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Address of a Planter to the Inhabitants of Virginia: The time for action has arrived the enemy has set the example of treating at the point of the sword and they should be met by an appeal at once to the sword



MY COUNTRYMEN: The fears of many lest we should not be able to provide sufficient funds for the support of an expensive war, has been the reason why they have been so reluctant to break that connection with Britain which has been the source of so many evils, and may probably incline them to spend that time in negotiation which they ought to employ in action; but a little attention to the advantages that we shall derive from unrestrained commerce, may dissipate their fears, and point out to them an ample compensation for all the expenses, the dangers, and the toils of the war. I shall only produce the trade of this Colony as an example; with which you are best acquainted. This has hitherto been almost wholly managed by foreigners, and in foreign bottoms; and will be so again, if, by any negotiation, our enemies can betray or bribe us to an accommodation on their own principles. You are without merchants, ships, seamen, or ship-builders; and thus want several very abundant sources of wealth, as well as nurseries of arts, and of numerous useful subjects to the State. Your trade is confined to a single spot on the globe, in the hands of the natives of a distant Island, who fix the market of all commodities at their pleasure, and we may be very sure will rate yours at the lowest, and their own at the highest prices, they will in any conscience bear. Every article of merchandise, that is not the produce of Britain, must first pay its duties to the Crown, perhaps must be increased in the price a very large advance per cent. there, and then be re-exported to Virginia, and undergo an additional advance of seventy-five, and sometimes near one hundred and fifty per cent˙ here. This disadvantage is felt much more sensibly by those who are acquainted with the trade of the Northern Colonies, where they are not altogether so shamefully gulled as we have been from the first plantation of this Colony. You can there buy linens and broadcloths from the retail merchants at the same price your factors here tell you they obtain them at prime cost in Britain. By this means you fairly lose seventy-five pounds currency on every one hundred pounds sterling worth of merchandise you import from Great Britain that is not native to that country. If we suppose your imports from thence annually to amount to seven hundred thousand pounds sterling, (which can be no extravagant supposition,) and suppose upon one half of that sum you lose in the proportion which I have already mentioned, there will be lost two hundred and sixty-two thousand five hundred pounds per annum, which might be saved by a free and independent trade; or, to be sure that we are within bounds, fix it at two hundred thousand pounds.


Let us next advert to the amazing injury you sustain in the dependant trade, by your merchants being all foreigners. This is a situation not peculiar to you, but affects all the Southern Colonies, from Maryland to Georgia. I am not well enough acquainted with the trade of Virginia to know exactly how many foreign houses, or companies, have an interest in it, or how many factors are employed by them to manage it; but I suppose I shall be far enough within bounds if I say fifty of the former, and two thousand of the latter. Whether I am right or wrong in the numbers, the principles of my calculation will be equally just, and may be very easily applied to enlarge and diminish the profit or loss to the merchant and the country, by readers who are better acquainted with the subject than I am. It is not unreasonable to say, that every house or company makes fifteen thousand pounds a year, net gain, by the trade of this Colony; and, consequently, fifty houses will annually export seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds sterling to Scotland and England; which will be just so much saved to the Colony, whenever its own natives shall become its merchants. And allowing to the factors, on an average, one hundred pounds each per annum, (as some have much more, and others perhaps may have less;) if, out of this annual income, we suppose them to spend thirty pounds in the country, there will be seventy pounds a year laid up for their own use, and expended in Britain, for what they cannot, or do not choose to purchase in America. But because they pay taxes, and are of some other small service to the Colony as long as they stay in it, we will rate their gain at ten pounds less, and suppose them to lay up sixty pounds a year, which is so much taken out of the trading stock of this country, and only waits for a sufficient addition to be carried off and expended beyond sea. Here is another loss of one hundred and twenty thousand pounds per annum; and the whole together amounts to eight hundred and seventy thousand pounds sterling per annum that we lose by foreign merchants; besides the great number of useful arts that are closely connected with the management of commerce by the natives of any country. How many thousand excellent servants might be employed in ship-building, in manning your fleets, in raising and manufacturing all kinds of naval stores? Reflect a moment on the present condition of Spain, and on her condition two centuries ago. She presents us with a striking instance, out of a great number which Europe, Asia, and Africa afford, of the ill effects of resigning her commerce into the hands of foreigners; then the most opulent and formidable power in Europe, now among the most despised and neglected; then able to give laws to almost all the world, (the United Netherlands were but an inconsiderable part of her extensive and powerful Empire,) but now, grown indolent and negligent of commerce, even the little Province of Holland, in her turn, gives the laws of the sea to her former mistress.

I am afraid this subject, though very important, begins to grow dry and unentertaining to the publick. I shall therefore produce but one more instance of the loss we sustain by this dependant trade; and that is in our staple, upon which the Government of England, and the merchants of Scotland, have it in their power to put what price they please. At present we esteem two-pence half-penny per pound, or about twenty shillings per cwt˙ a very good average price; and at this rate a careful planter may keep himself above want, and have enough besides to pay his taxes, and give a dinner now and then to a friend. This tobacco is exported to Britain, and pays seven-pence half-penny sterlings duty per pound, and their merchants make their fortunes out of it afterwards. The duty that tobacco pays in the British ports is almost four times the price- it bears in Virginia; which, by a free trade, and exporting it directly to the countries that consume it, would be so much clear gain to us. The planter, then, instead of twenty shillings, would receive five pounds per cwt. But, making large allowance for the discouragements that such an article of luxury might be under in our hands, if we were separated from Britain, which now consumes a large proportion of it, I shall suppose its common price to be three pounds; that is, forty shillings more than we receive at present. If, then, we suppose that there are annually one hundred and ten million pounds, or one hundred and ten thousand hogsheads of tobacco exported out of the Colony, (which, perhaps, is pretty near the truth,) we shall gain an advantage of two million


two hundred thousand pounds a year, besides half as much more by the great quantities of hemp, flax, cotton, wheat, and flour, that are beginning to be raised or manufactured; that will enable my countrymen to be as generous as their natural temper inclines them to be, and to pay a tax of forty shillings, with greater convenience than they can pay one of fifteen shillings at present. To present you in one view the whole of what you lose by a dependant trade, and would gain by a determined resolution to emancipate yourselves and it into the liberty for which I hope Providence. has designed both, and to listen to no pretended Negotiation that does not carry upon her face candor and fairness, and openly, and without disguise, extend freedom in the one hand, while she offers peace in the other:
1st. On imports, as above, £200,000
2d. Merchants' net profits, £870,000 sterling, — (currency) 1,087,500
3d. Planters' gross profits, 2,200,000
4th. On wheat, flour, hemp, flax, &c˙, at least half as much; but say, 1,000,000
5th. That part of the gross profits of the merchants that will go to artists of different kinds, ship-builders, seamen, makers of sails, cordage, anchors, and a variety of other tradesmen, must exceed their net gain: suppose it 1,500,000
Sum total, £5,987,500

That is, it will Increase the real property among us annually to near six millions. This, in seven years, (by which time we shall undoubtedly have discharged our part of the Continental expense) will amount to above forty millions of pounds currency that we shall be more wealthy than we should have been if we had continued dependant on Great Britain, and in the same circumstances that a few years ago we esteemed very prosperous. I make no allowance for the gradual improvement of commerce, because I am willing to make all my calculations at the lowest rates that things will bear; and it is very possible that I am now a million or two below the truth. Besides, we may let the increased profits of some of the last years of this period balance our unskilfulness and poverty for a few years in the beginning of it. Here is a fund sufficient for defraying all the expenses that even the most timorous amongst us can suppose to be necessary for the preservation of our liberties against the avarice of a nation much more powerful than the English, and not a farthing of our present property touched. And although we should not be able to enjoy an unmolested trade for several years to come; yet, whenever that desirable period shall arrive that we shall be as free as we ought to be, we shall speedily be able to redeem all the Bills of Credit it may be found necessary to issue for that purpose. For if we lay but the moderate tax of a shilling in the pound (which we should hardly perceive) only on those gains that will be wholly additional to the gains of our former limited and dependant commerce, we shall be able to sink all the bills issued in this Colony, and our quota of those that have been issued by the Congress, and have in the publick coffers besides upwards of five millions of dollars for other necessary uses.

If we aim only at interest in the present contest, it appears plainly what part we ought at once to resolve upon. If we mean to unite with our interest the considerations of equity, and the dictates of natural affection, there is a degree of injury where affection ceases, and is converted into resentment; and I know of no principles of equity that forbid us to defend ourselves, or that require us to risk everything we have been contending for in tedious and treacherous negotiations. Does any of my countrymen ask me whether I am an enemy to all treaty, and inquire what prospect shall we have if these maxims prevail, of ever seeing a period of our trouble? I answer, No; but I would treat with them as the Roman Consul did with the King of Asia, And since they have first drawn the sword, I would make a circle round them with the sword, and demand their peremptory, unevasive answer to every requisition our country has a right to make from them, before they leave the spot. The controversy has been agitated long enough for both nations to understand each other. Each perfectly knows what she is willing to yield, or on what she will firmly fix her foot, determined to hold it, or perish in the attempt. What need is


there of delay? An hour may decide it as well as an age. We are too serious to be playing over with them all the tricks of what they are pleased to call negotiation, but which is really nothing else than downright lying and sharping. It is no time to parley with a robber about your purse when he has his pistol at your breast. You must either give or take in a moment. It would become us, in the opinion of some men, mighty well, to be sure, to forbear such high language, and rather to manage our cause by supplication and crying to a great King and a powerful nation! We have cried and roared long enough already, and what have we got by it? Our petitions have been turned out of doors, and we have all been called Rebels and savages, and what not, because we have roared so loud as to disturb his Majesty' s good repose, and oblige him to wear out his horses driving from Kezo to St˙ James' s. If we are blameable, it is for using these ineffectual applications too long. The time is come in which we ought to do something decisive; and the more desirous our enemies seem to be to involve us in knotty and intricate negotiations, the more determined should we be not to unravel them, but to cut them with the sword. They well know that tedious, inactive delays, must bring our affairs to a ruinous condition; and if they can waste our time in negotiating, the battle is won without striking a stroke. Our resources must be greatly diminished before we engage in action; and when they have worn us out with subtle deliberations, and wasted our treasure, while they only wanted to gain time by artful compliances and demands, they know very well how, by a fetch in politicks, to throw everything into confusion again, and to expose us naked, and perhaps distracted with mutual discords among ourselves, to superior wealth and superior power. I design no reflection on those who may be appointed to treat with them on the part of America; on the other hand, I do not doubt their abilities. But it is always in the power of Ministry, who will be treacherous, and whose interest lies in gaining time, to overreach the wisest politicians, if they will descend to follow them through the labyrinths of a negotiation that is only meant as a wile to mislead, or to blind them. But we have not only an accumulated debt to dread by the tedious delays that are unavoidable in the common forms of negotiating, but infinite dissensions among ourselves. An enterprise that depends upon the concord and exertions of the people, will ever infallibly fail if they are long held in a state of doubtful Inactivity. All wise politicians, who have governed them with success, have found it necessary to keep them employed in constant action. I can scarcely forbear to consider it as miraculous, that this extensive Continent has hitherto been led to pursue one determinate plan with so much unanimity and perseverance. But there is no error we ought more to dread than wearing out the patience of the populace by inaction. When their minds have long hung in suspense, at such a crisis as the present, they naturally fall into one of these two dangerous evils — either an entire languor and passivity of temper, or an impatience that at length breaks out in faction and sedition. In two of our neighbouring Colonies, which have been farthest removed from the scene of action, we have already seen this observation unhappily verified. And the suspense in which all the Colonies have been held for a considerable time is beginning to verge towards impatience, which will very probably soon burst out into violent mutual dissensions, if it shall be defrauded out of a proper enemy, by an unseasonable negotiation, especially when it is artfully managed by emissaries who will refuse neither promises nor rewards to inflame it to their purpose. For God' s sake, then, my countrymen, let us waste no time in unnecessary and dangerous delays; let us act with vigour and decision; let us propose to them the terms we demand in a clear and unequivocal manner, and require of them an immediate and unequivocal answer. Suffer them not to waste an hour, (for every hour is precious,) under the artful pretence of considering propositions more maturely, which they ought to have been well determined on long ago; or of not having brought with them sufficient powers, a usual artifice of statesmen, so that they can propose or answer nothing decisive without sending two or three times across the Atlantick. And since they have set us the example of treating at the point of the sword, cut short the negotiation they would be willing to protract, and make your appeal at once to the sword.