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To the People of America



Boston, January 26, 1775.

MY WORTHY FRIENDS AND FELLOW-COUNTRYMEN: After making one or two previous observations, I shall endeavour to set before you what will probably be the consequences of your infatuated blindness, wishing and earnestly hoping by this or any other means, to see that social happiness,


peace, and harmony, restored, which have reigned in this once happy land; — to see you convinced of your imprudent and rash behaviour, and returning to that obedience to the laws and authority of Great Britain, which alone can make you a free, wealthy, and happy people.

Mankind in general are too apt to indulge themselves in contemplating and forming Utopian schemes, and if they fail in the execution of them, to solace themselves with the reflection, that, "in great attempts, ' tis glorious even to fail." Nor is this a matter of wonder, as it gratifies an itch for superiority, and a thirst for applause, which are implanted by nature in every breast, in a greater or less degree. To what a pitch of infatuation then may we suppose these passions to be raised in those men who are unwilling to confine themselves within the bounds, or submit to the laws, prescribed by the Government to which they are subject; whose conduct has justly merited punishment and contempt, and who must inevitably sink into infamy and obscurity. When these men find it necessary by some bold step to retrieve their characters; set about a reformation of a Government already the envy of every other Nation, and are determined to accomplish their views, or perish in the attempt, we must at once be sensible, that not the united misery of all their fellow-men, nor the destruction of the peace and good order of the world, will ever deter them from their desperate undertaking; but, that rather than fail in their enterprise, they will exult to introduce anarchy and confusion into the state, and glory to riot upon the miseries of mankind in private life. Happy shall I think myself, and very fortunate esteem you, my friends and fellow-countrymen, if the consequences of their detestable conduct do not strictly justify this description of their wickedness and folly.

The independence which these leaders aim at, the means of obtaining it, and the necessary consequences which must result from it, are replete with the most distressing calamities, destructive mischiefs, and aggravated miseries, that ever were inflicted on mankind, and yet to these curses, horrid in idea, but which will prove much more dreadful in reality, you are tamely and quietly submitting, while it is yet in your power effectually to prevent them, and to save yourselves from ruin. Rouse, I beseech you, consider but one moment, before it is too late (which it shortly will be) on what ground you stand; revolve in your minds the dangerous situation you are in; and by a seasonable attention to, and amendment of your infatuated conduct, discharge that duty which you owe to God, your King, your country, to yourselves, and succeeding millions of your posterity yet unborn. You will pardon my warmth; I feel for your unfortunate and fatal security; fain would I snatch you from the surrounding flames; fain would I save you from the threatened destruction.

Let us now cooly consider what would be the consequences if you could obtain the darling object of your wishes, and erect an independent Republick; first premising the insurmountable obstacles and unforeseen difficulties, which must retard your progress, and finally frustrate your hopes. Your expectations of accomplishing this mad undertaking must at once appear to be groundless, when you consider that the Throne was never more secure in the hearts of a free and happy people; the Nation never more powerful in its resources, or more respected abroad; nor Administration more firmly established in the esteem and approbation of a great majority of the people (notwithstanding any artful suggestions to the contrary) than at this day. Little reason indeed can we then have to think that such a Nation will tamely admit the claims, and give way to the clamour of her rebellious Colonies, who depend upon her for their very existence, and have made such ungrateful returns for her parental care and protection of them. The British Nation, though humane and condescending to fault, yet when so highly provoked, and wantonly irritated, will not remain inactive, nor unsheath the sword in vain, but will severely correct and chastise our insolence: If she does not she will inevitably be rendered contemptible in the eyes of all Europe; there is not an Island in the West Indies, nor the most inferiour Corporation in her Dominions, but will at once be setting up new claims, and wrest from her even the very appearance of authority. Add to this that the honour and justice of the Nation are very materially interested in the present disputes,


and nothing short of an entire disavowal of any right or authority of Great Britain over her Colonies is now insisted upon. Can any man in his senses then suppose that she will make no opposition; that she will not make a point of reducing us to obedience, and establishing her authority over us, upon a sure and permanent foundation. If we may argue by analogy from smaller things to greater; if we may conclude from the experience of former ages and Nations; if we consult the dictates of human nature, she certainly will; and if she should, would it not be well for us to sit down and count the cost before we think of an opposition. Does not prudence, does not a regard for our safety, and every thing that we hold dear, demand the most serious consideration? Nothing less than rebellion is in question. Who can think of it without shuddering? who can rush into it without the most desperate madness? And when we reflect upon the little probability we have of success, the project appears ten times more senseless, unaccountable, and absurd; our folly a thousand times more glaring; and the danger infinitely more real and extensive. No single circumstance is in our favour, while every thing seems in a most extraordinary manner to conspire against us. We have no Officers capable of conducting an Army, and if by chance there should be any, they are men who will never sacrifice their honour, credit, character, reputation, and conscience, by engaging in open rebellion. No Soldiers disciplined for service; for let me assure you, that notwithstanding the parade and noise that has been made about learning the manual exercise, and the frequent trainings which you have had among you, these will never make you Soldiers fit for service; — these are but mere outside tinsel and ornamental show in comparison with the various manoeuvres, evolutions, marchings, counter-marchings, advancing, retreating, breaking, rallying, and a thousand other circumstances, which (being unacquainted with military terms) I don' t readily recollect, and of which you can have no idea. Most of you suppose, by all that can be collected, that the several Armies, should there ever be an engagement, will stand on the same ground, till a superiority of numbers and mere personal courage (which you vainly take for granted is on your side) shall decide the day in your favour against disciplined veterans; but be not too daring, from any misapprehensions of this kind; you will find yourselves at once astonished, confounded, and put to flight, by sudden and unexpected attacks from every quarter; at one time you will seem to have a handful of Troops to oppose; and the next minute they will appear almost innumerable, merely from their dexterous movements, and the different situations in which they will be placed. And should you be able to perfect yourselves even in this part of the discipline, your skill will rebound with ten-fold destruction upon your own heads; for by far the greater part, when matters shall be brought to such extremities, will declare on the loyal side, and extricate themselves from the guilt of rebellion, by the most vigorous efforts to suppress it. Add to this, that you neither have, nor can procure Camp Equipage, Military Stores, Arms, or Ammunition, except the trifling pittance already in our possession, (for nothing can be easier than to prevent the increase of your stock,) and how long do your infatuated zealots suppose that this can serve you? Perhaps they may endeavour to persuade you that Heaven will interpose and save you, by making your warlike stores inexhaustible, like the widow' s cruise: this I firmly believe if their diminution depends upon your making use of them. But to be serious — God is a God of order, and not of confusion; he commands you to submit to your Rulers, and to be obedient to the higher powers for conscience sake, and therefore can never be supposed to favour Traitors and Rebels. So that if you should die in a state of actual rebellion, you will not only forfeit your worldly interest to your injured Sovereign, and entail misery, poverty, and infamy upon your posterity, but inevitably draw down the vengeance of the Almighty upon your guilty souls. But a terrible reverse of circumstances is presented to your view, if you turn your thoughts to those whom you will be obliged to oppose. They are commanded by a General, who, although respected, and amiable for his social virtues, for his prudence, humanity, long suffering, and clemency, of which you all cannot but be sensible, is


nevertheless universally allowed to be a brave soldier, cool, intrepid, watchful, and resolute; perfectly acquainted with the military art; he will improve every advantage in his favour, and never expose himself by his imprudence or rashness. His exquisite sensibility and humane disposition will doubtless recoil at what his duty and interest oblige him to undertake; but those he will willingly sacrifice when his loyalty to his King, and his regard for the interest of both countries require it at his hands. How different also is the character of the Officers and Soldiers under his command from yours? Many of them have fought in defence of their country; many of them justly merit the character of true British veterans, for their honourable and successful services; many of them have been in battles which have reflected the highest honour upon themselves, and the most extensive reputation upon the British Arms; and all of them are skilled in military service and discipline; they are all firmly established in the most loyal principles, and entertain a just indignation at the unwarrantable and illegal practices which they daily see carried on under your direction and patronage; they are amply provided with all kinds of Military Stores, and can very readily at any time be recruited, should there be any necessity for it; they are engaged in a cause which their duty to God, their King, and country, require them to espouse, and will enable them to support. Here let me pause; — can any man upon this cursory, though true representation of facts, hesitate to determine at once to return to the allegiance from which he has revolted, and to make some atonement by his future loyal and dutiful behaviour for his past misconduct; or if he is not yet tainted with the infectious phrenzy of the times, to continue a faithful and true subject of the British Realm? He certainly cannot; the most powerful motives which can ever influence human counsels, urge him on one side, while nothing but what every good man must deprecate and abhor can stimulate him to a contrary conduct.

But I will now suppose that we have gained our wished for Independence, and admit for argument sake, (what is not supposed in fact) that Great Britain will relinquish her jurisdiction over us, disclaim all her authority, and give us up a prey to our own madness and folly; what mighty boon should we obtain? Let us consider the consequences; let us see in what manner it would probably affect us, abstracted from the influence it may have upon other States and Kingdoms in Europe. It will be necessary immediately to determine upon some form of Government; and here what intestine jars and jealousies must be the necessary consequence. Various as are the faces of mankind, so different are they in their opinions upon Civil Government, especially when every bold, ambitious man finds room for the exertion of his abilities; he will want no other motive to induce him to object to any plan proposed, than that any one has recommended it before him. Determined to be the leader of a party, his art and address will gain him followers, and you will soon have as many forms of Government contended for, as there are men who have ambition, resolution, and ability sufficient to conduct their cause. Necessity will then oblige you either to submit to a set of petty tyrants, who, unless divested of the passions and feelings which have uniformly actuated the conduct of all their predecessors, will at once be intoxicated with success, and rule you with a rod of iron, or to live in a state of perpetual war with your neighbours, and suffer all the calamities and misfortunes incident to anarchy, confusion, and bloodshed. Scenes of this kind we may naturally expect within the limits of a single Province. But when we extend our thoughts to the controversies which will arise between the several Colonies and Provinces, about the Seat of Government, each contending for its own Metropolis; the general form of Government to be established over the whole Continent; the choice of a Monarch; members of the Aristocracy, Oligarchy, or Democracy, as either of those modes shall be preferred, language fails me in the description of the universal carnage and desolation which must inevitably ensue. The most unfeeling breast must, on this occasion, be pierced with the most exquisite sensibility, and the very dumb creation burst with indignation at our astonishing folly, provoking madness, and unpardonable stupidity. But can any one suppose that the powerful states of Europe would sit still and lose so valuable


an opportunity of increasing their power and extending their Dominions? They certainly would not. What misery, then, will you bring upon yourselves, when two formidable Armies, irresistible by any force that you can raise, shall make your country the scene of war. The event must be, that you will be treated as slaves and vassals to the conquering Power; or, to make the most favourable supposition, if one of the states of Europe should invade you, to procure salvation from entire destruction, you will be obliged to make a sacrifice of infinitely greater privileges than any that you unreasonably suppose yourselves in danger of losing from the exercise of the authority of the parent state over you. In proportion to the value of the acquisition, they will enhance their security; and, to make sure of your subjection, will put it out of your power to resist their authority or oppose their tyrannical designs against you. You will then, in the language of the most humiliating penitence and sorrow, fly for protection to that power which you now so wantonly resist, and beg to shelter yourselves under her wing upon any conditions she shall see fit to impose. You will readily renounce every claim that you now set up, and trust to her wisdom and justice for your future protection and government. But it may then be too late to appease the wrath of a spirited, provoked, and angry Nation.

But let us shift the scene. It can never be supposed that Great Britain will thus lose so bright a jewel in her Crown; she will rather, like a kind parent, bring us to our senses by a timely correction and chastisement of our insolence. To this, nothing further will be requisite than to shut up all the Ports upon the Continent, and make prize of all vessels that shall be found in these Seas; and a small part of the British Navy will be able effectually to execute this plan. What would then be our situation? You will perhaps readily answer, that this must be done at the expense of the ruin of the Nation; that she will never survive the loss of our trade. But in this you are equally mistaken, as in all the other preposterous notions you entertain. A temporary inconvenience she might suffer, but would soon recover the loss. She may be supplied with most if not all the articles that this country produces from other parts, where she would find a sale for all the manufactures she can spare. By opening and encouraging a free trade with foreign countries, commerce might be turned into a channel equally beneficial to her, and she would, in a short time, outgrow any inconvenience that can be suffered from relinquishing her dealings with us. But, in the mean time, what must be our situation? Distressing, indeed, when deprived of those necessaries which we should find it impossible to live without, and at the same time unable to procure them from any quarter. Moreover, a great proportion of the inhabitants upon the Continent, who obtain a livelihood by a maritime life, and the several trades and occupations which depend upon the encouragement of navigation, would at once be thrown out of bread and unable even to procure a sustenance, and would, by their numbers, and the encouragement which they would receive from others, equally sensible of the mischiefs you had brought upon them, finally compel you all to return to a sense of your true interest, and become dutiful and obedient children to the parent state. The probable truth of this we may easily collect from the necessity there is of the most generous and liberal contributions from our sister Colonies, to enable the suffering poor of the Town of Boston to support the poverty resulting from shutting up their Port. What a miserable plight, then, will they and all the others upon the Continent be in, should these unhappily be reduced to the same predicament? Self-preservation would force you all, my dear countrymen, to adopt any measures for your relief, and none would ever be effectual but a full submission to, and acknowledgment of, the supreme jurisdiction of the Parliament of Great Britain over the Colonies. You will perhaps say, that far different, probably, would be the consequences of shutting up all the Ports upon the Continent, from what I have suggested; you will rather insinuate that it would be attended with many circumstances which bear a much more favourable aspect; that the Colonies would at once declare a free trade with all the other states in the world; that, in consequence of it, ships would arrive from these states, which would be seized as prizes by the British ships; that this


would irritate the several Governments to which they might belong, which would resent the injury; and that thus Great Britain would have all the Powers of Europe at once to oppose, and finally sink in the contest, or submit to the claims of the Colonies, and apply to them for assistance. A very formidable account indeed. Not to insist upon the absurdity of declaring a free trade with other states, when all your Ports are shut up, all vessels made prizes, and consequently all communication with any part of the world cut off, I would just reply, that no state in Europe will be quite so forward to incur the resentment of the British Nation; no state in this enlightened age, so regardless of the principles of justice, equity, and the Laws of Nations, as to interfere with the private concerns between Great Britain and her Colonies. And should any of them be so rash, Great Britain will find Powers enough who will remain so far true to her interest, as to oppose any attempts to injure her on such an account. But even admitting that all the states in the world should incline to take such a step, they must be blind not to see that it would be the most destructive, impolitick conduct, to attempt the ruin of the British Empire, which now preserves the balance between all the Powers upon earth, and which, should it be reduced, must finally bring on the downfall of half the Kingdoms in the world. Carnage, war, and bloodshed must ensue, till the wavering balance, after alternate preponderations, should, by these destructive calamities, once more be restored to its equilibrium, and Peace with her smiling train once more bless mankind with harmony and joy.

Thus, my dear countrymen, in whatever light we consider this truly Utopian project, the more attentively we view it, and the more thoroughly we scan it, the more impracticable, absurd, and ridiculous it appears. Let not, then, a conviction of the folly of your conduct suffer you any longer to remain in your errour. Some men are so obstinate, that when once they have adopted a plan, they will never relinquish it, however sensible they may be of its pernicious tendency. But this character, I am persuaded, is not applicable to you all. Let then, I beseech you, your regard for your own welfare, your attachment to the interest of the community, your natural good sense and humanity, induce you but one moment to reflect upon your dangerous situation. Nothing but an immediate reformation of your past behaviour can save you from the impending evils with which you are threatened. It is an instance of the most laudable goodness of heart and greatness of soul, to acknowledge and reform any errour which we have zealously embraced, when sensible of our deception and mistake. The experience of all ages may convince us that "to err is human." Let, then, an amendment of your conduct prove to you that "to forgive" is the "divine" attribute, which Britons ever rejoice to discover, and are most cordially willing to exercise towards their deluded, unhappy children in America.