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Address to the People of Virginia


Williamsburg, Va˙, August 4, 1774.

The time has at length arrived when American liberty must either be settled on a firm basis by the virtue and publick spirit of her sons, or sink under the despotism now suspended over her. The Colonies will no doubt look upon the violent and arbitrary proceedings of the British Parliament, with regard to the Bostonians, as levelled at the liberty of America in general, and unite their utmost endeavours by all means in their power to prevent the ruin they are threatened with. We shall deceive ourselves if we think Great Britain, (as the present Ministry call themselves) will easily be brought to recede from her claims of domination over us. The Parliamentary farce will not be ended till the virtue of America, and the cries of the British merchants and manufacturers, drive the present actors off the stage.

In this contention we must expect our courage and fortitude will be put to a severe trial; and, if they are not genuine, will not stand the test. But as our ancestors have liberally shed their blood to secure to us the rights we now contend for, surely every power of manhood will be exerted by us to deliver the depositum, sacred and inviolate, to our posterity. Let no man despair of success in so just a cause. Situated as we are, if we be united, and dare be free, no power on earth can make us slaves.

That our adversaries are powerful we fatally know; but, in a measure so wickedly destructive of the constitutional rights of British subjects, they cannot be united. But should they be so, are they more powerful than the Spaniards, or we less so than the United Provinces were at the time the contest arose between those two Nations on the subject of liberty? Philip the Second, at the head of the most powerful Empire in Europe, with the best disciplined troops, headed by one of the ablest Generals then known in the world, and supported by the riches of America, after a bloody war which lasted half a century, was not able to subvert the liberty of the poor, and till then. Inconsiderable, but virtuous Hollanders. The example of our ancestors, in the last century, affords a noble proof of firmness and patriotick virtue. In the reign of the first Charles, they evidently demonstrated, that though Englishmen may bear much, yet when they find a determined resolution in Administration to persevere in measures totally destructive to their dearest rights, they will rouse at last, and when that period arrives, no force can withstand — no chicanery elude, their fury; and the more they have suffered, the greater will be the sacrifice they demand. The posterity of James the Second, fugitives in a strange land, still lament the dire effects of his encroachments on English liberty.


The spirit of liberty, when conducted by publick virtue, is invincible. It may be cramped and kept down by external violence, but so long as the morals of a people remain uncorrupted, it cannot be totally extinguished. Oppression will only increase its elastick force; and when roused to action by some daring Chief — some great good man, it will burst forth, like fired gunpowder, and destroy all before it. Of this truth the English history affords the clearest demonstrations, through many of the brightest periods. We are the sons of those brave men, and let us now prove ourselves worthy of our glorious ancestors. Britain itself will applaud our virtue. The friends of liberty there will rejoice to acknowledge us their brethren and fellow-subjects; for it cannot be possible that a race of heroes and patriots should in so short a time degenerate into a band of robbers.

We need not on the present occasion shed our blood to secure our rights, though if necessary, let us not spare it; the purchase is more than equal to the price. Let us not buy their commodities; let us stop all exports from this country to that till they do us justice. We have the means of subsistence within ourselves. Nature' s wants are but few; our imaginary ones have their foundation in luxury. Let us encourage our own manufactures by proper subscriptions in each county; and by wearing them ourselves, convince our enemies, (for so I must call those who endeavour to enslave us,) that we can and will subsist without them. Let gentlemen of the first rank and fortune amongst us set the example; they will be cheerfully and eagerly followed by the inferiour classes. This will give weight to our remonstrances; and when the great disposer of all things, the Ruler of Princes; shall in his mercy open the eyes of our oppressors, and direct their Councils to the pursuit of equity and right reason, then, and not till then, let us meet and embrace them with open arms: we will again be their children when they will deign to be our parents.