There are a number of things we should bear in mind about our worthy forefathers who jolted, horsebacked, coached, and laboriously wended their way to Philadelphia in the fall of 1774. Upon arrival, they did not go up and down Philadelphia ringing bells. They did not then or later stand around in fancy costumes posing for pictures in a constitutional celebration for the edification of posterity. Neither did they bellow about liberty, nor advocate revolution. (The suspect Adams, both crabby John and bright old Sam, were told to put on the soft pedal. Said Elbridge Gerry in a letter, "The fruit must have time to ripen.")

What they did do was go to the several inns. They bathed in buckets, got haircuts and shaves. Then they got acquainted.

The delegates had begun to arrive around September first, though the first meeting was not until the fifth. Many names were to loom big in the years to come: Washington, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Peyton Randolph, Richard Henry Lee, John Adams—and John's distant cousin, Samuel Adams, the "Bolshevik" of all time.

Sam was not afraid. Consequently, he was considered "dangerous." The colonial merchants had their fingers in the agitations of the day; they stood to become richer and more powerful if independence came. But every now and then they would get the jitters and think Sam Adams was "going too far." They were like some big manufacturers and bankers of another day who, after they had been helped by a great man, cursed him.

Socially, too, of course, the "better class" found Sam quite impossible. The dour John Adams, speaking of this period many years later, said: "Mr. Samuel Adams was a very artful designing man, but desperately poor and wholly dependent for his popularity upon the lowest vulgar for his living."

Forty delegates came on the fifth; later fifty-two. They got straight to work. Day and night they hit the ball.

The British had prohibited town meetings, but had forgotten to prohibit county meetings. On September 16, that romantic and shy fellow, Paul Revere, who had spent his life artistically hammering out silver, but who loved horses and liberty better, arrived in Philadelphia with the Suffolk County Resolves. The very next day the Adams contrived to introduce them on the floor of the Congress. They passed unanimously.

The Suffolk County Reserves were as radical and ringing a set of resolutions as were ever adopted. With a jolly sense of humor, they simultaneously acknowledged the King and grimly cried out for outright military and civil disobedience. They proclaimed the rights of Americans under the law of nature, and the constitution. England? Why, she was an infanticide, with a dagger at "our bosom." Great Britain? Listen: she "scourged, persecuted, and exiled our fugitive parents from their native shores, and now pursues us, their guiltless children, with unrelenting severity. . . ." The people of America will not be fettered by the shackles of slavery.

British soldiers? Their occupation was "unparalleled usurpation of unconstitutional power . . . the streets of Boston are thronged with military executioners." What, in fact, was the Royal Government doing but framing a "murderous law" to "shelter villains"?

There was also actual suspension of civil law, of the courts, of the British Government itself—a calling out of militia for America, and against Britain. This was rebellion, nothing else.

The Suffolk County Resolves set the whole tone of the First Continental Congress. Galloway, delegate from Pennsylvania, who has never received due credit for being the first and one of the biggest traitors to America, was horrified. He proposed an Imperial Constitution. Nobody paid any attention to him; later he fled to England.

On September 22, merchants and all others were requested (it was, however, understood as a positive order) to stop all orders of goods until something could be done about "the liberties of America." Five days later, the Non-Importation Resolve was rammed through.

The Non-Importation Resolve was important for two reasons: one, it made it clear that the issues were commerce and trade, or to use a more modern, and finicky word, economic; and two, it marked the real beginning of law-making by an American national representative body. Of course, the Congress was not a legal body; England still controlled. The Congress had no legally accepted way to enforce its acts, although it did so by "moral suasion," of which it had plenty.

By September 30, the Fathers had resolved that exports to Great Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies ought to cease. Before the month of October was out, they had passed two resolutions of tremendous importance: on the fourteenth, the Declaration of American Rights, and on the twentieth, the Articles of Association. These were important because they tackled the chief problems of the day: the legal and constitutional, and the business or economic.

Many historians assert that the Congressional delegates acted slowly. They did act with caution (frequently expressing their enormous love of Good King George) but we should remember that they were really Englishmen—just beginning to feel their American oats—with the power of the whole Empire against them. It seems to me they worked with unexampled efficiency and courage.

They knew, also that many, if not a majority, of the American merchants had turned against them. This was discouraging, even though a fair share of merchants stayed with the Continental Congress first to last, among them John Hancock, Sam Adams' good and smugglin' friend. But the Congress went right ahead, adopting measures to force the Tory merchants to cooperate. Inasmuch as they had no executive or judicial branches, and were practically only a debating society trying to be a legislature, what they accomplished was miraculous. I know of no modern Congress, with all the power and money in the world, which has acted more promptly and more effectively. Let's take a look at the delegates' major accomplishments.

The Articles covered the commercial field completely—a sort of omnibus measure. They formed a "non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreement," cutting off all trade with the British Empire. Regulations for merchants and owners of vessels were in effect laws; the word prohibited was used; commands were issued; Empire trade was to be broken by various combines, associations, and groups; committees of correspondence were made responsible for carrying out certain duties, including the superintending of British (thereafter American) customhouses and the enforcing of requirements put upon merchants.

There were provisions for developing a domestic economy—agriculture, sheep-raising, industry and manufacture. The people were warned not to waste their time on horse racing, cock-fighting, drinking and dissipation; nor were they to waste too much money on funerals and mourning.

Although the Articles necessarily represented a somewhat English viewpoint, they formed an out-and-out rebellious document drawn up by Americans, and from any viewpoint of the established government, they were plain treason. Most historians do not hold this view of the Articles, but how they can hold any other, I do not see.

Suppose several of our States should band together, create a Congress of their own, and then interfere with interstate commerce, boycott and penalize those engaged in interstate foreign trade, disobey federal laws generally, take over customhouses as well as sell imported goods—at the same time expressing love and affection for the President. Would we call it rebellion?

It was the fourteenth of October, 1774, that the Declaration of American Rights was adopted. Although the Declaration of Independence is generally regarded as of much more importance, it seems to me that the Declaration of American Rights is of equal or greater importance, for it came before the Declaration of Independence, and by clearly setting forth constitutional questions formed a basis for the American Constitution.

Among other things, the Declaration of American Rights thoroughly explained the American's ideas of his constitutional relationship to England; it ordered the repeal of thirteen acts of Parliament—as well as the collection of duties; and it ordered the British soldiers to go home.