Richard Henry Lee: Declares independence for Virginia

Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, in the name and with the special authority of that province, submitted to Congress a set of resolutions affirming that the United Colonies were, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they were absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; that all political connection between them and Great Britain was, and ought to be, totally dissolved; that it was expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign alliances; and that a plan of confederation should be prepared, and transmitted to the respective colonies for their consideration and approbation. The questions then raised were first considered on the 8th. The speeches were resumed on the 10th, and it was then resolved, after further discussion, to postpone the debate for three weeks, and in the mean time to appoint a committee which should draw up a declaration in harmony with what had been proposed.

Virginia followed her declaration of principles by the formation of a constitution, which was a virtual declaration of independence. Connecticut and Delaware quickly followed, and New Hampshire, on June 15, resolved that the Thirteen United Colonies should be declared a free and independent state. Massachusetts declared in favor of complete separation from Great Britain. New York required more caution, on account of the approach of the British fleet yet it, too, declared for separation. Somewhat similar action was taken in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

All these local movements prepared the way for the great act of the Continental Congress which was to make the 4th of July, 1776, one of the most memorable dates in the history of the world. . The question of declaring the complete independence of the colonies, moved by Richard Henry Lee, was resumed on the 1st of July, when about fifty-one delegates appeared in their places. By this time the opinion in favor of separation was nearly unanimous. . Before the great business of the day came on, a letter was read from Washington, giving a very bad account of his forces at New York. The accumulated disasters of the invading army in Canada were also known; and news had been received of the threatening movement of Parker and Clinton against Charleston, but not of its defeat. The prospects of the infant republic, whose birth was about to be formally announced to the world, were, therefore, far from encouraging; yet the faith of those daring statesmen in the force and vitality of their idea was sufficient to triumph over all discouragements and all adverse fortunes.

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