Letter to Edmond Dana, Esq.

in by Warren

Author: Joseph Warren

Date: March 19, 1766

Source: John Collins Warren, Warren Genealogy, 1854, Appendix

“Boston. New England,

Dear Sir, — I have not had the pleasure of a line from you since you left this country. I wrote to you soon after I knew of your arrival in England, and I have not at any time been negligent in inquiring concerning you, when-ever an opportunity presented. I have with great satisfaction heard of that agreeable life which you lead amidst all the gaieties and diversions of that jovial city, London; but I received a peculiar pleasure from the intelligence which I have lately had of your happy marriage with a lady of noble birth and every accomplishment, both natural and acquired. Accept the sincerest wishes of your long absent (but I hope not forgotten) friend, that you may long enjoy, with your charming consort, that unequalled happiness which must vine from an union of persons so amiable.

Perhaps it may not be disagreeable at this time to hear something of the present state of your native country. Never has there been a time, since the first settlement of America, in which the people had so much reason to be alarmed as the present. The whole Continent is inflamed to the highest degree. I believe this country may be esteemed as truly loyal in their principles as any in the universe; but the strange project of levying a stamp-duty, and of depriving the people of the privilege of trials by juries, has roused their jealousy and resentment. They can conceive of no liberty where they have lost the power of taxing themselves, and when all controversies between the crown and the people are to be determined by the opinion of one dependent; and they think that slavery is not only the greatest misfortune, but that it is also the greatest crime (if there is a possibility of escaping it). You are sensible that the inhabitants of this country have ever been zealous lovers of their civil and religious liberties; for the enjoyment of these they fought battles, left a pleasant and populous country, and exposed themselves to all the dangers and hardships in this new world, and their laudable attachment to freedom has Hitherto been transmitted to their posterity; moreover, in all new countries (and especially in this, which was settled by private adventurers), there is a more equal division of property amongst the people ; in consequence of which, their influ­ence and authority must be nearly equal, and even- man will think himself deeply interested in the support of public liberty. Freedom and equality is the state of nature; but slavery is the most unnatural and violent state that can be conceived of, and its approach must be gradual and imperceptible. In many old countries, where, in a long course of years, some particular families have been able to acquire a very large share of property, from which must arise a kind of aristocracy, — that is, the power and authority of some persons or families is exer­cised in proportion to the decrease of the independence and property of the people in general. Had America been prepared in this manner for the stamp-act, it might, perhaps, have met with a more favorable reception; but it is absurd to attempt to impose so cruel a yoke on a people who are so near to the state of original equality, and who look upon their liberties not merely as arbitrary grants, but as their unalienable eternal rights, purchased by the blood and treasure of their ancestors; which liberties, though granted and received as acts of favor, could not, without manifest injustice, have been refused, and cannot now, or at any time hereafter, be revoked. Certainly, if the connection was rightly understood, Great Britain would be convinced, that, without laying arbitrary taxes upon her Colonies, she may and does reap such advantages as ought to satisfy her. Indeed, it enrages the more judicious people an this side the water, that the late minister was so unacquainted with the state of America and the manners and circumstances of the people; or, if lie was acquainted, it still surprises them to kind a man in his high station so ignorant of nature and of the operations of the human mind, as madly to revoked the resentment of millions of men who would esteem death with all its tortures preferable to slavery. Most certainly, in whatever light the stamp-act is viewed, an uncommon want of policy is discoverable. If the real and only motive of the minister was to raise more from the Colonies, that method should undoubtedly have been adopted which was least grievous to the people: instead of this, the most unpopular that could be imagined is chosen. If there was any jealousy of the Colonies, and the minister designed by this act more effectually to secure their dependence on Great Britain, the jealousy was first ground-less; but, if it had been founded on good reasons, could any thing have been worse calculated to answer this purpose? Could not the minister have found out, either from history or from his own observation, that the strength of any country depended on its being united within itself? Has he not by this act brought about what the most zealous colonist could never have expected? The Colonies until now were ever at variance, and foolishly jealous of each other; they are now, by the refined policy of Mr. —, united for their common defence against what they believe to be oppression; nor will they soon forget the weight which this close union gives them. The impossibility of accounting in any other way for the imposition of the stamp-duty has induced some to imagine that the minister designed this act to force the Colonies into a rebellion, and from thence to take occasion to treat them with severity, and by military power reduce them to servitude; but this supposes such a monstrous degree of wickedness, that charity forbids us to conclude him guilty of so black a villainy. But admitting this to have been his aim, should he not have considered that every power in Europe looks with envy on the Colonies which Great Britain enjoys in America? Could he suppose that the powerful and politic France would be restrained by treaties, when so fair an opportunity offered for the recovery of their ancient possessions at least! Was he so ignorant of nature as not to know, that, when the rage of the people is raised by oppression to such a height as to break out in rebellion, any new alliance would be preferred to the miseries which a conquered country must necessarily expect to suffer? And would no power in Europe take advantage of such an occasion! And, above all, did he not know that his royal, benevolent master, when he discovered his views, would detest and punish him? But, whatever was proposed by the stamp-act, of this I am certain, that the regard which the Colonies still bear to his majesty arises more from an exalted idea of his majesty’s integrity and goodness of heart, than from any prudent conduct of his late minister.

I have wrote, sir, much more than I intended when I first sat down; but I hope you will pardon my prolixity upon so important a subject.

I am, sir, your most sincere friend and humble servant,

Joseph Warren

P.S. –I Hope the favor of a line from you the first opportunity.”

Commentary: Warren hopes a former college buddy could wield influence in England on behalf of the colonists’ grievances against the Stamp Tax. As a Whig independent, he cites the baleful influence of extreme wealth disparities and an aristocracy on the perpetuation of Liberty.

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