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A Brief Examination of American Grievances


A brief Examination of AMERICAN Grievances; being the heads of a Speech at the General Meeting at LEWESTOWN, on DELAWARE, July 28, 1774.

A gentleman introduced the business of the Assembly, by an encomium on the happiness of the English Constitution, and went on to show that the American Colonies brought all British liberties with them, as appears by their Charters, the nature of their emigration, and many publick declarations at that time made, and since. That the Colonies were pleased and happy in their union, commerce, and mutual assistance given to and received from the mother country, even while almost the whole fruits of their labour and industry ever returned to Britain, to her strength and aggrandizement. That they have been, and still are, the most loyal and dutiful of all his Majesty' s subjects, and the most closely attached to his present Royal family. That they have always granted their aids of money and men, when their Sovereign constitutionally demanded them of their Assemblies, and even seasonably and beyond their proportion; so that, in the last war, a considerable sum was refunded to this little Colony on Delaware, as well as others. That the present undeserved frowns of the parent state most probably arise from the base calumnies, wicked insinuations, and most false misrepresentations of the Bernards, Hutchinsons, Olivers, and such other malicious enemies of the real interest of Britain and America, who have absurdly, as well as wickedly, represented the Colonies as rebellious, independent, &c. That hence, for about ten years past, the conduct of the British Ministry, and a majority of Parliament, seems to be one continual plan to rob us of our dearest liberties. That, if America be enslaved, the freedom of Britain will not long survive that wretched crisis. That the impositions and oppressions of the most loyal Americans are already become very numerous and very grievous.

He then went on to enumerate and explain as many as he could recollect, after laying down these principles, viz:

That "all lawful civil Governments must be wholly employed to preserve the lives, liberties, and properties of the subject."

"No Englishman is bound to any laws to which he has not consented by himself, or his own chosen Representatives."

"A man has no property in that of which he may be rightfully dispossessed at the pleasure of another."

" Britons only can give their own money."

"No man can tax us but ourselves, while we enjoy the British Constitution."

He went on to show, that from these principles, well known to every freeman, the following will appear, to say the least, lawless usurpations, viz:

1st. Restraining the Colonists from manufacturing their own iron, by erecting slitting mills, &c.

2d. Restraining the transportation, and thus the manufacturing, hats of our own peltry, &c.

3d. The grievous oppression of preventing farmers to carry their own wool even across a ferry, though the rivers, waters, havens, &c˙, are given us by our Charters.

4th. The changing the boundaries of Colonies, and obliging men to live under Constitutions to which they never consented, as part of Massachusetts Bay joined to New-Hampshire.

5th. The suspending the Legislative powers of New-York, by an Act of Parliament, until they should quarter troops sent to raise an illegal tribute by military execution.

6th. The memorable and detestable Stamp Act.

7th. The Parliamentary claim to make laws "binding us in all cases whatsoever," consequently, to regulate our internal police, give, take away, change, and infringe, our Constitutions and Charters, for which we have the most solemn faith of the Crown and Nation for their inviolable security.

8th. Their assuming to lay sundry taxes upon us, though self-taxation is the basis of English freedom. At the distance of three thousand miles, the Parliament arbitrarily


demands the strings of every American' s purse, though ignorant of us and our ability, &c˙, though they are not included in the same tax nor ever were chosen for our Representatives.

9th. Their denying us the right to give our own money to our own King, on his legal demand; a right which Britons, from earliest histories, have enjoyed, and to secure which they have often spent much blood and treasure.

10th. Their laying a tax on paper, glass, painters' colours, and tea.

11th. And though this, with the Stamp Act, were repealed by non-importation, the American virtue, and the influence of our friends, yet, a tax on tea was and is continued, as the badge of our slavery.

12th. The mean stratagem, unworthy the Representatives of a free and great Nation, of attempting to enslave us; by pretending a favour to the East India Company, which Americans bravely rejected and disconcerted.

13th. Finding stratagem would not prevail, they have thrown off the mask, and are now dragooning us into a surrender of our rights by the last Bills, and wreaking their unjust vengeance on those who cannot submit to their impositions.

14th. Maintaining a standing army in times of peace, above the control of the civil powers, at Boston, &c˙, which no Briton can submit to.

15th. Extending the obsolete Act of Henry the Eighth, to drag Americans to Britain to be tried, contrary to our birth-right privilege of juries of our own neighbourhood. How shocking to humanity to see a fleet and army on the Act for preserving dockyards, &c˙, solemnly stationed to take any poor man, on suspicion of his being one of the justly exasperated mob who injured the Gaspee schooner, to be sent in irons in a man-of-war — worse than a Popish inquisition, three thousand miles, to be tried by partial judges, and ruined, if innocent, at last.

16th. The wresting Castle William out of the hands of the owners, though the principal fortress where their property and stores were deposited, and putting it into the hands of those who yet unjustly detain it, over whom the civil powers have no control, at a time when the military threatened the slaughter of the inhabitants.

17th. The rewarding and advancing Captain Preston, for the very reason of his murdering some young men at Boston.

18th. Fleets and armies sent, to enable the Commissioners of the Customs, authorized by Parliament, in violation of all English liberty, to plunder freemen' s houses, cellars, trunks, bed-chambers, &c˙; and if they murder men, by a late Bill, they may not be tried in America, and the poor relations cannot prosecute on the other side of the Atlantic; thus, the blood of our poor innocents may cry, indeed, to God from the earth; but, from civil Government, there can be no justice.

19th. The grievous partiality of those who have made their own judges independent even of the demesne of the Crown, yet have sent Judges, a Governour, and Attorney General, during pleasure only, under no ties to the country, but biased to the Ministry, by whom they are supported by a tax unconstitutionally squeezed from Americans. Their circumstances tend to make them, like Judge Jeffries, the cruel instruments of tyranny and injustice.

20th. Ungratefully disheartening us, and adding insult to injury; quartering insolent troops upon us, to provoke the injured to mobs; and sending over men of the worst characters for Governours, Judges, and officers, to some Colonies; refusing to hear any complaints of mal-administration; forgetting all our merit, though the most firmly of all his Majesty' s subjects attached to the principles of the Revolution; supporting one-third of the Nation, and increasing her naval power and grandeur, and profusely spending our blood and treasures in all the wars of Britain, &c.

21st. Another distressing grievance, is, that the British Ministry receive no information of the state of the Provinces, unless from their very enemies, the Governours, Judges, and officers, while cries and petitions of the injured and oppressed Colonies, even from general Congresses and Assembles, will not be favoured with a hearing, and by them kept back from the ear of our Sovereign; while the betrayers of the union and happiness both of Britain and


America are heard, supported, and rewarded by the Administration, for all their false and malevolent dissimulations.

22d. Though in all Nations the persons of Ambassadors are sacred or inviolable, the virulent torrent of abuse premeditated and prepared, and poured out in a most scurrilous manner, even in the House of Lords, by the approbation of a majority of them, against Doctor Benjamin Franklin, the known Agent of our Colonies; though his age, office, abilities, and character, (as a philosopher and politician, well known in all Europe,) might have exempted him from abuse, even among the rudest companies. His offence, strange to relate, was discovering to his country their false accusers.

23d. The conferring honours, preferments, and lucrative posts, generally, on those unhappy wretches, who appear the sole cause of all the dissensions in Britain, and her unjust measures against her loyal sons, as Bernard, baronet, &c˙, &c˙, many of whom, if justice could be brought to her ancient channels, would justly forfeit their devoted heads.

24th. And now, to complete our slavery by violence, which could not be done by fraud, the Boston Port Bill is executed on Boston; that ancient, loyal, and flourishing city blockaded by a fleet and army, without ever hearing them, or even their agent, one word in their defence.

25th. By our last accounts another Bill has passed the lower House, which is designed to indemnify the officers of the customs, navy, and army, and all their wretched assistants, in destroying our rights, from all the barbarities, rapines, and murders they may commit against that brave, loyal, and patient people of Boston.

26th. And, finally, to show us that the stipulated faith of the Crown, during the reign of his present Majesty, is good for nothing at all; and to convince us that we have nothing that we may call our own, even Charters and Constitutions themselves, another Bill has also passed that House, to change, infringe, and destroy all that was worthy their care in the solemn Charter of the Massachusetts Bay. The same Parliament, on the same principles, with equal right, may vacate the right to any man' s house, plantation, deed of his lands, &c˙, whenever he may happen to displease any Minister of State, or any of his tools, from a Bernard and Hutchinson, to the most infamous informer and tide-waiter.

27th. Hence, on the whole, we have gradually lost our free Constitution, English liberties, and Charters, and are really under military government, a state to be deprecated by all good men; so that, if we say a word against a Tea Tax, a Boston Port Bill, or any arbitrary and tyrannical imposition, we may expect, like Boston, to have our estates, trade, deeds, &c˙, taken away, and dragoons sent to insult us; and if they murder us, they are not amenable under our laws. Our circumstances bear some resemblance to the time when they were forcing Bishops on Scotland, when every common soldier, in the reign of Charles the Second, was witness, judge, and jury himself; and, on asking two or three questions, might shoot down any person he met.

Here is a dreadful catalogue indeed! And I doubt not, said he, there are many more which have escaped my memory. O that our gracious Sovereign would condescend to read the catalogue, and spend one hour apart from Lord North and the other authors of our calamities, to meditate upon them! Sure his humane heart would bleed for the distresses of his reign, and he would vow redress to his loving and oppressed subjects. Any one of these twenty-seven grievous impositions would have driven a people careless of loyalty, patriotism, prudence, and fortitude, into actual rebellion, to take arms in defence of such invaluable privileges. But, in defiance of all the whispers of our enemies, though we love liberty, we love Britain too, and earnestly desire to continue the most inviolable union, connection, and harmony, with the land of our fathers. Though we are now above five millions, (and at our present rate of population will soon double that number,) if we were now united we need not dread, under the conduct of that gracious and Almighty Being who hears the cries of oppressed innocence, any single Prince or Empire on earth; but were we ten thousand times so many more, we would still revere, love, and support our mother, Britain, &c˙, while she will treat us as children and friends.

He concluded his address, by showing the necessity and


expediency of a general Congress, to cultivate or restore our friendship with Britain, &c˙, as well as to agree on a necessary non-importation Covenant; which Congress, he showed, ought to be continued in all future times. He hoped, amidst their important affairs, they would fall on some honourable and safe expedient to put an end to our African slavery, so dishonourable to us, and so provoking to the most benevolent Parent of the Universe; that this, with our luxury and irreligion, are probably the remote causes of our present alarming situation.