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To General Burgoyne



Although the intercourse between yourself and General Lee is closed, you will permit an American, who is a stranger to you both, and has never seen either of the Armies in which you command, to address you, Sir, on the interesting subject of your late correspondence.

From the time of the conquest to the Revolution, the history of England affords innumerable instances of the People struggling for their rights, and the Sovereigns tenacious of assumed prerogatives; but the power of taxing themselves was the privilege of which our common ancestors were particularly jealous.

The present controversy between Great Britain and the Colonies originated from the question, whether the British Commons have a right to give and grant our moneys without our consent. For the question, you have urged as a principle of the Constitution, the supremacy of the King in Parliament. Against it, the Colonies have adduced another principle, which, in the words of Sir Edward Coke, is this: "It is against the franchises of the land, for freemen to be taxed but by their own consent." Modern Parliaments, with a kingly fondness for prerogative, have winked the latter principle out of sight, though their predecessors, the Commons of England, resolutely Contended for it in the beginning of the reign of Charles the First, when, as you allow, they resisted to vindicate and restore the Constitution. In opposition to the unjust claim of the Crown to impose taxes, the House of Commons, in the third year of that Prince, voted, "that every freeman has, by ancient and indubitable right, the absolute and entire properly of his own estate;" and both Houses, by the Petition of Right presented to His Majesty in the same year, "pray that no man hereafter be compelled to make it yield any gift, loan, benevolence, tax, or such like charge, "without common consent by act of Parliament."

These immortal Whigs, as you call them, thought the consent of those who were to pay the money indispensably necessary to a legal tax; and upon this principle, the speeches of their leaders, and the petition itself, prove they grounded their demand.

In the first year of the long Parliament (at which time you extol their patriotism and resistance) the Commons, Mr˙ Hume informs us, revived the pretensions with regard to tonnage and poundage; and adds, "the levying these duties, as formerly, without consent of Parliament, and even increasing them at pleasure, was such an incongruity in a free Constitution, when the people, by their fundamental privileges, cannot be taxed but by their own consent, as could no longer be endured by these jealous patrons of liberty." If their resistance was justifiable and virtuous, is not ours so? Are the claims of the British Parliament less dangerous to the Americans than those of Charles I˙ were to the people of England? He was under no temptation to lay heavier burdens on one part of his subjects than another; you have self-interest held up as a motive to oppress us.

But we are denied the right of resistance if other means of redress can be obtained. We have often presented petitions, which (because they called in question the right of


Parliament to tax us) were styled undutiful, and were rejected, or if received were treated with neglect. If you can tell of any other peaceable means of redress, in the name of humanity let us know it. Certainly you cannot wish us to apply to Parliament, and say, We indeed have no voice in your appointment, and no influence in your counsels, nevertheless you have a right to dispose of us and all we have at pleasure, but we implore your mercy to continue to us the enjoyments of life. This, Sir, is not the language of freemen, and the Americans, therefore, have never learnt to speak it. Could we be base enough to act so slavish a part, your resentment might cease, but must be succeeded by contempt.

The landed men in England, who have long borne burdens for America, you say, are against us. The last war indeed began on this Continent; but are we on that account to bear any more than our proportion of its expense? As well might the logwood cutters in the Bay of Campeachy be charged with the burdens of the war before it, because a dispute between those logwood cutters and the Spanish guarda costas gave birth to that war.

Before the last rupture with the French, the conduct of that people, both in the East-Indies and America, evinced their design to disturb the trade of Britain. Their line of forts from Canada to the Mississippi was calculated to monopolize the fur trade. Your interest was struck at. The views of both Crowns were the extension and security of their Fishery and Commerce. Great Britain prevailed, and then recognized, in the most honourable terms, the zeal and efforts of the Colonies, however mean-spirited she may think them now. She had not then in contemplation the design to protect our property from the French, that she might afterwards seize it herself, without our consent. Such a design would have been inconsistent with the spirit of magnanimity which inspired her councils, and repugnant to every principle of honour and justice.

You say we deny the right of British legislation to impose taxes, and consequently struggle for total independency. This argument is unkind and fallacious; unkind, as every Assembly and Congress on the Continent has disavowed the intention; and fallacious, because the proposition is particular, and the consequence general. May not one person or community be dependant on another without being totally dependant? If in Great Britain the Constitution is free and limited, and the Colonies are entitled to equal freedom, is it not impossible that their dependance ought to be absolute and without limitation. Ireland has long felt her dependance without owning the power in question, and the Americans have been affectionate and loyal in such a situation, more than one hundred and thirty years. When you first made and they opposed your claim of right to taxation, they thought no more of independence than the Parliament in 1628 thought of beheading King Charles; they would now esteem it a most unfortunate event; and nothing but a settled habit of cruelty in the mother can make the child forget its filial duty.

King Charles at first denied to the people their ancient rights; the high sense he entertained of his own dignity would not readily permit him to correct mistakes. The passions of the people were inflamed. They afterwards denied to him his just prerogatives, and even abolished the regal power. In civil contests there is a keenness of animosity unfelt in foreign wars. The voice of reason is less regarded, and the tenderest feelings of the soul change to envenomed hate.

That some attempt to bring about an accommodation of the present dispute, may be attended with success equal to the benevolence of the design, is the most ardent wish of