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Beauties of Liberty

December 3, 1772


To the Right-Honourable the Earl of Dartmouth My Lord, When I view the original right, power and charter, confirm'd, sealed, and ratified to the province, or inhabitants of Rhode-Island, and its standing in full force, and unrepealed for more than an hundred years, which is as follows: "Be it enacted, that no freeman, shall be taken, or imprisoned, or deprived of his freehold, or liberty, or free custom, or be out-law'd, or exil'd, or otherwise destroy'd, nor shall be oppressed, judged or condemned, but by the law of this colony. And that no man of what state or condition soever, shall be put out of his lands or tenements, nor taken, nor imprisoned, nor disinherited, nor banished (observe this my Lord), nor any ways destroy'd, or molested, without being, for it, brought to answer, by a due course of law of this colony": Methinks, that even your Lordship, will not blame them if they stand fast in the liberty wherein they were made free.


As a fly, or a worm, by the law of nature has as great a right to liberty, and freedom (according to their little sphere in life), as the most potent monarch upon the earth: And as there can be no other difference between your Lordship, and myself, but what is political, I therefore without any further apology, take leave to ask your Lordship, whether any one that fears God, loves his neighbour as himself (which is the true scripture-mark of a christian), will oppress his fellow-creatures? If they will, where are the beauties of Christianity? Not to be seen in this life, however they may be seen in the next.


I have seen what is said to be an authenticated copy of your Lordship's letter to the governor of Rhode-Island, in which there are such dictations, directions, and possitive commands, to oppress, with tyranny, a free people, which is inconsistent with a good man, or a Christian to have any concern or agency therein. The law of God directs us to do unto others, as we would they should do unto us. And knowing that your Lordship is well acquainted with the divine oracles, having had the honour to dine at your Lordship's seat, in Staffordshire, and was, when in England, personally acquainted with Mr. Wright, your Lordship's steward, and with the good and pious character your Lordship bears, I therefore take this leave (as a fellow-christian, as one that loves, as the highest happiness of his existence, the beauties, spirit, and life of Christianity), to ask your Lordship, how your Lordship would like to have his birth-right, liberty and freedom, as an Englishman, taken away by his king, or by the ministry, or both? Would not your Lordship immediately say, it was tyranny, oppression and distruction, by a dispotic power? Would not your Lordship be ready to alarm the nation, and point out the state upon the brink of distruction?


My Lord, Are not the liberties of the Americans as dear to them as those of Britons? Suppose your Lordship had broke the laws of his king, and country; would not your Lordship be willing to be try'd by a jury of your peers, according to the laws of the land? How would your Lordship like to be fetter'd with irons, and drag'd three thousand miles, in a hell upon earth? No! but in a hell upon water,* to take your trial? is not this contrary to the spirit of the law, and the rights of an Englishman? Yet thus you have given direction, as the king's agent or the agent of the ministry to destroy the rights and laws of the Americans. How your Lordship can answer for this agency of injustice before God, and man, will be very difficult: However, if great men, and good men, and Christians can dare to do such things as these (when in power), heaven grant that I may have an acquaintance with them in this world; or if they have any power in heaven, not in the world to come; for I think, my Lord, that such men, who will take away the rights of any people, are neither fit for heaven; nor earth, neither fit for the land or the dunghil.


Your Lordship lets us know that the case of burning the Gaspee schooner has been laid before the law servants of the crown, and that they make the crime of a deeper die than piracy, namely, an act of high treason, and levying a war against the king.


Well my Lord, and supposing this to be the case, are not the Rhode-Islanders subjects to the king of Great-Britain? Has not the king his attorney, his courts of judicatory to decide matters between the king and the subjects? Why then must there be new courts of admiralty erected to appoint and order the inhabitants to be confin'd, and drag'd away three thousand miles, from their families, laws, rights and liberties, to be tried by their enemies? Do you think my Lord, this is right in the sight of God and man? I think if the Rhode-Islanders suffer this infringement of their liberties, granted them by their charter, from the king of England, any place out of hell is good enough for them, for was there ever such cruelty, injustice and barbarity ever united against free people before, and my Lord Dartmouth to have an hand in it, from whom we might rather have expected mildness, mercy, and the rights of the people supported.


Your Lordship's letter frequently reminds us that this destructive authority (to destroy the lives and liberties of the people), is his majesty's will and pleasure. How far his majesty may be influenc'd and dictated by his ministry I will not take upon me to say, but that it is his majesty's will and pleasure of his own mind and consent, I will not believe a word of it, for his majesty is a person of more tenderness and understanding, than to attempt such tyranny, besides, his attempt to destroy the rights of the people—destroys his right as king to reign over them, for according to his coronation oath, he has no longer a right to the British crown or throne, than he maintains inviolable firm the laws and rights of the people. For violating the people's rights, Charles Stewart, king of England, lost his head, and if another king, who is more solemnly bound than ever Charles Stewart, was, should tread in the same steps, what can he expect? I reverence and love my king, but I revere the rights of an Englishman before the authority of any king upon the earth. I distinguish greatly between a king and a tyrant, a king is the guardian and trustee of the rights and laws of the people, but a tyrant destroys them.


Besides my Lord, the inhabitants of America know as well

as the people of England, that the people are the right and foundation of power and authority, the original seat of majesty—the author of laws, and the creators of officers to execute them. And if at any time they shall find the power they have conferred abused by their trustees, their majesty violated by tyranny, or by usurpation, their authority prostituted to support violence, or skreen corruption, the laws grown pernicious through accidents unforeseen, or rendered ineffectual through the infidelity of the executors of them. Then it is their right, and what is their right is undoubtedly their priviledge and duty (as their essential power and majesty), to resume that delegated power and authority they intrusted them with, and call their trustees to an account; to resist the usurpation, and extirpate the tyranny; to restore their sullied majesty and their prostituted authority; to suspend, alter or abrogate those laws, and punish the unfaithful and corrupt officers. Nor is it the duty only of the united body, but every member of it ought, according to his respective rank, power and weight in the community, to concur in advancing those glorious designs . . . This is, my Lord, the happy constitution of England; the power, right and majesty of the people which has been frequently recognized and established. By which majesty, right and power, kings are made, and unmade by the choice of the people; and laws enacted, and annulled only by their own consent, in which none can be deprived of their property, abridged of their freedom, or forfeit their lives without an appeal to the laws, and the verdict of their peers or equals.


My Lord, as this is according to the laws of England, the liberty, priviledge and power of his majesty's subjects in Great-Britain, why not then the priviledge of his majesty's subjects in America? has his majesty (as it all seems to be laid upon him) two kind of laws, one for England and the other for America? a power to reign as king and guardian of his people's rights at home, and a power to destroy the rights of the colonies abroad? I really don't understand it my Lord, if he has no right to do it, why do you say he does? This is using his majesty cruel. However somebody does it, your Lordship says it is his majesty with his privy counsel, the latter I rather think. However, be it who it will, whether the king, ministry, or Parliament, they have no more right to do it, than they have to cut your Lordship's throat. Has not your Lordship a right to oppose any power that may assault your Lordship's person, right or priviledge, without its being deemed rebellion against the king and state? Yes, sure you have! Then surely my Lord an American has the same right to oppose every usurping power (let it be from whom it will), that assaults his person, or deprives him of his own law or liberty as an American. Has he offended? yes! Is he willing to be tried by his own laws? yes! Then, that man, that king, that minister of state, be who he will, is worse than a Nero tyrant that shall assume to drag him three thousand miles to be tried by his enemies.

Besides my Lord, what is rebellion? if I understand it right, they are persons rising up with an assumed authority and power to act, dictate and rule in direct violation to the laws of the land—I believe my Lord, I am right here, for this reason, your G-ne-al F——c, and your G———r T——n, when in North-Carolina, thought so, and like cruel blood-thirsty savages, murdered mankind for thinking that they had a right to oppose any power that attempted to destroy their liberties. This was my Lord a cruel barbarous slaughter of mankind. However, if it was deemed rebellion in them, and they were treated as rebels, because they (as the ministry said) broke the laws of the government of the province; then surely it follows, that the k—g's m——y, and P—t, must be rebels, to God, and mankind, in attempting to overthrow (by guns, by swords, and by the power of war), the laws, and government of Rhode-Island. Have not the Rhode-Islanders as much right to the privileges of their own laws, as the king of England has to his crown? sure they have! Then surely, that man must be a tyrant in his soul, that shall deem it rebellion in the Rhode-Islanders, supposing they should kill every man, that shall attempt to destroy their laws, rights and liberties.


It is true my Lord, the Gaspee schooner is destroyed, and thereby the laws of England are violated (as you apprehend), by Indians out of the woods, or by Rhode-Islanders, I cannot say who; but it is a query with me my Lord, whether there is any law broke in burning the Gaspee schooner; if it was done by the Indians (which is the current report) then there is no law broke; for the scripture says, "where there is no Law, there is no transgression." And it is well known, that the Indians were never under any law to the English; did I say, they were never under any law to the English, heaven forgive me! I mean my Lord no other law than the sword and bayonet; the same law that some would fain bring the Americans under now. But suppose my Lord, that this deed was done by the Rhode-Islanders, the query is still with me—whether there is any transgression committed? the scripture says, where there is no Law, there is no transgression: Now, the question is, Do the Rhode-Islanders receive their laws from England? If so, there is a transgression committed against those laws, but if not, there is no transgression, says St. James. For my part, I cannot see how any man in America, can properly break the laws of England. The whole lies here, the laws of America only are broke, let the offender then be tried by the law he has broke, What can justice, I had almost said tyranny desire more: However my Lord, there is no other idea arises in my mind (and it is no wonder, for the Bostonians are very notional), which is, if there is any law broke, it is the king and the ministry who have broke it; for I would be glad to know my Lord, what right the king and ministry has to send an armed schooner to Rhode-Island, to take away the property of the people, any more than they have to send an armed schooner into Brest, and demand the property of France? Know this, that the king of England has no more right, according to the laws of God and nature, to claim the lands of America, than he has the lands of France—America, my Lord, in the native rights of the Americans, it is the blood-bought treasure of their forefathers; and they have the same essential right to their native laws, as they have to the air they breathe in, or to the light of the morning, when the sun rises; and therefore they who oppress the Americans must be as great enemies to the rights of the laws of nature, as they who would (if it were in their power) vail the light of the sun from the universe. Remember my Lord, the Americans have a priviledge to boast of above all the world. They never were in bondage to any man, and therefore it is more for them to give up their rights into the hands of the Turks; consider what English tyranny their forefathers fled from, what seas of distress they met with, what savages they fought with, what blood-bought treasures, as the dear inheritance of their lives, they have left to their children, and without any aid from the king of England; and yet after this, these free-born people must be counted rebels, if they will not loose every right of liberty, which their forefathers bought, with their blood, and submit again to English ministerial tyranny—O America! O America!


My Lord, I hope I need not remind your Lordship of the enquiry that the divine Messiah made to Peter, when they required a tax, or tribute, from him. Of whom, says Christ, to Peter, do they gather tax, or tribute, of the children, or of strangers? And Peter said of strangers. Then, says Christ, the children are free. Now, the Gaspee schooner, my Lord, was a stranger; and they should, if it was in their commission, have gathered tax from strangers: But instead of which, they would have gathered it from the children. They forgot that the children were free: Therefore, my Lord, must it certainly be, that the Gaspee schooner has committed the transgression, & broke the laws, of the freedom of this country. No doubt, my Lord, but they have a right to tax the strangers, that come to dwell in their country; but to tax the children, which are free in their own native country, this will not do! Nature forbids it; the law of God condemns it. And no law, but that of tyranny, can desire it.


And therefore it was, my Lord, that the children (who are by the law of God, and the law of nature free), looked upon the Gaspee-schooner as a stranger, as such they treated her; but when the stranger attempted to gather tax of the children who are free then they looked upon her, as a pirate, who took away their property without their consent, by violence, by arms, by guns, by oaths and damnations: This they thought looked so like piracy, that the children did not like it; and they thought their behavior as strangers, was very unpolite, that they could not so much as pass by these strangers, but the children must bow to them, and come to them; this, the children being free, did not like, and they thought it was best for the children, and the strangers, all to be free: And therefore, one night, my Lord, they went and set the strangers (who, by the way, were all prisoners), free—free upon the face of the whole earth; and then to preserve them free, they burnt their prison. Now, my Lord, would it not be hard to hang these poor men for it? However, If there is any law broke, it is this, that the Gaspee schooner, by the power of the English ministry and admiralty, have broke the laws, and taken away the rights of the Americans. And yet the Americans must be punish'd for it, contrary to their own laws. O! Amazing! I would be glad to know my Lord, what right the king of England has to America? it cannot be an hereditary right, that lies in Hanover, it cannot be a parliamentary right that lies in Britain, not a victorious right, for the king of England never conquered America. Then he can have no more right to America, than what the people have, by compact, invested him with, which is only a power to protect them, and defend their rights civil and religious; and to sign, seal, and confirm, as their steward, such laws as the people of America shall consent to. If this be the case, my Lord, then judge whether the king of England and the ministry are not the trangressors in this affair, in sending armed schooners to America, to steal by power and sword the people's property. And if any are to be try'd for law-breakers, it surely ought, in justice, to be them. But the people of America act my Lord very honest in the affair, they are willing to give and take, to give the English offenders the liberty to be try'd by their own laws, and to take the same liberty wherein they have offended to be tried by their own laws, as the king of England has to his crown, or that the natives of Britain has to the rights of an Englishman—consider then, my Lord, how cruel, how unjust, how unanswerable before God and man it must be, by any violence and power to destroy the rights of the Americans.


My Lord, the close of your Lordship's letter, is such that it is enough to make the blood of every vein stand stagnated as a testimony against ministerial bloody power. It not only gives a right to every American to be angry, but to be incensed against your lordship, wherein you tell the governor of Rhode-Island, that it is his majesty's pleasure, that General Gage, hold the troops in readiness to assist this assumed court of admiralty, to destroy the rights of the people. What my Lord, is bloody Bonner's days so near America! O America! O America! What, the blood-power of the sword and death to aid civil magistrates to destroy the people's rights? Stop a little my Lord, give a little breathing time—for it is a solemn thing to die. I wonder your Lordship's knees did not smite together, when as the king's, or ministerial agent, you wrote this authority, how a good man, a christian, and one that fears God, can be an agent not only to destroy the rights of a people, but to oppress them; with the military power of blood and death, is enough to make the earth to reel, and all heaven to stand aghast! Be astonish'd O ye heavens at this! I hope, my Lord, you do not intend to renew that bloody, barbarous assassination in America which I saw the Scotch barbarian troops thro' the orders of Lord B——n and Lord W———h spread in St. George's fields, remember the blood of young Allen cries to heaven for vengeance in their face, and a louder voice than Abel's blood, which cry'd to heaven for vengeance, is still heard in Boston streets, against a bloody military power, and tho' the murderers escaped by a scene well known to some, but too dark to explain—yet the God of truth and justice stands at the door. Supposing my Lord, that the Rhode-Islanders, for the sake of blood bought liberties of their forefathers, for the sake of the birthrights of their children, should shew a spirit of resentment against a tyrannical arbitrary power that attempts to destroy their lives, liberties and property, would it not be unsufferable, cruel, for this (which the law of nature and nations teaches them to do) to be butchered, assassinated and slaughtered in their own streets by their king? Consider, my Lord, that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and that it would be a cold cordial for your Lordship, at the bar of God, to have thousands of Americans rise up in judgment against you. Yet I would rather this was the case, tho' I suffer'd death with them, than they should lose their essential rights as Americans.


But it may be meet to let your Lordship know, that if the Americans unite (as there seems a good prospect of it) to stand as a band of brethren for their liberties, they have a right, by the law of God, of nature, and of nations, to reluct at, and even to resist any military and marine force, surely they must be intended in readiness for the French, and not for Americans, for can it ever enter into the heart of a mother to murder her children? of a king to kill his subjects? of an agent to destroy the rights of the colonies he represents? But suppose my Lord, that this should be the bloody intent of the ministry, to make the Americans subject to their slavery, then let blood for blood, life for life, and death for death decide the contention. This bloody scene can never be executed but at the expence of the destruction of England, and you will find, my Lord, that the Americans will not submit to be slaves, they know the use of the gun, and the military art, as well as any of his majesty's troops at St. James's, and where his majesty has one soldier, who art in general the refuse of the earth, America can produce fifty, free men, and all volunteers, and raise a more potent army of men in three weeks, than England can in three years. But God forbid that I should be thought to aim at rouzing the Americans to arms, without their rights, liberties and oppression call for it. For they are unwilling to beat to arms, they are loyal subjects; they love their king; they love their mother-country; they call it their home; and with nothing more than the prosperity of Britain, and the glory of their king: But they will not give up their rights; they will not be slaves to any power upon earth. Therefore, my Lord, as a peace-maker; as their agent; as their friend; lay their grievances before their king. Let the Americans enjoy their birthright blessings, and Britain her prosperity, let there be a mutual union between the mother and her children, in all the blessings of life, trade and happiness; then, my Lord, both Britons, and Americans, will call you blessed.


Wishing, from my heart, the inviolable preservation of the rights and liberties of the Americans, and the growing happiness of England:


I am, my Lord his Majesty's loyal subject, and your Lordship's dutiful servant,


A British Bostonian


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