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Public Letter to the people of Massachusetts by B.W.

Updated: Feb 13

To the Inhabitants of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay.


Had not His Excellency the Governor seen fit to adjourn the General Assembly so suddenly, the House of Representatives would doubtless, in a few days, have desired a recess; in order to consult with, and take the Directions of their Constituents, respecting the necessity of a Compliance with the grievous and unconstitutional Tax laid upon the Colonies by the Stamp Act; after first acquainted His Excellency, by Way of Answer to his Speech, that they considered the Act as inconsistent with the Charter Rights of the province, and that themselves were not convinced of the Necessity of a Submission. But His Excellency it seems was in an unparliamentarily Way, informed of the Intentions of the House; and, to prevent their taking Place, adjourned the Court before the Committee and prepared the Draft of an Answer.

You have now, my Countrymen, the same Opportunity to instruct your Representatives as you would have had if the House had requested a Recess.

I hope you will at this important Crisis, excuse an animated address, from a hearty Friend to your Civil Liberties, intended to warm your Imagination, and excite your Activity; in the Prosecution of which, I shall, with great Freedom use the Words and adopt the Sentiments of a late inspired Writer: without marking the particular Passages, for which I am obliged to that patriotic Genius.

It is a standing Maxim of English Liberty ‘That no man shall be taxed but with his own consent,” and you very well know we were not, in any sober Sense, represented in parliament, when this tax was imposed. When the Legislature decree a Tax, as they represent the Community, such tax ought to be considered as the voluntary Gift of the People to be applied to such uses, as they, by their Representatives, shall think expedient. In the Preamble to this Act it is said to be, “For defraying the Expences of defending, protecting and securing the British Colonies.” But lest you should fall in Love with the Act on Account of these Words in the Preamble, I would just observe to you that Impositions of this Kind are commonly ushered in under the Pretence of general Utility, to make them the more easy to go down with the People. The Colonies, my dear Friends, are of so much importance to the Mother Kingdom, that its very Existence, as a free State, depends on them.

The conquests lately made in America, tho' comparatively of little Advantage to us, are of ineffable Benefit to Great Britain; and we may be certain, if we should stand in Need of Help in any future War, that, for its own sake, Great Britain will protect and defend the Colonies.

The Support of His Majesty's Government in this Province, the annual Expenses of the Public, and the Salaries of our civil Officers, are Calls which cannot be satisfied, but at the Expense of a considerable Portion of our Estates. The Provincial Debt, incurred by the late War, and which is daily increasing by the Interest which grows the thereon, is also very great; and we should be endeavouring, as we are able, to lessen it. How then will it be possible, under these circumstances, to endure this Tax which is laid upon us by Parliament? - Add to this, that it will drain the Province of the little Cash left among us, which at present barely serves for a Medium of Trade.

These burdensome Duties might, under our present Circumstances, be exclaimed against

Awake! Awake my Countrymen, and, by a regular & legal Opposition of those who enslave us and our posterity. Nothing is wanting but your own Resolution –For great is the Authority, exalted the Dignity, and Powerful the majesty of the people. –And shall you, the Descendants of Britain, born in a land of Light, and reared in the Bosom of Liberty –shall you commence Cowards, at a time when reason calls so loud for your Magnanimity? I know you scorn such an injurious Aspersion –I know you disdain the Thought of so approbitious a Servility. -Some of you perhaps imagine all Endeavors unavailable. –Banish so groundless a Fear. Be Men, and make the Experiment. –Truth is omnipotent, and Reason must be finally victorious. This is your duty, your Burden, your indispensable Duty. Ages remote, Mortals yet unborn: will bless your generous efforts, and revere the Memory of the Saviours of their Country.

The Love of Liberty is natural to our Species and interwoven with the human Frame. –Inflamed with this Love, do not countenance an Act so detrimental to your Privileges. Perhaps you conceive we shall after all be obliged to comply. What! –do you take it for granted that so it must be? Did you not then think your selves free? Will you trifle with an inestimable Jewel? Regardless of your Country’s welfare, will you yield, and resign without a Struggle? Are you not desirous to bequeath to Posterity the priceless Treasure you yourselves enjoy? Doubtless you resent the Insinuation. Courage then, my Brethren, and be not remiss in a Concern so momentous. Retrospect the Zeal of your Ancestors for the Enjoyment of the Rights and Privileges. Trace the Renown of your Progenitors & recollect the Stands, the glorious Stands they have often made against the Yoke of Thralldom: -For their inviolable Attachment to the inestimable Blessings of Freedom. History will resound their deathless Praises; and adorned with the precious Memorials of their heroic and irrepressible Struggles against Imposition of every Sort, will paint with eternal and undecrying Splendor. Impelled by their illustrious Example, disdain the Tho’t of servile Acquiescence in a burdensome law. Consider gentlemen, that the least infraction of your Liberties is a Prelude to Encroachments. Such always was, and such will always be the Case. Recede therefore not an inch from your indisputable Rights

-On the contrary, declare your Thoughts freely, and scruple to deliver your sentiments in an Affair of such unspeakable Consequence. Indolence –Indolence has been the Source of irretrievable Ruin –Langour and Timidity, when the Public is concerned, are the origin of Evils mighty and innumerable. Why then, in the name of Heaven, should you behold an Infringement supine and inanimate? Why should you too late deplore your Irresolution? Alas! When shall we see the Glorious Flame of Patriotism lighted up and blazing out with unextinguishable flame? When shall we have our Interest, and that Interest the common Good?

To assert your Rights doth your Resolution fail you? Are you destitute of Courage? Tamely will you submit, and yield without a Contest? Come then, and by Imagination’s Aid, penetrate into Futurity. Behold your Offspring bred up to Bondage. Behold the Province swarming with Slaves and beggars, and your Lands: those lands you so much delight in, all owned by haughty and domineering Lords!

Pause, therefore, My Countrymen, and consider. Revolve the Consequences in a dispassionate Mind. –Weigh them in the Scale of Reason- in the Balance of cool deliberate Reflection: if any of you have been until this Time insensible to your Danger, awake now out of your Lethargy –Start, O start from your Trance: By the inconquerable Spirit of the ancient Britons: -by the Genius of that Constitution which abhors every species of Vassallage; -by the august Title of Englishmen; -by the grand Prerogatives of Human Nature; the lovely image if the Infinite Deity;

-and what is more than all, by that Liberty wherewith Christ has made you free; I exhort you to instruct your Representatives against proceeding by any ways or means whatsoever, the Operation of this grievous and burdensome Law. Acquaint them fully of your Sentiments of the matter: that they may be inexcusable if they should act contrary to your declared Minds. They are cloathed with Power, not to sport with the Interests of Human nature; but to be faithful guardians of the liberties of the Country –We have therefore a Right to expect that they will do every Thing in their Power for our Relief under our pressing Difficulties –We have also from the Change in the Ministry, some Reason to hope for a repeal of the Act. –Happy, thice happy I should be, to have it in my Power to congratulate my Countrymen on so memorable a Deliverance: whilst I left the Enemies of truth and liberty to humble themselves in Sackcloth and Ashes.


Source: B.W. “To the Inhabitants of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay,” The Boston-Gazette and Country Journal, October 7, 1765.

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