Rally for Independence in the State House Yard
James Cannon,Timothy Matlack, Christopher Marshall, Daniel Roberdeau,Tom Paine, and Benjamin Rush were among the leaders urging independence. According to Tom Paine the Assembly must go as it derived its authority from the British monarch and not the people. A Steering Committee was established and called for the formation of a new government reflecting the will of the people. At a mass meeting in the State House Yard, orators read aloud Congress’s resolution and gathered signatures to petition the Assem- bly to disband. John Adams observed the rally and wrote an account of the meeting.
John Adams to James Warren
May 20, 1776 My Dear Sir, Every Post and every Day rolls in upon Us. Independence like a Torrent. The Delegates from Georgia made their Appearance this Day in Congress with unlimited Powers and these Gentlemen themselves are very firm. South Carolina, has erected her Government and given her Delegates ample Powers . . . . North Carolina have given theirs full Powrs, after repealing an Instruction given last August against Confederation and Independence. This Day Post, has brought a Multitude of Letters from Virginia, all of which breath the same Spirit. . . . Here are four Colonies to the Southward who are perfectly agreed now with the four to the Northward. Five in the Middle are not yet quite so ripe; but they are very near it. . . . Pennsylvania Assembly meets this Day and it is said will repeal their Instruction to their Delegates which has made them so exceedingly obnoxious to America in General, and their own Constituents in particular. We have had an entertaining Maneuvre this Morning in the State House Yard. The Committee of the City summoned a Meeting at Nine O’Clock in the Stte House yard to consider of the Resolve of Congress of the fifteenth instant. . . . [A] stage was erected, extempore for the Moderator, and the few orators to ascend—Coll. Roberdeau was the Moderator; Coll. McKean, Coll. Caldwallader and Coll. Matlack the principal orators. It was the very first Town meeting I ever saw in Philadelphia and it was conducted with great order, Decency and Propriety. The first step taken was this: the Moderator produced the Resolve of Congress . . . and read it with a loud senatorial Voice that might be heard a Quarter of a Mile. . . . Then a Number of Resolutions were produced, and moved, and determined with great Unanimity. . . . The Drift of the whole was that the Assembly was not a Body properly constituted, authorized, and qualified to carry the Resolve for instituting a new Government into Ex- ecution and therefore that a Convention should be called. And at last they voted to support and defend the Mea- sure of a Convention, at the Utmost Hazard and at all Events, etc.
Exterior View of Independence Hall, Philadelphia
National Archives, NWDNS-66-G-1E-6
Source: Warren-Adams Letters, Vol. 1, 1743–1777 (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1917), pp. 249–51.