An Encrease of Absurdity

in about Warren

Author: X., a Loyalist pseudonym

Date: March 18, 1768

“London, December 19. From the Public Ledger.

To the Printer.

If the People of Great Britain were not as remarkable for inconsistency as for any other of their distinguishing characteristics, one would be tempted to imagine them possessed of worse minds, than the most barbarous savages in the wilds of America; but happily the strangeness of their heads, co[ntinual]ly preserves the reputation of their hearts, and they are every where mentioned with ridicule, but never with detestation.  I was in hopes, indeed, that the incessant declamations of our political Writers upon this subject, would have opened, in some measure, the eyes of the public, and given them an inclination to avoid the sarcastical reflections of their neighbours: but, alas! every new hour plunges them into a new folly, & where we ought to find an encrease of good sense, we meet with an encrease of absurdity.

For these three or four last years, the principal attention of this country has been engaged in pointing out, and mitigating the grievances of our American Colonies.  On a strict examination into their conduct, we found them brave and affectionate, and released them in part from the oppressions under which they groaned, thro the incapacity of a bungling financier, who was as unmindful of their welfare, as regardless of our prosperity.  Yet, tho’ we were sensible, our conduct on this occasion, was a mere act of justice: tho’ we destested the Minister who laid these burdens upon our fellow subjects beyond the atlantic, and saw that whatever was conductive to their good, must be immediately instrumental to the establishment of our own happiness, we nevertheless refused to go tho’ with the generous work of redress: on the contrary, because we snatched the Americans from the weight of one injustice, we thought it insolent to the highest degree, when they presumed to petition for relief from another; and considered it as an indirect act of rebellion, that they expressed a disinclination to be miserable in any respect.  We declared upon all occasions, that to make them contented would be to make them independent; and it was the language of every political declaimer, that unless are continued in some measure to be tyrants, they would cease to be slaves.

Actuated by the principles, notwithstanding our repeal of the Stamp-act, we removed but very few of those restrictions with which their commerce was fettered; after doing every thing to make them rich, we did every thing to make them poor; and thought it good policy to lay out as much money in reducing them to penury, as we had expended in raising them to opulence.  The consequence of this conduct is every day growing more visible; our exports to the American Colonies, which formerly amounted to near three million sterling a year, now amount scarcely to 500,000l, and in a little time, if we pursue our present system of politics, we shall have nothing to export to that part of the world, but money to pay the useless body of forces which is kept there by our very sagacious Ministers.  If the Americans are not permitted to be a commercial, they must be a manufacturing people; if they are prevented from [gett]ing wherewithall to purchase English manufactures, they must endeavour to make manufactures for one another.  If they be not Merchants, they must be Artific[er]s[;] and if they are denied the benefit of foreign trade, they must naturally think of some internal traffic between themselves.

The justice of this reasoning appears to be self-evident, yet such is the unaccountable disposition of the Mother Country, that tho’ she has loaded the American Commerce with such restrictions as amount almost to a total annihilation of its foreign trade, she expresses the strongest resentment at the unfortunate inhabitants of our Colonies for making a virtue of necessity, and fabricating those articles at home, which she will not capacitate them to purchase immediately from herself.  She removes the cause of her own prosperity, and is offended at the effect; she reduced the Colonists to the greatest degree of poverty, and is angry, that they are not blest with the most ample abundance.

That I have not exceeded the bounds of truth in this assertion, the universal indignation expressed at the late resolutions of the Boston Assembly, † to use their own manufactures, will sufficiently convince the dispassionate reader.  The total decay of the American Commerce has at last obliged the Inhabitants to run into manufactures very much against their inclination; they are already deeply in debt to the Mother Country, and have little prospect of being able to discharge their old engagements, consequently they can have but very little encouragement to think of entering into new ones.  Were they, however, desirous of contracting fresh debts with us, there are but very few of us who would let them into our book.  Yet notwithstanding all these arguments in their favour, and notwithstanding their manifest title to our compassion, we load them incessantly with reproach; we accuse them of ingratitude, because they do not lay out sums of money with us, which they have no possibility of gaining; and at the very moment that we refuse them credit, are outrageous because they do not get into our debt.  For God’s sake let us have a little consistency: if we want the Americans to buy all the manufactures they want from us, let us put them in a condition of getting resources; the same channels which formerly enabled them to do it, may yet be opened for the mutual prosperity of the Mother Country and her Colonies; but delays are dangerous; every hour that encreases the number of their Artificers, is a dagger in the vitals of Great Britain; and while we deliberate about the opportunity of recovering, the Colonists are inevitably lost.


            †  This was only the unanimous Resolution of the Town of Boston, at a Meeting of about 600, called by the true Patriot and his Associates, a Juntonical expiring Faction, acting against the Sense if all who “fear God and Honor the King.”  On the 26th Instant, the Opinion of the said True Patriot, (as transmitted to London, printed there, and re-printed here in the Massachusetts Gazette, and Boston Post Boy,) was confermed by a Vote of the Assembly here, by 81 against one, to promote and encourage Oeconomy, Manufactures and good Manners thro’ this Province.  By which last, ’tis hoped all but the True Patriot and his Associates will be benefited.

[Boston Gaz.]”

Source: Connecticut Journal

Commentary: By the time Warren’s pseudonymous and his critics’ letter exchange had run its course in the newspapers, A True Patriot had been reprinted and referred to on both sides of the Atlantic. Warren’s strident tone could conjure its own condemnations, even when a writer like this one conceded the validity of American interests within British Empire mercantilism.

Previous post:

Next post: