Extracts of private Letters from London

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Extracts of private Letters from London, dated April 7 and 8 , to persons in New-York and Philadelphia.

[Printed on the back of the Boston Port Bill, and distributed in New-York, on the 14th May, 1774.

April 7˙ With the most anxious and deep concern, I sit down to give you some account of the bitter things that are meditated against America, and through her, against England herself, and that Constitution, by which it has

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long been distinguished among the nations, as a land of freedom and happiness, and an asylum against tyranny and oppression. A distinction, alas! that now subsists no more! And must be for ever lost — unless kind Providence should interpose, to save us from that slavery and darkness, which has well nigh overspread the face of the whole earth.

America, the last resort of retiring freedom, is now to be invaded, and the fugitive driven from her peaceful recesses there, that so she may find no resting place on this side heaven.

A plan of despotism and arbitrary power has incessantly been pursued during the present reign; through all the ministerial changes and manoeuvres, that has still been the grand object in view; and may explain all those intricate movements of Government, which otherwise appear quite mysterious, and unaccountable, especially with regard to the Colonies; it may account for that obstinate perseverance in measures palpably inconsistent with every principle of the English Constitution, of justice, and of common sense; which have been attended with almost infinite expense, trouble, and difficulty, both to the Colonies and Great Britain itself; when at the same time, a plain, easy, and certain way to peace, harmony, and prosperity, lies so open before us, that none can mistake it, and yet offers itself in vain. An absolute, arbitrary Government, has infinite charms for a multitude of haughty luxurious parasites and flatterers, that ever surround a throne, and hope to share with it in tyrannizing over the people, and rioting on their spoils. No wonder that such as these should prevail on a young Monarch to be pleased with, to countenance, and adopt their plan. Unlimited power is generally a most desirable object, especially to youth and inexperience; and few are distrustful of themselves, or imagine that it would be unsafe in their hands.

In England, almost every obstruction to the execution of this plan is removed; places of high trust and importance are bestowed upon those who will act in subserviency to the views of the Court; those who might impede those views; are divested of power, and disabled from any effectual opposition. Experience has shown that the pensions and places, in the gift of the Crown, have as great an influence, on the nobility, whose estates might set them above dependence, as upon common men, for luxury is boundless, and can render the possessor of the greatest estate as needy as a beggar, and as vulnerable to the influence of a bribe. As for the Commons, those natural guardians of the liberties and properties of the people, though there are many worthy men among them, who do their utmost to stem the torrent of corruption, and preserve their country; yet, their number is too small to answer the end; the eloquence of Cicero, the most consumate knowledge of the interests of their country, and zeal for its service, the greatest abilities and integrity, are all rendered entirely useless, by a corrupt majority of ministerial tools, who vote just as they are directed; this House, therefore, which used to be the bulwark of the people' s security, serves now only to give the form or appearance of legality to acts of real tyranny and oppression, by which they are deprived of their liberty and property. A great majority of the House are returned by little venal boroughs, bribed by the nation' s own money, to elect such men as the Ministry choose, and afterwards command to vote as they please. A friend well acquainted with the internal state of Great Britain, assures me, "that many boroughs in the Kingdom have scarce ten persons qualified to vote for a Representative in Parliament, and that all who are qualified, are under the influence of some nobleman, or squire, who, if he has no person of his own family to put in, transfers the election, or rather nomination, to such adventurers as choose to purchase a seat, as a means of climbing the hill of preferment. In some places, there is not even the shadow of an election, or town meeting. The Sovereign, Bailiff, or rather Returning Officer, with two or three Burgesses, go privately to the Session House, and in a moment name such a one, as duly elected, without the appearance of a candidate."

What a farce are such transactions, when the liberties of the people are thus played away at a game, wherein a corrupt Government, and an ambitious, covetous landlord, are the only gainers! All things being thus ripe in England, for the open introduction of arbitrary power, nothing seems

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to have prevented it, but the struggles of the Americans to preserve their liberties. These struggles have been doubly mortifying to the Ministry, as they have thereby, been not only prevented from levying a revenue upon America, but from executing their scheme in its full extent upon England. And unless that scheme be very soon executed, it is in danger of being blown up entirely; for matters have risen to such a crisis, the uneasiness and distress of the nation are become so general, that some violent commotion seems inevitable, and near at hand; and if a revolution should happen, and fail to establish despotism in England, it would probably be fatal to those who have attempted to introduce it. The most strenuous efforts, therefore, will now be made, both by force and fraud, to reduce the Americans to a conformity with the measures of the Ministry, who are enraged and distracted at the obstructions they meet with from that quarter.

I therefore earnestly warn you to firmness and vigilance; every art will be used, both to intimidate, and to deceive you; may God direct you to be wise and faithful to yourselves, and to your country, and crown your endeavours with success. You have every thing at stake that can be dear to reasonable creatures; your freedom, your property, your posterity, your honour. The very Ministry who are striving to enslave you, in spite of themselves, both honour and fear you; but if they succeed against you, will despise and spurn you.

About a fortnight ago, an Act of Parliament of a most extraordinary kind, to shut up the port of Boston, was passed in a most extraordinary manner, being smuggled through the House in seventeen days only, from its introduction. The evidence before the Privy Council was suppressed; the agents refused a hearing at the bar; and no member for Boston or America in either House. Nor had the merchants and manufacturers in England, who will be deeply effected by the execution of this Act, any proper notice of it, or opportunity to remonstrate against it. Indeed, it is openly said, that many thousand pounds were issued from the Treasury, to obtain a majority in the House, and hurry it through, before there should be time for opposition: so that, when a body of merchants, trading to Boston and America, waited on Lord North, with a request that a petition might be heard against the Bill, before it passed into a law, they had the mortification to find they were too late, and that the Bill had already passed. As his Majesty has, by the Act, a conditional power to suspend its operation, in case the tea destroyed at Boston should be paid for, the merchants offered Lord North £19,000 or a security to the India Company to pay for the tea, if that, suspension of the Act might be procured from his Majesty. But these offers were refused, and the merchants went away much dissatisfied — as thinking people are in general, against the proceedings of the Ministry, especially in respect to this law, and the manner of getting it passed, which was with as much privacy and haste as possible, so that it is hardly yet known in the manufacturing towns, which will be hurt by it. It is expected to raise great clamour and uneasiness as soon as it comes to be generally known, and felt, by the labouring people, and the trade, the stoppage of which, it is imagined, in a few months will convince the Ministry they have acted wrong.

Another new Bill, as extraordinary as the Boston Bill, only more general in its operation, is in agitation in the Privy Council; and like the Boston Bill, it is intended to be smuggled through the House. God grant it may be stopped in its progress, or defeated of its design. It is expected here, that America will be surprised or frightened into a compliance with it, by the intended alarming clauses in it, and the spirited manner of enforcing it.

God give you vigilance, fortitude, and wisdom to avoid the snares laid for you, and enable you to escape them.

General Gage is appointed Governour and Commander-in-chief of Massachusetts Bay, with very extensive powers. Under him are to be a set of officers, approved by the Ministry, to be made Counsellors, and enforce the Parliamentary laws, with the (apparent) consent of the people. In short, every art will be used to deceive you, and either cheat, or frighten you out of your freedom and property; however, I can assure you, the Commanders have private orders not to fight, unless they can provoke

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you to appear the aggressors — nay, they have orders not to commence hostilities, without further orders. But how soon that restriction may be taken off, God only knows; nor do I think that it was from any regard to justice, or tenderness to you, that such a restraint was laid; but purely from fear of the consequences of sanguinary orders; therefore, I think, if you are firm and prudent, you have no occasion at this time, to fear any tragical consequences from a refusal to be taxed by the British Parliament, who have really no right at all to tax you; not, that I would persuade you to this refusal merely upon a supposition that the Ministry will not proceed to hostile and sanguinary measures — for my opinion is, that there is nothing too absurd or wicked for them to do; but that if they should proceed to such measures it will be better for you to die than submit to them; however, as your cause is just, and all the world must see that you are injured and oppressed, your oppressors will be condemned by all the world, both at home and abroad; and if you are but firm and prudent in your opposition, fear not but Providence will interpose in your behalf, and raise you up friends to support and assist you.

Some of the greatest and wisest, as well as the best men in England, are already on your side, and will stand by you; your enemies have nothing but mere power, unjustly obtained and applied, to support their cause; reason and justice are altogether against them; they therefore stand on slippery ground, and totter in their stations. Lord Camden exerted himself nobly in the House of Lords in your favour — he told them the Boston Bill would be productive of a train of evils, and they certainly would have cause to repent it. Great care is taken to prevent copies of his speech from getting to America, as well as to deceive you by false intelligence. Every tool of power in America will be called upon, and furnished with means to mislead you, by a misrepresentation of facts, and giving a false turn and colouring to every thing that it concerns you to know. Six hundred pounds per annum, are paid to writers of false intelligence, and letters, as well as newspapers, that might give you such intelligence as the Ministry desire to conceal from you, are all stopped.

It is given out that severe measures are only intended against Boston, to punish their refractory conduct; but depend upon it, if they succeed against Boston, the like measures will be extended to every Colony in America; they only begin with Boston, hoping the other Colonies will not interpose. But you are all to be visited in turn, and devoured one after another. You may depend upon my intelligence — my office gives me access to the principals concerned in the measures, and I think it my duty to warn the innocent against the wicked devices that I know to be meditated against them. It behoves the Colonies to be united, in their intelligence, councils, and measures; it is a matter of the last importance to them, to stand by, and support one another; the most favoured can only expect to be last devoured. The Ministry are determined to try your metal to the utmost. Mansfield and Bute are supposed to be the prime directors, and to influence the Royal ear as they please. The spoils of England are insufficient to support the luxury of the minions of power; they have fixed their voracious appetites upon the possessions of the Americans, and intend to make a prey of them, in defiance of reason and justice; of the Charters of Kings, and the divine laws of nature. Depend upon it, every Colony is to be subdued into a slavish obedience to the tyrannical impositions of Great Britain; nothing less will suffice, nothing less is intended. After the subjection of Boston, and perhaps all the New England Governments, New-Jersey and New-York are to be the next in course; and they talk of taking away Penn' s Charter. Look to yourselves; exert all your faculties to the utmost; your virtues will be put to a severe trial, and if they are not genuine and well founded, they will not stand the test.

Alas! how is my soul shocked at the present situation of England, my native country — a great, a generous, and late a happy people — but now, how changed, how fallen! The men who are really wise and good, deprived of opportunities of acting; the poor and middling people, ruined and oppressed; the rich, lost in luxury and dissipation; a set of weak and wicked men, misguiding the reins of Government; the people taxed to death, without mercy; placemen and pensioners, without number, &c.

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Many of the officers on the intended expedition against Boston and America have nobly thrown up their commissions, and refused to fight against their brethren in the Colonies, without a just cause; and it is expected the soldiers will desert in multitudes, from a mere sense of honour and justice.