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I have left some money, and necessary directions, for the care of him and his family, until further orders from the Commissioners.
I am, with the greatest respect, sir, your most obedient and very humble servant,
To the Honourable John Hancock , Esq.
ON THE PROCEEDINGS IN CONGRESS, ETC., RELATING TO INDEPENDENCE.
When I meet in my walks with angry disputants, and behold the bursts of rage which some men unhappily give way to, I often repeat to myself that beautiful exclamation of the inimitable Sterne, What is there in this worlds goods that can so sharpen our minds against each other, and make so many kind-hearted brethren amongst us fall out so cruelly by the way.
What, indeed, is there in the narrow limits of time that should induce us to risk our future peace to a momentary gratification of passion and resentment, and embitter the few fleeting hours of our present existence? Whenever I view contending parties treating each other with envenomed asperity, my very soul throbs with pain for their feelings; and fain would I exert every nerve within me to reconcile their jarring interests, and restore that happy harmony, for the perfect enjoyment of which we are by our nature so amply fitted. When I meet with that wild ambition which would deluge the world with human gore, for the extension of empire, or establishing some favourite views, I lament, with truly heart-felt wo, the miserable bosom that contains it, and breathe out a supplicating wish that the great Author of Nature may confine within narrow bounds their fatal effects.
That mankind should differ in sentiment is of infinite importance to society; but that they should support that difference with the virulence of anger, is a misfortune of the deepest dye. When passion once possesses the mind, it becomes blind to reason, and throws the whole system of things into confusion. The subject becomes lost in the dispute, and, instead of sober argument, they substitute intolerable abuse.
I have been led into these reflections by a review of the several publications which have lately appeared on the grand political question of Independence; a doctrine of so important a nature, that it ought to be sifted to the bottom. I can readily allow the utmost indulgence to those gentlemen who have started the thought, and most heartily admit an unlimited freedom to support their arguments; but, on the other hand, I should expect a grant of equal indulgence from their side. The subject is a grand subject. The thought was great, and has proceeded from no little mind. But then, gentlemen, it is new; and you ought to grant a free and uninterrupted discussion of a question in which so many millions are concerned.
That the opposers of the novelty may not be thought unfriendly to the American cause, and to show the necessity there is of sober and cool argument to convince a great number of well-meaning men, I will take the liberty of showing the thoughts of several publick bodies on the occasion, lest some should ignorantly run away with the opinion, which has been too hastily adopted by a few of the independent writers, that those who hesitate to embrace an immediate Independency have sinister views, and would sacrifice their country for the sake of a reunion with Great Britain. That this is not the case, and that it is not the malevolent party view of a trifling, contemptible junto, seeking to serve themselves at the expense of their brethren, I think may be fairly and honestly inferred from the several following quotations.
I shall give the first place to the sentiments which I find published in the proceedings of the honourable Continental Congress, excluding everything which was transacted before the fatal 19th of April, when hostilities first commenced on the part of Great Britain; from whence we shall discover that an idea of total separation by no means took place on that unhappy event, but that a restoration of the beneficial connection that had before existed was the principle object in view; therefore, if the writers in opposition to this new doctrine should not be convinced of the propriety of abjuring England so speedily as the Independents desire, they ought not to be surprised, much loss ought they to get angry on the occasion. Christianity itself has been upwards of seventeen hundred years in the world, and yet millions of its inhabitants are still to be convinced of the excellence of the Christian religion; and even amongst the professors of Christianity themselves, how slowly has the Reformation advanced. Men must be convinced before they become converted. Why, then, this impatient earnestness for a whole Continent to assent to a doctrine the tidings of which have scarcely reached beyond the limits of the Middle Provinces? If any single man or set of men should doubt the propriety of the measure, they have an undoubted right to speak their minds, and ought to be heard, without being charged with sentiments inimical to America. But I shall proceed to produce my authorities.
Whilst bleeding with the wounds received at the battle of Lexington, when every passion of rage and resentment must be supposed to have been at its greatest height, we find the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts-Bay thus expressing themselves in their Address to the Inhabitants of Great Britain. After reciting the ravages committed by the soldiery, they add: * These, brethren, are marks of Ministerial vengeance against this Colony, for refusing, with her sister Colonies, a submission to slavery. But they have not yet detached us from our Royal Sovereign. We profess to be his loyal and dutiful subjects; and so hardly dealt with as we have been, are still ready, with our lives and fortunes, to defend his person, family, crown, and dignity.
A little further they add: We sincerely hope that the Great Sovereign of the Universe, who hath so often appeared for the English Nation, will support you in every rational, manly exertion, with these Colonies, for saving it from ruin; and that in a constitutional connection with the Mother Country, we shall soon be a free and happy People.
On intelligence being brought to Congress of the taking Ticonderoga, they resolved, amongst other things, That an exact inventory be taken of all such cannon and stores, in order that they may be safely returned when the restoration of the former harmony between Great Britain and these Colonies, so ardently wished for by the latter, shall render it prudent and consistent with the overruling law of self-preservation.
The Congress being resolved into a Committee of the Whole, to take into consideration the state of America, agreed to an unanimous resolve, in which we find the following words: That these Colonies be immediately put into a state of defence. But as we most ardently wish for a restoration of that harmony formerly subsisting between our Mother Country and these Colonies, (the interruption of which must, at all events, be exceedingly injurious to both countries,) that, with a sincere design of contributing, by all the means in our power not incompatible with a just regard for the undoubted rights and true interests of these Colonies, to the promotion of this most desirable reconciliation, an humble and dutiful petition be presented to his Majesty.
In the resolution for a Fast, to be kept the 20th of July last, it is recommended, amongst other things, to offer up supplications to the Almighty, || That all America may soon behold a gracious interposition of Heaven for the redress of the many grievances, the restoration of her invaded rights, and a reconciliation with the Parent State, on terms constitutional and honourable to both.
In their Declaration, published after the battle of Bunkers Hill, amongst other things, they say: Lest this Declaration should disquiet the minds of our friends and fellowsubjects in any part of the Empire, we assure them that we mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsisted between us, which we sincerely wish to see restored. We have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great Britain, and establishing independent States.
They finish their Declaration with an admirable solemnity, in these words: With an humble confidence in the mercies of the supreme and impartial Judge and Ruler of the Universe, we most devoutly implore His divine goodness to protect us happily through this great conflict, to dispose our adversaries to reconciliation on reasonable terms, and thereby to relieve the Empire from the calamities of civil war.
In their Petition to his Majesty, we find them thus expressing