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Letter to General Gage, from Williamsburg, in Virginia



Williamsburg, October 27, 1774.

SIR: The measures of the British Administration have of late been so infamous, that no man can guide them without being the subject of general censure. The domestick virtues of Lord North, and the religious graces of Lord Dartmouth, have not exempted them from the execrations of the publick. These facts have been examined by a new sect of philosophers at St˙ James' s, and have been pronounced the truest touchstone of merit. The acclamations of millions are now looked upon as the breath of Faction, and the resentment of a Nation is esteemed the only reward, (to borrow a phrase from the Court) for doing one' s duty. The times are forgotten when every breath that ascended from Britain called down blessings upon the heads of Burleigh and Chatham. Contemptae, famae, contemni virtutem. Publick virtue, and the love of fame, will always stand and fall together in a free country.

This introduction was necessary in an Address to your Excellency. You have learned since your graduation at the British St˙ Omer' s, to prefer the approbation of your Sovereign to the applause of the whole of your fellow-subjects in America. You have substituted the former for the approbation of your conscience, and you have branded the just censures of the latter with the name of calumny. Give me leave, sir, to examine the nature of this vice, and to inquire how far you have a right to charge your loss of character on it.

Calumny is a tax, imposed, by a few bad men only, upon extraordinary merit. The influence of a party has sometimes made it general; but in such cases it is always transitory. A few strictures upon your character and conduct will show how far you are entitled to the honour of suffering from this cause.

You are so far from possessing any extraordinary merit, that you have defeated the designs of your friends, who attempted to supply your want of the qualities of a Governour and a General, by ascribing to you the simple virtues of a good man. You have not been condemned by a transitory faction, but by the permanent, unbiased suffrages of every free man in America. By assuming to yourself, therefore, those credentials of merit, which justice and wisdom derive from calumny, you commit a more criminal act of forgery than ever was expiated at Tyburn.

You have received many flattering addresses since your accession to your Government. Permit me to furnish your Excellency with a medium, through which I beg you


would read them. The art of embalming dead bodies was contrived only to prevent them from putrefaction. Flattery serves the same purposes upon living characters. It collects the scattered rays of human depravity into a focus. The most flagitious crimes appear like holiness, when compared with the offerings which it has kindled at the shrine of arbitrary power. I blush for my country, when I reflect that she has discovered in her infancy a relation to her faederal head by signs of this original corruption. Men have been, found, even in Boston, who have absolved a Bernard and an Hutchinson. The same men have extolled your moderation and equity. They have discovered an olive branch in you mouth. Nay, they have gone further. They have equalled in maturity of corruption the sycophants in the stye of Westminster. They have ascribed to your Excellency abilities.

It is to no purpose to say, that some of those men are persons of the first rank and fortune in your Government. Men of such characters were the first on the list of defection in the United Provinces. I honour publick virtue in a rich man, as much as I do piety in a soldier; but I never harbour the idea of America being enslaved without fancying I see the badges of our subjection sealed with the names of men who have been fattened upon her breasts. This idea is at all times a fugitive one; for since the spirit of liberty has gone forth among our Farmers, I no longer wish to pry into the decrees of Heaven. I see already transcribed, in the annals of our history, the Americans are an invincible people.

The Dominion of Virginia has given the signal to the inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay for resistance and reprisal; and it is not because your iniquities have not exceeded the price of their blood that they have not made the severity of military discipline necessary in your Government. Their allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain borders upon enthusiasm; but should you provoke them by another illegal Proclamation, I tremble to think of the consequences. The savages who chased you on the banks of the Ohio, were gentle as lambs, compared with men bereaved of their liberties. You will find the strength of the British Lion has not been impaired by his couching a century or two in the woods of America..

The Americans have hitherto viewed you with pity, as part of that unconscious machine which, was set to work by some invisible hands to destroy the British Constitution in America. But you have lately discovered your relation to human nature, by showing that you possess the principle of revenge. The Sovereign of the British Empire, the Arbiter of Europe, and the Neptune of the Ocean called forth the wisdom and power of both Houses of Parliament, together with the flower of his Troops, to deprive a Merchant in Boston of his property in a wharf. As humble in your imitation of his Majesty' s resentment, as of his Royal Proclamation for encouraging virtue and piety, you have chosen the same man as the object of your revenge. You have deprived him of his company of Cadets, and have condescended to assign a reason for it, which will be ratified at St˙ James' s:

"Colonel Hancock has used me ill, and has not treated me with that respect that is due to the Governour of the Province; therefore I dismissed him. I will not be treated ill by Colonel Hancock, nor any other man in the Province."

Could the truth of our reflections upon our Sovereign be washed away, tears of blood should not be wanting for that purpose. I cannot, however, agree with the majority of his subjects, in attributing to him a single wish to enslave his Empire. Tyrants have always made pioneers of their Ministers, but the present Ministry have placed our Sovereign upon the forlorn hope. By investing him with a discretionary power to repeal the Boston Port Bill, they have staked his popularity in America, his Revenues, and his Crown upon the success of a sham engagement. Let not our suffering countrymen in Boston call the wisdom, justice, and lenity of our King in question. The power of prolonging your misery was forced upon him by his Ministers. Let your imprecations for vengeance fall only upon the heads of Bute, Mansfield, and North. Mercy to such wretches would transform herself into a common prostitute. Let nothing satiate your rage till the scaffold overflows with their blood. The garden of Liberty in England stands


in need of such manure. Patriots, American Patriots, shall spring up spontaneously from it.