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To General Gage



Philadelphia, June 24, l775.

I believe you were not by nature void of humanity or justice. I have even the charity to think, from what I have learned of your character, there was a portion of these cardinal qualities mixed up with your clay. But I know enough of the human heart to be thoroughly convinced that it is possible for a good man to be corrupted, and to become hardened against every honest, virtuous impulse.

Interest, that demon which is perpetually tempting the weakness of man, has prevailed over those conscientious feelings, and betrayed you into irreparable guilt.

Perhaps you may have had the consolatory view, when you accepted your present high command, of speedily, and without bloodshed, conciliating this Country to the desired state of vassalage, and by this means of quickly reaping the rich reward of your glorious villany. If this was your aim, how poignant must be the disappointment you have met with, and how merited the punishment in supposing yourself master of contingencies and director of events, which is the character of divinity itself: but if it be with you as I have represented, you are an instance of great cruelty and depravity of heart, for your intention was evidently to deprive three millions of people of their liberties, and to annihilate all right in property.

Whatever may have been your sentiments in the beginning, you have lately taken so destructive a part as to put both your friends and enemies out of all doubt in respect to your character. How happened it, that in the course of your letter-writing to Ministry, you never hazarded an important, conjecture which was confirmed by any subsequent event? That of one week was regularly refuted by the experience of the next? Was it the weakness of your judgment that led you astray, or the desire of flattering the


views of an abandoned Administration? If it was the first, you ought never to venture another, but confine yourself to past events and the facts of the day; if the latter, you must now be convinced, by what has already happened, of the dreadful consequences which may flow from so vile a prostitution of your integrity.

I shall now take leave to recapitulate some parts of your conduct, in order that it may be placed in a true point of light with the ignorant and uninformed.

On the nineteenth day of April you sent a considerable part of your Army from Boston to destroy a supposed magazine at Concord. They landed early in the morning, and marched into the Country with all that overweening boastful presumption peculiar to young troops, ignorant of real service. Adding insult to misfortune, they paraded on their way to the sound of musick. Full of the idea of the fame and honour to be acquired in that memorable expedition, they treated their supposed weak and defenceless enemy with scorn and derision.

But what happened! According to your own relation of that woful and eventful day, this holiday humour did not last long. The same sun saw their offence and punishment. Terrour and dismay, inspired by a few opponents, seized upon the invincible host; they fled with a lucky and almost miraculous precipitancy back again to Boston.

But in the tale you tell of this unfortunate maiden enterprise, you are accused of want of candour, indeed of misrepresentation of facts. You say, in your circular letters to the several Governours to whom you have written, that the people fired first: if they did, it reflects the highest honour on their courage. They were but a handful to encounter so great a number. But although I have the highest opinion of their spirit and resolution, it requires no uncommon share of faith to credit this assertion; it is against probability, it is in the face of the most specifick and direct testimony of a great variety of persons.

If the information I have received is well founded, your orders were at that time the same as when you left Britain not to strike the first blow. If this is the case, the cause of this contrariety in the evidence of the Country and the Army is sufficiently obvious; for it is as essential, perhaps, for the officer who commanded the Troops that fired first on the people to justify himself to you, as it is for you to vindicate your conduct to your superiours. Here is a combination of personal and particular interests to support the fact alleged in your behalf, independent of general reasons. Upon a fair and impartial state of the account, then, I cannot perceive that this motive for misrepresentation has one answerable to it on the part of the Country. If Lord Mansfield himself was to give his opinion on the reason of the case, I think I could predict it would be unfavourable to you.

But the intentional inaccuracy of that part of your letters which gives an account of the loss your Troops sustained in the action, is truly matter worthy of observation.

Your letter, calculated, as one would suppose, for the information of the Representatives of the Crown, says, that more than fifty were killed in the action; how many more, may it please your Excellency? Fifty more, sixty, or seventy? Why did you thus leave them to the uncertainty of guess and conjecture, when, from the returns of your officers, the loss must appear with the greatest exactness?

But, Sir, you are not only charged with the meanness of artifice, but an open violation of your word. The times are now so critically important as to require all the boldness and plainness of truth; in doing you all the justice you merit, I am under the necessity of touching the honour of your character.

When the miserable inhabitants of that Town which had been so long, and is to this day suffering under the weight of, ministerial vengeance, applied to you for permission to leave it with their goods or effects, you gave your assent in the presence and hearing of many of your officers and several private gentlemen, and formally pledged your word, too, for the faithful performance: and what was the result of this business? You not only shamefully qualified the Province, by obliging the poorest fellow that went out to pay his; eleemosynary dollar to your Secretary for a permit, but you did more; repenting of that part of your solemn engagement which related to the transporting of the goods or effects, of the inhabitants, you submitted your Honour on


that head to a prostitute lawyer, who, very consistently, gave it as his opinion, that effects meant nothing more than wearing apparel and household furniture; that it did not include moveables in general. It was upon this wretched quibble you refused to let the inhabitants carry away all their effects with them. I have always been taught to believe the Army is the school of honour. In this school you were educated and nurtured: but I suspect you were an untoward boy, and that the principles inculcated upon you made little or no impression; otherwise you never would, as a gentleman, have consented to submit the plain obvious meaning of your words to the interpretation of a contemptible, paltry retailer of quirks and quibbles. You spoke in that business as a gentleman; and if you had need to explain yourself in respect to a word of doubtful import, you should have consulted Johnson' s Dictionary. This would have been a gentleman-like authority.

It requires a considerable degree of acuteness and sagacity in him who is about to do an unwarrantable or an unjust act, to estimate the quantum of moral turpitude and guilt contained in it. For it is not only the portion of it involved in the first view of the crime such an one has to consider, but the consequences which will flow from the act. You prohibited the inhabitants of Boston from carrying out their effects, in the manner I have mentioned; in consequence of which several families have been ruined by the late fire. It is true, you could not foresee the accident; but, nevertheless, the loss sustained by the owners of the goods has happened in consequence of the violation of your word: for if you had adhered to it, the owners of the merchandise would have removed it, and thereby have prevented the calamity which has befallen them.

I have but a word or two more for you, by way of advice. If you are still determined to act in the Swiss character you have assumed, at least let your conduct savour of that sort of honour which even a Swiss holds high.