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would be forfeited. From 1764 until 1774 tne Colonies had no unity of purpose
other than in some manner to prevent taxation. After the "Tea Parties" of
Boston and New York, Boston was called upon to pay for the tea its citizens had de-
stroyed, and a blockade of the harbor was threatened. Boston called, May 13,
1774, on her sister Colonies for their "Advice on a case of such extensive conse-
quences." There was a large diversity of opinion among the Colonies, many
agreeing with Boston for a non-importation-non-exportation agreement. New.
York had appointed a large Committee of Fifty-one. At a meeting held May 23d
in the long room of the Merchants Coffee House, southeast corner of Wall and
Water Streets, a special committee, consisting of Isaac Low, chairman, Alex-
ander McDougall, James Duane, and John Jay was appointed, "to prepare a
draft of a letter in answer to those received from Boston."

This letter, one of the most important ever written, as it solved the questions
that confronted the Colonies for nearly ten years, brought about the first Congress
of the Colonies, held at Philadelphia in 1774 and called the "United Colonies of
North America." Yet histories have failed to give a copy of this important letter
while but few have even so much as mentioned either the letter or the names of
those who signed it. But it resulted in the foundation of a great nation. On
every occasion when permissible this letter should be published, and at least
once a year it should be read in every school in our country. It was written by
John Jay late in the afternoon of May 23, 1774, during the excitements per-
taining to the first meeting of our large Committee of Correspondence, in a room
in the old Coffee House, and sanctioned by men fully aware of the great personal
danger awaiting them should the cause of Liberty fail, but for all that firmly ad-


vocating the importance of unity. "The Cause is general," they declare, "and
concerns a whole Continent who are equally interested with you. and us, and we
foresee that no Remedy can be of avail, unless it proceeds from the joint Act
and Approbation of all."

A True Copy of the Famous Letter.

New York., May 23rd, 1774.

The alarming Measures of the British Parliament relative to your ancient and
respectable Town, which has so long been the Seat of Freedom, fills the Inhabitants
of this City with inexpressible Concern; as a Sister Colony suffering in Defence
of the Rights of America, we consider your Injuries as a common Cause, to the
Redress of which it is equally our Duty and our Interest to contribute. But what
ought to be done in a Situation so truly critical, while it employs the anxious
Thoughts of every generous Mind, is very hard to be determin'd. Our Citizens
have thought it necessary to appoint a large Committee consisting of fifty-one
Persons to correspond with our Sister Colonies on this and every other Matter
of publick Moment: and at ten O'Clock this Forenoon we were first assembled.
Your Letter enclosing the Vote of the Town of Boston, and the Letter of your
Committee of Correspondence were immediately taken into Consideration. While
we think you justly entitled to the Thanks of your Sister Colonies for asking their
Advice on a Case of such extensive Consequences, we lament our Inability to
relieve your Anxiety by a decisive Opinion. The Cause is general and concerns a
whole Continent who are equally interested with you and us; and we foresee that
no Remedy can be of avail, unless it proceeds from the joint Act and Approbation
of all. From a virtuous and spirited Union much may be expected: while the
feeble Efforts of a few will only be attended with Mischief and Disappointment to
themselves, and Triumph to the Adversaries of our Liberty. Upon these Rea-
sons we conclude that a Congress of Deputies from the Colonies in general is
of the utmost Moment; that it ought to be assembled without Delay and some
unanimous Resolutions formed in this fatal Emergency, not only respecting your
deplorable Circumstances, but for the Security of our common Rights. Such
being our Sentiments it must be premature to pronounce any Judgment on the
Expedient which you have suggested. We beg however that you will do us the
fustice to believe that we shall continue to act with a firm and becoming Regard
to American Freedom, and to co-operate with our Sister Colonies in every Measure
which shall be thought salutary and conducive to the publick Good.

We have Nothing to add, but that we sincerely condole with you in your
unexampled Distress; and to request your speedy Opinion of the proposed Con-
gress, that if it should meet with your Approbation, we may exert our utmost
Endeavours to carry it into Execution.

We are with much Respect, Gentlemen

Your most Hbl. Servants
By Order of the Committee,

Isaac Low, Chairman,

To the Committee of
In Boston

First Constitutional Post-Office.

In 1774 the Committees of Correspondence found it difficult, "owing to their
letters being lost," through the carelessness of the government post-riders, to ob-


tain expressions of opinion from their sister Colonies. "They were obliged to
send their letters by friends of the cause who could be trusted." William Goddard,
"a newspaper man" who had been surveyor of roads and Controller of the Post-
Office under Benjamin Franklin, went before several of the Committees, urging
the importance of a Constitutional Post-Office. Travelling through the Colonies
he had found a great need of such an office. The Boston Committee strongly
favored Goddard's scheme and was in correspondence with the other Commit-
tees, but had made little headway.

From "History of Philadelphia."

In October, 1774, about the time that the First Continental Congress was in
session, encouraged by the spirit which prevailed in the Colonies, an attempt was
made to set up an independent post-office establishment. William Goddard, who
was the publisher of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, established a post-office at the
Coffee House, southwest corner of Front and Market Streets. "At a meeting
of Merchants about 1774 his plan was proposed for their acceptance and they
listened to some of his letters setting forth the merits of his scheme, but they
refused to listen to the rest of them, declaring that Americans had their hands
full without setting up a post." He established his route between Philadelphia
and New York and perhaps to other points, and placed his post-office at the London
Coffee House, where it was opened for a short time, but soon closed for want of
patronage. John Holt, who published the New-York Journal, took the matter up
and successfully established the first Constitutional Post-Office.

From New-York Journal, May 29, 1775.

"A Constitutional Post-Office is now kept at J. Holt's Printing Office in
Water Street, near the Coffee House, where letters are received and carefully
despatched by riders who may be depended upon for faithful performances of
duty, and execution of the most important trusts that business may require, and
as none but men of property and approved character will be employed. The
Posts for Philadelphia and the southwestern Colonies set out about eight o'clock
every Monday and Thursday morning and proceed that day through the towns
of Newark, Elizabethtown, Rahway, Woodbridge, Piscataway and Brunswick to
Princeton where they must meet and exchange mail with the Posts from Phila-
delphia who pass through Frankfort, Bristol, Trenton and Maidenhead. These
posts the next day (Tuesday) return with the mails to the above post-office in
New York and to Mr. Bradford's at the Coffee House in Philadelphia, from whence
other Posts set out for the westward and eastward at the usual times. Those
from New York for the eastward set out about nine o'clock and return to New
York with the eastern mails on Wednesday and Saturday. The rates of postage for
the present are the same that they used to be under the unconstitutional post-
office, and accounts are carefully kept of all the money received from letters as
well as expended on riders, etc. That wmere the rates and rules are affixed and
offices regularly established throughout the British Colonies by each Provincial
and by the Continental Congress what shall be done before that time may be
taken into the account and properly adjusted."

Rates of Postage.

The time for the mails between New York and Philadelphia was about three
days. The postage was calculated according to distance.



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Online LibraryUnited historical and patriotic societies and assoThe need of a history of New York → online text (page 2 of 8)