Category Archives: Revolution

Item of the Day: The True Sentiments of America(1768)

Full Title:

The True Sentiments of America: Contained in a Collection of Letters Sent from the House of Representatives of the Province of Massachusetts Bay to Several Persons of High Rank in the Kingdom: Together with Certain Papers Relating to a Supposed Libel on the Governor of that Province, and a Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law.  London, Printed for J. Almon, In Piccadilly. 1768.

Agreeable to a Vote of the Honourable House of Representatives of the Province of the Massachusett’s-Bay, the following humble, dutiful, and loyal Petition to the King, signed by the Speaker, by their Order of the 20th January 1768; together with the Representatives of the House to his Majesty’s Ministers; their Letter to their Agent, &c. are here inserted.

An humble Petition to the King’s most Excellent Majesty.

Most Gracious Sovereign,

Your Majesty’s faithful subjects, the representatives of your province of the Massachusetts-Bay, with the warmest sentiments of loyalty, duty, and affection, beg leave to approach the throne, and to lay at you Majesty’s feet their humble supplications, in behalf of your distressed subjects the people of the province.

Our ancestors, the first settlers of this country, having with the royal consent, which we humbly apprehend involves the consent of the nation, and at their own great expence, migrated from the mother kingdom, took possession of this land, at that time a wilderness, the right whereof they had purchased a valuable consideration of the council established at Plimouth, to whom it had been granted your Majesty’s royal predecessor King James the first.

From the principles of loyalty to their Sovereign which will ever warm the breast of a true subject, though remote they acknowledged their allegiance to the English crown: and your Majesty will allow us with all humility to say, that they and their posterity, even to this time, have afforded frequent and signal proofs of their zeal for the honour and service of their prince, and their firm attachment to the parent country.

With toil and fatigue, perhaps not to be conceived by their brethren and fellow-subjects at home, and with the constant peril of their lives, from a numerous, savage, and warlike race of men, they began their settlement, and God prospered them. 

They obtained a charter from King Charles the first; wherein his Majesty was pleased to grant them and their heirs and assigns for ever, all the lands therein described, to hold of him and his royal successors in free and common soccage; which we humbly conceive is as absolute an estate as the subject can hold under the crown.  And in the same charter were granted to them, and their posterity, all the rights, liberties, privileges, and immunities of natural subjects, born within the realm. 

This charter they enjoyed, having, as we most humbly conceive, punctually complied with all the conditions of it, till in an unhappy time it was vacated–But after the revolution, when King William and Queen Mary, of glorious and blessed memory, were established on the throne: In that happy reign, when, to the joy of the nation and its dependencies, the crown was settled in your Majesty’s illustrious family, the inhabitants of this province shared in the common blessing.  Then they were indulged with another charter; in which their Majesties were pleased for themselves, their heirs and successors, to grant and confirm to them as ample estate in the lands or territories as was granted by the former charter, together with other the most essential rights and liberties contained therein:  The principal of which, is that which your Majesty’s subjects within the realm have ever held a most sacred right, of being taxed only by representatives of their own free election…

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1760's, Adams, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution

Item of the Day: Rights of Man (1791)

Full Title: Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke’s Attack on the French Revolution.  Second Edition.  By Thomas Paine, Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Congress in the American War, and Author of the Work Intitled “Common Sense.”  London: Printed for J. S. Jordan, No. 166.  Fleet-Street.  MDCCXCI.

Preface to the English Edition.

From the part Mr. Burke took in the American Revolution, it was natural that I should consider him a friend to mankind; and as our acquaintance commenced on that ground, it would have been more agreeable to me to have had cause to continue in that opinion, than to change it.

At that time Mr. Burke made his violent speech last winter in the English Parliament against the French Revolution and the National Assembly, I was in Paris, and had written him, but a short time before, to inform him how prosperously matters were going on.  Soon after this, I saw his advertisement of the Pamphlet he intended to publish: As the attack was to be made in a language he little studied, and less understood, in France, and as every thing suffers by translation, I promised some of the friends of the Revolution in that country, that whenever Mr. Burke’s Pamphlet came forth, I would answer it.  This appeared to m the more necessary to be done, when I saw the flagrant misrepresentations which Mr. Burke’s Pamphlet contains; and that while it is an outrageous abuse on the French Revolution, and the principles of Liberty, it is an imposition on the rest of the world.

I am the more astonished and disappointed at this conduct of Mr. Burke, as (from the circumstance I am going to mention), I had formed other expectations.

I had seen enough of the miseries of war, to wish it might never more have existence in the world, and that some other mode might be found out to settle the differences that should occasionally arise in the neighborhood of nations.  This certainly might be done if Courts were disposed to set honestly about it, or if countries were enlightened enough to not be made the dupes of Courts.  The people of America had been bred up in the same prejudices against France, which at that time characterized the people of England; but experience and an acquaintance with the French Nation have most effectually shown to the Americans the falsehood of those prejudices; and I do not believe that a more cordial and confidential intercourse exists between any two countries than between America and France. 

When I came to France in the Spring of 1787, the Archbishop of Thoulouse was then Minister, and at that time highly esteemed.  I became much acquainted with the private Secretary of that Minister, a man of an enlarged and benevolent heart; and found, that his sentiments and my own perfectly agreed with respect to the madness of war, and the wretched impolicy of two nations, like England and France, continually worrying each other, to no other end than that of a mutual increase of burdens and taxes.  That I might be assured I had not misunderstood him, nor he me, I put the substance of our opinions into writing, and sent it to him; subjoining a request, that if I should see among the people of England, any disposition to cultivate a better understanding between the two nations than had hitherto prevailed, how far I might be authorized to say that the same disposition prevailed on the part of France?  He answered me by letter in the most unreserved manner, and that not for himself only, but for the Minister, with whose knowledge the letter was declared to be written.

I put this letter into the hands of Mr. Burke almost three years ago, and left it with him, where it still remains; hoping, and at the same time naturally expecting, from the opinion I had conceived of him, that he would find some opportunity of making good use of it, for the purpose of removing those errors and prejudices, which two neighboring nations, from the want of knowing each other, had entertained, to the injury of both.

When the French Revolution broke out, it certainly afforded to Mr. Burke an opportunity of doing some good, had he been disposed to it; instead of which, no sooner did he see the old prejudices wearing away, than he immediately began sowing the seeds of a new inveteracy, as if he were afraid that England and France would cease to be enemies.  That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrel of Nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between Nations, it becomes more unpardonable.

With respect to a paragraph in this Work alluding to Mr. Burke’s having a pension, the report has been some time in circulation, at least two months; and as a person is often the last to hear what concerns him the most to know, I have mentioned it, that Mr. Burke may have an opportunity of contradicting the rumour, if he thinks proper.

THOMAS PAINE.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, Common sense, Eighteenth century, Europe, Foreign Relations, French Revolution, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution

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…

 

Leave a comment

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.   

 

Leave a comment

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

Item of the Day: Gordon’s Thanksgiving Discourse (1775)

Full Title:

Mr. Gordon’s Thanksgiving Discourse.  A Discourse Preached December 15th 1774.  Being the Day Recommended by the Provincial Congress; and Afterwards at the Boston Lecture.  By William Gordon.  Pastor of the Third Church of Roxbury.  Boston:  Printed for, and sold by Thomas Leverett, in Corn-Hill.  1775.

From Lam. III. 22.  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his companions fail not.

The pulpit is devoted, in general, to more important purposes, than the fate of kingdoms, or the civil rights of human nature; being intended, to recover men from the slavery of sin and satan–to point out their escape from future misery, through faith in a crucified Jesus–and to assist them in their preparations for eternal blessedness:  But still, there are special times and seasons when it may treat of politics.  And surely, if it is allowable for some who occupy it, by preaching up the doctrines of non-resistance and passive obedience, to vilify the principles, and to sap the foundations of that glorious revolution, that exalted the house of Hanover to the British throne; it ought to be no transgression in others, nor be construed into a want of loyalty, to speak consistently with those approved tenets, that have made George the third, the first of European sovereigns, who otherwise, with all his personal virtues, might have lived an obscure Elector. 

Having then, the past morning of this provincial thanksgiving, accommodated the text to the case of individuals, I shall now dedicate it, according to its original intention, to the service of the public, the situation of whose affairs, is, both distressing and alarming.

The capital of the colony is barbarously treated, pretendedly for a crime, but actually, for the noble stand she has made in favor of liberty, against the partisans of slavery.  She has distinguished herself by an animated opposition to arbitrary and unconstitutional proceedings; and therefore has been markt out, by ministerial vengeance, to be made an example of, whereby to terrify other American cities into a tame submission.  She is an example–and, thanks to heaven! an example of patience and fortitude, to the no small mortification of her enemies, whose own base feelings led them to imagine, that she would immediately become an abject supplicant for royal favour, tho’ at the expence of natural and charter’d rights.  May some future historian, the friend of mankind and citizen of the world, have to record in his faithful and ever-living page, that she never truckled, though British sailors and soldiers, contrary to their natural affection for the cause of liberty, were basely employed to intimidate her; but perseveringly held out, through the fiery trial, ’till a revolution of men and measures brought on her deliverance!

But it is not the capital alone that suffers.  The late venal Parliament, in compliance with the directions of administration, have, under the false colour of regulating the government of the colony, mutilated its charter, and conveyed dangerous power to individuals, for the enforcing and maintaining those encroachments, that they have ventured, in defiance of common equity, to make upon the rights of a free people.–And had not the calmness and prudence of others supplied their lack of wisdom, the country might by this time have become an Aceldama.

Upon the principles, which the British legislature have adopted in their late extraordinary proceedings, I see not, how we can be certain of any one privilege–nor what hinders our being really in a state of slavery to an aggregate of masters, whose tyranny may be worse than that of a single despot–nor that a man can with propriety say, his soul’s his own, and not the spring to move his bodily machine, in the performance of whatever drudgery his lords may appoint–nor that the public have a permanent and valuable constitution.  If the British legislature is the constitution, or superior to the constitution, Magna Charta, the bill of rights, and the protestant succession, these boasts of Britons, are the toys to please the vulgar, and not solid securities[…]

Leave a comment

Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, Posted by Matthew Williams, Religion, Revolution, Sermons, United States

Item of the Day: Cui bono? (1781)

Full Title: Cui Bono? Or, An Inquiry, What Benefits Can Arise Either to the English or the Americans, the French, Spaniards, or Dutch, from the Greatest Victories, or Successes, in the Present War? Being a Series of Letters, Addressed to Monsieur Necker, Late Controller General of the Finances of France. By Josiah Tucker, D.D. Dean of Glocester. Glocester: Printed by R. Raikes, for T. Cadell, in the Strand; Sold also by Evans and Hazell, in Glocester, M.DCC.LXXXI. [1781]

LETTER I.

TO MONSIEUR NECKER.

Cui Bono?

SIR,

A MAN who has distinguished himself in such critical Times as the present, in the difficult and envied Station of Controller-General of the Finances of France, is certain of being attacked, and as sure of being defended, by Multitudes of Writers. You have experienced the Effects of both Parties; and are, perhaps, by this Time, sufficiently cloyed with the Flattery of the one, and grown callous to the Censures of the other. Therefore it is natural for you to conclude, that when any other Writer is bringing your Name again before the Public, he is only repeating what you have so often heard. —But if you, Sir, will honour these Letters with a careful Perusal, you will find hardly one Thing in them similar to what you have read before, and yet many of them, perhaps, not unworthy of your serious Attention.

As I wish to treat you with all the Respect due to your distinguished Character; and as my Aim, in the Prosecution of my Subject, is entirely the Good of Mankind; I presume it is unnecessary, as a Stranger to your Person, to apologize for the Liberty I take in thus addressing you. And here allow me to observe, that I was favoured with the Correspondence of your Predecessor, Mons. Turgot, both during the Time he was in Office, and after his Resignation; —and that I am the same Person, of whose Writings Mons. Necker himself has sometimes condescended to make mention; and more particularly at that Juncture, when the idle Project of invading England, became the general Topic of Conversation throughout Europe.

Setting, therefore, all Apologies aside, and endeavouring to divest myself of national Partialities, and local Prejudices, to the utmost of my Power, I now enter on the Work proposed, not as an Englishman, but as a Citizen of the World; not as having an inbred Antipathy against France, but as a Friend of the whole human Species.

Whatever were your private Views, either of Interest, or of Honour, in publishing your Compte Rendu, the Example you have set deserves universal Commendation. And it is greatly to be wished, that it were made a fundamental Law in all arbitrary Governments, that each Minister, in the grand Departments of Trust and Power, should publish annual Accounts of his respective Administration; —Accounts I mean, which could stand the Test of an open and impartial Scrutiny, free from those false Colourings, and wilful Misrepresentations, with which yours have been so frequently and expressly charged; and from which I fear you have not yet been able to clear yourself to general Satisfaction.

But waving every Thing of this Nature, (because I do not intend to be either your Advocate, or your Accuser) and taking for granted, what you do not wish to conceal, that the grand Design of the Government, under which you live, in ordering your Account to be made Public, was to shew the World, that France had so many Resources still remaining, as would exhaust and ruin England in the Progress of this war; —I will here suppose, for Argument Sake, that every Thing has succeeded, or shall succeed according to the warmest Wishes of the most bigotted Frenchman, Poor England is no more! Non modo delenda, sed penitus deleta est Carthage! In short, the Lillies of France, like the Eagles of Rome, are every where triumphant!

Well, my good Sir, after all this Expence and Trouble, after so much Hurry and Confusion in subduing this devoted Island, after such repeated Victories, and immortal Fame, —will you permit us to rest a while, and to take a Breath: —And since the French have now raised their Nation to this Pinnacle of Glory, let us pause a little, to view the extended Prospect so far below us? —This is all the Boon I ask, and in granting this, I hope we shall be induced to think in the next Place, (for we have not yet thought upon the Matter) what would be the inevitable Consequences of these mighty Revolutions, now so ardently desired by every Frenchman, were Providence to permit them to pass.

Such a Subject is surely of Importance, to the Welfare and Happiness of Mankind. And this is the Subject I propose for the ensuing Letter. In the mean Time, I own I am under a strong Temptation to add a few Words concerning the infatuated Conduct of my own Country-men, the English, in the former War, as a Warning and Memento [sic] to future Politicians.

Almost thirty Years ago, when the Colonists in America were at least fifty to one more in Number than the Handful of Men, who could have invaded them from Canada, —I say, when these fifty undaunted Heroes, of the true English Breed, pretended to be afraid of one Frenchman — Common Sense might have taught us to have suspected the Truth of such pretended Fears; — Common Sense also might have suggested the Expediency of pausing a while, and of examining into Facts, particualry relating to the Fur-trade, before we rushed into Hostilities on such weak and frivolous Pretences: —Lastly, Common Sense might have told us that it would be bad Policy to put these turbulent and factious Colonies above Controul, (if we really thought them worth the keeping) and of placing them in that very State of Independance [sic], which they had ever wished for, and had been constantly aiming at. —I say, Common Sense might have suggested all these Things, if we had not disdained to ask the Advice of such a Counsellor. Nay more; —there was a Man at that very Time, who remonstrated strongly against the Absurdity, not to say Injustice of such Proceedings. —He shewed, with an Evidence not attempted to be invalidated, that the Americans had not assigned a sufficient Cause for going to War for their Sakes; —and that their pretended Dangers either of being driven into the Sea, or of being put between two Fires (the constant Cry, and Clamour at that Juncture in all our Public Papers) were mere Imposture, and Grimace. —And what is beyond all, he offered to prove from the English Custom-House Books of Entries or Imports, that the Quantity of Furs brought into England from America was almost double to what it had been in former Times, instead of being monopolized (as was asserted) by the French: —Though I must own, that had this really been the Case, it would have been something new in the Annals of the World, that a great Nation, and a civilized People had made War on another Natin, because the latter had bought more Skins of Cats, Foxes, Badgers, and of such Sort of Vermin, than the former had been able to do. —Lastly the same Person ventured to foretel in the most direct Terms, that the driving of the French from the English back Settlements would be the Signal to the Colonies, to meditate a general Revolt. But alas! he was preaching to the Winds and Waves: —Some would not vouchsafe an Answer to his Letters; —others were pleased to tell him that the American Colonists were better Judges of their own Dangers, than he had any Right to pretend to be; —and that the Reflections cast upon them for harbouring thoughts of Independance, and of planning Schemes of Rebellion, were base and scandalous, and utterly void of Foundation. Moreover, not a few plainly declared, that whosoeve should attempt to raise such Suspicions against the best of loyal Subjects, the faithful Americans, could be no other than a Spy in Disguise, and a Pensioner to France. (You, Sir, who so justly complain, that the several Pensions on the French List amount to the enormous Sum of Twenty-eight Millions of Livres, or about £.1,272,727. Sterling; —you, I say, can best tell, whether you have met with the Name of Tucker among the long Roll of English Mock Patriots, and French Pensioners.)

Now, as we have such a recent Example, before our Eyes of those fatal Consequences, which might have been prevented by a cool and timely Reflection; it is to be hoped, that the like blind, infatuated Part will not be acted over again; —but that the Powers at War will take Warning by the past, and consider, ‘ere it is too late, what would be the Effects of the present furious Contests, were they even to be crowned with all that Brilliancy and Success, which their own fond Hearts can wish, or desire.

With these Sentiments, and with just Esteem for your great Talents, I have the Honour to be,

SIR,

Your most obedient,

Humble Servant,

J.T.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1780's, Eighteenth century, England, Europe, Foreign Relations, France, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Revolution

Item of the Day: Botta’s History of the War of Independence (1834)

Full Title:

History of the War of Independence of the United States of America.  By Charles [Carlo Giuseppe Gugliehmo] Botta.  Sixth Edition, in two volumes, revised and corrected.  Vol. I. Translated from the Italian, by George Alexander Otis, Esq.   New Haven: Published and Printed by Nathan Whiting.  1834.

Book V.  1775.

[…] In New Jersey, at the news of the affair at Lexington, the people took possession of the provincial treasure; and a part of it was destined to pay the troops which were levied at the same time in the province.

At Baltimore, in Maryland, the inhabitants laid a strong hand upon all the military stores that were found in the public magazines; and among other arms, fifteen hundred muskets thus fell into their power.  A decree was published, inderdicting all transportation of commodities to the islands where fisheries were carried on, as also to the British army and fleet stationed at Boston.

The inhabitants of Philadelphia took the same resolution, and appeared in all respects, equally disposed to defend the common cause.  The Quakers themselves, notwithstanding their pacific institutions, could not forbear to participate in the ardor with which their fellow-citizens flew to meet a new order of things.

When Virginia, this important colony, and particularly opposed to the pretensions of England, received the intelligence of the first hostilities, it was found in a state of extreme commotion, excited by a cause, which, though trivial in itself, in the present conjuncture became of serious importance.  The provincial congress, convened in the month of March, had recommended a levy of volunteers in each county, for the better defense of the country.  The governor, lord Dunmore, at the name of volunteers, became highly indignant; and conceived suspicions of some pernicious design.  Apprehending the inhabitants intended to take possession of a public magazine, in the city of Williamsburg, he caused all the powder in it to be removed, by night, and conveyed on board an armed vessel, at anchor in the river James.  The following morning, the citizens, on being apprised of the fact, were violently exasperated; they flew to arms, assembled in great numbers, and demonstrated a full determination to obtain restitution of the powder, either by fair means or force.  A serious affair was apprehended; but the municipal council interposed, and, repressing the tumult, dispatched a written request to the governor, entreating him to comply with the public desire.  They complained, with energy, of the injury received; and represented the dangers to which they should be exposed, in case of insurrection on the part of the blacks, whose dispositions, from various reports, they had too much reason to distrust.  The governor answered, that the powder had been removed, because he had heard of an insurrection in a neighboring county; that he had removed it in the night time to prevent any alarm; that he was much surprised to hear the people were under arms; and that he should not think it prudent to put powder into their hands in such a situation.  He assured them, however, that in case of a revolt of the negroes, it should be returned immediately.  Tranquility was re-established; but in the evening, an alarm was given, that the soldiers of the ship of war were approaching the city in arms; the people again also took up theirs, and passed the whole night in expectation of an attack.

The governor, not knowing, or unwilling to yield to the temper of the times, manifested an extreme irritation at these popular movements.  He suffered certain menaces to fall from his lips, which it would have been more prudent to suppress.  He intimated, that the royal standard would be erected; the blacks emancipated, and armed against their masters; a thing no less imprudent than barbarous, and contrary to every species of civilization; finally, he threatened the destruction of the city, and to vindicate, in every mode, his own honor, and that of the crown.  These threats excited a general fermentation throughout the colony, and even produced an absolute abhorrence toward the government.  Thus, incidents of slight importance, assisted by the harsh and haughty humors of the agents of England and America, contributed to accelerate the course of things toward that crisis, to which they tended already, but too strongly, of themselves.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1770's, 1830's, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, History, Military, New Jersey, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution, Slavery, United States