Editor’s Note: Breaking up with Britain was hard to do, as this somewhat ambivalent June 20, 1775 declaration attests (and as does Thomas Jefferson’s initial draft of ‘the’ Declaration of Independence). On the one hand, Charleston’s provincial Congress makes clear that it desires “nothing more ardently than a speedy reconciliation with our Mother Country upon constitutional principles.” It also stresses, though, that it’s because of the “wicked counsels” of the king that they have little choice but to declare to the world “that our taking up arms is the result of dire necessity, and in compliance with the first law of nature.”
Declaration of the Provincial Congress to the Governour
Charleston, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 20, 1775
When the ordinary modes of application for redress of grievances, and the usual means of defence against arbitrary impositions have failed, mankind generally have had recourse to those that are extraordinary. Hence the origin of the Continental Congress, and hence the present representation of the people in this Colony.
It is unnecessary to enumerate the grievances of America; they have been so often represented, that your Excellency cannot be a stranger to them. Let it therefore suffice to say, that the hands of His Majesty’ s Ministers, which have long lain heavy, now press us with intolerable weight. We declare, that no love of innovation, no desire of altering the Constitution of Government, no lust of independence, has had the least influence upon our councils. But, alarmed and roused by a long succession of arbitrary proceedings by wicked Administrations; impressed with the greatest apprehensions of instigated insurrections, and deeply affected by the commencement of hostilities by the British Troops against this Continent, solely for the preservation and defence of our lives, liberties, and properties, we have been impelled to associate and take up arms.
We sincerely deplore those slanderous informations and wicked counsels by which His Majesty has been led into measures which, if persisted in, must inevitably involve America in all the calamities of civil war, and rend the British Empire. We only desire the secure enjoyment of our invaluable rights, and we wish for nothing more ardently than a speedy reconciliation with our Mother Country upon constitutional principles.
Conscious of the justice of our cause, and the integrity of our news, we readily profess our loyal attachment to our Sovereign, his Crown and dignity; and trusting the event to Providence, we prefer death to slavery.
These things we have thought it our duty to declare, that your Excellency, and through you,our august Sovereign, our fellow-subjects, and the whole world, may clearly understand, that our taking up arms is the result of dire necessity, and in compliance with the first law of nature.
We entreat and trust, that your Excellency will make such a representation of the state of this Colony, and of our true motives, as to assure His Majesty that, in the midst of all our complicated distresses, he has no subjects in his wide dominions who more sincerely desire to testify their loyalty and affection, or who would be more willing to devote their lives and fortunes in his real service.
By order of the provincial Congress at Charlestown:
HENRY LAURENS, President.
American Archives, Vol. 2, Fourth Series, Peter Force, ed., Washington, D.C.: M. St. Claire Clark and Peter Force, 1846, p. 1043
The Remembrancer, Or Impartial Repository of Public Events, Volume 1, Thomas Pownall, Ed., London: Printed for J. Almon, 1775, p. 116
Principles and Acts of the Revolution in America, Hezekiah Niles, Baltimore: Printed by William Ogden Niles, 1822