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The British American, No. 4



Williamsburg, Va˙, June 16, 1774.

Friends, Fellow-citizens, and Countrymen:

Having, under the above signature, formerly addressed three letters to you, upon the long litigated right of the British Parliament to tax the American Colonies, which were not ill received by the public, I intend through the channel of this paper, to give my sentiments of what ought to be the conduct of the inhabitants of British America in the present alarming state of affairs; and I think it more peculiarly my duty to do so at this time, because, (though one of the Representatives of the Colony of Virginia,) I did not attend the last session of the Assembly; indeed, as I live a very retired life, a great distance from Williamsburg, I did not bear of the Act of Parliament relative to Boston, till after the Assembly was dissolved; but I urge not this in justification, nor even in palliation of my offence, since nothing can excuse a Representative of the people from constantly attending in Assembly; and, as I neither expect, or shall attempt, to be chosen again, I take this, as the only method left me, of atoning to my country for having neglected my duty.

In the course of these letters, after explaining what the real excellence of the Constitution, (so far as relates to the real excellence of the legislation) formerly was; after pointing out how far, and by what means, that Constitution hath been altered, and that excellence almost annihilated; and after considering the connections between the Colonies and the mother country, I shall endeavour to prove that it would be really injurious for Great Britain to enforce, or for the Colonies to submit to, the authority of British Acts of Parliament in America.

That the first aim of America ought to be to prevent, if possible, Great Britain from sinking, which by an unanimously, loyal, cool, steady, and intrepid conduct, which I shall endeavour to point out, it is possible for her to effect. But if the utmost exertion of her virtue should not enable her to accomplish this ever to be wished for end; and Great Britain is in so corrupt a state that she must fall, that America must take care not to fall with her; but by preserving her own liberty, prepare an asylum for such of the inhabitants of the mother country as still retain a love of liberty, or possess a desire of being free.

Having thus given a general idea of the subject intended to be pursued in my future letters, to my countrymen in general, I shall conclude this, with some advice to my fellow-citizens, of Virginia in particular. Do not enter into any hasty resolves, that you yourselves upon deliberation condemn; remember that coolness is the true characteristic of an intrepid spirit. However you may be displeased with the conduct of your late Representatives, keep your resentment to yourselves. Remember that the best of men may be sometimes mistaken; that this is not a time to entertain jealousies, or create dissensions amongst ourselves; and that to irritate by reproachful language will never reform. Reflect that the merchants and manufacturers of Great Britain are our fellow-subjects; that they probably disapprove the conduct of the British Parliament as much as we do; that they are possibly warm in our interests at this moment, and if not, that they are at least


entitled to justice at our hands; and that, however, discretion ought to prevent us from increasing, common honesty ought to induce us to discharge, as soon as possible, the debts we have already contracted; that to stop the exportation of our commodities would be so injurious to yourselves, that you ought not to risk it till every other measure has been tried without success; and reserve this as your dernier resort; but above all things, be careful that your honest indignation against the two Houses of the British Parliament does not hurry you into any indiscreet expressions against, or corrupt your loyalty to, your Sovereign, though you owe no obedience to the British Parliament, two branches of it being only your fellow-subjects, and not your masters; yet to your King you have sworn allegiance; his amiable private character entitles him to your highest reverence and esteem; his political character as a Sovereign of the Empire in general, and as supreme head of this Colony in particular, ought to induce you to give him every mark of your warmest loyalty, and most zealous affection to his person. Wait therefore with patience my fellow-citizens a few weeks longer.

The expiration of the Fee Bill, by the sudden dissolution of the Assembly, must shut up the Courts of Justice. No Sheriff is obliged to serve any process, since under a positive Act of Assembly, he can no longer receive any reward; and neglect of duty can no longer be punished, when the equivalent for that duty is taken away; the invasion of the Indian enemy; the immense debt due from the public; and the scarcity of a circulating currency amongst you, are circumstances which will probably induce the Governour to call an Assembly immediately. If he should be careful in the choice of your Representatives, instruct them fully how they are to conduct themselves; rely seriously on their virtue, and expect a constitutional redress of your grievances; nothing but necessity can justify any other. But if the Governour should be restrained by the instructions of a wicked Minister from relieving the distresses of the Colony by calling an Assembly immediately, and writs should not be issued for that purpose before the first day of July, I would then advise the freeholders of each county in the Colony to convene themselves, and choose two of the most able and discreet of their inhabitants to accompany and assist their late Representatives at the meeting in Williamsburg, on the first day of August; and let the whole Colony unanimously support whatever may be then resolved upon.

I do not advise this election of two additional Representatives of each county, because I entertain the smallest doubt of the integrity, zeal, or abilities of the late Representatives to serve their country; on the other hand, I am certain, that a very great majority of the late Assembly may be firmly relied on; but the increase of their numbers will add weight to their counsels, and convince both our friends and enemies that the Colony of Virginia is so unanimously firm in the common cause of America, that no dissolution of your Assembly or change of Representatives, can furnish in future, the smallest hopes of your giving up your liberty, or of your submitting to the arbitrary mandates of a British Parliament.