July 10, 1776

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The Virginia Gazette, reporting on the rout at Gwynn’s Island writes, “His Lordship Dunmore lost his china by a double-headed shot, and it is said he himself was wounded in the leg by a splinter.  The fleet is driven off without water, and although they have plenty of prize flour, there is not a biscuit on board.”

John Adams writes to Abigail:  “You will see by the Newspapers, which I from time to time inclose, with what Rapidity, the Colonies proceed in their political Maneuvres. How many Calamities might have been avoided if these Measures had been taken twelve Months ago, or even no longer ago than last december?  The Colonies to the South, are pursuing the same Maxims, which have heretofore governed those to the North. In constituting their new Governments, their Plans are remarkably popular, more so than I could ever have imagined, even more popular than the “Thoughts on Government.” And in the Choice of their Rulers, Capacity, Spirit and Zeal in the Cause, supply the Place of Fortune, Family, and every other Consideration, which used to have Weight with Mankind. My Friend Archibald Bullock Esq. is Governor of Georgia. John Rutledge Esq. is Governor of South Carolina. Patrick Henry Esq. is Governor of Virginia &c. Dr. Franklin will be Governor of Pensilvania. The new Members of this City, are all in this Taste, chosen because of their inflexible Zeal for Independence. All the old Members left out, because they opposed Independence, or at least were lukewarm about it. Dickinson, Morris, Allen, all fallen, like Grass before the Scythe notwithstanding all their vast Advantages in Point of Fortune, Family and Abilities.  I am inclined to think however, and to wish that these Gentlemen may be restored, at a fresh Election, because, altho mistaken in some Points, they are good Characters, and their great Wealth and numerous Connections, will contribute to strengthen America, and cement her Union.  I wish I were at perfect Liberty, to pourtray before you, all those Characters, in their genuine Lights, and to explain to you the Course of political Changes in this Province. It would give you a great Idea of the Spirit and Resolution of the People, and shew you, in a striking Point of View, the deep Roots of American Independence in all the Colonies. But it is not prudent, to commit to Writing such free Speculations, in the present State of Things.  Time which takes away the Veil, may lay open the secret Springs of this surprizing Revolution. . . . But I find, altho the Colonies have differed in Religion, Laws, Customs, and Manners, yet in the great Essentials of Society and Government, they are all alike.”

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June 12, 1776

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Congress creates “A Board of War and Ordnance” inspired in part by the failing Canadian campaign.  Americans start a retreat from Canada.

In Williamsburg, Virginia, George Mason and the Virginia Convention adopt a declaration of rights.  This will later be the model for the U.S. Congress when they amend the U.S. Constitution to include a Bill of Rights.

In Philadelphia, Congress appoints a committee to prepare a draft of a working government entitled the Articles of Confederation.

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City Tavern – Birth of a Nation

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One of the ways that Bow Tie Tours differs from the other walking tours is our inclusion of City Tavern.  To me, City Tavern was as important a place as Liberty Hall when it came to creating the country, and I cannot imagine excluding it from a historical tour.  This, I tell people, is the place where we became a country, where we talked and argued, horse-traded and, eventually, learned to trust each other.

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When Sam Adams engineered the Boston Tea Party, in which he and a number of others, dressed as Indians, tossed tea belonging to the East India Tea Company into the sea, the act was by no means supported by all Americans.  Benjamin Franklin, for instance, considered it ill-conceived and regrettedi its occurrence.  So did many other Philadelphians, who wondered why they should become embroiled in Boston’s squabbles.

Paul Revere rode to Philadelphia to ask the question – would Philadelphia consider Boston as suffering under a “common cause” and would Philadelphians agree to boycott all British goods?  Arriving with the plea, Bostonians met with the Philadelphia “radicals” known to be on their side – Charles Thomson, Thomas Mifflin and Joseph Reed.  it was decided that they should visit John Dickinson, who lived just outside of Philadelphia.

Dickinson was at that time among the most famous of America’s patriots, due to his “Letters from a Farmer in Philadelphia,” which Americans believed demolished the British position that a direct tax on America was constitutional.  Getting Dickinson on their side would be very important.

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Dickinson, however, was less easy to pin down than his reputation might suggest.  Later, he would gain notoriety by heading the opposition to Independence at the 2nd Continental Congress.  Adams would call him a “piddling genius,” a remark which was unfortunately captured by British agents and published to the world.  In 1774, however, Dickinson, the wealthy and well-educated attorney, was in much the same kind of state of flux that others were in.  While he certainly did not consider himself among the most radical elements, he still believed that Britain had acted incorrectly both in its Tea Act and in its responses to the Tea Party.

A plan was hatched.  A meeting would be called at City Tavern, where the question of whether to support Boston and call for a boycott would be made.  The radicals, led by Thomson, would make speeches calling for stringent and quasi-military response.  Conservative elements, of which Philadelphia was filled, would no doubt respond with a call to do nothing.  It would be then left to Dickinson to come up with what would at that point sound like a moderate response – agreement that Boston was suffering in a common cause and that they deserved Philadelphians support.  It took, it should be noted, many glasses of Dickinson’s own wine before he agreed to take part in the plan, but agree he did.

The plan almost went askew the next night when Thomson, exhausted (and perhaps inebriated?) fainted during his radical speech.  Nonetheless, it went along as expected, with conservatives responding, and Dickinson coming to the rescue.  The next day it was Dickinson who brokered the agreement between the two sides.  What came about was a letter far too tepid and vague for Sam Adams and his friends.  Yet, it did discuss the “common cause” of the colonies, although it also pushed for “prudence and moderation.”  Finally, it suggested a Congress meet in Philadelphia so all could discuss the matter.

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The Congress, which would meet in Carpenter’s Hall, was not necessarily a welcome suggestion to the Sons of Liberty, who understood far too well that some saw it as a vehicle to reign in the Bostonians, rather than support them.

Nonetheless, a letter of support was born, and this became a necessary step in the byzantine and improbable journey to independence.