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Candidus to the People of New-Hampshire


Portsmouth, New-Hampshire, April 14, 1775.

The alarming crisis to which the Parliamentary controversy with the Colonies is now brought, demands the united wisdom and attention of every serious, well-disposed person among us; and the grand question which obtrudes itself at first view is, can we withstand the power of Great Britain, when determined to enforce obedience to the laws of her Parliament? To this question, many heated


imaginations may reply, we can; for Britain is not able to send Troops enough to conquer us, though she may distress and ruin our commercial connections. I must confess that I am not of that opinion; for if the British Nation, collectively as one body, should espouse the Parliamentary claim of supremacy, however unjust or unconstitutional, I am convinced they could reduce us to such extremities as would make us the most miserable of dependant beings. But this cannot be expected; we see the greatest men in the Nation appear in behalf of America, condemning the policy of Administration, applauding the Colonists for their noble and generous exertions in support of their just rights and privileges; we see the Merchants kindly and friendly petitioning the Parliament in our behalf; but all in vain — our controversy is confined to the two branches of the Legislature only, and they are judges in their own cause; and although His Majesty has been pleased to give countenance to their Resolutions, and seems determined to support them, yet, with all these appearances, we cannot think the present manoeuvres justified by the Nation; and a short time will convince us that greater disturbances will appear in England than in America. The obstruction to the Newfoundland Fishery from New-England, will be another alarm to the Nation, as they must see their rivals in trade, the French, will seize every advantage thereby; and the Southern Governments will look upon the stoppage to the trade of the New-England Provinces only as the execution of a plan in part, in expectation that they would avail themselves of the opportunity of growing rich, and increasing in trades, while the other are sinking beneath their burdens, and reduced to such misery as to be obliged to submit; which when they have accomplished, Administration will not be content till they have subjugated the whole Continent to their sovereign control. But the question still remains to be answered, can we, or shall we withstand an Army who spread the British standard, and is commanded by a General acting by and under His Majesty' s commission? To answer this question is puzzling to the ablest politicians amongst us; those who answer in the affirmative, do not enough consider that the sword once drawn can never be sheathed but in the bowels of Britons and Americans — till desolation and war becomes one general scene. For although ten thousand Troops may fall an easy prey to the numbers brought against them, yet what will be the event of such a conquest? Britain will feel the loss of her sons, and the blood of the slain will call aloud for revenge, and this may rouse the Nation to drop every idea of friendship, and losing sight of the merits of the controversy, will naturally support the tarnished honour of the British arms, and enraged with disdain of an inglorious defeat, may send such numbers of mercenary and veteran Troops, which, together with a powerful Fleet, will scatter destruction on our devoted heads. On the other hand, those who are on the negative side of the question, and who say we ought not to oppose the British Troops, should mark out the line of conduct necessary to be pursued in this critical and alarming period, and should prove the inexpediency of appearing in arms till forced thereto by the loss of every idea or hope of a reconciliation with Britain; and that it plainly appears the Nation has left us to be the victims of Parliamentary resentment. For my own part, I must own the idea of taxation without representation appears to me incompatible with the British Constitution, and is a political solecism; and any Government founded upon such principles must soon fall into despotism. And as America is not represented in the Parliament of Britain, she can' t justly be taxed; but if it is insisted upon, that supremacy must, be lodged somewhere, and the Parliament being the highest Court in the Nation, that supremacy ought to rest there; in that case, subordinate legislation by American Assemblies must be first annihilated; for the subject ought not to be governed by two codes of laws, some of which are diametrically opposite in their operation.

These arguments have been so often and so fully treated upon, that every individual knows the force of them. I shall therefore only add here, that there is a vacancy, or rather weakness, in the Constitution of the Parliamentary Government of America, which requires the consideration of both Countries, and without a settlement thereof the present controversy will never be ended; for unless the


wound is probed to the bottom, it cannot be healed; it may be skinned over for a short time, but will break out again with more virulence. A denial of any legislative right over America, is equally unreasonable in us, as it is in the Parliament to claim it in all cases whatsoever. To suppose that we are to be controlled only by our own Legislatures, will appear at first view to be incompatible with the regulating laws of Commerce. The East-India, the Assiento, and Hudson' s Bay Companies, all pay large, sums to the Nation for an exclusive trade; and every merchant in Britain is subject to large penalties for even attempting to trade there, besides a seizure and condemnation of both vessel and cargo. So that if the Colonies are not subject to these regulating laws, they may easily interfere in all these exclusive trades, and evade the penalties. Inasmuch as we have not attempted those trades, we have considered ourselves as excluded with the rest of the Nation. The line of conduct necessary for us to pursue at this time, to avoid the dreadful consequences of a desolating civil war, requires the advice and wisdom of the coolest and most considerate men amongst us. And may the overruling hand of a good Providence so direct all consultations for the safety, welfare, and advancement of the British Nation in general, and America in particular; and that unanimity in our adopted plans may crown our expectations with success, to a happy re-establishment of that harmony between the two Countries, which is confessedly allowed to be the only means of supporting their political existences.