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time shall be no more, to the mutual benefit and advantage of all concerned; and some general regulations come into respecting trade and commerce, and provision made for the military defence of the Continent against an invading foe; and a standing Congress agreed upon, something in the form of the present, to be chosen by the freemen of the Colonies, to be entrusted with a superintending power over them for the time being, to decide disputes and adjust differences that may arise between one Colony and another; to prepare for war, or settle peace, as occasion shall require; and to direct all commercial and Continental affairs, &c.
The internal policy of each Province will come next under consideration; as to which, since their usage and customs in civil and judicial affairs have heretofore been so different, the one from the other, it cannot be expected there will be an exact uniformity among them; though it would be happy if they might agree in all essential particulars; as it would tend to cement their union, and make them coalesce as one Continental body politick, and prevent all vain-glorying and boasting, that lesser distinctions might be swallowed up in a laudable emulation to support and vindicate their honour as Americans. This nice, delicate business of settling internal policy and government will be much more difficult in some Colonies than others, as the change and alteration will be greater when the proposed revolution takes place. As Connecticut, I apprehend it may be effected with the utmost ease, should they only form a new instrument, as the charter of a free corporation, to establish and confirm the rights and properties of the people, and substitute the respectable, august name of Congress, or whatever title was assumed by the ruling States of America, instead of that of Majesty. They might, in all other respects, go on in their old forms, as to their General Assemblies, Courts of Judicature, &c. Connecticut, from the beginning, has been a free State, and proved a nursery of freemen; and though but small in compass, yet can afford more able-bodied, effective men, for publick service, and larger quantities of good provision for an army, than perhaps any spot of earth on the globe of the like bigness and extent; which is owing, I imagine, to the inhabitants being educated in a spirit of liberty and industry, frugality, and good economy. I could wish that her liberal form of Government might be looked into by our sister Colonies, and what they find excellent in it might be adopted for their good. Not that I would propose it as a perfect model and plan; for I am full in the opinion that it is capable of much emendation and improvement, and that the people, as they grow in wisdom and knowledge, will alter the manner of their conduct in sundry particulars, and be so careful of their rights as not to trust such matters to the management and disposal of others which belong to themselves. All authority and power in this Colony, it is allowed, originates and derives from the right source, viz. from the People. From hence it is inferred, and strongly asserted by many, that no man can come into publick office only by their free choice and election; which is not true, unless the doings of the Governour, Council, and Representatives, chosen by them, may bo; considered, in all respects, as the doings of the people. The said people have all that liberty and freedom I could wish for in annually choosing their Governour and Council, and their Representatives, spring and fall. But it is my humble opinion that they are not wise and prudent to entrust them wholly and absolutely with the disposal of all lucrative posts, offices, and commissions: these are the inherent right of the people, and ought to be looked upon as their gift to the person that enjoys them, and not the gift of such as they have appointed to serve them as rulers. If the people would keep this right and power in their own hands at large, as they certainly might do without much difficulty, it would effectually shut the door against the mean, wicked arts of bribery and corruption, and be the strongest guard and bulwark for liberty, against all approaches of despotism and tyranny. As the freemen are annually assembled in a publick meeting to put in their votes and suffrages for a Governour, Counsellors, and Representatives, why might they not, at the same meeting, nominate and appoint a number of well-qualified persons to be commissioned for the peace, and in each County a Sheriff, Judges for the County Court, Field-Officers for the Regiment, within their bounds, as often as is necessary? And why might not Judges for the Superior Court be thus chosen by the freemen of the Colony as well as their Counsellors, &c.? But, however this is, I insist upon it, that, as to inferior Magistrates—such as Justices of the Peace, on whose virtuous and exemplary conduct the peace and good order of society do so much depend—none ought to be admitted into the commission but only by the free choice and election of the people they are to serve; who, without dispute, are better acquainted with the talents, qualifications, and conduct, of persons in their several districts than their Representatives, and have a fuller knowledge of the disposition of their neighbours, and can make a wiser judgment whether they are friends or enemies to the rights and liberties of mankind, and discover who may be safely trusted with such an office, and who is most likely to be useful in it, by promoting the publick good of society, and acting as a Minister of God for good; besides, the people at large are not so liable to be corrupted and bribed as are a few individuals whom they may choose to represent them. A wicked Magistrate—that loves the business of the law, or at least the profits of it, the wages of unrighteousness, and uses his art and influence to stir up strife and contention, angry debates, and law-suits, in neighbourhoods and societies, and has evil-doers for his chosen companions—cannot, with propriety, be called a Justice of the Peace—but a promoter of discord and confusion; and will be a plague and vexation to mankind in all his connections, and be the object of their detestation. No business that can be done by the people themselves should ever be trusted to their Delegates. The observation of this easy maxim, which is agreeable to common sense, would prevent a multitude of mischief and confusion in the world. But not to enlarge; should the other Colonies examine the internal policy and Government of Connecticut, in order to draw any plan from it, it is to be hoped that they will distinguish her excellences from her defects and imperfections, and that the inhabitants themselves may, in time, grow wiser, and better understand these things that so nearly relate to their well-being and happiness.
GENERAL SCHUYLER TO PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
[Read March 29, 1776, and referred to Mr. Wythe, Mr. Harrison, and Mr. S. Adams.]
Albany, March 21, 1776.
SIR: Yesterday I was honoured with your polite favour of the 7th instant. It is in vain for me to attempt a description of the sentiments it has inspired me with. Let it suffice that I will attempt, in the discharge of my duty to Congress and my dear country, to render a series of thanks.
Five Companies of Colonel Burrells are arrived; the remaining three are daily expected. One of Colonel St. Clairs is also come up; and I hope the whole will soon be here.
I am exceedingly happy to learn that the gentlemen Commissioners will be here so soon, They will experience all that attention which is due to their merit and the respectable body by whom they are sent.
Colonel Allen is not yet arrived. He will meet with a reception consonant with that esteem and respect which I have the honour to entertain for you.
I am, sir, most sincerely and respectfully, your obedient, humble servant,
To John Hancock, Esquire.
MAJOR FRENCH AND OTHERS (PRISONERS) TO CONTINENTAL CONGRESS.
[Read May 7, 1776.]
Hartford, Connecticut, March 21, 1776.
The undersigned, Officers of his Majestys Troops, prisoners at Hartford, in Connecticut, beg leave to make the following representation to the honourable Continental Congress:
Captain Williams, Lieutenant Smith of the Royal Artillery, and Captain McKay, made prisoners at St. Johns, desire to join Major Preston, and that garrison, at Lancaster, or elsewhere.
Captain Williams, late commanding officer of the Artillery at St. Johns, represents that, in consequence of capitulation, he went to Montreal, as Quartermaster of Artillery, and Lieutenant Smith marched with Major Preston and the