Chautauqua County's Unique Role in the Declaration of Independence

Submitted by Justin Gould on Wed, 07/03/2024 - 11:30
Stock image.

MAYVILLE, NY – As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July, the anniversary of our nation’s independence, Chautauqua County’s Historian is offering a unique and enlightening perspective on how our local area is tied to this momentous event.

This year, as we honor the birth of our nation with fireworks, parades, and gatherings, Historian Norman Carlson explains why it’s important to delve deeper into the historical intricacies that many might overlook.

"July 4 is celebrated as the anniversary of America’s independence, but both the act and the date have far more complex stories than most celebrants realize," said Carlson. "One intriguing detail is that part of Chautauqua County is actually mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, be it ever so minimally."

The Declaration of Independence includes the following sentence:

"For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:"

Carlson explains, "The ‘neighbouring Province’ referred to here is Quebec. Following the British victory in the French and Indian War, they took control of the French colony of New France, which included Canada. In 1774, the British established the Province of Quebec, with new boundaries that took effect on May 1, 1775."

According to historical documents, part of the boundary of Quebec ran “along by the Eastern and South-eastern bank of Lake Erie, following the said Bank, until the same shall be intersected by the Northern Boundary, granted by the Charter of the Province of Pennsylvania….”

"This means that in 1776, the boundary of Quebec included the Lake Erie shoreline," said Carlson. "Today, Chautauqua County extends out to the present international boundary between the United States and Canada. Therefore, when you visit places like Lake Erie State Park or Barcelona Beach and wade into Lake Erie, you're stepping into territory that was once part of Quebec—a region specifically mentioned in the Declaration of Independence as a point of contention."

As we celebrate Independence Day, it's fascinating to recognize that our local history is intertwined with the broader narrative of America's fight for freedom.

"Whether you're enjoying the fireworks, parades, or simply spending time with family and friends, take a moment to appreciate the unique role that Chautauqua County played in the birth of our nation," Carlson added.

Happy 4th of July!


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