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An American to the People of Virginia



Much has been said concerning the independence of the Colonies; and some people have been made to believe that such a state is not desirable, and that we should wish for no more liberty than we enjoyed in 1763. But let any man consider that, at that time, we were restrained from making nails and hats, and might, with equal justice, have been hindered from building houses, or making stockings; that we were cruelly and wantonly restricted in our trade — in some instances, as it were, merely to show that we were the slaves of Britain. Although the English cannot make wine, raise silk, grow olives, citrons, oranges, or lemons, yet


we were forced to buy these articles of them only, and were not suffered to purchase them of the French, the Spaniards, or Italians; and although all Europe, to the northward of Cape Finisterre, had been starving for want of grain, and we had it in our power to supply their wants, yet we were not permitted to do it. Our tobacco trade was wholly engrossed by English merchants; they alone had the privilege of selling this invaluable article of our commerce to the Dutch, French, Spaniards, Portuguese, and to the different States up the Mediterranean. The King nominated all officers, civil and military; had the power of repealing all our laws, however necessary to our security and happiness; and the present King has wantonly and cruelly exerted that power in repealing an act of our Assembly, for obliging ships to perform quarantine; and another for preventing the further importation of slaves, by laying heavy duties on such as should be imported, The King, by his instructions to his Governours, could dissolve our assemblies at pleasure, without assigning any reason for so doing, as he has frequently done. He had a right to keep any number of troops or ships in our Colonies; which right be will never give up. He could build forts -on our frontiers, and garrison them as he pleased. This was our situation in 1763; and yet some people are weak enough to wish to be left as we were then, as they express it. But, good God! were we not abject slaves? We wanted but the name. Indeed, we were treated with some small respect; and it was not till 1763 that we were openly insulted and treated as slaves. The English have certainly looked upon us as slaves, or they would have carried on the war in a manner more becoming the character of their nation. They seem to think — as the masters of slaves in the West-Indies do — that no method is unjustifiable by which they can suppress an insurrection; nor any punishment too severe to be inflicted on revolted slaves. Our masters in Britain, though they made us labour and toil for their emolument, yet did not attempt to take from us the little we had been permitted to earn for ourselves. In this respect, they were as indulgent to us as we are to our poor slaves; but this they evidently looked upon as an instance of their indulgence, moderation, and forbearance; for they have declared in both Houses of Parliament (and the Royal sanction has been given to the declaration) that they had, have, and of right ought to have, a power to make laws to bind us in all cases whatsoever; that is, that they are our Kings, Lords, and Masters, Well, then, may Lord North and General Burgoyne say, that they ask no more than that America should, be in the situation she was in 1763. The truth is, the Ministry do not wish that we were more enslaved now than we were then; but they earnestly wish we would be as passive. Since this is the case, and we have not only been long oppressed, and, of late, grievously so, but have also been attacked by sea and land; our towns and private houses plundered and burnt; our property snatched from us; our countrymen dragged from their very beds to piratical boats, and hurried on board men-of-war; our negroes taken from our plantations, and many encouraged to leave, their masters, and take up arms against them — several hundreds of whom are now in arms against us — and when we know that all of these have been invited to do so; when we know that an act of Parliament was passed to encourage the Canadians to attack us, and that a skilful and artful General was sent amongst them to lead them on upon us; and when we know what pains have been taken to prevail on the Indians to ravage our frontiers, (for no one is a stranger to General Carleton' s, Dunmore' s, and Connolly' s plots,) — I say, since we know these things, who that is not a slave indeed — who that has any feelings, or the least spirit, is there amongst us tliat would hesitate a moment to declare he will no longer submit to such hard restrictions on his trade; that he will not suffer himself and his posterity to be so cruelly insulted and oppressed; and that he will be revenged of his inhuman plunderers and butchers? Who, when he finds it necessary to carry on the war we have entered into — a most just and holy war, and in which Heaven has peculiarly favoured us — who, I say, can hesitate a moment to make use of all the assistance he can procure to prosecute it with vigour? And can the war be carried on with any prospect of success without a trade, by which not only specie may be procured for the payment of the troops, and defraying all other expenses,


but for the sinking of a load of paper money, which, in time, without an exchange for specie, must become of no value? A trade is absolutely necessary to procure clothes, blankets, nails, and even arms and ammunition, and as necessary to enable the planter and fanner to pay off their proportion of the taxes which must, in a few years, be collected; as well as to enable them to pay their mutual debts, and maintain their families. Foreigners ought, therefore, to be immediately invited to trade with us; but this they cannot openly do without engaging in the war against Britain; and it is not worth their while to incur the expense which must attend a war, unless they can be certain that they shall always enjoy the benefit of the trade for which they enter into the war. If they were once assured of this, there is no doubt we should enjoy, not only the benefit of a free and full trade, but should engage in our quarrel powerful allies — allies who are not only able to revenge us of our enemies, but who would do it with pleasure, to gratify their own revenge. England deserves this at our hands: she who, by our assistance, was raised to the highest pitch of glory to which any nation ever arose, has spurned at us; has levied a cruel war against us, calling in to her assistance Russians, Hanoverians, Canadians, Indians, and Negro slaves. I say, she deserves that we should declare ourselves independent of her, and call in to our assistance the French and Spaniards; and if we do this, we shall soon be amply revenged on her for her ingratitude and cruelty, and shall completely humble her pride, and exalt ourselves to a state of eminence and glory, and become the envy and admiration of mankind;

If our trade should be opened to France, Spain, and the Mediterranean, we should not only find a better market for our tobacco and grain of all sorts than we have ever yet met with, but we should readily procure all the necessaries we may want; and the trade would introduce numbers of useful manufacturers and various artists. But, as it has been observed above, this trade cannot be procured without declaring ourselves independent States; nor the war prosecuted effectually without a trade, or, indeed, without a maritime ally. What friend to his country, or even to his family, would scruple a moment to declare for independence ? If a powerful fleet and army should suddenly invade our country, and get possession of the lower parts of it, wasting it with fire and sword, and should totally put a stop to our trade, and, at the same time, should supply their armies from hence with provisions of every sort, and enable them to make a complete conquest of some other Colony, we should then wish we had called in the assistance of the French and Spanish fleets; or if, whilst we are most dutifully whining after our mother country, France should choose not to wait any longer for offers from the Congress, but should agree with England to share the plunder of America, what should we say for ourselves? But, God be praised, France has waited with patience; and it is not yet too late to ask assistance of her; and she seems prepared to give it; and, if she does, England must desist from her cruel plan of enslaving the Colonies, and will think herself happy to come in for a share of their extensive trade. So shall peace and harmony be restored to these distracted countries, which will become great and flourishing in commerce, arts, and sciences, and will flourish as long as they enjoy freedom, and practise virtue.


March 15, 1776.