Primary tabs

Cassandra to Cato



SIR: I thought you had forgotten the fatal 7th of November, 1774, on which all your ambitious projects were blasted by a publick vote of your fellow-citizens, to divide from the County in their choice of Committee-men, and to hold all future elections by ballot; but I find I was mistaken. While Committees were chosen by holding up of bands, and letters from millers and popular harangues could be employed to serve the purposes of your party, though Cato could, write, yet no press teemed with his lucubrations; but now that publick business is carried on in the only way which can secure the people from undue influence, and the party has suffered a total defeat in their electioneering attempts, his masterly pen is called forth into the field of political controversy, and, with a few dashes of it,


he has overset our Committee of Inspection, demolished the whole tribe of patriotick scribblers in newspapers, and laid Common Sense in the dirt; taken a catalogue of all the Whigs and Tories in the Province; converted thirty-six Commissioners (about to be sent over to insult us with tern-is no one can accept) into ambassadors of peace; and poor Cassandra into an enthusiast, madman, barbarian, and drunken Independent. Wretched must the lot of that Whig be who falls into the hands of this fiery defender of Ministerial stratagems. Daniel may be protected from the jaws of the lions; but alas! who can protect us when Cato is roused? The whole band of us is crushed to atoms with one grasp of his hand. Why did you assure us that no persons need be alarmed, for that no indecent nor angry expression should dishonour your pen? Was it that the suddenness of our destruction might heighten its terrour? Well has the Scriptures assured us that the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Your grievous paragraph about restraining the press is so notorious a falsehood, that I boldly put you to defiance to point out the instance. And when you give the publick the names of the few who turned the mode of electing Committees out of the channel of corruption, and thereby excluded you and your colleagues, I will undertake to mention the other few who, contrary to every principle of our Constitution, by a prostitution of the cry of publick necessity, are endeavouring to cloak an unbounded hatred to our present cause, under an affected zeal for constitutional dependance; and who have nearly effected their malicious purposes, of destroying their own liberties to be avenged of their enemies. But let not Cato too far provoke the majesty of the people of Pennsylvania, by the bold nourishes of a pen which pays no respect to truth, lest he may find it expedient to end his days on the principles of dependancy.

"Few persons," says Cato, "gave themselves any concern about the election of a Committee of Inspection, being well satisfied that any number of respectable citizens, who would take the trouble of such a Committee, should be thankfully indulged with the office; and although it consists of a hundred members, they had not two hundred votes," Cassandra begs leave to inform Cato, that our Committees of Inspection, ever since chosen by ballot, got possession of their office by a more respectable number of voters than any Burgess which sat in the House of Assembly since the first day in which a comparison could be made, as he can make appear by the state of the several elections,

"In carrying on our great controversy with England, Pennsylvania," say you, "has no need either to make the least sacrifice of its Constitution, nor yet to yield in zeal to the foremost of the Colonies." This assertion might pass for truth on the coast of Labrador, or in the deserts of Siberia; but the people of Pennsylvania must have drunk deep of the waters of oblivion, and laid aside all pretensions to recollection, before they can consider such assertions in any other light than insults on their understanding. Can Cato inform them of the single measure that can be pursued in the line of our Charter Constitution? I should gladly view the paragraph which gives our Assembly the power of legislating without the Governour; and Cato is too well acquainted with the King' s Representative, to believe he would ever give his sanction to our opposition. Name the act of Assembly, Cato, which makes legal tender of the money they have so patriotically struck, and I will believe you have for once strayed into the truth. But because our Representatives can do nothing legal without the Governour, therefore Cato is fiery hot for confining our opposition to them, and not to a Convention, which is under no such restrictions. The interest of the Governour, and not of the people, is plainly Cato' s.

"The great privilege," you add, "which we enjoy of giving our free unbiased voice, annually, in the choice of an Assembly, who, from that moment, by charter, become a constitutional body, vested with the authority of the people, and can meet when they please, and sit as long as they judge necessary." Here, sir, you prudently drop the consideration of their being a constitutional body. Had you pointed out the advantages of constitutionally meeting and sitting, when they can constitutionally do no more, you had told us something. But this, alas! was out of your power. So much for your first letter.

In your second, you begin by saying that you know not on what grounds I have satisfied myself that the sole view


of Administration, in this commission, is to amuse and deceive, to bribe and corrupt us. It may be so, sir, though I hope you have not the vanity to set up your knowledge as the standard of truth. Did you read the piece, and attempt to pick to pieces the principles and arguments on which my advice is founded? I begin to think you did; and finding them too hard to overturn, you vent your spleen in railing at the author. But do you recollect Lord North' s conciliatory plan, and his explanation of it, viz: Substantial revenue, divide et impera, &c.? Do you remember the King' s speech at the opening of the present sessions of Parliament, and the re-echo of both Houses? the extensive plan of warlike operations which he means to carry on against us? and his appointing persons who shall, on the spot, dispense most gracious pardons to all such as shall acknowledge their faults and plead forgiveness? — (a new species of Ambassadors, not heretofore taken notice of by the writers on the laws of nature and nations.) Do you remember General Gage' s plan for disarming the people of Boston, and the faith he observes in treaties? and that Howe, his successor, pursues the same infernal plan? Or have you totally forgot what the Prime Minister said, on his declaring that he was ready to restore us to the state we were in before the year 1763; for that we did not then deny the right of Parliament to tax America? Or do you forget that every proposal for reconciliation, made by the friends of America in Parliament, was rejected without a division? Had Cato remembered these things, or if he can be brought to remember them, he will have as much reason to suspect the designs of the Commissioners as Cassandra. Perhaps it suits not with Cato' s plan to remember these things, though he can recollect many others of a much earlier date. Cato may be much better acquainted with our savage neighbours than Cassandra, as doubtless he has traversed the uncultivated woods of America more frequently than he; yet it may not be an easy matter to convince the people of this Province that the dread of losing all hopes of preferment, if the counsel of Cassandra is taken, has not called forth this champion for an undefined dependance from that obscurity into which he has nearly fallen. It remains a doubt with me whether the historick page will ever transmit your name to posterity as the first American D — t — y, if you are not permitted to shake hands with the Commissioners, and allowed the opportunity of explaining your mysterious conduct. I shall long turn over the volumes which establish the principles of the laws of nature and nations, before I read of ambassadors of peace, attended with Acts of Parliament to confiscate, and Royal Proclamations to divide, the property of those they are to treat with; and backed by immense armies of Ministerial cut-throats, to enforce their demands. Cato' s great reading, no doubt, can supply the publick with a few instances of untutored savages receiving ambassadors, thus attended, with respect and hospitality, and smoking the calumet of peace with them. However, until he does, I trust he will grant to Cassandra the liberty of thinking otherwise, and do him the justice to believe that he knows as much about the rights of ambassadors as Cato Cassandra confesses that he is greatly concerned for our virtue, lest we should be cajoled, deceived, and corrupted. Cato is not so. Corruption may be more familiar to Cato, which will fully account for our difference in sentiment. I am so much of a Christian as to pray that we may not be led into temptation. This, sir, may form no part of your devotion. But if Cato is so easy on the score of this treaty, because it is to be managed by men delegated for their integrity and abilities by the voice of their country, why is he enraged at my attempt to confine them to these virtuous Delegates? Cassandra is not afraid of the Delegates. It is to keep our modem Catos from doing us mischief that he is so anxiously concerned; and if Cato has read his proposal, he knows it to be so. But, Cato, had you adopted a signature correspondent with your designs, my present reply might be unnecessary; and if you yet change your present one for Syphax, Sempronins, or lago, I may spare the printer much of my intended lucubrations. I believe the world will readily agree with me, that either of the three would be truly characteristick of your present designs, if not of your general character as a man and a politician.

The cup out of which Cassandra has drank was never employed to offer libations at the altar of Royal despotism or Proprietary influence. He knows no guide but reason


and love of mankind, as he neither wishes nor expects to be Prime Minister to any future would-be King of Pennsylvania. He is always ready to defend his rights at the risk of his life; and prefers present war to future slavery, being conscious that a great continent will be much happier with the one than the other. Britain has risen triumphant, in a few years, out of bloodier wars than ever America has been or will be called to; but Egypt has not, for thousands of years, recovered from the yoke of foreign oppression. Cassandra longs to see your bold declaration made good. But why so long about it? Come to the point, sir. The presses are very open for the reception of your wonderful productions. But I beseech you, dear sir, to lay aside groundless declamation for the future, and speak a language which facts will support. The people of Pennsylvania, I trust, will ever have the good sense to prefer Common Sense to the appeals of any Government tool which may appear in defence of a union with those who know no law, human or divine, but the law of violence and murder, and who have their Catos in all quarters to delude and deceive; men who sell their consciences for the prospect of future advantages. Don' t be angry, Cato. Give your name to the publick, and I will stand corrected if I have missed my object.

You make a great clamour because we have been constantly enlarging our views, and stretching them beyond the first bounds. But let me tell you, Cato, that nothing can be a greater proof of your iniquitous designs than your present attempt to confine them. Has not Administration first passed a Declaratory Act; then an act laying duties on paper, painters' colours, &c˙; then their acts to export their teas to America; then a Boston Port Act; an act to destroy the Charter of Massachusetts; a Restraining Act, &c˙, &c˙? Acts to confiscate our property, and levy the most cruel and unjust war against us? Have not they been constantly enlarging their plans, to the last of all acts of tyranny, murder, and robbery? And are we to remain insensible all this time, and never enlarge our views? Where would be the wisdom of all this, Cato?

You artfully introduce quotations from the proceedings of Congress, to lead the people astray, by producing extracts which you know neither can nor do speak the sentiments of Congress on the subject. Congress early spoke their sentiments on that head, but Cato could not recollect the passage. It did not coincide with his plan, of imposing on the people of Pennsylvania.

"Between these Colonies and the People of Britain (says the Congress, in their Address to the Inhabitants of the Colonies, published in their Resolves of September 5, 1774) subsists the social band which we ardently wish may never be dissolved, and which cannot be dissolved until their minds shall become indisputably hostile, or their inattention shall permit those who are thus hostile to persist in prosecuting, with the powers of the realm, the destructive measures already operating against these Colonies; and, in either case, shall reduce the latter to such a situation, that they shall be compelled to renounce every regard but that of self-preservation."

This was the opinion of Congress at that time. I will leave it to Cato to determine whether both or either of the cases there mentioned have not taken place. Cato does not class himself with Cassandra and the writers on that side of the question; this does not much trouble Cassandra, I assure you; inasmuch as he can class his own with the sentiments of the celebrated Dr˙ Smith, who, in his address to the graduates, in May last, says: "The glory of every country is its liberty, its independency, and its improvements in commerce, arts, and religion." And I believe the sentiments of this gentleman are as much esteemed among those of your party as the sentiments of Cato.