a Provincial Convention in each Colony, and therein nominate some of their body, as Deputies to represent that Colony at a general Congress.

We are now entering upon a contest that may be continued for a long time; and we cannot be too early in giving all regularity and stability to our proceedings. The whole people are oppressed — they must relieve themselves: and therefore they must act. Nothing should be taken for granted, in a cause of such magnitude. — It is building on a sandy foundation. It is not to be presumed that the body of the people in any Colony will give their full and free assent to a single measure of their Representatives assembled as private men. Met in legislation, they form a constitutional body, and thence their proceedings derive their force. Ceasing to be that, their authority reverts to the people of which they are only a part. In emergencies demanding public exertions, a supposedor implied assent of the people is not an assent to be regarded or depended on. They must be represented actually — not "virtually." When they have chosen Representatives for the usual business of the Province; the law says, the acts of those Representatives are the acts of their constituents. When the law will not say this, is it to be inferred? And is the inference to be so extensive as to justify a conclusion of such vast consequence, that the constituents who appointed men for common affairs to be transacted in one way, freely and fully assent to their conduct in new affairs of the utmost importance, and transacted in another way? Why should such an influence be made? Where is the necessity for it? Cannot an appeal be made to the people? Their sentiments taken — be from themselves, and not guessed at? If they have not wisdom and virtue enough to become agents in promoting their own temporal salvation, it is in vain for others to attempt it.

The welfare of America depends on each Colony knowing what portions of this wisdom and virtue there are among us. Let us put the cause on its true bottom. If those freemen of counties, cities, boroughs, and townships, qualified to vote at usual elections, and residing in Colonies where the Assemblies met in Legislative capacities, cannot in time appoint Deputies, meet, and proceed respectively in the same mode that is practised in choosing Representatives for their Assemblies, to elect persons for the express purpose of forming Provincial Conventions, to consider on the present alarming situation of public affairs, and to concert the most effectual means for redressing grievances and re-establishing peace and harmony between Great Britain and these Colonies, on a constitutional foundation, the sentiments and resolutions of this Continent, from one end of it to the other will be perfectly known. Then a broad and strong foundation will be laid for future measures. Until these sentiments and resolutions are thus known, those who consult together have nothing firm under them. Does any roan suspect the prudence of the public spirit of any counties, or other districts? That is one good reason for adopting this mode. Let the truth be known. Let the real friends of freemen and their country understand their countrymen. Let them not be deceived in an opinion that the unanimity of sentiments and force of resolutions are greater than they are. Let us not collect the sense of this country, and of that district by "virtual representations," and rely on their zeal by unproved supposition. If there are counties or districts, who choose to lessen the weight of our common country, by taking themselves out of the scale in which "the universal property, liberty, safety, happiness, and prosperity of America," are now weighing against the opposite scale of tyranny, let them instantly declare themselves. Such discoveries never can do less harm than at this time.

Upon the whole, the success of measures calculated for the relief of these Colonies, wholly depends upon the unanimity of the people. The people, therefore, should


be consulted in the most particular manner that can be imagined. The result of that consultation will be the evidence to be relied on; and that evidence should be direct in point.

Besides other advantages arising from the plan proposed, this will be one very considerable: the Representatives for each county will naturally form a Standing Committee for that county, to correspond with the Standing Provincial Committee, appointed by the Provincial Convention, to act in their behalfs, as the Convention cannot be kept continually assembled. The business of the Provincial Committee, then, will be to correspond with the other Colonies, and with the County Committees. The County Committees may request every small district within the county, whether called township, hundred, &c˙, to choose one person to represent that township, hundred, &c˙, and may convey intelligence to each of these persons by letters, or by stated meetings. Thus a most regular plan might be solidly established throughout this Continent, for communicating needful information to the individuals of the smallest districts in every county, (a point absolutely necessary,) and of receiving their sentiments; and both these offices would be performed by persons the most acceptable to them. Unless some such plan as this, is framed, it requires not the spirit of prophecy to foresee that the affairs of this Continent will inevitably be confusedly conducted, to an unfortunate issue.