Josiah Quincy Jr. (1744 –1775) AKA “The Patriot” was an American lawyer and patriot. He was a principal spokesman for the Sons of Liberty in Boston prior to the Revolution. He was an energetic advocate for the Whig party in the pre-Revolutionary political debates. With John Adams he defended Captain Preston after the so-called “Boston Massacre,” and in 1774, when scarcely thirty years of age, he was the confidential agent in London of the patriot party. Dying on shipboard, almost in sight of his native New England coast, Josiah Quincy, J r., left behind him an infant son, whose long and honorable life, beginning before the Revolution, outlasted the war of the Rebellion. But President Josiah Quincy, of Harvard College, though he lived all his life on the family-place at Quincy, always identified himself with the city of Boston.
“The commonwealth itself has no other strength or hope than the intelligence and virtue of the individuals that compose it. For the intelligence and virtue of individuals there is no other human assurance than laws providing for the education of the whole people. These laws themselves have no strength, or efficient sanction, except in the moral and accountable nature of man disclosed in the records of the Christian’s faith; the right to read, to construe, and to judge concerning which belongs to no class or caste of men, but exclusively to the individual, who must stand or fall by his own acts and his own faith, and not by those of another.The great comprehensive truths, written in letters of living light on every page of our history, — the language addressed by every past age of New England to all future ages, is this: Human happiness has no perfect security but freedom; freedom, none but virtue; virtue, none but knowledge; and neither freedom, nor virtue, nor knowledge has any vigor, or immortal hope, except in the principles of the Christian faith, and in the sanctions of the Christian religion.” ~ Josiah Quincy, October 1831; Harvard University; Dedication of the Dane Law College
Extract from “Hyperion*” by The Patriot; Josiah Quincy Jr., 1768
* The first part of this extract was published in the Boston Gazette in September, 1767, on receiving information of threatening import from England; the remainder appeared in October, 1768, when British troops had landed in Boston, and taken possession of Faneuil Hall, under circumstances intended to inspire the people with alarm and terror.—Ed.
When I reflect on the exalted character of the ancient Britons, on the fortitude of our illustrious predecessors, on the noble struggles of the late memorable period, and from these reflections, when, by a natural transition, I contemplate the gloomy aspect of the present day, my heart is alternately torn with doubt and hope, despondency and terror. Can the true, generous magnanimity of British heroes be entirely lost in their degenerate progeny? Is the genius of liberty, which so late inflamed our bosoms, fled forever?
An attentive observer of the deportment of some particular persons in this metropolis would be apt to imagine, that the grand point was gained; that the spirit of the people was entirely broken to the yoke; that all America was subjugated to bondage. Already the minions of power, in fancy, fatten and grow wanton on the spoils of the land. They insolently toss the head, and put on the air of contemptuous disdain. In the imaginary possession of lordships and dominions, these potentates and powers dare tell us, that our only hope is to crouch, to cower under, and to kiss, the iron rod of oppression. Precious sample of the meek and lowly temper of those who are destined to be our lords and masters!
Be not deceived, my countrymen. Believe not these venal hirelings, when they would cajole you by their subtleties into submission, or frighten you by their vaporings into compliance. When they strive to flatter you by the terms “moderation and prudence,” tell them that calmness and deliberation are to guide the judgment; courage and intrepidity command the action. When they endeavour to make us “perceive our inability to oppose our mother country,” let us boldly answer;—In defence of our civil and religious rights, we dare oppose the world; with the God of armies on our side, even the God who fought our fathers’ battles, we fear not the hour of trial, though the hosts of our enemies should cover the field like locusts. If this be enthusiasm, we will live and die enthusiasts.
Blandishments will not fascinate us, nor will threats of a “halter” intimidate. For, under God, we are determined, that wheresoever, whensoever, or howsoever we shall be called to make our exit, we will die freemen. Well do we know that all the regalia of this world cannot dignify the death of a villain, nor diminish the ignominy, with which a slave shall quit existence. Neither can it taint the unblemished honor of a son of freedom, though he should make his departure on the already prepared gibbet, or be dragged to the newly erected scaffold for execution. With the plaudits of his conscience he will go off the stage. A crown of joy and immortality shall be his reward. The history of his life his children shall venerate. The virtues of their sire shall excite their emulation.
If there ever was a time, this is the hour, for Americans to rouse themselves, and exert every ability. Their all is at a hazard, and the die of fate spins doubtful. In vain do we talk of magnanimity and heroism, in vain do we trace a descent from the worthies of the earth, if we inherit not the spirit of our ancestors. Who is he that boasteth of his patriotism? Has he vanquished luxury, and subdued the worldly pride of his heart? Is he not still drinking the poisonous draught, and rolling the sweet morsel under his tongue? He who cannot conquer the little vanity of his heart, and deny the delicacy of a debauched palate, let him lay his hand upon his mouth, and his mouth in the dust.
Now is the time for this people to summon every aid, human and divine; to exhibit every moral virtue, and call forth every Christian grace. The wisdom of the serpent, the innocence of the dove, and the intrepidity of the lion, with the blessing of God, will yet save us from the jaws of destruction.
Where is the boasted liberty of Englishmen, if property may be disposed of, charters suspended, assemblies dissolved, and every valued right annihilated, at the uncontrollable will of an external power? Does not every man, who feels one ethereal spark yet glowing in his bosom, find his indignation kindle at the bare imagination of such wrongs? What would be our sentiments were this imagination realized.
Did the blood of the ancient Britons swell our veins, did the spirit of our forefathers inhabit our breasts, should we hesitate a moment in preferring death to a miserable existence in bondage? Did we reflect on their toils, their dangers, their fiery trials, the thought would inspire unconquerable courage.
Who has the front to ask, Wherefore do you complain? Who dares assert, that everything worth living for is not lost, when a nation is enslaved? Are not pensioners, stipendiaries and salary-men, unknown before, hourly multiplying upon us, to riot in the spoils of miserable America? Does not every eastern gale waft us some new insect, even of that devouring kind, which eat up every green thing? Is not the bread taken out of the children’s mouths and given unto the dogs? Are not our estates given to corrupt sycophants, without a design, or even a pretense, of soliciting our assent; and our lives put into the hands of those whose tender mercies are cruelties? Has not an authority in a distant land, in the most public manner, proclaimed a right of disposing of the all of Americans? In short, what have we to lose? What have we to fear? Are not our distresses more than we can bear? And, to finish all, are not our cities, in a time of profound peace, filled with standing armies, to preclude from us that last solace of the wretched—to open their mouths in complaint, and send forth their cries in bitterness of heart?
But is there no ray of hope? Is not Great Britain inhabited by the children of those renowned barons, who waded through seas of crimson gore to establish their liberty? and will they not allow us, their fellow-men, to enjoy that freedom which we claim from nature, which is confirmed by our constitution, and which they pretend so highly to value? Were a tyrant to conquer us, the chains of slavery, when opposition should become useless, might be supportable; but to be shackled by Englishmen,—by our equals,—is not to be borne. By the sweat of our brow we earn the little we possess; from nature we derive the common rights of man; and by charter we claim the liberties of Britons. Shall we, dare we, pusillanimously surrender our birthright? la the obligation to our fathers discharged? Is the debt we owe posterity paid? Answer me, thou coward, who hidest thyself in the hour of trial; •If there is no reward in this life, no prize of glory in the next, capable of animating thy dastard soul, think and tremble, thou miscreant! at the whips and stripes thy master shall lash thee with on earth,—and the flames and scorpions thy second master shall torment thee with hereafter!
Oh, my countrymen! what will our children say, when they read the history of these times, should they find that we tamely gave away, without one noble struggle, the most invaluable of earthly blessings! As they drag the galling chain, will they not execrate us? If we have any respect for things sacred, any regard to the dearest treasure on earth; if we have one tender sentiment for posterity; if we would not be despised by the whole world; — let us, in the most open, solemn manner, and with determined fortitude, swear—We will die, if we cannot live freemen!
Be not lulled, my countrymen, with vain imaginations or idle fancies. To hope for the protection of Heaven, without doing our duty, and exerting ourselves as becomes men, is to mock the Deity. Wherefore had man his reason, if it were not to direct him? wherefore his strength, if it be not his protection? To banish folly and luxury, correct vice and immorality, and stand immoveable in the freedom in which we are free indeed, is eminently the duty of each individual at this day. When this is done, we may rationally hope for an answer to our prayers—for the whole counsel of God, and the invincible armor of the Almighty.
However righteous our cause, we cannot, in this period of the world, expect a miraculous salvation. Heaven will undoubtedly assist us if we act like men; but to expect protection from above, while we are enervated by luxury, and slothful in the exertion of those abilities, with which we are endued, is an expectation vain and foolish. With the smiles of Heaven, virtue, unanimity and firmness will ensure success. While we have equity, justice and God on our side, Tyranny, spiritual or temporal, shall never ride triumphant in a land inhabited by Englishmen.
An attentive observer of the deportment of some particular persons in this metropolis would be apt to imagine, that the grand point was gained; that the spirit of the people was entirely broken to the yoke; that all America was subjugated to bondage. Already the minions of power in fancy fatten and grow wanton on the spoils of the land. They insolently toss the head, and put on the air of contemptuous disdain. In the imaginary possession of lordships and dominions, these potentates and powers dare tell us, that our only hope is to crouch, to cower under, and to kiss, the iron rod of oppression. Precious sample of the meek and lowly temper of those who are destined to be our lords and masters!
Conclusion of “Observations on the Boston Port Bill.”
Thus, my countrymen, from the days of Gardiner and Morton, Gorges and Mason, Randolph and Cranfield, down to the present day, the inhabitants of this northern region have constantly been in dangers and troubles, from foes open and secret, abroad and in their bosom. Our freedom has been the object of envy, and to make void the charter of our liberties the work and labour of an undiminished race of villains. One cabal having failed of success, new conspirators have risen, and what the first could not make “void,” the next “humbly desired to revoke.” To this purpose one falsehood after another hath been fabricated and spread abroad with equal turpitude and equal effrontery. That minute detail, which would present actors now on the stage, is the province of History. She, inexorably severe towards the eminently guilty, will delineate their characters with the point of a diamond; and, thus blazoned in the face of day, the abhorrence and execrations of mankind will consign them to an infamous immortality.
So great has been the credulity of the British court from the beginning, or such hath been the activity of false brethren, that no tale inimical to the Northern Colonies, however false or absurd, but what hath found credit with the administration, and operated to the prejudice of the country. Thus it was told and believed in England, that we were not in earnest in the expedition against Canada at the beginning of this century, and that the country did everything in its power to defeat the success of it, and that the misfortune of that attempt ought to be wholly attributed to the Northern Colonies: while nothing could be more obvious, than that New England had exhausted her youngest blood, and all her treasures, in the undertaking; and that every motive of self-preservation, happiness and safety must have operated to excite these provinces to the, most spirited and persevering measures against Canada.
The people, who are attacked by bad men, have a testimony of their merit, as the constitution, which is invaded by powerful men, hath an evidence of its value. The path of our duty needs no minute delineation; it lies level to the eye. Let us apply, then, like men sensible of its importance, and determined on its fulfillment. The inroads on our public liberty call for reparation; the wrongs we have sustained call for justice. That reparation and that justice may yet be obtained by union, spirit and firmness. But to divide and conquer was the maxim of the devil in, the garden of Eden; and to disunite and enslave hath been the principle of all his votaries from that period to the present. The crimes of the guilty are to them the cords of association, and dread of punishment the indissoluble bond of union. The combinations of public robbers ought, therefore, to cement patriots and heroes: and, as the former plot and conspire to undermine and destroy the commonwealth, the latter ought to form a compact for opposition,— a band of vengeance.
What insidious arts, and what detestable practices, have been used to deceive, disunite and enslave the good people of this continent! The mystic appellations of loyalty and allegiance, the venerable names of government and good order, and the sacred ones of piety and public virtue, have been alternately prostituted to that abominable purpose. All the windings and guises, subterfuges and doublings, of which the human soul is susceptible, have been displayed on the occasion. But secrets, which were thought impenetrable, are no longer hid; characters deeply disguised are openly revealed; and the discovery of gross impostors hath generally preceded but a short time their utter extirpation.
Be not again, my countrymen, “easily captivated with the appearances only of wisdom and piety,—professions of a regard to liberty, and of a strong attachment to the public interest.” Your fathers have been explicitly charged with this folly by one of their posterity. Avoid this and all similar errors. Be cautious against the deception of appearances. “By their fruits ye shall know them,” was the saying of one, who perfectly knew the Human heart. Judge of affairs which concern social happiness by facts: judge of man by his deeds. For it is very certain, that pious zeal for days and times, for mint and cumin, hath often been pretended by those who were infidels at bottom; and it is as certain, that attachment to the dignity of government and the king’s service, hath often flowed from the mouths of men, who harboured the darkest machinations against the true end of the former, and were destitute of every right principle of loyalty to the latter. Hence, then, care and circumspection are necessary branches of political duty. And, as “it is much easier to restrain liberty from running into licentiousness, than power from swelling into tyranny and oppression,” so much more caution and resistance are required against the overbearing of rulers, than the extravagance of the people.
To give no more authority to any order of state, and to place no greater public confidence in any man, than is necessary for the general welfare, may be considered by the people as an important point of policy. But though craft and hypocrisy are prevalent, yet piety and virtue have a real existence: duplicity and political imposture abound, yet benevolence and public spirit are not altogether banished the world. As wolves will appear in sheep’s clothing, so superlative knaves and parricides will assume the vesture of the man of virtue and patriotism.
These things are permitted by Providence, no doubt, for wise and good reasons. Man was created for a rational, and was designed for an active being. His faculties of intelligence and force were given him for use. When the wolf, therefore, is found devouring the flock, no hierarchy forbids a seizure of the victim for sacrifice; so, also, when dignified impostors are caught destroying those whom their arts deceive, though their stations destined them to protect,—the sabre of justice flashes righteousness at the stroke of execution.
Yet be not amused, my countrymen! The extirpation of bondage and the re-establishment of freedom are not of easy acquisition. The worst passions of the human heart and the most subtle projects of the human mind, are leagued against you; and principalities and powers have acceded to the combination. Trials and conflicts you must, therefore, endure; hazards and jeopardies of life and fortune will attend the struggle. Such is the fate of all noble exertions for public liberty and social happiness. Enter not the lists without thought and consideration, lest you arm with timidity, and combat with irresolution. Having engaged in the conflict, let nothing discourage your vigour, or repel your perseverance. Remember that submission to the yoke of bondage is the worst that can befall a people, after the most fierce and unsuccessful resistance. What can the misfortunes of vanquishment take away, which despotism and rapine would spare ?” It had been easy,” said the great lawgiver Solon to the Athenians, “to repress the advances of tyranny, and prevent its establishment; but, now it is established and grown to some height, it would be more glorious to demolish it.” But nothing glorious is accomplished, nothing great is attained, nothing valuable is secured, without magnanimity of mind, and devotion of heart to the service. Brutus-like, therefore, dedicate yourselves at this day to the service of your country; and henceforth live a life of liberty and glory. “On the ides of March,”—said the great and good man to his friend Cassius, just before the battle of Philippi,—”on the ides of March I devoted my life to my country, and since that time I have lived a life of liberty and glory.”
Inspired with public virtue, touched with the wrongs, and indignant at the insults, offered his country, the highspirited Cassius exhibits an heroic example;—” Resolved as we are,”—replied the hero to his friend,—”resolved as we are, let us march against the enemy; for, though we should not conquer, we have nothing to fear.”
Spirits and genii like these rose in Rome, and have since adorned Britain; such also will one day make glorious this more western world. America hath in store her Bruti and Cassii—her Hampdens and Sydneys—patriots and heroes, who will form a band of brothers;—men, who will have memories and feelings, courage and swords,—courage, that shall inflame their ardent bosoms till their hands cleave to their swords, and their swords to their enemies hearts.