The Congress Canvassed: Or, An Examination into the Conduct of the Delegates, at their Grand Convention, Held in Philadelphia, Sept 1, 1774. Addressed, to the Merchants of New-York. By A. W. Farmer. Author of Free Thoughts, &c. Printed in the Year M,DCC,LXXIV.
I shall make no apology for addressing myself to you, the Merchants of the city of New-York, upon the present unhappy and distressed state of our country. My subject will necessarily lead me to make some remarks on your past and present conduct, in this unnatural contention between our parent country and us. I am duly sensible of what importance you are to the community, and of the weight and influence you must have in the conduct of all our public affairs: I know that the characters of many of you are truly respectable, and I shall endeavour to express what I have to say to you, consistently with that decency and good manners which are due, not only to you, but to all mankind.
But you must not expect any undue complaisance from me.–You must be content with plain English, from a plain countryman; I must have the privilege of calling a fig–a Fig; an egg, –an Egg. If, upon examination, your conduct shall, in any instances, appear to be weak, you must bear to be told of it:—if wrong, to be censured:—if selfish, to be exposed:—if ridiculous, to be laughed at :— Do not be offended if I omit to say, that if your conduct shall appear to be honourable, that it shall be commended. Honourable and virtuous actions want no commendation,—they speak for themselves: They affect not praise, but are rather disgusted with it,—instead of heightening, it tarnishes their lustre. If you have acted from honourable motives, from disinterested principles, from true patriotism,—if justice and prudence, and a love of your country have been the guides of your conduct, you need fear no attack, nor the strictest scrutiny of your actions.
Nor, upon the other hand, ought you to be displeased with the man, who shall point out your errors, supposing you have acted wrong. To err is common,— I wish it was uncommon to persist in error. But such is the pride of the human heart, that when we have once taken a wrong step, we think it an impeachment of our wisdom and prudence to retreat. A kind of sullen, sulky obstinacy takes possession of us; and though, in the hour of calm reflection, our hearts should condemn us, we had rather run the risk of being condemned by the world too, than own the possibility of our having been mistaken. Preposterous pride! It defeats the end it aims at: It degrades instead of exalting our characters, and destroys that reputation which it seems so solicitous to establish. To become sensible of our errors, and to mend them,—to grow wiser by our own mistakes,—to learn prudence from our misconduct,—to make every fall a means of rising higher in virtue,—are circumstances which raise the dignity of human nature the nearest to that perfection of conduct which has never erred.
Possibly, in many instances, I shall need your candour: In one particular I must bespeak it. I live at a distance from the city, and visit it but seldom. The opinion I have formed of your conduct, depends, a good deal, upon report, and the common newspapers.—I have, however, endeavoured to get the best information I could; and I have not the least inclination to put unfair constructions upon your actions; and should I, in any instance, misrepresent you, I will, upon good information, make all proper acknowledgements. Under these circumstances, and with this disposition, I think I have a right to expect, that you will read this Address without prejudice, and judge of it with impartiality, and such a regard to truth and right, as every reasonable man ought to make the basis of his opinion in all the discussions, and the rule of his conduct in all his actions.