Item of the Day: Observations on the Act of Parliament Commonly Called the Boston Port-Bill (1774)

Full Title: Observations on the Act of Parliament Commonly Called the Boston Port-Bill; with Thoughts on Civil Society and Standing Armies. By Josiah Quincy, Jun’r. Boston, N.E.: Printed for and sold by Edes and Gill, in Queen-Street, 1774.


THE Statute of the 14th George 3d, received in the last Ships from London, (entitled “An Act to discontinue, in such Manner, and for such Time as are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, the lading or shipping of Goods, Wares, Merchandize, at the Town, and within the Harbour of Boston, in the Province of Massachusetts-Bay, in North-America,”) gave rise to the following OBSERVATIONS: —They will appear thrown together in haste; and as the Writer was out of Town on business, almost every day, the Sheets were printing off, no doubt many Errors of the Press escaped correction.

The Inaccuracies of a sudden Production from one of infirm health, perplexed with various avocations, will receive a mild censure: more material faults, FRIENDS may be prone to forgive; but from ENEMIES–public or private–we are never to expect indulgence or favor.


Boston, May 14, 1774.



IN times of public calamity, it is the duty of a good citizen to consider. If his opportunities or advantages, for knowledge and reflection, are greater than those of mankind in general, his whole duty will remain undischarged, while he confines his thoughts to the compass of his own mind. But if danger is added to the calamity of the times, he who shall communicate his sentiments on public affairs with decency and frankness, merits attention and indulgence, if he may not aspire to approbation and praise.

Whoever attends to the tenor and design of the late act of the British Parliament for the BLOCKADE of this HARBOUR, and duly considers the extensive confusion and distress this measure must inevitably produce; whoever shall reflect upon the justice, policy and humanity of legislators, who could deliberately give their sanction to such a prceedure [sic]–must be satisfied, that the man, who shall OPENLY dare to expose their conduct, hazards fatal consequences. –Legislators, who could condemn a whole town unheard, nay uncited to answer. who could involve thousands in ruin and misery, without suggestion of any crime by them committed; and who could so construct their law, as that enormous pains and penalties would inevitably ensue, NOTWITHSTANDING THE MOST PERFECT OBEDIENCE TO IT’S [sic] INJUNCTIONS; I say, that legislators, thus formed as MEN, thus principled as STATESMEN, would undoubtedly imagine the attainder and death of a private individual, for his public animadversions, a less extraordinary act of power. But all exertions of duty have their hazard: –if dread of Parliamentary extravagance is to deter from public energies, the safety of the common wealth will soon be despaired of; and when once a sentiment of that kind prevails, the excess of present enormities so rapidly increase, that strides, at first appearance, exorbitant, will soon be found–but the beginning of evils. We therefore consider it as a just observation, that the weight and velocity of public oppressions are ever in a ratio proportionate to private despondency and public despair.

He who shall go about to treat of important and perilous concerns, and conceals himself behind the curtain of a feigned signature, give an advantage to his adversaries; who will not fail to stigmatize his thoughts, as the notions of an unknown writer, afraid or ashamed to avow his sentiments; and hence they are deemed unworthy of notice and refutation. Therefore I give to the world both my sentiments and and name upon the present occasion, and shall hear with patience him, who will decently refute what is advanced, and shall submit with temper to that correction and chastisement which my errors deserve.




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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Commerce, England, George III, Great Britain, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

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