7 December 1774623

    London 7 December 1774

    My very dear friend

    There never was a time in which I wished more “to speak without a tongue” and “to be heard without ears:”—“then”, as Shakespeare expresses it, “in despight of broad-eyed watchful day, I would into thy bosom pour my thoughts.”624

    This kingdom never saw a time in which the minds of all ranks were more upon the wreck625 with expectation. And when I tell you, that yesterday in the Coffee Room adjoining the House of Commons, one of the ministerial members offered to lay a wager of 75 Guineas to 25 that Boston was now in ashes, you, will not think my own bosom free from anxiety. ‘Tis now more than two months since any advices have been received from America of the state of things in your province. The subalterns of the ministry give out that the most peremptory orders went to General Gage last October to proceed to extremities with vigour. They therefore, vapor with much vaunting upon the expectation of hearing in a few days you are all subdued and in deep humiliation. Should the reverse of this this prove true (as God grant it may!) you[r] enemies will sink—and sink—forever.

    Let me here tell you a great truth. The people of this country have too generally got an idea, that Americans are all cowards and poltroons. This sentiment is propagated and diffused with great industry and success. Now, it is agreed on all hands, that your courage; your courage, I repeat it, will be brought to the test. Should it prove answerable to your ostentations—worthy your Ancestors—your friends will amazingly increase, your hearty friends will be in raptures, and your very enemies will embrace you. I could easily explain to you, the reason of all this, but I must leave you to consider of that yourself. Read the paragraph again, and make your own reflections.

    Will you believe me, when I tell you, that your letting a certain character escape from your justice is imputed to you on all hands as a fault? Your enemies impute it to your cowardice, your friends to your want of political sagacity. Certain it is, that from one man; from one man I say, (and he neither a Bute, a Mansfield, a North or a Bernard) are all your miseries supposed to flow.626 This supposition is not made by those alone who are sanguine in your Common Cause. It is the General Sentiment of all parties; and were627 I to show you my journal, in which I enter the sentiments and expressions of those with whom from time to time I converse you would find (unexpected) characters intimating speaking out the same ideas. “Tis his Advice that dictated the steps of Administration, and ‘tis his present opinion and assurances that keep up the spirits and measures of the ministry” were the very words uttered to me not 20 minutes ago by a Gentleman in office in the Customs.628

    I should take a satisfaction in naming to you those who are my informants; but a fear lest your indiscretion in publishing what I write, should discover the author of your intelligence denies one that indulgence. Remember in whatever you publish; to beware you do not print something that may betray the writer. Not that I am conscious of any wrong, but I am here surrounded with great villains who have will and power to injure, but want a pretext.

    Apropos, this leads me to speak of your friend Quincy who lately arrived in this City. In the House of Lords last week when the Address to the King was in debate, Lord Hillsborough said that there were then men walking the streets of London who ought to be in Newgate or at Tyburn. Upon which the Duke of Richmond rose, and said, that he was surprised, that that Gentleman should cast such a heavy reflection on his Majesty’s ministers, by suggesting a matter which, if true, they were guilty of gross neglect of Duty; and called upon his Lordship for an explanation of who and what he meant. Upon which Lord Hillsborough rose, and pointed out, though not in words, yet so as every body knew who he meant Dr. Franklin and Mr. Quincy: the latter gentleman he mentioned as author of a late publication called “Observations on the Boston Port Bill and Standing Armies.”629

    The Character of your Mr. Samuel Adams runs very high here. I find many who consider him the first politician in the World. I have found more reason every day to convince me that he has been right, when others supposed him wrong. But why should we spend time in looking back. Look forward.630 God grant you penetration that you may all see the great duties which lay before.631 May you have fortitude to suffer—courage to encounter—and activity and perseverance to press forward.

    Prepare, prepare I say, for the worst. I fear your delays have been your ruin. I know that your energies may already or in future, bring upon you many and great calamities; but I am from my own observation and the judgment of very many others, most sure that your forbearance, your delays, your indecision—in short, what your enemies call your arrant cowardice hath or will bring upon you many more and greater evils. These are important truths. Weigh—commune—consider and act as becomes your former professions and your highest duty.

    You see my heart gets the better of my head. My feelings rise paramount to [my] discretion. Thus it will always be with those who are warm in the Cause of their country. Their zeal banishes caution. You see, however, I still retain some discretion: but even that, I had rather lose, than be “unpregnant of my causes or lack gall to make oppression bitter.”632

    GOD knows whether this Letter will ever reach you. Was I sure it would I should write a volume.

    I have lately wrote largely to you on political matters. Tell me what my enemies write of me from this side the water: write me what my friends think of me on your side the ocean.

    My whole time is taken up in my duty. I never was more busy, I never was more talkative. I wrote you fully relative to my health in former letters. I have as yet had no symptoms of taking cold since I have been in London; but incessant application—incessant talking with several members of Parliament and others this four days past hath brought on a little fever and some spitting of blood. But otherwise I was never better in my life; certainly I never was in better spirits.

    Don’t be concerned about this circumstance. I would not have mentioned it, but in fidelity to one, from whom I cannot conceal anything which concerns my wellfare.

    I am urged by Dr F. to go down with him and spend Christmas with the Bishop of St. Asaph: I have not yet given my answer. On Friday I expect to see Lord Shelburne, and have very lately conversed several hours with Sir George Saville.

    By the way, you must know, that many of your friends here in both houses will not take a decisive part, till they see how you act in America. For should they take a determined part now in favor of that country, and in a short time America should give back, their hopes of rise into power and office (which is the hopes of all British Statesmen) would be forever at an end. Therefore, till the Colonists discover that union and spirit, which all parties here agree must force success, you are not to expect any great exertions in your favor. But when once there is a conviction that the Americans are in earnest; that they are resolved to endure all hazard with a spirit worthy the prize for which they contend, then (and not till then) will you have many firm, active, persevering, and powerfull friends in both houses of Parliament. For let me again tell you, that strange as it may seem, there is a great doubt here, among many, whether you are really in earnest in the full force and extent of those words.

    I am called out. Peace be with you. Salute my friends—embrace—633 and remember in antient love

    Your most affectionate and fast friend

    Henry Ireton