At least ninety state and local declarations of independence, taking various forms, preceded Thomas Jefferson's. Here is one striking example, signed by manual laborers in the Mechanick-Hall, New York, in May 1776. In the resolution, the laborers instruct1 their representatives in the Provincial Congress to instruct the New York representatives in the Continental Congress to declare independence.From Voices of A People's History, edited by Zinn and Arnove
To the Honourable Representatives of the Province of New-York, in Provincial Congress convened.
The humble Address of the General Committee of Mechanicks in union, of the City and County of New-York, in behalf of themselves and their constituents:
GENTLEMEN: We, as a part of your constituents, and devoted friends to our bleeding country, beg leave, in a dutiful manner, at this time to approach unto you, our Representatives, and request your kind attention to this our humble address.
When we cast a glance upon our beloved continent, where fair freedom, civil and religious, we have long enjoyed, whose fruitful field have made the world glad, and whose trade has filled with plenty of all things, sorrow fills our hearts to behold her now struggling under the heavy load of oppression, tyranny, and death. But when we extend our sight a little farther, and view the iron hand that is lifted up against us, behold it is our King; he who by his oath and station, is bound to support and defend us in the quiet enjoyment of all our glorious rights as freemen, and whose dominions have been supported and made rich by our commerce. Shall we any longer sit silent, and contentedly continue the subjects of such a Prince, who is deaf to our petitions for interposing his Royal authority in our behalf, and for redressing our grievances, but, on the contrary, seems do take pleasure in our destruction? When we see that one whole year is not enough to satisfy the rage of a cruel Ministry, in burning our towns, seizing our vessels, and murdering our precious sons of liberty; making weeping widows for the loss of those who were dearer to them than life, and helpless orphans to bemoan the death of an affectionate father; but who are still carrying on the same bloody pursuit; and for no other reason than this, that we will not become their slaves, and be taxed by them without our consent,—therefore, as we would rather choose to be separate from, than to continue any longer in connection with such oppressors, We, the Committee of Mechanicks in union, do, for ourselves and our constituents, hereby publickly declare that, should you, gentlemen of the honourable Provincial Congress, think proper to instruct our most honourable Delegates in Continental Congress to use their utmost endeavors in that august assembly to cause these United Colonies to become independent of Great Britain, it would give us the highest satisfaction; and we hereby sincerely promise to endeavour to support the same with our lives and fortunes.
Signed by order of the Committee,
Lewis Thibou, Chairman
York Mechanics Declaration of Independence (May 29, 1776). In Peter
Force, ed., American Archives: Consisting of A Collection of
Authentick Records, State Papers, Debates, and Letters and Other
Notices of Publick Affairs, the Whole Forming a Documentary History
of the Origin and Progress of At North American Colonies; of the
Causes and Accomplishment of the American Revolution: and of the
Constitution of Government for the United States, so the Final
Ratification Thereof,'6 vols. (Washington, O.C.: M, St. Clair
Clarke and Peter Force [Under Authoriry of Acts of Congress). 1646).
4th scr. (A Documentary History of the English Colonies in North
America from the long's Message to Parliament, of March 7, 1774, to
the Declaration of Independence, by the United States), vol. 6,
pp. 614-15. Misspellings are in original.
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