Date: March 14, 1768
“Messieurs Edes & Gill, Please to insert the following.
With Pleasure I hear the general Voice of this People in favor of freedom; and it gives me solid satisfaction to find all orders of unplaced independent men, firmly determined, as far as in them lies, to support their own Rights, and the Liberty of the Press. The hon. house of Representatives have shewed themselves resolute in the cause of justice – The Grand Jurors have convinced us, that no influence is able to overcome their attachment to their country, and our free constitution – they deserve honor – But this is one of those cases, in which by doing as they have done, they really merit praise; yet the path was so plain, that to have done otherwise, would have rendered them – indeed!
While this people know their true interest, they will be able to distinguish their friends from their enemies; and with uniform courage, will defend from tyrannic violence, all those who generously offer themselves volunteers in the cause of truth and humanity. But if ever a mistaken complaisance leads them to sacrifice their privileges, or the well-meaning assertors of them, they will deserve bondage, and soon will find themselves in chains.
Every society of men have a clear right to refute any unjust aspersions upon their characters; especially when they feel the ill effects of such aspersion: And though they may not pursue the slanderer from motives of revenge, yet are obliged to endeavour to detect him, that so he may be prevented from injuring them again. – This province has been most barbarously traduced; and now groans under the weight of those misfortunes which have been thereby brought upon it; and we have detected some of the authors; we will zealously endeavour to deprive them of the power of injuring us hereafter. – We will strip the serpents of their stings, & consign to disgrace, all those guileful betrayers of their country. – There is but one way for men to avoid being set up as objects of general hate, which is, Not To Deserve It.
A true Patriot.”
Source: Boston Gazette, March 14, 1768, issue 676, p. 2. The image is of an Irish half penny dated 1760. The obverse device pictures the then-new King George III and the Latin ‘Voce Populi,’ voice of the people. The coin circulated in British North America. It resonated with Whiggish Sons of Liberty sentiments, evident in this letter, touting loyalty to the King while asserting regional autonomy via government bodies accountable to local citizens.
Commentary: Much occurred in the Boston Whig versus Loyalist newspaper war of words in just one week. On March 7, 1768 Joseph Warren’s pseudonymous A True Patriot disingenuously and comically claimed that his cutting paraphrasing of the Earl of Rochester – “If such men are by God appointed, the Devil may be the Lord’s anointed,” – was not meant to refer to Governor Francis Bernard.
Within days the incensed royal governor and his council moved to prosecute the Boston Gazette’s publishers Edes and Gill for sedition. The popularly elected Massachusetts House of Representatives refused to support the Council’s move. The case against the Boston Gazette could not proceed.
A True Patriot and fellow Whigs reframed the issue, as exemplified by this op-ed piece, as one of freedom of the press. Joseph Warren provides bombastic, pugnacious, and crisp explanations as well as memorable phrasing. This letter previews his future political writings:
“…I hear the general Voice of this People in favor of freedom,”
“…defend from tyrannic violence, all those who generously offer themselves volunteers in the cause of truth and humanity,”
“…if ever a mistaken complaisance leads them to sacrifice their privileges… they will deserve bondage, and soon will find themselves in chains.”
“…We will strip the serpents of their stings, & consign to disgrace, all those guileful betrayers of their country.”
Whig objections to the Townshend Duties, and Loyalist defenses of Parliament’s right to assert such taxes, have been lost in this shuffle.