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To John Dickson, Esquire



One of the reputed Authors of the PENNSYLVANIA FARMER' S LETTERS, published on occasion of the AMERICAN Revenue Acts, in Mr˙ GRENVILLE' S Administration.

New-York, March 23, 1775.

SIR: I live at least two hundred and twenty miles from Philadelphia, and am frequently a fortnight without receiving a Newspaper. That happens to be the case at present, as I have only just now read the Resolves of your Convention. This letter, Sir, shall be publick, only because the people of Pennsylvania are taught to believe the author of the Farmer' s Letters is infallible. Nasce te ipsum, is the advice of a wise man, and as difficult to be attained by some, as to be translated by others. I am a plain, honestman, Sir, who never received a favour from the hand of power. My composition is simple, and easily defined. I have been at a great deal of pains to learn the true character of Mr˙ Dickinson; have asked it repeatedly


from Whig and Tory; and as I know myself to be void of prejudice on account of difference in opinion, will take the liberty to mention what I have been able to discover. You are a gentleman of good natural understanding, great reading, and engaging address. You early found yourself possessed of knowledge, and the means by which you first obtained popularity were in many instances laudable. But the praises of the multitude are dangerous, even to a virtuous man; they gain his confidence by their applause, and feed the innocent vanity of the human mind, until he at last surrenders up his judgment, joins in the popular errour, and finds, when too late, he was wedded to his wo. If I am rightly informed, Sir, (and my authority is not bad,) you are worth at least Forty Thousand Pounds Sterling; entertain elegantly, as often as your constitution will admit of; and are blest with as sweet a tongue as ever delivered the language of profusion; a lawyer, too. I wish I had forgot that circumstance; ignorance of the laws might plead in mitigation of the breach of them; but how are we to account for the late conduct of the highly lettered, the accomplished Mr˙ Dickinson? In your Farmer' s Letters, you breathe the gentle accents of order and decorum; you positively pronounce that the King is the ruling power, in whom is justly vested the regulations of Trade, &c. You wrote then, Sir, as if you thought your Country injured; I am sorry to say you now act as if you repented of propriety. I have not those Letters by me at present, but I read them as they came out, with great attention. I was told the author was a young man, who loved, like other men of abilities, to be known and admired; and notwithstanding I perceived many sentiments calculated to feed the popular appetite, yet almost every line told the admiring reader they were the production of a gentleman. Now, Sir, let me request of you to turn over once more those leaves of genius; compare your words at that time with your present actions; though much you are altered, you cannot read those papers without recollecting what you were; and I think that modesty which marks your character, must make you blush for what you are. I perfectly remember your asserting the dependence of the Colonies on Great Britain in the most positive terms, and you have now set your seal to a resolution of taking up arms against your Sovereign, unless King, Lords, and Commons relinquish their claim to the very privileges which, seven years ago, you spent whole pages in defending their right to. It is true that mad resolve contains a proviso; but permit me to assure you, it would have done your understanding more honour to have omitted it. What! deliver a petition to the greatest monarch on earth with one hand, and hold a sword in the other, with a paper on the point of it, containing the following words: "If you do not give up your legal authority over the Colonies, we will break off all connexion with you, and, by withholding certain articles, we will drive Great Britain, Ireland, and the West-Indies into such convulsions, as will shake your Throne, and enable us to command our own terms." I appeal to your heart, is not this a fair representation? The best and most sensible men are often easy and unsuspecting, and (pardon the expression) too often the dupes of aspiring villany. It is difficult to write on this subject, without transgressing the bounds of delicacy. Your private character, Sir, is amiable, and incapable of deliberate errour; so that the censure which your political one justly merits, ought to be tenderly and politely administered. This I have endeavoured to observe, notwithstanding truth frequently loses its weight when destitute of severity. Is it possible, Sir, that a man of your penetration should expect or wish that Great Britain should be bullied into abject submission? My hand trembles at the next sentence. If you love or honour her, your prayers now are, that every resolve of the Congress (except to keep sheep to a proper age) may be treated with the utmost contempt; if you do not love her, I am sorry for it. You have too much sense to join in the idle opinion which some have adopted, that to obtain enough, you must demand too much. You are a man of spirit, I dare say, and I beg leave to ask, if you had been so unfortunate as to offend a gentleman, and offered to make an apology, would you submit to acknowledge yourself a fool or a coward? Inexpediency and right are two different things; but if Parliament thought proper to relax, it would be very immaterial to the Colonies through which


channel they enjoyed the blessings of peace. But, alas! Peace, with all her loveliness, has few admirers. Sedition, that battered hag, steps forth with all the frippery of delusive tinsel — the admiring crowd pursue with eager eyes — to all she promises the wished event. "Fear not, my faithful sons, my bold Republicans, the time draws nigh when honours shall be dealt out with a liberal hand; my spiritual agents in New-England shall roll in chariots; my favourite Adams shall be head of their mightinesses; the name of King shall not be known among us; our Troops shall be commanded by the famous wanderer, Lee; and you, Mr˙ Dickinson, shall be Prime Council to the States General." Whether you believe this or not, I will be answerable it is the creed of your morning star in Market-Street, and of your new puritanick relation, Charles Thomson, who grins horribly on all a ghastly smile.

Now, Sir, permit a man who has been an eye witness to the unhappy consequences of one rebellion, to warn you of impending misery. You are too well acquainted with the human heart not to know that an English Senator is as capable of resenting an injury, as any member of the Grand Continental Congress. Consider, Sir, when the people of England speak, it comes from the mouths of cannon, backed by men whose approved courage and ardour have rendered them the terrour of those enemies, a few of whom (were it not for the protection of Old England last war) would have laid your estates, as well as those of your neighbours, under heavy contributions.

I am at a loss what name to give your boasted intentions of wounding the commercial interest of Great Britain. If you really mean what you say, it is the grossest infatuation. The Island of Teneriffe might, with as great a prospect of success, threaten to ruin Willing and Morris, by not trading with them, when every other corner of the habitable globe pants for their correspondence.

Let an old man entreat you, Sir, to consider the people who look to you; the lower order of men in Pennsylvania are as bigoted to you, as the deluded papists to their Priests in Ireland.

Our gracious Sovereign, ever watchful over the lives and happiness of his subjects, has made choice of a man, whose persevering humanity and unshaken steadiness in the discharge of his present complicated and important command, reflect the highest honour on the judgment of his master, and will stand unparalleled in the records of merit. And would you, Sir, wish to counteract the godlike work of preventing bloodshed in the Colonies, and a disgraceful submission on the part of the Mother Country? Figure to yourself the sword unsheathed; a soldiery (who knows no stop) let loose at men, women, and children, with the word rebellion ringing in their ears; and to complete the dreadful picture, the Lords of the Ocean thundering the resentment of the British Nation through your houses and the cradles of your guiltless offspring. This, Sir, is not chimerical; I believe the probability of it as much as I do proofs of Holy Writ. From your private character, I suppose there is no man who would more readily dry up the tears of the widow, and pour bairn into the wounds of the infant; but remember, Sir, if you are a principal in promoting them, your good offices will be considered as a death-bed repentance.




* January 23 to 28, 1775.