History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 3

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVII.
THE PEOPLE OF EVERY AMERICAN COLONY DEMAND
INDEPENDENCE
JUNE–JULY 1776.

AMERICAN independence was not an act of sudden passion, nor the work of one man or one assembly. It had been discussed in every part of the country by farmers and merchants, by mechanics and planters, by the fishermen and the backwoodsmen; in town-meetings and from the pulpit; at social gatherings and around the camp fires; in newspapers and in pamphlets; in county conventions and conferences of committees; in colonial congresses and assemblies. The decision was put off only to ascertain the voice of the people. Virginia, having uttered her will, and communicated it to her sister colonies, proceeded, as though independence had been proclaimed, to form her constitution. More counsellors waited on her assembly than they took notice of: they were aided in their deliberations by the teachings of the law-givers of Greece; by the line of magistrates who had framed the Roman code; by those who had written best in English on government and public freedom. They passed by monarchy and hereditary aristocracy as unessential forms, and looked for the self-subsistent elements of liberty.

The principles of the Virginia declaration of rights remained to her people as a perpetual possession, and a pledge of progress in more tranquil days; but for the moment internal reforms were postponed. The elective franchise was not extended, nor was anything done to abolish slavery beyond the prohibition of the slave-trade. The king of England pos

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