A Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer – June 1, 1774

Thomas Jefferson drafted a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer on June 1, 1774Furious at the Tea Party, the king punished Boston. He approved the Boston Port Act, March 7, 1774, effectively closing their harbor to all commerce and ruining their economy. Surrounding towns rallied by sending food.

William Prescott, who later commanded at Bunker Hill, wrote: “If we submit to these regulations, all is gone. . . Our forefathers passed the vast Atlantic, spent their blood and treasure, that they might enjoy their liberties, both civil and religious, and transmit them to their posterity. . . Now if we should give them up, can our children rise up and call us blessed?”

Upon hearing of the Boston Port Act, Thomas Jefferson drafted a day of fasting and prayer resolution, to be observed the same day the blockade was to commence. It was introduced in the Virginia House of Burgesses by Robert Carter Nicholas, May 24, 1774.

Supported by Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee and George Mason, it passed unanimously: “This House, being deeply impressed with apprehension … from the hostile invasion of the city of Boston in our Sister Colony of Massachusetts Bay, whose commerce and harbor are, on the first day of June next, to be stopped by an armed force, deem it highly necessary that the said first day of June be set apart, by the members of this House, as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, devoutly to implore the Divine interposition, for averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruction to our civil rights. . . Ordered, therefore that the Members of this House do attend. . . with the Speaker, and the mace, to the Church in this City, for the purposes aforesaid; and that the Reverend Mr. Price be appointed to read prayers, and the Reverend Mr. Gwatkin, to preach a sermon.”

On the appointed day of fasting, June 1, 1774, George Washington wrote in his diary: “Went to church, fasted all day.”

The king’s appointed royal governor, Lord Dunmore, was so upset by this day of fasting and prayer resolution that two days later he dissolved Virginia’s House of Burgesses. Virginia’s colonial leaders went down the street and gathered in Raleigh Tavern, where they decided to form a Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia a little over three months later.

The next spring, the battle of Lexington and Concord took place on April 19, 1775. Many colonies passed resolves against the king.

On May 31, 1775, citizens of Charlotte Town, North Carolina, passed the Mecklenburg Resolves, which stated: “Whereas by an Address presented to his Majesty by both Houses of Parliament in February last, the American Colonies are declared to be in a State of actual Rebellion, we conceive that all Laws. . . derived from the Authority of the King or Parliament, are annulled and vacated. . . All Commissions, civil and military, heretofore granted by the Crown, to be exercised in these Colonies, are null and void. . . That whatever Person shall hereafter receive a Commission from the Crown, or attempt to exercise any such Commission heretofore received, shall be deemed an Enemy to his Country. . . That these Resolves be in full Force and Virtue, until Instructions from the General Congress of this Province. . . shall provide otherwise, or the legislative Body of Great-Britain resign its unjust and arbitrary Pretentions with Respect to America. . . That the several Militia Companies in this county do provide themselves with proper Arms and Accoutrements, and hold themselves in Readiness to execute the commands and Directions of the Provincial Congress.”

The next year, the Continental Congress voted for independence from the king.

Written by Bill Federer.

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