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Lesson One

although not a candidate, marshaled support for the Moderates by door-to door campaigning in Philadelphia. One of the Independents, in an article released shortly before the election, called for granting the right to vote to all men in the armed forces—regardless of age, the amount of property they owned, or length of time they had resided in Pennsylvania. The Moderates responded by asking the public not to turn the government over to violent men with radical plans to change the electorate. They likewise assured the public that they were not irrevocably committed to a policy of reconciliation with Britain. The Moderates made their views clear on election eve in the Pennsylvania Evening Post, “If the fatal necessity should evidently arise, which will justify new declarations, and a change of measures, such men [the Moderates] will never dissent from the general voice of their constituents.”

The Moderates won three of the four Assembly seats for Philadelphia giving them control of the Assembly despite the vote from the backcountry. When the election results from the eight western counties were tallied the Moderates had showed considerable strength in the backcountry, long considered a hotbed for independence.

Franklin returned to Philadelphia on May 6, and was greeted by ringing church bells.The following day the Assembly appointed him to serve as one of its delegates to the Second Continental Congress. Although expected to clamor for independence, for a month Franklin remained silent on the question. John Adams, a vigorous proponent of independence, realized that Pennsylvania’s vote was essential since the middle colonies would undoubtedly follow its lead. In order to accomplish what the Pennsylvania election had failed to do, Adams proposed, at the opening session of the Congress, a resolution calling for the colonies, “where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs have been hitherto established” to adopt new governments to meet the demands of the day. The resolution passed and Pennsylvanians who supported independence called for the establishment of a new government while Dickinson argued that the resolution did not apply to Pennsylvania since it had a government in operation that was “sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs.” Although Dickinson had played a major role in colonial opposition to Britain, he fervently opposed independence.

Apparently outmaneuvered, Pennsylvanians who supported independence resorted to every opportunity to discredit the Assembly and capitalized on word that foreign mercenaries were being sent to the colonies to put down resistance by force of arms. However, nothing seemed to work. Finally, the Independents decided to use a parliamentary strategy to block all legislation. Assembly rules required two-thirds of the Assembly present before business could be conducted. Those favoring independence simply refused to attend meetings. Moderates were thus forced to make a decision, stand firm and bring the government to a halt for lack of a quorum or compromise. Time played against Dickinson and the Moderates. Virginia had passed a resolution asking Congress to declare the colonies free and independent states. The Moderates in the Assembly took no action. On June 1 the Independents boycotted the Assembly for four days until the Moderates agreed to debate the issue of changing their instructions to the Pennsylvania delegates in Congress. The wording of the new instructions did not openly call for a vote for independence but included the phrase “. . . in adopting such . . . measures as . . . shall be judged necessary for promoting the Liberty, Safety and Interests of America.” The way was opened for the Pennsylvania delegation to vote for independence. Dickinson, as a member of the delegation, voted againstThe Declaration of Independence, however, he volunteered to serve in the militia during the war. Once independence was declared, the Independents took a further step to bring down the state government and renewed their boycott until the Assembly agreed to call for a new constitution. The Assembly adjourned on June 14 and a committee was formed to establish a new government for the state.


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