11 February 1771129

    To the Publishers of the BOSTON EVENING-POST.

    No despotic government can ever subsist without that support of the instrument of tyranny and oppression, a STANDING ARMY. For all illegal power must be supported by the SAME MEANS by which it was at first acquired.


    AS the month of March is so nigh at hand, I have wondered to hear so little discourse, relative to a decent, manly and instructive commemoration of the melancholy tragedy of the last year.

    I think it will be agreed on all sides, that the fatal effects of standing armies and quartering troops in populous cities, are apparent from the various transactions, which took place, while the soldiery were stationed in this town; and more especially from the mournful catastrophe of last March. However we may differ in opinion concerning the real state of facts, as they existed between the agents on the unhappy evening, yet surely none will deny, that such consequences were easily deducible, for such effects naturally flowed, from such causes.

    A strict research into remote antiquity will teach the ends of making the military a distinct body in the state; and even a cursory retrospection on the conduct of our ancestors will show their wisdom, jealousy, fore-cast, nay spirit of prophecy, touching this important manoeuvre of state-cunning.*—Equally instructive also will be an attention to the state of former nations, on the establishment and use of disciplined armies:—nor of less import is it to recollect and remember British history, as to this formidable engine of tyranny.

    How happily might these, and other similar ideas be awakened at the approaching anniversary of the fifth of March. To call to mind the deeds of our fathers, and at stated periods to review the complicated machinery of government, is certainly a very profitable and interesting duty. It serves, among other valuable purposes, to call forth our notice of matters, which would otherwise escape our observation; to imprint on the mind of the rising youth (the hopes of their country) those truths which serve as governing directories of future life; it gives a check to that incroaching and aspiring lust of domination, which, more or less, actuates the great and powerful in every community.—If these were all the good ends such an annual commemoration would answer, it ought not to be omitted; but the one half has not been told: those who are acquainted with the affections and movements of the human heart will supply the residue.

    I therefore propose it to the understanding and discreet, as well as the zealous, friends of liberty and mankind, that a regular plan be formed for an annual & solemn remembrance of the 5th of March.

    I would speak my own mind on this occasion with freedom, tho’ with becoming diffidence. And I own, that in my present view of the matter, it seems to be expedient to exclude, the reverend and worthy gentlemen of the Clergy from being concerned in any part of the exercises of the day. This proposed exclusion does not arise from any aversion to that useful order of men, or from any doubt of their learning, integrity or fortitude. But I conceive that this celebration ought to be considered and conducted solely with a reference to civil society and domestick policy. And it is in general, perhaps, of little advantage to true religion, or good government, that the clergy should interfere in matters purely temporal, and wholly affecting social compacts and political oeconomy.

    It may therefore be proper to chuse two persons to deliver (one in the forenoon and the other in the afternoon) a dissertation on—THE POLICY OF STANDING ARMIES; AND THE NATURAL TENDENCY OF QUARTERING REGULAR TROOPS IN POPULOUS CITIES IN TIME OF PEACE.—This choice should be at such a convenient time as to give the speaker opportunity to mature his thoughts, digest his arguments and form his diction. By this means, it is likely the performance will be devoid of crude sentiments and inelegant language; and if the audience are not instructed with a sensible, judicious and useful disquisition on so important subjects, yet their time will not be wholly misemployed in giving countenance to those efforts of genius, which may throw some new ray of light upon those sciences, the knowledge of which can never be too generally diffused, or too universally inculcated.—But might we indulge the pleasing hopes, that on these occasions some rising worthy, some genius yet unborn, will pervade the mazy system and perplexed labyrinth of fraud and usurpation;—that will rescue one right from the jaws of power, and restore one liberty to oppressed mankind;—how would the flattering thought inspire our hearts—how would grateful millions bless the institution!

    Many benefits resulting from this plan, I decline pointing out; of some plausible objections I am aware, but do not think myself obliged, at present, to obviate them. I have offered my sentiments in a manner becoming a good citizen:—they claim, I trust, some small attention. What is proposed with decency is intitled to candid treatment; but ill-placed ridicule, illiberal and censorious dogmatism, never promoted the cause of GOD or man.


    *Cunning, says Lord Bacon, is a sort of left-handed wisdom.