Resolution of Independence Moved by R. H. Lee for the Virginia Delegation
[7 June 1776]
- That1 these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
- That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.
- That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.
- [On verso in several hands as indicated:]
- Resolved that it is the opinion of this Committee tha[t] the first Resolution2 be postponed to this day three weeks and that in the mean time3 least any time should be lost in case the Congress agree to this resolution4 a committee be appointed to prepare a Declaration to the effect of the said first resolution.5
MS (DLC: PCC, No. 23); in R. H. Lee’s hand; slightly worn and torn at the lateral edges. Endorsed by Charles Thomson: “[J]une 7, 1776. No. 4. Resolutions moved June 7th. 1776. referred for consideration till to morrow respecting Independanc[e or y] of the U.S.”
The present Resolution was introduced in accordance with the instructions sent to the Virginia delegation by the Convention of that colony, 15 May 1776, q.v. Written and introduced by R. H. Lee and seconded by John Adams, it was considered by TJ to be a motion by the Virginia delegation (John Adams, “Autobiography,” Works, iii, 51; Adams to Richard H. Lee, 24 Feb. 1821, same, x, 396; also, James Madison to Thomas Ritchie, 13 Aug. 1822, in Writings, ed. Hunt, ix, 110–11). Discussion of the Resolution was deferred until the following day (a Saturday), when it was debated in a committee of the whole, as it was again on Monday, 10 June; on the latter day the committee of the whole reported and Congress adopted the additional (fourth) resolution above (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , v, 426–9). The purpose of the postponement for three weeks (i.e., until 1 July) was “in order to give the Assemblies of the Middle Colonies an opportunity to take off their restrictions and let their Delegates unite in the measure” (Elbridge Gerry to James Warren, 11 June 1776, Burnett, Letters of Members, I, No. 699); TJ in his Notes on Debates lists the colonies requiring the postponement as New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina.
1. Here an insertion, apparently “the good people of,” was made and crossed out.
2. Up to this point this paragraph is in the hand of Benjamin Harrison, chairman of the committee of the whole.
3. Preceding words in Thomson’s hand.
4. Preceding words are written below, with a mark of insertion, in R. R. Livingston’s hand.
5. The Resolution is completed in Thomson’s hand.