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Massachusettensis VIII


 

Massachusettensis

 

LETTER VIII.

 

To the Inhabitants of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay.


AS the oppugnation to the King in parliament tends manifestly to independence, and the colonies would soon arrive at that point, did not Great-Britain check them in their career; let us indulge the idea, however extravagant and romantic, and suppose ourselves for ever separated from the parent-state. Let us suppose Great-Britain sinking under the violence of the shock, and overwhelmed by her antient hereditary enemies; or, what is more probable, opening new sources of national wealth, to supply the deficiency of that which used to flow to her through American channels, and perhaps planting more loyal colonies in the new discovered regions of the south, still retaining her præ-eminence among the nations, though regardless of America.


Let us now advert to our own situation. Destitute of British protection, that impervious barrier, behind which, in perfect security, we have increased to a degree almost exceeding the bounds of probability; what other Britain could we look to, when in distress?—What succedaneum does the world afford, to make good the loss? Would not our trade, navigation and fishery, which no nation dares violate or invade, while distinguished by British colours, become the sport and prey of the maritime powers of Europe? Would not our maritime towns be exposed to the pillaging of every piratical enterprize? Are the colonies able to maintain a fleet, sufficient to afford one idea of security to such an extensive sea-coast? Before they can defend themselves against foreign invasions, they must unite into one empire; otherwise the jarring interests, and opposite propensities, would render the many headed monster in politics unweildy and inactive. Neither the form or seat of government would be readily agreed upon; more difficult still would it be to six upon the person or persons, to be invested with the imperial authority. There is perhaps as great a diversity between the tempers and habits of the inhabitants of this province, and the tempers and habits of the Carolinians, as there subsist between some different nations: nor need we travel so far; the Rhode-Islanders are as unlike the people of Connecticut, as those mentioned before. Most of the colonies are rivals to each other in trade. Between others there subsist deep animosities, respecting their boundaries, which have heretofore produced violent altercations; and the sword of civil war has been more than once unsheathed, without bringing these disputes to a decision. It is apparent, that so many discordant heterogeneous particles could not suddenly unite and consolidate into one body: It is most probable, that, if they were ever united, the union would be effected by some aspiring genius, putting himself at the head of the colonists army (for we must suppose a very respectable one indeed before we are severed from Britain), who, taking advantage of the enfeebled, bleeding and distracted state of the colonies, would subjugate the whole to the yoke of despotism. Human nature is every where the same; and this has often been the issue of those rebellions that the rightful prince was unable to subdue. We need not travel through the states of antient Greece and Rome, or the more modern ones in Europe, to pick up the instances, with which the way is strewed; we have a notable one in our own. So odious and arbitrary was the protectorate of Cromwell, that when death had delivered them from the dread of the tyrant, all parties conspired to restore monarchy, and each one strove to be the foremost in inviting home and placing upon the imperial throne, their exiled prince, the son of the same Charles, who, not many years before, had been murdered on a scaffold. The republicans themselves now rushed to the opposite extreme; and had Charles the second been as industrious, as some of his predecessors were, he might have established in England a power more arbitrary than the first Charles ever had in contemplation.


Let us now suppose the colonies united and moulded into some form of government. Think one moment of the revenue necessary both to support this government and to provide for even the appearance of defence. Conceive yourselves in a manner exhausted by the conflict with Great-Britain, now staggering and sinking under the load of your own taxes, and the weight of your own government. Consider further, that to render government operative and salutary, subordination is necessary. This our patriots need not be told of; and when once they had mounted the steed, and found themselves so well seated as to run no risk of being thrown from the saddle, the severity of their discipline to restore subordination, would be in proportion to their former treachery in destroying it. We have already seen specimens of their tyranny, in their inhuman treatment of persons guilty of no crime, except that of differing in sentiment from themselves. What then must we expect from such scourges of mankind, when supported by imperial power?


To elude the difficulty, resulting from our defenceless situation, we are told, that the colonies would open a free trade with all the world, and all nations would join in protecting their common mart. A very little reflection will convince us that this is chimerical. American trade, however beneficial to Great-Britain, while she can command it, would be but as a drop of the bucket, or the light dust of the balance, to all the commercial states of Europe. Besides, were British fleets and armies no longer destined to our protection, in a very short time France and Spain would recover possession of those territories, that were torn, reluctant and bleeding from them, in the last war, by the superior strength of Britain. Our enemies would again extend their line of fortification, from the northern to the southern shore, and by means of our late settlements stretching themselves to the confines of Canada, and the communication opened from one country to the other, we should be exposed to perpetual incursions from Canadians and savages; but our distress would not end here, for when once these incursions should be supported by the formidable armaments of France and Spain, the whole continent would become their easy prey, and would be parcelled out, Poland like. Recollect the consternation we were thrown into last war, when Fort-William Henry was taken by the French: It was apprehended that all New-England would be over-run by their conquering arms. It was even proposed, for our own people to burn and lay waste all the country west of Connecticut river, to impede the enemies march, and prevent their ravaging the country east of it. This proposal came from no inconsiderable man. Consider what must really have been our fate, unaided by Britain last war.


Great-Britain aside, what earthly power could stretch out the compassionate arm to shield us from those powers, that have long beheld us with the sharp, piercing eyes of avidity, and have heretofore bled freely and expended their millions to obtain us? Do you suppose their lust of empire is satiated? Or do you suppose they would scorn to obtain so glorious a prize by an easy conquest? Or can any be so visionary or impious as to believe that the Father of the universe will work miracles in favour of rebellion, and, after having by some unseen arm and mighty power destroyed Great-Britain for us, will in the same mysterious way defend us against other European powers? Sometimes we are told, that the colonies may put themselves under the protection of some one foreign state; but it ought to be considered that, to do that, we must throw ourselves into their power. We can make them no return for protection but by trade, and of that they can have no assurance, unless we become subject to their laws; this is evident by our contention with Britain.


Which state would you prefer being annexed to, France, Spain, or Holland? I suppose the latter, as it is a republic: but are you sure, that the other powers of Europe would be idle spectators, content to suffer the Dutch to engross the American colonies or their trade? And what figure would the Dutch probably make in the unequal contest? Their sword has been long since sheathed in commerce. Those of you that have visited Surinam, and seen a Dutch governor dispensing at discretion his own opinions for law, would not suddenly exchange the English for Dutch government.


I will subjoin some observations from the Farmer’s letters: ‘When the appeal is made to the sword, highly probable it is, that the punishment will exceed the offence, and the calamities attending on war out-weigh those preceding it. These considerations of justice and prudence, will always have great influence with good and wise men. To these reflections it remains to be added, and ought for ever to be remembered, that resistance, in the case of the colonies against their mother-country, is extremely different from the resistance of a people against their Prince: A nation may change their King or race of Kings, and, retaining their ancient form of government, be gainers by changing. Thus Great-Britain, under the illustrious house of Brunswick, a house that seems to flourish for the happiness of mankind, has found a felicity unknown in the reigns of the Stuarts. But if once we are separated from our mother-country, what new form of government shall we adopt, or where shall we find another Britain to supply our loss? Torn from the body to which we are united by religion, laws, affection, relation, language and commerce, we must bleed at every vein. In truth, the prosperity of these provinces is founded in their dependance on Great-Britain.’


MASSACHUSETTENSIS.

January 30, 1775


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