Hanna's Town colonists took own path to independence
By Craig Smith
Published: Tuesday, July 3, 2012, 11:10 p.m.
On a spring day 237 years ago, as news of the battles of Lexington and Concord spread, men gathered at Robert Hanna's tavern north of Greensburg to lay the groundwork for breaking from Great Britain and establish the underpinnings of a new country.
Another gathering in Pittsburgh that day — May 16, 1775 — produced similar results.
“Some people might look at these documents as precursors to the Declaration of Independence, but their differences are what make the Declaration of Independence such an incredible document,” said Andrew Gaerte, education manager at Fort Pitt Museum.
When their differences with the British government were resolved, colonists in Pittsburgh and Hanna's Town planned to dissolve their militias and return to the British nest, experts said.
“They wanted to be full-fledged members of what they had once known as the freest country in the world,” said Pauline Maier, professor of American history at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “They eventually accepted independence only because they thought they had no alternative.”
The British sent 700 soldiers in April to destroy guns and ammunition the colonists stored in Concord, and colonists here feared the British could extend the “same system of tyranny and oppression” to other parts of America.
They voted to take up arms against the British two weeks before North Carolina adopted resolves declaring all laws originating from the British king or Parliament to be null and void — almost a year before the Declaration of Independence.
“We will immediately form ourselves into a military body, to consist of companies to be made up out of the several townships under the ... Association of Westmoreland County,” the Hanna's Town resolves state.
The Fort Pitt Museum displays the Rattlesnake Flag of that unit, Col. John Proctor's 1st Battalion.
The Hanna's Town document stopped short of declaring independence, probably because of input from Arthur St. Clair, a loyal British subject who worked for William Penn, said Lisa Hayes, executive director of Westmoreland County Historical Society.
“Pennsylvania was more on the moderate side ... not like the radicals Samuel Adams and John Adams in Boston,” said Alexander Tsesis, a professor at Loyola University School of Law.
The resolves approved in Pittsburgh authorized the collection of enough money from constituents “to purchase half a pound of gunpowder, one pound of lead, flints and cartridge paper.”
Colonists issued as many as 90 other “declarations” of independence, or resolves, between April and early July 1776 in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
The earliest declarations came from Worcester, Mass., in October 1774, so the “Hanna's Town resolutions are quite remarkable,” Maier said.
Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Help on deck to help Jeannette deal with Monsour, nearby buildings
- PSU students accused of intimidation
- Crash closes I-70 lanes for hours
- Greensburg inks new deal with police chief
- Jeannette alerted to police costs
- Pair robs Hempfield pharmacy
- 3 sentenced to prison in Salem drug, gun case
- Officials say programs are making Pennsylvania roads much safer
- Mt. Pleasant Holiday Homes Tour set
- Pittsburgh man sentenced to prison for pulling gun during Salem drug deal
- South Greensburg adopts budget, no tax hike