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Address of James Rankin to the worthy inhabitants of York County



MY RESPECTED FRIENDS: As I find myself most injuriously treated by a resolve of your County Committee, published in the several newspapers, I must take the liberty to do myself justice through the same channel. As you were freely pleased to choose me one of your Representatives in Assembly by so large a majority as near two to one against the opposite ticket, it would give me the greatest concern if I could believe that the Committee had known and spoken the sentiments of my constituents in their resolve, or that they will think I have violated the trust so lately reposed in me by them. I am conscious in my own heart that I intended nothing but what I considered as my bounden duty to the good people I represent, in the Circular Letter to some of my friends. Had I acted otherwise, or kept back the necessary information from them, when they were to deliberate upon a matter of the greatest consequence to them and their posterity, I think I should then have stood justly chargeable with "violating the trust reposed in me."

The whole affair pointed at in the resolve stands thus: The Committee of the City of Philadelphia had taken upon them to determine two points, in their protest against the authority of that House, of which you have chosen me a member, viz: 1st, That the Congress "had absolutely enjoined the taking up and establishing new Government through all the Colonies;" and, 2dly, That they (the said Committee) had a right, in exclusion of the Assembly, to call a conference of Committees, who were not to deliberate what changes in our Government, or whether any were necessary; but (taking that for granted) they were to devise means for choosing a Convention to establish a new form. Now, the express words of the Congress are these, viz: "That the respective Assemblies and Conventions, where no Government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs has been established, adopt such Governments as shall, in the opinion of the Representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness of their constituents in particular, and America in general." These words, to my best understanding, left the Assembly of Pennsylvania, who are the undoubted Representatives of the people, to judge what changes, or whether any, might be necessary for the exigencies of affairs. Our Charter does also declare that the consent of six parties in seven of our Assembly is necessary in this matter. I likewise found it to be the general sense of the House, confirmed by our own Delegates, that where assemblies could actually sit as the Representatives of the people, the Congress had them expressly in view in the execution of their resolve; and did not point out any particular changes as necessary, except so far as regards the usual oaths and affirmations, which they considered as standing in the way of our just opposition to the oppressive measures of the British Parliament; and the Committee of York might have known that the House has dispensed with the oaths, &c˙, and is absolved from them, by the Crown' s declaring them out of its protection. It appeared further to me that no other Provinces that have considered the resolve of Congress have taken it in the sense of the Philadelphia Committee, namely, as a positive injunction for altering their Governments, or injuring their Charter rights, further than the respective powers of those Governments shall think convenient for the publick service. The Province of Maryland has expressly determined on the matter as follows:

"Resolved unanimously, That the people of this Province have the sole and exclusive right of regulating the internal Government and police of this Province."


New-York has declared to the same effect; and the charter Governments of Connecticut and Rhode-Island have made no further alterations than respecting the oaths, &c˙, as our Assembly have done.

Upon this state of things, having a love for the Charter Constitution of Pennsylvania; considering myself as chosen by you to support it as far as possible, in the present exigency; finding that the publick service has been and might still be carried on as vigorously by the Assembly of this Province as by any other publick body on the continent; and observing a Remonstrance to that effect, signed by multitudes of the most respectable names in the City of Philadelphia and the neighbouring Counties, in opposition to the doctrines in the Protest of the Committee of that city, I thought it my duty to send you copies of those papers, that I might know the sentiments of the County I represent in a matter of such consequence. Whether I did wrong in this, or what censure they may deserve who dared to keep back the needful information from you, endeavouring to surprise you into precipitate measures, which might afterwards be injurious to your best rights, for which you are now contending, and sow the seeds of discord, I leave yourselves to determine. I consider not only my private rights as a freeman, but my publick rights as a Representative in Assembly, together with your rights, from whom I derive my seat, to be grossly violated in this interruption of my correspondence with you, and the threats thrown out to prevent my obtaining your sentiments for the direction of my conduct. I know the weight of the Committee of the town of York, who first opened my letters; and I hope I do not overvalue my own firmness of spirit when I say that I neither fear their threats nor regard their censures while in the honest discharge of my duty. I wish that they who published the resolves against me had also published a copy of the Circular Letter on which it is founded, that the world might have judged how far it deserved blame or approbation.

The following is an exact copy of the letter to Henry Wolfe, viz:

"The friends of the present Constitution of Pennsylvania think it absolutely necessary at this time to use their utmost endeavours to prevent the attempts that are making in the City of Philadelphia to destroy the Assembly, and consequently the Charter rights of the Province; for which purpose it is thought expedient that as many persons as possible should be procured to sign the Address and Remonstrance to the Representatives of the Province, which you will see published in Hall & Sellers' s paper of the 22d of this month, to encounter the Protest which is inserted in the same paper. I therefore request that you will take a part in this virtuous task, by getting as many of the respectable inhabitants of our County to sign their names to it as possible, by which you will greatly serve your country and oblige your friend,


"P˙ S˙ You will have several copies of the Remonstrance sent to you for signing."

I have only to add that the Committee of your County have just sent down instructions directed to two of your Representatives, wherein, after several charges against the Assembly in general, they conclude as follows:

"We therefore instruct you to withdraw from such men and measures; and in case of a motion for the continuance of the Assembly, you will immediately leave the same. You will see by our resolves, herewith sent, the sentiments of York County, very generally taken; and we trust you, gentlemen, will act conformably thereto.

"By order of the Committee:
"R˙ MCPHERSON, Chairman.

"To James Ewing and Samuel Eddy, Esqs."

As I have reason to believe that the Committee have derived no authority from the County in general, to command their Representatives to desert their trust, I shall continue to discharge my duty till I obtain your sentiments in some less doubtful way; and am, respectfully, your sincere friend,




* At the time of writing this the names to the Remonstrances, already delivered in from the City and adjacent Counties, amounted to about six thousand.