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Letter from John Scollay, Boston, to Arthur Lee



Boston, May 31st, 1774.

SIR: Mr˙ Adams informs me that you kindly received the letter I wrote you in December last. This information prompts me to address you again. Letter writing, and on politics, is not my province, but such are the times, that that man' s heart must be callous indeed that does not feel for his country, and that does not give it out in every way. In short, we have all, from the cobbler up to the senator, become politicians.

On the morrow, that Act, cruel Act of our parent State, (or, rather, hard-hearted step-mother,) called the Boston Port Bill, is to take place, a Bill fraught with vengeance against this town. However, Lord North will find out himself, and that very soon, that he overshot his mark. That which he intended should operate against Boston only, will affect every town in this Province. The seaport towns will feel the operation of the Act, in a degree as much as Boston, Boston being the grand engine that gives motion to all the wheels of commerce. This being stopped, it will sensibly affect the whole trade of the Province. All the seaport towns depend on this to take off by far the greatest part of their imports; they cannot send a vessel to sea again after her return from a voyage, till they send her cargo to Boston to be sold. In short, all the running cash in the Province centres in this town. To this market all the trading towns repair with their goods to make money of them. Newburyport, Marblehead, and Salem, will most sensibly feel the shock, and if the blockade continues long they must haul up their vessels, for no place but Boston can take off their cargoes. It is a most melancholy consideration, that this town, which was, and is now, the most nourishing in trade and commerce, must be devoted to destruction, and in a few days be brought to the forlorn condition of a deserted village. Thousands that depend on their daily labour for support, must be reduced to the greatest degree of distress and want. However, they will suffer in a good cause, and that righteous Being who takes care of the ravens who cry unto him, will provide for them and theirs. * * * * * * * * * * * For that purpose we have it in contemplation, if the blockade continues any length of time, to employ the poor in building a horse bridge over Charles river, a river about as wide as the Thames. By this bridge, Charlestown, a large and opulent town, will be joined to Boston. This bridge will greatly facilitate the intercourse between Boston, Marblehead and Salem, and other trading towns.

When the news first arrived of Lord North' s proposing this Bill in Parliament, it was looked on as a mere hum. People could not think that a British House of Commons would be so infatuated as to pass such a Bill, to punish a whole town for a trespass that was committed in it by nobody knows who, and to carry it into execution without giving the town an opportunity to answer to the charge, is an unheard of proceeding. Although it was designed this town should be ruined, yet I doubt not but that it will finally end in great good, not only to this town, but to all the Colonies. I believe, by this management, his Lordship' s fabric, which cost him so much labour, and afforded him so much delight, will be demolished, and instead of despotism and tyranny over the Colonies, a foundation will be laid for lasting peace and harmony


between Great Britain and these Colonies. This may be looked on as visionary, but I think the crisis is near when this must take place, which is the warmest wish of every free-hearted North American. We have too great a regard for our parent State (although cruelly treated by some of her illegitimate sons) to withdraw our connection. Of her we have no idea of an independency, and the Colonies are too precious a jewel for the Crown to part with; therefore I think that the wisdom of the English nation, and that of the Colonies united, might fall on some plan of conciliating their differences, and fix on some principles for each party to resort to, as the great charter of agreement between the King and his Colonies. Such an event would make the Colonies happy, and the British nation great and prosperous.

As you will no doubt have the particulars of these matters handed to you by some of your friends, it will be needless for me to enlarge.

I hope you will excuse my troubling you with this epistle, and believe me to be, with great regard, sir, your most humble servant,


Arthur Lee, Esquire, London.