BB NOTE: Not known until now, it appears that the Prime Minister of England, Lord North, received a copy of the Declaration of Independence on August 4, 1776 – a full month after the landmark document was adopted by the Continental Congress, and quickly penned a response which may have never been read since the Congress became otherwise engaged. Found lodged inside an old trunk in a dusty corner of the attic in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, it was certified authentic and sent to the British Museum for further study. The original parchment, though severely frayed and faded with time, has been carefully restored through a gift of the Colonial Loyalists, Windsor CT Chapter. It is now reprinted in its entirety:
August 4, 1776
The Declaration of Independence from the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS meeting in Philadelphia contains much that is positive and encouraging about the priorities of those who met last month in the Commonwealth 0f Pennsylvania. The ‘tenets of liberty” spelled out in the document will be acceptable to and shared by the vast majority of Englishmen in the British Isles and Colonies, even if there may be differences of emphasis and perspective on some issues.
I agree that our British Colonies need to be united in their commitments on these matters, and I have no doubt that His Majesty’s Government will wish to affirm all these positive aspects of the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS’ deliberations. Despite the claims of some, the conviction of liberty and justice for all and the absolute imperative of no taxation without representation are not in dispute in the common life of our British Colonies.
However, the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS’ proposals for the way ahead are problematic in all sorts of ways, and I urge those who have outlined these to think very carefully about the risks entailed.
A democratic government, which consists only of a self-selected group from among the leaders of our British Colonies, will not pass the test of legitimacy for all in the British Colonies. And any claim to be free to operate across His Majesty’s boundaries is fraught with difficulties, both political and practical – political because of our historic commitments to mutual recognition of commerce in our British Colonies, practical because of the obvious strain of responsibly exercising representative authority across enormous geographical and cultural divides.
Two questions arise at once about what has been proposed. By what authority are British subjects deemed acceptable or unacceptable members of any new democratic government? And how is effective discipline to be maintained in a situation of overlapping and competing jurisdictions?
No-one should for a moment impute selfish or malicious motives to those who have offered support of the British Colonies; these actions, however we judge them, arise from political and financial concern. But one question has repeatedly been raised which is now becoming very serious: how is a representative in another colony able to discriminate effectively between a genuine crisis of political relationship and commercial integrity, and a situation where there are underlying non-political motivations at work? We have seen instances of intervention in colonies whose leadership is unquestionably loyal simply because of local difficulties of a personal and administrative nature. We have also seen instances of Loyalists disciplined for scandalous behaviour in one jurisdiction accepted in another, apparently without due process. Some other Loyalists have unhappy experience of this problem and it needs to be addressed honestly.
It is not enough to dismiss the existing structures of our British Colonies. If they are not working effectively, the challenge is to renew them rather than to improvise solutions that may seem to be effective for some in the short term but will continue to create more problems than they solve. This challenge is one of the most significant focuses for the forthcoming meeting of Parliament. One of its major stated aims is to restore and deepen confidence in our British identity. And this task will require all who care as deeply as the authors of the Declaration say they do about the future of England to play their part.
The language of ‘colonialism’ has been freely used of existing patterns. No-one is likely to look back with complacency to the colonial legacy. But emerging from the legacy of colonialism must mean a new co-operation of equals, not a simple reversal of power. If those who speak for the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS are willing to share in a genuine renewal of all our patterns of reflection and decision-making in our British Colonies, they are welcome, especially in the shaping of an effective agreement for our future together.
I believe that it is wrong to assume we are now so far apart that all those outside the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS are simply proclaiming another policy. This is not the case; it is not the experience of thousands of faithful and loyal British subjects in every colony. What is true is that, on all sides of our controversies, slogans, misrepresentations and caricatures abound. And they need to be challenged in the name of the respect and patience we owe to each other in honor of His Majesty, King George III.
I have in the past quoted to some in our British Colonies who would call themselves radical the words of Patrick Henry, ‘give me liberty.’ I would say the same to those in whose name this declaration has been issued. An impatience at all costs to clear the Lord’s field of the weeds that may appear among the shoots of true life will put at risk our clarity and effectiveness in communicating just those ‘liberties’ which the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS Declaration of Independence presents.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE: Crumbled up into a ball, another old parchment was also found in the dusty trunk in the attic of Independence Hall under the signature of His Majesty King George III. Again, it has been dutifully restored by the Loyalists Brigade of Buckingham County, Virginia. Here is the text in its entirety:
Much of our Nobility must be lamenting the latest emission from the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS. Our Nobility has always been broader than some find comfortable. This declaration does not represent the end of our Nobility, merely another chapter in a centuries-old struggle for dominance by those who consider themselves the only true royalists. Nobles will continue to exercise their lordship over their lands, serve the peasants in their domain, and build advantageous relationships with others across the globe, despite the desire of a few leaders to narrow the influence of our Nobility. We look forward to the opportunities of our Court for constructive conversation, inspired oration, and relational encounters.
HM George III
King of Great Britain and Ireland