24, 27 November 1774596

    London Novr. 24th 1774

    My very dear friend

    Having wrote597 you many Letters, since my landing on this Island, as my Bosom friend, I now assume a new character, and address you as my political confidant.

    Ever since my arrival here, I have been an object of much more attention and respect than I had any right to claim. However these circumstances have not flattered my vanity, because I know that it was not my merits that procured this distinction.

    The first principle I laid down to regulate my conduct was to make no appearance in any noted Coffeehouses, and no very conspicuous figure in any public place. This contributed (especially after the daily papers noticed my arrival) to make me more enquired and sought after. The next rule I observed was, to wait upon no public Character, though ever so much sollicited, till the complements of a request to see me were first paid.

    Lord North was the first who desired my attendance. Mr. Commissioner Morris next requested my dining with Him; and Lord Dartmouth, as soon as he arrived in Town appointed an hour for my attending him. With neither of these Gentlemen had I less than 2 hours conversation.598

    I long to communicate the substance of these interviews, but I have not time to transcribe them from my Journal. Indeed I have not an hour’s time to myself: the friends of liberty and the friends of the ministry engross my whole time. I am in a delicate situation. I have a very difficult task. Each party make great professions of friendship, with what views or sincerity you may conjecture.

    Governor Pownall hath detained me several hours in conversation on American affairs, and is now writing on that subject.599

    Dr Franklin and Mr. Sheriff Lee600 with very many others appear my staunch friends. With these I spend, and shall spend, almost every day, considerable portions of time.

    Critical as my situation is, yet (save the concern I feel for my country) I have high pleasure. My health is good beyond example and my spirits are truely American.

    In all companies I have endeavoured to give a true state of the affairs of the Continent, and the genuine sentiments of its inhabitants. I find many things I advance are said to be novel, but I have openly and repeatedly declared (even to the Characters before mentioned) my willingness to meet and controvert face to face with any who dispute the justice of my opinions or the truth of what I relate. Whether it be a good or ill omen, my friends may judge, but certain it is, that all (even the highest with whom I have conversed) declare they have no doubt, but that my coming over will be of great service to both Countries. To a great officer of state who conveyed this sentiment, my reply was: “there is a certain influence which will counteract all I can possibly do.” I was understood not to mean a British influence, and the reply was “perhaps not.”

    America hath none to fear so much as her own children. Some of these are inveterate and persevering beyond example or conception.

    Seeing I have not time to give you a regular detail of all I have heard and seen, you will probably enquire, what is the substance of what you collect? What is your own private opinion? To gratify my friends on these heads was the cause of my snatching this hasty moment and transmitting my opinion.

    The minds of people are strangely altered in this island. The many are now as prone to justify and applaud the Americans, as but a little while ago, they were ready to condemn and punish. I have conversed with almost all ranks of people for this fifteen days past; and having been in very large circles of the sensible part of the Community during that time, my opportunity for information was the more fortunate.

    I came among a people, I was told, that breathed nothing but punishment and destruction against Boston and all America. I found a people who revere, love and most heartily wish well to Us. Nor is it strange, that it should be so. For abstracted from the pleasure that a good mind takes in seeing truth and justice prevail, it is the interest—the highest private interest of this whole nation to be our fast friends. And strange as it may seem, when you consider the conduct of the nation as represented in parliament, the people know it. Hence the following language hath been reiterated to me in various companies, and re-ecchoed with approbation and warmth.

    “This nation is lost. Corruption and the influence of the Crown hath led Us into bondage, and a Standing Army hath rivetted our chains. To America only we look for our salvation. Tis there, and there only, that true virtue and genuine spirit is to be found. America can alone effect the removal of our oppressors; America alone is the place to which we must fly. Here we have no public virtue, but what is divided and destroyed by party. All opposition to Administration hath failed from this cause. Division among the friends of liberty is a curse of the Land. We do, and we must look toward America with infinite anxiety. ‘Tis America only can save England! We are afraid of nothing but your division, and your want of perseverance. Unite and persevere [and] you must prevail, you must triumph.”

    This and similar language hath been held to me with a zeal that bespoke it came from the heart, with a frequency, that proved such sentiments dwelt upon the mind. I could name you the first characters for understanding, integrity and spirit who have held this language. But it would be indiscreet to name those, who might perhaps be discovered through the indiscretion of American friends, or the prying villainy of public conspirators. Bowdoin, Winthrop, Chauncey, Cooper, Warren &c can recollect who they introduced me to, and thence conjecture of those few, whose British hearts are thus in America.

    Vast is the distress here,601 lest the Congress should petition or remonstrate. In the acts of negotiation your adversaries are infinitely your superiors. If that mode of proceedure is adopted by the Congress, many, very many friends, will sink. They will desert your cause, from despondency. At present (as I am assured, and as I verily believe), could the voices of this nation be collected by any fair method, twenty to one would be in favor of the Americans. You wonder and say, then, whence is it, that they do not exert themselves? One American phrase will give you the true reason. The people are cowed by oppression. ‘Tis amazing, tis incredible how much this is the case. Corruption, baseness, fraud, exorbitant oppression never so abounded as in this Island. As will you believe me, when I say, that Englishmen, that boasted race of freemen, are now sunk, are sunk in infamous submission.

    From parliament, therefore, expect no favor but what proceeds from fear. From the people here expect no aid. ‘Tis yourselves, ‘tis yourselves, must save you. And you are equal to the task. Your friends know this, and your very enemies acknowledge it. But they believe you are as corrupt and as corruptible, as themselves; and as destitute of union, spirit and perseverance as the friends of freedom in this country.

    For your country’s sake! depend not upon Commercial plans for your safety. The manufacturers begin to feel, they know, they acknowledge, they must feel severely, and if you persevere, they must be ruined. But what are these men, what are the body of this people? The servants of their masters. How easy [is] it for the ministry to frown or flatter them into silence? How easy to take the spoils of the nation and for a season fill the mouths of the clamorous? Tis true your persevrance will occasion in time, that hunger, which will break through stone-walls. But how difficult is it, how impracticable is it for mere commercial virtue (if indeed it have any existence) to persevere. I repeat, therefore, depend not upon this scheme for your deliverance. I do not say renounce it, I say continue it, but look towards it, in vast subordination to those noble, generous and glorious exertions which alone can save you.

    Before I came among this people, the friends of Liberty desponded, because they believed the Americans would give up. They saw the irretrievable ruin of the whole cause lost in that fatal yielding. I feel no despondency myself. I am sanguine my country must prevail. I feel the ardour of an American. I have lighted up the countenances of many. I am speaking conviction every day to more. In short I am infected with an Enthusiasm which I know to be contagious. Whether I have caught or spread the infection here, is no matter needfull determine.

    [November 27th]

    Since writing the above I have spent three hours in private conversation with Governor Pownall. He confirmed [to] me, that the People of Boston are not mistaken in the man who they have most reason to curse of all others. I have his very words down in my journal, but they are too many here to transcribe.

    Tomorrow I am to see Lord Chatham.602 In the afternoon I am to dine with Lady Huntingdon. On Tuesday I am to go to the House of Lords at the opening of Parliament, and on the same day shall converse with Lord George Saville.603 My whole time is dedicated to the Common cause; my heart and soul are engaged in it.

    Be carefull of what parts of this Letter you publish: without absolute necessity don’t publish any. I shall be known here upon its coming over. That knowledge will destroy my future means of information, and do a great injury to my usefullness.

    Dr. Franklin and others complain much of their Letters being made publick; ‘tis fear of that prevents him and many more writing to you.

    Dr. Franklin is an American in heart and soul. You may trust him. His Ideas are not contracted within the narrow limits of exemption from taxes, but are extended upon the broad scale of total emancipation. He is explicit and bold upon the subject and his hopes are as sanguine as my own of the triumph of Liberty in America.

    It would entertain you if I could spare time to relate all that is said of me and my designs. But I have no leisure for amusements of this kind.

    Not a line yet from America. Judge of my impatience to hear of your wellfare. Collect all the intelligence possible, and transmit accounts by every conveyance.

    This is my 6th Letter. My last went inclosed to Mr. Mason. This I shall convey to Mr. Benjamin Clarke, but without any signature. Don’t forget to pay the postage to him.

    I have not time to correct or peruse this Letter.

    Adieu! the support and blessing of Heaven be with you and your assured friend,

    Henry Ireton604

    PS You are desired to let no part of this Letter be printed, but what Mr. Phillips605 should advise to.

    You may communicate a sight of it to all candid friends. And if it should fortunately happen, that a whole circle should be present, desire them to let one of the Company set down and in their presence give me their joint sentiments and council.

    I yesterday heard two eminent bankers and three very wealthy merchants say, that as soon as America shall free herself from the tyranny of this Country they would take their all and remove to New England. And they affirmed, that they knew many more resolved to do the same.

    Post PS. In the last ships sailed for Pennsylvania, under the Auspices of the Great Dr. Franklin, two very wealthy farmers (from the County of Norfolk) with their families to settle. If these should succeed hundreds will follow from that fertile county, which contains the best husbandsmen on the Island.