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Address of a British American to the Inhabitants of the United Colonies



North-Carolina, December 28, 1775.

The dispute between Great Britain and America has been so often explained by able writers, that it is needless to say any thing concerning it, than this: If the British Parliament have a right to tax America in the manner and for the purposes they pretend, and to make laws to bind us in all cases, then it is unlawful for the Americans to oppose them. If, on the contrary, which has been proved, they have not that right, the Americans, in duty to themselves and their posterity, ought to oppose them. This they have done, and are still doing, notwithstanding the base and cruel measures fallen upon by those in power, in Britain and America, to prevent their procuring the means of defence; in which, however, they have hitherto been unsuccessful, as the Americans have, though at a great expense, been supplied with ammunition sufficient to enable them to maintain a defensive war for many months, during which time they have used every method that could be devised, to prevail with the governing powers in Britain to repeal their unjust and cruel acts, and to revive that peace and harmony which formerly subsisted between Britain and America, Petitions, addresses, &c˙, have been sent to them, and that repeatedly, in hopes that at last


they would meet with the desired and deserved success. But alas! Britons thirst for American blood! Regiments after regiments have been sent over to shed it; more we are threatened with, and all the horrors of an unjust, cruel, and unnatural war, are denounced against their fellow-subjects in America, whom they brand with the odious and undeserved epithet of rebels, only because they retain too much of their honoured British ancestors' spirit to submit to be slaves.

To defray the expenses of this just, necessary, and honourable defensive war, which the Americans have been compelled to engage in, they have been obliged to emit large sums in paper bills of credit. The preparations that Britain is making to prosecute their enslaving schemes the ensuing year, and (as they term it) to conquer America, makes it necessary, not only to keep up the forces that have been employed this year, but to add largely to their number for the service of the next, which will make another emission, and that a large one, absolutely necessary. Now, we know that the value of a paper currency depends upon the funds established to sink the bills in circulation, which, in the present case, is designed to be effected by a capitation or poll tax, to be paid annually by the people of each Province, for a number of years to come. But how the people are to become able to pay this tax is the next thing to be considered, and it cannot be considered too soon; for, should any real or imaginary insufficiency in the fund present itself to the publick, or be presented to it by the enemies of America, the credit of our paper currency sinks instantly. Our armies can then no longer be kept up, nor our liberties defended; we must then disband the one and resign the other, and become the abject slaves of those wretches whose mercies are cruel. The grand inquiry is, how these difficulties may be surmounted? And here I must beg leave to say that I was much surprised at the instructions given by the Pennsylvania Assembly to their Delegates appointed to represent that Province in the Continental Congress, which runs thus: "Though the oppressive measures of the British Parliament and Administration have compelled us to resist their violence by force of arms, yet we strictly enjoin you, that you, in behalf of this Colony, dissent from, and utterly reject, any propositions, should such be made, that may cause or lead to a separation from our mother country, or a change of the form of this Government." They add: "You are directed to make report of your proceedings to this House." That constituents have a right to give instructions to their representatives, and that they ought to exercise that right, will not be denied by any man who is acquainted with the British Constitution; but I think these instructions smell strong of Toryism, and I am sure they do not retain so much as the shadow of friendship to the cause of American liberty. The literal meaning of them seems to be this: If other petitions, addresses, &c˙, which we would still have presented, (even while British soldiers and fleets are murdering our people and burning our towns,) are, as the former ones have been, rejected and laughed at, we will, rather than not be esteemed British subjects, submit to the most abject slavery that our lordly masters will deign to let us live under.

Let us now take a view of the present state of North-America. Her ports blocked up, her towns burnt, her coasts watched by ships of war, her rivers and creeks infested with their tenders, commissioned to exercise the honourable employment of stealing sheep, hogs, cattle, and whatever else their vile commanders direct them, or they can force from the unguarded inhabitants. Add to this, the inhabitants of some towns of the first note in our country are drove from their habitations to make room for a vile, mercenary army, consisting of slaves for soldiers, and abandoned Ministerial tools for officers, whose deeds proclaim them incapable of further degeneracy. Let it not pass unnoticed, that the savage Indians, the Negro slaves and the refuse of English jails, the convict servants, have all been applied to, to assist them in carrying fire and sword to the peaceful abodes of the honest, industrious inhabitants of these once happy Colonies, thereby to compel them to submit to slavery and oppression. Next, let us consider the vile intentions of the fabricators of the Restraining Act, calculated (by preventing the sale of our produce to any but British purchasers) to prevent our


procuring the means of defence; and, lest this precaution should prove ineffectual, they have applied to several European Powers to prevent their subjects furnishing us with arms and ammunition, lest, if we are, we should put them to the noble use of defending ourselves. Mean and cowardly as it is, yet this they have done; they know our courage and fear the effects of our just indignation, when armed for the conflict.

From this view of our present state, which is not exaggerated, how weak, not to say wicked, must those men be who could vote for our suffering one moment longer, such cruel treatment and such vile indignity, even worse than might be expected from an enraged foreign enemy in time of open war! What has Britain to complain of, that she ought not to have expected from us if she had only considered us as men. But, condemning us as the descendants of those brave men, who, scorning to be the slaves of a tyrannical Prince and an abandoned Administration, removed from Britain (that sink of corruption) to this land of freedom, where, till of late, tyranny and corruption have not dared to show their detested heads, how infatuated must these men be, who think such men will wear the shackles of Ministerial slavery or lay down their liberties but with their lives. Thanks be to Heaven, though our case is bad, (so bad that Britain cannot make it worse,) there is yet a way open for us, not only to escape the threatened ruin but to become a happy, wealthy, powerful, and respectable people. If it be asked how this great work is to be effected? I answer,

First. By declaring an immediate Independency.

Secondly. By holding forth, to all the Powers of Europe, a general neutrality.

Thirdly. By immediately opening all our ports, and declaring them free to every European Power, except Great Britain, and inviting foreigners to purchase our commodities, and to furnish us with arms, ammunition, and such manufactures as we cannot, as yet, furnish ourselves with; which we cannot do with any prospect of success, so long as we retain even but the shadow of dependance on, or subjection to, Great Britain. We need not doubt, that Britain would endeavour to prevent our having a trade after our declaring independency, as well as now; but the case will, if I am not greatly mistaken, be widely different: Now, she says, we are her subjects, and we have not, as yet, informed the world that we disown subjection. She says, other nations have no right to trade with us, and it is at their risk if they do, and they know it; but when we declare ourselves independent, and offer trade, I apprehend the other Powers will look on us, and esteem us as such; as they certainly have nothing to do with the dispute between Britain and us, and consequently will not tamely submit to Britain' s making captures of their vessels. Certain I am, it is the interest of America that she have a free trade to all the European markets, or that they have with us, which, for some time, will answer our purpose as well; and that the trade to North-America should be open, is the interest of every maritime Power in Europe; therefore, we need not doubt their encouraging it.

Fourthly. That in each Province, such persons as are able and willing, shall be encouraged to form themselves into companies (having first subscribed such sums as their circumstances will allow) for the erecting manufactories, the most suitable to the present and future real wants of our inhabitants.

Fifthly. That an act be passed in each Province, absolutely to prevent every kind of luxury and unnecessary-expense, either in dress, equipage, furniture, eating, drinking, gaming, or any kind of expensive diversions, &c˙, &c˙, under heavy penalties.

Sixthly. That, at the expense of each Colony, encouragement be given to manufacturers and artificers of every useful kind to remove from Europe to North-America, there to set up their several trades; and that the encouragement that each Colony will give to each person, whether in land, money, or indulgences, be caused to be inserted in the newspapers of the different countries in Europe, from whence it might be expected such persons would be permitted to remove.

Seventhly. That an act be immediately passed in each Province for an immediate and constant application of the quit-rents of the land in each Province, to the purpose of


fortifying the coasts, rivers, &c˙, as soon as may be, for the building and fitting for service so many vessels of force as may be found necessary for our domestick defence.

Eighthly. That in the tobacco Colonies large quantities of tobacco shall no longer be permitted to be raised, as it is found to interfere with farming, so necessary now, and always to be encouraged, for the purpose of raising materials for manufacturing, which never can be raised in sufficient quantities for the use of the inhabitants of those Colonies while they employ all their force in raising tobacco.

Ninthly. That the laws of each Province, or so many of them as may be found of publick utility, be continued in force, with such alterations only as may be deemed necessary; that their number be rather lessened than increased; that as much as be ambiguity be expunged, and perspicuity introduced in its stead; that law be no longer a burden and a curse, but a blessing to our country.

Tenthly. That religion in each Province be continued upon the footing it now is, and that no man be despised on account of his religious opinions, provided they do not interfere with the peace and safety of the community; except, that Popery shall not be countenanced, by law, in any of the United Colonies.

I have now given the publick my sentiments on the present alarming state of our affairs, showed the necessity of a change, and endeavoured to point out the way to effect it. But I am sensible there are so many individuals that are interested to prevent such measures being pursued, that they will endeavour to frustrate every attempt that the Americans may make to provide for themselves those things they have hitherto depended on them for, and deter them, if possible, from making the attempt, by persuading them of the impossibility of succeeding. But surely our countrymen will not be guilty of so gross an absurdity as to take counsel of them, whose interest it is to deceive them. Some say, it is impracticable to manufacture for ourselves. I grant it so, with respect to the tobacco Colonies, without quitting, in some considerable degree, their favourite staple; but I should not despair of success, was I to undertake to prove, that it is their interest to do it now, and that they would have, in general, been in better circumstances as a people, had they fallen upon other methods than planting many years ago. The Northern Colonies are a proof of it, and the Southern ones, from their favourable climate, have greatly the advantage of their Northern neighbours.

It is by some said to be ungrateful in us to desire a separation from what they are fond to call the Parent State, to whom we are so much obliged. I ask for what? Why, say they, for taking off your produce, for furnishing you with what you want in exchange, and for protecting you from invading enemies at a great expense. In answer to which, I say, we have not sought nor desired a separation; that if we do separate, it is of necessity, not of choice. Cruelty and oppression compels us. We must separate, or become the labouring slaves of Britain, which we disdain to be. And with respect to trade, I deny that there is any colour of obligation, since we are compelled to sell to them, and them only, who thereby have it in their power to take our produce to themselves at any price they please to allow for it, and have the same advantage in rating whatever we take from them at what price they please. With regard to protection, I allow they assisted us, who were not negligent in opposing enemies, that were so on account of our connection with them. But I further say, that in protecting us, they protected themselves; for had France, in the last war, conquered these Colonies, Britain would have lost their trade, and France have gained it; the certain consequence of which would have been, that, for want of a revenue to support fleets and armies for her defence, against an enemy made so much stronger by such an advantageous acquisition, Britain could hardly have escaped becoming a Province of France before this day.

These things, I hope, will be duly considered by every inhabitant of America, as they are recommended to them to show the absurdity of continuing to petition and address, while our towns are in flames, and our inhabitants murdered, rather than separate from a cruel, blood-thirsty people, the cause of all our woes. If this attempt proves in any respect serviceable to the American cause, it will give a secret pleasure to A BRITISH AMERICAN.