Roots of Declaration of Independence in the 1775 Fincastle Resolutions

Contributing Writer

The roots of the Declaration of Independence stem from Virginia, and you may be surprised to hear that this does not refer to Thomas Jefferson.

No, this document reads as follows:

“We assure you, Gentlemen, and all our countrymen, that we are a people whose hearts overflow with love and duty to our lawful sovereign George III, whose illustrious house, for several successive reigns, have been the guardians of civil and religious rights and liberties of his subjects, as settled at the glorious Revolution; that we are willing to risk our lives in the service of his Majesty, for the support of the Protestant religion, and the rights and liberties of his subjects, as they have been established by compact, law, and ancient charters.

“We are heartily grieved at the differences which now subsist between the parent state and the colonies, and most ardently wish to see harmony restored, on an equitable basis, and by the most lenient measures that can be devised by the heart of men.”

According to research spearheaded by the historians at the Smithfield Plantation in Blacksburg, on January 20, 1775, elected representatives of Fincastle County in the Colony of Virginia adopted what became known as the Fincastle Resolutions.

Fincastle County was one of a number of counties that were once part of Botetourt County. Fincastle County was formed in 1772, just two years after Botetourt County was formed.

The county was short-lived. In 1776, it was divided to become Montgomery County, Washington County and Kentucky County, which became the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the 15th state in 1792.

The words written in the Fincastle Resolutions promised several things. Unlike the Declaration of Independence, they insisted upon the loyalty of the colonies to the King, but they listed the grievances the colonies had with the Intolerable Acts.

These Intolerable Acts included the famous tax on tea, which led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, among other sanctions that were designed to punish Massachusetts afterwards.

Several other Resolutions and Resolves opposing the Intolerable Acts and listing grievances against the British Parliament and the King from other colonies were brought forward to the First Continental Congress in 1775 as well, but the Fincastle Resolutions stands out for one very important reason.

It was the first adopted document to promise to fight the crown should the grievances not be addressed.

The document continues:

“We are ready and willing to contribute all in our power for the support of his Majesty’s government, if applied to constitutionally, and when the grants are made by our own representatives; but cannot think of submitting our liberty or property to the power of a venal British parliament, or to the will of a corrupt ministry.

“We by no means desire to shake off our duty or allegiance to our lawful sovereign, but on the contrary shall ever glory in being the loyal subjects of a Protestant prince, descended from such illustrious progenitors, so long as we can enjoy the free exercise of our religion, as Protestants, and our liberties and properties, as British subjects. But if no pacifick measures shall be proposed or adopted by Great Britain, and our enemies will attempt to dragoon us out of those inestimable privileges which we are entitled to as subjects, and to reduce us to a state of slavery, we declare, that we are deliberately and resolutely determined never to surrender them to any power upon earth, but at the expense of our lives.

“These are our real, though unpolished sentiments, of liberty and loyalty, and in them we are resolved to live and die.”

The Fincastle Resolutions were signed by the representatives elected in Virginia– William and Arthur Campbell, William Christian, Walter Crockett, Charles Cummins, William Edmondson, William Ingles, Thomas Madison, James McGavock, John Montgomery, William Preston, Evan Shelby, Daniel Smith and Stephen Trigg.

It was with the Fincastle Resolutions, the first instance of “liberty or death,” that the American Revolution garnered attention. This document became one of the most important in leading to the Revolution, and its influence on the Declaration means that its legacy persists even today.

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