On May 26th, 1775, 100 delegates from New York signed a document which sought “the salvation of the Rights and Liberties of America.” Its words mark a fundamental move away from loyalty to Great Britain and toward a republican form of government and represents an important moment in the history of the state and of the American advance toward independence.
Why is this piece so rare?
The General Association document was held, along with the other historical records of New York’s colonial period, in the office of New York’s Secretary of State until 1889 when they were moved into the State Library, which was housed in the opulent new State Capitol building. The last time we know the document was accessed was in 1868 when it was transcribed and reprinted in a large volume entitled, The Calendar of Historical Manuscripts Relating to the War of the Revolution. On March 29, 1911 a devastating fire broke out in the Capitol building destroying the library along with 450,000 books and 270,000 manuscripts, including almost all of the papers of New York’s revolutionary provincial government. Since the document was not among the inventory of manuscripts that survived the fire, it was logically assumed that the original May 26, 1775 General Association document was lost in that fire.
Fortunately, the General Association document did, in fact, survive. When, or how, it was removed from the Capitol building is not known. It may have been removed before, or even after, the fire as several reports describe priceless manuscript remnants of the Library being “swept up”, among the mass of charred remains, and discarded along with the tons of debris in the aftermath of the fire. What we do know is that the document somehow found its way into the private antique market, which is how it apparently came into the possession of an antique dealer and collector, named Fryer, who lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mr. Fryer’s son, George G. Fryer, came to Syracuse in 1889 to work as an engineer with the Solvay Process Company. George was also an avid collector and, along with the collection he inherited from his father, he amassed an impressive array of historic stamps, coins, manuscripts, and artifacts. In 1927, George donated a sizable portion of his collection to OHA, a collection that included the General Association document.
Though several OHA personnel over the years were aware of the document’s existence, it was OHA’s current Curator of History, Dennis Connors, who finally brought it to the attention of the New York State Archives in 2007. During a cataloguing project of the hundreds of thousands of manuscripts in the OHA’s collection, it was, once again, “discovered.” Dennis worked with the State Archives personnel to authenticate the document and bring it the attention that it deserves. It has been on display in an exhibit on the 2nd floor of the OHA Museum until it was recently loaned to the exhibit in the Hall of Governors, where it has garnered international attention.
Below is transcript and the names of the men who signed the document:
The General Association adopted by the First Provincial Congress of New York – May 26, 1775
Persuaded that the salvation of the Rights and Liberties of America, depends under God, on the firm union of its inhabitants, in a vigorous prosecution of the measures necessary for its safety, and convinced of the necessity of preventing the anarchy and confusion which attend a dissolution of the powers of Government, We the (“Freeholders and inhabitants” – deleted) Deputies of the different Counties of the Colony of New-York in Provincial Congress convened, being greatly alarmed at the avowed design of the Ministry, to raise a revenue in America, and shocked by the bloody scene now acting in the Massachusetts – Bay, DO in the most solemn manner resolve never to become Slaves, and do associate under all the ties of Religion, Honour and Love to our Country, to adopt and endeavour to carry into execution whatever measures may be recommended by the Continental-Congress or resolved upon by (“our”- deleted) this Provincial (“Convention” – deleted) Congress for the purpose of preserving our Constitution, and opposing the execution of the several arbitrary and oppressive acts of the British Parliament, until a reconciliation between Great Britain and America, on constitutional principles, (which we most ardently desire), can be obtained; and that will in all things, follow the advice of our respective County Committees, respecting the purposes aforesaid, the preservation of Peace and good order, and the safety of individuals and private Property.
In Provincial Congress P. V. B. Livingston, President
New York May 26th 1775 Volckert P. Douw, Vice President
Signers of the Association
Ninety-eight deputies representing the thirteen counties of the Province added their signatures to those of Livingston and Douw.
These were Jacob Cuyler, Henry Glen, Walter Livingston, Francis Nicoll, Peter Silvester, Dirck Swart, Abraham Ten Broeck, Robert Van Rensselaer, Abraham Yates Jr. and Robert Yates of Albany County; William Marsh and John Williams of Charlotte County; John Hazeltine, Paul Spooner and William Williams of Cumberland County; Dirck Brinckerhoff, Anthony Hoffman, Jonathan Landon, Gilbert Livingston, Richard Montgomery, Ephraim Paine, Zephaniah Platt, Nathaniel Sackett, Gysbert Schenck and Melancton Smith of Dutchess County; Nicholas Couwenhoven, John Lefferts, Johannis E. Lott. Theodorus Polhamus, Jeremias Remsen, John Van Derbilt and Henry Williams of Kings County; James Beekman, Abraham Brasher, David Clarkson, John DeLancey, Joseph Hallett, Benjamin Kissam, Leonard Lispenard, Issac Low, John Marsten, Alexander McDougall, Issac Roosevelt, John Morin Scott, Isaac Sears, Thomas Smith, John Van Cortlandt, Jacobus Van Zandt, Samuel Verplanck and Richard Yates of New York County; William Allison, Jeremiah Clark, Peter Clowes, John Coe, John Haring, Michael Jackson, Abraham Lent, David Pye and Benjamin Tusten of Orange County; Jacob Blackwell, Joseph French, Jonathan Lawrence, Joseph Robinson, Richard Thorne, Nathaniel Tom, Samuel Townsend and Zebulon Williams of Queens County; Richard Conner, Aaron Cortelyou, John Journeay, Richard Lawrence and Paul Micheau of Richmond County; John Foster, John Sloss Hobart, Ezra L’Hommedieu, Selah Strong, Thomas Tredwell, Thomas Wickham and Nathaniel Woodhull of Suffolk County; John Marlatt and Christopher P. Yates of Tryon County; James Clinton, Egbert Dumond, Johannes Hardenbergh, Jacob Hoornbeek, John Nicolson and Christopher Tappen of Ulster County; and David Dayton, Joseph Drake, Lewis Graham, Robert Graham, James Holmes, Gouverneur Morris, William Paulding, John Thomas Jr., James Van Cortlandt, Philip Van Cortlandt and Stephen Ward of Westchester County.