Primary tabs

Letter from Philadelphia to a Gentleman in Boston



Philadelphia, June 6, 1774.

' Tis urged by some that Boston ought to pay for the tea destroyed there. This is to give my reasons why they should not pay for it.

1st. Dutied tea was prohibited by the general consent of all North America, for certainly nothing can make goods more perfectly prohibited than a general protest against their importation. If this should want form of law, it surely has all the substance of reason that can be necessary to constitute the most absolute prohibition; and if any merchant sends prohibited goods to any port, he


consents to risk the loss of them; his folly only is to be pitied.

2d. I consider that importation of tea, not as a mercantile concern of the India Company, but as a political medium agreed upon by that Company and the Ministry together, to force the Tea Duty upon America against their consent, and therefore the destruction of it was not, in the least degree, a malicious design by the Bostonians to injure the India Company, but a virtuous effort to preserve their own liberties. If a man draws his sword on me to deprive me of life or liberty, and I break his sword, ought I to pay for the sword? If a man shuts me in his house to deprive me of my liberty, and I break the door, ought I to pay for the door? If I lie an anchor in a ship, and one sends a fire ship down to bum me, and I sink the fire ship, ought I to pay for it?

3d. But here is property destroyed which ought to be paid for; then, say I, let those sustain the damage who were the blameable causes of it, and not, by any means, those who acted from a virtuous necessity, from which they could not be excused, without breach of that duty they owed to their country, to themselves, and their posterity.

4th. An action cannot be good or advisable from which bad consequences and no good ones will necessarily flow upon a whole country. Paying for the tea will be deemed repentance, a submission, a retraction of that virtue by which the liberties of America were asserted and saved, and the grand scheme to destroy them rendered abortive. Virtue relinquished, repented of, and given up with shame, becomes the butt of ridicule for an enemy, and argues a baseness of soul which even a friend must view with contempt.

I beg to be free enough to mention another thing which astonishes me and all your friends, viz: that a number of reputable people of Boston, (some say forty, some sixty,) have humbly addressed Governour Hutchinson, to implore the mercy of the Ministry on poor Boston. I would deny this with great bitterness, but I fear I cannot. I should have thought the late proceedings of Parliament had dumbfounded every tory in America, but could not have imagined that a single one in Boston could have remained unconverted. That sort of poor spirited animals must have wagged their tails, and licked the feet of their despots so long as to have lost the spirit of an ordinary cur, or they could never do this. To kiss the rod is a submission that can never be due to any but a righteous chastiser. Imploring mercy is always a confession of guilt, and to do this without a conviction of guilt is the most abject conduct conceivable. And in the case in point, to be really and sincerely convicted of guilt, is worse; it is, in principle; to give up all the liberties of America. Can a Bostonian compliment a man of Mr˙ Hutchinson' s conduct, whom all America believes to be the great instrument of your calamities? Can a Bostonian implore his intercession with your oppressors; oppressors who have violated the laws of God to wrong you; who have deprived you of the wharfs, landing places, and harbour, which the God of nature, the obligation of civil contract, and the law of the land, will conspire to seal to you as your property and right; who have vacated the obligations of personal covenants, such as are contained in bills of lading, charter parties, &c˙, and which the laws of Heaven will oblige the conscience of every honest man to fulfil; I say, can the virtue, can the pride of a Bostonian submit to implore the mercy of such oppressors, and that too by soliciting the mediation of their capital tool of oppression? I always had an exalted opinion of the virtue of the Bostonians. I indeed knew they might suffer, but never once suspected they could lose their dignity in suffering. Excuse my warm sentiments. If they give wounds they are the wounds of a friend. But I lament to tell you this conduct of a few with you, weakens the hands of your friends, and furnishes occasion to some to say the Bostonians themselves are melting away; our support can never save them whilst they want firmness themselves, and whilst they themselves acknowledge that they suffer for their own faults, and not for the cause of American liberty. Depend on it, it is the design of the Southern Colonies to support Boston with their united strength, to make their cause a common one; but at the same time they greatly rely on your firmness, your prudence, your virtue, and example in the struggle.