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Boston, did we not hope, that by disclaiming their deeds, and punishing the perpetrators, you would shortly vindicate the honor of the British name, and re-establish the violated laws of justice.
That once populous, flourishing and commercial town, is now garrisoned by an army, sent not to protect, but to enslave its inhabitants. The civil government is overturned, and a military despotism erected upon its ruins. Without law, without right, powers are assumed unknown to the constitution. Private property is unjustly invaded. The inhabitants, daily subjected to the licentiousness of the soldiery, are forbid to remove, in defiance of their natural rights, in violation of the most solemn compacts. Or, if after long and wearisome solicitation, a pass is procured, their effects are detained, and even those who are most favored, have no alternative but poverty or slavery. The distress of many thousand people, wantonly deprived of the necessaries of life, is a subject, on which we would not wish to enlarge.
Yet we cannot but observe, that a British fleet, (unjustified even by acts of your legislature,) are daily employed in ruining our commerce, seizing our ships, and depriving whole communities of their daily bread. Nor will a regard for your honor permit us to be silent, while British troops sully your glory, by actions, which the most inveterate enmity will not palliate among civilized nations—the wanton and unnecessary destruction of Charlestown, a large, ancient and once populous town, just before deserted by its inhabitants, who had fled to avoid the fury of your soldiery.
If still you retain those sentiments of compassion, by which Britons have ever been distinguished; if the humanity, which tempered the valor of our common ancestors, has not degenerated into cruelty, you will lament the miseries of their descendants.
To what are we to attribute this treatment? If to any secret principle of the constitution, let it be mentioned; let us learn, that the government we have long revered, is not without its defects, and that while it gives freedom to a part, it necessarily enslaves the remainder of the empire. If such a principle exists, why for ages has it ceased to operate? Why at this time is it called into action? Can no reason be assigned for this conduct? Or must it be resolved into the wanton exercise of arbitrary power? And shall the descendants of Britons tamely submit to this ? No, sirs, we never will, while we revere the memory of our gallant and virtuous ancestors, we never can surrender those glorious privileges, for which they fought, bled and conquered. Admit that your fleets could destroy our towns, and ravage our sea-coasts; these are inconsiderable objects, things of no moment to men whose bosoms glow with the ardor of liberty. We can retire beyond the reach of your navy, and, without any sensible diminution of the necessaries of life, enjoy a luxury, which from that period you will want the luxury of being free.
We know the force of your arms, and was it called forth in the cause of justice and your country, we might dread the exertion; but will Britons fight under the banners of tyranny ? Will they counteract the labors, and disgrace the victories of their ancestors ? Will they forge chains for their posterity? If they descend to this unworthy task, will their swords retain their edge, their arms their accustomed vigor ? Britons can never become the instruments of oppression, till they lose the spirit of freedom, by which alone they are invincible.
Our enemies charge us with sedition. In what does it consist? In our refusal to submit to unwarrantable acts of injustice and cruelty? If so, show us a period in your history, in which you have not been equally seditious.
We are accused of aiming at independence; but how is this accusation supported ? By the allegations of your ministers, not by our actions. "Abused, insulted and contemned, what steps have we pursued to ob
tain redress? We have carried our dutiful petitions to the throne. We have applied to your justice for relief. We have retrenched our luxury, and withheld our trade.
The advantages of our commerce were designed as a compensation for your protection. When you ceased to protect, for what were we to compensate?
What has been the success of our endeavors ? The clemency of our sovereign is unhappily diverted; our petitions are treated with indignity; our prayers answered by insults. Our application to you remains unnoticed, and leaves us the melancholy apprehension of your wanting either the will, or the power, to as
Even under these circumstances, what measures have we taken that betray a desire of independence? Have we called in the aid of those foreign powers, who are the rivals of your grandeur? When your troops were few and defenceless, did we take advantage of their distress and expel them our towns ? Or have we permitted them to fortify, to receive new aid, and to acquire additional strength ?
Let not your enemies and ours persuade you, that in this we were influenced by fear, or any other unworthy motive. The lives of Britons are still dear to us. They are the children of our parents, and an uninterrupted intercourse of mutual benefits had knit the bonds of friendship. When hostilities were commenced, when, on a late occasion, we were wantonly attacked by your troops, though we repelled their assaults and returned their blows, yet we lamented the wounds they obliged us to give; nor have we yet learned to rejoice at a victory over Englishmen.
As we wish not to color our actions, or disguise our thoughts, we shall, in the simple language of truth avow the measures we have pursued, the motives upon which we have acted, and our future designs.
When our late petition to the throne produced no other effect than fresh injuries, and votes of your legislature, calculated to justify every severity; when your fleets and your armies were prepared to wrest from us our property, to rob us of our liberties or our lives; when the hostile attempts of General Gage evinced his designs, we levied armies for our security and defence. When the powers vested in the governor of Canada gave us reason to apprehend danger from that quarter; and we had frequent intimations, that a cruel and savage enemy was to be let loose upon the defenceless inhabitants of our frontiers; we took such measures as prudence dictated, as necessity will justify. We possessed ourselves of Crown Point and Ticonderoga. Yet give us leave most solemnly to assure you, that we have not yet lost sight of the object, we have ever had in view-a reconciliation with you on constitutional principles, and a restoration of that friendly intercourse, which, to the advantage of both, we till lately maintained.
The inhabitants of this country apply themselves chiefly to agriculture and commerce. As their fashions and manners are similar to yours, your markets must afford them the conveniences and luxuries, for which they exchange the produce of their labors. The wealth of this extended continent centres with you; and our trade is so regulated as to be subservient only to your interest. You are too reasonable to expect, that by taxes, (in addition to this, we should contribute to your expense; to believe after diverting the fountain, that the streams can flow with unabated force.
It has been said, that we refuse to submit to the restrictions on our commerce. From whence is this inference drawn? Not from our words, we having repeatedly declared the contrary; and we again profess our submission to the several acts of trade and navigation, passed before the year 1763, trusting, nevertheless, in the equity and justice of parliament, that such of them as, upon cool and impartial consideration, shall appear to have imposed unnecessary or grievous re
strictions, will, at some happier period, be repealed or altered. And we cheerfully consent to the operation of such acts of the British parliament, as shall be restrained to the regulation of our external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members; excluding every idea of taxation, internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects in America without their consent.
It is alleged that we contribute nothing to the common defence. To this we answer, that the advantages, which Great Britain receives from the monopoly of our trade, far exceed our proportion of the expense necessary for that purpose. But should these advantages be inadequate thereto, let the restrictions on our trade be removed, and we will cheerfully contribute such proportion when constitutionally required.
It is a fundamental principle of the British constitution, that every man should have at least a representative share in the formation of those laws, by which he is bound. Were it otherwise, the regulation of our internal police by a British parliament, who are, and ever will be, unacquainted with our local circumstances, must be always inconvenient, and frequently oppressive, working our wrong, without yielding any possible advantage to you.
A plan of accommodation, (as it has been absurdly called,) has been proposed by your ministers to our respective assemblies. Were this proposal free from every other objection, but that which arises from the time of the offer, it would not be unexceptionable. Can men deliberate with the bayonet at their breast? Can they treat with freedom, while their towns are sacked; when daily instances of injustice and oppression, disturb the slower operations of reason?
If this proposal is really such as you would offer, and we accept, why was it delayed till the nation was put to useless expense, and we were reduced to our present