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The British American, No. 8



Williamsburg, Va˙, July 21, 1774.

Friends, Fellow-citizens, and Countrymen:

You are now to consider the Second Plan proposed: That you shall immediately stop all exports and imports to and from Great Britain and the West India Islands, till the Tea and Boston Acts are repealed. This plan is recommended to you by men who profess themselves resolutely determined to oppose the arbitrary proceedings of the British Parliament, but at the same time wish you to adopt moderate measures; and I am convinced they mean well, and are so heartily in earnest in their professions and their wishes, that if they can be convinced that the plan they propose will be the least effectual to avoid the jurisdiction claimed by the British Parliament, and the most violent and dangerous measure which can be adopted, I have no doubt but they will readily give it up. It will not only be justifiable but highly commendable in you to lessen your imports from Great Britain, by confining yourselves to such articles as are absolutely necessary, and which you cannot manufacture yourselves; because unless you use the utmost frugality, the great balance which you already owe to the British merchants will be constantly increasing till you become bankrupts; but to deny yourselves the common necessaries or even the conveniences, of life, whilst you are able to pay for them, in order to break off all connections with, and to distress, Great Britain, is surely no moderate measure. That you have been cruelly treated is certain; but in resenting that treatment you ought to distinguish between your friends and your enemies, and not, drawcansir like, destroy all you meet. The manufacturers of Britain never injured you, and probably dislike the measures of Administration as much as you do. It will be cruel in you to endeavour to starve them and their families for an insult to which they were in no way accessary. But it is said that if this plan is adopted, the want of bread will lay them under the necessity of taking up arms, and of forcing a repeal of the Acts you complain of. Not to mention that a measure whose most distant prospect of success arises from forcing these innocent people into actual rebellion, and introducing all the horrours of a civil war in Britain, can never be deemed a moderate one, it would be highly dishonourable in you, instead of drawing your own swords, and facing your oppressors, like a brave people struggling for liberty, meanly (to take the advantage of their necessities) to force a number of starving wretches to expose themselves for your sakes to dangers you are afraid to encounter yourselves; and your conduct would certainly be very inconsistent in daring to refuse submission to British nobles, whilst, conscious of your own degeneracy and cowardice, you meanly trusted the preservation of your liberty to the bravery of British Mechanicks, whose secret wishes to restrain your manufactures, whose honest contempt of your shameful conduct, and whose pressing necessities for bread, would more probably induce them to enlist as soldiers to enslave than protect you. But consider a little further how far this scheme is practicable; imagine yourselves in the situation you shortly will be after you have adopted it. The want of salt will be a small inconvenience, but hickory ashes, though a poor substitute, may supply the place of it as well to you as it formerly did to the native Indians, and the live stock with which you will abound, when you no longer export provisions, will in a great measure render it unnecessary, by enabling you to kill fresh meat every day. Nails, without slitting mills, will be made with great difficulty, but logged cabins may be built without them; clothes for yourselves and negroes


are not worth thinking of, because you may confine yourselves and them to your houses in cold weather, and as you are to export nothing, the summer season will afford you time amply sufficient to raise provisions for your own use, and to lay in fuel for the winter. It is true your stocks may suffer a little in the winter, but this inconvenience may be remedied, in a great measure, by providing such large quantities of provender for them in the summer as to suffer it to be exposed to them to go to, whenever they please, in weather too cold for naked men to distribute it to them. Elegancies, and even luxuries, which many of you, by having been long accustomed to, now consider as the conveniences, if not the necessaries of life, may be resigned as baubles, beneath the consideration of men who either desire or deserve to be free. The ladies, indeed, will be subjected to many disagreeable hardships, but their generous souls will submit to every inconvenience rather than see their posterity enslaved; and the great leisure you will have from contracting the cultivation of your lands will enable you to extend your manufactures till you can supply yourselves with every convenience, with every elegance, that rational men can desire. But till you can greatly improve your present manufactures, you will allow, my countrymen, that your situations will be rather uncomfortable. Are you certain that all America will cheerfully submit to this situation? Did those who signed the Association in the days of the Stamp Act, religiously adhere to it? That there are some few refined souls in every Colony, perhaps in every county of each Colony, that will sacrifice their own private interest, subject themselves to every inconvenience, and deny themselves almost the common necessaries of life, to promote the publick good and to preserve the liberties of their country, I have no doubt; because history furnishes instances that such disinterested, such heroick characters, have existed, and I believe the inhabitants of America are possessed of as much virtue as those of other Nations; but to imagine that all, or even a majority, of the inhabitants of a country, are possessed of such exalted ideas of patriotism, is a romantick supposition, which never has, nor I fear, never will be warranted by the history of any Nation whatever. Nor can we flatter ourselves that this angelick exertion of virtue will be general in America when we consider that many of her present inhabitants are, like birds of passage, settled only for a time, for the purposes of raising fortunes by trade, whose ultimate view is to return, with the fortunes they acquire, to the connections they have left behind them in Britain, and that there are others whose daily bread depends upon the continuance of the laws we complain of. These two sets of men, so far from observing such an Association, will use every artifice to evade it themselves, and try every stratagem to tempt the vain, to deceive the unwary, and to prevail upon the lukewarm, to desert the common cause; and a general defection from the plan, when once adopted, can answer no other end than that of rendering you contemptible.

But even supposing that all America should unite, as one man, in attempting this measure, the British aristocracy will never suffer you to carry it into execution; for, let it be remembered, that one of the rights they claim is that of restraining your manufactures; and when you openly avow a design of purchasing no more of their manufactures they will immediately enforce that right of restraining you from making any of your own. But, surely, say the proposers of this plan, they cannot force us to purchase from them whether we will or not. Very true; but if you refuse to do so they will endeavour to prevent you from purchasing those articles in any other market, and from making them yourselves. But, say the proposed of this plan, they have no right to do this. Very true; nor have they any right to make any kind of laws to govern you. But they will endeavour to shew you that they have the power of doing it; and though right and power are two distinct things, you may as well acknowledge the right, as to submit to the power, of legislation; and if you submit to the laws already made, you will soon have others, equally arbitrary, imposed upon you for restraining your manufactures. For my own part, I shall not be at all surprised if the very next session should furnish us with Acts of Parliament enacting, "that your smiths' shops shall be destroyed as nuisances; tanning


your own hides be declared a misdemeanor; combing your own wool be punished with fine and imprisonment; spinning your own flax subject you to the pillory; making your own shoes be made felony, without benefit of clergy; fabricating your own hats incur a premunire; weaving any kind of cloth be deemed an overt act of high treason; fashioning a canoe be chastised as an insult upon the British flag; building a boat be constituted an unpardonable act of rebellion; launching a ship be considered as an actual declaration of war; trials by juries be exploded, as dangerous appeals to the people, who are not to be trusted; new Courts of Admiralty be erected in their room, whose judges shall hold their commissions during pleasure, and be stimulated to enforce those Acts, by sharing in the forfeitures and confiscations occasioned by their own judgments; and to extinguish every spark of publick spirit, and to prevent a possibility of redress, your Assemblies will be dissolved, and the people no longer permitted to elect Representatives, to urge their grievances, or to utter their complaints." Do not, my countrymen, be so blind to your own welfare, as to imagine I am jesting upon this serious occasion, or that I am supposing Acts of Parliament which can never exist. Reflect upon the different Acts for preventing slitting mills; for erecting Courts of Admiralty for recovering the inland forfeitures imposed by the Stamp Act; for suspending the Legislature of New-York; for shutting up the port of Boston; for altering the Charter of New England, which was more solemnly granted by Majesty than their own Magna Charta; for screening the murtherers of the Americans; and the joint address, from both Houses of Parliament to his Majesty, to transport the Americans themselves, to be imprisoned and ruined, if not butchered in England; and you will be convinced that the cases I have supposed are by no means chimerical, and that there is no act of intemperance, injustice, or despotism, which the British aristocracy will not attempt, to restrain America from manufacturing, the moment you declare your intention of doing so. To enter, therefore, into Associations against importing British manufactures, any farther than a rational attention to your circumstances, is surely no moderate measure, but must, at last, end in a humiliating submission, or oblige you to have recourse to that force which the proposers of this plan wish to avoid.

Let us now consider whether an Association against exporting your commodities would not be attended with still worse consequences. This plan, if it mean any thing, is to distress Great Britain. But surely you cannot more effectually do this, than by lessening your imports, and increasing your exports, as much as possible; for by selling your commodities to the British merchants, and by taking none of theirs in exchange, you will increase your own wealth by exhausting that of Britain. But it is objected, we are at present largely indebted to the British Merchants. The more incumbent it is upon you to export all the commodities you can, to pay them as soon as possible; for you ought to have more gratitude than to attempt to ruin the families of those who have been kind enough to furnish you not only with the elegancies, but the necessaries of life. Common honesty requires that you should pay your debts, and if you should refuse to do so, not only the persons injured, but all mankind, will judge unfavourably of you, and declare, that instead of bravely contending for your liberties, you are knavishly endeavouring to cheat your creditors. Such a national breach of faith will unite all Europe against you, as a flagitious race of mortals, who do not deserve to be free; who ought to be considered as the pests of human society, and as such, forced into submission, if not extirpated.

For God' s sake, my countrymen, let your conduct be such that you shall be thought worthy of that freedom you contend for, and do not render yourselves the objects of contempt and abhorrence; for if you should even establish your liberty, in opposition to the united efforts of all Europe to reduce you, it may never be in your power to manifest your honest intentions of making retribution. Many of you and your creditors may be dead before the dispute is decided, and the very withholding the sums you owe, for a short period, from men in trade, may irretrievably reduce the survivors and their families to ruin, and American become as proverbially infamous as punic faith.


But it is said, that by withholding your tobacco you will immediately make the Minister sensible of his folly, in the instant effect it will have upon the revenue. But when you consider that the tax upon tobacco is finally paid by the British inhabitants who consume it, and consequently is actually raised in England, and if the tax ceases upon this luxury, the same sum may be raised by laying it on some other; and that by doing so, the subjects of Britain will pay no more than they do at present; or, in other words, the same sum of money may be still raised by altering only the mode of raising it; the inconvenience will not be so great as is at first sight imagined; and even supposing it otherwise, by giving this temporary shock to Administration, may you not fix a lasting inconvenience upon yourselves? Accustomed to the use of that commodity, when they are no longer supplied by you, may not the inhabitant of Britain look out for a supply of it from some other quarter? And may you not lose that valuable branch of trade altogether? If there is no danger of this, or if the loss of it should be thought not worth regretting, at least confine your plan of non-importation to tobacco only, or, what will be still wiser, determine to make no more of it till the points you contend for are established. But to injure yourselves by devoting your wheat and corn to be destroyed by the weavils and other vermin, in your own useless barns, will be indiscreet; to starve your fellow-subjects and fellow-sufferers of the West Indies will be inhuman; and to increase the wealth of Great Britain by raising to an exorbitant height the price of her wheat and provisions in those foreign markets which you at present supply, will be downright madness to think of. Upon the whole, policy, humanity, a just regard for your national character, gratitude, and common honesty, all forbid you to adopt the second plan proposed, as it would most certainly end in a scandalous and unpitied submission, or introduce a civil war, aggravated with all the inconveniences attending a good cause turned into a bad one by rash, indiscreet, and unjustifiable measures, if we are obliged to struggle for our liberty with arms in our hands, let us not unnerve the sinews of war. If we are at last forced, though unwillingly, to draw the sword, let us do it in a just cause; let us be careful that we are not the aggressors, let us point our resentment against our oppressors; but let us not wound the bosoms of our friends; let us conduct ourselves in such a manner as to raise the prayers of the righteous for our success, and if we do fall, let us fall revered and lamented, but not execrated and despised by all mankind. But I am far from thinking that you are yet in this desperate situation, and am not without hopes that you may still establish your liberty without having recourse to the decision of the sword. But to avoid this, it will be absolutely necessary to convince your oppressors that you dare to do it rather than be enslaved. The measures to be taken, in order to convince them, naturally lead me to the consideration of the third plan proposed, which, I confess, appears to me the most constitutional, the most rational, the most moderate, and the most effectual measure you can pursue; and to prove that it is so shall be the subject of my next.

I shall conclude this with one remark, which I submit to the serious attention of my countrymen. You may remember that the second plan proposed came first recommended to you from your friends on the other side the Atlantic. Now, though many of the inhabitants of Great Britain think that the British Parliament have no right to tax you, and sincerely disapprove the hostile and violent measures pursued by them against you, yet there is not one man of them who does not insist that you ought to submit to the supreme legislation of the British Parliament, and therefore would wish you to avoid every measure of contesting with success the supremacy they claim of restraining your manufactures, and of securing to themselves the whole profit of your labours. Hence they will never advise you to adopt any other than temporizing measures, to avoid the evil of a present oppression, without considering that to admit the dependence, must one time or other necessarily end in despotism to them, and slavery to you. Again, the British people are of two factions, the first consists of a majority of the two Houses of Parliament, and composes the aristocracy; these are called the ins. The second consists of the minority of those Houses, and are called the outs. Most of whom would be


willing to be taken into the aristocracy, and become ins if they could; and whenever they are, would be as violent against you as their brethren. With this view the outs now pretend to be your friends, and advise you to adopt measures that would do, what? Settle the dispute at once? By no means; for that would lessen their own consequence. But such as may subject the ins to temporary inconveniences, and oblige them to admit some of the outs to share with them in the emoluments of Administration; listen therefore to them with a suspicious ear; "Hear each man' s censure, but reserve your judgment," and constantly revolve in your minds these truths: that American liberty can only be preserved by American virtue, and that if you determine to dare to be free, you will be so.