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Massachusettensis XIIII


 

Massachusettensis

 

LETTER XIV.

 

To the Inhabitants of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay.


OUR patriotic writers, as they call each other, estimate the services rendered by, and the advantages resulting from, the colonies in Britain, at a high rate; but allow but little, if any, merit in her towards the colonies. Novanglus would persuade us, that, exclusive of her assistance in the last war, we have had but little of her protection, unless it was such as her name alone afforded. Dr. Franklin, when before the house of commons, in 1765, denied, that the late war was entered into for the defence of the people in America. The Pennsylvania Farmer tells us, in his letters, that the war was undertaken solely for the benefit of Great-Britain, and that, however advantageous the subduing or keeping any of these countries, viz. Canada, Nova-Scotia and the Floridas may be to Great-Britain, the acquisition is greatly injurious to these colonies; and that the colonies, as constantly as streams tend to the ocean, have been pouring the fruits of all their labours into their mother’s lap. Thus, they would induce us to believe, that we derive little or no advantage from Great-Britain, and thence they infer the injustice, rapacity and cruelty of her conduct towards us. I fully agree with them, that the services rendered by the colonies are great and meritorious: The plantations are additions to the empire of inestimable value: The American market for British manufactures, the great nursery for seamen formed by our shipping, the cultivation of deserts, and our rapid population, are increasing and inexhaustible sources of national wealth and strength: I commend these patriots for their estimations of the national advantages accruing from the colonies, as much as I think them deserving of censure for depreciating the advantages and benefits that we derive from Britain. A particular enquiry into the protection afforded us, and the commercial advantages resulting to us from the parent-state, will go a great way towards conciliating the affections of those, whose minds are at present unduly impressed with different sentiments towards Great-Britain. The intestine commotions, with which England was convulsed and torn, soon after the emigration of our ancestors, probably prevented that attention being given to them in the earliest stages of this colony, that otherwise would have been given. The principal difficulties, that the adventurers met with, after the struggle of a few of the first years were over, were the incursions of the French and Savages conjointly, or of the latter instigated and supported by the former. Upon a representation of this to England, in the time of the interregnum, Acadia, which was then the principal source of our disquietude, was reduced by an English armament. At the request of this colony, in Queen Anne’s reign, a fleet of fifteen men of war, besides transports, troops, &c. was sent to assist us in an expedition against Canada; the fleet suffered shipwreck, and the attempt proved abortive. It ought not to be forgotten, that the siege of Louisbourg, in 1745, by our own forces, was covered by a British fleet of ten ships, four of 60 guns, one of fifty, and five of 40 guns, besides the Vigilant of sixty-four, which was taken during the siege, as she was attempting to throw supplies into the garrison. It is not probable, that the expedition would have been undertaken without an expectation of some naval assistance, or that the reduction could have been effected without it. In January, 1754, our assembly, in a message to Governor Shirley, prayed him to represent to the King, ‘that the French had made such extraordinary encroachments, and taken such measures, since the conclusion of the preceding war, as threatened great danger, and perhaps, in time, even the intire destruction of this province, without the interposition of his Majesty, notwithstanding any provision we could make to prevent it:’----‘That the French had erected a fort on the isthmus of the peninsula near Bay Vert, in Nova-Scotia, by means of which they maintained a communication by sea with Canada, St. John’s Island, and Louisbourg:—‘That near the mouth of St. John’s river the French had possessed themselves of two forts, formerly built by them, one of which was garrisoned by regular troops, and had erected another strong fort at twenty leagues up the river, and that these encroachments might prove fatal not only to the eastern parts of his Majesty’s territories within this province, but also, in time, to the whole of this province, and the rest of his Majesty’s territories on this continent:’ — ‘That whilst the French held Acadia under the treaty of St. Germain, they so cut off the trade of this province, and galled the inhabitants with incursions into their territories, that Oiliver Cromwell found it necessary, for the safety of New-England, to make a descent by sea into the river of St. John, and dispossess them of that and all the forts in Acadia. — That Acadia was restored to the French by the treaty of Breda, in 1667:’ — That this colony felt again the same mischievous effects from their possessing it, insomuch, that after forming several expeditions against it, the inhabitants were obliged, in the latter end of the war in Queen Anne’s reign, to represent to her Majesty, how destructive the possession of the Bay of Fundy and Nova-Scotia, by the French, was to this province and the British trade; whereupon the British ministry thought it necessary to fit out a formal expedition against that province with English troops, and a considerable armament of our own, under General Nicholson, by which it was again reduced to the subjection of the crown of Great-Britain: — ‘That we were then, viz. in 1754, liable to feel more mischievous effects than we had ever yet done, unless his Majesty should be pleased to cause them to be removed.’ They also remonstrated our danger from the encroachments of the French at Crown Point. — In April, 1754, the Council and House represented, ‘That it evidently appeared, that the French were far advanced in the execution of a plan projected more than fifty years since, for the extending their possessions from the mouth of the Mississippi on the south, to Hudson’s Bay on the north, for securing the vast body of Indians in that inland country, and for subjecting the whole continent to the crown of France:’ — ‘That many circumstances gave them great advantages over us, which, if not attended to, would soon overbalance our superiority of numbers; and that these disadvantages could not be removed without his Majesty’s gracious interposition.’


The Assembly of Virginia, in an address to the King, represented, ‘That the endeavour of the French to establish a settlement upon the frontiers, was a high insult offered to his Majesty, and, if not timely opposed with vigour and resolution, must be attended with the most fatal consequences,’ and prayed his Majesty to extend his royal beneficence towards them.


The commissioners, who met at Albany the same year, represented, ‘that it was the evident design of the French to surround the British colonies; to fortity themselves on the back thereof; to take and keep possession of the heads of all the important rivers; to draw over the Indians to their interest, and with the help of such Indians, added to such forces as were then arrived, and might afterwards arrive, or be sent from Europe, to be in a capacity of making a general attack on the several governments; and if at the same time a strong naval force should be sent from France, there was the utmost danger that the whole continent would be subjected to that crown: and that it seemed absolutely necesiary, that speedy and effectual measures should be taken to secure the colonies from the slavery they were threatened with.’


We did not pray in vain. Great-Britain, ever attentive to the real grievances of her colonies, hastened to our relief with maternal speed. She covered our seas with her ships, and sent forth the bravest of her sons to fight our battles. They fought, they bled, and conquered with us. Canada, Nova-Scotia, the Floridas, and all our American foes, were laid at our feet. It was a dear-bought victory; the wilds of America were saturated with the blood of the noble and the brave.


The war, which, at our request, was thus kindled in America, spread through the four quarters of the globe, and obliged Great-Britain to exert her whole force and energy to stop the rapid progress of its devouring flames.


To these instances of actual exertions for our immediate protection and defence, ought to be added the fleets stationed on our coast, and the convoys and security afforded to our trade and fishery in times of war; and her maintaining, in times of peace, such a navy and army, as to be always in readiness to give protection, as exigencies may require; and her ambassadors, residing at foreign courts, to watch and give the earliest intelligence of their motions. By such precautions, every part of her wide extended empire enjoys as ample security as human power and policy can afford. Those necessary precautions are supported at an immense expence; and the colonies reap the benefit of them equally with the rest of the empire. To these considerations it should likewise be added, that whenever the colonies have exerted themselves in a war, though in their own defence, to a greater degree than their proportion with the rest of the empire, they have been reimbursed by the parliamentary grants: This was the case, in the last war, with this province.

From this view, which I think is an impartial one, it is evident, that Great-Britain is not less attentive to our interest than her own; and that her sons, who have settled on new and distant plantations, are equally dear to her with those that cultivate the antient domain, and inhabit the mansion-house.


MASSACHUSETTENSIS.

March 13, 1775


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