In 1775, a group of patriots gathered in a North Carolina town known as Cross Creek. Now part of Fayetteville, North Carolina, the spot where the tavern they gathered in is only a few miles from my home. These men gathered at the tavern not for a night out with the boys, but to sign a document known as the Liberty Point Resolves. Their gathering was in reaction to the then recent events a Lexington and Concord in the colony of Massachusetts. The text of their document is…
Resolved, That the following Association stand as the Association of this Committee, and that it be recommended to the inhabitants of this District to sign the same as speedily as possible.
The actual commencement of hostilities against the Continent by the British Troops, in the bloody scene on the nineteenth of April last, near Boston; the increase of arbitrary impositions, from a wicked and despotick Ministry; and the dread of instigated insurrections in the Colonies, are causes sufficient to drive an oppressed People to the use of arms: We, therefore, the subscribers of Cumberland County, holding ourselves bound by that most sacred of all obligations, the duty of good citizens towards an injured Country, and thoroughly convinced that under our distressed circumstances we shall be justified before you in resisting force by force; do unite ourselves under every tie of religion and honour, and associate as a band in her defence against every foe; hereby solemnly engaging, that whenever our Continental or Provincial Councils shall decree it necessary, we will go forth and be ready to sacrifice our lives and fortunes to secure her freedom and safety. This obligation to continue in full force until, a reconciliation shall take place between Great Britain and America, upon constitutional principles, an event we most ardently desire. And we will hold all those persons inimical to the liberty of the Colonies who shall refuse to subscribe to this Association; and we will in all things follow the advice of our General Committee, respecting the purposes aforesaid, the preservation of peace and good order, and the safety of individual and private property.
By 1775 this was merely another in the long list of documents and pledges that had already been approved, signed, published and sent to King George.
The first was the Virginia Resolves, pushed through the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1765 by the newly elected Patrick Henry. He accomplished this with truly impressive oration and without the use of a teleprompter. As described by u-s-history.com:
On May 30, Henry gave his maiden speech in the assembly and defended his resolutions. He expanded the scope of his criticism to include not only Parliament, but the king as well. Speaking of George III, he stated that, “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell and George the Third — .” At that point he was interrupted by cries of “Treason!” from delegates who easily recognized the reference to assassinated leaders. Henry paused briefly, and then calmly finished his sentence: “…may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it.”(emphasis mine)
This was Henry’s first speech as a member of the House of Burgesses, one that I consider a true classic and resulted in the passing and signing of the Virginia Resolves in reaction to the Stamp Act of 1765. These Resolves read:
Resolved, That the first adventurers and settlers of this His Majesty’s Colony and Dominion of Virginia brought with them, and transmitted to their posterity, and all other of His Majesty’s subjects since inhabiting this His Majesty’s said Colony, all the liberties, privileges, franchises, and immunities, that have at any time been held, enjoyed, and possessed, by the people of Great Britain.
Resolved, That by two royal charters, granted by King James the First, the colonists aforesaid are declared entitled to all liberties, privileges, and immunities of denizens and natural subjects, to all intents and purposes, as if they had been abiding and born within the realm of England.
Resolved, That the taxation of the people by themselves, or by persons chosen by themselves to represent them, who can only know what taxes the people are able to bear, or the easiest method of raising them, and must themselves be affected by every tax laid on the people, is the only security against a burthensome taxation, and the distinguishing characteristick of British freedom, without which the ancient constitution cannot exist.
Resolved, That His Majesty’s liege people of this his most ancient and loyal Colony have without interruption enjoyed the inestimable right of being governed by such laws, respecting their internal polity and taxation, as are derived from their own consent, with the approbation of their sovereign, or his substitute; and that the same hath never been forfeited or yielded up, but hath been constantly recognized by the kings and people of Great Britain.
Resolved therefore, That the General Assembly of this Colony have the only and sole exclusive right and power to lay taxes and impositions upon the inhabitants of this Colony, and that every attempt to vest such power in any person or persons whatsoever other than the General Assembly aforesaid has a manifest tendency to destroy British as well as American freedom.
Resolved, That His Majesty’s liege people, the inhabitants of this Colony are not bound to yield obediance to any law or ordinance whatever, designed to impose any taxation whatsoever upon them other than the laws or ordinances of the General Assembly aforesaid.
Resolved, That any person who shall, by speaking or writing, assert or maintain that any person or persons other than the General Assembly of this Colony, have any right or power to impose or lay any taxation on the people here, shall be deemed an enemy to His Majesty’s Colony.
The Virginia Resolves were the first and the Liberty Point Resolves were 10 years later but they did not stand alone. The Virginia Resolves were followed by Declaration of Rights and Grievances (October 1765), An Inquiry into the Rights of the British Colonies (1766), Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1767), Massachusetts Circular Letter (February 1768), Boston Pamphlet (1772), Sheffield Declaration (January 1773), Chestertown Resolves (May 1774), Bush River Resolution (March 1775), Suffolk Resolves (September 1774), Orangetown Resolutions (July 1774), Mecklenburg Resolves (May 1775), Liberty Point Resolves (June 1775), Tryon Resolves (August 1775), Halifax Resolves (April 1776), Fairfax Resolves (July 1774), Hanover Resolves (July 1774), Fincastle Resolutions (January 1775), Virginia Declaration of Rights, (June 1776).
Every group of dissatisfied citizens across the Colonies had something to say about what they wanted for their colony and their soon to be, and in many cases unthought-of, Nation. The two examples I posted above each had portions that should ring familiar to Americans even today. Many of the thoughts and desires of the colonials who wrote and signed these many and varied “Resolves” and “Declarations” found their way into our founding documents.
So today, when many find fault with the “Mount Vernon Statement” it should not disqualify the statement as a viable and foundational document. It took 19 documents to state the desires and beliefs of somewhat over a million colonists in 1775. I have no idea how many it will take to state the beliefs and desires of 300 million Americans today. The “Mount Vernon Statement” is but one of the many which should and must follow. Every Tea Party and 9-12 group should write and sign their own, reflecting their own local values. Then hold their local politicians feet to the fire. As our political consciousness is flooded with these Resolves, we can map our path to a new found dedication to the documents which “opened all eyes to the rights of man.”