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foreign countries, or on our own coasts, ought we not, in sound policy, to profit by her strength; and, without regarding the motives of her conduct, embrace the opportunity of becoming rich and powerful in her friendship, at an expense far less than it would cost us merely to exist in alliance with any other power?
If our present differences can be accommodated, there is scarce a probability that she will ever renew the late fatal system of policy, or attempt to employ a force against us. But should she be so infatuated, at any future period, as to think of subjugating us, either by the arts of corruption or oppressive exertions of power, can we entertain a doubt but that we shall again, with a virtue equal to the present, and with the weapons of defence in our hands (when necessary) convince her that we are willing, by a constitutional connection with her, to afford and receive reciprocal benefits; but, although subjects of the same King, we will not consent to be her slaves. It was on this ground, and not for the purpose of trying new forms of Government, or erecting separate independent States, " that America embarked in the present glorious contest." On this ground, and upon none else, the Continental Union is formed. On this ground we have a powerful support among the true sons of liberty in Great Britain; and lastly, upon this ground, we have the utmost assurance of obtaining a full redress of our grievances, and an ample security against any future violation of our just rights. And if hereafter, in the fulness of time, it shall be necessary to separate from the land that gave birth to our ancestors, it will be in our state of perfect manhood, when we can fully wield our own arms, and protect our commerce and coasts by our own fleets, without looking to any nation upon earth for assistance.
This, I say, was our ground, and these our views, universally declared, from the origin of this contest till within a few weeks ago, when some gleams of reconciliation began first to break in upon us. If we now mean to change this ground, and reject all propositions of peace, from that moment we are deserted by every advocate of our cause in Great Britain; we falsify every declaration which the Congress hath heretofore held forth in our behalf; we abandon all prospect of preserving our importance by trade and agriculturethe ancient, sure, and experienced road to wealth and happiness.
In short, if thus contradicting all our former publick professions, we should now affect Independency as our own act, before it appears clearly to the world to have been forced upon us by the cruel hand of the parent state, we could neither hope for union nor success in the attempt. We must be considered as a faithless people in the sight of all mankind, and could scarcely expect the confidence of any nation upon earth, or look up to Heaven for its approving sentence. On the contrary, every convulsion attendant upon revolutions and innovations of Government, untimely attempted or finally defeated, might be our portion; added to the loss of trade for want of protection; the consequent decay of husbandry; bloodshed and desolation; with an exchange of the easy and flourishing condition of farmers and merchants, for a life, at best, of hardy poverty as soldiers or hunters.
To see America reduced to such a situation may be the choice of adventurers who have nothing to lose, or of men exalted by the present confusions into lucrative offices, which they can hold no longer than the continuance of the publick calamities. But can it be the wish of all that great and valuable body of people in America, who, by honest industry, have acquired a competency, and have experienced a happier life? Can it be their wish, I say, for such considerations, to have destruction continually before their eyes; and to have, enormous debts entailed upon them and their posterity, till at length they have nothing left which they can truly call their own?
I know the answers which will be given to these questions, and am prepared to reply to them, with that temper and gravity which so serious a subject requires. It will be assertedindeed it has already been assertedthat the animosities between Great Britain and the Colonies are now advanced to such a height that reconciliation is impossible. But assertions are nothing, when opposed to the nature of things, the truth of history, and all past experience. The quarrels of nations, being neither personal or private, cannot stir up mutual hatred among individuals. There never was a war so implacable, even among States naturally rivals and enemies, or among savages themselves, as not to have peace for its object as well as end. And among people naturally friends, and connected by every dearer tie, who knows not that their quarrels (as those of lovers) are often but a stronger renewal of love? In such cases, the tide of affection, reverting to its course, is like that of water long pent back, which, at length bursting the opposing mounds, breaks forward through its native channel, and flows with redoubled vigour and increased velocity, to mix itself with its parent main.
It has been further asserted, that we are able, with our land forces, to defend ourselves against the whole world; that if commerce be an advantage, we may command what foreign alliances we please; that the moment we declare ourselves an independent people, there are nations ready to face the British thunder, and become the carriers of our commodities for the sake of enriching themselves; that if this were not the case, we can soon build navies to force and protect a trade; that a confederacy of the Colonies into one great Republick is preferable to Kingly Government, which is the appointment of the Devil, or at least reprobated by God; that those denominated wise men in our own and foreign countries, who have been so lavish of their encomiums upon the English Constitution, were but egregious fools; that it is nothing better than a bungling piece of machinery, standing in need of constant checks to regulate and continue its motions; that the nation itself is but one mass of corruption, having at its head a Royal brute, a hardened Pharaoh, delighting in blood; that we never can enjoy liberty in connection with such a country; and, therefore, all the hardships mentioned above, and a thousand times more, if necessary, are to be endured for the preservation of our rights.
If these things had been as fully proved as they are boldly asserted by the authors of what is called Common Sense, I should here drop my pen, and, through the short remainder of life, take my chance of whatever miseries Providence may have in reserve for this land, as I know of none else to which I can retire. But as these doctrines contradict everything which we have hitherto been taught to believe respecting Government, I hope you, my dear countrymen, have yet kept one ear open to hear what answer may be given in my future letters.
Cato to Tiberius, greeting.Questions civilly proposed deserve a civil answer, which shall be speedily given to those of Tiberius. Urbanity becomes us Bomans; and Cato is proud to correspond with one assuming that charae-ter, although he is not fond of the imperial name. He has no quarrel with our Committee as a publick body, and regards many of the members as fit to fill any station to which they may be called by their country. If he cannot support his charges against the individuals who projected the Convention scheme, he will cheerfully acknowledge his mistake. He never expected to finish these letters without opposition. The question is, whether the liberty and happiness of America can be best secured by a constitutional reconciliation with Great Britain, or by a total separation from it? Cato is willing to be judged by his countrymen, when the whole of his arguments shall be submitted to them. Whatever may be insinuated before that time, he will scarce think worthy of regard; and it was rather unbecoming Tiberius, so early in the dispute to suggest that " the sentiments (in the letters) may resemble a modern, more than an ancient, Cato, who will consent to live a slave rather than to die free." The inaccuracy of expression, in making sentiments resemble men, may be passed over; for where a person's meaning can be picked out, in such a contest as this, Cato despises a war about words.
N. B. The twelve queries in the Evening Post are, in substance, the same as the questions of Tiberius, and the same answer will serve for both.
PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS TO GENERAL WASHINGTON.
Philadelphia, Thursday Evening, March 21, 1776.
SIR: I am this moment honoured with your favour of the 13th by express, which I shall lay before Congress in