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To the Printers of the Massachusetts Gazette



Boston, March 9, 1775.

Please to insert the following Recantation and Confession: —

To err is incident to every human being, but candidly to confess errours when conscious of them, I am apprehensive is the property of but few. No man is blame-worthy for natural imperfection, but obstinacy and perverseness, as they are enemies to truth and right, so they are characteristick of a wrong head and a bad heart. I am now about to produce to the world one instance of a candid acknowledgment of having possessed erroneous principles in politicks, and consequently must have been guilty of a wrong conduct in society. In the beginning of our political confusion here in America, I was what you may truly call a Whig, in the modern acceptation of the word. Not that I ever justified or countenanced mobs and riots; I was ever an advocate of harmony, peace, and good order in society. But being so often told, and conceiving it to be the basis of the English Constitution, that no person, properly qualified, should have his money taken from him but by his own consent, or that of his Representative, I conceived it to be unconstitutional even, for the Parliament of Great Britain to make any Act which should necessarily and unavoidably affect the properties of the Colonists. I conceived, moreover, that though we were subjects of the King of England, yet we had a Constitution of our own, no ways controllable by the Lords and Commons of Great Britain; and that the Parliament had no more right to legislate for us, than our Legislature here had to legislate for them. (Such was, I now freely confess, my ignorance then of the English Government and Constitution, and the relation between the Colonies and the Parent State, which I now plainly perceive, taken altogether, compose one entire Empire, and the Parliament its supreme legislative head.)

Upon these principles, when the Stamp Act first came over, which, if carried into execution, would necessarily affect our properties, I loudly exclaimed against it, and considered it as a most violent infraction of the English


Constitution, and a direct taxing of the Colonies. That Act, so inexpedient and unreasonable in its nature and operation, was never carried into execution, but speedily repealed, though succeeded by another, which we apprehended almost as bad, viz: An Act for imposing duty on Glass, Painters' Colours, Paper, Tea, &c˙, articles which, though not absolutely necessary for life, yet so very useful, that we could not well do without them; and besides, the duty was solely for the purpose of raising a Revenue in America, and was introductory to every other species of taxation. The design was very evident in the Stamp Act, therefore the general cry was, among us Whigs, (or patriots, as we called ourselves,) let us by all means oppose it with violence; if we do not, we shall become the most abject slaves to the Parliament of Great Britain. Our opposition was the means of the Stamp Act being repealed, and will produce the same effect as to this, if we show the same temper and resolution. The truth was, the duty was soon taken off from all the articles except Tea, (though I now believe more owing to the influence of our friends at home, than our clamour here.) We then, however, exulted in our patriotism, and considered ourselves as the instruments of saving our Country from impending ruin. We were so elated with success, that we doubted not any Act of Parliament relative to the Colonies would be repealed, if we opposed it with firmness and resolution. Our pride was so elevated, that we could not have patience with those who would not heartily join us in our plan. We considered them as cowardly wretches, or mean, selfish governmental expectants. Our candour and charity did not extend so far as to suppose it possible for them to speak their real sentiments when they differed from us. My conscience now, upon recollection, abundantly tells me how deficient I was at that time, in those amiable qualities.

We were not, however, entirely acquiescent, though we had struck such a noble stroke, and got the duty taken off of every article but one, it was with great reluctance we could suffer it to remain on Tea; but as the Merchants in this Province (who, though their profession is Commerce, are generally the springs which keep in motion the wheels of Government) appeared to be tolerably easy, (some importing Tea directly from England, paying the duty, others illicitly running it from the Dutch, taking their chance of seizure,) the spirit of uneasiness seemed in some measure to subside, and both Whigs and Tories purchased and drank Tea freely in this Province, without particular inquiry whether it paid the duty or not, from the year 1767, to the time the East India Company were permitted by Parliament to send their Tea immediately to America. This, like a spark falling upon gunpowder, immediately set us into a flame again. We considered the Parliament as granting a monopoly to one trading Company, to the detriment of all America. We then thought it our duty once more to rouse ourselves in defence of our injured Country. Though I was very warm in the cause, yet I never advised to the destruction of the Tea, but, in an evil hour, it was all destroyed. The particular circumstances are too well known to need repeating; but it is a thousand pities they could not be buried in eternal oblivion. The action struck me so horridly, as being repugnant to every principle of justice, and a downright piece of piracy, that I could not help exclaiming against it, as being pregnant with the most ruinous consequences to us. I then began to be afraid of the chastisement of an incensed and powerful Nation. I thought it was high time to stop in our career, and seriously consider what we were about, lest we should plunge ourselves into ruin before we were aware of it. But my brother Whigs, having more courage and resolution than I had, perceiving me to begin to waver, exerted themselves to keep up my spirits, and continually exhorted me to stand firm and unshaken. Nothing is wanting, said they, but resolution and unity; desperate diseases require desperate remedies; we have, as it were, passed the Rubicon; the other Colonies will stand by us; our Committees of Correspondence have wisely taken care to secure their principal men; if we do not appear unanimous, we are lost; we must not look back, but forward; we are afraid of nothing but the miscreant Tories, who endeavour to prevent our union; we must keep them down


by continued threats, and now and then a little chastisement; the Printers we have got under our thumbs; they dare not print any thing but what is on the side of liberty; if any one of them does, we are determined he shall lose our custom; and never fear, if we only stand firm in our opposition, we gain our point.

Still further to secure me and keep me steadfast, (for they were sensible I had some influence,) they chose me one in a Committee of Correspondence, &c˙, and then, I acknowledge, I was for a considerable time wound up to a higher pitch of enthusiasm than ever. We met often; indeed we made it almost our whole business; but our conversation was altogether upon politicks, and always upon the side of liberty, rights, and privileges. Every argument was defensive of liberty, and instead of an opponent, each was an applauder of the other, and a reviler of all Tories; and each, perhaps to inspirit the other, expressed more than was his just and real sentiments. The same thing took place with respect to other Committees, with whom we always kept up a continued intercourse by letters. How often have we expressed ourselves, with a studied zeal and determined resolution, purposely to prevent any flagging of spirit in other Committees, and how often have we received as spirited answers in reply! Thus we went on animating and supporting each other, till the Suffolk Resolves appeared; then, I acknowledge, I was almost as much struck as when the Tea was destroyed, but throughout our circle shouts of applause echoed round the room. I could not help at that time seriously observing, that I was fearful we went too fast; the Continental Congress, which was then sitting, might not justify such very spirited Resolves, and then our cause would be injured, as we must certainly acquiesce in their determinations. Therefore I apprehended it would be most prudent for us to take our hints from them, rather than lead. The reply was, that our Delegates were men of sense, and some of them good speakers; one of them particularly could carry almost any point he was determined upon, therefore they must have great influence in the Congress; and as there was a continued correspondence kept up between the Committee of Boston and the Delegates, there was no doubt but they were apprized of them previously to their publication, and depended upon their being adopted by the Continental Congress. Accordingly they were adopted and approved of, though they do not appear in the pamphlet containing their doings. But still, notwithstanding the authority of the Continental Congress, and the high spirits and assurance of our and other Committees, I could not help, upon serious reflection, when alone, having many compunctions of heart, as it evidently appeared to me that all could not be right. The course seemed to me to lead directly to rebellion, which my soul abhorred, and was never in my intention.

From that time I was determined seriously and impartially to examine for myself, and attend to all that was said on both sides. Our custom ever had been, not to attend, and scarcely to read any thing that was not wrote on the right side of the question, as we called it. The first thing I read with attention was a letter from a Virginian to the Continental Congress, while they were sitting at Philadelphia. That letter I found contained many serious and just observations, sufficient to awaken in any unprejudiced mind alarming apprehensions of the consequences of our hasty conduct. Afterwards I met with the "Friendly Address," and many other pamphlets wrote on the side of Government, together with some excellent pieces published in Mills and Hicks' s, and Draper' s Papers. These, taken altogether, seem to me fairly to lay open and expose the whole scene of our political errours and iniquities. And what confirms me still more in the justness of their observations, and the conclusiveness of their reasonings is, that they seem unanswerable by the whole Whig party. The weak and futile replies that have been made to some of them do not deserve the name of answers. What I have seen contains little more than scurrility and illiberal abuse; instead of sober reason and candid reply, they spend their shafts in invective and indecent railing. Indeed, from the beginning, notwithstanding my prejudices in favour of their cause, I have been often disgusted at their manner of treating men and measures. It appeared to me it was by no


means calculated to persuade or convince serious and rational men. I am now fully convinced, however high I once was, that the cause of the Whigs is not a just one otherwise they surely must have defended it with a better appearance of reason and plausibility. Another reason which tended not a little to cure me of my whiggish principles, was the crabbed fruits they produced. In contending for liberty, they seem inclinable to engross it all themselves; the prevailing temper and disposition among them seems by no means to be pacifick; they are arbitrary and even tyrannical in the whole tenour of their conduct; they allow not to others who differ from them the same liberty of thinking and acting that they claim themselves, but shamefully abuse them, and treat them with spite, malice, and revenge. The instances of that kind are too numerous and notorious to require a particular detail.

How shockingly extravagant are the late Resolves of the County of Worcester? What a shameful attempt to discourage the liberty of the Press, that glorious palladium of English liberty. Let an honest Whig seriously consider whether such a conduct can flow from good principles, any more than a bad tree can bring forth good fruit. I now seriously advise all my former brethren of the Whig party to follow me in my recantation, rather than to throw out squibs at me in Ede' s and Gill' s, or Thomas' s Papers. All that I can now do, (and that I shall do,} in the way of atonement for my former whiggish conduct, is to endeavour to proselyte as many as I can; and I find myself happy in being as successful at least in leading people from errour, as I was once in persuading them into it.