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Address to the People of Pennsylvania



It must afford singular pleasure to every lover of liberty and his country, to observe the unanimity of sentiment with respect to the present system of American Government. That the Parliament of Great Britain has no right to tax the unrepresented Americans, is now become a fixed and settled principle, in which the zealous and the moderate equally agree. But the modes of resistance to this claim are various, according to the different informations, conceptions, ideas, and I fear, the different interests of those who may be affected by that which shall be finally adopted. There are some who go yet farther, and think the payment of the tea destroyed at Boston should precede all farther opposing measures on the part of America. I incline to think the number of these to be but few. — But as it has been the subject of publick discussion, in the town of Boston, and may have more advocates than I am aware of, I shall submit the following reasons against it, to the judgment of my fellow — citizens.

As a sacrifice to peace, I am persuaded no one would object; but as an act of justice, necessarily or properly


preceding a virtuous struggle for constitutional liberty, I can by no means agree to it. In order to form a just idea of this subject, let us reflect what was our situation, and the end proposed by this complicated manoeuvre of politicks and private interest. America had been struggling for three years against an Act imposing duties upon paper, glass, tea, painters' colours, &c˙, for the purpose of raising a revenue. At the expiration of that time Parliament thought proper to repeal it in part, but kept the duty on tea expressly as a precedent for future taxation. The same reason operated on both sides, though in a different manner. If Parliament was so tenacious of the precedent to keep up the claim on the Colonies, it was equally incumbent on them to refuse their submission; for on this the virtue of the precedent depended. Hence proceeded the resolution of not importing this article while subject to this duty, that we might not only address our arguments to the understanding, but the feeling of our fellow — subjects in Britain. Thus far there was a general concurrence of sentiment and action: for the code of laws had not then appeared by which these Associations are found to be treasonable; this discovery has been reserved for the profound researches and ingenuity of the present Governour of Massachusetts Bay. This union, that resolution, and these principles, can only be justified by the injustice of the law, and it repugnancy to our natural and acquired rights. But when the operation of this agreement began to be felt by the accumulation of tea at the India House, and the distresses of the Company united, have forced a repeal; a sort of truce was clapped up between the Minister and the Company, at the expense of America. Having laid that powerful body at his feet, by overturning their whole system, they became his willing instruments to overturn the fair fabrick of liberty in this country. If it is said they sent it under the sanction of an Act of Parliament, I would ask, does this country acknowledge the right of Parliament to sanctify a measure fundamentally unjust? If it does, how came we to oppose the first Act? Allow this power to Parliament, and it will apply equally to the Stamp Act, the Tea Act, or any other as well as the one under our consideration. But it is said to be private property, sent by English subjects to English subjects, and therefore under the implicit confidence and faith subsisting between them, which should have been its protection. If it was private property, it was certainly sent hither for publick purposes; and whether political or commercial motives predominated the consequences to this country were the same; by receiving it, we established the precedent for which the Minister contended; by rejecting it, we destroyed its authority.

Nor will the advocates for the East India Company draw any advantage from the presumptive security of their wares, since this presumption must arise from the purity of their intentions, and their ignorance of the circumstances and danger. One depends, upon the other. Now we have the most unquestionable evidence, that the Company was fully apprized of the sense of America on this subject. In the first place it is not to be supposed they could be ignorant of all the publications respecting it, and the resolution existing in this country not to import their tea under the duty, while they were sinking under the distresses it had occasioned. But we have positive proof from the refusals of our captains and owners of vessels to receive it on freight, and assigning the reason. If this was not sufficient, Governour Johnston declared in Parliament, that both by letter and verbally, he pointed out to the India Company, the impropriety of the measure, the circumstance, and the danger. What tye of faith or confidence could ensure the property of an English subject, knowingly employed as an instrument to subjugate another, equally free with himself. A fair and candid attention to facts, I think, must produce the fullest conviction that they sent the tea in direct opposition to the known sense of this country, well informed as to the risk, which was considered in this expected profit, and therefore cannot, under an idea of justice, have any right to compensation.

If we are right in opposing the Act, surely we must be right in opposing the means, by which that Act is to be executed: admit the principle, the practice is fairly justifiable from it. Let us not be misled by names; if payment is an Act of justice, it must be founded in this case on a supposition of injury done, of which the party has a right


to complain. But here the injury was done to the Americans; the greatest injury the citizen of a free country can feel; while he is struggling for liberty, a third person interposes, makes himself a party in the dispute, his weapon is broke, or destroyed in the conflict — will not the justice of his receiving compensation for it, depend upon the propriety of his interposition, his knowledge of the circumstances, and consequences to the person he opposed. I will propose a case by which this question may be decided, by the appeal to every man' s own judgment and conscience. Suppose two persons fighting, a third person either puts a sword into the hand of one or applies it himself for his assistance — the sword is broke by him who it was designed to injure; as a juryman or referee, would you think the officious interposer entitled to a satisfaction? The justice of such a demand, in the case of the tea, must certainly depend on the original question of right in laying the duty; for no one can, with reason, claim protection while he is trespassing on the right of others, or assisting those who do; his security must depend upon the rectitude and probity of his conduct; and he may be rather said to have forfeited his right of property, who makes it an instrument of oppression to others, than to have any warrant for its protection. Those who have hastily taken up this notion, I apprehend, do not see that it would, by fair argument, lead to a renunciation of the American cause.

But I think there are other reasons equally cogent, which shew that such a payment at present is neither founded on the principles of policy, expediency or reason — it is not politick. The cause of Boston is a common cause, or the other Colonies have no reason to espouse it. A payment of the tea would be setting a precedent for New-York, Charlestown, and Philadelphia, who are equally exposed to the like claims, though in different degrees, and probably subject the latter to the payment of the damages of the malt-ship sent from hence in 1767. This, I apprehend under the present circumstances of the people of Boston, would be going too far without the concurrence and advice of those Colonies at least. But the cause is of such vast importance to all America, that no step of such moment should be taken by a single Province, much less a town, but by the united wisdom of America in Congress alone. However, it may be smoothed over under the specious names of compensation and justice, it may be allowed to be a partial compliance with the most cruel Act which ever disgraced the annals of history; and can have but little merit, when we consider the time and force which extorts it. Besides, can we suppose the unfeeling and implacable author will put any other construction upon it, than as a step of submission, which may be improved into total subjection; the very idea of which will strengthen his heart, hands, and party, to go on and complete his pernicious work. It is not expedient, or to be reasonably expected at present, because if done in the fullest extent, they are as far from relief as ever. The advocates for this opinion seem to overlook those clauses in the Act of Parliament, which prolong the sufferings of Boston not only till satisfaction is made for the tea, but until his Majesty shall adjudge that due obedience to the laws has taken place, and the revenues may be duly collected; that is, in other words, till they have surrendered these inestimable rights, which stamp value and dignity on our existence. Some are so weak as to argue, that if this compensation is made there is no doubt, but relief would be granted. Let such consider the hostile views with which their present Governour came among them, his correspondent conduct, and thence judge how little favour they may expect from him. But I will suppose him the reverse of what he appears — and that he might be disposed to forward the certificate. Unless he could go farther than certifying the payment of the tea, of what effect would it be? This is not the ministerial object, if it was, the offers made in England would not have been rejected. Those therefore who support this opinion must either mean, that they should go farther in their submission, and make the grand sacrifice of all, give the fatal stab to the liberties of America, or strip themselves of a large sum of money, at a time when the hand of necessity is pressing them down to the lowest ebb of want and distress, and this without the least prospect of being restored, to their former condition. Is it expected from the wretched debtor, when unable to prevail upon his


relentless creditor, that he should put his purse into his hand, and then resign himself to the miseries of a jail. Yet this is what rigorous justice might demand, though reason and the law of self-preservation would authorize a repeal. — This has some resemblance to the present state of Boston.

I hope my countrymen will not be deceived by pretences of regard to justice, which too often serve as a cover for other views. That the tea will eventually be paid for, I believe there is little doubt, but let this compensation be made, as all others have been heretofore, when the grievance that created the loss ceased. There is not an argument offered for the payment of the tea, but what will operate equally for the payment of the stamped paper, which was never paid for to this hour; and let it also be remembered, that all the compensation made for damage done to individuals on that occasion, were after the Act was repealed. No person then thought that previous satisfaction was an act of justice, policy, or expedience. We have former experience for our guide, and I think it is not difficult to foresee, that hasty concessions of this nature, while our grievances continue, will defect the best concerted plan we may form for relief. It will afford such encouragement to every enterprising adventurer, who may choose to join in the attack upon American liberty, by securing his property from risk, as ought to deter us from hasty conclusions on a matter which may have such serious consequences. Instead of being the first act on the part of America, I cannot but think the interest of America, and particularly of the unhappy sufferers at Boston, require that it should be the last. But there is a debt of justice and honour of which I will beg leave to recommend my worthy fellow-citizens, not doubting but at a proper time it will meet with due attention. Those gentlemen who sacrificed their interest to the publick call, who permitted their goods to return in the tea-ship, and thereby may have saved this city from the calamities of Boston, though at a loss to themselves, surely deserve something more solid than thanks for so self-denying an instance of publick virtue and regard to their fellow-citizens.