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Samuel Adams to Arthur Lee



Boston, April 4th, 1774.

MY DEAR SIR: My last letter to you I delivered to the care of Dr˙ Williamson, who sailed with Captain *****, in December last. The General Assembly has since been sitting, and the important subject of the Judges of the Superior Court being made dependent on the Crown for their salaries, was again taken up by the House of Representatives with spirit and firmness. The House had, in a former session, passed divers resolutions expressing their sense of the dangers of this innovation, and declaring, that unless the Justices should renounce the salaries from the Crown, and submit to a constitutional dependence upon the Assembly for their support, they would proceed to impeach them before the Governor and Council. One of them, Mr˙ Trowbridge, very early in the session, in a letter to the Speaker, expressed his formal compliance with that resolve, which letter was communicated to the House and voted satisfactory. The other four had taken no notice of the resolve. The House, therefore, having waited from the 26th of January, which was the first day of the session, till the 1st of February, then came to a resolution, that unless they should conform to their order on or before the fourth of the same month, further proceedings would be had on such neglect. The effect of this resolve was, that three of them, viz˙ Hutchinson, (a brother to him who is called Governor) *******, and *******, made similar declarations to that of Trowbridge, which were also voted satisfactory. Mr˙ Justice Oliver, who is brother of the Lieutenant Governor, and is connected with the Governor by the marriage of their children, came to a different determination, which occasioned a controversy between the Governor and the two Houses, inserted at large in the enclosed papers. Therein you will see that the Governor has treated the petitions, complaints and remonstrances of the Representative body with haughty contempt. The people view it with deep resentment, as an effect of his independency; whereby he is aliened from them, and become a fitter instrument in the hands of the Ministry to carry into effect their destructive plans. They are irritated to the highest degree, and despair of any constitutional remedy against the oppressions of a corrupt officer, while the Governor, be he who he may, is thus dependent on Ministers of State. They have, ever since the trial of Preston and his soldiers, been murmuring at the conduct of the Superior Court, and me partiality which many say is so clearly discovered in causes between revenue officers and the Government, abettors, and other subjects. Indeed, the House of Representatives, two or three years ago, passed a resolution that such conduct, in several instances, had been observed, as appears in their printed journals. To give you some idea of what the temper of that court has been, a lawyer of great eminence in the Province, and a member of the House of Representatives, was thrown over the bar a few days ago, because he explained in a public newspaper the sentiments he had advanced in the House when he had been misrepresented; and a young lawyer of great genius in this town, who had passed the regular course of study, (which is more than can be said of


the Chief Justice,) has been, and still is, refused by the Governor, only because he mentioned the name of Hutchinson with freedom, and that not in court, but in a Boston town meeting, some years before. And to show you from whence this influence springs, I must inform you, that not long ago the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and three of the Judges, which make a majority of the bench, were nearly related; and even now the Governor has a brother there, and is brother-in-law to the Chief Justice. Such combinations are justly formidable, and the people view them with a jealous eye. They clearly see through a system formed for their destruction. That the Parliament of Great Britain is to make laws, binding them in all cases whatsoever; that the Colonies are to be taxed by that Parliament without their own consent; and the Crown enabled to appropriate money for the support of Executive and arbitrary powers; that this leaves their own Assembly a body of very little significance; while the officers of Government, and Judges, are to be totally independent of the Legislature, and altogether under the controul of the King' s Ministers and Counsellors; and there an union will be effected, as dangerous as it will be powerful; the whole power of Government will be lifted from the hands into which the Constitution has placed it, into the hands of the King' s Ministers and their dependants here. This is, in a great measure, the case already; and the consequences will be, angry debates in our Senate, and perpetual tumults and confusions abroad; until these maxims are entirely altered, or else, which God forbid, the spirits of the people are depressed, and they become inured to disgrace and servitude. This has long been the prospect in the minds of speculative men. The body of the people are now in council. Their opposition grows into a system. They are united and resolute; and if the British Administration and Government do not return to the principles of moderation and equity, the evil which they profess to aim at preventing by their rigorous measures, will the sooner be brought to pass, viz˙ — the entire separation and independence of the Colonies.

"Mr˙ Cushing obliged me with a sight of your letter to him of the 22d of December last. I think I am not so clearly of opinion as you seem to be, that the Declaratory Act is a mere nullity," and that therefore, "if we can obtain a repeal of the Revenue Acts from 1764, without their pernicious appendages, it will be enough." Should they retract the exercise of their assumed power, you ask, when will they be able to renew it? I know not when, but I fear they will soon do it, unless, as your worthy brother in Virginia, in a letter I yesterday received from him, expresses himself, "we make one uniform, steady effort, to secure an explicit bill of rights for British America." Let the Executive power and right on each side be therein stipulated, that Britain may no longer have a power or right to make laws to bind us, in all cases whatsoever. While the claim, is kept up, she may exercise the power as often as she pleases; and the Colonies have experienced her disposition to do it too plainly, since she in anger made the claim. Even imaginary power beyond right begets insolence. The people here, I am apt to think, will be satisfied on no other terms but those of redress; and they will hardly think they are upon equitable terms with the mother country, while, by a solemn act, she continues to claim a right to enslave them, whenever she shall think fit to exercise it. I wish for a permanent union with the mother country, but only on the principles of liberty and truth. No advantage that can accrue to America from such an union, can compensate for the loss of liberty. The time may come sooner than they are aware of it, when the being of the British nation, I mean the being of its importance, however strange it may appear to some, will depend on her union with America. It requires but a small portion of the gift of discernment, for any one to foresee that Providence will erect a mighty empire in America; and our posterity will have it recorded in history, that their fathers migrated from an island in a distant part of the world, the inhabitants of which had long been revered for wisdom and valour. They grew rich and powerful; these emigrants increased in numbers and strength. But they were at last absorbed in luxury and dissipation; and to support themselves in their vanity and extravagance, they coveted and seized the honest earnings of those industrious emigrants.


This laid a foundation of distrust, animosity and hatred, till the emigrants, feeling their own vigor and independence, dissolved every former band of connexion between them, and the islanders sunk into obscurity and contempt.

May I whisper in your ear that you paid a compliment to the Speaker when you told him you "always spoke under the correction of his better judgment." I admire what you say to him, and I hope it will have a good impression on his mind; that we shall be respected in England exactly in proportion to the firmness and strength of our opposition. I am sincerely your friend,
Arthur Lee, Esq.

As Captain Wood, is now about to sail there is not time to have copies of the papers; I will send them by the next opportunity. In the mean time I refer you to Dr˙ Franklin, to whom they are sent by this vessel. S˙ A.



* Joseph Hawley, Esq˙, of North Hampton.