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Address to the Soldiers of Massachusetts-Bay



Boston, January 11, 1776.

My Fellow-Citizens:

You have been addressed, by the General Officers of the Continental Army, as fellow-soldiers, and with that insinuating art which was designed to move your passions. I would not draw your attentions from it, provided you will devote your cooler moments to a dispassionate consideration of its subject-matter.

Suffer me, on my part, to address you as fellow-citizens; for I cannot have such dishonourable thoughts of you as to suppose that, when you put on the soldier, you then put off the citizen. Citizens most of you were; you enjoyed the comforts of domestick life, you ately followed your different occupations, and reaped the profits of a quiet and peaceable industry; and I hope in God that you may yet do it, without any disturbance to your innocent wives and children. But, in the late courses of your lives, you must not only have given great uneasiness to your families, but, I dare to say, that all of you were not quite free from uneasiness in your own minds. I know, my dear countrymen, that many of you have been drove to take up arms against your Sovereign and the laws of the happiest Constitution that ever human beings were blest with; some through the necessities incident to human nature, and others by that compulsion which the malevolent and ambitious arts of your leaders have made necessary to deceive you with, in order to screen themselves from that vengeance which the injured laws of society had devoted them to. Many a tear of pity have I dropped for you and for the fate of my country; and many more tears I fear that I shall be forced to shed for the wrath which awaits you from an offended Heaven and an injured Government. Many of your associates have already quilted the field of battle, to appear before that solemn tribunal, where the plea of the united force of all the Colonies will be of no avail, to bribe the judgment, or avert the sentence, of an offended Deity. Some of them, in the agonies of death, sent messages to their friends to forbear proceeding any further, for they now found themselves in the wrong; others have repeatedly said, that an ambition of appearing something considerable, and that only, led them into rebellion. And the unhappy leader in the fatal action at Charlestown, (who, from ambition, only, had raised himself from a bare-legged milk boy to a Major-General of the Army,) although the fatal ball gave him not a moment for reflection, yet had said, in his life time, that he was determined to mount over the heads of his coadjutors, and get to the last round of the ladder, or die in the attempt. Unhappy man! his fate arrested him in his career, and he can now tell whether pride and ambition are pillars strong enough to support the tottering fabrick of rebellion.

But, not to divert you from an attention to the Address of your officers, I would, rather, wish you to weigh it with exactness; and, after you have so done, if you then should think that it is better to trample upon the laws of the mildest Government upon earth, and throw off your allegiance to the most humane Sovereign that ever swayed a sceptre, and submit to a tyranny uncontrolled, either by the laws of God or man, then blame none but yourselves, if the consequences should be fatally bad to you and to your families.

Your officers, my countrymen, have taken great pains to sooth and flatter you, that you may not quit your posts and forsake them, until they have accomplished their ambitious and desperate schemes. Your leaders know that they have plunged themselves into the bowels of the most wanton and unnatural rebellion that ever existed; they think that, by engaging numbers to partake in their guilt, they shall appear formidable, and that, by so numerous an appearance, the hand of justice will not dare to arrest them. Some of you know that this argument hath been frequently urged; but you must know that much superior Powers than this Continent can boast of, have been conquered by that Government which you are now at war with.

Your officers tell you, that they have reduced the regiments from thirty-eight to twenty-six, and assign, as a reason, that many officers, from a puny habit of body, found themselves incapable of fulfilling the duty of their station,


have been obliged to absent themselves from their posts, and, consequently, the duty has fallen very heavily upon those who remained. Whether this is a true reason or not, some of you can tell. Be it so or not, why, then, not appoint others? Are none of you fit for officers, but those who absented themselves from their posts? You, generally, took up arms about the same time, and I dare to say, that many of you were as well qualified for commissions as those who left their posts.

Another reason they sooth you with, for disbanding twelve regiments, is, that the vast expense of attending the maintenance of so many regiments might have disabled the Continent from persevering in its resolution of defending their liberties, if the contest should be of any continuance. Surely, my countrymen, you cannot be deluded with such trifling pleas. Can this Continent, which undertakes to carry on a war with the power of Great Britain, be alarmed at a few millions of dollars? Their resources are boundless. The issuing of paper money is easily accomplished; and, while you cannot be compelled to take it, the Continent can never be disabled from persevering in its resolutions. Unhappily for them, they have discovered to you what will be much for your interest to know, viz: that the vast expense of this civil war will be a burden too heavy for the shoulders of you or your posterity to bear. Consider that, already, three millions of dollars have been emitted in paper, and that four hundred and thirty-four thousand dollars, equal to nine hundred and seventy-six thousand pounds, old tenor, is assessed on the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay, to redeem their part; and how much more must be raised to carry on this unnatural war, which was commenced to gratify the pride and desperation of many of your leaders, time, alone, will discover. You have just entered the lists, but there is much yet to be done. To finish the mighty independent empire which they have planted for you, demands such resources as it will require one century to sponge away. Most of you have groaned under a tax of about two or three hundred thousand pounds, old tenor; but, when millions are thrown into the scale, they will press you down, never to rise more.

Your officers tell you, that men who are possessed of a vivacity of disposition, though brave, and in all other respects unexceptionable, are totally unfit for service. This is a new doctrine, advanced to make good officers and soldiers. It is a mystery, which I leave to that dulness and stupidity which your officers have complimented you with, to unravel. The meaning of it you are best acquainted with; but it puts me in mind of what I have heard from the mouth of an arch traitor, who was disappointed in his expectations of the promotions of his near relations, viz: That the people were a set of d—d stupid asses, and were fit only to be drove.

You are further told, that the present campaign is far from a hard one. How hard you have worked, and how much duty you have done, you, yourselves, can tell best. Many who have seen your labours, have thought them great; and I am much inclined to believe that you have gone through some difficulty, especially when your officers, having forgot the popularity of this harangue, almost in the next breath tell you, that the post you at present occupy was fortified and secured by infinite labour. It is an old and just maxim, my countrymen, that deceivers ought to have good memories.

You are next addressed, in the invariable style, for years past, of newspapers and popular harangues, with the abuses of Ministers and Generals. This may keep up your spirits, for aught I know. Town-meeting oratory, I know, has frequently had this effect, till the spirit of it was evaporated, and then it flattened, so as to be quite insipid. They boast much of the attachment of Nova-Scotia and Canada to what they call your interest, as well as of the rest of the Continent. I give you one word of advice, and, as it is from a book which, it is said, you are fighting for, so I suppose that you will not totally disregard it. It is this: "Let not him that putteth on the harness boast as he that putteth it off." But as to the success of union, which you have met with, the same book says, that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. It is so, my countrymen, in a double sense; for, in the first place, no person, but one who was bewitched, would run the risk of engaging in a rebellion; and, in the next place, (which is the true meaning of the words,) as


witchcraft is renouncing the authority of God Almighty, and applying to the Devil, so rebellion is withdrawing allegiance from a lawful Sovereign, overturning his laws and government, and joining with a power inimical to him.

You are also told that, as the Southern Provinces have ever placed the greatest confidence in your zeal and valour, they did not think it necessary to raise any bodies in the other Provinces for this particular service. Do you believe, my countrymen, that any of the Massachusetts officers were concerned in drawing this Address to you? If so, beware of them, before it is too late. I will not believe it. It surely must be drawn by some of your foreign officers, whom you have disgraced yourselves by suffering them to command you, when you had men of your own Province who were, at least, equal to them, and who would have more naturally cared for you. But you may have felt the ill consequence of it even now, and it may be too late for redress. The true English of it runs thus: The Massachusetts have a different interest from the rest of the Continent; they are a set of brave, hardy dogs, and are always encroaching upon their neighbours, and ought to be humbled; and, when we have established our independency, we shall have much to fear from them. Let us, therefore, make them the mercenaries; they will sacrifice every thing for money; we can pay them in paper, which they are so fond of; by engaging them for soldiers, they will get knocked in the head; their wives and children will be ruined; and, when we have established our empire, we shall have nothing to fear from them; they will become an easy prey to the rest of the Provinces, and we can parcel them out among us as we may think proper.

The remainder of your officers' Address to you, I leave to your own remarks. It is so full of compliment and flattery, in order to catch your passions, that I cannot help blushing for you; and if you are caught by it, I shall then pity you, and you will blush for yourselves.

That you may not plead ignorance, in justification of yourselves, in case the fate of war should be against you, I will now let you into the origin and progress of the publick disorders which, for many years past, have sickened the state of this Province, and, at last, hath terminated in a most unnatural and ungrateful rebellion. I am persuaded, my countrymen, that you are ignorant of the true rise of your disorders; the aim of your leaders hath been to keep you in ignorance; they knew that your ignorance was their protection. Had you known their views, you would not only have spurned at the thought of overturning the Constitution, but I venture to say, that some of you would have dragged them to the bar of justice, there to have received that punishment which now awaits them, and I wish that you, yourselves, may not be involved in, as partakers in their crimes. The history runs thus, and every page of it is capable of ample proof.

Know, then, for many years past, this Province hath been deeply immersed in the smuggling business. Perhaps some of you are ignorant, though I am sure all of you are not, of the meaning of smuggling business. I will tell you what it means; it is an importation of goods contrary to the laws of the society to which we belong; it is a defrauding the King of those dues which the law hath granted to him, which fraud is equal, in criminality, to the injuring of a private person; it is a violation of the laws of Christianity; it is injuring, and, perhaps, ruining, our neighbour; in short, when it is thoroughly engaged in, it naturally tends, by degrees, to the effacing every sentiment of virtue. This is a description of the smuggling business; and it is here where I fix the sudden rise of the present rebellion.

In order to evade those laws against unlawful trade, those who were concerned in it, exerted themselves to defeat them. Unluckily for the Government, at that juncture, a person, who had a long while been hunting after preferment, was disappointed of his game; on which, a friend of his, who was versed in the law, vowed revenge; he swore that he would set the Province in a flame, if he died in the attempt. He fulfilled his oath, and burnt his fingers, to such a degree, that he hath irrecoverably lost the use of them. Remember, my countrymen, that there is one sort of flame, that consumes not only a man' s property, but also a man' s understanding, and ruins, very often, his posterity, also. This man' s adroitness in law


was thought necessary to be engaged in the cause of defeating acts of Parliament. He was engaged, and he had shrewdness enough to start a thought which, artfully pursued, hath, generally, its expected effect in all popular commotions. He said, that it was necessary to inlist a Black regiment in their service; the bait was snapped at, and many ministers of the Gospel, too, (too many for the honour of the Christian religion,) joined in the cry. The press then routed out its libels; the sacred desk, which ought to have been devoted to the doctrines and precepts of the Prince of Peace, rang its changes on Government, and sounded the trumpet of sedition and rebellion. Boys, who had just thrown away their satchels, and who could scarcely read English, mounted the pulpit, and ventured to decide on matters which had puzzled the sages of the law. Nay, they could not be contented to decide controversies of law, in their harangues to their audiences, but must show their parts in their solemn addresses to the Supreme Being, telling Him who had been guilty of murder, where the law had pronounced the supposed crime to be only self-defence; and some of them even debased the sacred character, by setting on the rabble, in the publick street, to insult a person who was obnoxious to the leaders of the mob. At the same time, a notorious defaulter, who had pocketed a large sum of the publick moneys, in order to screen himself, took it into his head to mouth it for patriotism; and, by artful wiles and smooth demeanour, he talked the people out of their understandings, and persuaded them to give him a discharge from the debt, on account of his patriotism. This man, whom, but a day before, hardly any one would have trusted with a shilling, and whose honesty they were jealous of, now became the confidant of the people. With his oily tongue, he duped a man whose brains were shallow and pockets deep, and ushered him to the publick as a patriot, too. He filled his head with importance, and emptied his pockets, and, as a reward, hath kicked him up the ladder, where he now presides over the Twelve United Provinces, and where they both are at present plunging you, my countrymen, into the depths of distress. Libertinism, riot, and robbery, soon became the effects of this sort of pubiick spirit; houses were plundered and demolished; persons were beat, abused, tarred and feathered; courts of justice were insulted; the pillars of Government were destroyed; and no way to escape the torrent of savage barbarity but by paying obeisance to the sovereign mandates of a mob. Garrets were crowded with patriots; mechanicks and lawyers, porters and clergymen, huddled promiscuously into them; their decisions were oracular, and from thence they poured out their midnight reveries. They soon determined to form an independent empire. Yes, my countrymen, I assure you that this independent empire, which you are now assisting those pretended patriots to erect, was formed above seven years ago, though I dare say that most of you are ignorant of the black design. And one of the patriots, (peace be to his manes!) openly avowed it, and declared that a valuation had been taken of the estates in the town of Boston, which, he supposed, would be destroyed by the naval power of Great Britain; and that all the friends of licentiousness were to be reimbursed out of the estates of the friends to Government.

The patriots were determined to humble Great Britain; and, as a first step, they promoted a Non-Importation Agreement, at the same time that the wealthy and artful among them had large quantities of goods by them, by the advanced sale of which they made fortunes, and ruined the small traders. They promised to send their new-imported goods back to England; and, instead thereof, their trunks were crowded with billets of wood, shavings, and brickbats, (to the eternal disgrace of this Province,) when they were opened in England. Some of the patriots carried about papers of subscription against importing goods from England; and washing-women and porters, in order to swell the list, made their marks, (for write they could not,) that they would not import coaches or chariots from home. When they were told of the impropriety of such a conduct, and that the scheme would have no effect, they replied, that they were sensible of it, but Great Britain would be scared by it. They hired mercenaries in England to cabal and write for them, and raise an insurrection. When they were told that Great Britain would be roused, they said


that she was not to be dreaded; that she had neither men nor money; that there was more money in the Colonies than in England; that, if she should resent it, the Colonies would not pay her the millions that were due to her. Not content with this insult, the General Assembly disavowed any observance of Acts of Parliament. Great Britain, with her usual lenity, pitied our infatuation, till she was, at last, forced to send troops to support civil Government; those troops we were then to destroy, and we did our best to destroy them, but felt the fatal consequence of the attempt. Our violences at last rose to such a height, that injured sovereignty and an insulted Government have been roused to assert their authority, in order to curb as wanton and wicked a rebellion as ever raged in any Government upon earth.

Thus, my countrymen, I have very shortly stated to you, the rise and progress of the present rebellion. I believe that many, if not most of you, were insensible of the ambitious views of your leaders. I do not think that you were so devoid of virtue as to rush into so horrid a crime at one leap; for, let me tell you, that it is the highest crime that a member of society can be guilty of, and the punishment annexed to it is nothing less than a forfeiture of estate and life. Your leaders have deceived you into what they do not believe themselves; they were desperate themselves, and they have involved you in their own just doom. They tell you your properties and religion are at stake: your ministers tell you so too; and I know that you are too apt to take all they say for gospel. But pray, what danger is your religion in? Why, it is said, that Popery is established in Canada, and will be established here. No, my countrymen! Popery is not established in Canada, let your teachers and leaders assert it never so roundly; it is only indulged to the Roman Catholicks there. Your Continental Congress says God and nature have given them a right to the enjoyment of their religion; it is what they capitulated for with General Amherst; it is what the just, the humane King George the Third, confirmed to them. This is the King whom you so lately professed llegiance to, in opposition to the Parliament; not considering that it was by acts of Parliament that the Crown was placed upon his head, and on the heads of his predecessors. It seems, indeed, that your leaders have more lately found out that it is necessary to deny the authority of the King, as they have been daring in denying that of his Parliament. Witness their late Thanksgiving Proclamation, which concludes with a "God save the People," instead of the heretofore invariable "God save the King." Will it not suffice your leaders to mock the King, but they must mock Heaven also? Read it over; view the cloven foot of one of your spiritual guides peeping out, whose pen fabricated the mockery, and whose foot has many a time trod the recesses of rebellion with the cabal, and I dare to say, that had it not been for his mole-like, underground cunning and priestcraft, that this, once over-happy, but now miserably distracted Province, had not been so soon involved in distress.

I would ask you, also, my countrymen, how your properties are at stake? You will, doubtless, tell me, that acts of Parliament have been made to oblige you to pay duties upon various articles. Be it so. Why then do you purchase articles that are to pay duties? Why then did you not petition, in a constitutional manner, to have those acts repealed? The British Parliament never assumed to themselves infallibility; and many a time have they repealed American acts, when they have been convinced that the enforcement of them was incompatible with the mutual interest. It is true, your leaders did petition; but in such an unconstitutional manner, that it was below the dignity, and contrary to the system of the English Government, to hear such petitions; and this your leaders knew must be the fate of them; and this method they planned, in order to effect their independence, and make themselves of that importance to you which they now appear in. But you can have no just plea for entering so deeply into opposition against the parent state. You may know, if you please, that King Charles the First granted to our ancestors a charter; you may call it a compact, if you please, too; and, if it be so, the argument will be much against you; for in that you compacted to pay duties after a short term of years, and you have been fulfilling your compact by paying duties for above an hundred years past; till of late, the


scandalous smuggling business reared its front against the laws, and brought the state into its present distraction. You have been told, also, that your land was to be taxed, and that you were to be brought into Lordships. This, I know, hath been artfully propagated among you, and I dare assert it to be groundless. There is too much justice and benignity in the English Government to advance such a scheme; and, supposing that they had it in their idea to do it, so violent an opposition ought to have been suspended, at least, till the scheme had been brought into action; it is like one man' s cutting another' s throat, lest the other might possibly injure his grandchildren.

I am loath to detain you any longer, my countrymen, from sober reflection. For God' s sake, for your own sakes, for your wives' and children' s sake, pause a moment, and weigh the event of this unnatural civil war. You have roused the British Lion; you have incensed that Power which hath crushed much greater Powers than you can boast of, and hath done it without your aid too. Great Britain is not so distressed for men or money as some would make you believe. Your conduct hath raised the resentment of the greatest Powers in Europe, and she may, if she pleases, accept of their proffered aid. But your priests and your leaders tell you otherwise; and I will just put the case, that, supposing Heaven in righteous judgment, should suffer you to conquer; look forward then to the fatal consequences of your conquest. You will be conquered by an army of your own raising; and then your dreaded slavery is fixed; the ambition and desperation of your leaders will then demand the fruit of all their toils. Turn back a few pages of the English history; read the account of the civil wars of the last century; and view the triumph, and absolute sway of that tyrant Cromwell; he, like some of your leaders, began with humoring the enthusiasm of the times, and ended the parricide of his country. Let me suppose again, as you vainly imagine, that this will not be the case, and that when you have conquered, you will then beat all your swords into ploughshares; how long do you think it will be before you are obliged to change sides, and beat your ploughshares into swords again? You will then have twelve or fourteen Colonies to form into an independent empire. Where then is to be the seat of empire? Surely the Massachusetts-Bay hath the best title to precedence; they begun the rebellion, and they have the best title to reward. Do you think that the other Colonies cannot furnish as artful demagogues as this Province can? Do not imagine that we are the men, and that wisdom is to die with us. We shall be cantoned out into petty States; we shall be involved in perpetual wars, for an inch or two of ground; our fertile fields will be deluged with blood; our wives and children be involved in the horrid scene; foreign Powers will step in and share in the plunder that remains, and those who are left to tell the story will be reduced to a more abject slavery than that which you now dread. The Colonies are too jealous of each other to remain long in a state of friendship.

I will now, my fellow-citizens, change the scene, to a more eligible view for your interest, and suppose it possible, (though you do not think it so,) that Great Britain can conquer you, and that, instead of being victors, you may be subjects again. You will then have the mildest Government to live under — a Government to be envied by the rest of mankind, and whose only unhappiness is, that it is too apt to abuse that liberty which God and the Constitution hath blessed it with. She hath been loath to call you conquered; she hath, like an over fond parent, indulged you peevishness, and withheld her resentment until she hath felt the smart of her indulgence; she is now roused, but her resentment is tempered with mildness. He whom you formerly acknowledged for your Sovereign, drops the tear of pity for you, in his late speech from the Throne — a speech so attempered with paternal pity, Royal firmness of mind, and sentiment of dignity, as distinguishes the speaker as the father of his country, and the ornament of human nature. Clemency he is distinguished for: he is revered for his humanity; but his soul is impressed with too much magnanimity to suffer his laws, and the rights of his subjects, to be trampled under the foot of rebellion; he holds out the sceptre of mercy, that bright gem of his Royal dignity, for you to embrace; but if you choose to kiss the rod of his justice, be you yourselves witnesses that it is not his choice.


Remember that Heaven punishes but to save. The God of heaven hath repeatedly checked rebellion, and our own history confirms its defeats. Rebellion is so odious in the eyes of all rational beings, that it is for the universal good that it should be suppressed; it saps the foundation of moral virtue, and, therefore, it is for the general interest that all nature should rise in arms against it; and I have not the least doubt, that Providence will arrest it in its career. When that time comes, complain not that you were not forewarned, and bear your own punishment without murmuring.

That you may seriously reflect on your own impending fate, and the fate of your wives and innocent children, before you take the deadly plunge, and that you may immediately retire from the precipice of ruin, is the friendly wish of your fellow-citizen, Z˙ Z.