The Mohawk Valley Declaration of Independence
The Old Palatine Church by Milo Nellis
Palatine Patriots First to Declare for Freedom. Manifesto Antedates Philadelphia Document by a Year
On May 21, 1775 the Palatine Committee of Correspondence, later to be known as the Committee of Safety and to govern the valley in their own way until a stable government was finally formed in 1777, met at the home of Philip Fox opposite old Palatine Church and adopted the following resolution:
"As we abhor a state of slavery we do join and unite together under all the ties of religion, honor, justice and love of our country, never to become slaves and to defend our freedom with our lives and fortunes."
Two days previous, May 19, 1775, at the end of a long dissertation setting forth their grievances they closed with the solemn resolution "To be Free or Die."These declarations were signed and published by the men of the Palatine Committee, the first to form themselves into such a body, and they gave their lives liberally at Oriskany. For instance: of nine Snells in the battle only two survived.
Note the date, May 21, 1775, over a year ahead of the final document adopted at Philadelphia, July 4th 1776. Here in the wilderness about Old Palatine Church these men of the Mohawk banded themselves together and called for liberty or death and signed their names where all the world might read it.
Directly across from Old Palatine Church this solemn ceremony was performed. It was no thoughtless undertaking, it was not lightly entered on. These men knew what it meant. Among them were descendants of those liberty loving people of the Netherlands. They were descended from a race whose declaration of independence had caused confusion to crowned heads in Europe a hundred years previous. They remembered the names of the once free cities and brought them to the Mohawk Valley. Frankfort, Manheim, of the Belgic land and Oppenheim and Palatine of the Rhine country. The church itself was a replica of fifteenth century south France architecture and in that part of France to this day one may find old stone edifices which were the patterns for the stone buildings in the Mohawk Valley. Those interested in a study of the primal forces which led to the Revolution will find a rich mine of information in the Mohawk Valley where the spirit of liberty blazed forth in the wilderness long before it caught elsewhere and where it never was quenched. The land was overrun by the enemy and the soil drenched with blood but it must be written down that these freemen who so boldly led the way in their declaration of independence, held steadfast to their purposes and their frontier homes, and while many were killed they never gave up a foot of their land. From the position taken at that early date, the first declaration in the state of New York--they never retreated--and never gave ground.
The signers were from the Palatine District, this being the first committee formed. These names appear attached to the minutes of the second meeting, May 11th as follows:
Christopher P. Yates
Andrew Fink, Jr.
George Ecker, Jr.
Harmanus Van Slyke
Christopher W. Fox
Anthony Van Vechten
(Note: Willis Barshied commented there was an earlier declaration. The Committee of Correspondence met at Loucks Tavern in Stone Arabia about a year before and stated their intent for independence.)
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