Provincials Are Scarcely Permitted to Vend Egg-shells Beyond Their Boundaries

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in about Warren

Messieurs Edes & Gill, Please to insert the following.

I have seen enough of life to make me cautious of trusting to a fair outside; yet when I find a truly good and honest man, be his tenets in religion or philosophy what they may, I regard him as a pearl of great price.  It is illiberal and ungenerous to reflect on one for his particular sentiments in physics [ ]thicks, meerly because we think him heterodox in po[lit]icks: Surely this is not the most ready way to convince him of his dangerous errors.  Should I insinuate to the reader, that a certain indefatigable gentleman is, at this present, pretty deeply engaged in the scribbling business, from hopes of being soon h[igh]ly ranked on the grand list of American placemen and pensioneers, it might possibly induce a prejudice into the minds of some here against any thing he could say or write in favor of the “new regulations” as they are called, but with the judicious would be no argument.  It is not a little strange that those who in one breath are preaching up “calm dispassionate reason,” “decency” and “decorum”, should so often in the next, break forth in the most virulent language against those, who are innocent of all crimes, but that of thinking differently from, perhaps, their superiors.  Yet this difference of opinion in politicks is sometimes tho’t a sufficient provocation to hold up to the view of humble dissenters, halters, racks, gibbets, and in short not only the tortures of a Spanish inquisition, but all the torments that the imagination even of a Milton could suggest as proper punishments for revolting fiends.  To what purpose is it that all, who is reason and conscience cannot and will not subscribe the religious and political creed, of St. Athanasius, and another saint of equal sense and virtue, are over and over called “hot-headed political squabblers”, and “a numberless herd of foulmouthed trumpeters” of sedition?  These hard names will never make the beloved measures popular in N. America, nor I believe tend in the least to frighten people.  These things only prove to the world what Mr. True Patriot [of Swanzey]and his friends would do if strong enough.  It is not probable he will ever know more of me than I am now pleased to tell him, which is, that I am a christian, and shall endeavor to treat him as such: After this he is at full and free liberty, if he thinks fit, to abuse, revile and insult me, with a storm of words, till his heart akes.

Since the late solemn warnings of Philanthrop against counterfeits, and the insidious arts of pretended patriots, I have been more than usually on my guard.  These occasioned my perusing with a watchful eye the pieces in the Evening-Post signed True Patriot.  The last publication under that endearing name, has cleared up all my doubts, of the real, intention and view of the writer in condescending, so often, to lay his excellent sentiments before the public, in a common news-paper.  The first thing that he seems to propose is, to bring the Colonists to a good liking of external parliamentary taxation: But should he fail of success in that attempt, yet he will most certainly send home all his fine performances as a proof, that there is in N. America another champion for the cause, equal in his abilities and wishes to Mr. H—d.  The gentleman may succeed in the last, but I think he has missed the mark of the former.  The thought of “Pastor Fido and Mr. True Patriot afloat on a full sea, and in a strong current” without so much as a cockboat under them, or any land in sight that I can discover, is prettily enough imagined, and the description so very clever, that at least as to one of them some of less charity might wish to be a reality.  However, I am far from wishing either of them any harm by sea or on shore, and could be content that his starrs and a certain old proverb should operate in favor of Mr. True Patriot’s longevity, rather than Pastor Fido should part with him at sea forever.  What is it to Mr. True Patriot’s reader, whether the “expert gentleman” who signs “Prerogative,” “smoaks tobacco” because he is a sloven, or “quaffs” small beer because he is too coveteous to afford himself a drop of better liquor?  And how many N. Americans will be conciliated to the new plan of Colony administration by Mr. True Patriot’s Proclamations of his own, and if he could of their “immortal shame”?  “To our immortal shame be it spoken” says the True Patriot, “we soon forgot our danger, and with it our obligations to the mother country”: He means as he explains himself “for the protection afforded us in the last war in particular.”  It is well the last word was added, for all the world know, till that war, the Colonists never received any great assistance from the mother country in men or in money, either towards settling or defending this continent from the French and Indians.  So far from it, that till the revolution their ravages if not con[n]ived at and encouraged, were at least not resented by those we were then too busily employed in the plans for introducing popery and arbitrary power into England, to be much concerned for the scalps of hereticks in North-America.  For the taking of Louisbourg, the first time, indeed a reimbursement of the expence was made: But then this was a meer trifle to the loss of the flower of our youth, who, in that glorious enterprize, perished by the sword, pestilence or famine.  Tis well known that in the last war N. America according to its ability furnished aids both in men and in money fully proportionate to those of G. Britain.  It is clear therefore we are under no peculiar obligations in that regard more than Scotland or Ireland, London or Westminster.  In short, this is so stale a topic, that I thought it had been worn out, as I am sure it was some years since thread-bare.  But there is a consideration or two which I hope will in some measure avail us.  The old colonies gained nothing by the last war, or by the peace, in favor of their trade, while the commerce of G. Britain is extended to new regions, and she has obtained the means of extending it beyond conception.  The conquered and ceded territories if properly settled will soon be resources of further wealth to the mother country, by consuming her manufactures, but of little or none to the old colonies, who are scarcely permitted to vend egg-shells beyond their boundaries.  If a man wants a hat, and is sufficiently obedient to the acts of trade, and cannot make one himself, rather than buy it of his next door neighbour on the other side of a colony line, he must go bareheaded till he can obtain one from Britain.  The lands alone which Great-Britain acquired in the last war, if rightly considered and settled, instead of taxed, would in seven year’s time be worth more to the nation than all the monie that she has expended on the American colonies since she had any.  These lands which we are at least helped conquer, are every day granted away to the nobility and gentry of Britain.  We are quite content to go without any share or reward for the blood and the treasure we expended, so we may be left easy with the little we have, and not be threatned with having foundations that have stood an hundred and fifty years torn up.  I think at least every impartial man must see that the beloved external parliamentary taxations, can derive no to support in point of equity, any more than of policy, from the expences of the last war, from any necessity of a standing army in the old colonies in a time of profound peace, or from the ingratitude of the colonists, than when charge of Mr. True Patriot on this loyal people, his countrymen, as he calls them, nothing can be more unjust and injurious.

It has been over and over demonstrated, and indeed is too evident to be enlarged on, that the distinction between internal and external taxation by the Parliament of Great-Britain, will not bear the test of truth and sober reasoning, a whit better than the fiction of a political virtual representation, which in theory may as easily be extended over all Europe, Asia, and Africa, as over America, and sufficient power is the alone requisite necessary to reduce it to practice, equally to the conviction and satisfaction of all the inhabitants of the earth.  It is certain that external or internal taxes on the colonies, in the manner either have been proposed or levied, to a co[u]ntry in the circumstances of this, may be a burthen beyond its ability to bear, and in the end drain it of every farthing of specie,[1] or at least draw it from the right owner, for the support of a standing army of soldiers, and another of placemen and pensioneers, ruin the trade of the colonies, and distress if not destroy that of Great-Britain.  The revenue must be consumed in one or other of these ways, and the True Patriot thinks the latter, and is for having “officers of the Crown & revenne multiplied fast enough to swallow up the whole.”  So according to his plan we are to taxed till all are satisfied who would be maintained by the public[.]  Tho’ I think he allows nothing to the common soldier in his scheme, for it is all to be spend here by the officers of the Crown and revenue.  He has not expressly allowed any share for the military officers, unless they may come in under the general terms of distribution “officers of the Crown and revenue”.  This leads to a consideration of the grand argument in favor of external taxation in preference to the internal.  The argument was broached, and for ought I know invented here about a year since, has been pretty industriously circulated, now begins to make its appearance in print, and as nearly as I can collect it from the writings and reasoning of the True Patriot, Amicus, and some others, is in short this.  “The Parliament of Great-Britain by a late act have declared the dependency of the colonies on the imperial Crown of Great-Britain, and the authority of Parliament to make laws bind them.*  Therefore they have declared a right to tax them externally or internally.  Therefore the Parliament have this right, and tis fitting they should have it, and reasonable they should exercise it, when they, or we, Amicus and the True Patriot, and two or three more † are pleased to think it necessary or expedient for the further multiplication and support of a number of gentlemen of high states, characters and properties‡.  However, to our immortal shame be it spoken, there has been so much clamor occasioned by the late stamp-act, that the expediency of internal taxes is at present not contended for: but the levying external duties on trade has been judged absolutely necessary both to teach the colonists the[i]r dependance on Great-Britain, and to keep a proper distance between them and us, gentlemen of high stations, characters and properties, who tis fitting they should maintain and support.  Besides, say they in so many words, “had Britain laid those duties on the exportation thence, and not on the importation here, could the colonies have found fault?  Would they not have continued to import them as usual?  If so, would not the money go out of the pockets of the consumers in America, and be entirely sunk in England?  This admitted, pray says Mr. True Patriot, are not those duties by being levied on the importation, and paid to the officers of the Crown and revenue, who must expend them here – more advantageously disposed of then if sent home in specie,[2] or received in England upon exportation.  Alas, alas poor America!  Have you but this one True Patriot left?  And is he so reduced that he can find but this wretched alternative propose for your consideration with his opinion for your consolation which is the least evil of the two, either to have all your money after it is taken from you, “spent here by the officers of the Crown and revenue,” or sent home and spent there?  He seems to take it for granted it must be thus spent here, or there.  For my own part, I freely declare I had much rather it should be all sent home, or to the German gulph, or to the bottom of the sea, than to have it spent here as Mr. True Patriot proposes.  Then none of those here, who have been at such pains to procure these regulations would share in the spoils of their country[.]  Besides, the expending of it here will only raise up new tribes upon tribes of expectants, and sea and land must be compassed to find out new branches of revenue to gratify them.  So that we should soon be brought to the condition Mr. True Patriot seems earnestly desirous of reducing us to; and must literally “pay a heavy tax for the light of heaven” by day, and for that of the moon or a farthing candle by night.  If the whole of the revenue is to be spent here as Mr. True Patriot supposes, on the officers of the crown and revenue, it would be taxing for taxing sake.  But if, as the act of Parliament supposes, the bulk of it is to center in the exchequer at home, we shall be drained of our money, and Mr. True Patriot’s sole argument for our consolation, is not worth a straw.  I believe the provinces subject to the Romans, who were only chargeable with a dry tribute to be collected in their own way, and sent to Rome, thought themselves rather better off than Britain and others, on which were in those days quartered armies of soldiers, placemen and pensioners, to live at discretion; the one to secure, and the other to gather the contribution.  This by way of illustration, not application.  It is melancholy to reflect on the rise and fall of the proudest empires.  It appears by our history, that it was but the other day when England was taxed, and that severely by the Roman Pontiffs.  They passed, as appears, in the parliament rolls and statute books, resolves, at least in terms. similar to those of the American assemblies, and for a considerable time, they were treated with as much indignation and contempt as any of these – What figure would his Holiness make at this day, in a demand of an internal or external tax from the people of Britain?

[The Remainder for Want of Room we are oblig’d to defer till our next.]

*  Thus far no man in his senses ever doubted.  We remember Mr. P—t’s distinction between legislation and taxation.

†  This is the substance of the Piece signed Amicus, in the Evening-Post of last monday, and may be good law; but is very indifferent logic.

‡  The Right is so poorly handled, both by Amicus and Mr. True Patriot, if indeed they are two, that I believe they will gain little credit in that respect, here or at home.  They had better have been silent on that head, or have taken things a little higher.  To infer a right, merely from a claim of right, or exercise of power, will gain no proselytes, and but hurt the cause.  However, I have so much charity for Amicus, and his friend Mr. True Patriot, as to believe that power, force, fraud and artifice, are with them terms of the same imports, as those of right, authority and good government. – But be the Right or authority of the case as it may, of which after all, every man will form his private opinion or judgment, yet we all know the fact is, that the money of the colonists is both granted away by Representatives of their own choosing here, and voted away by the Commons of Great Britain, who they never chose to represent them.  It is also pretty certain, that if there is such a thing as property, tis impossible for any mortal but the owner to give it away.  And that there is a real difference in the nature of things, as well as in the terms giving away, and taking away.  Hence I think every impartial reader may form a clear view of the present state of Property and of Liberty in North-America.  And if any man can find room in all this to boast of the darling privileges of Britons and British subjects, let him boast; but be sure he does it not before a man of common sense, lest he pass with him for an ideot, or something worse.”

Source: Boston Gazette, November 9, 1767, issue 658, Page 2

Commentary: This anonymous Whig op-ed piece appearing in the Boston Gazette criticizes A True Patriot of Swanzey for defending the recently enacted Townshend Duties in the rival Boston Evening-Post. Several assertions are made in this piece that are central to the Whig platform. Among them: there is no valid distinction between internal and external taxation; the North American provincials already had contributed more than their fair share to the French and Indian War and had no need of being taxed for it; colonists had not gained anything from that war while the mother country’s trade was greatly expanded; and a populist concern that new tariffs would enrich the Loyalist elite parasitically at everyone else’s expense.

A subtext seems to be Whig indignation at A True Patriot of Swanzey’s assertion that he was a patriot in any sense of the word. Joseph Warren, we await your acerbic response!

[1] (Editor’s Latin Translation): and in the end drain it of every farthing of appearance….

[2] (Editor’s Latin Translation): more advantageously disposed of then if sent home in appearance….

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