Declaration... [on] Taking Up Arms. [Newspaper printing]


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(JEFFERSON, Thomas and DICKINSON, John). A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, now met in General Congress at Philadelphia, Setting forth the Causes and Necessity of their taking up Arms… IN: The New-England Chronicle: Or, The Essex Gazette. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Printed by Samuel and Ebenezer Hall, in Stoughton Hall, Harvard-College, Vol. VII. Numb. 365., July 21 – July 27, 1775. Folio (10 by 15 inches), one large sheet folded once for four pages. Housed in a custom portfolio.

An extraordinarily rare July 1775 Massachusetts newspaper printing (occupying the entire front page) of one of the greatest state papers of the American Revolution and the most important forerunner to the Declaration of Independence: the July 6, 1775 "Declaration… Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms," written by Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson for the Second Continental Congress.

Within a month of the battles of Lexington and Concord, the second Continental Congress met in may 1775. Delegates included John Hancock, John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, and John Dickinson, among others. Hancock was chosen president, and George Washington was chosen as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. The majority of the delegates were unsure about what should be done about the ongoing crisis with Great Britain, and while some thought reconciliation with Britain was still possible, others strongly believed that war was inevitable. Their ambivalence is reflected in their actions, debates, and writings. On July 5, Congress drafted the Olive Branch Petition, a letter to George III in which they appealed for the final time to their king to hear their grievances in order to avoid more bloodshed. But the next day, on July 6, Congress issued one of its most important documents, their "Declaration… [on] the causes and necessity of their taking up Arms," written by Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson. It is a strong statement of grievances against Britain (including taxation without representation, interference with commerce, and violation their rights to trial by jury) as well as a plea for peace and reconciliation. Its purpose was to justify before the world their armed resistance to the British Parliament's attempt to enforce an absolute authority over the colonies: "Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great… the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of our liberties, being with one mind resolved, to die Freemen rather than to live as slaves."

The committee appointed on June 23 to draft this declaration consisted of Jefferson, Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, John Rutledge, William Livingston, and Thomas Johnson. The original declaration was rejected, and Jefferson was asked to write a new draft. "Jefferson took up his first writing assignment for Congress, and prepared a new version of what became its 'Declaration… [on] taking up arms.' Dickinson, the senior man, offered various criticisms of Jefferson's manuscript. Then, after that headstrong Virginian—Jefferson's pride in authorship made its appearance early—rejected most of his suggestions, Dickinson prepared another extensively revised draft, which Congress approved with minor changes on July 6, 1775. In later years, Jefferson claimed that his composition had been 'too strong for Mr. Dickinson,' who 'retained the hope of reconciliation with the mother country, and was unwilling it should be lessened by offensive statements.' He forgot that in mid-1775, he, too, had hoped for reconciliation. Jefferson's version… assured the colonists' friends in Britain and other parts of the Empire that the American 'mean not in any wise to affect that union with them in which we have so long & so happily lived, and which we wish so much to see again restored,' and expressed continued faith in the 'good offices' and 'friendly dispositions' of 'our fellow subjects beyond the Atlantic.' Dickinson, in fact, had made Jefferson's draft stronger, more assertive, even threatening. He expanded the list of oppression that, as the document said, forced colonists to choose between 'an unconditional submission to the Tyranny of irritated Ministers, or Resistance by Force,' and inserted a statement that necessity had 'not yet' driven the colonists to disrupt the empire, which raised the possibility of Independence more explicitly than Jefferson had done. But Independence, the Declaration on Taking Up Arms emphasized, was not what the colonists wanted. 'We have not raised armies with the ambitious designs of separating from Great-Britain, and establishing Independent states," Congress declared. The Americans were willing to lay down their arms 'when Hostilities shall cease on the part of the Aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed,' but, the Declaration added, 'not before' that occurred" (Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, 19-20).

The "Declaration… [on] Taking Up Arms" is one of the greatest of the state papers of the Revolution and the most important precursor to the Declaration of Independence. Before issuing the Declaration of Independence, "Congress had produced some fifteen other state papers in the form of letters, petitions, proposals, addresses, and a speech, but it had issued only one other 'declaration' as a formal precedent for the Declaration of Independence: the 'Declaration… [on] Taking Up Arms" of July 6, 1775…. In it, [Jefferson and Dickinson] had acknowledged 'obligations of respect to the rest of the world, to make known the justice of our cause' and had 'exhibit[ed] to mankind' the plight of a wronged people. Like the Declaration of Independence, the 'Declaration… [on] Taking Up Arms' marked a decisive turning point in the struggle between Britain and its American colonies: in this case, the move by the colonists to formal armed conflict" (Armitage, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History, 31-32).

The text of the Declaration takes up the entire front page (all three columns) and the first column on the second page. The rest of this newspaper issue contains other Revolutionary material, such as: the King's May 27 speech; a May 31 report from London about the war ("Parliament is expected to be recalled immediately. It is a determined Measure in Council that neither BLOOD nor TREASURE shall be spared to bring our American Brethren to what is called a sense of their duty. Four more regiments, we hear, will be ordered forthwith to America…"); a copy of General Lee's July 11 letter declining an interview proposed by General Burgoyne; an ad announcing the publication of Timothy Pickering's An Easy Plan of Discipline for a militia; and ads concerning runaway slaves, soldiers who have deserted, and "strayed or stolen" horses. Of special note is a report on the July 1775 meeting of the General Assembly of Massachusetts, which lists the names of those who will be representing towns and districts in the colony as well as those who have been elected Counsellors, including John Adams, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams. The Declaration was issued by Congress on July 6, 1775, and there were contemporary newspaper, pamphlet, and broadside printings, all of which are very rare. According to Powell, it was first printed as a pamphlet in Philadelphia by the Bradfords (the printers to the Continental Congress), and then immediately printed in newspapers." The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, printed by the Bradfords (apparently without special orders from Congress), was reprinted in newspapers at once, and as a separate [pamphlet or broadside] in New York (twice), in Newsport, Providence, Watertown, Portsmouth, Bristol, and London… So it is curiously doubtful if there is in the proper sense a government imprint of this deeply moving, important document" (Powell, Books of a New Nation, 52). Early newspaper printings like this one are extraordinarily rare and do not often appear on the market. Early owner signature in the upper left margin.

Original folds with only very light wear and small occasional holes. Near-fine condition. A great rarity.

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