A summary of colonial grievances from Delaware (1774)


At a town meeting in Lewestown, Delaware on July 28th 1774, Thomas McKean rose to summarise colonial grievances against Britain. McKean was a lawyer who later served as president of the Confederation Congress and chief justice and state governor of Pennsylvania.


“…The following [British policies and actions] will appear, to say the least, lawless usurpations:

First, restraining the colonists from manufacturing their own iron, by erecting slitting mills, etc.

Second, restraining the transportation, and thus the manufacturing, hats of our own peltry, etc.

Third, the grievous oppression of preventing farmers to carry their own wool even across a ferry, though the rivers, waters, havens, etc., are given us by our Charters.

Fourth, the changing the boundaries of colonies, and obliging men to live under constitutions to which they never consented, as part of Massachusetts Bay joined to New-Hampshire.

Fifth, suspending the legislative powers of New York by Act of Parliament, until they should quarter troops sent to raise an illegal tribute by military execution.

Sixth, the memorable and detestable Stamp Act.

Seventh, the Parliamentary claim to make laws “binding us in all cases whatsoever,” consequently, to regulate our internal police, give, take away, change, and infringe, our constitutions and charters, for which we have the most solemn faith of the Crown and nation for their inviolable security.

Eight, their assuming to lay sundry taxes upon us, though self-taxation is the basis of English freedom. At the distance of three thousand miles, the Parliament arbitrarily demands the strings of every American’ s purse… though they are not included in the same tax nor ever were chosen for our representatives.

Ninth, their denying us the right to give our own money to our own King, on his legal demand; a right which Britons, from earliest histories, have enjoyed, and to secure which they have often spent much blood and treasure.

Tenth, their laying a tax on paper, glass, painters’ colours, and tea.

Eleventh, and though this [was] repealed by non-importation, the American virtue, and the influence of our friends, a tax on tea was and is continued, as the badge of our slavery.

Twelfth, the mean stratagem, unworthy of the representatives of a free and great nation, of attempting to enslave us; by pretending a favour to the East India Company, which Americans bravely rejected and disconcerted.

Thirteenth, finding this stratagem would not prevail, they have thrown off the mask and are now dragooning us into a surrender of our rights by the last bills, and wreaking their unjust vengeance on those who cannot submit to their impositions.

Fourteenth, maintaining a standing army in times of peace, above the control of the civil powers, at Boston, etc., which no Briton can submit to.

Fifteenth, extending the obsolete Act of Henry VIII to drag Americans to Britain to be tried, contrary to our birth-right privilege of juries of our own neighbourhood…

Seventeenth, the rewarding and advancing of Captain Preston, for the very reason of his murdering some young men at Boston.

Eighteenth, fleets and armies sent to enable the Commissioners of the Customs, authorised by Parliament, in violation of all English liberty, to plunder freemen’ s houses, cellars, trunks, bed-chambers, etc…

Twentieth, ungratefully disheartening us and adding insult to injury; quartering insolent troops upon us to provoke the injured to mobs; and sending over men of the worst characters for governors, judges and officers to some Colonies; refusing to hear any complaints of maladministration…

Twenty-first, another distressing grievance, is, that the British Ministry receive no information of the state of the Provinces, unless from their very enemies, the governors, judges and officers, while cries and petitions of the injured and oppressed colonies, even from general congresses and assemblies, will not be favoured with a hearing, and by them kept back from the ear of our Sovereign…

Twenty-sixth, and finally, to show us that the stipulated faith of the Crown during the reign of his present Majesty, is good for nothing at all; and to convince us that we have nothing that we may call our own, even charters and constitutions themselves, another Bill has also passed… to change, infringe, and destroy all that was worthy their care in the solemn Charter of the Massachusetts Bay…

Twenty-seventh, hence on the whole we have gradually lost our free constitution, English liberties and charters, and are really under military government, a state to be deprecated by all good men; so that if we say a word against a Tea Tax, a Boston Port Bill, or any arbitrary and tyrannical imposition, we may expect, like Boston, to have our estates, trade, deeds, etc., taken away, and dragoons sent to insult us. And if they murder us, they are not amenable under our laws…

Here is a dreadful catalogue indeed! And I doubt not, said he, there are many more which have escaped my memory.”