Background of the American Revolution
In 1772, Boston charged the Committee of Correspondence to provide (1) the State of Rights of the Colonists; (2) a List of Infringements and Violations of Those Rights; and (3) a Letter of Correspondence to other Towns. The Committe assigned Benjamin Church the writing of the Letter of Correspondence.
Votes and Proceedings 20th November 1772.
—Boston Town Records, 1770 through 1777.
The Votes and Proceedings of the Town at their late Meeting the 20. November 1772 were by Order of the Town, published in a Pamphlet, one of which was sent to each Town in the Province, and the same as accepted by said Meeting, is as follows Vizt—
The Committee appointed by the Town the second Instant “to State the Rights of the Colonists and of this Province in particular, as Men, as Christians, and as Subjects; to communicate and publish the same to the several Towns in this Province and to the World as the sense of this Town with the Infringements and Violations thereof that have been, or from Time to Time may be made. Also requesting of each Town a free Communication of their Sentiments Reported—
First, A State of the Rights of the Colonists and of
– – – – – this Province in particular—
Secondly, A List of the Infringements, and Violations of those
– – – – – Rights.—
Thirdly, A Letter of Correspondence with the
– – – – – other Towns.—
[ as continued ]
Boston November 20: 1772
Benjamin Church. ‡
Gentlemen — We the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of Boston in Town Meeting duly Assembled, according to Law, apprehending there is abundant [Reason] to be alarmed at the plan of Despotism, which the enemies of our invaluable rights have concerted, is rapidly hastening to a completion can no longer conceal our impatience under a constant, unremitted, uniform aim to enslave us, or confide in an Administration which threatens us with certain and inevitable destruction. But, when in addition to the repeated inroads made upon the Rights and Liberties of the Colonists, and of those in this Province in particular, we reflect on the late extraordinary measure in affixing stipends or Salaries from the Crown to the Offices of the Judges of the Superior Court of Judicature, making them not only intirely independent of the people, whose lives and properties are so much in their power, but absolutely dependent on the Crown (which may hereafter, be worn by a Tyrant) both for their appointment and support, we cannot but be extremely alarmed at the mischievous tendency of this innovation; which in our opinion is directly contrary to the spirit of the British Constitution, pregnant with innumerable evils, and hath a direct tendency to deprive us of every thing valuable as Men, as Christians and as Subjects, entitled, by the Royal Charter, to all the Rights, liberties and privileges of native Britons. Such being the critical state of this Province, we think it our duty on this truly distressing occasion, to ask you, What can withstand the Attacks of mere power? What can preserve the liberties of the Subject, when the Barriers of the Constitution are taken away? The Town of Boston consulting on the matter above mentioned, thought proper to make application to the Governor by a Committee; requesting his Excellency to communicate such intelligence as he might have received relative to the report of the Judges having their support independent of the grants of this Province a Copy of which you have herewith in Paper N. 1. To which we received as answer the Paper N. 2. The Town on further deliberation, thought it advisable to refer the matter to the Great and General Assembly; and accordingly in a second address as N. 3 they requested his Excellency that the General Court might Convene at the time to which they then stood prorogued; to which the Town received the reply as in N. 4. in which we are acquainted with his intentions further to prorogue the General Assembly, which has since taken place. Thus Gentlemen it is evident his Excellency declines giving the least satisfaction as to the matter in request. The affair being of publick concernment, the Town of Boston thought it necessary to consult with their Brethren throughout the Province; and for this purpose appointed a Committee, to communicate with our fellow Sufferers, respecting this recent instance of oppression, as well as the many other violations of our Rights under which we have groaned for several Years past—This Committee have briefly recapitulated the sense we have of our invaluable Rights as Men, as Christians, and as Subjects; and wherein we conceive those Rights to have been violated, which we are desirous may be laid before your Town, that the subject may be weighed as its importance requires, and the collected wisdom of the whole People, as far as possible, be obtained, on a deliberation of such great and lasting moment as to involve in it the fate of all our Posterity—Great pains has been taken to perswade the British Administration to think that the good People of this Province in general are quiet and undisturbed at the late measures; and that any uneasiness that appears, arises from a few factious designing and disaffected men. This renders it the more necessary, that the sense of the People should be explicitly declared.—A free communication of your sentiments to this Town, of our common danger, is earnestly solicited and will be gratefully received. If you concur with us in opinion, that our Rights are properly stated, and that the several Acts of Parliament, and Measures of Administration, pointed out by us are subversive of these Rights, you will doubtless think it of the utmost importance that we stand firm as one man, to recover and support them; and to take such measures by directing our Representatives, or otherwise, as your wisdom and fortitude shall dictate, to rescue from impending ruin our happy and glorious constitution. But if it should be the general voice of this Province, that the Rights as we have stated them, do not belong to us; or that the several measures of Administration in tha British Court, are no violations of these Rights, or that if they are thus violated or infringed, they are not worth contending for, or resolutely maintaining;—should this be the general voice of the Province, we must be resigned to our wretched fate; but shall forever lament the extinction of that generous ardor for Civil and Religeous liberty, which in the face of every danger, and even death itself, induced our fathers to forsake the bosom of their Native Country, and begin a settlement on bare Creation—But we trust this cannot be the case: We are sure your wisdom, your regard to yourselves and the rising Generation, cannot suffer you to dose, or set supinely indifferent on the brink of destruction, while the Iron hand of oppression is dayly tearing the choicest Fruit from the fair Tree of Liberty, planted by our worthy Predecessors, at the expence of their treasure, & abundantly water’d with their blood—It is an observation of an eminent Patriot, that a People long inured to hardships, loose by degrees the very notions of liberty; they look upon themselves as Creatures at mercy, ard that all impositions laid on by superior hands, are legal and obligatory.—But thank Heaven this is not yet verified in America! We have yet some share of publick virtue remaining: we are not afraid of poverty, but disdain slavery.—The fate of Nations is so Precarious and resolutions in States so often take place at an unexpected moment, when the hand of power by fraud or flattery, has secured every Avenue of retreat, and the minds of the Subject debased to its purpose, that it becomes every will wisher to his Country, while it has any remains of freedom, to keep an Eagle Eye upon every inovation and stretch of power, in those that have the rule over us. A recent instance of this we have in the late Revolutions in Sweden, by which the Prince once subject to the laws of the State, has been able of a sudden to declare himself an absolute Monarch The Sweeds were once a free, martial and valient people: Their minds are now so debaced, that they rejoice at being subject to the caprice and arbitrary power of a Tyrant & kiss their Chains. It makes us shudder to think, the late measures of Administration may be productive of the like Catastrophe; which Heaven forbid!—Let us consider Brethren, we are struggling for our best Birth Rights & Inheritance; which being infringed, renders all our blessings precarious in their enjoyments, and consequently triffling in their value. Let us disappoint the Men who are raising themselves on the ruin of this Country. Let us convince every Invader of our freedom, that we will be as free as the Constitution our Fathers recognized, will Justify.—
[ ☞ Beginning of Report ]
‡ In 1775, Church was convicted of treasonable correspondence with the British, but allowed to leave the country.