Item of the Day: Almon’s Prior Documents (1777)

Full Title:

A Collection of Interesting, Authentic Papers, Relative to the Dispute between Great Britain and America; Shewing the Causes and Progress of that Misunderstanding, from 1764-1775.

Assembled by John Almon (1737-1805). The so-called Prior Documents. Spine reads: Collection of papers. Other titles: Remembrancer, or impartial repository of public events. Printed for J. Almon, 1777.

The bill laying a a stamp duty in America, passed in March 1765.

The following was printed at the time as part of the Debates on the bill:

Mr. Grenville, after speaking long in favour of the bill, concluded with saying, “These children of our own planting (speaking of the Americans) nourished by our indulgence, until they are grown to a good degree of strength and opulence, and protected by our arms, will they grudge to contribute their mite to relieve us from the heavy load of national expence, which we lie under?”

Colonel Barré replied, “Children planted by your care! No! your oppression planted them in America; they fled from your tyranny, into a then uncultivated land, where they were exposed to almost all the hardships to which human nature are liable, and among others, to the savage cruelty of the enemy of the country, a people the most subtle, and I take upon me to say, the most truly terrible, of any people that ever inhabited any part of GOD’S EARTH; and yet, actuated by principles of true English liberty, they met all these hardships with pleasure, compared with those they suffered in their own country, from the hands of those that should have been their friends.

They nourished up by your indulgence? They grew by your neglect of them: as soon as you began to care about them, that care was exercised in sending persons to rule over them, in one department and another, who were, perhaps, the deputies of some deputy, sent to spy out their liberty, to misrepresent their actions, and to prey upon them; men, whose behaviour, on many occasions, has caused the blood of those sons of liberty to recoil within them; men promoted to the highest seats of justice, some to my knowledge, were glad, by going to foreign countries, to escape being brought to a bar of justice in their own.

They protected by your arms? They have nobly taken up arms in your defence, have exerted their valour amidst their constant and laborious industry, for the defence of a country, whose frontiers, while drenched in blood, its interior parts have yielded all its little savings to your enlargement; and believe me, remember I this day told you so, That the same spirit which actuated that people at first, will continue with them still; but prudence forbids me to explain myself any further. God knows, I do not at this time speak from motives of party heat. However superior to me, in general knowledge and experience, any one here may be, yet I claim to know more of America, having seen and been more conversant in that country. The people there are as truly loyal, I believe, as any subjects the King has; but a people jealous of their liberties, and who will vindicate them if their should be violated;–but the subject is delicate. I will say no more.”

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Filed under 1770's, Culture, Legal, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Revolution

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