Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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Page 3

Robert Treat Paine


   The assembling of such a body, and for objects of so questionable a character, was a bold step; and bold must have been the men, who could thus openly appear on the side of the colonies, in opposition to the British ministry, and the royal power. In concluding their session, in October of the same year, they presented a solemn appeal to the world, stating that innovation was not their object, but only the preservation and maintenance of the rights which, as subjects of Great Britain, had been granted to them by their ancient charters. "Had we been permitted," say they, "to enjoy in quiet the inheritance left us by our fathers, we should, at this time, have been peaceably, cheerfully, and usefully employed in recommending ourselves, by every testimony of devotion to his majesty, and of veneration to the state from which we derive our origin. Though now exposed to unexpected and unnatural scenes of distress, by a contention with that nation whose general guidance, on all important occasions, we have hitherto with filial reverence constantly trusted, and therefore can derive no instruction, in our present unhappy and perplexing circumstances, from any former experience; yet we doubt not, the purity of our intentions, and the integrity of our conduct, will justify us at that great tribunal, before which all mankind must submit to judgment. We ask but for peace, liberty, and safety. We wish not a diminution of the royal prerogatives; nor do we solicit the grant of any new right in our favour."

   To the Continental Congress, which met at Philadelphia in May, 1775, Mr. Paine was again a delegate from Massachusetts. At that time, the colonies were greatly in want of gunpowder. The manufacture of salt petre one of its constituents, was but imperfectly understood. Congress appointed a committee, of which Mr. Paine was chairman, to introduce the manufacture of it. In this particular, he rendered essential service to his country, by making extensive inquiries into the subject, and by inducing persons in various parts of the provinces to engage in the manufacture of the article. The following is among the letters which he wrote on this subject, which, while it shows his indefatigable attention to the subject, will convey to the present generation some idea of the multiform duties of the patriots of the revolution. Mr. Paine also rendered himself highly useful, as a member of a committee for the encouragement of the manufacture of cannon, and other implements of war.

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Last modified January 2, 2004