Intensely Excruciating by the Ingenious Suggestions of Aggravated Falsehood

in about Warren

Author: A, a pseudonymous Loyalist

Date: December 7, 1771

To Mucius Scaevola.

In the detestation of your political enormities, suffer me to join in the publick voice: But as I can resent your crime without any disagreeable emotions, I shall go close through this address without breathing one anathema on the perpetrator. Could I possibly whisper certain truths before such an audience as you and I in our turn solicited, I should be inclined to spare you the aggregated distress of this publick inquisition: There are certain objects that for the pain they communicate we would gladly avoid; and one of the most affecting expressions of misery, is that of defeated villainy, in its apprehensive, crest-fallen haggard attitude of supplication.—Intoxicated with the dazzling idea of patriotism, and unhappily seduced by the apparent facility of establishing or distinguishing a character: you boldly embarked in the wretched confederacy; some share of understanding I am ready to allow you, to vindicate the propriety of this address: You presently apprehend the most striking features of your clamorous co-patriots: A pretense of zeal for the public safety has for a century drowned the cry for religion and reformation. Murmurs and discontents however groundless, fears and jealousies however ill founded, are still the successful weapons of turbulent demagogues, the honest and illiterate unwarily catch the enthusiasm; distrust industriously, disseminated among the inconsiderate multitude, naturally awakens their attention; and when thoroughly alarmed with apprehensions of danger, they submit to the guidance of any massaniello to shun their imaginary evils.—A man unacquainted with historical facts might probably determine, that general discontent could never prevail without just provocation; that the lawless ambition of a few could never distrust a wise and equal administration; that partisans whose characters and designs at best were problematic could never embroil a state; and would be ready to conclude that there were but transient vapours which would be dispersed on the first ray of light – – to you Mucius these ceased to be questionable, you were already apprized –that from such fermenting mischief, the curse causeless had reached the guiltless head; the desolated alter of the unsuspecting, the beneficent citizen displayed a monument of more than gothick barbarity. Thus armed capapee you rushed upon the publick; hypothesis was but timid, rational deduction was of slow progression, and ill-suited to the organs of those- you meant to influence: positive assertion and dogmatical position with a valorous attack on Magistracy, were the direct road to popular confidence. To fear God, and honour the King betrayed a poverty of spirit unworthy such generous purposes; and to evidence an insipid, unprovoking temper of candour and justice at the crisis of infatuation would but disgrace your abilities, and defeat your intentions: The publick ear was already rendered perfectly callous to almost every species of abuse and distraction; to be eminent even Leonidas and Candidus were to be gloriously outdone; the ebullitions of rancor must be rendered more intensely excruciating by the ingenious suggestions of aggravated falsehood. Person, character, and station were the select. prey of this matchless political vulture: Hitherto the junto had raved with impunity; the random shafts of innoxious malice were still disregarded: The proscribed, the insulted Magistrates with the scorn of indignant virtue refused to chastise them; such generous revenge was truly distressing; your ambitious phrenzy united with diligence led you to court persecution; the braying patriot was but too sensible, that unless he was so distinguished, his pretentions would be received with every expression of ridicule: The characteristic of Americans is to pity the unfortunate without a scrupulous attention to the source of their complaints: and it is equally the generous frailty of my country-men, implicitly to swallow the professions of every state mountebank: Mucius was aware that a publick defaulter by superlative finesse, and hypocritical gravity, had flung enormous embezzlements on the publick charity: Another eminent political declamatory had feasted on the public bounty; for reconciling the grossest absurdities, and establishing to his own singular emolument, a beneficial manufacture without hands: while others quos nunc prescribere longum est, were lifted from their native kennels, and shine triumphant demagogues in the subordinate departments of state: some noble effort must therefore be made. Some violent assault on the inflammable passions of the populace; some giant enormity must be committed against government, or Mucius Scaevola must precipitate with the dregs of ineffectual and disappointed incendiaries.

Here had you been content to remain, and have dropped the curtain over the last act of demented ambition, you would have spared yourself much severe recrimination; though the spirit of gentleness which governs the pen of the Censor, would rather blot the record such aggravated follies: Pomponius Atticus tendered you this golden maxim “engage in no factions,” but the considerations before-cited were irresistibly persuasive: You boldly launched forth the Quixotte of faction; the enterprise did honour to your execrable talents. The Ostracism of Athens, and Patalism of Syracuse were adopted with additional malignity, an invidious distaste to superior excellence, had generally the greatest share in their proscriptions; this might have some covert influence, but was not the actuating principle with you: To aggrandize your character by one illustrious coup de main, you proposed the expulsion of the first Magistrate, and if virtue confers eminence, the first Citizen from the Chair: Already like a towering Colossus you had placed your majestic foot on subjugated government. Here let us pause, and make a few observations inoffensively attempered to your elegant organs: When you have thus industriously embroiled the state, let us suppose that you succeed in your endeavours to remove a faithful servant of the crown, will this compose the general uneasiness? Do we not unhappily experience that the fermenting Choler is prepared to discharge itself on his innocent succession? Will not the same principle, call it envy, love of liberty, impatience of control, or by what name you please; which operated in the states beforementioned, and expelled every citizen whose fame or power overtoped the rest; will not the same ruinous principle I say forever raise enemies against the leading member of a state, however moderate in the exercise of authority? Would you contently intrust the safety of your person and property to an uncontroulable popular discretion? Is it not therefore prudent and sound policy, to cherish and cultivate sentiments of reverence and obedience to rulers; in order to preserve that due subordination in society; without such anarchy must assuredly ensue? Admitting then the Sovereign by a judicious and temperate exertion of prerogative, for the general good of the empire, at the same time religiously observing the condition of the charter; should introduce some innovation disgustful to the people, and they by their levity, and their rebellious disposition should endeavor to throw things into confusion: would they not thereby prove themselves totally unfit for any state, but that of absolute slavery and subjection?

[signed] A.

Source: Censor newspaper

Commentary: Mucius Scaevola, who I believe to have been Joseph Warren writing under a pseudonym, hit a raw nerve among Loyalist and Tory Friends of Government. Here a Loyalist, probably reflecting sentiment amongst Governor Thomas Hutchinson’s counselors, rails at Mucius as a frustrated office seeker trying to incite the ignorant populace and to distinguish himself among factional troublemakers by achieving a new low in Whig advocacy. Mucius Scaevola’s letter had appeared in the Massachusetts Spy issue for November 14, 1771. Though sparks were flying between Massachusetts Whigs and friends of Government concerning Mucius Scaevola, there is little to suggest that any but the most partisan individuals showed any interest.

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