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Letter from an Englishman in New-York


New-York, March 28, 1775.

Mr˙ RIVINGTON: As your paper has hitherto supported the character of an impartial one, I send the enclosed for publication; if you cannot insert it, return it by the bearer. But while a Junius can attack a Prime Minister, and a Tribunus the King, I hope it will not be deemed treason for an Englishman or an American to attack the petty tyrants to whom this is with deference and respect most humbly dedicated by the author.


GENTLEMEN: You appear in a publick character, and if the reins of Government are not devolved, on you by common consent, you have at least usurped the legislative authority. I shall not, then, deem it any violation of the liberty of the Press, in this publick manner personally to address you, and to animadvert on the contents of your letter (dated February 16) to the Committee of this City, lately published — an epistle which I could not peruse without a mixture of indignation and astonishment.

The body from whence you derive your authority emboldens and warrants me freely to canvass all matters on the administration of Government; and if the liberty of the Press be not denied me, as an Englishman I will claim the privilege, and undaunted by your frowns, your threats, or your inquisition, will boldly pass such strictures on your conduct as I conceive it merits. Your names, gentlemen, are well known; they are, I believe, respectable, and would give weight to your assertions, were they not contradicted by the most notorious and the most obstinate facts. Pardon me if in this address I should take the liberty to relate a few truths, truths which I well know will sound ungrateful in your ears.

Your ridiculous argument of holding up an union, cannot justify your allegations, for such an union does not exist. It would have afforded me signal pleasure to observe men of characters, dignified as yours are, enrolled as Committee men, and delegated by the rest, for the special purpose of communicating intelligence to your neighbours, disposed to exhibit a state of things founded on the strictest truth. But your letter to our Committee is replete with misrepresentation and deception, calculated rather to hoodwink the people of this Province, than to give them a just state of publick affairs; you present us with, a prison to peep through, to give a glare to every object we behold.

You tell us you have seen frequent publications from this City, containing false representations, and holding up ideas of dissensions among you, which you have the assurance to say do not exist.

How can you, in the face of the world, make this bold assertion? You must know that it is totally destitute of foundation; and I will venture to tell you that you must all have had better information!

No dissensions among you! Have not the loyal Friends in your and the adjacent Province published their dissent [January 24, 1775] from the mad independent Resolves of your Republican Congress, and all your illegal and unwarrantable combinations?

Is not this Society very numerous throughout your Province, and at least as respectable as any other?

Some of your Committee have idly pretended that this was the act of a very few, and disapproved of by the Society in general. This is a shameful reflection on the character of the gentleman who subscribed their protest on behalf of the whole Society.


This gentleman has too much honour to be guilty of so ungenerous an act, and fortunately for him his reputation is too well established, to be impaired by your feeble darts. I challenge you to find a man of more integrity throughout all your democracy. Are you not then ashamed to declare these dissensions are only encouraged by a few interested persons, who take a malignant pleasure in exciting discords?

Let me address myself to one of you who is a member of that honourable community, which he has most daringly and Impudently insulted by subscribing his name to that calumniating letter. Let me call upon, him to erase his name from amongst you as a small, atonement for the unpardonable insinuations he has thrown out against his brethren. He has publickly attacked them, and publickly charged them with taking a malignant pleasure in exciting discords and dissensions, and has dared to assert that this state is founded on the strictest truth; what a strange perversion!

You, gentlemen, have the confidence to declare, that your Committee have not found.the least difficulty in carrying into execution any one Resolution of the Continental Congress. If this be true, I have, I confess, been strangely deceived. Let us inquire into this matter. Do not the Congress bind themselves by the sacred ties of virtue, honour, and love of liberty that no advantage shall be taken of the non-importation, but that goods shall be sold as they have been for the last twelve months? Have not the dry-goods Merchants, without the least opposition, generally broke through this agreement, and is not your Committee apprized of it? Have they not made inquiry into the prices of various, articles, and did they not find the Merchants had advanced the prices on some goods twenty-five, on others fifty, seventy-five, nay! one hundred per cent˙, and did not the Committee acquiesce in this? These facts are too stubborn for you to controvert; the reasons were obvious; the Resolve was too tyrannical to be borne; it better suited the slaves of Russia than the freemen of America. As a Committee you knew this, and you knew you dare not attempt to enforce it; and as some on your Committee were in the dry-goods trade, it was your interest, and you thought it too your duty, to pass it over. How then can you declare, and palm your declaration on the publick as the strictest truth, that the Committee have met with no difficulty in carrying into execution anyone Resolution of the Congress? Do not the Congress bind themselves by the same sacred ties to encourage frugality and economy, and to discourage every species of dissipation and extravagance?

Are not the Assemblies continued in your City as usual, under your own immediate notice, and is not your interdum Secretary officious therein? Did your Committee find no difficulty in carrying into execution what you had foolishly resolved was the sense of the Congress respecting Sheep? Yes. You disgraced yourselves by your scandalous conduct; you invaded private property, and some of your tody committed daring robberies in the face of the day, and in the sight of the whole world. You forced people to carry their own goods on their, backs to the Jail of your City; you intimidated a helpless old woman for no other offence than innocently offering her goods for sale, and would have obliged her to take the same measures you had forced others to before, without law, without justice, reason, or mercy, had not a Magistrate, whose presence and commands struck terrour into your dastardly souls, rescued her and her property from your domineering threats. Here, too, I might touch on the article of Tea, and tell of the clemency and mercy of some of your monsters relative to importations of this baneful weed, but it is an affair of too nice delicacy, we will pot take up its ashes.

Yet you have declared your Committee have met with no difficulty in carrying into execution any one Resolution of the Continental Congress. I tell you this assertion is an imposition on the people of this Province. Perhaps you call this novel species of procedure rather a pleasure than a difficulty. I believe it; so fond are you of power, and so impatient of bearing rule, that at some rate or other you are determined on the possession of it; and while your rest secure in the idea of enforcing your mandates, by a lawless mob, you no doubt glory in the acquisition of your usurpation.

Some of you, though active in the most atrocious


violences, by artifice, would persuade the world that, these proceedings have not been done by the Committee as a body; but if individuals of you will repeatedly commit such extraordinary depredations on the property, of your countrymen, in defiance of all laws, why do ye not discharge them? Why do ye not publish your disapprobation of their proceedings? Why not demand an acknowledgment of their errours? Instead of this, you tacitly applaud them; appoint them to new offices; and while you thus tamely acquiesce, you are parties in the guilt, and deserve the severest reprehension.

You tell us the number of dissentients with you are very small. You are strangely deluded. If you had made the necessary inquiry, you would have found their numbers were great, and by far the most respectable of the community. They do not consist of the noisy, blustering and bellowing patriots, but the cool, deliberate, and thinking men, renowned for probity, integrity, and honour, unlike your Adams, Hancock, and your Lee.

The inhabitants of your Province have too much good sense to consider the least infraction of the proceedings of the Continental Congress as productive of their political ruin. The more sensible part are shocked at many of their Resolves; They consider a compliance with them as likely to overwhelm all America with destruction; they look upon them as setting up a total independence of the parent state, and consider the leaders of the present measures as leaders of a rebellion and faction, which portend the most miserable calamities.

The disputes between the State and its Members, at the meeting of the Congress, were easily adjusted. They had not arrived to such an alarming length as to throw us into a state of despair. Many able and prudent writers among us, as well as you, recommend the adoption of moderation and temper. Your Farmer, your versatile Farmer, was one of this number. He did not know on which side the balance would preponderate; he played the Vicar' s part; he was Jack on both sides; he waited the event of the farce; violence rose, victorious; he embraced her cause, and in derision of the reputation he had acquired by his former Letters, he parted with it to gain fresh laurels. But the doctrines he had advanced formerly, very much cramped his soaring genius. He could not form his new edifice with grandeur, without demolishing his old fabrick, and in his attempt to form a fresh wreath, His old one decayed, and his new was blasted. The fast friends to our constitutional liberties pointed out, and laboured hard for a firm and dutiful Petition, and a spirited, but decent Remonstrance, as the most probable means of establishing peace and harmony. They warmly recommended the drawing a rational line of Parliamentary jurisdiction and American alleagiance, on the principles of the British Constitution. How a conduct like this would in all human probability have terminated, I leave to your own candour, though you seem to be digested of the smallest share. We find, from every account, his most gracious Majesty (warmly attached to the interest of all his subjects, however remote) is ready to hear our prayers. Every friend to America in England urged us to moderation; and had their advice been regarded, the unnatural dispute ere this day, might have been brought to the most happy issue. The advocates for these wise and moderate measures daily meet with the grossest, insults and abuse from every paltry Republican pen, to whose inconsistent jargon your partial Presses: were ever free and easy of admission; and while the independent Incendiary, now known throughout America by the narne of the "lean mid grinning Cassius," found the most inviting access for his lucubrations, wisdom, prudence, and reason were excluded an audience. Your papers were kept under an undue influence, and filled with fabricated letters and paragraphs, culled from every fiery publication, to alarm and inflame. These are truths which can be solidly supported, and if you will revert to the papers of that period you will not deny. One of your Printers, of your true Republican cast, published the most vile and treasonable performance that was ever exhibited to the world, and this same Printer rejected a moderate and pertinent reply. Another of your weak and blustering Printers stands impeached for a forgery, and there is great reason to believe he continues in the same practice. This same Printer, as a reward for his exhibition of scandal, was by your society of pedagogues, made a


Committee-man, the more effectually to secure his press, the engine of rebellion and abuse; and there is nothing so dirty, nothing so base, but he will give it a conveyance. This was a grand stroke of policy, worthy of the Jesuitical Cassius. Your Committee have Since made a most flagrant attack upon the liberty of the press, to the eternal disgrace of your cause and your City, and but for their noble stand, and the virtuous intrepidity of one of your citizens, nothing in future could have appeared amongst you without a license from traitors and insurgents. But, fortunately for America, and to the lasting honour of a single man, you are stopped in your career, and stand as objects for the world to gaze and laugh at.

But though things have been carried to this elevated pitch, the sons of sedition have, with unabated ardour and unceasing zeal, circulated the most palpable falsehoods to mislead the unwary and unsuspicious; witness that bastard Act of Parliament, framed pro tempore by one of your Secretaries, so full of falsehoods that one would scarce have believed a fool could have been found that would credit it; yet sorry I am to say, it was greedily swallowed by the ignorant, for the factious, who are scattered, like the Jews, over every part of the earth, did not hesitate to declare it was authentick; and on a late excursion into the interiour parts of your Province, I found a difficulty to persuade many deluded Germans that it was totally false; they told me of a gentleman in an exalted station (whose name for the present I shall conceal, though one of your Committee) who had repeatedly assured them, that if they did not unite with the Congress, that very act would take place the ensuing summer. But notwithstanding these artful devices; notwithstanding the almost infinite pains taken by your party to stop the circulation of moderate publications, (appointing two patriotick shoemakers to wait on Mr˙ Avrey to deter him from selling pamphlets of a free complexion;) notwithstanding the pains taken by one of your Committee to prevent the circulation of Rivington' s Gazetteer; I can with great truth declare, that the eyes of the Pennsylvanians are opening very fast; they begin to see the independent designs of their demagogues; they see a Republick growing fast into form, and they begin to abhor your destructive manoeuvres. I can speak with great confidence, because I do not speak from the partial information of a few individuals, nor from the improbable accounts of interested Committees. My accounts are the result of various and mature information, confirmed by what I myself have seen in your City and Province. I have, with the most pleasing satisfaction, beheld an astonishing alteration in the opinions and in the conduct of the good people with you.

I know that the number of loyal subjects are increasing with a rapid progress; the Friends have nobly took the lead; they will, I hope, be followed by almost every class of people. Yet your gentlemen assert that a cheerful acquiescence, has been manifested by all orders and ranks of people. It would have been more manly to have joined Edes and Gill of Boston, in declaring their protest was published ten years ago; and as you have the presses under your own influence, it would be easy to forbid them to publish a contradiction; there would be no difficulty in this, though there will in making people believe a dissention does not exist with you.

Let the same patriot who threatened to pull down the doors of one of your Churches if the wardens would not suffer the bells to be rung on Colonel Putnam' s alarm; let this gentleman tell the printer, if he dare to contradict what you put in, his house shall be demolished; this would be showing the weight of an argument he deduced in his laboured harangue at a certain patriotick meeting, that it was absolutely necessary a very large Committee should be appointed; for who knows but we may have property to destroy." He omitted pointing out another advantage of having a large Committee, viz: extending the number of our worthy fellow-citizen John Holt' s subscriptions; for, I hear, with expanded hearts you have exerted your influence in his favour, (in consequence of his decline here,) and have procured him not less than fifty subscribers; so that we shall now have him like a new phoenix, arising on this fresh pile, with new life, strength, and vigour.

Suffer me now, gentlemen, to take my leave of you for the present. It was with reluctance I took up the pen;


and I shall lay it down with pleasure, after hoping that you will not take what I have said amiss. I only want these facts to wound in the sore places. I had the good of this Province too much at heart to let them be deluded by your publication. If I have inserted one thing which will not bear the strictest scrutiny, I will cheerfully recant it, and ask pardon for my offence; but I have, to the best of my knowledge, without aggravation, laid down the above for your perusal, and intend, when leisure permits, to inform you of as true a state of affairs in this Province as the above is of yours.