Primary tabs

Arthur Lee to Francis L. Lee



London, April 2d, 1774.

The Parliament are now bringing the question to that decision, which makes me tremble for the virtue, the character, the liberties of my countrymen. They have passed an act to take away the port of Boston, till every compensation is made for the tea, and perfect obedience is acknowledged. And then it is to be restored in such portions as the King pleases. What makes this more alarming is, that no accusation is brought against the town; no evidence produced to criminate it; and it is avowed, that this is the first step towards reducing all America to an acknowledgment of the right of Parliament to impose taxes upon her, and to a submission to the exercise of that right.

The Americans who are here, have thought it of so much consequence, that they have petitioned the three branches of the Legislature, against passing such a bill; but as you may imagine, without success.

The next proceeding against Boston and the Province, is already announced in the House of Commons. The Selectmen and town-meetings are to be abolished. The Governor is to be endued with the power of calling the citizens together, when, and for what purpose he pleases. They are not to deliberate on any thing, but what he dictates. The Council and Judges are to be suspended at the Governor' s pleasure. The constitution of Juries is to he altered, so as to render them more manageable, in finding bills and verdicts against the friends of liberty.

We are just informed that General Gage is going over immediately, with three regiments, as Governor of Massachusetts, and Commander-in-chief; that he is to collect an army about Boston, in order to impose these measures, and reduce the people to entire obedience.

The storm, you see, runs high; and it will require great prudence, wisdom, and resolution, to save our liberties from shipwreck. In my opinion, there ought to be a general Congress of the Colonies; and I think Annapolis would be the place, where it would be less liable to military interruption, than at New York or Philadelphia. If you have virtue enough to resolve to stop, and to execute the resolution of stopping your exports and imports for one year, this country must do you justice.

The shipping, manufactures, and revenue, depend so much on the Tobacco and Carolina Colonies, that they alone, by stopping their exports, would force redress. Such a measure, should be attended with an address to the merchants, manufacturers, and traders of this country, stating the necessity which compels you to a measure injurious to them; professing every thing, to flatter or conciliate them. Such a measure, operating at the general election, next April, would probably produce such a return of members, as would listen to truth and redress, not so much for our grievances, as their own.

This is the only effectual measure I can conceive. If there is not virtue enough for it, I am afraid American liberty is no more; for you may depend upon it, that if they find the chains can be easily imposed, they will make them heavy, and rivet them fast.

It is impossible for me, to describe how much I am grieved at these proceedings, and with what anxiety I look forward to the event. You know I have doubted the virtue of my countrymen. God grant that I may be mistaken; that by a wise, temperate, and firm conduct, they may escape the blow intended, and preserve their freedom. The friends of liberty here, look to your conduct with great anxiety. They consider it as decisive, either to establish or overturn the present plan of despotism.

There is a spirit of violence, injustice, and persecution in Administration, against every active friend of America, which makes that character perilous. I cannot see that any service can be done here, until the event of these measures is seen, and the popular prejudices begin to abate. I am therefore determined to withdraw myself, by taking the advantage of a favourable opportunity of visiting Rome, for some months; from whence however, I shall return sooner, if any great event should hold out a probability of my being useful.

Mrs˙ Lee well knows the power of her praise; and how ambitious I should be of meriting it from her. But,


alas, I have not the powers of pleasing. Horrors only dwell on my imagination. Public corruption at present, and public calamity for the future, are the dismal objects which incessantly fill my mind. The busy haunts of men furnish more to lament than to rejoice in; to censure, than to praise. They are filled with scenes of false happiness, and real misery, variety of vice and wretchedness. It is rural retirement only, rural innocence, rural tranquillity, which excite an uninterrupted flow of ideas, amiable and delightful. In these pleasing scenes, the perturbed spirits settle into a calm, productive of more real happiness than all that the splendour of fortune, all that the pomp of power can bestow. It is there the golden age revives, and all things inspire the spirit of love and delight. My best love awaits her. Remember me at Mount Airy, Stradford, Chantilly, and wherever else you think the mention of my name will not be disagreeable.

Adieu, &c˙,

Francis L˙ Lee.