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Archived from the original on January 16, Retrieved January 17, It is this; "By the law is the knowledge of sin. Have the sins of your evil heart ever been felt? Have you ever seen the purity and perfection of Jehovah; and felt the justice of God in his holy law? Do you ever feel that had God sentenced your soul to eternal damnation, he would be just; that you had deserved it all, and brought it on your own head?
Can you say, that he would be just in condemning you to the lowest hell? If you have felt this, you have been taught out of God's law; for "by the law is the knowledge of sin. But we pass on to consider "the law," in a different point of view. The "law," as I have already noticed, signifies not merely "the law," strictly speaking as the sentence of condemnation; but it includes also the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ--"the perfect law of liberty; the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus;" that law which was in the heart of the Redeemer, when he said, "I come to do your will, O God; yes, your law is within my heart.
Now, as the Lord teaches his children "out of the law," strictly so called, so he teaches them "out of" the gospel; and to my mind there is something exceedingly sweet and expressive in the words "out of the law. And as those who know most of the law are only taught "out of the law," and not the whole of the law, only a few drops as it were, out of the inexhaustible wrath of God; so out of the heavenly treasure-house of the gospel, "the perfect law of liberty," it is but a little of grace and mercy that in this life can be known.
As Christ said to his disciples in promising the Spirit; "He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you. The Spirit, therefore, takes of the things of Christ, and shows here a little and there a little; some little blessedness here, and some little blessedness there; a suitable promise, a gracious testimony, a comforting text, an encouraging word, a sight of atoning blood, a smile of his countenance, a view of his Person, a discovery of his righteousness, or a glimpse of his love. This is taking of the things of Christ and revealing them to the soul.
And thus, the man whom the Lord takes in hand, he teaches "out of" the gospel by making Christ experimentally known, and revealing his dying love. And thus he teaches each and all "out of his law"--both the law from Sinai, and the law from Zion. But, observe the connection between chastening and teaching. This is what I am wishing to impress upon you. Suppose you are in a carnal state of mind; say you are a man of business, have done a good stroke today, have got something which has wonderfully pleased your covetous heart, have been carried away by some worldly project.
But you have come to chapel this evening. Are you in a fit state to hear the word of God? Is the Lord about to teach you now out of the gospel? You are not the man, nor is your soul in a fit state to receive it. But suppose it otherwise. Say, the Lord has been severely chastening you of late; you are just recovering from a painful sickness; have lost a child; had an affliction in your family; something trying has happened today, yesterday, or the last week in your worldly circumstances; or the Lord has set to his hand, and wrought more powerfully upon your soul than he has for months past; you have been cut up with convictions, felt your backslidings, and could scarcely bear to creep to chapel, lest you should hear your own condemnation.
You are the very person whom God is chastening that he may teach out of his law. You were not in a fit state before to hear; you were thinking how tedious the minister was, and wondering when he would finish the sermon; your mind was full of wandering thoughts, or you were caviling at all you heard. But now you have an ear to hear; a sigh and a cry in your heart, and lips when you come to chapel; and in groaning out your petition before you come, you say, 'O Lord, will you speak one word to my soul tonight? Will you kindly look upon a poor vile backslider?
O do manifest yourself to me! You must have chastening first; you must first be brought to your senses, have a heart given you to feel; have many stripes laid upon you to bring your wandering feet back to the paths of righteousness; and then the gospel is for you. The promises of mercy, the sweet invitations, the forgivenesses with God, and all the blessings which the gospel is filled with, are for those whom the Lord brings down and chastens. And therefore, there are very few people who are really in a state fit to hear the gospel, the precious love of God as revealed in the Person of Christ.
This is the reason why we have so many hardened antinomians in our day; so many dry, doctrinal professors, whose lives, conduct, and conversation are disgraceful to the name they profess. It is because they are not chastened. And this makes them the bitterest enemies to real experimental truth, and to the men who speak out of the fullness of a believing, exercised heart.
There is a connection, therefore, between being chastened, afflicted, exercised, and being taught "out of the law. But we pass on to our second branch, which is, the reason why the Lord chastens and teaches his children --"that he may give them rest from days of adversity. We may have days of great adversity and troublous times as regards the country generally. We may have persecutions. We may have calamitous times as regards business, trade, and worldly circumstances; and these things affect all men. We are so linked together, so dependent upon each other, that whatever touches one touches all.
If troublous times come, they will touch the church as well as the world. What a blessing, then, for God's people, if they have a rest from the "days of adversity;" if they have a God to go to, a Jesus to lean on, a lap to be dandled in, and a bosom to pillow their aching heads. But, supposing the political horizon is not overshadowed; supposing worldly matters are peaceable and quiet, there may be "days of adversity" of another character.
You may have a long and painful sickness, be brought into very trying circumstances; you that are now in comparative comfort may be brought down to poverty; you may have a very heavy affliction in your family; and see little else but "days of adversity. We can no more say "the day of adversity" shall not come, than we can say, tomorrow will not be a rainy day, or that the shadow will not attend tomorrow's sunshine. The Lord, then, knowing the "days of adversity" which are in store; knowing that sickness and death are coming, has prepared a rest beforehand; "Come, my people," he says, "enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.
But how do we get this "rest? Until we are chastened, we make the world our home; and a very pleasant paradise it is. Our children, our friendships, our pursuits, our worldly ease, the many airy castles that we build up, are all very pleasant to us until strokes of chastisement come, and the Lord begins to afflict us in body, in family, or in soul. Yet how kind it is, and all the kinder for being painful, for the Lord to chasten us back to our true home. Our child may perhaps be away from home; there is a storm gathering; the thunder is ready to break forth; and he is about to be exposed to the lightning's flash.
If he loiters, are you dealing unkindly with him if you whip him home? Is not every stroke a kindness that brings him out of the thunderstorm? The Lord sees that there is a thunderstorm gathering; the lightnings are about to flash; the rain to pour; the hail to strike. Is not every stroke a kind stroke, a stroke of love that brings the wanderer home to find shelter under God's wing until this storm be overpast?
We might be wandering abroad in the world with our heads exposed to the lightning stroke; we might hear the warning peal, and be yet too far from home to get there in time; but the Lord foreseeing "the days of adversity," comes with strokes and drives us home. He will not let us lie down in the green fields and flowery meadows, and sleep under the trees.
His strokes are strokes dipped in love; and, however cutting to the flesh, if blessed by the Spirit, they are made instrumental in driving us home, bringing us to our right mind, and showing us where true rest is only to be found--in Christ, in his Person, love, blood, grace, and suitability; in all that he is and all that he has.
What a wise and kind parent, then, he is to chasten us, though painful at the time, and to teach us out of his law and gospel, that he may give us rest from "the days of adversity. But we come to our third point; what the Lord is preparing in the meanwhile for the ungodly. There is no chastening for them; no teaching for them; no preparing a rest for them; or preparing them for rest. What, then, is awaiting them? What a striking figure here the Lord makes use of!
Is it not this? In Eastern countries, the ordinary mode of catching wild beasts is to dig a pit, and fix sharp spears in the bottom--and when the pit has been dug sufficiently deep, it is covered over with branches of trees, earth, and leaves, until all appearances of the pitfall are entirely concealed. What is the object? That the wild beast intent upon bloodshed-the tiger lying in wait for the deer, the wolf roaming after the sheep, the lion prowling for the antelope, or the elephant breaking through the jungle, not seeing the pitfall, but rushing on and over it, may not see their doom until they break through and fall upon the spears at the bottom.
What a striking figure is this! Here are the ungodly, all intent upon their purposes; prowling after evil, as the wolf after the sheep, or the tiger after the deer, thinking only of some worldly profit, some covetous plan, some lustful scheme, something the carnal mind delights in; but on they go, not seeing any danger until the moment comes when, as Job says, "they go down to the bars of the pit.
The very appearance of the pit was hidden from the wild beasts; they never knew it until they fell into it, and were transfixed. So it is with the wicked; both with the professors and the profane. There is no fear of God, no taking heed to their steps, no cry to be directed, no prayer to be shown the way; no pausing, no turning back--on they go, on they go; heedlessly, thoughtlessly, recklessly; pursuing some beloved object--on they go, on they go; until in a moment they are plunged eternally and irrevocably into the pit! There are many such both in the professing church as well as in the ungodly world.
The Lord sees what they are, and where they are; he knows where the pit is; in what part of the wood; how situated in the jungle. If these Gentlemen would reflect, that free republican States are always most thickly inhabited, perhaps they may be of Opinion with me; that the Indulgence of a few in Edition: current; Page: [ 23 ] Luxurious Ease, to the Prejudice of their fellow Creatures, is at best not laudable; but when it tends to thin the Ranks of Mankind, and to encourage a general Profligacy of Manners, it is then criminal in the highest Degree.
I do not scruple to affirm, that all Dangers to be apprehended from an Independency, may well be obviated by this Assembly. If we so regulate our own Power, as to give perfect Freedom to our constituents, there is but little Danger of intestine Broils. For Mankind, however chargeable with Levity on other occasions, are by no Means prone to change their Form of Government, so long as it is meerly tolerable. And this leads me Sir to consider the last objection to Independence, which I shall take on me to mention. It is, the Reluctance which many Americans feel for this Measure. This Reluctance Sir, is laudable for the greater Part.
It is a patriotic Emotion. In some Cases, Religion has a Share in the Sentiment. It is said what Check have we upon the Members of Congress? If they abuse their Power and establish an Oligarchy, where are the means of Redress? How shall we know, that they will return willingly into the Ranks of Citizens, after so great Elevation? And, say they, altho Providence has kindly interposed so far for our Preservation, how dare we expect his future assistance, when cancelling the Oaths of our Allegiance, we stain the Cause with Perjury?
To most of these Questions, we may make a satisfactory answer, without seeming to know that they were ever asked. As to Danger arising from the Love of Power among ourselves, I cannot believe there is any. Nor do I think it quite proper, for us all to abandon the Senate House, and leave the Business to entire new Men, while the Country continues in its present dangerous Situation.
A Guide to the Mazes of Menace
But the Instant we are determined to cut off the small Connection which remains with Great Britain, we ought by our Conduct, to convince our Countrymen, that a Fondness for Power does not possess the smallest Corner of our Hearts. And we should from this moment take Care, that the Gift of all Commissions be reserved to this House. This will cure the Inquietudes of the patriotic Breast. And for the Religionist, let the Change appear as it hath hitherto done, the Work of our Enemies and not of ourselves, we then stand acquitted; and Superstition will see, or think She sees, the Hand of God manifestly laboring to promote our Ends, and this fond Idea is sufficient to remove the Imputation of Guilt.
I do not mean however, to hire a Number of Men, to go and bawl Independence along the Continent. I would send ambassadors to the European Courts, and enter into Treaties with them. Every Thing like Independence, Edition: current; Page: [ 24 ] should form secret articles; the Rest I would give to the World as soon as it was completed. This measure will both discourage, and preclude, impertinent Enquiry.
And when the People of this Country enjoy the solid Advantages which arise from our Measures, they will thank us for the Deception. Why should we ballance? Have you the least Hope in Treaty? Will you even think of it, before certain Acts of Parliament are repealed? Have you heard of any such Repeal? Will you trust these Commissioners? Is there any Act of Parliament passed to ratify what they shall do? No, No, No. They come from the King. We have no Business with the King.
We did not quarrel with him. He has officiously made himself a Party in the Dispute against us. And now he pretends to be the Umpire. What can you expect? You are not quite mad. Why will you trust them? Why force yourselves to make a daily Resort to Arms? O God! Shall we never again see Peace! Sweet smiling Peace! Is this miserable Country to be plunged in endless War?
Must each revolving Year, come heavy laden with those dismal Scenes, we have already seen? If so, Farewell Liberty! Oh, farewell, for ever. On his return, he served on a number of committees simultaneously and chaired several.
It was customary for the committee chairman to do the bulk of the work, and thus Morris was fully occupied—perhaps a welcome distraction given the lack of society in York. In early May, copies of the treaty of alliance with France reached Congress; meanwhile, a British Commission appointed to negotiate with the Americans had set sail. Rumors had been circulating for some time that the British would offer to concede to a few American demands as a way of undermining the rebellion.
Congress moved to get the propaganda advantage on the commission in May, sending a circular to the people, to be read in all the churches.
From Chinese foot binding to today's extreme constraints on children's freedom.
Its draft, written by Morris, was approved on May 8. They sent their first letter to Congress June 9. A newspaper and pamphlet war ensued, lasting through the summer and fall of Trusty and well beloved servants of your sacred master, in whom he is well pleased. As you are sent to America for the express purpose of treating with anybody and anything, you will pardon an address from one who disdains to flatter those whom he loves.
Should you therefore deign to read this address, your chaste ears will not be offended with the language of adulation, a language you despise. Sentiments which your own good sense hath doubtless suggested and which are repeated only to convince you that, notwithstanding the narrow ground of private information on which we stand in this distant region, still a knowledge of our own rights, and attention to our own interests, and a sacred respect for the dignity of human nature, have given us to understand the true principles which ought, and which therefore shall, sway our conduct.
You begin with the amiable expressions of humanity, the earnest desire of tranquility and peace. A better introduction to Americans could not be devised. For the sake of the latter, we once laid our liberties at the feet of your Prince, and even your armies have not eradicated the former from our bosoms. You tell us you have powers unprecedented in the annals of your history. And England, unhappy England, will remember with deep contrition, that these powers have been rendered of no avail by a conduct unprecedented in the annals of mankind. Had your royal master condescended to listen to the prayer of millions, he had not thus have sent you.
America, even in the moment of subjugation, would have been consoled by conscious virtue, and her hope was and is in the justice of her cause, and the justice of the Almighty. These are sources of hope and of consolation, which neither time nor chance can alter or take away. As to the latter, it were to be wished you had preserved a line of conduct equal to the delicacy of your feelings. You could not but know that men, who sincerely love freedom, disdain the consideration of all evils necessary to attain it. Had not your own hearts borne testimony to this truth, you might have learnt it from the annals of your history.
For in those annals instances of this kind at least are not unprecedented. But should those instances be insufficient, we pray you to read the unconquered mind of America. That the acts of Parliament you transmitted were passed with singular unanimity, we pretend not to doubt. You will pardon me, gentlemen, for observing, that the reasons of that unanimity are strongly marked in the report of a Committee of Congress, agreed to on the 22d of April last, and referred to in a late letter from Congress to Lord Viscount Howe and Sir Henry Clinton.
Upon a supposition, however, that you have too much magnanimity to divert yourselves on an occasion of such importance to America, and perhaps not very trivial in the eyes of those who sent you, permit me to assure you, on the sacred word of a gentleman, that if you shall transport your troops to England, where before long your Prince will certainly want their assistance, we never shall follow them thither. We are not so romantically fond of fighting, neither have we such regard for the city of London, as to commence a crusade for the possession of that holy land.
Thus you may be certain that hostilities will cease by land. It would be doing singular injustice to your national character, to suppose you are desirous of a like Edition: current; Page: [ 28 ] cessation by sea. The course of the war, and the very flourishing state of your commerce, notwithstanding our weak efforts to interrupt it, clearly shew that you can exclude us from the sea. The sea your kingdom. To revive mutual affection is utterly impossible. We freely forgive you, but it is not in nature that you should forgive us.
You have injured us too much. We might, on this occasion, give you some late instances of singular barbarity, committed as well by the forces of his Britannic Majesty, as by those of his generous and faithful allies, the Senecas, Onondagas and Tuscaroras. But we will not offend a courtly ear by the recital of those disgusting scenes. Besides this, it might give pain to that humanity which hath, as you observe, prompted your overtures to dwell upon the splendid victories obtained by a licentious soldiery over unarmed men in defenceless villages, their wanton devastations, their deliberate murders, or to inspect those scenes of carnage painted by the wild excesses of savage rage.
These amiable traits of national conduct cannot but revive in our bosoms that partial affection we once felt for everything which bore the name of Englishman. As to the common benefits of naturalization, it is a matter we conceive to be of the most sovereign indifference. A few of our wealthy citizens may hereafter visit England and Rome, to see the ruins of those august temples, in which the goddess of Liberty was once adored.
These will hardly claim naturalization in either of those places as a benefit. On the other hand, such of your subjects as shall be driven by the iron hand of Oppression to seek for refuge among those whom they now persecute, will certainly be admitted to the benefits of naturalization. We labour to rear an asylum for mankind, and regret that circumstances will not permit you, Gentlemen, to contribute to a design so very agreeable to your several tempers and dispositions.
The difference I allude to is, that it is your interest to monopolize our commerce, and it is Edition: current; Page: [ 29 ] our interest to trade with all the world. There is indeed a method of cutting this gordian knot which perhaps no statesman is acute enough to untie. By reserving to the Parliament of Great-Britain the right of determining what our respective interests require, they might extend the freedom of trade, or circumscribe it, at their pleasure, for what they might call our respective interests.
But I trust it would not be to our mutual satisfaction. You will therefore cause the forces of your royal master to be removed, for I can venture to assure you that the Congress have not consented, and probably will not consent, that they be kept up. For as the English have not yet pursued measures to discharge their own debt, and raise the credit and value of their own paper circulation, but, on the contrary, are in a fair way to encrease the one and absolutely destroy the other, you will instantly perceive that financiers from that nation would present themselves with the most aukward grace imaginable.
It is established on the perfect freedom of legislation and a vigorous administration of internal government. As to the settlement of the revenue, and the civil and military establishment, these are the work of the day, for which the several legislatures are fully competent. I have also the pleasure to congratulate your Excellencies, that the country, for the settlement of whose government, revenue, administration, and the like, you have exposed yourselves to the fatigues and hazards of a disagreeable voyage, and more disagreeable negociation, hath abundant resources wherewith to defend her liberties now, and pour forth the rich stream of revenue hereafter.
As the States of North-America mean to possess the irrevokable enjoyment of their privileges, it is absolutely necessary for them to decline all connection with a Parliament, who, even in the laws under which you act, reserve in express terms the power of revoking every proposition which you may agree to. We have a due sense of the kind offer you make, to grant us a share in your sovereign, but really, gentlemen, we have not the least inclination to accept of it.
He may suit you extremely well, but he is not to our taste. You are solicitous to prevent a total separation of interests, and this, after all, seems to be the gist of the business. To make you as easy as possible on this subject, I have to observe, that it may and probably will, in some instances, be our interest to assist you, and then we certainly shall. Where this is not the case, your Excellencies have doubtless too much good sense as well as good nature to require it. We cannot perceive that our liberty does in the least depend upon any union of force with you; for we find that, after you have exercised your force against us for upwards of three years, we are now upon the point of establishing our liberties in direct opposition to it.
Neither can we conceive, that, after the experiment you have made, any nation in Europe will embark in so unpromising a scheme as the subjugation Edition: current; Page: [ 31 ] of America. It is not necessary that everybody should play the Quixotte. One is enough to entertain a generation at least.
A Backward Blessing
Your Excellencies will, I hope, excuse me when I differ from you, as to our having a religion in common with you: the religion of America is the religion of all mankind. Any person may worship in the manner he thinks most agreeable to the Deity; and if he behaves as a good citizen, no one concerns himself as to his faith or adorations, neither have we the least solicitude to exalt any one sect or profession above another. I am extremely sorry to find in your letter some sentences, which reflect upon the character of his most Christian Majesty.
Neither is it quite according to the rules of politeness to use such terms in addressing yourselves to Congress, when you well knew that he was their good and faithful ally. It is indeed true, as you justly observe, that he hath at times been at enmity with his Britannic Majesty, by which we suffered some inconveniences: but these flowed rather from our connection with you than any ill-will towards us: At the same time it is a solemn truth, worthy of your serious attention, that you did not commence the present war, a war in which we have suffered infinitely more than by any former contest, a fierce, a bloody, I am sorry to add, an unprovoked and cruel war.
That you did not commence this, I say, because of any connection between us and our present ally; but, on the contrary, as soon as you perceived that the treaty was in agitation, proposed terms of peace to us in consequence of what you have been pleased to denominate an insidious interposition. How then does the account stand between us. America, being at peace with all the world, was formerly drawn into a war with France, in consequence of her union with Great-Britain. At present America, being engaged in a war with Great-Britain, will probably obtain the most honourable terms of peace, in consequence of her friendly connection with France.
For the truth of these positions I appeal, gentlemen, to your own knowledge. I know it is very hard for you to part with what you have accustomed yourselves, from your earliest infancy, to call your colonies. I pity your situation, and therefore I excuse the little abberations from truth which your Edition: current; Page: [ 32 ] letter contains.
At the same time it is possible that you may have been misinformed. For I will not suppose that your letter was intended to delude the people of these States. Such unmanly disingenuous artifices have of late been exerted with so little effect, that prudence, if not probity, would prevent a repetition. If you consider that these treaties were actually concluded before the draught of the bills under which you act was sent for America, and that much time must necessarily have been consumed in adjusting compacts of such intricacy and importance, and further, if you consider the early notification of this treaty by the court of France, and the assurance given that America had reserved a right of admitting even you to a similar treaty, you must be convinced of the truth of my assertions.
The fact is, that when the British Minister perceived that we were in treaty with the greatest Prince in Europe, he applied himself immediately to counteract the effect of these negociations. And this leads me with infinite regret to make some observations, which may possibly be by you considered in an offensive point of view. It seems to me, gentlemen, there is something excuse the word disingenuous in your procedure.
I put the supposition that Congress had acceded to your propositions, and then I ask two questions. Had you full power from your commission to make these propositions? Possibly you did not think it worth while to consider your commission, but we Americans are apt to compare things together, and to reason. The second question I ask is, What security could you give that the British Parliament would ratify your compacts? You can give no such security, and therefore we should, after forfeiting our reputation as a people, after you had filched from us our good name, and perswaded us to give to the common enemy of man the precious jewel of our liberties; after all this, I say, we should have been at the mercy of a Parliament, which, to say no more of it, has not treated us with too great tenderness.
It is quite needless to add, that even if that Parliament had ratified the conditions you proposed, still poor America was to lie at the mercy of any future Parliament, or appeal to the sword, which certainly is not the most pleasant business men can be engaged in. For your use I subjoin the following creed of every good American. I believe that in every kingdom, state, or empire there must be, from the necessity of the thing, one supreme legislative power, with authority to bind every part in all cases, the proper object of human laws.
I believe that to be bound by laws, to which he does not consent by himself or by his representative, is the direct definition of a slave. I do therefore believe, that a dependence on Great-Britain, however the same may be limited or qualified, is utterly inconsistent with every idea of liberty, for the defence of which I have solemnly pledged my life and fortune to my countrymen; and this engagement I will sacredly adhere to so long as I shall live.
Now if you will take the poor advice of one, who is really a friend to England and Englishmen, and who hath even some Scotch blood in his veins, away with your fleets and your armies, acknowledge the independence of America, and as Ambassadors, and not Commissioners, solicit a treaty of peace, amity, commerce and alliance with the rising Stars of this western world. Your nation totters on the brink of a stupendous precipice, and even delay will ruin her.
Matters of this kind may appear to you in a trivial light, as meer ornamental flowers of rhetoric, but they are serious things registered in the high chancery of Heaven. Remember the awful abuse of words like these by General Burgoyne, and remember his fate. There is one above us, who will take exemplary vengeance for every insult upon his Majesty.
You know that the cause of America is just. You know that she contends for that freedom, to which all men are entitled. That she contends against oppression, rapine, and more than savage barbarity. The blood of the innocent is upon your hands, and all the waters of the ocean will not wash it away. We again make our solemn appeal to the God of Heaven to decide between you and us. And we pray that in the doubtful scale of battle we may be successful, as we have justice on our side, and that the merciful Saviour of the world may forgive our oppressors.
I am, my Lords and Gentlemen, The friend of human nature, And one who glories in the title of,. As you, in conjunction with your brother Commissioners, have thought proper to make one more fruitless negociatory essay, permit me, through your lordship, once more to address the brotherhood. It is certainly to be lamented that gentlemen so accomplished should be so unfortunate. Particularly, my Lord, it is to be regretted that you should be raised up as the topstone to a pyramid of blunders.
On behalf of America I have to intreat that you will pardon their Congress for any want of politeness in not answering your letter. In addition to this it so happens that they are at present very indifferent whether or not your King and Parliament acknowledge their independency; and still more indifferent as to withdrawing his fleets and armies. You mistake the matter exceedingly when you suppose that any person in America wishes to prolong the calamities of war. No, my lord, we have had enough of them in all conscience. But the fault lies on you or your master, or some of the people he has about him.
They adhered to it in the most perilous circumstances. They put their lives upon the issue; nay their honor. Now in the name of common sense how can you suppose they will relinquish this object in the present moment? They would have infinite advantage over you logically, but what is worse, they are politically in capacity to put upon the term just what construction they please: Nay, my lord, eventually Great-Britain must acknowledge just such an independence as Congress think proper; they are now in the full possession and enjoyment of it.
How idle in you to talk of insuring or enlarging what is out of your power and cannot be encreased. You give two reasons for not withdrawing your fleets and armies. The first is, that you keep them here by way of precaution against your ancient enemies. Really, my Lord, I was at a loss for some time to comprehend the force of this reasoning, or how a body of men in this country and a large fleet could protect you against an invasion from France. And I am even now perhaps mistaken, when I suppose your sea and land forces have been kept here to draw the attention of your enemies to this quarter, and leave their coast exposed, that so you may have an opportunity of invading France.
If this was the object, it hath had the desired effect. Your armies are doubtless assembled in readiness for the descent, which, considering the unprovided state of that country, cannot but prove successful; and therefore I congratulate your lordship on the fair prospect you enjoy of seeing your Sovereign make his triumphant entry through the gates of Paris. Your second reason for staying here is to protect the Tories. Pray, my lord, ease your mind upon that subject.
Let them take care of themselves. The little ones may be pardoned whenever they apply. The great ones have joined you from conscientious or from interested motives. The first in having done what they thought right will find sufficient comfort. The last deserve none. I offer you this consolation, my lord, because we both know that you cannot protect the tories, and because there is every reason to believe that you cannot protect yourselves. You have, it seems, determined your judgment by what you conceive to be the interest of your country, and you propose to abide by your declarations in every possible situation.
I rather imagine that you are determined by your instructions; but if otherwise, surely, my lord, you are not to learn that circumstances may materially alter the interest of your country and your conceptions of it. The decision of some military events which you did not wait for, would put you in a situation to speak to Congress in much more decent terms than those contained in your last letter.
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But you want to know, my lord, what treaties we have entered into. In pity to your nerves Congress have kept this knowledge. It will make the boldest among you tremble. As we are not about to negociate at present, there is no need of the communication. However, to satisfy your curiosity as far as an individual can, I pray you to recollect, that the Marquis de Noailles told you his Court, when they formed an alliance with America, had taken eventual measures.
You cannot but know that a French fleet is now hovering on the coast near you—draw your own conclusions, my lord. It is a most diverting circumstance to hear you ask Congress what power they have to treat, after offering to enter into treaty with them, and being Edition: current; Page: [ 36 ] refused. But I shall be glad to know by what authority you call on them for this discovery. The Count de Vergennes had a right to it, but the Earl of Carlisle certainly has not. When you were in the arms of victory we pardoned an insolence which had become habitual to your nation.
We shall revere it if preserved when you are reduced to the lowest pitch of wretchedness. But in the present moment, when you certainly cannot terrify, and have not suffered so as to deserve pity, such language is quite improper. And it forces from me certain facts which I am sorry to mention, as they shew your masters to be wicked beyond all example. When they found that an alliance was actually on the carpet between his Most Christian Majesty and these States, they offered to cede a part of the East-Indies, to give equal privileges in the African trade, and to divide the fisheries, provided they might be at liberty to ravage America.
And when that would not do, they told the French Ministry that it was absurd to treat with Congress; that they were faithless; nay, that the bargain was actually struck for the purchase of America, and money, to the amount of half a million, sent over to pay the price. These, my lord, are facts—facts which will hang up to eternal infamy the names of your rulers. The French, my lord, laughed at the meanness and falshood of these declarations. But they suffered themselves to appear to be deceived. They permitted you to flounder on in the ocean of your follies and your crimes.
You and your brethren, I find, are directed to play the same game here; to call our allies faithless; to tell an hundred incoherent fictions about our treaties, the substance of which you confess yourselves at this moment ignorant of. And what is the very complication of absurdity, you pretend to tell Congress the manner in which the negociations were carried on, when Mr. Deane, the principal negociator, on their part, is on the spot to give information.
For shame. It is for these reasons that Congress treat you with such utter contempt. There is but one way left to sink you still lower, and, thank God you have found it out. You are about to publish! Oh my lord! You have tried fleets and armies, and proclamations, and now you threaten us with news-papers. Go on, exhaust Edition: current; Page: [ 37 ] all your artillery, But know, that those who have withstood your flattery and refused your bribes, despise your menaces—Farewell. Through the medium of a newspaper, I see a declaration and requisition, signed by yourself and your brethren Clinton and Eden, together with an apologetic Epistle from Governor Johnstone.
My intention is, to undeceive you in some matters you seem to have mistaken, and to state the true ground on which you stand with respect to America. This I attempt from a sincere desire of peace; considering it as a blessing, the loss of which can never be compensated by the splendors of victory. Your first error, a leading one, which hath tinged the complexion of all your national acts since the early commencement of the controversy, is a supposition that Congress do not speak the sense of the people of America.
Of all the people they do not, but of a considerable majority they certainly do. Considerable for the numbers, property, principles, temper and character of those who compose it. The number, according to my best estimation, is at least two-thirds of the whole; and the remaining third are of very little political consideration.
They consist of a few who adhere to you from principle, a few more from interest, and a very few now from fear, as Indians worship the Devil. The remainder are attached to no side, unless indeed they could discover with Edition: current; Page: [ 38 ] absolute certainty which is the strongest side, being, as they term it moderate men. Add to this, that your American friends, from their religious notions and other circumstances, are generally averse to war.
The majority are further considerable from their property. It is by no means a figurative expression to say that the land of America is against you. This may seem extraordinary after what you have heard, especially if you have had the honor of a conversation with some of those traders who have lately, taken it into their heads to call themselves the Gentlemen of America.
But if your Lordship will condescend to enquire for the ten greatest land-holders of the state of New-York on the whig side of the question, you will find that no forty tories throughout the whole Continent have an equal property; considered as to the extent, the fertility, or the value in coin.
The principles of your opponents are republican, some indeed aristocratic; the greater part democratic, but all opposed to Kings, from a thorough conviction by reason, by history, and above both by experience, that nine times in ten they are the scourges of mankind. The temper of this majority is not only vigilant and irascible, but much roused and exasperated. Exasperated by the injustice, the treachery, the cruelty of Great-Britain. Respect, my Lord, for your feelings forbids that odious detail which justifies these charges. Should you doubt, ask Sir Henry. Ask the officers in your regiments and on board your ships.
Let them paint the violations, the burnings, the massacres, the starvings they have been witness to. And if this evidence is insufficient, invocate the manes 8 of those wretches who died at Philadelphia in the paroxisms of madness and despair, from reflecting on the horrors they themselves had executed. Lastly, the character of those who compose the majority in America is of no small importance.
Many of them are the most respectable members of the community; others again are distinguished by superior talents; and a great number are of that aspiring cast who look on high, and will neither be thrown out in pursuit of their favourite objects, nor dropped into insignificancy. To these things, I add the perseverance of the lower class in a cause which they think, with me, is just and righteous. At the Valley-Forge I was an eye witness to the sufferings of our soldiery: Many of them lay literally on the earth naked without fire and without food. It is to their honor that they did not mutiny; that they did not desert; that they did not even Edition: current; Page: [ 39 ] complain.
To convince you of it, look at their publications; see how frequently, how fully, how directly they appeal to the people. Can you lay your finger on any falsehood sanctioned by their authority? Have they ever descended to meanness or artifice to cajole or to deceive their constituents or even their enemies? I know that your Gazetteers have charged all these things upon them; but, my Lord, I can hardly suppose that you was sent hither to read or to write news-papers.
A second error which hath affected your national conduct, is an opinion that Congress lead the people. The direct contrary is so much a fact, that the business of Congress is, in a great measure, to discover the sentiment of the people and clothe it in words. Whenever any step is to be taken, they ask, what is the opinion of the people? For should they go beyond the ground on which they are supported by popular favour, that instant their power is at an end. To prove this further, I ask if the people have ever refused obedience to the matters proposed by Congress?
Have the accumulated distresses of the present war, distresses almost beyond example, prevailed on them to desert their Congress?
Nay, have all your efforts impaired the credit of our continental money, resting, as it did, merely on the public opinion and confidence in Congress? An error of another kind appears in the papers now before me. From them it is manifest that you really misinterpret the language, and mistake the meaning of Congress. You seem to suppose, that when they declared it incompatible with their honor to hold intercourse with George Johnstone, especially to negociate with him upon affairs in which the cause of liberty and virtue is interested, they indirectly receded from their determination to have nothing to say to any of you till you sent away your fleets and armies, or acknowledged the Independence of America.
It is a maxim, my Lord, that a positive act cannot be repealed by implication. If he who hath insolently tendered bribes to us should join in any application of this sort, we cannot listen to it. Let us therefore give our enemies a timely notice, that they may square their conduct accordingly. Let us not leave them the shadow of a reason to charge us with any disingenuous procedure.
From the best information, I take on me to assure your Lordship, that not the remotest idea was entertained of departing from their resolutions. Edition: current; Page: [ 40 ] The candour which dictated this last determination, is entitled to a very different language from what it hath met with. But since the conduct of Congress is stigmatized with the charge of duplicity, it may not be improper to shew the entire consistency of that Body, notwithstanding the many changes it hath undergone of the individuals. This will corroborate my former position, that they are simply the mouth of a people steadily attached to, and determined to support their rights and liberties.
The declaration of Independence will form a principal part of the present question. But, though much hath been, and much more may be speculated on the right of a people to become independent, it will perhaps ultimately turn on their power. You yourselves tender to Congress every thing they may ask short of a total separation of interests: Therefore, you offer to confine the union simply to the person of the Prince. Supposing it accepted, then without enquiring whether Americans might afterwards choose a King for themselves, clearly the English might, or else as clearly their now King is an usurper.
If the people of Britain should exercise this right, then America continuing under her old King, would be independent. But a contract which one party can break, and the other cannot, is void; and therefore America could of right break the bargain as well as Great Britain; and therefore either party might at pleasure be independent of the other. And if America could of right declare herself independent after the agreement, certainly she could before. But further; from your own shewing, we are not subjects of the Parliament: If subjects therefore, we are subjects of the King.
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Again, it is agreed that if we do not like a King, we can send him away and take another in his stead, for our fathers did so before us. Therefore, as the greater contains within it the lesser, so we could do just one half of the proposition, viz. Take it lastly as a question of force, and then we fight to determine the moot point of which side are rebels. So much for the right to Independence.
In the commencement of this controversy, Congress prayed to be placed in the situation of sixty-three. This was practicable at that time, for nothing more was necessary than on your part to repeal the impolitic acts you had passed. You refused; they pressed it earnestly. Still you refused and appealed to the sword, and prosecuted and persecuted us to obtain what you now acknowledge you had no right to ask. Thus then were we plunged into a war against our inclinations, and Edition: current; Page: [ 41 ] of consequence could not be bound by any offer made with a view to avoid it.
Besides, the situation of sixty three was no longer attainable: For, though the paper acts of your Parliament could have been repealed, yet the bloody acts of your soldiery could not. You could not pour back into the veins of our citizens the blood you had wantonly spilt.
Previous to the year sixty three, points which should always have remained in oblivion, had never been started. But the question of supremacy once made in the rude language of arms, a decided line of authority and subjection became necessary to a future union. Desirous of avoiding the further calamities of war, we intreated you to pursue the measures necessary for reconciliation. This you refused, pertinaciously adhering to your first postulatum of unconditional submission, and with a view to the great object of solid revenue.
You therefore urged the war, and applied to every little Prince in Europe for troops: We deprecated it, and did not even seek an alliance with any foreign power, knowing well that such alliance would close the door of reconciliation forever with all the bars of national faith and honor. The situation of America was at length such by your obstinacy, that the evils Congress laboured to avoid were to become certain. At the same time it was a decided fact, that the interests of England and of America were directly opposed to each other.
It was your interest to restrict our commerce, and it was our interest to extend it: It was your interest to take our money, and it was our interest to keep it. In a word, it was your interest to tyrannize, and it was our interest to be free. We therefore could not trust you, and you would not trust us.
The King and his Ministers no body would trust.