Thursday, May 15, 2014

On This Day in History: May 15, 1776

By Lacey Villiva
Education Manager

In May of 1776, George Mason was a part of the newly formed Virginia Convention.  He arrived late, on the 18th, to the convention, due he said to "a smart fit of the Gout," to find that "the first grand Point has been carried nem: con: [nemine contradicente, or without dissention]."  That point was a resolve to the Virginia delegation at the Continental Congress to pursue independence from Great Britain.

The Lee Resolution, with notations on
which of the new states supported the idea
of Independence.  Courtesy of NARA.
Edmund Pendleton, speaker of the Virginia Convention, signed the resolution.  It "Resolved unanimously, that the delegates appointed to represent this colony in General Congress be instructed to propose that respectable body [the Continental Congress] to declare the United Colonies free and independent states."  Mason, as per usual, was not particularly happy with the wording, finding "the Preamble is tedious, rather timid, & in many Instances exceptionable," but hoped that "it may answer the Purpose."  Fortunately it did.  It took Thomas Ludwell Lee, to whom the instructions were sent, two weeks to receive it and present it before the Continental Congress.  On June 7th, the Lee Resolution was presented before Congress.  And from there, was born the ultimate decision to write a Declaration of Independence.  Jefferson was tasked with drafting the document, and as public memory serves, the 4th of July became the date of independence for what would become the United States.

The Virginia Convention's resolution continues however, stating that "a committee be appointed to prepare a Declaration of Rights, and such a plan of government that will be most likely to maintain peace and order in this colony."  Without even knowing that the Continental Congress would approve, Virginia moved forward with its own plans of independence.  George Mason would be on the committee to draft that Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Constitution which would be ratified nearly a month before the Declaration of Independence.

Mays, David John, ed. The Letters and Papers of Edmund Pendleton, 1734-1803, vol. I. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1967.
Rutland, Robert A. ed. The Papers of George Mason 1725-1792, vol. 1. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970.

No comments:

Post a Comment