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Samuel Loudon' s Address to the Publick


TO THE PUBLICK: As the liberty of the Press has been boldly attacked, my private property wantonly destroyed, and suspicions aggravated into enormous crimes, and circulated both in city and country, greatly to my prejudice; those considerations, I hope, will apologize for laying the following Narrative before the impartial publick.

Some weeks ago, a manuscript, composed by a gentleman at some considerable distance, and sent in order to he published here, in answer to the celebrated pamphlet entitled Common Sense, was put into my hands by a gentleman of this city, who desired me to print it. As a publication of this nature required mature deliberation, I did not incline, nor did the gentleman require me, to comply with the proposal till I should be convinced that the manuscript was written with decency, and did not express, nor even imply, any disapprobation of the proceedings of the honourable Continental Congress, or the glorious cause in defence of which Americans are spending their blood and treasure. Being satisfied as to these particulars, I agreed to print the manuscript on my own account.

Having almost finished printing off the sheets, I advertised the publication of the pamphlet, in Mr˙ Gaine' s Gazette; not imagining that any offence could justly be taken by my fellow-citizens. But, to my great surprise, I soon found that the advertisement had given disgust to some of the inhabitants, who highly resented it as a disapprobation of the laudable efforts of the Colonies to support their just rights and privileges. On the evening of the 18th ultimo, I received a message to attend on the Committee of Mechanicks. I attended accordingly, and was interrogated by Mr˙ Christopher Duyckinck, the Chairman, "Who was the author of the pamphlet I was printing, and who gave me the manuscript?" Other members of the Committee questioned me to the same purport. I told them, "I did not know the author, and that I got the manuscript from a gentleman of this city, whose name, in my opinion, they had no right to demand," Displeased at this reply, they threatened to burn the pamphlet, blaming me in strong terms for printing it. I expostulated with them on the impropriety and unreasonableness of condemning a book before they had read it; therefore, proposed to send them the sheets that were printed, for their perusal, and to refer the whole affair to the Committee of Safety, and abide by their determination. They did not, however, think it proper to regard any of my proposals, but sent six of their number to my house, who put the printed sheets in boxes, and sealed them, except a few which were drying in an empty house, the door of which they locked and took the key with them. The following evening they sent the key, and informed me, that they had referred the matter to the General Committee. Same evening I received a note to wait on that Committee. I attended, and was informed by Mr˙ Broome, the Chairman, that a complaint had been preferred against me for printing an answer to the pamphlet entitled Common Sense; and that the Committee advised me not to proceed any further at present lest my personal safety might be endangered. up stairs to the printing-office, and took away the whole impression of said pamphlet, being about fifteen hundred copies, which, at a moderate computation, amounts to seventy-five pounds. They, as I have been informed, carried them to the commons, and committed them to the flames.

I would not anticipate the reflections that will naturally arise in the mind of every candid and dispassionate reader of the above plain and impartial narrative I have given; but justice to the publick and myself requires me to subjoin a few remarks.

As the question concerning American Independence hath not, to the best of my knowledge, been decided by the Continental Congress, nor by any legal subordinate Convention, there can be no criminality in publishing the arguments for and against it; and as it is a question of the greatest importance, it should not be decided before these arguments are fully discussed.

Though a formal answer to the pamphlet entitled Common Sense hath been published in Philadelphia, the printer hath not fallen under the resentment of the Continental Congress; which is a decisive evidence that the Representatives of North-America, do not judge him to be a transgressor. My zealous, well-meaning, but misguided opponents, would have acted a consistent part, had they paid a due deference to the wisdom and good sense of that honourable body of men, whom they have solemnly promised to support, by suspending all proceedings against me till the Philadelphia printer had been called to account and condemned by them.

The publick will determine whether, by not suffering any persons to publish their sentiments but the author of the above-mentioned pamphlet, and such as have adopted his way of thinking, many thousands of steady friends to the common cause of America are not deprived of one of their essential privileges — the liberty of declaring their opinion upon a subject of the greatest moment, and in which they are unspeakably more interested than the supposed author of that pamphlet?

It is, at any rate, self-evident, that if any set of unauthorized men shall be permitted to assume the power of legislating for their fellow-citizens, and punishing them as they please, our legal Conventions and Committees, with all the precious liberties for which we are contending, will be in effect annihilated, and we will be in a more miserable slavery than would arise from the most successful execution of all the tyrannical acts of the British Parliament.

The freedom of the Press is now insulted and infringed, by some zealous advocates for liberty. A few more nocturnal assaults upon printers may totally destroy it, and America, in consequence, may fall a sacrifice to a more fatal despotism than that with which we are threatened.

I have no consciousness of guilt in the affair for which I have been persecuted. It is well known that I have always been a steady friend to the liberties of America; and I am resolved to risk my all in their defence, and cheerfully to submit to every determination of the Continental Congress, of the Provincial Congress of this Colony, and of the General Committee of this city, that is not contrary to the dictates of religion, justice, and humanity; hoping, at the same time, that the reputation of American Councils will never be contaminated by any determination of such an iniquitous kind. I only claim common justice; and desire that for the future, all political publications issued from my press may be legally and impartially tried, by the publickly avowed principles of the Colonies, met in Continental Congress. If, at any time, I shall publish principles opposite to these, under any other predicament than that of common news, let me be treated with all the severity which an enemy to his country deserves.




† Five or six weeks ago, I got leave from the Congress to endeavour to get back a runaway servant, I had been Informed was on board the Asia. On this was rounded a suspicion that Governour Tryon or Mr˙ Kemp, the King' s Attorney, had given me the answer to Common Sense; and it was also reported, that I had received one hundred and fifty or two hundred pounds for printing it; both which are entirely false.