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Instructions of the Town of Portsmouth to their Delegates in the Provincial Congress of New-Hampshire



Portsmouth, N˙H˙, December 25, 1775.

Last Monday, at a publick town meeting, the following gentlemen were chosen Delegates to represent this town in Provincial Congress now convened at Exeter; and, by a Committee appointed to draw up Instructions for them, they were the next day unanimously voted by the Town.

To Samuel Cutts and Samuel Sherburne, Esqs˙, and Captain Pierce Long.

GENTLEMEN: As the approaching session of the Congress will be attended with the consideration of matters of more importance than ever came before any body of men in this Colony, your constituents desire your strict attention to these their instructions, supposing your motives in accepting our choice of you to be those, alone, of promoting the publick good.

The precept sent to this town for the choice of Delegates, mentions our taking up a form of Government in this Colony. This we conceive to be a measure to be entered on with the greatest caution, calmness, and deliberation, We are of opinion that the present times are too unsettled to admit of perfecting a form, stable and permanent; and that to attempt it now would injure us, by furnishing our enemies in Great Britain with arguments to persuade the good, people there that we are aiming at independency, which we totally disavow. We should, therefore, prefer the government of the Congress, till God, in his providence, shall afford us quieter times.

If, however, the Congress shall think proper to establish a new form of Government, we enjoin you, that no private pique or prejudice may seclude from the appointment to any place of honour or profit men of approved honour and integrity; whether members likely to be appointed to such places, who you have every reason to think sought an election, that you do every thing in your power to prevent their appointment.

The courts of justice in this Colony, you are sensible, have long slept. We earnestly require you that you use your influence in the Congress that the law may have its course, not only for the punishment of offenders but to enforce the payment of just debts, under such regulations as the Congress, in their wisdom, shall think proper.

As the dastardly and inhuman behaviour of the persons hitherto intrusted by the British Ministry to execute their designs against America, convince us that they will take all advantages of the weakness of any post, while they artfully avoid all such as are in a situation to make a resistance, we desire you will pay proper attention to the further fortifying and guarding the port of Piscataqua, now the frontier of the Colony; and that, in general, you spare no pains to have every part of this Colony in a state of defence. At the same time, however, that we give you this instruction, we recommend it to you that, if a plan of accommodation be proposed, the completion of which will terminate in an honourable settlement of the present disputes, you give your assent thereto; and we the more readily advise this, because we are by no means of opinion that the present measures are countenanced by the British nation in general, (ever remarked for their true valour and love of freedom, and who, when they are fully acquainted with the dispute, will undoubtedly approve the conduct of their sons, so like that of their ancestors at the Revolution,) but rather that they are the schemes of a set of men lost to every sentiment of true honour, and sunk into a state of dissipation and luxury, which they are endeavouring to support by subjugating the most loyal subjects their master could boast of.

As we are firmly persuaded the measures we are taking for the preservation of our freedom are highly justifiable


in the sight of God and man, we are determined to hazard our lives and fortunes in the prosecution of them, convinced that our brethren in every part of the Colony are actuated by the same motives, and will readily pay their proportion of the publick expense; you will, therefore, be careful to see that the proportion be equitably adjusted with respect to this town, which has already greatly suffered by the loss of its trade, almost its only support, and of the revival of which there is at present no prospect.

We particularly recommend, that you strictly guard against every measure that may have a tendency to cause disunion; and that, at all times, you keep sight of this recommendation, as a disagreement among ourselves is what our enemies are earnestly wishing for, and, consequently, what we should be more particularly careful to see them disappointed in.

You will use your endeavours that any Committees of Safety, which may be appointed by the Colony Congress, may be directed, in their recess, to sit in this town, which, in all probability, will be the seat of action, and may want the readiest assistance; and that the said Committee be kept under short adjournments.

We entertain the highest and most grateful sense of the merit and bravery of such of our brethren as, at this time, are called forth to "jeopard their lives in the high places of the field," and hope this Colony will be behindhand in none, to see that they are properly rewarded, taking due care, at the same time, to keep up the very just and necessary line of distinction between the civil and military powers.

You will, from time to time, inform the Town Committee of Safety of such matters of importance as are proposed to be transacted in Congress, and take their advice and instruction thereon, or that of our constituents in town meeting assembled, if the said Committee shall think proper.