Western Lands and the American Revolution

By Thomas Perkins Abernethy | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XIII
THE LAND QUESTION AND THE CONTINENTAL
CONGRESS, 1776

DURING 1776 the Continental Congress continued to be divided between the two major factions which had taken shape during the earlier sessions. From the geographical point of view it can be said that New England and the South were combined against the middle colonies. From the economic angle it is an almost equally good generalization to state that the agrarian interests of the former group predominated over the commercial interests of the latter. But, of course, both interests were represented in all the colonies, and the geographical alignment was therefore not clearcut.

As to Virginia, Carter Braxton and Benjamin Harrison represented the commercial interest in Congress, but the Lees, with the support of Jefferson and Wythe, were able to maintain a majority against them. John Hancock likewise typified the commercial element of New England, though the two Adamses were able to carry, not only Massachusetts, but a majority of the New England delegates along with them.

Whether the coalition between the Lees and the Adamses was based on their long-standing personal friendship or upon a similarity of interests, it is true that in combination they were generally able to dominate the deliberations of Congress and to carry their program against the majority of the delegates from the middle colonies.

At the head of this opposition group stood Robert Morris and Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania. Franklin's poltical career had been a strange one, and nothing in it was stranger than his cooperation with Morris in Congressional matters. In 1764 he had stood with the Quakers in opposition to the Proprietary party in Pennsylvania and had been sent to England by the Galloway-Wharton group to work for the revocation of the Penn charter. While the Quakers, who had a majority in the assembly, were inclined to submit to the Stamp Act, the merchants and lawyers of the Morris, Willing, and Dickinson faction came out with the Proprietary party, the Presbyterians and Anglicans against it. They were able in this way to make capital against the anti-Proprietary party, and enlisted the Scotch-Irish and some of the Germans in their cause.

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