Colonel Benjamin Cleveland Chapter
Sheffield Declaration: America's First Bill of rights
This past weekend on January 12,2007, the town of Sheffield Massachusetts
celebrated the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Sheffield Declaration.
The Sheffield Declaration was the first Colonial American petition against the
British tyranny and the first manifesto demanding Individual rights for the
average Colonial citizen.
On January 5, 1773, nine men met in the home of Col. John Ashley to
discuss the problems being faced by the local citizens that were being caused
the British government. Some of the problems were the taxes caused by the
stamp act, sugar act and tea act. Other problems included property seizure by
the local governments to help pay for the French and Indian war, similar to
what was going on at Alamance NC in 1770.
When finished the nine men came up with 13 Declarations. Here are some of
the most important ones:
1) That Mankind in a state of Nature are equal, free, and independent of each
other, and they have the right to the undisturbed enjoyment of Life, liberty
and the ownership of property.
Sound familiar? In the Declaration of Independence written 3 years later in
1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote" We hold these truths to be self evident, that we
are created equal and that we are endowed by our creator with certain
unalienable rights which include Life , liberty and the pursuit of happiness".
2) That the great end of any political society is to secure a more effectual
manner those rights and privileges wherewith God and nature has made us Free
3) That Americans are entitled to all privileges and rights of natural born
4)That every American subject has the right to free and uncontrolled
enjoyment, use and any improvement of his estate and property, and shall not
be deprived in whole or in part.
5) That the last acts of Parliament of great Britain for the express purpose
of raising, regulating, and collecting a revenue in the colonies is
unconstitutional. The Americans had been taxed by the Stamp Act, sugar act
and tea act. the Stamp act and Tea act caused the most problems with the
Colonists. In England, the first Stamp act was in 1694 after a war with
France. Parliament thought that since the English citizenry had no problem
with it that the American Colonists wouldn't either. Were they ever wrong.
Riots finally caused the Stamp Act To be repealed one year later.
The Tea Act. American colonists loved their tea. In 1772, it was recorded
that the American colonists drank one and a half million gallons of tea.
Since the Americans didn't want to pay the tax they smuggled over 900 million
pounds of tea leaves into the colonies.
6) The introduction of Civil Officers unknown in the original charter is
a great grievance.
7) That it is the right of every subject to be tried in their local
vicinity in which they live when charged with a crime
8) the local court has the power to exempt a person from taxes when due
to poverty cannot pay them
9)The Government doesn't have the right to deprive a person of his
property and reduce him to a state of beggary.
10) That the peaceful enjoyment of any privileges to the people of the
province depend on the uprightness of the executive officers and judges.
The other 3 declarations had to do with the type of character that the
judges and Governor should have when chosen for this duty.
The Sheffield Declaration was signed by Theodoric Sedwick, one of the
finest attorneys in Massachusetts, silas Kelly,john Ashley,Lemual
Bernard,Aaron root,John Fellows,phillip Callender,William Day,and Ebenezer
The Sheffield Declaration wa published in the Massachusetts Spy, a newspaper
in Boston one month later on February 13, 1773. This document would become the
first Bill of Rights in the American Colonies.
08/17/2008 09:07 PM -0400
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