Posted by: Democratic Thinker | October 21, 2009

Whether They Will be Freemen or Slaves?

Background of the American Revolution

 
 
Prior to the Revolution, Samuel Adams, in an anonymous letter, urges his fellow countrymen to take action to recover their rights. He counsels that the crown is attempting to poison the morals of its citizens in America.

The Religion and public Liberty of a People are intimately connected; their Interests are interwoven, they cannot subsist separately; and therefore they rise and fall together. For this Reason, it is always observable, that those who are combin’d to destroy the People’s Liberties, practice every Art to poison their Morals.

Article Signed “Valerius Poplicola.”

Boston Gazette, April 20, 1772.

Messieurs EDES & GILL,


Samuel Adams.

“IS there a Prince on Earth, who has power to lay a single Penny upon his Subjects, without the Grant and Consent of those who are to pay it, otherwise than by Tyranny and Violence? No Prince can levy it unless through Tyranny and under Penalty of Excommunication. But there are those who are Bruitish enough not to know what they can do or omit in this Affair.”

Such is the language of a great and good Historian and Statesman, a Subject of France. Had the English Politicians and Ministers been either half as honest or half as wise as he, they would never have driven the American Revenue without the Grant or Consent of those who pay it, to such a length, as to cause an Alienation of affection which perhaps may not easily if ever be recovered. By this kind of politics, says the worthy Frenchman, Charles the seventh brought a heavy Sin upon his own Soul and upon that of his Successors, and gave his Kingdom a Wound which would continue long to bleed. The British Ministers, possibly, may entertain different Ideas of Morals from those of the French Historian, if indeed they have any such kind of ideas at all. However, the Nation, I fear, will have Occasion to rue the day, when they suffer’d their Politics so far to prevail, as to gain such an Influence in their Parliament as they certainly did in the last, to say nothing of the present. The Impositions upon the French, says Mr. Gordon, grew monstrous almost as soon as they grew arbitrary. Charles the seventh, who began them, never rais’d annually more than one hundred and eighty thousand Pounds. His Son Lewis the eleventh almost trebled the Revenue; and since then, all that the Kingdom and People had, even to their Skins, has hardly been thought sufficient for their Kings.” An awakening Caution to Americans! Lest by tamely submitting to be plundered, they encourage their Plunderers to grasp at all they have.

The Merchants of this Continent have passively submitted to the Indignity of a Tribute; and the Landholders, tho’ Sharers in the Indignity, have been perhaps too unconcern’d Spectators of the humiliating Scene. Posterity, who will no doubt revenge their Fathers Wrongs, may also be ashamed, when in the Page of History they are informed of their tame Subjection. Had the Body of this People shown a proper Resentment, at the time when the proud Taskmasters first made their appearance, we should never have seen Pensioners multiplying like the Locusts in Egypt, which devoured every green Thing. I speak with Assurance; because it seldom has happened if ever, that even a small People has been kept long in Bondage, when they have unitedly and perseveringly resolv’d to be Free.

At that critical Period, we hearkened to what we then took to be, the Dictates of sound policy and Prudence. We were led to place a Confidence in those, whose Protection we had a right to claim, and we hoped for Deliverance in dry Remonstrances and humble Supplication. We have petition’d, repeatedly petition’d, and our Petitions have been heard, barely heard! The Grievances of this Continent have no doubt “reached the Royal Ear”; I wish I could see reason to say they had touch’d the Royal Heart. No—They yet remain altogether unredress’d. Such has been the baneful Influence of corrupt and infamous Ministers and Servants of the Crown; that the Complaints of three Millions of loyal Subjects have not yet penetrated the Royal Breast, to move it even to pity.

Have not our humble Petitions, breathing a true Spirit of rational Loyalty, and expressive of a just Sense of those Liberties the Restoration of which we implored, been followed with Grievance upon Grievance, as fast as the cruel Heart and Hand of a most execrable Paricide could invent and fabricate them? I will not at present enumerate Grievances; they are known, sufficiently known, felt and understood. Is it not enough, to have a Governor, an avowed Advocate for ministerial Measures, and a most assiduous Instrument in carrying them on—moddel’d, shaped, controul’d, and directed—totally independant of the people over whom he is commissioned to govern, and yet absolutely dependent upon the Crown—pensioned by those on whom his existence depends, and paid out of a Revenue establish’d by those who have no Authority to establish it, and extorted from the People in a Manner most Odious, insulting and oppressive. Is not this, Indignity enough to be felt by those who have any feeling? Are we still threatned with more? Is Life, Property and every Thing dear and sacred, to be now submitted to the Decisions of PENSION’D JUDGES, holding their places during the pleasure of such a Governor, and a Council perhaps overawed! To what a State of Infamy, Wretchedness and Misery shall we be reduc’d if our Judges shall be prevail’d upon to be thus degraded to Hirelings, and the Body of the People shall suffer their free Constitution to be overturn’d and ruin’d. Merciful GOD! Inspire Thy People with Wisdom and Fortitude, and direct them to gracious Ends. In this extreme Distress, when the Plan of Slavery seems nearly compleated, O save our Country from impending Ruin—Let not the iron Hand of Tyranny ravish our Laws and seize the Badge of Freedom, nor avow’d Corruption and the murderous Rage of lawless Power be ever seen on the sacred Seat of Justice!


Old State House, Boston.

Is it not High Time for the People of this Country explicitly to declare, whether they will be Freemen or Slaves? It is an important Question which ought to be decided. It concerns us more than any Thing in this Life. The Salvation of our Souls is interested in the Event: For wherever Tyranny is establish’d, Immorality of every Kind comes in like a Torrent. It is in the Interest of Tyrants to reduce the People to Ignorance and Vice. For they cannot live in any Country where Virtue and Knowledge prevail. The Religion and public Liberty of a People are intimately connected; their Interests are interwoven, they cannot subsist separately; and therefore they rise and fall together. For this Reason, it is always observable, that those who are combin’d to destroy the People’s Liberties, practice every Art to poison their Morals. How greatly then does it concern us, at all Events, to put a Stop to the Progress of Tyranny. It is advanced already by far too many Strides. We are at this moment upon a precipice. The next step may be fatal to us. Let us then act like wise Men; calmly took around us and consider what is best to be done. Let us converse together upon this most interesting Subject and open our minds freely to each other. Let it be the topic of conversation in every social Club. Let every Town assemble. Let Associations & Combinations be everywhere set up to consult and recover our just Rights.

The Country claims our active Aid.
That let us roam; & where we find a Spark
Of public Virtue, blow it into Flame.” *

VALERIUS POPLICOLA


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