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Address to the People of Boston


Boston, June 27, 1774.

The present dispute seems confined to these two sentiments: either to pay, or not to pay for the tea. They are very opposite; therefore, without doubt, it will be a long time before we are united on this point. Those who are for paying, bring these arguments to support it: that the tea belonged to private persons, consequently was private property, and it is but an act of justice we should pay for it, by which means our harbour will be opened, and trade carried on as usual."

Be not deceived, my countrymen; examine well these principles before you endeavour to put them in execution. Our unhappiness in this case is, we do not look far enough — we skim the surface of this Ministerial manoeuvre; but let us drop the plumb and endeavour to find out its sounding. Every one knows the fatal consequences of the East India Company' s sending their teas into America. It appeared to be a Ministerial measure to secure the revenue and establish a monopoly. We were alarmed at the consequences, and received it as an attack upon our liberty. Frequent meetings were held to ward off this impending evil, but all to no purpose. Our Committees were treated with disdain, our very Assemblies were looked upon as riots. The people were reduced to this deplorable circumstance, either to submit to their ruin, or destroy it. Could Americans long halt between two opinions? No, they destroyed it. The affair goes over to England; we hear little about it until an Act of Parliament is passed to block up the port of Boston; and all for what? Because we destroyed this cargo of India tea. We hear not a word of any private company appearing in this whole transaction, not a mention of private property, but Government takes the matter up, and chastises us by an Act of Parliament. Ships and troops are sent out on Government expense, and the whole plan of resentment is Governmental.

Considering circumstances as they really are, and viewing all measures from beginning to end, can we with any propriety talk of private interest, or think of paying for it on those principles? As well might we pay for the expense of powder and ball used on the night of the 5th of March to destroy our fellow-inhabitants. Sending the tea was a Ministerial measure to establish the revenue plan, and happily for us we showed our resentment and nipped it in the bud. I cannot see, unless we give up the very point in question, viz: the right of taxation, the propriety of our paying for this tea. Their sending it was as much designed to establish the revenue, as the powder and ball used by the soldiers was designed to destroy. If designed to establish the revenue, our opposition to it was uniform, and we could not suffer it to be landed consistent with our declared sentiments. We have, in the course of this debate with Great Britain, paid for many things we did; destroying the Governour' s house, making restitution to the Stamp Master, and many other officers, &c. We have been at great expenses in smaller matters; such as charges on re-shipping goods in the non-importation; all which we have paid, hoping to conciliate measures; but behold what have been their effect. We are loaded with fresh impositions; new plans are entered into, taking encouragement from our former charges, that we shall still continue to do so; therefore try the matter on, not doubting, If we destroy, the conscientious Americans will satisfy all who suffer, by a satisfactory payment. In this way peace cannot be established, but new measures will be for ever plotting to ruin and destroy us. Therefore, in conscience to the cause, the regard I have for the liberties of my country, and my aversion to all measures intended to destroy those liberties, I must declare against paying for the tea, though asked for on much more simple terms than required in the late Act, or without any restrictions of wharfs, &c˙, whatever. But what greatly astonishes me is, that the people who pretend to be friends to American liberty, should so strongly urge a payment, and comply with the terms of the Act.

No man who understands the nature of the English Constitution, can, with any degree of spirit, read over so arbitrary an edict; the blood of an Englishman must boil at every sentence. Magna Charta, that secures the property and person of the meanest beggar, is basely leaped over, and the people who pretend to the least shadow of liberty,


must, so far from feeling any inclination to comply with it, rather starve than harbour such despicable notions. The properties of a people are taken from them, their wharfs or warehouses, which perhaps are their only support, are rendered useless, or, at best, lay at the will of some infamous man in power. Where, then, is our security? The day we pay for that tea, under the present restrictions, that very day we become slaves. Whatever may be our boasted liberties, we are slaves in the most extensive degree. No people are free, when any power can take from them any part of their property without their consent; much more that people, whose whole property lays at the mercy of a foreign edict. Consider, my countrymen, before you take any measures in the case, the liberties of America depend on the determination of this late Act. We are now, though reduced by the stoppage of commerce, freemen, but remember, and let it sink deep into your hearts, the day we comply with the stricture of that Act, we are slaves. Let this consideration stop you in the career of settling this important point. It is the cause of the whole; let not a few individuals pretend to settle a point that so nearly concerns the whole. Our brethren in Virginia view it in this light; they look upon it as an attack upon the liberties of all the Colonies. For the same power that destroys the liberties of one Colony, will destroy the whole.

Here some may stop and say, "We do not mean to give up the rights of the Colonies; we doubt not, when we have discharged the debt of the tea, and paid all officers their demands, his Majesty and his Privy Council will pity our situation, and restore our wharfs, as usual." Dreadful, indeed, at this time of day! An American' s property and liberty are become matters of indulgence, rather than right. It then lays entirely at his Majesty' s and Privy Council' s mercy, whether any freeholder shall enjoy the suffrages of his own estate. I hope these are not the real sentiments of these people, but only nights of confused ideas, which poverty and famine have raised. Such submissive sentiments cannot come from the hearts of friends to American liberties. I must assert that the Act passed for blocking up the port of Boston is a more violent attack upon the liberties of America, than any measure before taken by Administration, and the man who would comply with the terms of it, deserves to have his name erased from the catalogue of freemen, and become unworthy the character of an American. We do not pretend to hold our property on the fickle tenure of indulgencies of Parliament, but on the firm foundation of right. Neither can we tamely give our compliance to an edict, let it come from whence it will, that strikes at an essential pier of that foundation. But I will give full scope to this last argument: "They doubt not his Majesty will pity our situation, and restore our wharfs," &c. From whence have they received these strong hopes? I augur we shall find it a much more difficult case to get our wharfs restored by a speedy compliance, than our standing out in opposition. We cannot put our trust in Princes, neither in any son of man. It is hard trusting to some ruling men, and heaving ourselves entirely on their mercy. Before we have some certainty we must doubt it. If measures are pursued correspondent with their declared sentiments, we have great reason to doubt it. A certain noble Lord, I cannot think, would act so inconsistent with his own sentiments, as to give up the darling point of chastising a number of men, by rendering their property useless, when it is in his power so to do. For, remember, you heave yourselves on the mercy of those who made this Act, and all you now ask are matters of indulgence. Please not yourselves with such chimeras. When the rights of Americans hang on the friendly will of men now in power, farewell American liberty.

Let us examine the transactions of late years, and see if we can find any one action that will justify our favourable surmises. Grenville, flushed with the expectation of a large revenue from America, brought forward the Stamp Act. America united to oppose it, and it was repealed. Immediately they passed a Declaratory Act, whose intent needs no comments. About twelve months after came out the Revenue Act, and to this day continues in force. Petitions after Petitions were sent, but, far from granting a favourable ear, they were treated with contempt.


Troops and navies have been sent to force us into a compliance; every art has been used to intimidate us. Every one who is acquainted with the late transactions, must be convinced of a settled plan to enslave this country. What expectance, then, can we have on those who have endeavoured to effect this plan? Nothing, I doubt, but a fearful looking for of judgment. A speedy compliance with this Act seems parallel to the case with Sampson and the Philistines, who, after the enticing Delilah, had found where his strength lay, and clipped him of his lock, came upon him, bound the poor man neck and heels, and sent him to prison. So, when a certain noble Lord has found out how nearly affected we are with this plan, he will plume himself on our ready compliance, perhaps reduce us to the condition of prisoners, and draw new terms of reconciliation; construing, in their greatest latitude, the import of several clauses in the Act. Blocking up our harbour will ever be a rod suspended in the British Commons to chastise whatever opposition Massachusetts, or any other Province or Colony, may make to Parliamentary measures. Therefore, my countrymen, be not buoyed up with false notions, be not speedy in your doings, but wait patiently until we can hear from the other Colonies, and I doubt not we shall come into determinations effectually to frustrate tills late Act. Be not terrified with the bugbear of your enemies, about troops being quartered in your houses, but convince the world that Americans fear nothing but slavery.