Primary Sources Logo

structural tag close window

James City County, Virginia, Statement of Independence
April 24, 1776



Consider These Questions


On April 24, 1776, a majority of freeholders in James City County, Virginia, voted to give these instructions to their representatives to the Second Continental Congress, Robert C. Nichols and William Norvell.

James City County, Virginia, Instructions to the Delegates

The Freeholders of James City being desirous of expressing their sentiments on the important subject of Independency, a majority residing in the County assembled at Allens' Ordinary, the 24th of April, 1776, for that purpose, and agreed to the following Instructions:



IN vain do we congratulate ourselves upon the impotency of the Minister to divide us, if our union amounts to nothing more than an union in one common lethargy. War hath been brought into our houses, heightened by terrours and cruelties, which the justest cause wants even palliatives for; but faint advances towards peace, insidiously urged, have caught the ear of the credulous, and groundless hopes of accommodation deluded the timid, so that the true military system remains untouched in the most essential points. As if our inexperience, poverty in warlike stores, and the infancy of our Navy, were of trifling moment, we have ventured to neglect resources, in such difficulties, which Heaven hath placed within our attainment.

Alliances may be formed at an easy price, capable of supplying these disadvantages, but an independent State disdains to humble herself to an equality in treaty with another who cannot call her politicks her own; or, to be explicit, she cannot enter into a negotiation with those who denominate themselves Rebels, by resistance, and confession of a dependency.

Reason, drawn from justice, policy, and necessity, are everywhere at hand for a radical separation from Great Britain. From justice; for the blood of those who have fallen in our cause cries aloud, "It is time to part." From necessity; because she hath, of herself, repudiated us, by a rapid succession of insult, injury, robbery, murder, and a formal declaration of war. These are but few, and some of the weakest arguments which the great volume of our oppression opens to every spirited American.

It cannot be a violation of our faith now, to reject the terms of 1763. They are a qualified slavery at best, and were acceptable to us, not as the extent of our right, but the probably cause of peace; but since the day in which they were most humbly offered as the end of animosities, an interval hath passed marked with tyranny intolerable.

We, therefore, whose names are hereunto subscribed, do request and instruct you, our Delegates, (provided no just and honourable terms are offered by the King,) to exert your utmost abilities, in the next Convention, towards dissolving the connection between America and Great Britain, totally, finally, and irrevocably.

[The above Instructions are signed by a majority of the Freeholders living in the County.]


Consider These Questions



1. What are the primary arguments made for independence in this document?

2. Which of the arguments are similar to those in Common Sense, and which are different?

3. What besides Common Sense might have influenced the points made in this document?

4. What do you think of their use of the term "slavery"? What do you think a slave might have thought about this?

 close window