Seeds Of Liberty

July 04, 2009

In the summer of 1776, more than a year after the start of the Revolutionary War, Maryland was among the last holdouts among the 13 colonies in authorizing a declaration of independence from Great Britain. The colony's major landholders, who dominated political affairs, were reluctant to take that step, but tradespeople, merchants and common citizens became increasingly convinced that reconciliation with England was impossible and agitated for a formal separation. The state's convention finally agreed to support independence on June 28, but communications in those days were slow. On Thursday, July 4, 1776, The Maryland Gazette of Annapolis, then the state's newspaper of record, went to press without knowledge of the momentous events that had taken place in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia that week. (Scans of the original papers are available on the Maryland State Archives Web site, www.msa.md.gov.) The front page that day was dominated by a months-old report on the happenings in Parliament in London and dispatches from sea captains and soldiers about the progress of the war. The back pages were filled with advertisements offering rewards for runaway indentured servants and want-ads for a good weaver, cord wood for a furnace and used linen rags, three pence a pound. But in between are letters written by Maryland citizens urging their representatives to break once and for all from Great Britain. Here's what Marylanders were saying 233 years ago today.

We are informed that the following INSTRUCTIONS are drawn up and signed by a great number of inhabitants of Charles County,

To Josiah Hawkins, Thomas Stone, Robert T. Hooe, Joseph B. Harrison and William Harrison, Esqrs.

WE the subscribers, freemen of Charles county, in the province of Maryland, taking into most serious consideration the present state of the unhappy dispute between Great-Britain and the United colonies, and the very great distress and hardships they have brought upon us thereby, think proper to deliver you our sentiments, and to instruct you in certain points relative to your conduct in the next convention, as representatives of this county. ...

The experiences we have had of the cruelty and injustice of the British government, under which we have too long borne oppression and wrongs, and notwithstanding every peaceable endeavor of the United Colonies to get redress of grievances, by decent, dutiful and sincere petitions and representations to the king and parliament, giving every assurance of our affection and loyalty, and praying for no more than peace, liberty and safety, under the British government, yet have we received nothing but an increase of insult and injury, by all the colonies being declared in actual rebellion; savages hired to take up arms against us; slaves proclaimed free, enticed away, trained and armed against their lawful masters; our towns plundered, burnt and destroyed; our vessels and property seized on the seas, made free plunder to the captors, and our seamen forced to take arms against ourselves; our friends and countrymen, when captivated, confined in dungeons, and, as if criminals, chained down to the earth; our estates confiscated, and our men, women and children, robbed and murdered.

And as at this time instead of commissioners to negotiate a peace, as we have been led to believe, were coming out, a formidable fleet of British ships, with a numerous army of foreign soldiers, in British pay, are daily expected on our coast to force us to yield the property we have honestly acquired, and fairly own, and drudge out the remainder of our days in misery and wretchedness, leaving us nothing better to bequeath to posterity than poverty and slavery.

We must, for these reasons, declare that our affection for the people, and allegiance to the crown of Great-Britain, so readily and truly acknowledged til of late, is forfeited on their part. And as we are convinced that nothing virtuous, humane, generous or just can be expected from the British king, or nation, and that they will exert themselves to reduce us to a state of slavery, by every effort and artifice in their power, we are of opinion that the time is fully arrived for the colonies to adopt the last measure for our common good and safety, and that the sooner they declare themselves separate from, and independent of the crown and parliament of Great-Britain, the sooner they will be able to make effectual opposition and establish their liberties on a firm and permanent basis.

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