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A Planter' s Address to the Inhabitants of Virginia



Williamsburgh, April 6, 1776.

MY COUNTRYMEN: Since our enemies talk of offering to us terms of accommodation, and propose, as a foundation for treaty, the good favour shown to their own officers and soldiers in Boston and its environs, in granting them liberty to eat potatoes and fish, I said it would be but fair to state our demands on the opposite column. Before our dissensions were carried to such a height, and our injuries multiplied to such an enormous degree, for the sake of peace, and to get as well rid as we could of their insolence, we only required them to repeal all the acts they had thought proper to add to the Constitution since the year 1763. But can any American, with patience, think of suffering them to commit what ravages they please; and, when they feel their power too weak to accomplish all their iniquitous projects, then to make up the difference upon their own terms? Can we condescend to accept of a peace, that, however proper it might have been a few years ago, in our present circumstances can have no colour of equity? Reflect what an enormous expense the Colonies have incurred, how many losses they have sustained by this dispute, that, in all reason, ought to be defrayed by the aggressors against the publick peace, who have committed the depredations, and occasioned the expense. I am too remote from the centre of intelligence to be able to make an exact estimate of the injuries we have suffered during this war. I shall enumerate some of the capital articles, such as have come under every man' s observation; and that, when collected and arranged together, will amount to a sum which will, perhaps, surprise common newspaper readers, who have never taken the trouble of computing it. To begin with the largest sum: I think they are very justly chargeable with the loss of our trade, and of all the profits that annually accrued from it. These, if I mistake not, have been generally estimated at a round sum of four millions per annum — a loss which we in this Colony most sensibly feel, in the almost total want of cash; our staple becomes a useless lumber; all our other merchantable commodities reduced to half price; and three hundred and fifty thousand slaves rendered incapable of doing us any essential service.

Our next considerable loss is the destruction of the towns of Boston and Charlestown, and their neighbourhood, which, with the other losses of the inhabitants, we may fairly compute at one million and fifty thousand pounds. To reduce these to particulars, the burning of about one thousand houses, valued very moderately, is one hundred and fifty thousand pounds; and for the defacing of the rest, and destruction of merchandise, &c˙, we may reckon double that sum; and the expense of thirty thousand inhabitants driven from their habitations, to subsist as they can in the country; because it makes no difference in the publick loss whether they support themselves out of their own private fortunes, or are provided for by common charity; these, I say, we cannot rate at less, upon an average, than twenty pounds per man, annually, which makes a charge of six hundred thousand pounds; and the whole amount is one million and fifty thousand pounds, as above. But, to put off all objection, let us rate it at a million, which will be due to us at the beginning of May instant.

Next to this we may place the burning of Norfolk and some small towns in New-England. The damage may be estimated at four hundred thousand pounds; and other incidental charges for piracies, robberies, and sheep-stealing, (which, by-the-by, would have been reckoned felony in England,) at fifty thousand.

Add to these the expenses of the war, which I know no better way of estimating than from the bills of credit that have been emitted for the supporting of it; and which, in our present circumstances, must unavoidably be so much publick loss, when this money comes to be redeemed. This sum is pretty easily come at. The Congress have issued


three millions of dollars; the Convention of this Colony three hundred and fifty thousand pounds; and all the other Colonies together, at least one million and fifty thousand pounds. To bring these different estimates together into one sum:
For the loss of trade, £4,000,000
Destruction of Boston, Charlestown, &c˙, 1,000,000
Burning Norfolk, &c˙, 400,000
Incidental charges, by theft, &c˙, 50,000
Continental bills of credit, nearly 1,000,000
Virginia do., 350,000
The other Colonies do., 1,050,000

Almost eight millions of pounds, or considerably above twenty millions of dollars, Continental currency. And in this reckoning I have not mentioned the whole estates of the proprietors of Boston and other towns, that will, probably, be forever lost to their right owners; nor the expenses attending the removal of the inhabitants of this and other Colonies near the sea-coasts and harbours into the remoter parts of the country; and all the other computations are made with the greatest moderation — lower by far than our real loss: so that the whole may be reckoned at twenty-four millions of dollars, the best common standard of reckoning for the whole Continent. What a prodigious sum for the United States of America to give up for the sake of a peace, that, very probably, itself would be one of the greatest misfortunes! For the Government of Britain, ashamed to be baffled in their favourite project, would, doubtless, employ all the wicked arts of policy, of bribery, corruption, places, and pensions, in which they are well skilled — unhappy arts that have already brought that nation to the brink of ruin — that they might steal from us, too, what they were unable to wrest by open violence. Who, with the spirit of a man, that is able to level a gun, will submit to such a mortifying degradation, and to a loss of a very large proportion of all the property in the country?

The state of the controversy is very different now from what it was a few years ago, before we had taken arms in our own defence, and before the whole course of Government was removed out of its usual channel. And measures that might have been wise and prudent then, would now carry on their face the most glaring impropriety. I trust in God, that the guardians of the publick interests of the Continent will have wisdom and integrity enough not to betray us. But, relying on their virtue as much as it deserves, it will be a useful expedient to keep alive the flame of liberty and publick spirit among the people at large, never to neglect the exercise of the undoubted prerogative of freemen to instruct their Representatives; and every wise and honest man among them will take a pleasure in hearing the opinion and advice of his countrymen. It will give them confidence and alacrity in planning wise and decisive measures, when they know they are also the voice of the publick, and when they hear you engaging to support them, in the execution of them, with your lives and fortunes. Instruct your Representatives, therefore, to agree to no peace, or even truce, with Great Britain, without an entire reimbursement of all losses, and the absolute and unconditional repeal of all the acts of the British Parliament injurious to the legislation or commerce of America, as well before as since the year 1763; or, if their poverty or their pride will not comply with the first of these conditions, till they acknowledge us to be a free and independent Republick. Many to whom this language is new, may, at first, be startled at the name of an independent Republick, and be ready to represent to themselves that the expenses of maintaining a long and important war will exceed the disadvantages of submitting to some partial and mutilated accommodation. But let these persons point out to you any other alternative than independence or submission. For it is impossible for us to make any other concessions without yielding to the whole of their demands. We have not armed from one end of the Continent to the other, and expended so many millions, merely to drown a chest of tea, but to oppose the dangerous authority the English House of Representatives has usurped, pretending a right to bind us in all cases whatever; which, if we admit, either in whole or in part, immediately draws after it an endless train of miseries. Shall we, then, after reluctating so effectually against this yoke of oppression, be contented


now, almost in the midst of our success, to receive it entire on our necks, rather than separate from a country to which we have so long been supposed to be in a state of subjection, when we ought only to have been considered in a state of alliance? For this must be the necessary effect of an accommodation on any other principles than those I have laid down. Their proposition is so invidious that every single part involves in it every other. And if we think to swallow any of them with safety, we shall only be undeceived by being fairly and effectually choked by the whole group. Where is the wisdom of this squeamishness about it independence pretended by the Assembly of Pennsylvania, or by any other Assembly or Convention on the Continent? There appears to be moderation in it, indeed; but it is the moderation of a Spaniel dog, that grows more tame in proportion to the ill usage he receives. And for the expenses we are likely to incur by the war, what proportion will they bear to the enormous sums that will be necessary to gratify half a million of starving villains, who cannot be provided with pensions enough in England, Scotland, and Ireland, to glut their voracity? What proportion will they bear to the enormous sums that will be expended to enable some of the meanest wretches of the species among ourselves, to roll in state over all the cultivated lands in the country; to impose new quit-rents; to ransack land offices; to annul patents and grants of lands; to apply immense quantities to their own use; and to exact exorbitant fees for permitting the proper ownere to enjoy the rest? What if we should be obliged to encumber ourselves with double the load of our present expenses? A few years of free and universal trade would enable us to redeem it all; as well as the losses we have sustained, or are likely to sustain by their piracies, robberies, thefts, plunders, assassinations, or murders.

The proof of this shall be the subject of another paper.