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Defence of the Colonies


Philadelphia, March 8, 1775.

When those who think themselves entitled to write for the publick proceed with openness, ingenuity, and candour, if they do not merit the publick attention and approbation, they certainly deserve their indulgence. But when any man undertakes to give the publick advice, and to call upon them in the warmest and most passionate terms, to follow his directions, every degree of deceit, hypocrisy, or unfair proceeding, is so far from meriting approbation, that the man who attempts it deserves to be treated with the utmost indignation, and to meet with the fate of the worst of villains.

The person who takes an active part in any controversy carried on in the public Papers, and desires to enter the lists as a champion on either side, should be possessed of that degree of candour and honesty which obliges a man to enter into the real merits of the cause, and to give a full, fair, and impartial state of the controversy, in order to entitle him to a place in any Paper of reputation. When he has done this, he ought to have full liberty to use every argument, with which reason and truth could supply him; but the instant he attempted to impose on the publick by unfair representations, lies, or assertions without argument, he should be packed off to the common receptacle of all such materials.

In our present contest with Great Britain, the question is, Whether the Parliament of Great Britain has a right to make Statutes which shall bind us in all cases whatever? Now, if any one, without ever bringing this question in view, of attempting to discuss it, will undertake, by hard names, to frighten us into a submission, I think he wants that candour and ingenuity which alone can entitle him to a place in a Paper of character, and his manner of proceeding gives the Printer thereof a just right to refuse his lucubrations.


I believe I may appeal even to our adversaries, whether the writers in favour of our cause have, not always begun by stating the case, as far as they intended to touch upon it, in the fairest and fullest manner, and then discussed it by arguments drawn from the nature of God and man, and the well-known and fundamental principles of the British Constitution. Had their opponents acted with equal ingenuity, it would have saved much trouble, wholly prevented all that heat and acrimony which has appeared at one time or another, and saved the pains of replying to many productions against which nothing but the fear of their affecting weak minds could ever induce any friend to his Country to take up the pen. Of this, kind is the piece signed Phileirene, which contains nothing but bold assertions, couched in strong language, and most of them notorious falsehoods. Since this writer, at the request of A Friend to the Constitution, has been indulged with a republication in a reputable and extensively circulating Paper, I would beg leave to select a few of his assertions, and request the Friend to the Constitution, to support them by the facts he, refers to.

1. "That a submission to the laws and authority of Great Britain, in the cases we complain of, would alone make us a free, wealthy, and happy people." In order to make this assertion good, it will be necessary to prove that submission to laws neither made, by ourselves, nor by our Representatives, and to be taxed by men who have no interest in our affairs, constitute true British freedom; that taking our Money from us without our consent will increase our wealth; that to be deprived of Trial by Jury will enlarge and confirm personal security; that our happiness consists in submitting to become the slaves of the worst sort, of tyrants, viz: of such, that every alleviation of their own misery must be obtained By proportional increase of ours; and that to be removed for trial to Great Britain is preferable to being tried by a Jury of the vicinity. And us all our Assemblies, from the one end of the Continent to the other, bare petitioned against these Laws as infringements of their rights and privileges, it may not be amiss to point out to them the errour of their proceedings, and to prove that they are not intended by the Constitution for Legislators. For, if the British Parliament has a right to bind us in all cases whatever, it is impossible for them to hare the same right — the one right necessarily destroying the other.

2. "That we are arrived to such a pitch of infatuation, as to be unwilling to confine ourselves within the bounds, or to submit to the Laws prescribed by the Government to which we are subjects; that our conduct has justly merited punishment and contempt, and must inevitably sink us in infamy and obscurity; that our wickedness and folly is such, that we set about a reformation of a Government already the envy of every other Nation, and are determined to accomplish our views, or perish in the attempt; and that not the united misery of all our fellowmen nor the destruction of the peace and good order of the world, will ever deter us from our desperate undertaking; but that rather than fail in our enterprise; we will exult to introduce anarchy and confusion into the State, and glory to riot upon the miseries of mankind in private life." That masterly pen which drew a finished character of the most consummate villain that ever breathed on the earth, fell greatly short of this picture, and, had he lived to this day, must have obtained some master strokes from Phileirene. But Cataline himself never equalled this. How Phileirene could attempt to fix such a character upon a people whose most violent struggle to preserve themselves from a ten years perseverance in oppressive measures has been a Non-Importation Agreement, is yet more extraordinary than the celerity and cheerfulness with which he asserts such infamous lies. I beg pardon for the expression; I forgot that the truth of it can he proved by facts.

3. "That we aim at an independency, replete with the most distressing calamities, destructive mischiefs, and aggravated miseries; and that the darling object of our wishes is an Independent Republic." In supporting this, it will be necessary to prove that the Congress, which spoke the sentiments of all those whose conduct Phileirene, condemns, and whose measures every Colony in America has adopted, mistook its own intentions, when it absolutely denied the charge in the strongest terms, and defied its most


inveterate enemies to make good the charge. It will also be proper to make out to the satisfaction of impartial people, that our contending for British Liberty will be the sure means of being deprived of it, if we should prove successful.

4. "That our expectations of accomplishing our undertaking, are mad, and must at once appear groundless, when we 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, nor more respected abroad; nor Administration more firmly established in the esteem and approbation of a great majority of the people, than at this day."

That these assertions may not meet with unexpected difficulties in the proof, it will not be amiss to lay before you the present situation of Great Britain, that, having this in view, the demonstration may be suited accordingly. Her credit depending on her Trade, and a principal part of that cut off by our Non-Importation Agreement. Ireland, though in slavery, poverty, distress, and unarmed, hitherto scarcely restrained within bounds by the dread of a military force, but now reduced to that last stage of oppression which makes a wise man mad. Scotland, filled with resentment for the injuries offered her by the English. The English full of hatred and indignation against the Scotch, for the undue preference showed to them by the Court. The Capital of the Kingdom exerting its utmost influence against the present Administration; and in all probability she will find her measures supported by the united efforts of all the Trading Cities and Manufacturing Towns in the Kingdom. A general discontent through that Nation, on account of the Act of Parliament which establishes the Roman Catholick Religion in Canada. France professing the most pacifick disposition, but continually augmenting her Sea and Land Forces. Spain arming as fast as possible, and insulting her in almost every quarter of the globe — she bearing these insults with the tamest submission, and unable, in the space of twelve years, to prevail upon her to pay the Manilla Ransom. Portugal, though under her protection, insulting her Merchants and restricting her Trade. It is too degrading to mention the Dey of Algiers. Her Army and Navy not fifty thousand strong, yet the annual expense of the Nation near Ten Millions Sterling. This sum raised with difficulty when she enjoyed all our Customs and Duties, These being stopped, there will be a failure of One Million at least, which must be raised by additional Taxes laid on those who are scarcely able to bear their present load. A debt of Forty Millions due to the Hollanders, who are a very jealous people, and who know that the security of their money depends entirely on the Trade of the Nation, which must suffer a most dreadful shock, from our Non-Importation Agreement, Should they become fearful, and begin to draw their money out of the publick funds, all the circulating cash in the Kingdom would not more than pay the half of it. The Emperour of Germany at the head of two hundred thousand, and the King of Prussia at the head three hundred thousand well disciplined Troops, overawing all her Continental allies, and in a capacity to take possession of her German Dominions whenever they please. Russia aiming at Commerce, and becoming a rival maritime Power. America determined to resist every further attempt which she shall make to enslave her, by force, and accessible only by her capital Cities, and those protected by a debt of about Six Millions Sterling, every Shilling of which must be totally lost, if our Cities; are injured; besides, if matters should become more critical, these will be principally inhabited by the tools of the Ministry, for all such will be obliged to fly to them for safety, as is evident from the present state of Boston; which will be a very considerable additional security to our Cities. Able and judicious Statesmen in England,, though unconnected with America, giving their opinion in favour of our conduct, and openly declaring the inability pf the Nation to subjugate the Colonies by force. These are some of the facts, against which others of superiour force, certainty, and weight, must be produced, or it will be in vain to attempt to prove that the Nation was never more powerful in resources.

I am under the necessity of passing by, for the present, a multitude of assertions equally in need of facts to support them; but as there is one or two of a curious and


extraordinary nature, and which I long to see demonstrated, I must crave the indulgence of the publick a few moments, longer.

It is asserted "that the people in America can have no idea of the various manoeuvres, evolutions, marchings, countermarchings, advancing, retreating, breaking, rallying, &c˙, which are practised in the Army, and, therefore, they will be astonished, confounded, and put to flight by attacks from every quarter." Now, a demonstration of this assertion must be a great curiosity, and will please many. But as one circumstance seems to make against it, I would be glad not to have it forgotten, viz: that though we may have little idea of their rallying, yet we must be allowed to have some confused notions of their breaking and running, especially such of us as can remember that when they were broke, within about forty miles of Fort Pitt, by a handful of Canadians and bush-fighting Indians, they never stopped flying until they arrived at Philadelphia. Impartiality, however, obliges me to mention one circumstance, which is rather in favour of some part of the assertion, viz: that the Americans, have not a true idea of breaking and running, though it at the same time shows that they know how to rally; what I allude to is the behaviour about three hundred Virginians, who, on that occasion, voluntarily formed and covered the retreat of the flying Regulars. Ticonderoga has also furnished some of us with similar ideas. It is also asserted, "that at one time we will seem to have only a handful of Troops to encounter, 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 that, should we be able to perfect ourselves in this part of the discipline, (which we never can, as we are incapable of forming the least idea of it,) our skill will rebound with tenfold destruction upon our own heads, for by far the greatest 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."

I think it will be quite as hard to prove these assertions as to square the circle. It will require both fluxions, and an infinite series to do it. To make an handful of men appear almost innumerable to a people who know that every addition to that handful must first cross the great Atlantick, exceeds the power of magick. And I should not like to see it proved, lest it might lessen the merits of a General, "who, although respected and amiable for his social virtues, for his prudence, humanity, long-suffering, and clemency, of which we all cannot but be sensible, is nevertheless universally allowed to be a brave soldier, cool, intrepid, watchful, and resolute, and perfectly acquainted with the military art." Now if this be his character, how can he be excused for not putting these manoauvres in practice, instead of sending for more Troops? Can it be imagined that the freemen of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay are so determined as to refuse submission, if they saw an innumerable host of such well disciplined Troops ready to fall upon them? They must be heroes indeed, or at least resolved to lose life and liberty together if they are.

I will take no advantage of his glaring contradictions in one paragraph, representing us as the most resolute and desperate of men, who have no regard for our lives, and that we are willing to sacrifice all that is dear to us to obtain our beloved point; and in the next assures us that we will by and by be so terrified at the name of Rebellion, that we will murder one another to prove our loyalty. I will not require the facts which can prove these inconsistencies. I am not inclined to raise a suspicion of the abilities or courage of the British, Troops. There are many circumstances which present themselves at this day, to show they have a tincture of the true British spirit still remaining, though the laws and regulations to which they are subject are of the most slavish, arbitrary, and despotick kind. It is hard to divest a real Englishman of his love of liberty, or admiration of those who are willing to risk their all in defence of it. There, may be some mongrels among them, as well as among ourselves; yet the reluctance of the Officers to the service, and the desertion, of the Soldiers, prove that they are not divested of feeling, and far from becoming Ministerial butchers. If things should come to extremities it is not to be doubted but


they will discover further signs of a true English spirit. However, should they prove as loyal as Phileirene wishes them to be, twenty riflemen will, I doubt not, prove a match for any ten of them; and if we reason from former experience, Braddock and Howe have left us a proportion still more favourable. As to the common Soldiers, they have no great inducement to make them fight. If they will fight for pay, I think we could increase their wages. At any rate, a groat a day to feed upon, half an hour' s exercise in the week, and ten years' loitering in crowded barracks, can give them but an indifferent title to the character of true British veterans.

That our skill in the military art, could we but attain it, would rebound with ten-fold destruction on our own heads, is rather hard. For shall we take that immense pains which it will cost an American to acquire it, and which alone can put us on an equal footing with these veterans, and then turn it against ourselves? This would be an infatuation which Phileirene and all his fellow-blusterers have not been able to accomplish, and, I fear, never will, not withstanding the facts which can demonstrate its truth.

I once thought of touching on the doctrine of Rebellion and our duty to God; but as the facts necessary to demonstrate his assertions on this head might border on impiety, and the attempt itself would be blasphemous, I would not have it entered on; for if one man sin against another, the Judge may plead for him; but if a man sin against God, who shall entreat for him? Yet the matter may be settled in few words. God is certainly on the side of justice and the oppressed, and the Devil on the side of injustice and oppression. They may be considered as the leaders in this cause, and every man as actuated by the spirit of his leader. I will leave it to Phileirene and the world to determine which spirit he and his party are inspired with.

To the Friend to the Constitution:

SIR: As you may be acquainted with facts which have escaped the notice of all beside yourself; as you maybe able to defend your cause by arguments, which, though hitherto concealed, will strike conviction into the hearts of the most stupid, insensible, and obstinate bigots; and as your proofs may be derived from sources hitherto unexplored by any other; I call upon you to exercise those political talents and abilities which, doubtless, you are possessed of, in demonstrating the truth of the foregoing assertions of Mr˙ Phileirene. Should the task prove hard or laborious, you must comfort yourself with this reflection, that it is the only means whereby you can prove yourself possessed of that candour and honesty, which is so rare amongst your party. If, in the course of your demonstration, this one point should fall in our favour, viz: that the present is a struggle of might against right, and that right is on our side, we have little to fear, even should every other assertion of Phileirene prove true. For when was arbitrary power successful in Great Britain? Not in The days of Charles the First, nor yet at the Revolution. William the Bastard is the principal instance of the kind I now recollect. If we be permitted, then, to draw any conclusions from former experience, while we have a legitimate King on the Throne we have little to fear. Had arbitrary power succeeded in the days of Charles the First, or James the Second, we should at present be in the same state or a worse than the people of France. Now would you, Sir, or Phileirne, or any of your party, rather find yourselves in this state and condition, than that your forefathers had pursued the measures they then adopted? According as you answer this question, we shall be condemned or justified, even should we be forced to draw the sword.