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CHAPTER II.

Committee of Correspondence appointed by the Citizens of New-York.-Jay is chosen a Member.-Proposal for a General Congress.―Jay is elected a Delegate to the first General Congress.—Address of Congress to the People of England.-Provisional Congress of New-York. -Commencement of Hostilities.-Appeal of Congress to the Inhabitants of Canada.-Declaration by Congress of the Causes for taking up Arms.-Petition of Congress to the King of Great Britain. Moral Consequences of this Petition.-Jay is named a Colonel of Infantry. -Overtures of the French Government.—Measures for the repression of the Tories.-Manifesto of Congress in relation to Privateers.-Convention in New-York for the formation of a Constitution.-First Draught of that Constitution by Jay-Reflections on the Character of that

Instrument.

THE clouds which had long been gathering upon the political horizon of America now began to roll themselves towards the zenith, and burst in storms on the devoted heads of the colonists. Acts of aggression on the one side were followed

on the other by resistance to oppression and injustice. Men were called from the bosom of their families and from the pleasures of domestic life to act for their country, and to give themselves up wholly to what was required for the maintenance of its liberty. Among these was Mr. Jay, and his first office in the service of the patriots was as one of a committee appointed by the citizens of NewYork to correspond with their fellow-colonists on all matters of moment, and especially upon the manner of their resistance to the oppression of the mother country. Mr. Jay was appointed on a subcommittee, whose business was to prepare answers to such communications as might be received.

Among the labours of this sub-committee, an answer was framed to a letter from the people of Boston. The draught of this is supposed to have come from the hands of Jay. It is not a little remarkable, as it contains the first proposition for the provinces to elect deputies to a general Congress. The New-York committee, on the 4th of July, 1774, passed resolutions that their city ought to send delegates to this Congress, when and wherever it might be held; they also nominated five gentlemen, among whom was Jay, as suitable representatives. They were elected; but Mr. Jay and two of his colleagues, conceiving, from the manner of the election, that they were unfairly appointed, refused to serve, unless another electio

was held. Accordingly, a second election was held, and in a more formal manner; all who paid taxes voted, and the proceedings were countenanced and controlled by the corporation of the city. Mr. Jay was again elected, and proceeded with alacrity and cheerfulness to take his seat in a body whose existence was not countenanced by the laws of the country, and whose members would be liable to royal persecution.

The situation of a delegate to Congress seems to have been by no means considered as one that ought to be coveted, and many counties were not represented in consequence of the difficulty of finding proper persons who were willing to serve. The towns along the Hudson, unable, from these causes, to elect members, committed to the NewYork delegation the right of voting and acting for them.

Congress assembled in Philadelphia on the 5th of September, 1774. Mr. Jay took his seat on the first day of the session, and, although the youngest member, occupied a prominent place in the business of the assembly. One of the first measures of the house was the passage and recommendation of a strict non-importation act, by which the colonists bound themselves to use no production of the mother country. This act, it was fondly hoped, would, by depriving English merchants of their trade, induce them to remonstrate

against the decrees of government, and procure their repeal. No such action followed, and, by their rigid observance of this agreement, the colonists found that they had not so much injured England as almost ruined themselves; for, at the commencement of actual hostilities, they were destitute of every munition of war, every manufactured necessary of life.

Congress appointed several committees, and, among others, one for drawing up an address to the people of England, and a memorial to the inhabitants of British America; of this committee Jay was a member, and to him, young though he was, was assigned the duty of preparing the former paper. He acquitted himself well; the address was adopted by Congress, and was considered by all as no less remarkable for the sentiments it contained, than for the manner in which they were expressed. After a short session of six weeks Congress adjourned, but not until they had made provision for reassembling.

In the interval between the sessions, the City of New-York took measures, by the appointment of a committee with powers, to secure the observance of the non-importation agreement. Of this committee Mr. Jay was one. It was soon seen that

other business was to be transacted than the mere interruption of a commerce with England, and, in order to do this, it was necessary to invest so

public body with higher and more extended powers; the citizens of New-York wished also to have the sanction of the other inhabitants of the state to their measures. The Legislature of the state no longer possessed the confidence of the patriotic portion of the people, and it was advised by the existing committee (to meet all these exigencies), that an elective body should meet at New-York, performing the functions and wielding the power of that part of the government. This recommendation was acted upon. A provisional Congress, as it was called, assembled in NewYork, with Jay as a member, who was thus a third time elected to a situation of responsibility and danger.

On the 15th of May, 1775, the general Congress again assembled at Philadelphia; and although, at that time, active resistance and aggression on their part seems not to have been contemplated, yet they took every peaceable measure dictated by prudence for the maintenance of their civil liberties. The battle of Lexington seems to have developed fully to them the plans of the British government, and showed them that it was determined upon using force when other means failed. The act of open hostility to the mother country seemed to them so decided and wholly novel a step, that they were only willing to use it as a last resort; but to this resort they were soon forced,

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