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Letter from George Clymer, Philadelphia, to Josiah Quincy



Philadelphia, June 13, 1774.

DEAR SIR: The business I have been engaged in, almost ever since I had the pleasure of seeing you, has in a great measure prevented me from improving a friendship and correspondence in which I expected the greatest satisfaction.

Knowing how much you have at heart the welfare of your country — the character you sustain, and your circle of connexions — any information from you respecting the true springs and motives of action in your people on many late occasions, would have been extremely agreeable to me, feeling myself much interested in every thing that can affect them.

I have ever been the advocate for the political conduct of the people of Boston, wherever it has been made the subject of conversation; but manners dissimilar to those of many of the more Southern Colonies, and perhaps, some other causes, have most undoubtedly contributed to fix prejudices, which nothing but a clear knowledge of circumstances can possibly remove.

I sincerely believe that fair representations of things would always have freed them from any suspicions of an impatience of good order, and of just authority. Those among us of the most enlarged sentiments, and who have elevated ideas of liberty, are unwilling to censure any irregularities, or even extravagances, which a zeal for her cause may have produced; but narrow minds can scarcely in any case, be brought to approve, where domestic economy and good order seemed to be disturbed. I would willingly hope that the number of such shortsighted censurers are diminished, and that the distress now so unjustly inflicted upon the town of Boston, has fixed their attention more upon the danger which so fatal a precedent


has made common to all the Americans. At present, I believe, this to be the case, and that almost every one amongst us sees the necessity of checking the progress that arbitrary power is making.

Would to God your relief could be speedily effected by the means pointed out by the vote of your town; but the minds of men, at least in two of the principal Colonies, cannot yet be brought to combat with the most powerful principle in human nature: I mean self-interest, which must be so generally renounced during a suspension of trade. Many indeed who are not swayed by selfishness, are for offering the olive branch to the mother country, unaccompanied by the threats and menaces implied in that measure; and proposing through a general Congress such terms of accommodation as will leave us the essential rights of Englishmen, and suffering her at the same time to reap those advantages in trade which some suppose she had in contemplation, in first settling these Colonies, notwithstanding the opinion which old charters in many early transactions justify, that the absolute independence of the Colonies was intended. If these two ideas are not to be fairly reconciled in theory, they think, perhaps, a temporary compromise, which should leave any determinate principles out of the question, may be effected. Our people seem bent upon first trying this experiment; the necessity of harmony and perfect unanimity, which all seem sensible of, has reconciled very different interests among us, and by yielding to each other, the Quakers and Presbyterians, and other contending sects, have met on this point.

A measure of this kind seems calculated rather as a general barrier against the encroaching power of Parliament, than to give immediate relief to people in your situation. We all wish, however, that your firmness should remain unshaken, until the remedy to be applied shall have had its operation; but this seems hardly possible. Patriotism, assailed by poverty and want, has seldom stood its ground. The general subscription to be opened here, which I hope will be followed in other places, will show that your neighbours have not absolutely forsaken you in the day of distress; it will in some measure alleviate the wretchedness of the poor, and stifle their clamours for bread. Would to Heaven this proposed charity may be in the least adequate to the occasion, that the hard necessity of complying with dangerous and disgraceful terms might be utterly taken away.

It is said there is a crisis in political, as well as in natural disorders; this may be, when the apprehensions of any great evils shall have made such progress as to incline men to make the strongest and most decisive efforts to avoid them. I believe we are not ripe yet for these efforts; the two bills before Parliament for taking away the peculiar privileges of your Province, and making the soldiery masters of your lives, will probably quicken and mature our resentments, and give us a greater certainty of approaching tyranny.

But I have to ask your pardon for this tedious letter. I expect in a few weeks to see you at Boston, with a brother of Mr˙ Dickinson' s.

I am, dear Sir, your most obedient servant,


Josiah Quincy, Jun.