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Lesson One

Reading 9B

The Diary of Dr. James Clitherall

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.James Clitherall, a visitor from South Carolina, observed the rally and wrote a very different account of the meeting.

The rage of the multitude at present only vented itself in whisperings, but on a recom- mendation of Congress that those Colonies that did not find their present form of govern- ment sufficient for the exigency of the times, would settle a form of government for themselves, the rage of the people burst out in a protest against their present Assembly, who had instructed their Delegates not to vote for Independency. A meeting of the people was called. I attended it. The paper calling the meeting was produced recommending a number of resolves; the Committee of Inspection proposed the appointment of a chair- man; Roberdeau was seated. The different questions were then put; the people behaved in such a tyrannical manner that the least opposition was dangerous. . . .

The questions were put, at the first of which, a man because he would not vote as they did was insulted and abused, I therefore thought it prudent to vote with the multitude and we resolved, that the present Assembly was incompetent to form a new constitution, which was absolutely necessary and called a conference of committees from each county to debate whether a convention should be held or a new Assembly chosen. In the mean time the publick papers were filled with protests and remonstrances. Scandal and abuse; nay, any gentleman who offered to speak in favor of the old constitution was abused and one pub- lished, and threatened in the Evening Post. . . .

Source: “Extracts from the Diary of Dr. James Clitherall, 1776,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XXII, pp. 469–70.


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