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Paper signed ' a Freeman,' handed about among the Members of the House


Philadelphia, July 23, 1774. — The Committees from the several counties of this Province met in this City, the 15th instant, and being very busy ever since in framing Instructions to the Assembly, with which they were permitted to attend the House on the 21st inst˙, having previously voted three of their body, as proper persons to attend the Congress, and represent this Province, viz: Thomas Willing, John Dickinson, and James Wilson. Yesterday morning the Committee were again admitted into the House, when, to their disappointment, the matter was not taken up and debated before them; but a Resolve of the House was read to them which had been agreed to before their admission, setting forth, that the House did vote * * * * * * persons to attend the ensuing Congress. After which the House filled up the blank with the names of the following persons, to appear at the Congress, in behalf of this Province, viz: Joseph Galloway, Samuel Rhoads, John Morton, Charles Humphreys, George Ross, Edward Biddle, and Thomas Mifflin; but as yet it is not known how they will be instructed by the House.

The following Piece was handed about among the Members of the Assembly on the evening of the 21st instant:

To the Representatives of the Province of PENNSYLVANIA, now met in this City:

"All numerous Assemblies, however composed, are mere mobs, and swayed in their debates by the least motive; this is confirmed by daily experience. An absurdity strikes a member, he conveys it to his neighbours and the whole is infected. Separate this great body, and though every member be only of middling sense, it is not probable any thing but reason can prevail. Influence and example being removed, good sense will also get the better of bad. The only way of making people wise, is to keep them from uniting into large Assemblies." — Hume.

GENTLEMEN: Permit a cool considerate observer of the present distracted proceedings of this Province, for one moment to claim your attention.

Let not, I beseech you, the noise and confusion of the scene stifle the voice of wisdom, or prevent the full display of your ancient prudence. The call of one not less well affected to the privileges and liberties, derived to us from our excellent Constitution, than the most zealous of her sons, of one not heated by the fallacious spirit of a pretended patriotism, nor, he trusts, too tamely submissive to the hand of oppression, solicits your most serious consideration. Let him not supplicate in vain! yet even on the last precipice on which the vestiges of order and regularity shall be traced, pause, ponder, maturely deliberate, and with every nerve of reason extended, reflect on the past, and penetrate into the future.

You are now met in a Legislative capacity, and are to determine on a matter the most important in itself — the most interesting in its consequences, of any that ever came before you. Nothing less is to be agitated than whether the people of the Province shall assert their rights and privileges on constitutional grounds; or, deviating from the long known and securely trodden paths of prudence and regularity, wander into the maizy labyrinths of perplexity and disorder.

From the respective counties of this Province persons have been delegated, to take into their serious consideration the present alarming state of affairs; to deliberate on means the most effectual for obtaining redress of our grievances; and to give such instructions to you as they may judge expedient. By what legal authority they have proceeded let them demonstrate. Among them are gentlemen of the first abilities; of characters the most respectable; let any of them take up the pen, and convince you that their appointment is constitutional, or that their proceedings have been conducted with justice or equity. A single delegate for one of the frontier counties, has a vote in every debate


deemed equivalent to the whole Committee of this opulent and populous city and county. Is this reasonable, or is it consistent with that just proportion observed in limiting the number of Representatives for the counties, which compose your House? To hesitate on a decision of this question, betrays an unpardonable partiality, or a shameful weakness.

This is not all, they have resolved on Instructions to he handed to you. These Resolves have not been entered into without warm opposition, and without great division; if they are to have any weight, they are to supersede you; if you are influenced by them, they incur a dissolution of our Charter. The gentlemen chosen by ballot on the first of October, are the only persons before whom every grievance should come; you are the men; you are chosen to represent us on every occasion; in you we have reposed the most unlimited confidence; no body of men are to supersede you; you are the guardians of our rights; we look to you for protection against every encroachment and now implore you to avert every innovation. Let us for one moment examine how for these Resolves must be short of the general sentiments of the people. The Committees are appointed at county meetings, where, it is notorious, not one fourth of the freeholders attend. The resolutions are previously drawn up by some zealous partisan, perhaps by some fiery spirit, ambitiously solicitous of forcing himself into publick notice; too often by persons whose only consequence is derived from the calamities in which their country may be involved. The orator mounts the rostrum, and in some pre-conceived speech, heightened no doubt, with all the aggravations which the fertility of his genius can suggest, exerts all the powers of elocution, to heat his audience with that blaze of patriotism, with which he conceives himself inspired, at such a time when the passion of Liberty, implanted in every breast, is awakened; when the threats of tyranny, and a terrour of slavery, are artfully set before them; a measure need only be proposed to be resolved on; and I am well convinced many an American has given his assent to such a measure, from which a little reflection would have made him retract with horrour.

From this fountain originates the authority of the Committees; it is a fountain from which no legal authority can be derived; we know not where such precedents may terminate; setting up a power to control you, is setting up snatchy above order — IT IS THE BEGINNING OF REPUBLICANISM.

Sophistry with her specious pretences may, perhaps, gloss over the matters, but sound reason will never aid the demonstration. They are gigantick strides to set up the resolves of the populace above the law, and above the Constitution. Nip this pernicious weed in the bud, before it has taken too deep root.

Methinks I already see a new Cassius rise, and tell your Speaker he differs from him in sentiment; asserts that they only are the men made privy to the desires and wishes of your constituents; and that they have a right to dictate to you what shall be done.

If these principles become prevalent, suffer the hardihood of truth, ungracious as it may sound in their ears, to tell you that you are only mere machines, a vox et praeterea nihil. If these measures be sanctified by you; if a precedent be once established, it remains only in some future day, for some popular leader, who may dissent from you in opinion, to raise a general clamour; collect his number; propound his resolves; quote this established precedent to support him; and, in the tone of authority, demand entrance into the Senate. But it is not my part to point out to you the innumerable inconveniences and mischiefs with which this measure, if adopted, is pregnant.

Deliver down to posterity "the laws, the rights, the generous plan of power," which your ancestors have delivered to you; and let not the murmurs of your children be heard, for want of foresight and precaution.