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to attend upon business inconsistent with their proper calling? The dependance of the clergy on the Crown gives great weight to the King, and helps to enslave the people, since they have been known to preach up non-resistance and passive obedience, for the sake of preferment.
And as to the House of Commons, who are to represent the people, they are chosen by a small pitiful handful of the inhabitants. Much the greater part of the men of property have no right to vote for members of Parliament. The poor beggarly Boroughs send a great part of the members of the House of Commons. This is British Constitution, but as contrary to reason as light is to darkness, and utterly inconsistent with all good Government. Where, then, is the divine excellence of the British Constitution?
However, the administration upon the Constitution is still worse. The votes of the electors are bought by the candidates. By this the poor beggarly electors, many of them, have their principal support; they depend upon the sale of their votes for their subsistence. And as the members buy their seats at a vast expense, they sell it to the Minister for as high a price as they can. Reason and conscience have had but little business in Parliament these fifty years. Money determines all. Thus bribery and corruption, places and pensions, have subverted any good principles and designs of the Constitution, and reduced the State to an enormous mass of folly and wickedness, jumbled together, ready to fall into dreadful and irrecoverable ruin.
Such as are for reconciliation with Great Britain perhaps impose upon themselves and others, by viewing the professed principles of the Constitution, or some of them, merely in theory, abstract from the present administration. But this is a most disingenuous method. They should take a full view of the whole fabrick, and then they would find a most unequal representation in the House of Commons, septennial Parliaments, and a House of Lords fit for, and that such principles as are calculated for the good of the State, are generally subverted by the long wicked administration upon them. Now, if the Colonies should be reunited to Great Britain, it must be to her as she is now at present, where the electors are bought, and the majority of the Commons are kept in pay by the Minister, and all places of honour and profit are conferred, not according to mens merit, by their wisdom and bravery, but as they vote, where the nations money is expended by millions to pervert reason and support the Minister. Now, what advantage can it be to America to be united to such a prodigious mass of corruption, and be subject to the will of a Prime Minister, to learn from him the arts of corruption and bribery, of oppression and cruelty, to be taxed or murdered, according to his whim or caprice? We have been grievously oppressed; we have begged and prayed for relief. To what purpose? We might, we should certainly prevail, if we had more money than the Minister, and could secure more votes than he; but no hopes of redress without this. The experience of twelve years confirms this.
The appeal has been made from petitions to arms. This renders the arguments for continuing dependant, frivolous, and, indeed, ridiculous. What do arguments avail against plain facts? Upon whom do the Continental forces at Boston, New-York, and the Carolinas, depend? Upon whom do our armed vessels depend? Can any person be hardy enough to assert that they depend on his Majesty, are commissioned or employed by him, or are acting by his authority? Upon whom do the Continental Bills, that pass current in the country, depend? By whom are they emitted? If we can be weak enough to be persuaded out of our senses, and to think that we are still dependant, would it be possible to persuade the British Ministry of this, unless we had the Spanish mines to bribe and blind them? They were jealous of this long ago, and often declared we were aiming at independency, before there were any thoughts of it among us, or any appearances of it. But they must be as foolish as they are wicked, if they should believe that we are dependant on Great Britain now, when we have openly raised fleets and armies against her. Will they believe empty professions in opposition to such incontestible facts? No. They look upon us to be independent, and will reduce us to subjection if they can, just all one as if we had explicitly declared it. So that we have no reason to hope for any kind treatment from them by our connection, if any yet remains. But, by declaring independence, say the objectors, we shall lose our friends in the House of Commons. And what then? They may be sincere and zealous in our cause, but they have not been able to do us any good; nor they never will be able to do us any good, since the Minister, having the disposal of places and pensions, and the national purse, can always secure a majority to vote for and support his measures. The whole strength of the nation is exerted as much against us as if we had not one friend in Parliament. We shall then at worst lose the friendship of those who are unable to help us. We are, then, obliged to them for their good-will, and wish them well. If they are generous friends, they will consider our necessity, and still exert themselves in our favour; but if they should forsake us, we shall lose nothing. Now, the great thing in question is, whether we shall ruin ourselves for the sake of their unavailing friendship?
Great Britain cannot find money enough to supply her hungry courtiers and their dependants, but has been forced to lay a tax upon us. She has lost, it is said, twenty-seven millions by this unnatural war. Where will she find millions to repair the damages done to Boston, Charlestown, Falmouth, Norfolk? Where a fund to pay the millions emitted by the Congress, on our reconciliation? Have we any reason to expect she would be able or willing to refund to us all these just damages? Not the least. Upon the scheme of dependance we must put up with our losses, and bear our expenses, which must ruin the country. But if we renounce all connection with Britain forever, unless upon the plan of common trade, as with other nations, we can then seize upon the unoccupied lands, and sell them, which will procure a sufficient fund to answer every purpose we can desire, and set us free from slavery and taxation to all generations. But without this, we have no funds, and the necessary consequence must be, that the credit of our paper currency will sink, and we shall be beggared and ruined. Independence is the only thing that can save us.
Other nations, if we prove cowardly after all the pretences we have made, will think there is no danger in attacking us. We may depend upon it, they will put in for a share of the trade by force, or by planting Colonies. They did not know the importance of America before, but now it is held up to view to all the Courts of Europe, and carefully studied. Some of them will be ready to become our allies for a share of our trade. But if we slight that offer, and obstinately adhere to Britain, they will doubtless resent our conduct, and put in their claims the first fair opportunity. Dependance on Britain will keep our country in a perpetual state of war. But let us assert Independence and Freedom with an open and manly boldness, and we shall be a safe and happy State.
New-York, April 11, 1776.
CAPTAIN BILLINGS TO NEW-YORK COMMITTEE OF SAFETY.
Fort Montgomery, April 11, 1776.
GENTLEMEN: The day I left New-York we got (with our sloop) as far as one Mrs. Strikers, a widow, about seven miles from the city, where we came to anchor, waiting for wind and tide. Going on shore, some of our people went to the barn, where was a negro man at work, and, in their play, they discovered a gun curiously secreted under the floor of the barn. They came and informed me of the same, when I went, with sundry gentlemen, to view the place. I made a discovery of a second, crowded under the floor, and hid by a quantity of hay crowded in after the guns. I examined the negro, and found him to equivocate. I then went and conversed with Mrs. Striker on what I had discovered; but could get no satisfaction, further than-that one Mr. Steple borrowed the guns, viz: one from Mr. Walton, and the other from Mr. Delancy; and she (Mrs. Striker) heard Mr. Steple order his servant to convey them-home. But the servant declares that his master ordered him to hide them in the barn. I consulted Captain Rosekrans and Mr. Brinckerhoff, whose sentiments (with mine) were, that I should take the guns with me to Fort Montgomery, which I have done; and shall keep them until further directions from your honourable House. This Mr. Steple was absent at the time; some of my men affirm they saw him run at the sight of our frocks; but I left a billet, informing him of what I had done, and my determination of acquainting the Congress. They are good armsone a Kings arm, and