SAMUEL ADAMS REGARDING THE AMERICAN CHARACTER

Samuel Adams: Character of Americans (Click to enlarge)

Samuel Adams: Character of Americans (Click to enlarge)

ARTICLE SIGNED “CANDIDUS” Written by Samuel Adams

[Boston Gazette, September 9, 1771.]

Messieurs Edes & Gill,

Perhaps there never was a people who discovered themselves more strongly attached to their natural and constitutional rights and liberties, than the British Colonists on this American Continent—Their united and successful struggles against that slavery with which they were threatened by the stamp-act, will undoubtedly be recorded by future historians to their immortal honor—The assembly of Virginia, which indeed is the most ancient colony, claimed their preeminence at that important crisis, by first asserting their rights which were invaded by the act, and by their spirited resolution to ward off the impending stroke: And they were seconded by all the other colonies, with such unanimity and invincible fortitude, that those who, to their eternal disgrace and infamy, had accepted of commissions to oppress them, were made to shudder at the thought of rendering themselves still more odious to all posterity, by executing their commissions, and publickly to abjure their detestable design of raising their fortunes upon the ruin of their country. Under the influence of the wisest administration which has ever appeared since the present reign began: The hateful act was at length repeal’d; to the joy of every friend to the rights of mankind in Britain, and of all America, except the few who either from the prospect of gain by it, or from an inveterate envy which they had before and have ever since discovered, of the general happiness of the people of America, were the promoters if not the original framers of it. This restless faction could not bear to see the Americans restored to the possession of their rights and liberties, and sitting once more in security under their own vines and their own fig trees: Unwearied in their endeavours to introduce an absolute tyranny into this country, to which they were instigated, some from the principles of ambition or a lust of power, and others from an inordinate love of money which is the root of all evil, and which had before possessed the hearts of those who had undertaken to distribute the stamped papers, they met together in cabal and laid a new plan to render the people of this continent tributary to the mother country—Having finished their part of the plan, their indefatigable [John] Randolph was dispatched to Great Britain to communicate it to the fraternity there, in order that it might be ripen’d and bro’t to perfection: But even before his embarkation, he could not help discovering his own weakness, by giving a broad hint of the design—This parricide pretended that his intention in making a voyage to England at that time, was to settle a private affair of his own; that he had nothing else in view; and that having settled that private affair, he should immediately return, and as he express’d it, lay his bones in his native country. Full of the appearance of love for his country, he express’d the greatest solicitude to do the best service he could for it, while in England; but unluckily drop’d a question, strange and inconsistent as it may appear to the reader, “What do you think, sir, of a small Duty upon divers articles of importation from Great Britain?” No sooner had he arriv’d in London, than the news was dispatch’d from the friends of America there, of a design to lay a duty upon paper, glass, painter’s colours, and tea imported into America, with the sole purpose of raising a revenue —The lucrative commission which he obtain’d while in England, in consequence of the passing of the act of parliament, whereby he was appointed one of the principal managers of this very revenue, affords but little room to doubt what his intention was in his voyage to London, notwithstanding his warm professions of concern for his native country—It is not always a security against a man’s sacrificing a country, that he was born and educated in it. The Tyrants of Rome were Natives of Rome. Such men indeed incur a guilt of a much deeper dye, than Strangers, who commit no such violation of duty and of feeling.

There was another of the cabal who embark’d about the same time, but he was call’d out of this life before he reach’d London, and de mortuis nil dico [I speak naught of the dead]—Of the living I shall speak, as occasion shall call for it, with a becoming freedom.

The whole continent was justly alarmed at the parliament’s resuming the measure of raising a revenue in America without their consent, which had so nearly operated the ruin of the whole British empire but a few months before ; & that this odious measure should be taken, so soon after the happy coalition between Britain and the colonies which the repeal of the stamp-act had occasion’d; for if one may judge by the most likely appearances, the affections of her colonists, were upon this great event, more strongly attached to the mother country if possible, than ever they had been. But the great men there had been made to believe otherwise—Nay the governor of this province had gone such a length as to assure them, that the design of the Americans in their opposition to the stamp-act, was to bring the authority of parliament into contempt—Many of his adherents privately wrote to the same purpose—All which had a tendency to break that harmony, which after the only interruption that had ever taken place and that of short continuance, had been renewed, and doubtless would have been confirmed to mutual advantage forages, had it not been for that pestilent few, who first to aggrandize themselves and their families, interrupted the harmony, and then to preserve their own importance, took every step their malice could invent, with the advantage they had gain’d of a confidence with the ministry, to prevent it’s ever being restored.

Upon the fatal news (fatal, I call it, for I very much fear it will prove so in its consequences, how remote I will not take upon me to predict) upon the news of the passing of another revenue act, the colonies immediately took such measures as were dictated to them, not by passion and rude clamour, but by the voice of reason and a just regard to the safety of themselves and their posterity. The assembly of this province, being the first I suppose who had the opportunity of meeting, prepared and forwarded a humble, dutiful & loyal petition to the King; and wrote letters to such of the British nobility and gentry as had before discovered themselves friends to the rights of America & of mankind, beseeching their interposition and influence on their behalf. At the same time they wrote a circular letter to each of the other colonies, letting them know the steps they had taken and desiring their advice & joint assistance—This letter had its different effects; on the one hand, in the deep resentment of my Lord of Hillsborough, who was pleased to call it “a measure of an inflammatory nature—Evidently tending to create unwarrantable combinations, to excite an unjustifiable opposition to the constitutional authority of parliament and to revive unhappy divisions and distractions,” &c. While on the other hand, the colonies, as appears by their respective polite answers, receiv’d it with the highest marks of approbation, as a token of sincere affection to them, & a regard to the common safety; and they severally proceeded to take concurrent measures. No one step I believe, united the colonies more than this letter ; excepting his lordship’s endeavors by his own circular letter to the colonies, to give it a different turn—But however decent and loyal—However warrantable by or rather conformable to the spirit and the written rules of the British constitution, the petitions of right and other applications of the distressed Americans were, they shared the same fate which those of London, Westminster, Middlesex, & other great cities & counties have since met with! No redress of grievances ensued: Not even the least disposition in administration to listen to our petitions; which is not so much to be wondered at, when we consider the temper of the ministry, which was incessantly acted upon by Governor Bernard in such kind of language as this ” The authority of the King, the supremacy of parliament, the superiority of government are the real objects of the attack”; while nothing is more certain, than that the house of representatives of this province in their petition to the king, and in all their letters, that in particular which was address’d to the other colonies, the sentiment of which was recogniz’d by them, expressly declare, “that his Majesty’s high court of parliament is the supreme legislative power over the whole empire, in all cases which can consist with the fundamental rights of the constitution,” and that “it was never questioned in this province, nor as they conceive in any other.” They indeed in all their letters insist upon the right of granting their own money, as a right founded in nature, the exercise of which no man ever relinquished to another & remain’d free—A right therefore which no power on earth, not even the acknowledged supreme legislative power over the whole empire hath any authority to divest them of— “The supreme power says Mr. Locke, is not, nor can possibly be absolutely arbitrary, over the lives and fortunes of the people—The supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent. For the preservation of property being the end of government, and that for which men enter into society; it necessarily supposes and requires that the people should have property, without which they must be supposed to lose that by entering into society, which was the end for which they entered into it. Men therefore in society having property, they have such a right to the goods which by the law of the community are theirs, that nobody hath a right to take their substance or any part of it from them without their consent. Without this, they have no property at all: For I have truly no property in that, which another can by right take from me when he pleases, against my consent”—These are the principles upon which alone, the Americans founded their opposition to the late acts of parliament. How then could governor Bernard with any colour of truth declare to a minister of state in general terms, that “the authority of the King, the supremacy of parliament, the superiority of government, were the objects of the attack?” Upon the principles of reason and nature, their opposition is justifiable: For by those acts the property of the Colonists is taken from them without their consent. It is by no means sufficient to console us, that the duty is reduced to the single article of Tea, which by the way is not a fact; but if it should be admitted, it is because the parliament for the present are pleased to demand no more of us: Should we acquiesce in their taking three pence only because they please, we at least tacitly consent that they should have the sovereign controul of our purses; and when they please they will claim an equal right, and perhaps plead a precedent for it, to take a shilling or a pound—At present we have the remedy in our own hands; we can easily avoid paying the Tribute, by abstaining from the use of those articles by which it is extorted from us :—and further, we can look upon our haughty imperious taskmasters, and all those who are sent here to aid and abet them, together with those sons of servility, who from very false notions of politeness, can seek and court opportunities of cringing and fawning at their feet, of whom, thro’ favor, there are but few among us : we may look down upon all these, with that sovereign contempt and indignation, with which those who feel their own dignity and freedom, will for ever view the men, who would attempt to reduce them to the disgraceful state of Slavery.

I shall continue to send you an account of facts, as my leisure will admit. In the mean time,

I am yours,

“Candidus”

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One thought on “SAMUEL ADAMS REGARDING THE AMERICAN CHARACTER

  1. Wow, this is a really nice post. Taking time and actual effort to make an excellent article is very rare today!

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