[REVOLUTIONARY WAR]. [CONTINENTAL CONGRESS]. A Declaration...setting forth the causes and necessity of taking up arms, signed in type at end by John Hancock, dated 6 July 1775, in The Pennsylvania Ledger: Or, The Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania , & New Jersey Weekly Advertiser, No. 25, 15 July 1775. Philadelphia: James Humphreys Jr., 1775.
4 pages, folio (16 3/16 x 10 in.), printed three columns to the page, first page with woodcut of British royal arms at top center. Disbound, two small marginal punctures where once sewn, otherwise in very fine condition. Protective slipcase.
A VERY EARLY PRINTING OF THE DECLARATION OF "THE CAUSES AND NECESSITY OF TAKING UP ARMS"
"OUR CAUSE IS JUST. OUR UNION IS PERFECT. AND WE ARE "RESOLVED TO DIE FREEMEN RATHER THAN TO LIVE SLAVES." On his arrival to take his seat as a delegate to Congress, Thomas Jefferson was added to an existing committee charged with the drafting of a "Declaration of the causes and necessity of taking up arms." Also assigned to the drafting committee was Philadelphian John Dickinson, author of Letters from a Farmer of Pennsylvania. After several drafts, the final document remained largely the work of Jefferson. "Like all of Jefferson's writings about the imperial conroversy, this paper burns with a sense of injustice...Despite the fact that Dickinson watered down Jefferson's draft...the more resolute patriots regarded it as a spirited manifesto and it proved to be generally popular" (D. Malone, Jefferson the Virginian, p.205).
The Declaration denies the right of any group to hold "unbounded power over others." Rather, "a reverence for our great Creator, principles of humanity, and the dictates of common sense, must convince all...that government was instituted to promote the welfare of mankind, and ought to be administered for the attainment of that end...Our forefathers, inhabitants of the island of Great-Britain, left their native land, to seek on these shores a residence for civil and religious freedom. At the expense of their blood, at the hazard of their fortunes,...they effected settlements in the distant and inhospitable wilds...." In time, "Societies or governments, vested with perfect legislatures, were formed under charters from the crown," but, at the conclusion of the French and Indian War "it pleased our sovereign to make a change in his counsels...." Specific grievances are enumerated, including "depriving us of the...privilege of trial by jury," suspending the legislature of one colony, "interdicting all commerce to the capital of another [Boston], and exempting 'murderers' of colonists from trial" (a reference to the Boston Massacre).
Peace overtures have brought only renewed sanctions, and, finally, an armed attack at Lexington and Concord. Boston and its citizens are now under martial law. Gage's troops "have butchered our countrymen," and an invasion from Canada appears likely; so that "We are reduced to the alternative of chusing an unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated ministers, or resistance by force. The latter is our choice. We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery. Honour, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us....Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtably attainable...." Therefore, Congress vows that "the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume," will "in defiance of every hazard," be employed "for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves..." Finally, therefore "In our own native land, in defence of the freedom that is our birthright...we have taken up arms. We shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed, and not before."
The correspondence between some of the passages in the present Declaration with others in Jefferson's later Declaration of Independence are of considerable interest. Both broadside and newspaper printings of the Declaration are very rare.