Primary tabs

Letter from Samuel Adams to Richard Henry Lee



Boston, 1774.

SIR: I have lately been favoured with three letters from you , and must beg you to attribute my omitting to make due acknowledgments till this time, to a multiplicity of affairs to which I am obliged to give my constant attention. The unrighteous and oppressive Act of the British Parliament for shutting up this harbour, though executed with a rigour beyond the intent even of its framers, has hitherto failed, and will, I believe, continue to fail of the effect which the enemies of America flattered themselves it would have. The inhabitants still wear cheerful countenances; far from being in the least intimidated, they are resolved to undergo the greatest hardships, rather than submit in any instance to the tyrannical Act. They are daily encouraged to persevere by the intelligence they receive from their brethren, not of this Province only, but every other Colony, that they are considered as suffering in the common cause, and the resolution of all to support them in the conflict. Lord North had no expectation that we should be thus sustained; on the contrary, he trusted that Boston would be left to fall alone. He has therefore made no preparation for the effects of an union.

From the information I have had from intelligent persons in England, I verily believe the design was to seize some persons and send them, home; but the steadiness and prudence of the people, and the unexpected union of the Colonies, evidenced by liberal contributions for our support, has disconcerted them, and they are at a loss to know how to proceed further. Four regiments are encamped on our Common, and more are expected; but I hope the people will by circumspect behaviour, prevent their taking occasion to act. The Port Bill is followed by two other Acts, one for regulating the Government of this Province, or rather totally to destroy our free Constitution, and substituting an absolute despotic one in its stead; the other for the more impartial administration of justice; or, as some term it, screening from punishment any soldier who shall murder an American for asserting his rights. A submission to these Acts will doubtless be required and expected; but whether General Gage will find it an easy thing to force the people to submit to so great and fundamental a change of Government, is a question I think worth his consideration. Will the people of America consider these measures as an attack on the Constitution of an individual Province, in which the rest are not interested, or will they view the model of Government prepared for us as a system for the whole Continent? Will they as unconcerned spectators, look on it to he designed only to lop off the exuberant branches of democracy in the Constitution of this Province, or as part of a plan to reduce them all to slavery. These are questions, in my opinion, of great importance, which I trust will be thoroughly weighed in a general Congress. May God inspire that intended body with wisdom and fortitude, and unite and prosper their counsels.

The people of this Province are thoroughly sensible of the necessity of breaking off all commercial connection with a country whose political Councils tend only to enslave them, They, however, consider the body of the Nation as kept in profound ignorance of the nature of the dispute between Britain and the Colonies, and are taught to believe that we are a perfidious and rebellious people. It is with reluctance they come into any resolutions, which must distress those who are not the objects of their resentments; but they are urged to it by motives of self-preservation; and are, therefore, signing an agreement in the several towns, not to consume any British manufactures, which shall be imported after the last day of August next, and that they may not be Imposed upon; they are to require an oath of those of whom they purchase goods. It is the virtue of the yeomanry we are chiefly to depend upon. Our friends in Maryland talk of withholding the exportation of tobacco; this was hinted to us by the gentlemen of the late House of Burgesses of Virginia, who had been called together after the dissolution of the Assembly. This would be a measure greatly interesting to the mother country.

Should America hold up her own importance to the body of the Nation, and at the same time agree to one


general Bill of Rights, the dispute might be settled on principles of freedom, and harmony be restored between Great Britain and the Colonies.

I am, with great regard, your friend and servant,

SAMUEL ADAMS. Richard Henry Lee, Virginia.