17 December 1774659

    London Decr. 17th 1774

    Respected and Dear Sir

    Your favor of the 4th of November came to hand this moment; and to show my sense of the obligation without any delay, I transmit an answer with thanks. The importance of a great cause and the rising events of every day demand a mutual and unremitting intercourse of intelligence[,] sentiments and councils among the friends of America and mankind. Believe me, Sir, there is a very culpable negligence in this regard on both sides [of] the water, and I know of no excuse but what betrays a want of zeal and timidity unworthy of men engaged in so glorious a contest. “Unpregnant of our cause, we are pigeon-livered”, but I hope that neither you or I shall ever “lack gall to make oppression bitter.”660

    The information you give relative to the New York Deputies was the least we expected. The ministry (it is confidently said and universally believed) had been lavish of monies in that quarter to foment discord. Nay, their setters and tools have made great amounts of unexampled success with the great men of that city. Our Coffee houses were lately filled with scoffs at American virtue, and they boasted of success in creating a fatal disunion in our great Sanhedrim with a confidence that gained much credit. Did you know the chagrin that took place on the arrival of the result of the Congress, it would gratify your keenest sensations. Be assured that august body have done a lasting service to their country, and that they are paid the well-earned tribute of honour and applause even by their rankest enemies. They are considered as a constellation of the first worthies of our Hemisphere: their influence is not confined to the circle of an American world, but they burn with a splendor that illuminates and warms the Continent of Europe. GOD grant that many such glorious luminaries may shine in everlasting the honour and blessing of mankind.

    Did the inhabitants of New York, and especially their delegates know of what easy virtue they have been represented in this city, they would begun patriots from indignation, if not from virtue. What greater blast could be thrown on the reputation than to suggest that a little gold had made Americans sacrifice their country to the worst men in the worst of times? But when you hear this suggestion extended to the elevated character of men appointed guardians of the people—Good GOD how hatefull the idea!

    Did our worthy Bretheren of New York know all that is daily said of them in this great world, and the confidence with which the tale is told, they would be singularly touched; they would be carefull to have all party-spirit cease, and let their conduct give the lie to their defamers. Sure I am, that the ministry have no where such sanguine hopes of a defection as from that quarter: their influence is no where so forcibly extended, and it is certain they will be astonishingly disappointed if they do not find a sensibility to their touch. Our Bretheren of New York have an opportunity to display more virtue and do more real service to the great cause of liberty and their country, than perhaps any Americans on that side [of] New England. But New England, I take it, is the great field for the first and most heroic virtues. Should Administration be disappointed in exciting discord and defection in New York, they will sink with shame and despondency.

    There was last Friday a little play in the house upon American subjects. I attended to see the actors and was confirmed in nothing more, than that English players are not representatives of American heroes. However this might be only the rehearsal, and at the exhibition soon after the holidays, the actors may display their talents to more advantage. But brilliant as imagination can figure the splendid actors on this August theatre, I shall not substantially alter my opinion of the heroes of the Drama.661

    The ministry had never so difficult a task before: they are plunged. The emotions of chagrin and resentment most conspicuously mark their countenance and conduct. The nation are viewing the present crisis with equal anxiety as the Americans. All Europe have their eyes fixed on the important conflict. How elevated, then, must be the feelings of an American who sees his countrymen distinguish themselves as wise and virtuous, calm and brave, rising in the estimation of all mankind as the illustrious remnant of the Sons of freedom?

    You see, my worthy friend, that the glitter of a Court hath not yet fascinated me, with its splendor, nor the corruption of Britain, made me an apostate from the cause of my country. That pageantry which I see here makes me every day more attached to the simplicity of my native soil; and while I hourly survery the extended miseries of enormous wealth and power I swell with a more enthusiastic fervor in the cause of freedom and my country. And in what cause ought the pulse of man to beat with a more full and genial current? If intemperance is at any time a venial fault, it must be when mighty oppressors, shielded with the forms of law and defend[e]d by the arm of power, spread misery over a happy land, with wantoness and insult.662

    But I desist from the contemplation of this hatefull subject, lest the contagion of intemperance prove infectious to my friend.

    Lord North on Friday last had hard work to apologize for and explain away his vapouring expression “I will have America at my feet.663

    Lord Cambden in the house of Lords on the day before said—“were I an American I would resist to the last drop of my blood.”664

    Let me tell you a great truth which ought at this, and every future day, to have much weight and influence in America. Few men are more ill disposed towards the Continent than those who are under the greatest obligations to it: thus the commercial world like the political world gives us striking instances of favorites of America, who have become among the most sanguine conspirators against her public happiness. Nay some who ought to have America inscribed in their furniture and equipage, and gratitude towards that country written on their hearts, have uttered the bitterest things against it with licensed freedom and insidious industry. ‘Tis true they are now about calling a meeting to petition Parliament in favour of the Colonies. But is an idiot at a loss to discern the motive?

    The manufacturers also are on the move. If Americans continue to firm themselves they will not only have the honour and reward of emancipating themselves; but even a whole kingdom roused by their example, brought to feel by American oeconomy, and fired by a thousand wrongs may, peradventure, be brought once more to think a little of those great subjects: national justice, freedom and happiness. But by no means entertain an idea that commercial plans formed on commercial principles are to be engines of your freedom or the security of your felicity. Far different are the weapons with which oppression is repelled; far more noble the sentiments and actions which secure liberty and happiness to man.

    The Friends of America in the house of Commons are now consulting a plan for carrying a suspension of all acts, made since 1764 relative to America, for three years: in which time, it is said, both sides may cool, and they may then think seriously of negotiation and compromise. I think it was Hannibal who said “We treat with arms in our hands.665 Now whether the weapons of our warfare be commercial or carnal, methinks we should not suddenly lay them down, lest we not only lose use of them, but become so broken for want of daily discipline, as that we shall not easily embody again in so united and formidable a band. Besides the arts of negotiation are much better understood in Europe than America. And great statesmen sometimes pretend to negotiate, while they only mean to corrupt. And the oeconomy or religion of British ministers will not restrain them from an essay upon those Colony virtues, which should they prove of easy impression might hazard mighty blessings.

    Let Our countrymen, therefore, well consider how much a British ministry, as well as themselves have at stake. No arms, no acts, no plots or conspiracies will be thought unlawful weapons: let them look all around them, and be on their guard at every point.

    The blessings of the wise and the prayers of the pious universally attend you, even throughout this nation. Will you believe it, Englishmen have become of that tame temper as avowedly to look to the virtue and spirit of a distant people for salvation. Like an aged parent, Britain looks to her children for support and defence. And were the voices of this people this day to be fairly collected, a vast majority would emancipate and bless All America to the extent of her warmest wishes.

    My dear Sir, before I close, I cannot forbear telling you, that I look to my country with the feelings of one, who verily believes they must yet seal their faith and constancy to their liberties with blood. This is a distresssing witness indeed! But hath not this ever been the lot of humanity?666 Hath not blood and treasure in all ages been the price of Civil Liberty? Can Americans hope a reversal of the laws or our nature, and that the best of blessings will be obtained and secured without the sharpest trials?

    Adieu my friend! My heart is with you, and whenever my countrymen shall command my person shall be also.

    Tell your worthy friend Mr Dickenson I flattered myself with hopes of his council while in this world of trials. Tell that good man George Clymer, if I did not love him too much, I should call him an apostate from his professions and promises.

    Believe with great truth, and equal esteem

    (Your obliged and affectionate Servant)


    PS. When I receive your first Letter you shall hear from me again.