[REVOLUTIONARY WAR]. Manuscript petition regarding American independence, entitled, "A General Association, agreed to, and subscribed by the Freeholders, and Inhabitants of the County of Dutchess," [New York], signed at end by 13 individuals, n.p. [Dutchess County, New York], n.d. [probably mid-1775 to early 1776]. One page, narrow folio, 440 x 166mm. (15 15/16 x 6 1/2 inches), integral blank, both sides of the blank leaf and verso of the manuscript ruled in columns for additional signatures, nearly separated at central fold, small holes at other fold intersections, browned, spotted.
THE DUTCHESS COUNTY FREEHOLDER'S DECLARATION REGARDING THE "RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES OF AMERICA"
A highly unusual manuscript documenting the reactions and opinions of a provincial county at this crucial period. It is probable, judging by the reference to "Bloody scene" in Massachusetts, that the compact was drawn up after the battles at Lexington and Concord (19 April l775) and before the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The clear expectation that a reconciliation "upon Constitutional Principles" could still be affected with Great Britain. "A general Association, agreed to and subscribed by the Freeholders, and Inhabitants of the County of Dutchess. Persuaded that the Salvation of the Rights & Liberties of America, under God, on the firm Union of its Inhabitants, in a Vigorous Prosecution of the Measures Necessary for its Safety; and convinced of the Necessity of preventing the Anarchy & Confusion, which attend a Dissolution of the Powers of Government, We, the Freeholders and Inhabitants of the County of Dutchess, being greatly alarmed at the avowed Designs of the [British] Ministry, to raise a Revenue in America; and, shocked, by the bloody Scene, now acting in the Massachusetts Bay, Do, in the most solemn Manner, resolve never to become Slaves; and to associate under all the ties of Religion, Honour, and Love to our Country, to adopt and endeavour to carry into Execution, whatever Measures may be recommended by the Continental Congress; or resolved upon by our Provincial Conventions for the Purpose of preserving our Constitution and opposing the Execution of the several arbitrary, and oppressive Acts of the British Parliament; until a Reconciliation between Great Britain and America on Constitutional Principles (which we most ardently desire) can be obtained: And that we will, in all Things, follow the Advice of our General Committee, respecting the purposes aforesaid, the Preservation of Peace and good Order, and the Safety of Individuals, and private Property." Beneath, in two columns, appear the signatures of Matthew Paterson, Joseph Chandler, Comfort Ludington, Rulen[?] Miers, James Dickinson, Isaiah Barnett, Malcolm Morrison, Alexander Kidd, Henry Ludington, Elijah Oakley, William Calkin, David Atkins and Stephen Ballter[?].
Dutchess County, a prosperous but sparsely settled area on the Hudson between Albany and New York, agreed in September 1774 to be represented in the Continental Congress by the same five delegates chosen in New York City to represent the Colony: James Duane, Philip Livingston, Isaac Low, John Alsop and John Jay. These delegates written report to the Chairman and Freeholders of the county, in November 1774, is extant (see Burnett, Letters of Members of the Continental Congress, 1921, vol.1, no.120). "The American Revolution was fomented by committees, organized by committees, and, in great measure, conducted by committees. At the first sign of trouble with the mother country, committees sprang up...to give voice to the general protest; and by the time the break came with Great Britain, the whole country...was afire with committees...For the conflagration...was not only fanned from below, to no small degree the flame was profected downward by a vigorous draft created at the top" (Concise Dictionary of American History, ed. T.C. Cochran, 1962, p.825).