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Sheffield Declaration

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 British subjects
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 Riots finally caused the Stamp Act To be repealed one year later.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 Smith.
 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.

Last Update:  08/17/2008 09:07 PM -0400
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