By a Strange Kind of Compliment

in by Warren

Date: March 7, 1768

“My first performance, has by a strange kind of compliment, been by some applied to his Excellency Gov. Bernard. It is not for me to account for the construction put upon it. Every man has a right to make his own remarks, and if he satisfies himself, he will not displease me. I will however inform the Public, that I have the most sacred regard to the characters of all good men, and would sooner cut my hand from my body, than strike at the reputation of an honest member of the community: But there are circumstances, in which not justice alone, but humanity itself, obliges us to hold up the villain to view, and expose his guilt, to prevent his destroying the innocent. – Whoever he is whose conscience tells him he is not the monster I have portraited, may rest assured I did not aim at him; but the person who knows the black picture exhibited, to be his own, is welcome to take it to himself. – The Imputation of dissaffections to the King and the government, brought against me by his Majesty’s council, I shall answer only by a quotation from the paper which they have been pleased to censure, where I say, “We can never treat good and patriotic rulers with too great reverence.” In which sentence I hope the honourable Board will not say I have omitted to declare my sentiments of the duty which every good subject owes to hi[s] present Majesty, and all worthy subordinate magistrates. And I flatter myself, that the sentiments of the Board coincide with mine; if they do not, I must dissent from them. – Their charge of profaness, I humbly apprehend, was occasioned by their forcing a sense upon the two last lines, totally different from what I intended they should convey – My design was to compare wicked men, and especially wicked magistrates, to those enemies to mankind the devils, and to intimate that the devils themselves might boast of divine authority to seduce and ruin mankind, with as much reason and justice, as wicked rulers can pretend to derive from God, or from his word, a right to oppress, harrass and enslave their fellow-creatures.  The beneficent Lord of the universe delights in viewing the happiness of all men: And so far as civil government is of divine institution, it was calculated for the greatest good of the whole community: And whenever it ceases to be of general advantage, it ceases to be of divine appointment; and the magistrates in such a community have no claim to that honor which the divine Legislator has assigned to magistrates of his election. I hope the honorable Board will not condemn a man for expressing his contempt for the odious doctrines of divine hereditary right in princes, and of passive obedience, which he thinks dishonorary to almighty God, the common and impartial Father of the species, and ruinous both to Kings and Subjects; and which, if adhered to, would dethrone his present Majesty, and destroy the British nation. The honorable Board is humbly requested to examine whether the above is not the most natural and obvious sense of the quoted lines: Certainly when I read them, I thought it the only sense; and I shall think myself very unhappy in my readers, should they generally put that construction upon them which the honorable Board have been pleased to adopt.

I shall at all times write my sentiments with freedom, and with decency too; the rules of which I am not altogether unacquainted with. – While the Press is open, I shall publish whatever I think conducive to general emolument; when it is suppressed, I shall look upon my country as lost, and with a steady fortitude expect to feel the general shock!

A true Patriot.

Source: Boston Gazette

Commentary: Joseph answers his Tory critics and the governor’s council (here called the Board) with a disingenuous innocence. He writes that if Francis Bernard thought that he was the subject of A True Patriot’s pen, then the governor had a guilty conscience, and indeed had committed offenses against American liberties.

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