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A Calm Address to the People of New-York



New-York, July 13, 1775.

Human nature never affords a more disagreeable spectacle, than during those political ferments and convulsions which are incident to civil society, sometimes from the ambitious and encroaching spirit of those in authority, sometimes from the factious and turbulent disposition of subjects, and some times from a complication of both. These occasions set all the various and secret springs of the human mind in motion; and by throwing men off their guard, disclose their real temper and characters, divested of that disguise of which they are susceptible in the calms of life. The native deformity of the heart is exposed to full view, heightened by all the incitements of ambition, interest, faction, and resentment. While contending parties scruple not to practise any arts, however unjustifiable, to attain their respective ends, we behold one continual scene of treachery, falsehood, dissimulation, calumny, injustice, violence, and every other vice that is disgraceful and pernicious. The zeal of each, inflamed by opposition, blazes into extravagance, begets the most unreasonable animosities, and leads at last into the most fatal extremes. All regard to candour and decency is laid aside; every opportunity is seized with the utmost avidity, to misrepresent the designs of opponents, and every step they take, however well-meant and innoxious, is decried as totally insidious and destructive. It seems to be far less the aim of either to arrive at truth and promote the interests of society, than to contradict, vilify, and supplant each other, so that we generally find, when publick disputes draw towards a crisis, the opposite factions are at a much greater distance than at their commencement. One side has made new advances in a favourite track, and has embraced opinions which it did not think of at first; and the other has receded from that post which it once held in common with its adversaries, and has abandoned those tenets which were, in the beginning, judged essential by itself.

Pride, and a latent belief of the infallibility of our own judgments, are both extremely natural. These render us obstinately attached to our own opinions, and impatient of the least contradiction or control; and by these, we are brought to suspect every man of ignorance, hypocrisy, or dishonesty, who is so unfortunate, or so presumptuous, as to differ from us in sentiment. We cannot admit the supposition of ourselves being in an errour; nor can we entertain any ingenuous charitable indulgence for the frailties of others. We do not consider the delicate texture of the human understanding, and how liable it is to be warped by prejudice and passion; but, intoxicated as we are with fond notions of our own sagacity and penetration, and, perhaps, at the same time, conscious of the integrity and goodness of our own intentions, we cannot forbear wondering how any can be so blind and stupid as not to discern the reality of those truths, which to us appear incontestable; or so base and devoid of every large, noble, and liberal sentiment, as, from further motives, to shut their eyes to conviction, and to act in opposition to self-evidence and demonstration. Hence proceed disgust, aversion, antipathy; and from these, defamation, insult, persecution; which, instead, of remedying the evil, only tend to radicate and make it incurable.

The same pride and sell-conceit that operate in this manner, are also frequently productive of other effects, if possible, still more culpable and prejudicial. Incidents, new and unlooked-for, oft-times fall out in the course of controversies, which place them upon a foundation different from that on which they began; and, by ascertaining some standard in which there is, or has been, a common agreement, seem naturally to require a cessation of hostilities between the parties, and a cordial coalition and reconciliation. But as this seldom happens without giving some advantage, real or apparent, to one party over the other, we too often find the fever of opposition still unabated, to the great detriment and perhaps irretrievable injury of the


community. On the one hand, we perceive a reluctance to submit to the humiliating task of acknowledging an errour, and an aversion to concurring in the measures of those against whom the most violent enmities have been contracted; and, on the other hand, a preposterous spirit of triumph and exultation, which breaks out upon every occasion, accompanied with inevitable jealousies and suspicions of the friendly pretensions of those who were formerly antagonists.

This summary delineation of the usual operations and progress of party spirit, is intended to inspire sentiments of moderation in the different parties, which have divided this Province during the present contest with Great Britain; and, by warning against excesses, to cherish and increase that disposition towards a united exertion, in defence of our common rights, which begins to prevail among all orders of men. Nothing can be more desirable in itself, or more necessary towards our mutual security, than universal harmony and good-will, which can only be effected by abolishing all odious party distinctions, by indulging no recollections of past feuds and animosities, by making the most candid allowances for each other' s failings, and by entertaining the most favourable opinions of each other' s designs. Could we once be persuaded mutually to discard the lofty ideas we have of our own self sufficiency, it would be easy to bring both sides to a compromise and accommodation; by showing that neither has been entirely in the right; that both have erred in some particular; that the whole quantum of praise or blame is not due to either; and that the dispute with Britain, though fundamentally the same, has been attended with some new and important circumstances, which remove all the considerations, and obviate all the objections that have heretofore supported the opposition of one side to the proceedings of the other.

It is an ungrateful, and, for the most part, an unsuccessful attempt, to convince men of their errours and misconduct; neither is the present temper of the times, overheated by passion, and blinded by prejudice, at all suited to such an undertaking. The remedies that may be drawn from the fountain of cool and dispassionate reasoning, by being ill-timed, instead of effectuating a cure, may only serve to irritate and augment the disease, and, on that account, it is most prudent to defer the discussion to some future period; when the causes which now inflame the passions having ceased, they will, of course, grow more calm and serene, and truth will find an easier access to the tribunal of reason and judgment. I shall close these reflections with a few observations, in order to show that a change of conduct is incumbent upon those who have formerly dissented from the general measures of the Continent.

The only sources of opposition, avowed by them have been these: They conceived that the subject of dispute did not properly relate to the right of taxation, of which they always professed an absolute disavowal, but to the right of regulating trade, which we all acknowledge to reside in Parliament. The duty upon tea (said they) is an external regulation of commerce, not an internal tax. The tea of itself is an article of luxury, confessed on all hands to be extremely pernicious to health; if we disapprove of the imposition laid upon it, we ought to evade it, by ceasing to use the obnoxious herb, and not for so inconsiderable an object combine in a violent and furious resistance to that country, from whence we derive our origin; by whose maternal hand we have been gently led on from helpless infancy to a state of maturity and robust manhood; under whose fostering protection we have enjoyed such a rich variety of blessings, and from whose vindictive frowns we have reason to apprehend the most desolating mischiefs. If we are aggrieved, it is our duty and interest to make a fair experiment in the regular legal mode of obtaining redress, before we proceed to those extraordinary expedients which are without the bounds of the law, and which ought not to be employed but in cases of necessity. We have reason to hope that our reasonable complaints will meet with due attention, and the causes of them be removed; some constitutional arrangement take place and our privileges be established upon a solid unprecarious basis: such as by fixing proper and known boundaries to the claims of either, will, serve to prevent all future altercations, and secure us from those inconveniences which are ever attendant upon disputed claims.


These views were moderate and plausible. It is a pity they were not better founded than the event has clearly manifested.

Without a gross departure from their own principles, these advocates for moderation and regularity must now heartily unite with the rest of their countrymen, in the most strenuous opposition to Parliament. The controversy has put on a different aspect, and is now come to an issue that must either induce them to relinquish their former scruples, or to renounce all pretensions to consistency, fidelity, or patriotism. Lord North has openly declared in the House of Commons, that the dispute is no longer about a mere phantom, or point of honour, but about a solid substantial benefit to the slate — an American revenue. His conciliatory proposition is conformable to this declaration. We are required to contribute our proportion towards the support of Government, in a manner that destroys all freedom of contribution. The Parliaments ultimately to determine concerning the sufficiency of our offers, which is obviously the same as if it were at first to fix the sums it might expect us to pay; and withal, this requisition is enforced by every compulsory method that could be devised; oppressive restrictions on our trade; a menacing Navy in our ports; and a formidable Army carrying on a bloody war in our country. Here is taxation in its most unequivocal sense, and clothed in its most hateful tyrannical form.

The decent constitutional Remonstrance of our Assembly has been rejected, without the least ceremony or regard even to appearance as being highly derogatory to the rights of Parliament, because it contained a denial of the right of taxation. This incident must carry a mournful conviction to the breast of every honest man, that Administration is resolute to persist in all its exorbitant claims, and to prosecute them to the most deplorable extremity. Had it entertained the least inclination to come to a composition of the differences subsisting between us, an honourable ground was here presented; for though we should suppose the Remonstrance to have exhibited claims rather too extensive, it at least opened an unexceptionable door for negotiation, and by that means an amicable termination of the unhappy contest might have ensued. These considerations loudly call upon every American, of whatsoever party, cheerfully to consign over all past animosities to oblivion, and to join, with heart and hand, in the defence of his country and freedom.