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Page 3

James Wilson

1742-1798


   Notwithstanding that a declaration of independence had been spoken of for some time previously to the fourth of July, 1776, no motion was brought forward in congress respecting it, until the 7th of June. This motion was referred the following day to a committee of the whole, but it was postponed until the tenth of June. On the arrival of the tenth of that month, the following resolution was offered: "That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved." The consternation of this resolution was postponed to the first of July, on which day it was expected that the committee which was appointed to draft a declaration, and which consisted of Mr. Jefferson, J. Adams, Dr. Franklin, and R. R. Livingston, would report.
   At length, the first of July arrived, when the motion was further discussed, and the question taken in committee of the whole. The declaration received the votes of all the states excepting Pennsylvania and Delaware.
   The delegates of the former state were four to three in the opposition; the delegates of the latter, Thomas M'Kean and George Read, were divided, the one in favor of the measure, the other opposed to it. The final question was postponed from day to day, until the fourth of July, when it was taken, and an unanimous vote of all the states was obtained. The day was rainy. Of the Pennsylvania delegation, Messrs. Morris and Dickinson were absent, and consequently the vote of Pennsylvania was now in favor of the measure, Messrs. Wilson, Franklin, and Morton, being in favor of it, and Messrs. Humphreys and Willing being o posed to it. Fortunately, at this juncture, Caesar Rodney, a delegate from Delaware, arrived. He had been sent for by an express from Mr. M'Kean, and arrived in time to vote with that gentleman, in opposition to their colleague, George Read.
   Thus, an unanimous vote of the thirteen colonies was secured. Thus, a question was decided which deeply agitated the whole American community, and the decision of which was fraught with blessings to the country, which will go down, we trust, to the end of time.
   In a preceding paragraph we have intimated that a charge was brought against Mr. Wilson of being opposed to the declaration of independence. Had such been his sentiments, who could have charged him with a want of patriotism? The truth is, there were hundreds, and even thousands, at that day, in America, as Strongly attached to the cause, as friendly to her liberties, and as firmly resolved never to surrender the rights which the God of nature had given them, as were those who voted in favor of a declaration of independence, but who yet thought the time had not arrived when the wisest policy dictated such a measure. Mr. Wilson was, indeed, not altogether of this class. He would perhaps not have brought forward the subject at so early a day; but when it was brought forward, he voted in favor of it, on the first of July, even in opposition to the majority of his colleagues; and on the fourth, as it happened, fortunately for the cause of his country, in a majority.

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Last modified December 31, 2003