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Letter from John Dickinson to Josiah Quincy



Fairhill, October 28, 1774.

MY DEAR SIR: I should have answered your last letter before you left Boston, if I had not imagined from what you said in it, that you must have sailed before it could have reached that place.

I now congratulate you on the hearty union of all America, from Nova Scotia to Georgia, in the common cause. The particulars you are no doubt acquainted with.

The Congress broke up the day before yesterday; and if it be possible, the return of the Members into the several Colonies will make the people still more firm. The most peaceable Provinces are now animated; and a civil war is unavoidable, unless there be a quick change of British measures. The usual events, no question, will take place if that happens — victories and defeats. But what will be the final consequence? If she fails, immediate distress; if not, ruin; if she conquers, destruction at last. But from the best judgment I can form, she will not wait long for her fate. Several European Powers, it is probable, will fall on as soon as she is entangled with us. If they should not, what can she effect at three thousand miles distance, against at least four hundred thousand freemen fighting "pro aris et focis?"

I cannot but pity a brave and generous Nation thus plunged in misfortune by a few worthless persons. But it


may be said, how can she retract with dignity in the present position of affairs? I answer, her dignity is not at all concerned, unless it be to punish those who have abused and betrayed her into measures inconsistent with her welfare. Is a Nation bound in honour to support every mad or villainous step of a Ministry? It is mean to persist in errours because we have committed them. But what is to be said of those who talk of asserting their own dignity, by vindicating the errours of others?

The present cause is that of Bute, Mansfield, North, Bernard, Hutchinson, &c˙, not of Great Britain. Let her renounce their detestable projects, which point at her as their ultimate object, and reconcile herself to her children, while their minds are capable of reconciliation.

"Oh! for a warning voice," to rouse them to conviction of this important truth, that the reconciliation depends upon the passing moment, and that the opportunity will, in a short time, be irrecoverably past, as the days beyond the flood.

Every thing may yet be attributed to the misrepresentations and mistakes of Ministers; and universal peace be established throughout the British world, only by a general acknowledgment of this truth, that half a dozen men are fools or knaves. If their character for ability and integrity is to be maintained by wrecking the whole Empire, Monsieur Voltaire may write an addition to the chapter on the subject of "Little things producing great events."

As to your complaint against an expression of mine in a late letter, know, dear sir, I wrote in agonies of mind for my brethren in Boston. I trembled lest something might have happened which I could not only forgive, but applaud, but which might have been eagerly and basely seized by others, as a pretence for deserting them. This was the sense of men in Philadelphia, the most devoted to them; and under this apprehension, we agreed to make use of the strongest expressions.

May the Father of Mercies bestow every blessing upon you, is the fervent prayer of, my dear sir, your faithful and affectionate friend, JOHN DICKINSON.