Today, the Congress Commemorative Five-Dollar Gold Coin remembers the letter from New York to Boston that promoted a Congress to unite the colonies against Britain.
From The Need of a History of New York by the United Historical and Patriotic Societies and Associations of New York, published in 1915:
COMMITTEES OF CORRESPONDENCE.
It has been truthfully said: “As a starting-point we may take November 2, 1772, and say that for all practical purposes the Committee of Correspondence began its life as a local institution of the Revolution.”
To the town of Boston belongs the honor of first calling for the Colonies to form Committees of Correspondence, “To state the Rights of the Colonists and of this Province in Particular as men, as Christians, and as subjects, and to communicate and publish the same to the several Towns in this Province and to the World as the sense of this Town, with the infringements and violations thereof, requesting of each Town a free Communication of their sentiments on these subjects.”
The great importance of these Committees of Correspondence has been over looked by historians, and yet as “a piece of revolutionary machinery their value can hardly be overestimated.”
Their meetings were held almost daily, at times lasting well into the night; their members served without compensation, knowing that should the Revolution be unsuccessful their property and perhaps their lives would be forfeited.
From 1764 until 1774 the Colonies had no unity of purpose other than in some manner to prevent taxation.
After the “Tea Parties” of Boston and New York, Boston was called upon to pay for the tea its citizens had destroyed, and a blockade of the harbor was threatened.
Boston called, May 13, 1774, on her sister Colonies for their “Advice on a case of such extensive consequences.”
There was a large diversity of opinion among the Colonies, many agreeing with Boston for a non-importation-non-exportation agreement.
New York had appointed a large Committee of Fifty-one.
At a meeting held May 23d in the long room of the Merchants Coffee House, southeast corner of Wall and Water Streets, a special committee, consisting of Isaac Low, chairman, Alexander McDougall, James Duane, and John Jay was appointed, “to prepare a draft of a letter in answer to those received from Boston.”
This letter, one of the most important ever written, as it solved the questions that confronted the Colonies for nearly ten years, brought about the first Congress of the Colonies, held at Philadelphia in 1774 and called the “United Colonies of North America.”
Yet histories have failed to give a copy of this important letter while but few have even so much as mentioned either the letter or the names of those who signed it.
But it resulted in the foundation of a great nation.
On every occasion when permissible this letter should be published, and at least once a year it should be read in every school in our country.
It was written by John Jay late in the afternoon of May 23, 1774, during the excitements pertaining to the first meeting of our large Committee of Correspondence, in a room in the old Coffee House, and sanctioned by men fully aware of the great personal danger awaiting them should the cause of Liberty fail, but for all that firmly advocating the importance of unity.
“The Cause is general,” they declare, “and concerns a whole Continent who are equally interested with you and us, and we foresee that no Remedy can be of avail, unless it proceeds from the joint Act and Approbation of all.”
A True Copy of the Famous Letter.
New York, May 23rd, 1774.
The alarming Measures of the British Parliament relative to your ancient and respectable Town, which has so long been the Seat of Freedom, fills the Inhabitants of this City with inexpressible Concern; as a Sister Colony suffering in Defense of the Rights of America, we consider your Injuries as a common Cause, to the Redress of which it is equally our Duty and our Interest to contribute.
But what ought to be done in a Situation so truly critical, while it employs the anxious Thoughts of every generous Mind, is very hard to be determined.
Our Citizens have thought it necessary to appoint a large Committee consisting of fifty-one Persons to correspond with our Sister Colonies on this and every other Matter of public Moment: and at ten O’Clock this Forenoon we were first assembled Your Letter enclosing the Vote of the Town of Boston, and the Letter of your Committee of Correspondence were immediately taken into Consideration.
While we think you justly entitled to the Thanks of your Sister Colonies for asking their Advice on a Case of such extensive Consequences, we lament our Inability to relieve your Anxiety by a decisive Opinion.
The Cause is general and concerns a whole Continent who are equally interested with you and us; and we foresee that no Remedy can be of avail, unless it proceeds from the joint Act and Approbation of all.
From a virtuous and spirited Union much may be expected: while the feeble Efforts of a few will only be attended with Mischief and Disappointment to themselves, and Triumph to the Adversaries of our Liberty.
Upon these Reasons we conclude that a Congress of Deputies from the Colonies in general is of the utmost Moment; that it ought to be assembled without Delay and some unanimous Resolutions formed in this fatal Emergency, not only respecting your deplorable Circumstances, but for the Security of our common Rights.
Such being our Sentiments it must be premature to pronounce any Judgment on the Expedient which you have suggested.
We beg however that you will do us the Justice to believe that we shall continue to act with a firm and becoming Regard to American Freedom, and to co-operate with our Sister Colonies in every Measure which shall be thought salutary and conducive to the public Good.
We have Nothing to add, but that we sincerely condole with you in your unexampled Distress; and to request your speedy Opinion of the proposed Congress, that if it should meet with your Approbation, we may exert our utmost Endeavors to carry it into Execution.
We are with much Respect, Gentlemen Your most Hbl. Servants
By Order of the Committee, Isaac Low, Chairman.
To the Committee of Correspondence In Boston
The Congress Commemorative Five-Dollar Gold Coin shows with an image of John Jay.