Item of the Day: An Appendix to a Letter to Dr. Shebbeare (1775)

Full Title:  An Appendix to a Letter to Dr. Shebbeare. To Which are Added Some Observations on a Pamphlet, Entitled, Taxation No Tyranny: In Which the Sophistry of that Author’s Reasoning is Detected.  By A Doctor of Law.  London:  Printed for J. Donaldson, Corner of Arundel Street, In the Strand.  MDCCLXXV.

Sir,

I hope you’ll forgive me for prefixing an Appendix to my Letter to you, containing some observations I have made on a pamphlet called Taxation no Tyranny, both on account of the connection between the subject of your letter and that pamphlet, and likewise because I wanted to add some few things to my letter to you.

As you profess yourself a lover and defender of the Revolution, in your late pamphlet, to which I wrote an Answer, I now submit to your consideration, whether, upon these principles, the four kings preceding the Revolution, of the Stewart family, were to blame to the Presbyterians and other Protestant Dissenters, or they to those kings?  You agree with me, by that pamphlet of yours, that all government arises from the people, and that they have a right, in the last resort, to rectify abuses in government; and indeed Mr. Lock and Algernoon Sydney, have made this so clear, to any man who will allow fair play to his understanding, that no mathematical proposition by Sir Isaac Newton is made clearer.  Let us then examine by this principle, the conduct of these four princes to the Presbyterians and Protestant Dissenters, and their conduct towards these princes. . . .

Is not the present methods taken, in consequence of the late acts of parliament, something like what was done in those times?  The people in America are mostly Presbyterians, and Protestant Dissenters:  a mob of 40 or 50 Banditti destroyed some Tea belonging to the East-India-Company, which was sent to Boston.  Without any proof that the people there were concerned in this mob — their Port is blocked up, they are deprived of trade, and their charter and privileges as a free people are destroyed:   and because the people there and through the rest of America, resent that oppression, they are called rebellious, although the whole continent of America has always been remarkable for their affection to the royal family, and have strained every nerve to serve their mother-country against its enemies.  If this affection should be lessened, by what has been done against New-England, and by establishing popery in Canada, and enlarging its dominions, so as to surround our Protestant brethren there by French papists, and establishing arbitrary power, pray, Sir, who do you think are to blame for this?

Every one is sensible of the consequences of the resolutions taken by the congress in America, composed of deputies from every province; by which the trade of Great Britain must be ruined, and its manufacturers starved, as the one half of its manufacturers went there: and at the same time many 10,000 pounds of the national cash must be exported yearly to foreign nations, to procure naval stores which we had from our brethren in America, in exchange for our manufacturers.  Add to all this, does not the ruin of the trade of this country, endanger our sovereign to lose the affections of his subjects at home, tho’ he intends nothing but their happiness.  Instead of America being the cause of making us the greatest nation in Europe, we shall spend our strength in cutting the throats of our brethren, instead of reserving it to protect ourselves against the declared enemies to Great Britain.  When our trade is ruined, the nursery of our sailors diminished, and we engaged in a war with our own subjects, don’t you think we are in some danger of becoming an easy conquest to France: for surely you must be sensible that our only safety and protection against them is our fleet.  Perhaps you will tell me, that we are in strict friendship with them; but I was taught, by that great man the late Lord Stairs, when with him at Paris, to believe, that they were never more to be suspected, than when they were most lavish of their promises of friendship.  And he used to say, he was obliged to observe this rule with their great men in politics, seldom to believe what they said.

I submit to you, whether the Presbyterians and other Protestant Dissenters, from what I have said, appear most to blame, to the four kings of the Stewart family, or these kings to them.  And as you profess to justify the Revolution, I think you must be of my opinion; for by these principles, which appear to me to be the only rational ones with regard to government, all government owes its rise from the people; and the people never can be supposed to create a government to hurt themselves.  There are reciprocal duties between a government and the people; and as every subject owes subjection to the government, because that government is supposed to protect the subject; so on the contrary, if a government of any kind shall, instead of protecting the people, declare themselves their enemies, they can’t expect to be supported by that people.  It was upon this principle the Romans expelled the Tarquins — it was on this principle that all the free states of Greece were established — and it was on this principle the Revolution by king William was established.

Thus, Sir, I have endeavoured to shew you, that you and I are of the same opinion; and that you are mistaken of the Presbyterians, when you represent them as Regicides and enemies to kings; for they never were so, except when kings are enemies to themselves, as well as to their subjects, and imagine themselves, instead of being the protectors of their people, to have a right to tyrannize over them.  Indeed it is evident that it is the interest of kings themselves, to be obliged to govern by a known law; for wherever absolute power is, ruin to that country is inevitable.  Mr. Gordon observes, in his Tacitus, the breath of a tyrant withers and blasts the growth of every thing that is valuable.  This appears from the history of all nations, and in none more than from Holland, when compared now with what it was when under the tyranny of Spain; and by comparing the cities of Greece now, with what they were, when they enjoyed freedom.

As to king James II, he was a declared enemy to the liberties and religion of his country; and therefore the Presbyterians, as well as the church of England, declared against him.

As to the Quebeck act of parliament, I believe I need not endeavour to convince you, that it ought to be repealed; for by establishing popery, in order to get assistance from the French Papists against our protestant brethren, it has equally disobliged these French Papists themselves, by depriving them of that British liberty which they were entitled to by becoming British subjects, and which they have enjoyed for some years.  So that instead of continuing good subjects, by being possessed of liberty, in case of a war with France, since they are to be slaves, they will naturally rather chuse to be slaves to them than to Britain.

As to the fathers of the church, the bishops consenting to this act of parliament, I hope it was from want of attention, and that therefore, they will readily solicit the repeal of it.  I hope the time is not yet come, that Bishopricks are disposed of as pensions and places are, to make parliamentary interest.  If ever that time should come, that these should be the instruments of corruption, adieu both to learning and religion:  we should then see, that being a good fox hunter a recommendation to a bishoprick, and none promoted to benefices but those connected with members of parliament. . . .

Thus, Sir, I have given you my sentiments on several things of consequence to the publick; and I assure you what I have said, arises entirely from love to my country and to my sovereign, who I wish to see reinstated in the affections of his subject in America, as well as getting an end put to the apprehensions here, by the ruin of trade with America, both here and in the West-Indies.

I hope you are convinced of your mistakes as to King William’s character:  if I have not succeeded in convincing you, you need only read the best historians of his time.  And as to the Presbyterians, whom you represent as Regicides and disloyal, do but inform yourself who composed the army of Rebels in Scotland in 1715 and in 1745, and you will find that there were not six Presbyterians amongst the many thousands that made up these Rebel Armies; and amongst some thousands of volunteers who ventured their lives against these Rebels, and you won’t find I believe six Scotch Episcopals.  And it is notorious, that the Scotch Presbyterian Clergy met at Glasgow in a Synod, even when the pretender was at Edinburgh, and testified the greatest zeal for the Royal Family.  The Duke of Cumberland, when he was in Scotland, showed the most entire confidence in the Presbyterian Clergy, as sincere friends to the Royal Family: on the contrary, he found those of the Episcopal persuasion so universally disloyal, that he shut up most of their meeting-houses, as nurseries of Rebellion.  If these things are matters of fact, I hope they will reconcile you to the Presbyterians, as loyal subjects to a sovereign whom you profess to admire, and to whom you own yourself obliged.

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Great Britain, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

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