Grind the Faces of the Poor by Rapine or Close-fisted Usury

in about Warren

Messirs Fleets,

Meeting with your Evening-Post of September 21st, I was surprized to find an Address to the good People of this Province, dated from Swanzey, conceived in such Terms; I hoped that T-sd les[?] were confined to Taunton, but I find you have his Parallel among you at Boston, for I am positive the Piece signed A true Patriot never was produced among us.  If you are impartial, you will give the following a Place in your Paper,

            From your humble Servant,

            Swanzey, Sept. 29. 1767.

            Conscius Recti.1

When the true Patriot expresses extreme grief for the inflamatory publications of a number of Blow-coals, who endeavour to poison the minds of a people naturally inclined to moderation and prudence, ’tis indeed high time to enquire, what those pretended patriots mean or drive at by their political enthusiasm: But if upon examination it should appear that these designing men are very justly alarmed, and that at this critical juncture, a jealousy, a zeal, or even enthusiasm, if this Mons. Sage pleases, is indicative of that generous spirit of patriotism, which this apish pretender so falsl[e]y adopts; I hope I shall not be condemned in questioning whether the parade they make is so very horrid or ridiculous, their designs so very presumptive, or their performances so poisonous, as this poor grieved gentleman seems to suspect them to be.  Moderation and prudence are indeed salutary virtues, Nullum numen abest si sit prudentia, said a Sage of old;2 but I would presume to ask this gentleman, whether his memory cannot supply him with numerous instances from the annals of G—B—, when the most daring violation of the rights of the subject; nay I may go farther, when the total subversion of their civil and religious liberties has been designed and nearly executed, that then has been the loudest clamour for moderation, submission, &c.  If this true Patriot should be at a loss for proof, I can easily point to such stubborn proof as he cannot controvert; and I must observe that it has been usual for the patrons of this same tory-doctrine of quietism, to set up themselves as the only true sons of the church of England, to rail against others as false brethren; to be sure our pseudo-patriot assumes his denomination with no less modesty, and rails at others with no less truth.

I cannot prevail with myself to cast such a reflection upon this true Patriot’s understanding, as to attempt the proof of that which falls within the compass of his own knowledge and experience; that there has been an open and daring attack upon the natural and constitutional rights of these people, the stamp-act is a memorable instance; that there has been ever since the repeal of that act a steady and vindictive perseverance in the same unconstitutional and unrighteous design, the frequent menaces and alarming debates of the H[ouse]. of C[ommons]. which have reached us, are certain evidences, and are sufficient to excite our jealousy; but surely our alarm cannot be deemed premature, nor our opposition hasty, when we are saluted with an A[ct]. of P[arliament]. which has already received the R[oyal]. assent, totally and absolutely subversive of the fundamentals of our constitution; add to this the large accretion of place-men and task-masters, leeches who rejoice to fleece those beasts of burthen, the people, over whom they are placed, and of whom (for obvious purposes) they boast a proud independence: What pretence then can this crocodile-patriot have for his affected grief at this critical juncture?  He demands with a supercilious air, whether those false patriots who have with decent freedom spoke their honest sentiments, do not see their inability to oppose their mother-country?  I will undertake to answer for them, as far as the principles of the constitution will warrant opposition, I answer without hesitation, No! in a cause like this, no true patriot should dread an opposing world; if our best rights are rescinded, what is life without them? not worth acceptance.  I am glad this same cool, deliberate, sensible gentleman will admit that we are aggrieved; but it seems we must not complain, nor evidence any degree of warmth, lest we sour the minds of the unwary and ignorant; the gentleman seems to forget the character of the people, whom he just before cajoles, as naturally inclinable to moderation and prudence; if we may not suspect him of flattery here, is it probable such a people would be duped by the ill-timed zeal and intemperate violence of such blusterers? certainly they would not; and nothing less than the conviction of the arbitrary and fatal designs of their enemies, would be able to shake their repose.  He continues to demand, whether those blusterers mean to intimidate a British senate, or oppose their strength to that of G. B.  I am apt to think they do not solicit an occasion to do either: but if they only mean to demand justice and security of them, which has been the evident tendency of those publications, which have excited the wrath of this cool, deliberate patriot; let me tell him, there is no power on earth so great or so dreadful, that may dare to deny them, or hope to awe them into submission.  Believe me, says the true patriot (a man must have a good fund of charity to do that) they are the on[l]y enemies we have in our country, who propagate such notions; what an affront to the understanding of the people! how false! how groundless! inculcating a vigilance, a jealousy among the people, when there is an apparent design to subvert their rights, is the most impregnable barrier to those rights; on the contrary, it has been the constant endeavour of tyrants to lull the people in a state of perfect security, before they could successfully throw their fetters about them: But here comes a most important allegation against the poor blusterers, they are indelicate and arrogant to their mother country, and thereby hasten those burthens they so grievously complain of; well, if they only hasten them, ’tis evident they do not create them; which is much more than I could aver of our true patriot and his brethren; no doubt we ought to be very modest, and very submissive to our fellow-subjects in G[reat]. B[ritain]. while they hold the rod over us, lest by relucting at the stroke, we thereby precipitate their vengeance; a blessed motive this in a true patriot, for tameness, moderation and prudence; happy for us that all true patriots have not arrived to such perfection of refinement and civility: Worse and worse, these blusterers, it seems, when the impending mischief falls, will not be the foremost to slip their necks out of the halter; to be honest. Mons. Sage, I suspect they are equally averse to be hung in hemp or in chains, ’tis for this reason they oppose the measures you so covertly endeavour to advance; and if they finally slip their necks out of the halter, ’tis probable such patriotic heads as yours may adorn the noose, as you seem so sagaciously to presage. — — —

But to prevent a mistake, which this gentleman apprehends we may quite naturally be led into, he very formally declares, he does not want his countrymen to be slaves: I own I should not yield my full credit, as he expresses a horror at the ridiculous parade of those blow-coals, I should have been glad he had intimated those prudent means, which certainly point to a redress, without risquing any thing; perhaps this deliberate person may hit upon some favorite expedient to effect the desideratum,3 which the zealous blusterers may gladly adopt; and his dearly-beloved countrymen would receive the conviction with pleasure, that this same true patriot is indeed something more than the mere ghost of a patriot.  I would just observe upon this head, that so far as I can discover, no one of those blow-coals, blusterers, &c. &c. would think of resistance, unless the whole frame of the constitution was threat[e]ned, and no redress could otherwise be hoped for; but will all modesty and submission let me suppose, that when the just rights and privileges of the subject are in danger from ruffian power, they may defend them, even by force of arms, when there is no other way left for their preservation. –

I cannot take my leave of this gentleman, without observing upon the malignity of his conclusion; he may call this & all the late productions of the press, which make against his favorite system of tyranny, ill-wrote and worse-judged, without exciting a resentment, I believe, in any of their authors; I scorn to descend to verbal criticism, and shall only remark, that notwithstanding the visible fondness of the parent for his unlick’d cub, I cannot see any peculiar excellence in the offspring to recommend it to a second exhibition: The design is indeed big with mischief, particularly where this champion for non-resistance, hesitatingly, and by half hints, would fain excite in his (unluckily for them) countrymen, a resolution to restrain the press, or at least to discountenance that liberty of speculation which, under God, has been the bulwark of the liberties of British subjects; when that wicked attempt shall succeed, which I hear has been before recommended, in a very improper place, and at a very unseasonable time; farewell liberty! farewell virtue!  The reflection with which this adroit performance is concluded, merits all our indignation: Shame to these men of property, if men of no estate, or in the courteous dialect of this barker, men of desperate fortunes, are the guardians of their country’s rights; as far as my knowledge extends, if the fortunes of the vindicators of freedom are small, they are the happy fruits of virtue and industry; not obtained by extortion, venal palms, subserving the pitiful interests of villains or tyrants, or grinding the faces of the poor by rapine or close-fisted usury; their fortunes are such, as salvo jure by diligence and oeconomy they may hope to mend,4 if such cankerworms as the true Patriot [of Swanzey] succeed not by their treacherous wiles and covert designs, to render an abused people insensible when their best inheritance is at stake, and then at one plunge rivet them to the wheel of power in all the poverty and dependence of slaves. –

1 [Editor’s Latin Translation:] Conscious of the Right.

2 No divinity is missing if there is prudence, said a Sage of old…

3 perhaps this deliberate person may hit upon some favorite expedient to effect the thing desired

4 their fortunes are such, as with justice unharmed by diligence and oeconomy they may hope to mend…”

Source: Boston Evening-Post, October 5, 1767, issue 1671, page 2

Commentary: This piece, apparently written by a pseudonymous Whig styling himself “Conscius Recti” and claiming to be from Swansea, accuses the previous week’s letter writer “A True Patriot, Swanzey” of not really being a Patriot at all. Among various criticisms is a populist, class conscious argument asserting that some Colonial rich people were enriching themselves at the general public’s expense. The more humble “men of no estate” were to be lauded as acting in the true interests of Liberty by resisting the Townshend duties.

Stylistically and thematically this piece was not written by Joseph Warren.  The author is unknown. Young Dr. Warren will enter the discussion soon enough and have the entire province astir.

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