Category Archives: 1770’s

Item of the Day: Ramsay’s History of the American Revolution (1791)

Full Title: The History of the American Revolution. By David Ramsay, M.D. of South Carolina. Vol. II. London: Soldy by J. Johnson and J. Stockdale, M.DCC.XCI. [1791]

 

APPENDIX, NO. III.

Of the treatment of prisoners, and of the distresses of the Inhabitants.

 MANY circumstances concurred to make the American war particurlary calamitous. It was originally a civil war in the estimation of both parties, and a rebellion to its termination, in the opinion of one of them. Unfortunately for mankind doubts have been entertained of the obligatory force of the law of nations in such cases. The refinement of modern ages has stripped war of half of its horrors, but the systems of some illiberal men have tended to re-produce the barbarism of Gothic times, by withholding the benefits of that refinement from those who are effecting revolutions. An enlightened philanthropist embraces the whole human race and enquires, not whether an object of distress is or is not an unit of an acknowledged nation. It is sufficient that he is a child of the same common parent, and capable of happiness or misery. The prevalence of such a temper would have greatly lessened the calamities of the American war, but while from contracted policy, unfortunate captives were considered as not entitled to the treatment of prisoners, they were often doomed without being guilty, to suffer the punishment due to criminals.

The first American prisoners were taken on the 17th of June 1775. These were thrown indiscriminately into the jail at Boston, without any consideration of their rank. Gen. Washington wrote to Gen. Gage on this subject, to which the latter answered by asserting that the prisoners had been treated with care and kindess, though indiscriminately “as he acknowledged no rank that was not derived from the King.” To which Gen. Washington replied “You affect, Sir, to despise all rank not derived from the same source with your own; I cannot conceive one mroe honorable, than that which flows from the uncorrupted choice of a brave and free people, the purest sourse and original fountal of all power.”

Gen. Carlton during his command conducted towards the American prisoners with a degree of humanity, that reflected the greatest honor on his character. Before he commenced his operations on the lakes in 1776, he shipped off those of them who were officers for New-Enlgand, but previously supplied them with every thing requisite to make their voyage comfortable. The other prisoners, amounting to 800, were sent home by a flag after exacting an oath from them, not to serve during the war unless exchanged. Many of these being almost naked were comfortably cloathed by his orders, previously to their being sent off.

The capture of Gen. Lee proved calamitous to several individuals. Six Hessian field officers were offered in exchange for him but this was refused. It was said by the British, that Lee was a deserter from their service, and as such could not expect the indulgences usually given to prisoners of war. The Americans replied, that as he resigned his British commission previously to his acepting one from the Americans, he could not be considered as a deserter. He was nevetheless confined, watched, and guarded. Congress thereupon resolved, that Gen. Washington be directed to inform Gen. Howe, that should the proffered exchange of Gen. Lee for six field officers not be accepted, and the treatment of him as above mentioned be continued, the principles of retaliation should occasion five of the said Hessian field officers, together with Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell to be detained, in order that the said treatment which Gen. Lee received, should be exactly inflicted on their persons. The Campbell thus designated as the subject of retaliation, was a human man, and a meritorious officer, who had been captured by some of the Massachusett’s privateers near Boston, which, from the want of information, he was proceeding soon after the British had evacuated it. The above act of Congress was forwarded to Massachusetts with a request that they would detain Lt. Col. Compbell and keep him in safe custody till the further order of Congress. The council of Massachusett’s exceeded this request, and sent him to Concord jail, where he was lodged in a gloomy dungeon of twelve or thirteen feet square. The attendance of a single servant on his person was denied him, and every visit from a friend refused.

The prisoners captured by Sir William Howe in 1776, amounted to many hundreds. The officers were admitted to parole, and has some waste houses assigned to them as quarters; but the privates were shut up in the coldest season of the year in churches, sugar houses, and such like the open buildings. The severity of the weather, and the rigor of their treatment, occasioned the death of many hundreds of these unfortunate men. The filth of the places of their confinement, in consequence of fluxes which prevailed among them, was both offensive and dangerous. Seven dead bodies have been seen in one building, at one time, and all lying in a situation shocking to humanity. The provisions served out to them were deficient in quantity, and of an unwholsome quality. These suffering prisoners were generally pressed to enter into the British service, but hundreds submitted to death, rather than procure a melioration of their circumstances by enlisting with the enemies of their country. After Gen. Washington’s successes at Trenton and Princeton, the American prisoners fared somewhat better. Those who survived were offered to be sent out for exchange, but some of them fell down dead in the streets, while attempting to walk to the vessels. Others were so emaciated that their appearance was horrible. A speedy death closed the scene with many.

The American board of war, after conferring with Mr. Boudinot the commissary-general of prisoners, and examining evidences produced by him, reported among other things, “That there were 900 privates and 300 officers of the American army, prisoners in the city of New-York, and about 500 privates and 50 officers prisoners in Philadelphia. That since the beginning of October all these prisoners, both officers and privates, had been confined in prison ships or the Provost: That from the best evidence the subject could admit of, the general allowance of prisoners, at most did not exceed four ounces of meat per day, and often so damaged as not to be eatable: That it had been a common practice with the British, on a prisoner’s being first captured, to keep him three, four or five days without a morsel of meat, and then to tempt him to enlist to save his life: That there were numerous instances of prisoners of war, perishing in all the agonies of hunger.”  . . .

 

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Filed under 1770's, 1780's, American Revolution, Culture, Eighteenth century, History, Military, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Prisoners

Item of the Day: Chesterfield to his Son on Vanity (1774)

Full Title: Letters Written by the Late Right Honourable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to His Son, Philip Stanhope, Esq; Late Envoy Extraordinary at the Court of Dresden. Together with Several Other Pieces on Various subjects. Published by Mrs. Eugenia Stanhope, From the Originals Now in Her Possession. In Two Volumes. Vol. II. Dublin: Printed by G. Faulkner, in Parliament-street, M.DCC.LXXIV.

Letter LXXII.

Bath, November the 16th, 1752.

My Dear Friend,

Vanity, or to call it by a gentler name, the desire of admiration and applause, is, perhaps, the most universal principle of human actions; I do not say, that it is the best; and I will own, that it is sometimes the cause of both foolish and criminal effects.  But it is so much oftener the principle of right things, that, though they ought to have a better, yet, considering human nature, that principle is to be encouraged and cherished, in consideration of its effects.  Where that desire is wanting, we are apt to be indifferent, listless, indolent and inert; we do not exert our powers; and we appear to be as much below ourselves, as the vainest man living can desire to appear above what he really is.

As I have made you my confessor, and do not scruple to confess even my weaknesses to you, I will fairly own, that I had that vanity, that weakness, if it be one, to a prodigious degree; and, what is more, I confess it without repentence; nay I am glad I had it; since, if I have the good fortune to please in the world, it is to that powerful and active principle that I owe it.  I began the world, not with a bare desire, but with an insatiable thirst, a rage for popularity, applause, and admiration.  If this made me do some silly things, on one hand, it made me, on the other hand, do almost all the right things that I did:  it made me attentive and civil to the women I disliked, and to the men I despised, in hopes of the applause of both:  though I neither desired, nor would have accepted the favours of the one, nor the friendship of the other.  I always dressed, looked, and talked my best; and, I own, was overjoyed whenever I perceived that by all three, or by any one of them, the company was pleased with me.  To men, I talked whatever I thought would give them the best opinion of my parts and learning; and, to women, what I was sure would please them; flattery, gallantry, and love.  And moreover, I will own to you, under the secrecy of confession, that my vanity has very often made me take great pains to make many a woman in love with me, if I could, for whose person I would not give a pinch a snuff.  In company with men, I always endeavoured to out-shine, or, at least, if possible, to equal the most shining man in it.  This desire elicited whatever powers I had to gratify it; and where I could not perhaps shine in the first, enabled me, at least, to shine in the second or third sphere.  By these means I soon grew in fashion; and when a man is once in fashion, all he does is right.  It was infinite pleasure to me, to find my own fashion and popularity.  I was sent for to all parties of pleasure, both of men or women; where, in some measures, I gave the tone.  This gave me the reputation of having had some woman of condition; and that reputation, whether true or false, really got me others.  With the men I was a Proteus, and assumed every shape, in order to please them all: among the gay, I was the gayest, among the grave, the gravest; and I never omitted the least attentions of good breeding, or the least offices of friendship, that could either please, or attach them to me: and accordingly I was soon connected with all the men of any fashion or figure in town.

To this principle of vanity, which Philosophers call a mean one, and which I do not, I owe great part of the figure which I have made in life.  I wish you had as much, but I fear you have too little of it; and you seem to have a degree of laziness and lislestness about you, that makes you indifferent as to general applause…

 

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Filed under 1770's, Family, Letters, Philosophy, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Congress Canvassed (1774)

Full Title:

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.

Gentlemen,

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.

 

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Congress, Eighteenth century, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: An Address to the People of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1775)

Full Title: An Address to the People of England, Scotland, and Ireland, on the present Important Crisis of Affairs. By Catharine Macaulay. Printed by R. Cruttwell, in Bath, for Edward and Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, London, MDCCLXXV. [1775]

 

AN

ADDRESS, &C.

THE advantage of a second opportunity to correct a mistake, when the first has been neglected, is a happiness which few individuals, or bodies of men, experience; and a blessing which, if it oftener occurred in the affairs of life, would enable most of us to avoid the greater part of the misery which at present appears inseparable to the human state.

The Electors of this kingdom, however, have shewn themselves incorrigible, by recently abusing what the author of The Patriot justly calls a high dignity, and important trust; and this after a ruinous experience of the effects of a former ill-placed confidence.

It is not to be supposed, that either the beauty of justice, the interests of liberty, or the welfare of individuals, as united to the common good, can have any avail with men, who, at this important crisis of British affairs, could reject the wise example set them by the city of London, in requiring a test from those they elected in to the representative office; a test which, had it been generally taken, and religiously observed, would have dispersed the dark cloud which hangs over the empire, restored the former spendor of the nation, and given a renewed strength, vigour, and purity, to the British consitution.

Among the Electors, however, there are undoubtedly many who, by the most cruel of undue influences, –that influence which the opulent exert over the needy, have in a manner been constrained to act contrary to judgment and inclination; while there are others who have been misled by their ignorance, and the sophistry of men of better understanding. –To these, and that large body of my countrymen who are unjustly debarred the privilege of election, and, except by petition and remonstrance, have no legal means of opposing the measures of government, I address myself on the present momentous occasion.

It can be no secret to you, my friends and fellow citizens, that the minstry, after having exhausted all those ample sources of corruption which your own tameness under oppressive taxes have afforded, either fearing the unbiassed judgment of the people, or impation at the flow, but steady progress of despotism, have attempted to wrest  from our American Colonists every privilege necessary to freemen; –privileges which they hold from the authority of their charters, and the principles of the constitution.

With an entire supineness, England, Scotland, and Ireland, have seen the Americans, year by year, stripped of the most valuable of their rights; and, to the eternal shame of this country, the stamp act, by which they were to be taxed in an arbitrary manner, met with no opposition, except from those who are particularly concerned, that the commercial intercouse between Great-Britain and her Colonies should meet wih no interruption.

With the same guilty acquiescence, my countrymen, you have seen the last Parliament finish their venal course, with passing two acts for shutting up the Port of Boston, for indemnifying the murderers of the inhabitants of Massachusets-Bay, and changing their chartered constitution of government: And to shew that none of the fundamental principles of our boasted constitution are held sacred by the government or the people, the same Parliament, without any interruption either by petition or remonstrance, passed another act for changing the government of Quebec; in which the Popish religion, instead of being tolerated as stipulated by the treaty of peace, is established; in which the Canadians are deprived of the right to an assembly, and of trial by jury; in which the English laws in civil cases are abolished, the French laws established, and the crown empowered to erect arbitrary courts of judicature; and in which, for the purpose of enlarging the bound where despotism is to have is full sway, the limits of that province are extended so as to comprehend those vast regions that lie adjoining to the northerly and westerly bounds of our colonies. . . .

 

 

 

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Filed under 1770's, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, England, Government, Great Britain, Liberty, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Locke on Toleration (1777)

Full Title: The Works of John Locke, In Four Volumes.  The Eighth Edition.  Volume the Second.  London:  Printed for W. Strahan, J. F. and C. Rivington, L. Davis, W. Owen, S. Baker and G. Leigh, T. Payne and Son, T. Caslon, S. Crowder, T. Longman, B. Law, C. Rivington, E. and C. Dilly, J. Wilkie, T. Cadell, N. Conant, T. Beecroft, T. Lowndes, G. Robinson, Jos. Johnson, J. Robson, J. Knox, T. Becket, and T. Evans.  MDCCLXXVII.

A Letter Concerning Toleration [p. 316].

Honoured Sir,

Since you are pleased to enquire what are my thoughts about the mutual Toleration of Christians in their different professions of religion, I must needs answer you freely, that I esteem that Toleration be the chief characteristical mark of the true church.  For whatsoever some people boast of the antiquity of places and names, or of the pomp of their outward worship; others, of the reformation of their discipline; all, of the orthodoxy of their faith, for everyone is orthodox to himself: these things, and all others of this nature, are much rather marks of men striving for power and empire over one another, than of the church of Christ.  Let any one have ever so true a claim to all these things, yet if he be destitute of charity, meekness, and good-will in general towards all mankind, even to those that are not Christians, he is certainly yet short of being a true Christian himself.  “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, said our Saviour to his disciples, but ye shall not be so,” Luke xxii. 25, 26.  The business of true religion is quite another thing.  It is not instituted in order to the erecting an external pomp, nor to the obtaining of ecclesiastical dominion, nor to the exercising of compulsive force; but to the regulating of men’s lives according to the rules of virtue and piety.  Whosoever will lift himself under the banner of Christ, must, in the first place and above all things, make war upon his own lusts and vices.  It is in vain for any man to usurp the name of Christian, without holiness of life, purity of manners, and benignity and meekness of spirit.  “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity. 2. Tim. ii. 19. Thou, when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren,” said our Lord to Peter, Luke xxii. 32.  It would indeed be very hard for one that appears careless about his own salvation, to persuade me that he were extremely concerned for mine.  For it is impossible that those should sincerely and heartily apply themselves to make other people Christians, who have not really embraced the Christian religion in their hearts.  If the Gospel and the Apostles may be credited, no man can be a Christian without charity, and without that faith which works, not by force, but by love.  Now I appeal to the consciences of those that persecute, torment, destroy, and kill other men upon pretence of religion, whether they do it out of friendship and kindness towards them, or no; and I shall then indeed, and not till then, believe they do so, when I shall see those fiery zealots correcting, in the same manner, their friends and familiar acquaintance, for the manifest sins they commit against the precepts of the Gospel; when I shall see them prosecute with fire and sword the members of their own communion that are tainted with enormous vices, and without amendment are in danger of eternal perdition; and when I shall see them thus express their love and desire of the salvation of their souls, by the infliction of torments, and exercise of all manner of cruelties.  For if it be out of a principle of charity, as they pretend, and love to men’s souls, that they deprive them of their estates, maim them with corporal punishments, starve and torment them in noisome prisons, and in the end even take away their lives; I say, if all this be done merely to make men Christians, and procure their salvation, why then do they suffer “whoredom, fraud, malice, and such-like enormities,” which according to the Apostle, Rom. i. manifestly relish of heathenish corruption, to predominate so much and abound amongst their flock and people?  These, and such-like things, are certainly more contrary to the glory of God, to the purity of the church , and to the salvation of souls, than any conscientious dissent from ecclesiastical decision, or separation from publick worship, whilst accompanied with innocency of life.  Why then does this burning zeal for God, for the church, and for the salvation of souls; burning, I say, literally with fire and faggot; pass by those moral vices and wickedness, without any chastisement, which are acknowledged by all men to be diametrically opposite to the profession of Christianity; and bend all its nerves either to the introducing of ceremonies, or to the establishment of opinions, which for the most part are about nice and intricate matters, that exceed the capacity of ordinary understandings?  Which of the parties contending about these things is in the right, which of them is guilty of schism or heresy, whether those that domineer or those that suffer, with then at last be manifest, when the cause of their separation comes to be judged of.  He certainly that follows Christ, embraces his doctrine, and bears his yoke, though he forsake both father and mother, separate from the publick assemblies and ceremonies of his country, or whomsoever, or whatsoever else he relinquishes, will not then be judged an heretick.       

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Filed under 1770's, Church of England, Letters, Posted by Matthew Williams, Religion

Item of the Day: Bougainville’s Voyage (1772)

Full Title:  A Voyage Round the World.  Performed by Order of His Most Christian Majesty, In the Years 1766, 1767, 1768, and 1769.  By Lewis De Bougainville, Colonel of Foot, and Commodore of the Expedition in the Frigate La Boudeuse, and the Store-ship L’Etoile.  Translated from the French by John Reinhold Forster, F. A. S.  Dublin:  Printed for J. Exshaw, H. Saunders, J. Potts, W. Sleater, D. Chamberlaine, E. Lynch, J. Williams, R. Moncrieffe, T. Walker, and C. Jenkins.  MDCCLXXII.

A Voyage Round the World.  Part the First.  Departure from France–clearing the Straits of Magalhaens. 

Chap. I.

Departure of the Boudeuse from Nantes; puts in at Brest; run from Brest to Montevideo; junction with the Spanish frigates, intended for taking possession of the Malouines, or Falkland’s islands.

In February 1764, France began to make a settlement on the Isles of Malouines.  Spain reclaimed these isles as belonging to the continent of South America; and her right to them having been acknowledged by the king, I received orders to deliver our settlement to the Spaniards, and to proceed to the East Indies by crossing the South Seas between the Tropics.  For this expedition I received the command of the frigate la Boudeuse, of twenty-six twelve pounders, and I was to be joined at the Malouines by the store-ship l’Etoile, which was intended to bring me the provisions necessary for a voyage of such length, and to follow me during the whole expedition.  Several circumstances retarded the junction of this store-vessel, and consequently made my whole voyage near eight months longer than it would otherwise have been. 

In the beginning of November, 1766, I went to Nantes, where the Boudeuse had just been built, and where M. Duclos Guyot, a captain of a fireship, my second officer was fitting her out.  The 5th of this month we came down from Painbeuf to Mindin, to finish the equipment of her; and on the 15th we sailed from this road for the river de la Plata.  There I was to find two Spanish frigates, called le Esmeralda and le Liebre, that had left Ferrol the 17th of October, and whose commander was ordered to receive the Isles Malouines, or Falkland’s islands, in the name of his Catholic majesty.

The 17th in the morning we suffered a sudden gust of wind from W. S. W. to N. W. it grew more violent in the night, which we passed under our bare poles, with our lower-yards lowered, the clue of the fore sail, under which we tried before, having been carried away.  The 18th, at four in the morning, our fore-top-mast broke about the middle of its height; the main-top-mast resisted till eight o-clock, when it broke in the cap, and carried away the head of the main mast.  This last event made it impossible to continue our voyage, and I determined to put into Brest, where we arrived the 21st of November.

This squall of wind, and the confusion it had occasioned, gave me room to make the following observation upon the state and qualities of the frigate which I commanded.

1. The prodigious tumbling home of her top-timbers, leaving too little open to the angles which the shrouds make with the masts, the latter were not sufficiently supported. 

2. The preceding fault became of more consequence by the nature of the ballast, which we had been obliged to take in, on account of the prodigious quantity of provisions we had stowed.  Forty tons of ballast, distibuted on both sides of the kelson, and at a short distance from it, and a dozen twelve-pounders placed at the bottom of the pump-well (we had only fourteen upon deck) added a considerable weight, which being much below the center of gravity, and almost entirely rested upon the kelson, put the masts in danger, if there had been any rolling.   

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Filed under 1770's, Explorations, France, Posted by Matthew Williams, South America, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Hamilton’s Full Vindication… (1774)

Full Title: A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress, From the Calumnies of their Enemies; In Answer to a Letter, Under the Signature of A. W. Farmer.  Whereby his Sophistry is exposed, his Cavils confuted, his Artifices detected, and his Wit ridiculed; In a General Address to the Inhabitants of America, And a Particular Address to the Farmers of the Province of New-York.  [By Alexander Hamilton.]  New York: Printed by James Rivington, 1774.

Friends and Countrymen,

It was hardly to be expected that any man could be so presumptuous, as openly to controvert the equity, wisdom, and authority of the measures, adopted by the congress; an assembly truly respectable on every account!–Whether we consider the characters of the men, who composed it; the number, and dignity of their constituents, or the important ends for which they were appointed.  But, however improbable such a degree of presumption might have seemed, we find there are some, in whom it exists.  Attempts are daily making to diminish the influence of their decisions, and prevent the salutary effects, intended by them.–The impotence of such insidious efforts is evident from the general indignation they are treated with; so that no material ill-consequences can be dreaded from them.  But lest they should have a tendency to mislead, and prejudice the minds of a few; it cannot be deemed altogether useless to bestow some notice upon them.

And first, let me ask these restless spirits, whence arises that violent antipathy they seem to entertain, not only to the natural rights of mankind; but to common sense and common modesty.  That they are enemies to the natural rights of mankind is manifest, because they wish to see one part of their species enslaved by another.  That they have an invincible aversion to common sense is apparant in many respects: They endeavour to persuade us, that the absolute sovereignty of parliament does not imply our absolute slavery; that it is a Christian duty to submit to be plundered of all we have, merely because some of our fellow-subjects are wicked enough to require it of us, that slavery, so far from being a great evil, is a great blessing; and even, that our contest with Britain is founded entirely upon the petty duty of 3 pence per pound of East India tea; wheras the whole world knows, it is built upon this interesting question, whether the inhabitants of Great-Britain have a right to dispose of the lives and property of the inhabitants of America or not?  And lastly, that these men have discarded all pretension to common modesty, is clear from hence, first because they, in the plainest terms, call an august body of men, famed for their patriotism and abilities, fools or knaves, and of course the people whom they repsented cannot be exempt from the same opprobrious appellations: and secondly, because they set themselves up as standards of wisdom and probity, by contradicting and censuring the public voice in favour of those men…

 

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Filed under 1770's, Alexander Hamilton, American Revolution, Colonial America, Congress, Eighteenth century, Liberty, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution, United States

Item of the Day: Oration… to Commemorate the Bloody Tragedy (1775)

Full Title: An Oration Delivered March 6, 1775, At the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston; To Commemorate the Bloody Tragedy of the Fifth of March, 1770.  By Dr. Joseph Warren.  Newport, Rhode Island: Reprinted and Sold by S. Southwick, in Queen Steet, 1775.

My Ever Honored Fellow-Citizens,

It is not without the most humiliating conviction of my want of ability that I now appear before you: But the sense I have of the obligation I am under to obey the calls of my country at all times, together with an animating recollection of your indulgence exhibited upon so many occasions, has induced me once more, undeserving as I am, to throw myself upon that candour which looks with kindness on the feeblest efforts of an honest mind.

You will not now expect elegance, the learning, the fire, the enrapturing strains of eloquence which charmed you when a Lovell, a Church, or a Hancock spake; but you will permit me to stay that with a sincerity, equal to their’s [sic], I mourn over my bleeding country: With them I weep at her distress, and with them deeply resent the many injuries she has received from the hands of cruel and unreasonable men.

That personal freedom is the natural right of every man; and that property or an exclusive right to dispose of what he has honestly acquired by his own labor, necessarily arising therefrom, are truths which common sense has placed beyond the reach of contradiction.  And no man or body of men can, without being guilty of flagrant injustice, claim a right to dispose of the persons or acquisitions of any other man, or body of men, unless it can be proved that such a right has arisen from some compact between the parties in which it has been explicitly and freely granted.

If I may be indulged in taking a retrospective view of the first settlement of our country, it will be easy to determine with what degree of justice the late parliament of Great-Britain have assumed the powers of giving away that property  which the Americans have earned by their labor. 

Our fathers, having nobly resolved never to wear the yoke of despotism, and seeing the European world, through indolence and cowardice, falling a prey to tyranny; bravely threw themselves upon the bosom of the ocean; determined to find a place in which they might enjoy the freedom, or perish in the glorious attempt.  Approving Heaven beheld the favourite ark dancing upon the waves, and graciously preserved it until the chosen families were brought in safety to these western regions.  They found the land swarming with savages, who threatened death with every kind of torture.  But savages, and death with torture, were far less terrible than slavery:—Nothing was so much the object of their abhorrence as a tyrant’s power:—They knew that it was more safe to dwell with man in his more unpolished state than in a country where arbitrary power prevails.  Even anarchy itself, that bugbear held up by the tools of power (though truly to be deprecated) is infinitely less dangerous to mankind than arbitrary governmentAnarchy can be but of short duration; for when men are at liberty to pursue that course which is most conducive to their own happiness, they will soon come into it, and from the rudest state of nature, order and good government must soon arise.  But tyranny, when once established, entails its curse on a nation to the latest period of time; unless some daring genius, inspired by Heaven, shall unappalled by danger, bravely form and execute the arduous design of restoring liberty and life to his enslaved, murdered country.

The tools of power in every age have racked their inventions to justify the FEW in sporting with the happiness of the MANY; and having found their sophistry too weak, to hold mankind in bondage, have impiously dared to force religion, the daughter of the king of Heaven, to become a prostitute in the service of Hell.  They taught that princes, honored with the name of christian, might bid defiance to the founder of their faith, might pillage pagan countries and deluge them with blood, only because they boasted themselves to be the disciples of that teacher who strictly charged his followers to do to others as they would that others should do unto them.   

 

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, Liberty, Oratory, Posted by Matthew Williams, Religion, Revolution

Item of the Day: Declaration by Representatives of the United Colonies (1775)

Full Title:

The Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North America, Now met in General Congress at Philadelphia, Setting forth the Causes and Necessity of taking up Arms.  The Letter of the Twelve United Colonies by their Delegates in Congress to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, Their Humble Petition to his Majesty, and their Address to the People of Ireland.  Collected together for the Use of Serious Thinking Men, By Lovers of Peace.  [John Dickinson].  Read with Candour:  Judge with Impartiality.  London: Printed in the Year, MDCCLXXV.

The following is a Declaration […] taking up Arms.

If it was possible for Men, who exercise their Reason, to believe that the Divine Author of our Existence intended a part of the human Race to hold an absolute Property in, and an unbounded Power over others, marked out by his infinite Goodness and Wisdom, as the Objects of legal Domination, never rightfully resistible, however severe and oppressive, the Inhabitants of these Colonies might at least require from the Parliament of Great Britain some Evidence that this dreadful Authority over them has been granted to that Body.  But a Reverence for our Great Creator, Principles of Humanity, and the Dictates of Common Sense, must convince those who reflect upon the Subject, that Government was instituted to promote the Welfare of Mankind, and ought to be administered for the Attainment of that End.  The Legislature of Great Britain, however stimulated by an inordinate Passion for a Power not only unjustifiable, but which they know to be peculiarly reprobated by the very Constitution of that Kingdom, and desperate of success in any Mode of Contest, where Regard should be had to Truth, Law, or Right, have at length, deserting those, attempted to effect their cruel and impolitic Purpose of enslaving these Colonies by Violence, and have thereby rendered it necessary for us to close with their last Appeal, from Reason to Arms.–Yet, however blinded that Assembly may be, by their intemperate Rage for unlimited Domination, so to slight Justice and the Opinion of Mankind, we esteem ourselves bound by the Obligations of Respect to the rest of the World, to make known the Justice of our Cause.

Our Forefathers, Inhabitants of the Island of Great Britain, left their Native Land, to seek on these Shores a Residence for Civil and Religious Freedom.  At the Expence of their Blood, at the Hazard of their Fortunes, without the least Charge to the Country from which they removed, by unceasing Labour, and an unconquerable Spirit, they effected Settlements in the distant and inhospitable Wilds of America, then filled with numerous and warlike Nations of Barbarians.  Societies or Governments, vested with perfect Legislatures, were formed under Charters from the Crown, and an harmonious Intercourse was established between the Colonies and the Kingdom from which they derived their Origin.  The mutual Benefits of this Union became in a short Time so extraordinary, as to excite Astonishment.  It is universally confessed, that the amazing Increase of Wealth, Strength, and Navigation of the Realm, arose from this Source; and the Minister who so wisely and successful directed the Measures of Great Britain in the late War, publickly declared, that these Colonies enabled her to triumph over her enemies.–Towards the Conclusion of that War it pleased our Sovereign to make a Change in his Counsels.–From that fatal Moment the Affairs of the British Empire began to fall into Confusion, and gradually sliding from the Summit of glorious Prosperity, to which they had been advanced by the Virtues and Abilities of on Man, are at length distracted by the Convulsions that now Shake it to its deepest Foundations.  The new Ministry finding the brave Foes of Britain, tho’ frequently defeated, yet still contending, took up the unfortunate Idea of granting them a hasty Peace, and of then subduing her faithful Friends.

  

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, George III, Liberty, Posted by Matthew Williams, United States

Item of the Day: Trial of Sykes for Bribery (1776)

Full Title: The Trial of the Cause on the Action Brought by Hans Winthrop Mortimer, Esq; Member for the Borough of Shaftesbury, Against Francis Sykes, Esq; for Bribery Committed at Shaftesbury, Previous to the General Election, in October, 1774.  Tried by a Special Jury, on Saturday the 27th of July, 1776.  At the Assize held at Dorchester for the County of Dorset, Before the Honourable Sir James Eyre, One of the Barons of His Majesty’s Court of Exchequer.  Printed in the Year M.DCC.LXXVI.

[…]  The Declaration, &c. were opened by Mr. Buller.

Mr. Dunning.

May it please your Lordship, and you Gentlemen of the Jury, I am likewise council for Mr. Mortimer, who brings this action, by which he claims of the defendant no less a sum than 13000 l. which is the amount of 26 penalties incurred by Mr. Sykes, by those practices which he is now charged to have used at the late election for Shaftesbury.–The fame of the Shaftesbury election, which has been very much spread throughout this kingdom, must have brought you to a general knowledge of the sort of practices to distinguish that borough from other boroughs at the late election.  The flagrancy, notoriety, and openness in which this business was conducted at Shaftesbury, has rendered, and will continue to render that borough infamous, unless others are induced to follow the same example by the impunity with which these escape the consequences they have incurred by that sort of conduct.–Gentlemen, it now remains with you, whether that encouragement shall be afforded to other boroughs, or upon the contrary you will set such example, as will contribute to deter other places and persons from finding themselves in that predicament in which this borough stands, and in which the object of this prosecution, Mr. Sykes, stands personally.

Gentlemen, Mr. Sykes was originally a stranger to this country;–he found out a way to come into it by a purchase which he made in the neighborhood of Shaftesbury some years ago.–From the situation of that purchase, and from the reputation which Mr. Sykes’s fortune spread throughout that country, it is natural to suppose that if Mr. Sykes had been content to wait for the not very tardy operation of those circumstances, his object might, without much difficulty, have been obtained from Shaftesbury.  But whether it was an oriental idea that requires the same thing to be done at once, which in a plainer and simpler manner would be done in a little time, no great time however, or whether the object was more desirable from that manner of obtaining it, I don’t know; but you will find he was hardly possessed of this property in the neighbourhood of Shaftesbury.

Gentlemen, Mr. Sykes represented Mr. Shaftesbury in the last parliament; but it seems that it was not then permitted to him to name his colleague.–He signified his displeasure, and the resolution he had formed in his mind, which he would carry into execution the first opportunity, as will be expressly proved to you by the witnesses present with him at the time he intimated his then resolution and determination; which was to appropriate the whole representation of Shaftesbury to himself and colleague; and that he would do if it were to cost him that manor, which had cost him 40,000 l. or would add that, if necessary, twice as much more.–You will presently see the consequence of those sort of speeches, though they seemed to be rather unguarded.–A little attention to the manners of that country from which Mr. Sykes imported those ideas, will easily convince you of his ability with respect to fortune.–These things will appear very clearly in evidence, if found necessary to lay them before you.–As occasions presented themselves, there was repetitions of these declarations, and a variety of acts indicating his intention to pursue those measures and they grew more and more frequent, preparatory to the last election: and there was a great deal of manoeuvre made use of, which is unnecessary to be explained in the present stage of this business.–As the election drew near, the necessary engine for the purpose of accomplishing those designs was provided, which was a large sum of money.–We shall prove the manner it was collected, conveyed, and distributed.–I shall at present state the evidence that we be given in a future stage of the cause.–It is unnecessary for me to trouble you with observations upon this sort of case, knowing you will be beforehand in all those observations;–for it is impossible such a case can be stated and proved to an intelligent jury, that would not incite in their minds all those things which are necessary for them to consider.   

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Filed under 1770's, Great Britain, Posted by Matthew Williams