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To the Inhabitants of the Massachusetts-Bay



Boston, April 13, 1775.

My Friends and Fellow-Countrymen:

It is not to be wondered at that disappointed men, grown wanton by peculation, whose ambition suggested to them the hope of overturning a Constitution which themselves, their ancestors, and the community had enjoyed, and the British Nation acceded to for near a century and a half, should endeavour to convince their fellow-countrymen of the rectitude and fitness of their exertions; when suspected, if not convicted, at the bar of the impartial publick of a series of treasonable acts and perfidious plots, by which their Country and millions of their fellow-mortals are plunged into a choice of the greatest calamities, that they should call opposition to their measures by lying names, treason, and rebellion; that they should attempt to fix the imputation of their own crimes upon those who have, in some degree, detected and baffled their oppressive schemes; that they should struggle to carry their points, by imposing upon,the understandings of some, and practising on the hopes and fears of others, is no way astonishing. Such men blush at nothing; ever restless and craving, over-heated in the pursuits of honour and profit, they yield themselves up to the dominion of principles as unworthy the man as ever the wretched animals of unbounded ambition were under the influence of, or the willing tools of despotick power advocates for

Massachusettensis, in his publication of January 23d, after giving us some historical facts, and his observations upon them, which go to the right of Parliament, bursts forth into the most virulent invectives against those gentlemen who have been deputed, by the free and unsolicited suffrages of the people, to watch the encroachments of


power, and to concert means to withstand the efforts of tyranny, which, like an inundation, was breaking in upon us, sweeping away all our social blessings. The application of his facts, and the pertinency of his observations, goes wholly upon the presumption that the Colonies were parts of the British Empire, even from their first discovery, or, for aught appears, from the creation of the world, and as such subject to the British Parliament in all cases. Therefore, as there is nothing new in this part of his paper, the answers which we have repeatedly made to such presumptions, void of proof, will, upon recollection, apply, and be a sufficient confutation. For this reason I will not take up your time with unnecessary observations upon his first paragraphs on this subject.

Our writer tells us the novelty of our being exempted from the authority of Parliament will appear, by an extract from a pamphlet published in 1764, by a gentleman who was then an oracle of the Whigs, and whose profound knowledge in the Law and Constitution is equalled but by few. This extract asserts that all the Colonies are subject to, and dependant on Great Britain, and that the Parliament has authority to make laws binding upon them for their general good, &c. This gentleman, who has been one of the greatest ornaments of his profession as a lawyer, has made all America his debtors for his agonizing struggles in opposition to usurpation and tyranny by British powers. He has more than once nobly stood forth to stem the torrent. His publick life has been a political conflict with principalities and powers, with men whom, from a lust of power, have been plotting the ruin of this ill-fated Province, together with this great patriot.

The Whigs call no man master under Heaven, however great; their appeal is to the law and to the testimony, to the Constitution of their Country, and the eternal principles of nature. The position laid down by the gentleman alluded to, as it stands unsupported by argument or reason, whatever might induce to it in his mind, is but the opinion of one individual of the community. Admitting that it was his opinion that the right of Parliament was as extensive as her present claims, which was not the case, it would only prove a diversity of opinion in different men, which is sometimes the case in the same man at different times. This is incident to humanity, especially before a thorough examination of the subject. We might apply to an observation of his own upon a similar occasion, "that when great men miss it, they miss it most egregiously." They, as has been remarked on this very pamphlet, sometimes see men as trees walking. However, Massachusettensis, ever consistent with himself, fully answers this, his own argument, in his paper of March 16th. "Messieurs Otis, Cushing, Hancock, and A dams," says he, "were confidential friends, and made common cause. May we thence infer, that the three latter held that the Parliament had a just and equitable right to impose taxes on the Colonies, &c˙, because the first did." He adds, "such principles and inferences are unlucky," that is, nothing can be inferred from them. If so, can we infer the sentiments of the publick from the opinion of one gentleman? How, then, does the above extract, which has been published and republished, cited and recited by our writer, prove, upon his own principles, that the denial of the authority of Parliament over the Colonies is a novelty?

We are next presented with an extract from the Farmer' s Letters, who, we are told, took the lead in explaining away the right of Parliament to raise a revenue in America, where, speaking of the regulation of Trade, tells us, "he who considers these Provinces as States distinct from the British Empire, has very slender notions of justice, or of their interest. We are but parts of a whole, and therefore there must exist a power somewhere to preside and preserve the connection in due order. This power is lodged in Parliament, and we are as much dependant on Great Britain as a perfectly free people can be on another." This elegant writer and firm asserter of his Country' s rights, who took the lead, still holds a conspicuous place among the American worthies, the guardians of our liberties. His sentiment respecting the rights of Parliament is sufficiently evident from the result of the Congress, of which he was a member, as well as from the whole tenour of those Letters, which have been translated and admired by different Nations in Europe. It is admitted


that the Colonies and Great Britain are one, are parts of a whole, in their commercial interest. They see the necessity of a power somewhere, to preside, and preserve this commercial connection in due order. They consent that Parliament should exercise this power; we contend only for the rights and privileges of a perfectly free people, submitting to Acts for the regulating of Trade.

Massachusettensis having, as he says, settled the right of Parliament, dips his pen in gall; lost to all sense of candour or generosity, to all the noble sallies of the charitable soul, arms it with invectives, and with a facility peculiar to himself, hurls the envenomed shafts of obliquy and reproach against some of the fairest characters on the Continent. He lashes all around him indiscriminately, with the dire scourges of calumny and slander.

To show what engines some of the tories, even the mildest of them, employ in their political war; what indecencies a party spirit betrays them into; to what expedients, and pitiful shifts they sometimes stoop, I will transcribe the substance of a part of this acrimonious.

We are told, that the Resolves of our Congresses either argue profound ignorance, or hypocritical cunning; that many unsuspecting persons have been prevailed upon to oppose the execution of Acts of Parliament by those who could have turned to the page where such insurrections were pronounced rebellion by the laws of the land; and had not their hearts been dead to a sense of justice, and steeled against every feeling of humanity, they would timely have warned us of our danger; that our patriots have sent us in pursuit of a fascinating glare, devoid of substance; that when we find ourselves bewildered, with scarce one ray of hope to raise our sinking spirits, or stay our fainting souls, they conjure up phantoms more delusive and fleeting, if possible, than that which first led us astray; they tell us that we are a match for Great Britain; that no pains have been spared by our wretched politicians to prevent a dejection of the Army to the service; that the officers have a bad opinion of the cause of the Whigs, from the treatment of their General, and the infamous attempts to seduce the soldiers from His Majesty' s service; that the policy of our patriots has been as weak and contemptible as their motives are sordid and malevolent; that failing of success in corrupting, they,took pains to attach them firmer to the service, by preventing the erecting of barracks, by which means many contracted diseases, and some lost their lives; that our patriots had deprived them of a gratification never denied to the brute creation — straw to lay on; that we have been amused with intimations and prospects which were only the suggestions of despair; that the Grand Congress had prevented the people in England from espousing our cause; that they had bid Great Britain defiance. He then concludes his paper by telling us what warlike preparations are made against us, and advising us to provide for the safety of ourselves, our wives, our children, our friends, and our Country, by immediately protesting against all the traitorous Resolves and Associations of our Congresses, that the innocent may not be confounded with the guilty.

There is scarce one crime that human nature is capable of, but what is here imputed to our leaders, whose publick conduct is applauded by an admiring world. Not contented with vilifying their characters, he urges it upon us with an importunate pathos as a duty, to commit an act of the basest ingratitude, an instance of the blackest treachery. Perfidiously to protest against the proceedings of those gentlemen who, by our appointment and for our safety, have undertaken an arduous task, and, unawed by a sense of danger, confiding in the virtue and firmness of their Country, have discharged it with honour, wisdom, firmness, and courage themselves, would be blasting our species with disgrace, and consigning our names to everlasting infamy.

Paintings and colourings on indifferent matters may tickle the sense and please the imagination; even fictitious representations may be innocent. In affairs of serious and general concernment, to misrepresent and asperse, is to play with firebrands, arrows, and death. You well know, my countrymen, the real state of facts upon which our writer founds his ill-natured charges. You are acquainted with their concomitant circumstances, the principles and


policy upon which they stand. The necessity of our situation, in which the Tories had plunged us, pointed them out; self-preservation gave them being. I shall not particularly advert to his charges against our publick characters, excepting to those of treason and rebellion. Power naturally exists where God Almighty placed it. Great oppressions, unless the people are sunk into ignorance and stupidity, will ever kindle the spirit of opposition. It is in vain to attempt to reason or frighten those who have minds to conceive, hearts to feel, and spirit to act, into servile submissions. They feel truths, feel injuries: and present sufferings render them strangers to future dangers. Exigencies call for exertions; efforts, may prove fortunate, glorious, and triumphant; and when a subjection, or vanquishment, can take nothing away that a submission would leave, reason warrants the procedure. It is an observation of the celebrated Doctor Blackstone, "that whenever the unconstitutional oppressions, even of the sovereign power, advance with gigantick strides, and threaten desolation to a State, mankind will not be reasoned out of the feelings of humanity, nor will sacrifice their liberty, by a scrupulous adherence to those political maxims which were established to preserve it."

This will be the case, whether there be Congresses or Committees, patriots and politicians, or not, until men' s spirits are subdued. Had Massachusettensis been as much indebted to some of our patriots, as many of his good brethren in the western parts of this Province are for their kind interposition to appease a justly incensed multitude, he would have dealt out his invectives with a more sparing hand. What would have been the situation of the Tories in the Country, had it not been for Committees of Correspondence, which they so much despise, and other gentlemen of influence, who possessed the confidence and affections of an abused people?

That all publick and civil powers, Royal prerogatives, and Kingly authority, may remain where the wisdom of our Constitution have placed them, is the wish of every true American. Every pulse beats loyalty to our gracious Sovereign. He pierces with indignant looks the wretch who dares to lisp disloyalty, who would not spill his blood in defence of his King' s constitutional Government, his crown and dignity. By opposing innovations, Government is preserved. For subjects to hold their liberties dearer than life, must be the joyful boast of an English Prince: it is the most sparkling gem in the Crown of George the Third, whose life America prays may be long and happy. She considers the Crown and Royal dignity as an office instituted for the people for their good, as a trust for millions, and extending its influences to generations yet unborn, and not as a descendable property, as an estate vested in the possessor for the emolument and grandeur of himself and heirs.

To assert and defend those rights which have their foundation in the reason of things, in the nature of Government, the principles of the English Constitution, our own Charters, the laws of our being, the maxims of wisdom and sound policy that have been sanctified by long usage, a uniformity of principle and practice for ages past, cannot be disloyalty to that King who never dies, who is constitutionally present and active in all parts of his Government, and neither knows nor regards the pleasure or mandates of the man who wears the Crown, when they are not dictated by the laws of the land. The coronation path, and the oath of allegiance, says a great writer, are in effect but swearing to the Constitution — in one to govern, and in the other to be governed, according to it.

Treason and rebellion consists in rising in opposition to lawful authority. If we are not a part of the Empire of Great Britain in such a sense as to be subject to her legislative authority in all cases, then she has no right to give us law in all cases, or to coerce obedience to them. If she has not this right, opposition to such laws as she has no right to make is neither treason nor rebellion, nor any other misdemeanor, but incumbent duty. Every society has a right to preserve its liberties and privileges against those who have no authority to invade them: and certainly they are justified in the use of those means by which alone they


can attain this valuable end. Sighs and tears, prayers and broken hearts are of no effect against the frightful blaze of warlike apparatus. The points of swords, mouths of thundering cannon, arms, and other instruments of death; these must be answered by a different argument.

The good of the whole is the same with the good of all its parts. If self-defence is justifiable, nay, a duty in individuals, it must be lawful in a community composed of individuals. "The right of self-defence, in cases of great and urgent necessity, and where no other remedy is at hand, (says a great Crown lawyer,) is perfectly understood and universally assented to; a right which the law of nature giveth, and no law of society hath taken away."

If this be true in case of individuals, it will be equally so in cases of communities under the like circumstances of necessity. For all the rights and powers for defence and preservation belonging to society, are nothing more than the natural rights and powers of individuals transferred to, and concentering in the body, for the preservation of the whole. And from the law of self-preservation, considered as extending to civil society, resulteth the well known maxim, salus populi suprema lex.

I think the principles here laid down must be admitted, unless any one will choose to say that individuals in a community are, in certain cases, under the protection of the primitive law of self-preservation; but communities, composed of the same individuals, are in like cases excluded. Or that when the enemy is at the gate, every single soldier may and ought to stand to his arms, but the garrison must surrender at discretion.

Is there not but too much reason to contemplate upon these principles, to expect an attack, to prepare for the conflict? — Has not our capital street been bathed in blood? some of our countrymen cut and mangled with pointed steel? Others abused and injured in triumphant rage? Is not much of our property wrested from the hands of its lawful owners? Are not many valuable lives in constant jeopardy? Is not our Metropolis in captivity, and our Harbours filled with Ships-of-War? Are not our adversaries preparing for havock and desolation? In this situation is it loyalty to lay still unarmed, until destruction comes upon us as a whirlwind? Is it treason to prepare to act on the defensive? The great Somers tells us, that "he who lets any person whatever destroy him contrary to law, when it is in his power to preserve his life by defending himself, does tacitly consent to his own death, which he is obliged to defend by the law of nature; and therefore is guilty of his own blood." Is it not the same with communities?

Massachusettensis tells us, in his publication of February 20th, "that he agrees with the Whigs, if the Colonies are separate or distinct States, (that is, not within the jurisdiction of Parliament,) every Act of Parliament extending to the Colonies, and every movement of the Crown to carry them into execution, would be really grievances, however wise and salutary they might be in themselves, as they would be exertions of a power that we were not constitutionally subject to, and would deserve the names of usurpation and tyranny." He might have added, and every person who has been deliberately attempting to enforce and carry them into execution is guilty of —and deserves the — together with the abhorrence of all America.

If the Parliament has not the right she contends for, of taxation and legislation over the Colonies, a few extracts from the illustrious Locke and Lord Somers will, perhaps, come home to the point. "Whenever (says Locke) Legislators endeavour to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves in a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge which God hath provided for all men against force and violence. Whenever, therefore, the Legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society, and either by ambition, fear, folly, or corruption, endeavour to grasp to themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estate of the people, they forfeit their trust, and the people have a right to reassume their original liberty. The same holds true concerning the supreme Executor, who acts against his trust, when he goes about


to set up his own arbitrary will as the law of the society, when he employs the force, treasure and offices of the society to corrupt the Representatives, and gain them to his purposes. What is this but to cut up Government by the roots, and poison the very fountain of publick security?" These are the words of that great man, and if they apply in any degree to present times it is not my fault.

Seeing all power must be derived from some grant of the people, it is incumbent upon every body politick to prove and justify the several degrees of authority which it pretends to claim; and what it cannot derive from some concession of the people, must remain vested in them as their reserved right. If it assumes any authority which it cannot prove the people surrendered, it is guilty of an invasion of their rights. To extend the rights of governing and commanding, and the duties of submission and obedience, beyond the laws of one' s Country, is treason against the Constitution, treachery to the society, and an injury to mankind. It is cutting up the hedges and fences of the subject' s liberty, an attempt to make one part of mankind tyrants and monsters, the other food for their malice, revenge, and brutal lust — to make them wretched slaves, miserable reptiles.

Is there any proof or evidence of any surrender, compact, or consent of the people, that the Colonies should be, in all cases, within the legislative authority of Parliament? Would not this be subversive of our Constitutions, and repugnant to every principle of freedom? What, then, are the crimes of those who have been, and are still struggling to establish this subjection?

"They are not, nor can be rebels," says the famous Lord Somers, "who endeavour to preserve and maintain the Constitution; but they are traitors who design and pursue the subversion of it. They are rebels who go about to overthrow the Government of their Country; whereas such as seek to defend and support it, are the truly loyal persons, and do act according to the ties and obligations of fealty. Nor is it merely the first and highest treason in itself, that a member of a political society is capable of committing, to go about to subvert the Constitution; but it is also the greatest treason he can perpetrate against the person, crown, and dignity of the King."

"Whosoever, either ruler or the subject, by force goes about to invade the rights of either Prince or People, and lay the foundation for overturning the Constitution and frame of any just Government, he is guilty of the greatest crime, I think, a man is capable of, being to answer for all those mischiefs of blood, rapine, and desolation, which the breaking to pieces of Government brings upon a Country; and he who does it is justly to be accounted one who resists the ordinance of God, and the common enemy and pest of mankind."

The above is the judgment of whole Kingdoms and Nations. Let those, whoever they be, that have been sporting with the rights of mankind, and rioting on their spoils; who, contracted in the little point of self, and equally steeled against the rebukes of conscience and the sentiments of humanity, that have been thundering to the world the terrours of prostituted law, and proclaiming the manly and loyal struggles of an oppressed people in defence of their just rights, sedition and rebellion — thus, instigated by the sweets of revenge, the hopes of conquest, the prospect of rich plunder in a plenty of confiscations, the pleasing expectation of unbounded power, with a misgiving heart still dreading the final issue of things, have been eager to travel the crimson fields of blood, and to send the terrours of fire and sword into the innocent places of domestick retirement; let such consider what has been the judgment of past ages, and will be the opinion of future generations respecting their conduct.




* It gives me no pleasure to write; it must give pain to a good mind to read a character which wounds his species (his countrymen) with disgrace and infamy. I am sorry to say there are some on both sides the Atlantick, to whom it but too well applies. Charity hopes all things, and may plead for tenderness and indulgence. But the first obligations upon a writer are to truth and justice, offend whom it may.

* I could tell some merry stories of the Tories making application to some of the Whigs in the western part of this Province, for their assistance when in trouble, were it proper at this time.