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23d day of APRIL, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six;
The Presentments of the Grand Jury for the said District:
I. Fully sensible and thoroughly convinced that to live in a society without laws, or a proper execution of them, to restrain the licentious nature of mankind, is the greatest misery that can befall a People, and must render any body of men, in such a situation, but little superior to a herd of brutes; and being no less sensible that it was the scheme of a corrupt, nefarious Administration in Great Britain, to reduce the good people of this Colony to that wretched situation, from a want of officers to execute the laws, (those whom they had appointed having refused to act in their respective stations,) that, through the evil effects of anarchy and confusion, the people might become an easy prey to the cruel designs of their insidious enemies: While we lament the necessity which has obliged the people to resume into their hands those powers of Government which were originally derived from themselves for the protection of those rights which God alone has given them, as essential to their happiness, we cannot but express our most unfeigned joy in the happy constitution of Government now established in this Colony, which promises every blessing to its inhabitants, which a people, endued with virtue and a just regard to the rights of mankind, could desire. With gratitude to the Divine Ruler of human events, and with the most pleasing expectations of happiness from a Constitution so wise in its nature, and virtuous in its ends, (being founded on the strictest principles of justice and humanity, and consistent with every privilege incident to the dignity of a rational being,) we cannot but declare we think every opposition to its operations, or disregard to its authority, the foulest criminality a mortal can be guilty of; highly offensive in the eyes of God, and of all just men, and deserving the most exemplary punishment.
We cannot but deplore the unhappy situation of any few amongst the people of this Colony, who through an ignorance of their true interests and just rights, and from a want of proper information of the real truth, may be misled, by the artifice and cunning of their false and designing enemies, from a real sense of those benefits which our present Constitution has so amply provided for; benefits which are not confined or limited to any ranks or degrees of men in particular, but generally, equally, and indiscriminately, extending to all, from the richest to the poorest, and which time and a little patient experience must soon evince.
Every good citizen must be happy in the consideration of the choice of those officers, appointed in the administration of our present Government, as well in the impartial mode of an appointment arising from the people themselves, and the limited duration of their power, as in their personal characters as men, justly beloved and revered by their country, and whose merits and virtues entitle them to every pre-eminence.
Filled with these sentiments, arising from mature deliberation and the most impartial inquiry, we must further declare that blessings such as these we have before enumerated, are too inestimable to be lost, and that nothing in nature can repay the least violation of them; and although an accommodation with the power which attempts to destroy them may be highly worthy of attention, and, upon principles truly honourable, of obtaining, yet we think it a sacred duty, incumbent upon every citizen, to maintain and defend, with his life and fortune, what is given and intrusted to him by the hand of Providence, not for his own good only, but for the lasting happiness of posterity; a trust which no law can ever annul, which is the grand principle of existence, and the source of every social virtue.
II. We present, as a grievance intolerable to the spirit of a people born and nurtured in the arms of freedom, and (though ever submissive to the just mandates of legal authority) holding every oppression as detestable, the unjust, cruel, and diabolical acts of the British Parliament, not only declaring the good people of the United Colonies of North-America Rebels, for defending those invaluable rights which no human power can lawfully divest them of, but making all murders, rapines, thefts, robberies, and other inhuman oppressions, done before the passing of those acts without authority, and which were, after the passing the said acts, to be done by the British forces in these Colonies, legal and warrantable, to the eternal disgrace and indelible infamy of a kingdom once renowned for her justice, honour, and humanity, but now meanly descending to that wanton profligacy which even Savages abhor.
III. We present, as a very great grievance, the indulgence allowed to all those who are inimical to the liberties of America, and the operations of the United Colonies, amongst us, in suffering them to reside here, and be admitted to intercourses dangerous to the peace and welfare of this Colony.
IV. We present, that the publick oaths, directed by an act of the General Assembly (passed since the forming of our present Constitution) to be administered to those exercising publick offices, trusts, and professions, are not administered to such of the Clergy as are included in the same.
V. We present, that the times at which the several Parochial Committees meet, or are appointed for their meeting, are not made publick; and we do recommend that they do publish the same in the publick papers, that all persons who are desirous of obtaining leave to sue for debts, may know when to apply.
VI. We present, as a great grievance, more particularly at this time, the want of due attention to the roads and ferries in this Colony; many of the roads not being sufficiently wide and worked upon, agreeable to law, and the ferries, in general, not having boats sufficient to forward passengers upon any emergent occasion.
VII. We present, as a grievance, the too frequent forestalling out of the wagons, coming from the back parts of the country, the many necessaries of life, by which the good inhabitants of this town are obliged to pay most exorbitant prices for the same; and, with submission, would recommend a place to be appointed for the sale of bacon, flour, butter, and other such necessaries, brought to town in carriages, to be regulated by the market act.
VIII. We present the want of a proper person, by law, to oblige the sellers of blades and hay to weigh the same at a publick scale.
INSTRUCTIONS TO DELEGATES FOR CHARLOTTE COUNTY, VIRGINIA.
At a meeting of the Committee of Charlotte County, April 23, 1776, present the Chairman and fifteen Members:
Resolved, That in this truly alarming and important crisis of our publick affairs, it is expedient that the Delegates lately chosen for this County should know the sentiments of their constituents, and be instructed what part it is desired and expected they will act in the ensuing Convention.
To PAUL CARRINGTON, and THOMAS READ, Esqs:
GENTLEMEN: When we consider the despotick plan adopted by the King, Ministry, and Parliament of Great Britain, insidiously pursued for these twelve years past, to enslave America; when we consider that they have tuned a deaf ear to the repeated petitions and remonstances of this and our sister Colonies, and that they have been equally inattentive to the rights of freemen and the British Constitution; and when we consider that they have for some time been endeavouring to enforce their arbitrary mandates by fire and sword, and likewise encouraging, by every means in their power, our savage neighbours, and our more savage domesticks, to spill the blood of our wives and children; and to crown the whole, they have added insult to their injustice and cruelty, by repeatedly pretending to hold out the olive-branch of peace in such a way as teacheth us that they are determined to persist in their hellish designs, and that nothing is intended for us but the most abject slavery; of this we can no longer doubt, since we have been made acquainted with a late letter from the Secretary of State to Govemour Eden, and the late act of Parliament for seizing and confiscating all our ships and property that may fall into their hands:Therefore, despairing of any redress of our grievance