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Doctor Zubly to the Earl of Dartmouth



Philadelphia, September 3, 1775.

To the Right Honourable WILLIAM, Earl of DARTMOUTH:

MY LORD: Your Lordship' s appointment to be Secretary of State for the American Department, by numbers that respected your Lordship' s religious character, was looked upon as a very providential and happy event. Your patronising of religious undertakings confirmed the general opinion, and we were happy in the expectations of your Lordship' s conscientious regard to justice and equity, as well as to the civil and religious liberties of this great Continent; we expected the cause of liberty and religion would meet with the strongest support under your administration, and in your Lordship would ever find a constant and successful advocate with your royal master.


Unhappily, during your administration, measures have been pursued very contrary to American hopes; and we easily conceive your Lordship may think it not less strange that many friends of religion in America should be so uneasy under laws which had your Lordship' s concurrence and approbation.

It is to the man and to the Christian I wish to be permitted to address myself. Your Lordship ranks among the highest subjects, and has a large share in all publick measures; but anxiety for what may distress, and zeal for the welfare of the Empire, can be no crime, even in the meanest; and when a house is once in flames, every man is inexcusable, or must at least be so in his own breast, that does not contribute whatever he may think in his power to their being extinguished. The effects of the present measures are visible, and it requires no sagacity to foresee what may be the consequence, should they be continued. Your Lordship may do much towards restoring and perpetuating the tranquillity of a great Empire: persons of my station have nothing to offer but hints and wishes; should these be beneath your notice, or stand in need of forgiveness, my sincere wish to contribute any thing towards a just, happy, and perpetual connection between a parent State and an infant Country, growing apace to the most astonishing importance, must be my only apology. Pulchrum est bene facere reipublicae, sed et bene dicere non est absurdum.

The question, my Lord, which now agitates Great Britain and America, and in which your Lordship has taken such an active part, is, whether the Parliament of Great Britain has a right to lay taxes on the Americans, who are not and cannot there be represented; and whether the Parliament has a right to bind the Americans in all cases whatsoever? Whatever may be said, or whatever the good people in Great Britain may believe, this is the whole subject of the dispute. All the severities hitherto exercised upon the Americans professedly have no other view than to enforce such a dependance; and nothing less than a claim destructive of all natural and national liberty could possibly have united all America in a general opposition, or have aroused them to join all like one man in their common defence. Let a declaratory bill be passed that, any law and usage to the contrary notwithstanding, America is entitled to all the common rights of mankind, and all the blessings of the British Constitution, that the sword shall never be drawn to abridge, but to confirm her birthright, and the storm instantly becomes a calm, and every American thinks himself happy to contribute to the necessities, defence, and glory of Great Britain, to the utmost of his strength and power.

To bind them in all cases whatsoever, my Lord, the Americans look upon this as the language of despotism in its utmost perfection. What can, say they, an Emperor of Morocco pretend more of his slaves than to bind them in all cases whatsoever? Were it meant to make the Americans hewers of wood and drawers of water; were it meant to oblige them to make bricks without straw; were it meant to deprive them of the enjoyment of their religion, and to establish a hierarchy over them similar to that of the Church of Rome in Canada; it would, say they, be no more than a natural consequence of the right of binding them (unseen, unheard, unrepresented) in all cases whatsoever.

My Lord, the Americans are no idiots, and they appear determined not to be slaves. Oppression will make wise men mad, but oppressors in the end frequently find that they were not wise men; there may be resources, even in despair, sufficient to render any set of men strong enough not to be bound in all cases whatsoever.

Grievous is the thought, my Lord, that a nobleman of your Lordship' s character should be so zealous to make war, and to imbrue his hands in the blood of millions of your fellow-subjects and fellow-Christians. Pray, my Lord, is it possible that those, who at three thousand miles distance can be bound in all cases, may be said to have any liberty at all? Is it nothing in your Lordship' s eye to deprive so considerable a part of the globe of the privilege of breathing a free air, or to subjugate numbers and generations to slavery and despotism? Can your Lordship think on these things without horror, or hope they must be productive of any thing but detestation and disappointment? Your Lordship believes a Supreme Ruler of


the earth, and that the small and great must stand before him at last. Would your Lordship be willing, at the general meeting of all mankind, to take a place among those who destroyed or enslaved Empires, or risk your future state on the merit of having, at the expense of British blood and treasure, taken away the property, the life and liberty of the largest part of the British Empire? Can your Lordship think those that fear the Lord will not cry to him against their oppressors? and will not the Father of mankind hear the cries of the oppressed? or would you be willing that their cries and tears should rise against you, as a forward instrument of their oppression?

I know, my Lord, that this is not courtly language, but your Lordship is a professor of religion, and of the pure, gentle, benevolent religion of Jesus Christ. The groans of a people pushed on a precipice, and driven on the very brink of despair, will prove forcible; till it can be proved that any power, in whose legislation the Americans have no part, may at pleasure bind them in all cases whatsoever; till it can be proved that such a claim does not constitute the very essence of slavery and despotism; till it can be proved that the Americans (whom in this view I can no longer call Britons) may, and of right ought to be thus bound; abhorrence of such assertions is only the language of truth, which in the end will force its way, and rise superiour to all the arts of falsehood and all the powers of oppression.

Right or wrong, my Lord, in all cases whatsoever, but more especially when the fate of Nations is concerned, are words of infinite moment. Your Lordship doubtless believes that the weighty alternative must have very solemn and different effects here and hereafter; but waiving the right or wrong of this vile unhappy dispute, let me entreat your Lordship' s attention to consider at what an infinite risk the present measures must be pursued, even were it not demonstrable that they are in the highest degree wrong, cruel, and oppressive.

The bulk of the inhabitants of a Continent extending eighteen hundred miles in front on the Atlantick, and permitting an extension in breadth as far as the South Sea, look upon the claim to bind them in all cases whatsoever, as unjust, illegal, and detestable. Let us suppose for a moment that they are grossly mistaken — yet an errour imbibed by millions, and in which they believe the all of the present and future generations lies at stake, may prove a very dangerous errour — destroying the Americans will not cure them, nor will any acts that condemn to starve or be miserable, have any tendency to persuade them that these acts were made by their friends. The people in England are made to believe that the Americans want to separate from them, or are unwilling to bear their part of the common burden. No representation can be more false; but, my Lord, a Nation cannot be misled always, and when once the good people of Great Britain get truer notions of the matter, they will naturally wreak their resentment on those by whom they have been grossly misinformed or wretchedly deceived.

Review, my Lord, the effects of the present measures; the past and present will inform your Lordship of what may be to come.

With an unparalleled patience did the Bostonians bear the annihilation of their trade, the blocking up of their harbour, and many other distresses, till at Lexington an attack was made upon their lives, and then they gave sufficient proof that their patience was not the effect of timidity, but of prudence, and an unwillingness to shed British blood. This attack convinced all America that the British Ministry and Troops were athirst after their blood; and the behaviour of both parties on that day, and in many little skirmishes since, must convince all the world that in the cause of liberty the Americans are not afraid to look Regulars in the face, and that in an unjust and oppressive service British Troops are far from being invincible.

The burning of the innocent Town of Charlestown, after it had been left by its inhabitants, is a piece of such wanton cruelty as will fix an everlasting disgrace on the British arms. In the long civil war in Great Britain, nothing of the kind was attempted by either party; and this barbarity cannot fail being condemned by all civilized nations.

If at the battle on Bunker' s Hill the Americans have been surprised, superiority has cost the Regulars dearer


than the Americans what is called their defeat; one or two more such defeats of the Americans would forever put it out of the power of the present Regular Army to gain a victory.

The rejecting of the New-York Petition has effectually silenced all those who pleaded for, or hoped any good from petitioning. The cannonading of that Town in the dead of the night, and without the least previous warning, as it has shown what the inhabitants are indiscriminately to expect, will in history stand as a lasting monument of such wantonness of cruelty as Nations not remarkable for humanity would be ashamed of.

The destroying of the New-England Fishery laid all those who were deprived of their bread and occupation at sea, under an absolute necessity of seeking it in the American Army, and the sense of the injury done them will doubtless exert itself in the day of battle.

The endeavour to stir up Popish Canadians and savage Indians against the Colonists has been productive of the taking of the important pass of Ticonderoga, which has been effected without the loss of a single life on either side.

Detaining the inhabitants of Boston, after they had, in dependence on the General' s word of honour, given up their arms, to be starved and ruined, is an action worthy of the cause, and can only be equalled by the distresses of Protestants driven under the walls of Londonderry, at which even a James relented.

Proposals publickly made by ministerial writers, relative to American domesticks, laid the Southern Provinces under a necessity of arming themselves; a proposal to put it in the power of domesticks to cut the throats of their masters can only serve to cover the proposers and abetters with everlasting infamy.

The Americans have been called "a rope of sand:" but blood and sand will make a firm cementation; and enough American blood has been already shed to cement them together into a thirteenfold cord, not easily to be broken.

My Lord, the violence of the present measures has almost instantaneously created a Continental Union, a Continental Currency, a Continental Army, and before this can reach your Lordship, they will be as equal in discipline as they are superiour in cause and spirit to any Regulars. The most zealous Americans could not have effected in an age what the cruelty and violence of Administration has effectually brought to pass in a day.

The Regular Army employed on this errand, with four able Generals, now lies no better than besieged within the ruins of Charlestown and Boston, unable to procure the necessaries of life, obliged to import their bread from Europe and fuel from Canada, pining away with disease, and affording daily martyrs to cruelty and arbitrary power, while every day adds to the improbability of their ever obtaining those unhappy ends. A strange situation for a British Army!

Restraining the trade of the Colonies will effectually annihilate all their trade with Great Britain. The numbers that crossed the Atlantick, or re-exported American commodities from Great Britain, the manufacturers that wrought for America, or worked up their raw materials, will now be at full leisure to know and feel whether the American trade be an object of any importance, and how much the Nation is obliged to a Ministry that has so effectually laboured its destruction.

The present dispute has made every American acquainted with and attentive to the principles of the British Constitution; in this respect, as well as in a strong sense of liberty, and the use of fire-arms almost from the cradle, the Americans have vastly the advantage over men of their rank almost everywhere else. From the constant topick of present conversation, every child unborn will be impressed with the notion: it is slavery to be bound at the will of another in all cases whatsoever; every mother' s milk will convey a detestation of this maxim. Were your Lordship in America, you might see little ones acquainted with the word of command before they can distinctly speak, and shouldering the resemblance of a gun before they are well able to walk.

When millions of free people at once turn their thoughts from trade, and the means of acquiring wealth, to agriculture and frugality, it must cause a most sensible alteration


in the State. My Lord, this is the case at present in America; every new act of violence will strengthen and confirm the spirit that taught them the necessity of being frugal and virtuous, that they might remain free, and become invincible.

Admit, my Lord, (for suppositions now become probable in proportion of their being astonishing and violent,) that a British fleet may effectually guard every harbour, river, creek, or inlet, on the American coast; admit, also, that her Troops destroy every town, village, or hut, along the sea-shore, what then will be the consequence? Why, my Lord, it will be the destroying the property of thousands in Great Britain, and of a few on this side of the water, whom your Lordship calls your friends. Perhaps the attempt may not succeed; but supposing it should, the Americans, injured beyond a possibility of reparation, and irritated to the highest degree, will retire where they are inaccessible to troops and ships; instead of trade and navigation, you will have a desolate sea-coast; the trade of America will be lost, and with it the sinews of war; and, my Lord, in the natural course of things, America, in less than half a century, will contain more inhabitants than Great Britain and Ireland; and that period, my Lord, is not so far distant to put the present treatment entirely out of remembrance. America and Great Britain, joined in arms together, may grow confident against the world besides; but if Britain continue her arms against America; if her Troops can be persuaded to go on against their brethren and friends; if they will destroy the last asylum of liberty, and a Country which has saved so many thousands from starving at home; the Americans will fight like men who have every thing at stake; the mercenaries with bayonets at their backs, and at the rate of six pence a day, if they are once defeated, whence will they be re-supplied? If they return to Britain victorious, they will be fit instruments to promote that slavery at home which they have been successful in fastening (probably for a very little while) on their fellow-subjects abroad.

In times of publick confusion, men of all parties are sometimes carried further than they intended at first setting out. History and the knowledge of human nature should inform your Lordship how much it is against all sound policy to secure or strive for punctilios at an infinite risk.

The Americans have always shown an affectionate regard to the King, and they are truly sensible of the necessity and advantage of a perpetual union with the Parent State; but undeserved severities cannot be productive of any pleasing returns. The Americans firmly believe that the claim at present endeavouring to be enforced would render them mere slaves, and it is their general motto, "Death or Freedom." The parliamentary, or, as they say, ministerial claim, is now written in letters of blood, and that will be far from making it more acceptable to American readers.

On the whole, my Lord, should this address be deemed impertinent and intrusive, I hope it may still be excusable, from the importance of the cause and the sincerity of its motive. In the event of the present dispute I look upon all mankind as interested, and though not natural born, His Majesty has not another subject that more ardently wisheth that his own repose and happiness, and that of all his subjects, may never meet with any interruption. Whether British Troops shall now drive liberty from out of the greater part of the British Empire, and bury her remains in the American wilderness, or whether that wilderness shall flourish and cheerfully contribute to make Great Britain the greatest Empire of the universe, is the question now to be decided; and it is not so unimportant but it may be expected He that is higher than the highest, and taketh up the isles like a very little thing, will interpose in the decision. The whole American process, my Lord, is liable to a revision, and when righteousness and judgment to come once make an impression, many a Felix will tremble.

To restore peace and harmony, nothing is necessary than to secure to America the known blessings of the British Constitution. This may be done in a moment, and without any disgrace or risk. Let the Americans enjoy, as hitherto, the privilege to give and grant by their own representatives, and they will give and grant liberally; but their liberty they will never part with but with their lives.


The day that restores their liberty, restores every thing to their former channel; to enforce the contrary claim, ages may be insufficient, and every day increases the danger of "a mother' s being dashed to pieces on her own children."

That your Lordship, in the hand of Providence, may be a happy instrument to bring the present unnatural contest to a speedy, just, and honourable issue; that you may live to see much of that happiness which must be the result, is no less my fervent prayer than that God would blast every counsel and measure that may have a contrary tendency — that would separate Britain and America, whom God has joined together — that would abridge the rights, liberties, and happiness of the Nation, our rightful Sovereign, (whom God ever preserve,) or any of his subjects!

I am, my Lord, your Lordship' s most humble servant,