No Affiliation Alliance

The Committee of Five


“The Committee of Five” By: Robert Marcoccio

In 1689, philosopher John Locke published his “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” and by 1765 had become a motivating force leading up to the American Revolution.

Locke’s political argument that natural rights gave the people the right to overthrow tyrannical leaders was combined with influence from the “country party” in Britain which at that time was introducing a new political structure called republicanism. The corruption of the English Monarchy was also being challenged within its own country and among many of the colonist in America feared that this corruption was being brought to America. Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Br’ede et de Montesquieu, another political theorist emphasized the writing of state and national constitutions which would be used to protect the common citizen from the oppressive abuse of the monarchy. The use of a constitution began with the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Rights (1628) and the English Bill of Rights (1689). This was the argument by the British American colonies, for the foundation of secession from the British Empire. Many colonial leaders felt that these documents granted them the same protections from parliament as if they were in England. Members of parliament enacted authorities that suppressed the colonial legislatures and its citizens to be subordinate to the direct authority of parliament without recourse.

After the death of King George II in October 1760, British custom officers in New England began to enforce the Navigation Acts with the use of open-ended search warrants. These warrants were permanent and transferable that could be enacted at any moment at the leisure of the customs agents and in many circumstances was used to harass merchants and private citizens with destructive intent to property while exempting the agents from liability.

The “Writ of Assistance” warrant later became the foundation for the creation of Fourth Amendment. In 1763, a Massachusetts Lawyer, James Otis, made his argument on behalf of 63 merchants that these writs violated English common rights dating back to the Magna Carter. Although his case was lost it was acknowledged later by John Adams who was twenty-five when he and other colonist crowded the court room to witness the argument that this singular event in his reflection established the initial energy leading to revolution.

“Every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there, the child Independence was born.”

Other infractions against the American colonies involved the King George III veto of legislation that undermined the authority of colonial representation of its citizens. The end of the Seven Years War, and the French and Indian War left a standing British Army in the Colonies. The English Parliament then levied taxes against the colonies, that the colonial legislatures argued they had no representation in Parliament. The Stamp Act of 1765 was the foundation in creation of Article I Section 9 Clause 4 – a refusal to taxation without representation. Treaties such as the Proclamation of 1763, and the Quebec Act of 1774 were seen as restricting the colonies from expanding west and south. Colonist thought that they should have had a voice in the making these treaties rather than have them arbitrated directly by Parliament. On March 5, 1770 a protest against the actions of British customs resulted in what became known as the Boston Massacre and a former African slave Crispus Attucks became the first casualty of the American Revolution being shot dead with three others. On April 19, 1775 the first battle of the revolution began in Lexington green, Massachusetts and for the next year the siege of Boston kept British regulars at bay within the confines of the British port city.

On July 8, 1775 the Colonial Congress attempted to resist further confrontation against Britain and submitted the “Olive Tree Petition” which was an affirmation of colonial loyalty to the crown. The indifference of the Crown to acknowledge this resolve resulted in consequence when on August 23, 1775; North Carolina became the thirteenth colony to ratify the Articles of Association consummating the establishment of The Thirteen United Colonies of North America. This of course escalated to the challenge of the Prohibitory Acts of December 1775, which the crown declared the actions of the colonies “an open and avowed rebellion” and at this point the hope of reconciliation disappeared.

On May 27, 1776 the following resolutions were read before the Continental Congress and ordered to “lie on the table.” The actions initiated by these resolutions would not be complete till November 28, 1777 when a copy of the proposed Articles of Confederation was sent to be delivered to each of the thirteen colonies in anticipation of their approval.

“… pursuant to the Plan concerted by the British Ministry for subjugating America, the King and Parliament of Great Britain have usurped a Power over the Persons and Properties of the People unlimited and uncontrouled and disregarding their humble Petitions for Peace…” Halifax resolution presented by North Carolina April 12, 1776 was the first official action calling for independence from Britain.

“For as much as all the endeavours of the United Colonies, by the most decent representations and petitions to the King and Parliament of Great Britain, to restore peace and security to America under the British Government, and a reunion with that people upon just and liberal terms, instead of a redress of grievances, have produced, from an imperious and vindictive Administration, increased insult, oppression, and a vigorous attempt to effect our total destruction”

– Resolution of Virginia May 15, 1776

On June 7, 1776, before the Continental Congress, Richard Henry Lee read the “Resolution of Independence” declaring the united colonies free and independent states and no longer under the control of the British Empire. On June 11, 1776, five representatives were selected to; draft a resolution of independency (the committee of five): second to draw up a plan of diplomacy (September 1776) and third to construct a form of republic confederation by the authority of the “Grand American Association of the Thirteen United Colonies of North America” (November 1777).

    The Committee of Five Was Formed ~

Roger Sherman (April 19, 1721 – July 23, 1793), was born in Newton, Massachusetts and moved with his family to Stoughton when he was two. There his early education relied upon his father’s private library and tutoring by Rev. Samuel Dunbar. After his father’s death in 1743, the family moved to New Milford, Connecticut, where Roger, with his brother, opened the first town store. In 1745, he became the county surveyor of New Haven. He later became the first mayor of New Haven, Connecticut and in spite of his lack of a formal legal training had passed the Bar exam and later wrote the “A Caveat Against Injustice” in 1752, which became in design the new republics monetary system. He was the only American to sign the four most significant documents in the foundation of our nation: the Continental Association of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation (1777) and the United States Constitution (1787). In 1766 – 1788 presided as judge of the Superior Court in New Haven, Connecticut. He then began publishing his own astronomical calculations for almanacs beginning in 1788. He also authored Article I Section 10 of the United States Constitution. In 1791 Sherman was finally elected a United States Senator where he served till his death in 1793. He was chosen as a representative of Connecticut to serve on the Committee of Five to help draft a resolution of “declaration” in 1776.

“We are making these measures absolute. This is a favourable crisis for crushing paper money. If the consent of the Legislature could authorize emissions of it, the friends of paper money would make every exertion to get into the Legislature in order to license it.”

Sherman’s motion unconditionally prohibiting any state from making “any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts” was quickly approved and became the Supreme Law of the Land. (Article I Section 10 clause 1, August 28, 1787).

Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 – April 17 1790), was one of twenty brothers and sisters whose formal education ended at age ten when he went to work and by the age of twelve was working in apprenticeship for his brother, James’s paper “The New England Courant” where he had his first article published. He ran away to New York at the age of sixteen then returned to Philadelphia looking for work as a printer. He became celebrated as the “first American” for all his attributes as an inventor, scientist, musician, businessman, writer, publisher, diplomat, and philosopher. He founded the Library Company of Philadelphia in 1731. He married Deborah Read in 1736, and had three children. He was a clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly from 1737-1753. He was Postmaster of Philadelphia and Member of the Pennsylvania Assembly from 1751-1764. He was the Deputy Postmaster of the British Colonies in America and founded the Academy of Sciences of Philadelphia in 1753. He became the Agent to Europe for Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts from 1757-1762 and later represented the American colonies before Parliament in regards to the “Stamp Act” in 1765. He was re-known for his printing and retired at the age of 42 where he dedicated his life to civil duty. He published the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanac, Father Abraham’s Sermon, and his autobiography “Fart Proudly: Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School”. He founded the Union Fire Company on December 7, 1736 which was the first official fire department. He established the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1751 with Doctor Thomas Bond, this was the first infirmary institution in America and is still in operation today. He established the American Philosophical Society in 1745. He held an honorary doctor of Laws from the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, and was Postmaster of the American Colonies till he was elected to the Second Continental Congress in 1775. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the Constitution (1788). He became the Commissioner to the French Court in 1776, Minister plenipotentiary to the French Court in 1779, Negotiator of the Treaty of Paris, and Versailles 1781-1783 that ended the revolution against the British. He was a member of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery in 1785 and a senior member of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He was chosen to serve as a representative of Pennsylvania on the Committee of Five to help draft a resolution of “declaration” in 1776.

“…it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape, than that one innocent Person should suffer…

Thomas Jefferson (April 13.1743 – July 4, 1826), Third of ten children whose education began in 1752 where he began studying Latin, Greek, and French. From 1758-1760 he received a classical education from minister James Maury and studied history and science. At sixteen he entered the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and studied philosophy, mathematics, and metaphysics. His study of British Empiricists was no doubt his foundation in his Deism religious beliefs. He was a member of the F.H.C. Society in college graduating with honors in 1762. He was admitted to the Bar in 1767. After his father’s death in 1757, He had inherited five thousand acres and about 250 slaves. In 1769, he represented Albemarle County in the House of Burgesses. His first publication was in 1774, “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” which was based upon the resolutions he proposed against the Coercive Acts and that argued that Parliament was the British legislature and had no authority in the colonies. He served in the Second Continental Congress beginning in June of 1775. He was Governor of Virginia from 1779 – 1781. In 1783 he was appointed to the Congress of the Confederation. In 1884, he became a minister plenipotentiary and Minister to France from 1785-1789. From 1790-1793 he served as the first Secretary of State. He wrote the text of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and the constitution draft in 1787 but did not attend the Philadelphia Convention in 1788 -1789. He was elected as Vice President from 1797-1801 and became the third President of the United States 1801 – 1809. He established the Democratic-Republican Party which initiated the two party system that is still currently in use today. He was chosen to serve as a representative of Virginia on the Committee of Five to help draft a resolution of “declaration” in 1776.

“Believe me, dear Sir: there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose; and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America.”

– Thomas Jefferson November 29 1775

John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) born in Braintree, Massachusetts where his father, a church deacon died in 1761. His rise to prominence began in 1765 when he opposed the “Stamp Act”. He was author of “True Sentiments of America” published in 1765 by the Boston Gazette. He defended the eight British soldiers responsible for the Boston massacre – six were acquitted, and two were convicted of manslaughter for firing into the crowd. He was elected to the Massachusetts colonial legislature in 1770. He was appointed to the First and Second Continental Congress from 1774 -1777. He was author of “thoughts on Government” published in 1776. Following the defeat of the Continental Army on August 27, 1776 Adams was sent with Benjamin Franklin to negotiate a peace with British General William Howe at Staten Island, New York Harbor on September 11, 1776. The discussions failed because Adams and Franklin refused to rescind the “Declaration of Independence”. He served as head of the Board of War and Ordinance in 1777. In fall of 1779 he drafted the Massachusetts Constitution. He was appointed Minister of Plenipotentiary to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce with Britain in 1782. He became ambassador to in the Dutch Republic. In 1785, Adams was appointed as ambassador to Great Britain. He was author to “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States” published in 1787. Adams was elected to Vice President from 1789- 1796. He became the second President from 1797 -1801. He died during the presidential term of his son, John Quincy Adams, a few hours apart from the death of Thomas Jefferson on July 4, 1826. He was Chosen to serve as a representative of Massachusetts on the Committee of Five to help draft a resolution of “declaration” in 1776.

“Adams argued that the colonists had never been under the sovereignty of Parliament. Their original charter was with the person of the king and their allegiance was only to him. If a workable line could not be drawn between parliamentary sovereignty and the total independence of the colonies, he continued, the colonies would have no other choice but to choose independence”.

Adams’s opposition to the Stamp Act was because the Stamp Act deprived the American colonists of two basic rights guaranteed to all Englishmen, and which all free men deserved: rights to be taxed only by consent and to be tried only by a jury of one’s peers.

Robert R, Livingston (November 27, 1746 – February 26, 1813) was born in New York City, New York and eldest of nine brothers and sisters. His father was Judge Robert Livingston and he attended Kings College (currently Columbia University). In 1770, he married Mary Stevens, and was appointed Recorder of New York City in 1773. From 1777-1801 he was the first Chancellor of New York, He was the U.S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs from 1781 -1783 under the Articles of Confederation. He became the first judge to administer the Presidential oath of office to George Washington in 1789. He was the U.S. Minister of France from 1801 -1804. While under the direction of President Thomas Jefferson, Livingston had negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. He helped developed the first steamboat with Robert Fulton. He became a member of the Erie Canal Commission in 1811. He was a Freemason and was appointed Grand master of the Grand Lodge of New York in 1784. He died in February 1813. He was Chosen to serve as a representative of New York on the Committee of Five to help draft a resolution of “declaration” in 1776.

“We have lived long but this is the noblest work of our whole lives…The United States take rank this day among the first powers of the world”.

The congressional delegation postponed the committee that had been appointed on June 10,1776, because many members of the Congress believed the action such as Richard Henry Lee’s proposed to be premature deferring the affirming vote till July 2,1776, to give time for the other states to contemplate the action proposed. On June 11,1776, Thomas Jefferson was selected among the appointed members of the committee of five to author the declaration and though the convention vote was delayed the committee continued to deliberate the text of the document amongst themselves which was completed and first read on June 28,1776. The text was approved and accepted on July 2,1776. On its third reading to Congress on July 3,1776, the “committee of the whole” scrutinized the draft for nine straight hours editing 86 words and eliminated two clauses- a derogatory reference to the British people and the denunciation of slavery from the finished document. On the morning of July 4,1776, the document text was formally accepted and sent back to the Committee of Five for a “fair copy” re-draft to then be delivered that evening to printer John Dunlap.

The printing of the original document titled: “A DECLARATION By the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA In General Congress Assembled” was done in haste and with nervous excitement under the supervision of master printer Benjamin Franklin and author Thomas Jefferson containing some mistakes to include premature folding and smudging of still wet ink. About two hundred copies were printed and began circulation on July 5th throughout the colonies of which 27 broadside copies are known to have survived. The original handwritten declaration bearing the credential “Signed by Order and in Behalf of the Congress, JOHN HANCOCK, President. Attest, CHARLES THOMSON, Secretary” was lost. One copy was sent to George Washington who had the declaration read before his troops and another copy was sent to King George III of England and is possibly the copy discovered in the National Archives of Kew, England by a researcher cataloging a random box of old documents on July 2, 2009. On August 2, 1776 after thirty three days of debate and revision the final version of the declaration “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America” was ratified.

The plan for making treaties was not approved until September of 1776; and the plan of confederation was delayed until November of 1777 and eventually was ratified as the Articles of Confederation 1781

Prior to the drafting of what became known as the Declaration of Independence the provincial governments of the thirteen state countries that were under a united association at war against England were constructing individual state constitutions of their own. These state constitutions would later become the foundation of the first federal organization of a republic states under a constitution of the United States of America. The war against England would end in 1783 and the first official republic of America would fail in 1787 and by convention would be revised and has survived for two hundred and thirty plus years since.

The founders of our republic understood that republican values required men to put civic duty ahead of their personal desires. It was this ideal of dedication to the cause in resistance to British corruption that was becoming increasingly hostile towards the American colonies.

“Public Virtue cannot exist without private, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics…There must be a positive Passion for the public good, the public Interest, Honor, Power, and Glory, established in the Minds of the People, or there can be no Republican Government, nor any real Liberty. And this public Passion must be Superior to all private Passions. Men must be ready, they must pride themselves, and be happy to sacrifice their private Pleasures, Passions, and Interests, nay their private Friendships and dearest connections, when they stand in Competition with the Rights of society.”

This statement paled to the risk these men took to meet and confer in this act of independence that would without doubt be viewed as an act of treason against the English crown. A charge of high crime that each would surely be hung for when caught….John Hancock already had a bounty of 500 pounds posted for his capture and King George III ordered to have General George Washington beheaded and quartered upon his capture.

Appropriately this first part of three in the foundation of our country concludes with “And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

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