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Letter from London to a Gentleman in New-York



The critical situation of affairs at present, and the important consequences which will flow from the conduct of your Congress, are very interesting to every lover of his country, and have induced me to address to you a few indigested sentiments on the topicks of the day.

The grounds on which your opposition to the claims of Parliament are founded seem to be consonant to natural equity and the first principles of civil society. The proper mode of asserting your liberties is at present the material question. No person loves America and the rights of mankind more than I do; you will, therefore, if I should happen to differ in sentiment with you, impute that difference rather to defect of knowledge, than want of zeal for the interest in the cause in which you are engaged.

I have ever been an enemy to all attempts of deciding the present contest by violence; the issue of which is generally not owing to the goodness of a cause, but to superiour strength or art, and the ill consequences are as commonly felt as well by the successful as the subdued. The dispute between America and Great Britain is a dispute between two grand branches of the same state, and therefore an injury done to either must be detrimental to the common body. In this view every person of prudence must have seen the propriety of avoiding the introduction of violence, and the wisdom of endeavouring to settle the difference by friendly debate and argument. On this foot I confess I disapprove of the conduct of the Bostonians, in first recurring to force by violently destroying the teas of the Company. Any excuse drawn from the danger of their being purchased by their own people is an argument, against their virtue, and an inadmissible plea: because, if the teas had been landed without their consent, and the duties (which is potting it in the most favourable light) paid without their concurrence, it could never have been urged as a precedent against them. I mean not this as an apology for the severe measures which have been adopted against them.


The Boston Port Bill seems to be replete with injustice and cruelty, and utterly indefensible; yet as they were undoubtedly aggressors, by their rashness and violence, it would have been an honour to your cause if their proceedings had been disavowed, and a compensation made at the same time that you declared your resolutions of supporting them in defence of the same general rights, and of uniting in the maintenance of your common liberties.

The instructions of the Philadelphians to their Committee are drawn up with the true spirit of patriotism, and have gained more proselytes to your cause than any other procedure; the prudence; love of liberty, and attachment to Great Britain, which they breathe, and the firmness and moderation which they express, are more alarming to your opponents than all the enthusiastick ravings and indiscriminate abuse which have been poured out from every quarter. In a letter which I wrote you some time since, I briefly stated the mode of conduct, which, if your Congress pursued, it was thought by men acquainted with the views of Government, would tend to the amicable adjustment of the present unhappy dispute: "That if the Members of your Congress unitedly advise their several Assemblies to present an humble and resolute petition, stating what you demanded as your rights, and what you would concede; such a petition from your Assemblies would be attended to, and perhaps produce a Convention which might terminate in a firm and lasting settlement of the dispute." I am afraid that letter came too late to be of any service, as well as others on the same subject, addressed to persons of some weight amongst you.

The Congress has, I suppose, by this time met, and the decisive measure been adopted. Whatever it may be, let me conjure you, as a lover of your country, to promote mild and peaceful measures; if the sword of civil war is once unsheathed, mutual injuries will but produce the more raging animosity, and those who are now your friends may become your enemies.

Some time since I scarce met a person who was not violently opposed to you from indignation at the insult which they conceived was offered by the destruction of the teas at Boston; since that time their resentment has been subsiding, and an unforeseen incident made them loud in your favour, and as vindictive against the Ministry. You have undoubtedly seen the Quebec Bill, and carefully considered its contents; occasion has been taken from it to attack the Ministry as friends to Popery, and to represent them as intending by it to induce the Papists to assist in reducing the Protestants in America to slavery. The project has answered beyond expectation; the cry of the enjoyment of Popery, and the cruelties exercised against you, has readied all parts of the country, and inflamed the people with zeal in your favour, and indignation against the Administration.

As the issue of your Congress would be the subject of the most important debates, and probably require vigorous measures, it was thought proper to dissolve the present Parliament, and suddenly issue out writs for a new one; for it was judged that if the present, or rather late members, had been obliged to use measures against you which were unpopular, they might not have had a chance of being re-elected, but a majority unfavourable to the Ministry brought in, the consequences of which you may easily conjecture. All parties are now, therefore, busy in making interest for the ensuing election.

The election for Mayor of London is now carrying on, and there is no doubt but Mr˙ Wilkes will be appointed to that office. Mr˙ Bull and he are candidates in opposition to Esdale and Kennet, two Ministerial gentlemen. You will ask me whether the Ministry will be able to gain a majority in the ensuing Parliament? Had not the House been so artfully and unexpectedly dissolved, I am of opinion that they would not; but by this project they will undoubtedly succeed, as they have had an advantage of making their interest sure, while their opponents were off their guard; and to leave those measures, which would have been fatal to them, to the sanction of the future Parliament.

The bulk of the people, especially of the lower class, is now in your favour, but if you adopt violent measures, I dare assert that they will not continue so. Should any of their countrymen be insulted in America; should the blood of any of the soldiery be shed, national pride (which


is so characteristick in all their wars) will prompt them to espouse the cause of this country against you, and to look upon the quarrel as not with the Ministry only, but with them. On this account, as well as from the uncertainty and miseries which will flow from a contest by force, I entreat you to exert your influence in the promotion of moderate councils and measures; let not persons who are desirous of change, and fond of confusion and disorder (because from them they can expect that eminence which they are not willing to aspire after by the slow methods of industry) assume the lead in your deliberations, but men whose honesty and wisdom have been long tried by their fellow-citizens, and whose property may give you security of their being really interested in the welfare of the community."