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Petition of Cadwallader Colden



To the Honourable the Representatives of the State of NEW YORK, in Convention:

The Petition of CADWALADER COLDEN, Jun˙, of ULSTER County, Esq˙, humbly showeth:

That your petitioner, impressed with the most painful apprehensions of the calamities that would flow from a separation of the American Colonies from the Government of Great Britain, did, in the beginning of the present most unhappy disputes, appear opposed to such measures as, he imagined, would involve his country in distress; in consequence of which, he was stigmatized by those from whom he differed in sentiment, with the odious appellation of an enemy to his country, and thereby became the object of invective, slander, and malevolence, and was often insulted and frequently threatened with destruction of his person and property. This notwithstanding your petitioner' s attachment to the rights of private judgment, and although he conceived the freedom of disquisition and debate, on topicks which affected the publick weal, to be the birthright of Englishmen, and a privilege which particularly distinguish the freeman from the slave. Nevertheless your petitioner, willing to avoid the giving the least cause of offence, determined no longer in vain to oppose the prevailing current opinion, of which, his determination, he, by letter, acquainted some of the Committee in the County so long since as the 3d of May last was a twelve-month, and in a few days after was among the first that signed the General Association. Since which time, your petitioner doth aver, that he hath in no way whatsoever opposed or obstructed any publick measures, nor hath he, in any one instance, either persuaded or dissuaded any man from pursuing the propensity of his own inclinations. In testimony whereof your petitioner hath publickly called upon his accusers and persecutors to adduce any proof to the contrary. Notwithstanding which, and without the least cause, your petitioner' s house was surrounded by an armed body of men, commanded by Colonel Palmer, in the dead of the night of the 24th of June last, and on being granted admission, he, the said Palmer, and divers others, proceeded to search every part of the house of your petitioner for arms and ammunition, &c˙, and also examined his desk and chest of papers; and though said Palmer declared himself perfectly satisfied that your petitioner was destitute of all offensive weapons, &c˙, he nevertheless seized on the person of your petitioner, and sent him under strong guard to New Windsor, and the next day he was conveyed as a prisoner to Newburgh; whereupon, being called before the Committee, he excepted to their jurisdiction, alleging its locality to their own Precinct, and that he lived in the Precinct of Hanover, and if guilty of any offence, the Committee of said Precinct was of competent authority to take cognizance thereof, and therefore desired that any matter he might stand charged with might be referred to the Committee of Hanover. But this being overruled, your petitioner appealed to the County Committee or Convention. Upon which, he was then discharged, giving his parole to appear before them when notified by a letter from the Chairman of that Board. That the next day your petitioner heard that Colonel Palmer, and some of the party who had surrounded his house in the night, had in the neighbourhood pretended to be in pursuit of a man said to be come from on board the man-of-war; that at the house of one Mary Knap they had actually overtaken and seized a man, (one of their own party,) who was made to confess or say, that he had made his escape out of your petitioner' s house when he heard the party coming to it in the night; and that he had delivered to your petitioner letters or messages from on board the man-of-war, and had also brought a letter to said Mary Knap from her husband, who was on board the man-of-war. That, considering the temper of the times, your petitioner thought such a report, if believed in his neighbourhood, might be of dangerous consequence to him, therefore immediately wrote a letter to the Chairman of the County Committee, (not


knowing him to be one of the Committee he had already seen before,) acquainting him of the circumstances of this affair, and desiring a hearing before the County Committee. But before this letter got to the hands of the Chairman, the Committee had sat, and ordered your petitioner to appear before them on the 9th day of July, to answer the charges that then might appear against him touching his being an enemy to the American cause. A copy of which order was served on your petitioner. That accordingly, on the 9th day of July, your petitioner appeared before the County Committee; and that though no charge was even adduced against your petitioner, much less supported, of his acting inimical to the liberties of his country, or that he in any manner whatsoever opposed, obstructed, or counteracted publick measures, and that the story concerning the man from on board the man-of-war escaping out of your petitioner' s house was acknowledged by Colonel Palmer and some of his party to be only a piece of fun, (as he called it,) or contrivance formed to impose on the said Mary Knap; yet, to the surprise of your petitioner and the astonishment of the County, your petitioner was ordered to the common Jail of the County, in close confinement, under every circumstance of indignity and disrespect. From whence your petitioner took the liberty to inform your honourable Board of his grievances, and to pray for relief.

And your petitioner further showeth, that though the President of your honourable Board was pleased to answer his letter the 16th of July, in which he informed him that your Board was pleased to refer the matter back to the County Committee, yet he did not receive the letter till the 31st; neither did the Chairman of the County Committee give notice to your petitioner of the matter being referred back to the Committee, nor send him the President' s letter, till applied to for it. That your petitioner, upon the receipt of said letter, hearing that the County Committee was to meet the 6th instant, and not knowing whether they would please to call him before them, wrote a letter to the Committee, and also made application to them through his friends, desiring their reconsideration of the rigorous treatment he had received by a close confinement in a Jail, for near five weeks, without any charge against him, (as has been already shown,) and soliciting his discharge. Notwithstanding which, all the indulgence your petitioner was able to procure has been a release from the common Jail, upon giving security in the exorbitant sum of £2,000, not to go off his farm until fully discharged by your honourable Board.

Your petitioner, therefore, relying on the equity and humanity of your honourable Board, doubts not but that, as you are the advocates of freedom, you will show yourselves equally the patrons and protectors of the innocent and oppressed, and speedily grant him an ample release from the unmerited and arbitrary restraint he at present labours under. And your petitioner, as in duty bound, shall ever pray.

Coldenham, August 21, 1776.