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Address to the People of Halifax County, in Virginia



October 20, 1774.

MY COUNTRYMEN: At a time when Ministerial power is exerting all its art, conjoined with threatened force, to deprive the Americans of their natural rights and liberties, and at a time when every true-born son of freedom, who has ever been sensible of the heartfelt satisfaction arising from its enjoyment, ought to unite cheerfully with the majority of the people of the community, of which he must consider himself a member, in all such measures as have been, or may be adopted by those gentlemen, chosen by the suffrages of the people, to guard against and defeat the alarming attack made on our liberty by the hand of arbitrary and unjust power; I say, when this at least may be expected of every individual amongst us, at this alarming conjuncture of affairs, as a duty naturally incumbent on him, how is my soul shocked to find a man, not long since of good fame, of property, and holding an office of some importance to the publick good, striving, with all possible fallacy, to disaffect you, my unsuspecting countrymen, against the noble and patriotick Resolves of the late Convention, entered into by our worthy Deputies, with all that reason and prudence which could possibly have governed men in their situation; the adherence to which, strictly, can alone (in the opinion of those whose known experience of the Constitution ought to give weight to their councils) bring us that relief which the people so ardently pray for, by obtaining a repeal of the oppressive and odious "Boston Port Act," so much the subject of consideration, and so much the important object of our present inquietude; a law, in short, my dear countrymen, which strikes at once at the root of our so long boasted liberties, and which, if submitted to, subjects us to the most abject state of slavery. Distracting idea! and sufficient to rouse the attention of the most careless of liberty! And lives there a man amongst us who dare call himself a free man, and yet so destitute of those exquisite feelings, natural to liberty, as to advise you to recede from the Articles of Association, so solemnly entered into as aforesaid, calculated for your happiness, and thereby yield yourselves up to those chains which tyranny and art have been so long preparing for you? Ignoble attempt! and worthy only of that unfortunate wretch who would prefer slavery to freedom, or, if not preferring it, whose dastardly soul would shrink into nothing at the bare idea of defending, with his life and fortune, that liberty which is his birthright, and which nothing but the hand of arbitrary power can tear from him. And if the preservation of all that is dear to you, my countrymen, your civil rights, liberties, and property, depend on your strict attention to the Articles of Association, how greatly are you, and the cause of liberty, indebted to Thomas Yu—e, of your County, for the part he has acted towards the completion of this liberal plan? Vain, deluded man, who could think himself, and a few misguided adherents, of importance sufficient to disjoin that well connected plan of self-preservation, entered into by the wisest and best of men, and whose distinguished abilities, displayed on many important occasions, would do honour to the greatest Senate on earth.

But, to address myself more particularly to you, Mr˙ Yu—e, and for a moment to flatter those machiavelian talents you are known to possess in so great a degree, suppose, by creating a division of the people, (which you seem so clearly aiming at,) you could thereby blast that noble plan of unanimity, so essentially necessary at this time in baffling the attempts of Ministerial tyranny to


reduce us to slavery, and by which means you could be so happy as to find yourself the noble instrument of placing into the hands of the Ministry the only possible means of success, in their cruel and unwarrantable schemes against the now unhappy, but ever brave and loyal Americans; supposing, I repeat, you could thus see your favourite scheme crowned with the wished for success, what great reward could you promise yourself? Riches and honour? No, mistaken man, riches possibly might be the reward of so heroick an action, but honour would have no connection with such a dishonourable an action; and the humane part of mankind would shun you as the wretch who had been capable, from the blackest motives, of sacrificing a brave people to slavery and ruin, and to whom he stood in debt for his daily bread. Remorse must harrow up your soul, and as your crime would be equally as atrocious, so, like the murderer Cain, you would have cause to curse the day you was born. But to quit this horrid picture. You are, sir, and have been for many years, settled amongst us, and for many reasons, although a native of Scotland, you ought to consider yourself as one of us. You have taken a lady to wife, a native of the country, by whom you have several children, who owe their birth to this country, and whom you, no doubt, as you have possessions here, intend settling amongst us. Then, sir, (not to say any thing farther of your being indebted to this country for the fortune you now enjoy,) are you not obligated, by the strongest ties of nature, blood, and gratitude, to defend, with your life and fortune, your now adopted country and your posterity, from the sword of tyranny? And, in so acting, you shew yourself possessed of that gratitude, that private affection for the rights of a country, by whose laws your life and property are protected, and which, above all things, would strongly recommend you to the admiration and friendship of mankind.

This is but a faint drawing of the misery that would certainly follow the one case, or the happiness which would as certainly attend the other. Though faint as the delineation may be, common sense, I think, would not hesitate in her choice; and it is now submitted to you, sir, which side to cherish. To conclude, as to you, sir, let me advise you, as a well-wisher to mankind, to desist immediately in the ungenerous schemes practised on the unwary and unsuspecting people, to persuade, or scare them them rather, out of that duty which they owe their country, and which their country at this distracted conjuncture stands so much in need of; or, otherwise, dread that resentment natural to a free but deluded people, who will discover, to your disgrace, that you have been officially active in seducing them from that love for their country which they had so long cherished, and which, as good ministers of the community, they would have brought into action, if they had not been prevented by your specious art. Permit me to ask upon what principles you purpose justifying your strange, presumptuous, and rash conduct? Upon those of self-interest? Sordid man! who had rather see all America involved in a general conflagration, than that he should lose the benefit resulting from his darling cent˙ per cent. For shame! such a wretch ought to howl out his days in a desert, excluded from all social intercourse with man, as totally unworthy of their society. There is a maxim, however, that I will remind you of, and if you are not totally absorbed in the idea of your own importance, perhaps reflection on your past conduct may induce an attention to it in future, "That private interest ought to yield to publick good." The times never more required such a sacrifice.

And now, my dear countrymen, permit me to conclude with a few more observations to you, and as they are dictated by an unaffected zeal for my country' s good, and that ardent desire (which ought to fire the breast of every American) of seeing unanimity prevail not only through this country, but that it may spread its benign influence to every freeborn son of liberty, I hope, therefore, they may merit your serious attention.

You can no longer doubt, I trust, my countrymen, that our civil rights are now invaded by the hostile attack made on them, through the channel of the arbitrary law before alluded to, as by that law not only the right of taxing us when and as they pleased, but the right also of disposing of our private property, is assumed by the British


Parliament; and to compel a slavish obedience to those laws, an armed power is sent over; the Town of Boston blocked up, and thousands of its inhabitants thereby deprived of that free trade on which they were immediately dependent. To descant fully on the arbitrary attempts to enslave us, by wicked and designing men in Great Britain, would be going out of the purpose of this address to you; indeed, so much has been said on this subject by abler men by far than myself, that I trust there is not a man so totally unacquainted with the principles of our Constitution as to hesitate now in pronouncing the measures planned by the Ministry against America to be the roost arbitrary, unconstitutional, and subversive of our common rights and liberties that the most despotick power on earth could have concerted against a brave, free, and loyal people.

Being thus unhappily situated, can your patriotick friend now stand out in telling you that it is unwarrantable and repugnant to your common interests to break off all connection, in the commercial way, with Great Britain, until such time as the Parliament at home can be brought to a sense of the important injury done America, and as an act of justice due to an injured people, who have been misrepresented to our gracious Sovereign, by designing Ministers, repeal those laws which occasion the unhappy breach between Great Britain and her Colonies, and thereby restore that harmony which once subsisted between them, and which every loyal subject to the King of Great Britain so ardently prays to see take place?

Your strict attention to the political duties of every member of the community will, I am persuaded, enable you to guard yourselves against such flimsy and cobweb doctrines; and that you may not mistake the political duties just mentioned, you will direct your attention to the following lines, which, I trust, will not be thought unworthy of your consideration:

"A society, constituted by common reason, and formed on the plan of common interest, becomes immediately an object of publick attention, veneration, obedience, and inviolable attachment, which ought neither to be seduced by bribes, or awed by threats; an object, in fine, of all those extensive and important duties which arise from so glorious a confederacy; to watch over such a Constitution; to contribute all he can to promote its good, by his reason, his ingenuity, his strength, and every other ability, whether natural or acquired; to resist, and, to the utmost of his power, defeat every encroachment upon it, whether carried on by secret corruption, or open violence, and to sacrifice his ease, his wealth, his power, — nay life itself, in the defence of his country, is the duty, the honour, the interest, and the happiness of every member of it, as it undoubtedly will make him venerable and beloved while he lives, lamented and honoured if he falls in so glorious a cause, and transmit his name, with immortal fame, to the latest posterity."

This is, my countryman, a true sketch of the duty we owe our country, as worthy members of it. He who would attempt to persuade you from it is your professed enemy; and as such you ought to shun and despise him.

You are now put to the grand trial, to acquit yourselves in which, with honour, requires you to call to your aid all your prudence, firmness, and perseverance; for let me remind you once more, that on the event depends this important and truly alarming question, whether we are to be freemen or slaves? But remember that, whether you are the one or the other, ultimately depends altogether, in my humble conception, on the part you act with regard to the Association before spoken of; a steady attention to which will in time, we trust, awaken the attention of the trading people in Great Britain, whose united interest might, more than probable, obtain a repeal of those Acts of Parliament which have irresistibly drove us to the lengths we have now taken for our common preservation. On the contrary, should you, by too niggardly attention to your own immediate private good, violate any of the Articles of Association, and thereby destroy the purpose they were calculated to answer, you at once give the Minister of Great Britain an opportunity of humbling you at his feet, to use his own words, and convinces the world you are unworthy of that freedom which we are at present struggling to preserve.


These are, my countrymen, the sentiments of a man who is sincerely devoted to his country' s cause, and such as he dares avow, at the expense of his life, should his country be so unhappy as to call for it, which may Heaven avert! In perusing of which, should any grammatical errour present itself, kindly pass it over, as it is the substance, and not the form, which he has been labouring to recommend; and believe him when he tells you that he long since expected to find some abler pen than his exercised in this cause, as the object of this address to you (which he has shortened as much as the subject would possibly admit of) ought to be held up to publick view, as an example which others ought carefully to shun.