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Letter from Montreal to a Gentleman in Philadelphia



New-York, December 6, 1775.

SIR: As you have been pleased to address yourself in a publick manner to the inhabitants of this Province at large, an apology can hardly be necessary for the freedom I use in conveying my sentiments to you on the interesting contents of your letter , in which, as an individual, I feel myself deeply concerned.

The rectitude of your Excellency' s conduct, in your official capacity, has deservedly acquired you an eminent degree of popularity and esteem among all orders of men; and, on this account, every step you take is an object of peculiar attention; even what in another might seem offensive and exceptionable, in you is regarded with the most indulgent partiality. I should with regret see you embrace any measure which might tend to alienate the affections of the people, and sully the laurels you have reaped from your former virtuous administration.

With respect to your letter under consideration, permit me to intimate to you, that, unless it be a mere formality, arising from the necessity of your station, it is, at least, a very indiscreet proceeding, and can answer no other end than to lessen you in the general estimation. We have too good an opinion of your understanding to imagine you can seriously believe there is any thing conciliating, or looking towards an accommodation, in the resolution you mention; a resolution, the terms whereof are diametrically opposite to every principle of liberty, and which has been recommended to us by the most indelicate and indecent of all arguments — the point of the bayonet. We must confess to you, that we are as yet in a state of too much simplicity to understand rightly that species of kindness which is evidenced by carnage and devastation.

Our interests we consider as inseparably united with those of our sister Colonies. In union we place our strength; in disunion we see our destruction. We have also the greatest confidence in the judgment and integrity of those who are entrusted with the management of publick affairs; and we can never think of deserting the common cause and breaking the most sacred engagements, by venturing to decide on what is properly a subject of general determination, and by exposing ourselves to the snares and entanglements of a separate treaty. The necessity of union we have been taught by the sagacious Lord North himself, who declared in the House of Commons, in support of the motion, that if one link of the chain could be broken, the whole would inevitably fall to pieces, and that divide et impera (divide and domineer) is a maxim both just and wise in Government. For this instance of plain dealing we are very much indebted to his Lordship; and if we do not profit by it, we shall exhibit to the world a lasting monument of unexampled stupidity.

We would not wish to suppose that you would offer such violence to your "affection for this Colony," or bring such an indelible stain upon your own honour, as to be capable of stooping to the mean task of promoting those flagitious and dark designs avowed by the Minister; and yet, there are unfortunately some appearances, which, in a people less ingenuous than we are, might too easily beget a suspicion of the kind.

It is incumbent upon us to thank your Excellency for the genteel and polite language in which you are pleased to charge us with disloyalty and rebellion. To say we have traitorously conspired against His Majesty' s crown and dignity, and wantonly trampled upon the laws of the State, according to the stale jargon of the times, "would be far more harsh and ill-sounding than the smooth, harmonious expressions you have adopted. Only to tell us we "withhold our allegiance from our Sovereign, and our obedience from the parent country," is civil enough, all things considered. But, at the same time, we beg leave to assure you that you have been deceived as to the fact, and that, though we have been forced to stray from the ordinary


forms of decorum, we desire nothing more than to be speedily restored to the good old way in which we trod for almost two centuries, to the mutual satisfaction and advantage of England and America. I know not how you can be unacquainted with this truth, that it is in the power of Administration, in a moment, to re-establish the tranquillity and security of the empire, which they alone have interrupted, by relinquishing those attempts which are subversive of our rights as a free people, and by reinstating us in the same happy situation in which the conclusion of the late war found us. Then shall Britain reap a rich harvest of opulence and power, the fruits of our loyalty and attachment, and we shall again flourish under the fostering wings of a reformed parent.

I wish, however, that your Excellency had thought proper to explain what you meant by allegiance to the King, and obedience to the parent country. If by the former you intend an unconditional obsequiousness to the will of the Prince, or of his Ministers, even though repugnant to the constitution, and by the latter an absolute submission to the laws of Parliament in all cases, we must confess it is our glory to withhold both the one and the other. We acknowledge no obligations which are inconsistent with our rights and privileges as men and freemen.

I am, with all due respect, your Excellency' s most humble servant,