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Letter from the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety to the Committees of Inspection and Observation



In Committee, of Safety, Philadelphia, May 22, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: We are under frequent necessity of addressing you upon subjects of publick concern, of which the present is not the most important. It is upon occasion of the uneasiness and dissatisfaction that we are told have prevailed in some parts of the country on account of the high prices to which many of the imported articles of merchandise, and some necessaries of life, have advanced. But before we proceed further, it is proper to declare our opinion that the scarcity productive of these high prices is not an artificial but a real one, proceeding from the late absolute prohibitions of one important branch of our trade, and the risk and danger which have attended every other. From whatever source a general discontent arises, it cannot fail, in this critical season of our affairs, to have the worst consequences; but in our capacity as guardians, in some measure, of the publick welfare, it would give us infinite satisfaction if the evil in question, which will be removed with better times, could be referred to its true cause — the peculiar situation in which this country is placed, rather than to a general inclination in individual traders to rapaciousness and extortion. If even it should be supposed that avarice has no small share in producing this complaint, this, although highly blameable, should be patiently submitted to; for at what time, or in what country, have there not been some sordid minds, ready to prey upon the publick necessities? Such disposition to extortion may, indeed, be but too common; we find it prevails where at least one of the motives to it mentioned above cannot be pretended: we have seen one of the articles of our own produce — flax, lately raised in price to twice its former value. We know not where a remedy can be applied, for a knowledge of human nature should teach us that so inordinate and crafty a vice as avarice has ways to elude all the force and restraints of authority; and truly, in such cases, the interposition of power would some times produce more mischievous consequences than the evil it affected to cure.

We lament as the greatest misfortune any cause that has a tendency to sow discord among us, and promote dissension, at a time when nothing short of the closest union can save us from destruction; we lament that clamours should


be excited where they cannot but be unavailable; we would rather our countrymen should consider whether the real, although temporary, inconvenience they now feel may not, by care and industry, be converted into as real and permanent benefits; it may, if rightly improved, teach us the arts of supplying our own wants by our own hands. Had it not been for the excessive dearness of foreign linens, probably we should not have the present prospect of relief in that article which the abundant quantities of flaxseed lately sown afford us. Happily, there are few wants which this country cannot of itself supply; if we look about us, every farm can afford some substitute for almost every necessary article that is now imported; these need not be pointed out, being well known.

These are the sentiments which alone can produce a cheerful acquiescence under the present circumstances of our affairs, and a determined spirit of exertion to resist the efforts of tyranny; such sentiments we expect will be inculcated by all men of understanding and influence in their respective neighbourhoods; and such, we make no doubt, from your publick duty, as well as from your patriotism and well-known attachment to the common cause, you will lose no opportunity whatever to exercise.

We are, gentlemen, your very humble servants.

By order of the Committee: