October 21, 1774
Congress virulently attacked Great Britain’s Quebec Act, which gave religious freedom to Catholics In Canada. The Continental Congress expressed “astonishment, that a British Parliament should ever consent to establish in that country a religion that has deluged your island in blood, and dispersed bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion through every part of the world.” Congress soon thereafter realized that Insulting the Canadian Catholics might not be the best way to win their favor or that of Catholic France. Just a few days later they issued an appeal to their Canadian brethren.
That we think the Legislature of Great-Britain is not authorized by the constitution to establish a religion, fraught with sanguinary and impious tenets, or, to erect an arbitrary form of government, in any quarter of the globe. These rights, we, as well as you, deem sacred. And yet sacred as they are, they have, with many others been repeatedly and flagrantly violated.
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And by another Act the dominion of Canada is to be so extended, modelled, and governed, as that by being disunited from us, detached from our interests, by civil as well as religious prejudices, that by their numbers daily swelling with Catholic emigrants from Europe, and by their devotion to Administration, so friendly to their religion, they might become formidable to us, and on occasion, be fit instruments in the hands of power, to reduce the ancient free Protestant Colonies to the same state of slavery with themselves.
This was evidently the object of the Act:–And in this view, being extremely dangerous to our liberty and quiet, we cannot forebear complaining of it, as hostile to British America.–Superadded to these considerations, we cannot help deploring the unhappy condition to which it has reduced the many English settlers, who, encouraged by the Royal Proclamation, promising the enjoyment of all their rights, have purchased estates in that country.–They are now the subjects of an arbitrary government, deprived of trial by jury, and when imprisoned cannot claim the benefit of the habeas corpus Act, that great bulwark and palladium of English liberty:–Nor can we suppress our astonishment, that a British Parliament should ever consent to establish in that country a religion that has deluged your island in blood, and dispersed bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion through every part of the world.
Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789. Edited by Worthington C. Ford et al. 34 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1904–37.
The Founders’ Constitution, Volume 5, Amendment I (Religion), Document 19, The University of Chicago Press.