THE HANNASTOWN DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
When news of the battles of Lexington and Concord spread over the country, the whole populace was greatly aroused. The inflamable Scotch-Irish of Western Pennsyl vania were promptly up in arms. Four weeks after this first war-peal, on May i6th, 1775, a largely attended meeting was held in Hannastown, then the largest town in the west, at which St. Clair was, at all events, the most prominent man and the leading spirit. This convention adopted what has since been known as the "Hannastown Declaration of Independ ence," a document which will compare favorably with any paper yet penned in this country. It is to be found in the American Archives, Fourth Series, Vol 2, page 615, and in many other publications. It defines the causes of complaint on the part of the pioneer, and points out the remedy as clearly as the best writings of Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton. Clause after clause of it may be substitued for parts of the Great Declaration passed more than a year after wards, and will be read without detection, except on the closest scrutiny. It is undobutedly the first Declaration of Independence adopted in any of the colonies.
Nearly all of St. Clair's biographers have attributed its authorship solely to him and not without great reason. He was, in all probability, the author of the fourth paragraph and much of the document is very like his chaste and vigor ous style. The resolutions were certainly prepared by a man of education and ability and most likely by one educated abroad. They show also an intimate knowledge of military life and but few civilians could write in such rich military terms, unless from a personal knowledge of the army. Furth
ermore, in a letter to Col. Allen, dated at Ticonderoga, Sep tember 1, 1776, St. Clair lays down two principles, viz : First, that "Independence was not to the interest of America if the liberties could be otherwise secured," and, second, "If foreign troops were employed to reduce America to absolute submis sion, that independence or any other mode was justifiable." Here he clearly enunciates the substance of the third and fifth clauses, and also the condition in part, which brought the pioneers to armed resistence.
Yet in a letter to Joseph Shippen concerning the meeting, the resolutions, the arming of men, etc., written the day after he says, "I doubt their utility and am almost as much afraid of success in this contest as of being vanquished." And again nine days later he wrote to Governor Penn on the same sub ject saying he "got a clause added to it, (the declaration) by which they bind themselves to assist the civil magistrates in the execution of the laws they have been accustomed to be governed by." We scarcely think St. Clair was the sole author, for had he been, there would be no need in his getting a clause added, nor do we believe he would have drawn a set of resolutions, the logical result of which was the proceedings "the utility of which he doubted." Yet he was undoubtedly the leader of the convention and by intelligence, by culture and by military training, was one of the few men of the colonies who could pen such a paper.