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DELEGATE. I tremble at the doctrine you have advanced. I see you are for the independence of the Colonies on Great Britain.
Gen. MONTGOMERY. I am for permanent liberty, peace, and security to the American Colonies.
DELEGATE. These can only be maintained by placing the Colonies in the situation they were in in the year 1763.
Gen. MONTGOMERY. And is no satisfaction to be made to the Colonies for the blood and treasure they have expended in resisting the arms of Great Britain? Who can soften the prejudices of the King, the Parliament, and the nation, each of whom will be averse to maintain a peace with you in proportion to the advantage you have gained over them? Who shall make restitution to the widows, the mothers, and the children of the men who were slain by their arms? Can no hand wield the sceptre of Government in America, except that which has been stained with the blood of your countrymen? For my part, if I thought this Continent would ever acknowledge the sovereignty of the Crown of Britain again, I should forever lament the day in which I offered up my life for its salvation.
DELEGATE. You should distinguish between the King and his Ministers.
Gen. MONTGOMERY. I live in a world where all political superstition is done away. The King is the author of all the measures carried on against the Americans. The influence of bad Ministers is no better apology for these measures, than the influence of bad company is for a murderer, who expiates his crimes under a gallows. You all complain of the corruption of the Parliament, and of the venality of the nation; and yet you forget that the Crown is the source of them both. You shun the streams, and yet you are willing to sit down at the very fountain of corruption and venality.
DELEGATE. Our distance and charters will protect us from the influence of the Crown.
Gen. MONTGOMERY. Your distance will only render your danger more imminent, and your ruin more irretrievable. Charters are no restraints against the lusts of power. The only reason why you have escaped so long, is, because the treasure of the nation has been employed for these fifty years in buying up the virtue of Britain and Ireland. Hereafter, the seduction of the Representatives of the people of America will be the only aim of the Administration, should you continue to be connected with them.
DELEGATE. But I foresee many evils from the independence of the Colonies. Our trade will be ruined, from the want of a Navy to protect it. Each Colony will put in its claim for superiority, and we shall have domestick wars without end.
Gen. MONTGOMERY. As I know that Divine Providence intends this country to be the asylum of persecuted virtue from every quarter of the globe, so I think your trade will be the vehicle that will convey it to you. Heaven has furnished you with greater resources for a Navy than any nation in the world. Nothing but an ignorance of your strength could have led you to sacrifice your trade for the protection of a foreign navy. A freedom from the restraints of the acts of navigation, I foresee, will produce such immense additions to the wealth of this country, that posterity will wonder that ever you thought your present trade worth its protection. As to the supposed contentions between sister Colonies, they have no foundation in truth; but, supposing they have, will delaying the independence of the Colonies fifty years prevent them? No; the weakness of the Colonies, which at first produced their union, will always preserve it, till it shall be their interest to be separated. Had the Colony of Massachusetts Bay been possessed of the military resources which it will probably have fifty years hence, would she have held out the signal of distress to her sister Colonies, upon the news of the Boston Port Bill? No; she would have withstood all the power of Britain, and afterwards the neutral Colonies might have shared the fate of the Colony of Canada. Moreover, had the connection with Great Britain been continued fifty years longer, the progress of British laws, customs, and manners, (now totally corrupted,) would have been such, that the Colonies would have been prepared to welcome slavery; but had it been otherwise, they must have asserted their independence with arms. This is nearly done already. It will be cruel to bequeath another contest to your posterity.
DELEGATE. But I dread all innovations in Governments. They are very dangerous things.
Gen. MONTGOMERY. The Revolution which gave temporary stability to the liberties of Britain, was an innovation in Government, and yet no ill consequences have arisen from it. Innovations are dangerous only as they shake the prejudices of a people; but there are now, I believe, but few prejudices to be found in this country in favour of the old connection with Great Britain. I except those men only, who are under the influence of their passions and offices.
DELEGATE. But is it not most natural for us to wish for a connection with a people who speak the same language with us, and possess the same laws, religion, and forms of Government, with ourselves?
Gen. MONTGOMERY. The immortal Montesquieu says, that nations should form alliances with those nations only which are as unlike to themselves as possible in religion, laws, and manners, if they mean to preserve their own constitution. Your dependance upon the Crown is no advantage, but rather an injury to the people of Britain, as it increases the power and influence of the King. The people are benefited only by your trade, and this they may have after you are independent of the Crown. Should you be disposed to forgive the King and the nation for attempting to enslave you, they will never forgive you for having baffled them in the attempt.
DELEGATE. But we have many friends in both Houses of Parliament.
Gen. MONTGOMERY. YOU mean the Ministry have many enemies in Parliament which connect the cause of America with their clamours at the door of Administration. Lord Chathams Conciliatory Bill would have ruined you more effectually than Lord Norths motion. The Marquis of Rockingham was the author of the Declaratory Bill; Mr. Wilkes has added infamy to the weakness of your cause; and the Duke of Grafton and Lord Littleton have rendered the minority junto, if possible, more contemptible than ever.
DELEGATE. But if we become independent, we shall become a Commonwealth.
Gen. MONTGOMERY. I maintain that it is your interest to be independent of Great Britain; but I do not recommend any new form of Government to you. I should think it strange that a people who have virtue enough to defend themselves against the most powerful nation in the world, should want wisdom to contrive a perfect and free form of Government. You have been kept in subjection to the Crown of Britain by a miracle. Your liberties have hitherto been suspended by a thread. Your connection with Great Britain is unnatural and unnecessary. All the wheels of Government should move within itself. I would only beg leave to observe to you, that monarchy and aristocracy have in all ages been the vehicles of slavery.
DELEGATE. Our Governments will want force and authority, if we become independent of Great Britain.
Gen. MONTGOMERY. I beg leave to contradict that assertion. No Royal edicts, or acts of Assembly, have ever been more faithfully obeyed than the resolves of the Congress. I admire the virtue of the Colonies; and did not some of them still hang upon the haggard breasts of Great Britain, I should think the time now come in which they had virtue enough to be happy under any form of Government. Remember, that it is in a Commonwealth only that you can expect to find every man a patriot or a hero. Aristides, Epaminondas, Pericles, Scipio, Camillus, and a thousand illustrious Grecian and Roman heroes, would never have astonished the world with their names, had they lived under royal Governments.
DELEGATE. Will not a declaration of independence lessen the number of our friends, and increase the rage of our enemies, in Britain?
Gen. MONTGOMERY. Your friends (as you call them) are-too few to divide, and too interested to help you; and as for your enemies, they have done their worst. They have called upon Russians, Hanoverians, Hessians, Canadians, Savages, and Negroes, to assist them in burning your towns, desolating your country, and in butchering your wives and children. You have nothing further to fear from them. Go, then, and awaken the Congress to a sense of their importance;