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Meeting of the Freeholders of Middlesex



London, September 26, 1775.

Yesterday, near five hundred Freeholders of the County of Middlesex met at the Mile End Assembly-Room, agreeably to notice from the Sheriffs, in the publick papers. About one o' clock, Mr˙ Sheriff Plomer took the chair, and, in a very sensible speech, told them they were convened at the request of some respectable Freeholders, to take into consideration the critical and alarming situation of this Country, and strongly recommended to them to proceed in their arguments with loyalty to their King, a love for the Constitution, and decency and respect to each other, as the surest way to give efficacy to their resolutions.

Mr˙ Mascall then stood up, and attempted to harangue era the miserable predicament Administration had brought this Country into, but was interrupted by Mr˙ Pell, a Middlesex Justice, who objected to the propriety of Mr˙ Mascall' s speech. Mr˙ Wilmott, another Middlesex Justice, begged the Sheriff would declare the names of the Freeholders who requested that meeting; but it being reprobated by other gentlemen, the Sheriff put the question, whether he should declare the requisitors or not; which was carried in the negative, by a great majority. This leading question being determined, Mr˙ Mascall resumed his harangue, without interruption, wherein he declaimed against the Ministry, for their late acts respecting America; their sending armed legions of Englishmen there, to cut the throats of Englishmen; their endeavouring to subvert the Constitution; and concluded with making a motion to instruct their Members on the present alarming situation, and held a paper in his hand, which contained instructions to be read to that assembly, for their approbation or negation. Mr˙ Pell, with a good deal of ingenuity, acknowledged he loved to see the commendable warmth of an Englishman in the gentleman who spoke last; but, as the Parliament was very soon to meet, and he made no doubt with a disposition to hearken to all honourable accommodations with America, he could wish to postpone all instructions to their Representatives, till the sense of the Parliament was known; and observed, that the Right Honourable Member (the Lord Mayor) who was present possibly would not like to go shackled with additional instructions into the great Assembly of the nation; that his Lordship had before made those publick declarations, which he had most faithfully performed, and made no doubt of his Lordship' s continuing the steady patriot on all occasions. In the course of his speech he gave oblique hints of the Lord Mayor' s being acquainted with the intended Resolutions; and concluded with declaring that he was not in the secrets of Administration, neither was he influenced by any party; that though he was a Middlesex Justice, he defied any man to say he ever took a dirty shilling, or suffered his clerk to take one for him. Upon the whole, this gentleman spoke with a great deal of ingenuity, though mixed with a great deal of sophistry. On this, the Lord Mayor arose, and declared he had no hand in the intended instructions; but if they were carried in that assembly, he would most implicitly obey them, as he thought it his indispensable duty to support the sentiments of his constituents, even if they dissented from his own; and observed, the King called the Commons in Parliament, not to know the sentiments of the delegated Members, but that of their constituents, the people of the Kingdom at large. This declaration was received with bursts of applause; after which, the question was called, to know whether the instructions should be read; which was carried, by a great majority. The instructions were then read, and were as follows:

Instructions from the Freeholders of the County of MIDDLESEX, to the Right Honourable JOHN WILKES and JOHN GLYNN, Esquires, Knights of the Shire for the County of MIDDLESEX.

We, the Freeholders of the County of Middlesex, summoned here by publick advertisement of the Sheriff of this County, acknowledge our approbation and grateful sense


of your conduct as our Representatives, during the last session of Parliament; and though we have no reason to doubt your steady perseverance in the true interests of your Country, yet we think it our indispensable duty to acquaint you with our sentiment at the present awful crisis, big with the fate of this great Empire, and the happiness, glory, and prosperity of the whole people.

We behold, with all the horrour and grief natural to a free people, the fatal stab given to our excellent Constitution, by a majority of the last venal Parliament, whereby the most sacred and unalienable right of the Freeholders of this County, the right of election, was in the most impious manner wrested from the electors, and assumed by the elected, who placed a person as our Representative in Parliament, contrary to the sense and will of the County, expressed by a very great majority of legal votes, thereby establishing a precedent of the most dangerous tendency to the rights of all the electors of Great Britain; which injury has been again confirmed, by the malice of our inveterate enemies, in the present Parliament (chosen by surprise, under a national delusion) suffering that vote to appear in their journals, a standing record of the injustice, venality, and corruption, of their predecessors.

We are called upon to redouble our attention and zeal for the defence and preservation of all our constitutional rights, from seeing the iron hand of oppression extended to our fellow-subjects on the other side of the Atlantick; Popery, that bane of civil and religious liberty, established in an extent of country infinitely larger than all our possessions in Europe, thereby arming, as it were, many of our fellow-subjects, with a crucifix in one hand and a dagger in the other, against our Protestant brethren; a Popish Bishop appointed, and the greatest comfort and encouragement given to the clergy of that church, while the pastors of our pure and excellent faith are suffered to remain without support and provision, but what Romish priests and Romish councils shall deign to afford them; other cruel and oppressive acts passed against bur fellow-subjects in America, wholly repugnant to the ancient just and generous proceedings of British Councils and British Assemblies; destructive of that glory of the English law, the trial by jury, and many other undoubted rights and privileges of English subjects; in violation of charters and royal covenants of the most solemn nature: which acts and oppressions, under the influence of the present Ministers, have been productive of a most impolitick, unnatural, cruel, and destructive civil war, against our suffering and much injured fellow-subjects in America.

We lament, as a commercial people, the inevitable injuries that must be sustained by the loss of a most valuable branch of our commerce, the decay of trade and manufactures, and consequent distresses of the industrious poor.

To remedy all these evils, the melancholy experience of past times evinceth how insufficient is the removal of a Ministry, while their maxims and views are entailed upon the Government. We desire that you will not only continue strenuously to oppose them, but endeavour to procure us such constitutional security, by shortening the duration of Parliaments, and enacting such other laws as may prevent the nation from suffering by the like errours and iniquities for the future.

And we instruct you to exert yourselves in procuring that vote of the late House of Commons to be rescinded, which, in the most injurious and unconstitutional manner, deprived the Freeholders of this County of their undoubted right of election.

We also instruct you to forward an inquiry into the expenditure of the publick treasure, so peculiarly necessary at this time, and in a nation burdened with taxes and oppressed with debts; that you will not suffer the people to be imposed upon by the flimsy artifices of a Minister, pretending to lessen, while he is in reality increasing, the publick burdens.

Should any additional land-tax or new imposts be proposed in the ensuing session, we expect that you will not assent to them without a previous redress of grievances; and that you will strenuously oppose all votes of credit, or taking any foreign troops into the pay of Great Britain, unless another attempt should be made by the Tories and Jacobites, against His Majesty' s person, family, or Government.


The state of the Navy, that great bulwark, safety, and protection of the commerce of this nation, demands, and we hope will engage, your serious attention; and that you will inquire by what fatal mismanagement and corrupt influence, after such immense sums have been voted during a peace establishment, that it is in its present deplorable condition.

We particularly instruct you to exert yourselves in preventing the farther effusion of the blood of our innocent fellow-subjects in America, and to put a speedy end to the present unnatural and ruinous civil war.

We also desire you to use your unwearied endeavours to assist and support the Representatives of the City of London, for obtaining a repeal of every obnoxious and unconstitutional act, and in bringing to the justice of their Country the advisers of such nefarious measures as have been adopted during the last fourteen years, tending to subvert the Constitution of this Country, and which we are convinced will very soon effect the ruin and destruction of the British Empire.

This motion for instructing the Members being carried in behalf of Publick Liberty, it was then moved, "That a Letter should be addressed from the Freeholders of Middlesex to those of Great Britain." The Letter was read, and the motion "That it be addressed to the Freeholders of Great Britain" passed. The Letter is verbatim as follows:

A Letter from the Freeholders of MIDDLESEX to the Freeholders of GREAT BRITAIN.

The perilous situation of publick affairs, and the calamities which threaten the whole Empire, are the reasons, and we hope will be a sufficient apology for our addressing you.

The vote of the late House of Commons, by which a Representative was forced upon us, to the immediate violation of our rights, and the eventual injury of those of all the electors in the Kingdom, remains yet on record. It remains as a precedent against the most sacred and fundamental franchise of the people, to authorize the same violence, by Ministers as arbitrary and Representatives as corrupt.

We trust, Gentlemen, that you will not cease to co-operate with us till that dangerous and shameful record be condemned and done away in the most solemn and effectual manner.

The present state of America is such as ought to give the deepest alarm and concern to every man who regards the rights of human nature, the liberties of Englishmen, and the happiness and safety of the whole Empire. The arbitrary and inhuman conduct of the present Administration has driven our most affectionate American fellow-subjects into despair and resistance. Seven years' supplication for a redress of their grievances has been answered by an army to enforce them. Their petition last year to the King implored peace, liberty, and safety. In return they received acts of the most inhuman restraints and open hostilities, in the desolation of their Country, the destruction of their People, and the conflagration of their Towns. They have again besought His Majesty, in a late humble petition, "to stop the farther effusion of blood, and to direct some mode by which he would be pleased to receive the united proofs of their devotion, as most dutiful subjects and most affectionate Colonists." They declare their most ardent desire that the former harmony between them and the Parent State may be established upon the most lasting foundation. They expressly declare they do not "request such reconciliation as may be in any manner inconsistent with the dignity or welfare of this Country." We cannot conceive what can be offered fairer or fuller on their part.

But the Ministry, it seems, have advised His Majesty to give this petition no answer, and thereby to deprive the petitioners of every hope of redress and reconciliation. They are farther making the most open and extensive preparations for war. Even Roman Catholicks are allured and incited to take up arms against our Protestant fellow-subjects. Thus we see these most pernicious measures prosecuted by the worst and most dangerous means.

The immediate injury of such a war to our commerce and manufactures, the consequence of that to the produce of the land, the additional taxes necessary for such distant


and expensive operations, must sink this unhappy Country, already overburdened with the enormity of her debt, into unavoidable ruin. Upon the land must the whole expense ultimately fall. Upon the landholders, then, it is especially incumbent to use their utmost influence in stopping the course of this unnatural and fatal war.

The Americans have repeatedly appealed to the justice and humanity of their fellow-subjects in Great Britain. We hope such an appeal will never be made in vain. We lament the fate of those brave British soldiers who have been sacrificed in so inglorious and hateful a contest. We are persuaded our fellow-subjects in America are contending in the cause of liberty, and are cruelly oppressed. We will never willingly aid in urging the oppression, or trampling upon the rights of any part of the dominions. We cannot see any probable consequence from the prosecution of this Ministerial war, but misery, shame, and ruin to the whole Empire.

Upon these principles, we have instructed our Representatives in Parliament. Upon these principles, Gentlemen, we wish for your co-operation, in establishing liberty, peace, and harmony, through all His Majesty' s Dominions.

The following Resolutions were then passed, and carried with loud plaudits of approbation:

That the thanks of the Freeholders assembled be given to the Right Honourable the Earl of Effingham, the soldier and citizen, for having refused to draw his sword against the majesty of the people and the rights of his fellow-subjects, in acting up to the principles which he professed.

That the thanks of this meeting be given to the Sheriffs, for their readiness in calling the meeting.

The meeting was then adjourned.