Editor’s Note: This eloquent declaration was issued by the denizens of Wrentham, MA, who possessed a “zeal for the common rights of mankind,” and were dismayed that the same “spirit of oppression” that prompted them to leave Britain in the first place has now pursued them in their new habitat.” And so they declared themselves “independent on Great Britain,” and committed their “lives and fortunes” to doing whatever necessary to make the break permanent.
Declaration of Independence, Town of Wrentham
WRENTHAM, NOKFOLK COUNTY.
June 5, 1776.
At a general Town-Meeting of the Freeholders, and other inhabitants of this Town, being warned, qualified, and assembled as the law directs, at the publick Meeting-House in the First Precinct in this Town:
To Messrs. BENJAMIN GUILD, JOSEPH HAWS, and Doctor EBENEZER DAGGETT, chosen to represent this Town the ensuing year:
GENTLEMEN: We, your constituents, in full town-meeting, June 5th, 1776, give you the following Instructions, viz:
Whereas tyranny and oppression, a little more than a century and a half ago, obliged our forefathers to quit their peaceful habitations and seek an asylum in this distant land, amidst a howling wilderness, surrounded with savage enemies, and destitute of almost every convenience of life, was their unhappy situation. But such was their zeal for the common rights of mankind, that they, under the smiles of Divine Providence, surmounted every difficulty, and in a little time were in the exercise of civil Government under the charter of the Crown of Great Britain. But after some years had passed, and the Colonies had become of some Importance, new troubles began to arise: the same spirit which caused them to leave their native land still pursued them, joined by designing men among themselves. Letters began to be written against the Government, and the first Charter soon after destroyed. In this situation, some years passed before another Charter could be obtained; and although many of the rights and privileges of the first Charter were abridged by the last, yet in that situation the Government has been tolerably quiet until the year 1763, since which the same spirit of oppression has risen up. Letters by divers ill-minded persons have been written against the Government, in consequence of which divers acts of the British Parliament have been made, mutilating and destroying the Charter, and wholly subversive of the Constitution. Fleets and armies have been sent to enforce them, and at length a civil war has commenced, and the sword is drawn in our land, and the whole United Colonies involved in one common cause. The repeated and humble petitions of the people have been wantonly rejected with disdain. The Prince we once adored has commissioned the instruments of his hostile oppressions to lay waste our dwellings with fire and sword, to rob us of our property, and wantonly to stain the land with the blood of its innocent inhabitants. He has entered into treaties with the most cruel nations, to hire an army of mercenaries to subjugate the Colonies to his cruel and arbitrary purposes. In short, all hopes of an accommodation are entirely at an end. A reconciliation has become as dangerous as it is absurd. A recollection of past injuries will naturally kindle and keep alive the flames of jealousy. We, your constituents, therefore, think that to be subject to or dependant on the Crown of Great Britain would not only be impracticable, but unsafe and dangerous to the State. The inhabitants of this town, therefore, in full town-meeting, unanimously instruct and direct you to give your vote, if the honourable American Congress (in whom we place the highest confidence under God) should think necessary for the safety of the United Colonies to declare them independent on Great Britain, that we. your constituents, with our lives and fortunes, will most cheerfully support them in the measure.
Touching the internal policy of this Colony, it has been found, by long experience, a great charge to a great number of the towns in the Colony that they have to go to but one town in each County for the Probate of Wills and the Register of Deeds. We, your constituents, are of opinion, that each office would be more to the advantage of the people, were they kept in each town, under suitable directions. Therefore, we, your constituents, instruct you to use your influence in the General Court to obtain an act enabling the several towns in this Colony to keep each of said offices within the limits of the same.
Gentlemen, not doubting your zeal and abilities in the common cause, and your firm attachment to peace and good order, and in the same confidence in your sincere attachment to the publick weal, we readily submit all other matters of publick moment that may require your consideration to your own wisdom and discretion.
American Archives, 6th series, Peter Force, Editor, 1843, pp. 699-700
American Scripture: The Making of the Declaration of Independence, Pauline Maier, New York: Vintage, 1998