Thursday, March 13, 2008

THE Selectmen, by the order of the Town, "surely the voice of the people may be taken without flying to arms", Sept. 11, 1786

{Begin handwritten}Sharp Rebellion{End handwritten}
{Begin handwritten}No 87{End handwritten}


THE Selectmen, by the order of the Town, have directed me to inclose the following Address, to be communicated to the Inhabitants of your Town, with their wishes that it may produce those conciliatory effects that the Town of Boston are ever desirous to cultivate with their Brethren in every Town throughout the Commonwealth.


Boston, Sept. 11, 1786.

Friends and Fellow Citizens,

THE inhabitants of the town of Boston can never remain the unconcerned spectators of the distress and calamity of their fellow citizens in any part of the commonwealth.
Your generous friendship to us, evidenced as well by your liberal donations as otherwise, when we were particularly suffering in the great cause of our country, can never fail to warm our hearts with the highest sentiments of friendship for you;--and we are persuaded that the exertions we were then called to make, for our common safety, have yet a place in your kind remembrance.

Thus united, as we conceive, in sentiment and affection, as well as in interest, with that cordiality which must and ever will subsist amongst a virtuous and enlightned people in a free country, we take the liberty to address you on those commotions which have too widely spread within the commonwealth. You will suffer us to reason on this occasion with a freedom which is the part of sincere friendship; for we do assure you, that our country can never feel a political or civil evil which we will not chearfully bear a part of, until our joint exertions can obtain a constitutional redress.

We do not conceive it to be our duty to decide whether the grievances, mentioned by the conventions in some of the counties of the state, really exist or not; but we beg leave to submit it to your dispassionate and candid decision, whether, if they have a real existence, the tumultuous methods adopted by some assemblies of men within the government, are the proper measures to obtain redress.

When we dissolved our connection with the empire of Britain, we then (politically speaking) had it in our election to remain in a state of nature, or to ordain for ourselves such form of government as we chose. We were then in a state recognized by the first article of the declaration of rights, "free and equal," and nothing but our own voluntary consent, given in a solemn compact, could reduce us to a form of civil government. It required no great share of wisdom, however, to discern, that unless we threw ourselves into that state, we could neither defend ourselves against a foreign invasion, or be preserved from the depredations of wicked and abandoned men amongst ourselves. Therefore "the people inhabiting the territory" "called the Province of Massachusetts-Bay," by a voluntary association, formed a social compact; and, in a solemn appeal to the great Legislator of the universe, "the whole people "covenanted with each citizen, and each citizen "with the whole people, to be governed by "certain known and established laws, for the common good and security of all." By the same solemn compact, the powers of legislation, and the authority for the due execution of the laws, were provided and established; and we then did, and as yet do conceive, that all was done with such caution and restrictions, that no man, or body of men, who shall oppress or invade the rights of the smallest individual, can pass with impunity. In the same compact, the people solemnly agreed to support the constitution for the space of fifteen years, and made ample provision for the revision of it at the end of that period, if it should then be thought necessary.--There is no officer, either high or low, within the commonwealth, who does not derive his whole authority from the people, and who is not amenable to a proper and adequate tribunal for his conduct.

There are indeed evils which are common to the whole human race, founded in the depravity and imperfection of mankind; and there are others, the unhappy lot of some countries, arising from their situation, or the deep-rooted habits of the people possessing them; both which are alike incapable of being cured by any acts of government, or exertions of human power, but must be left to the accidents and changes of time for a remedy. Should corrupt and designing men inflame the spirits of the people to demand of their rulers, the removal of such evils, their own reflections would sooner or later point them to their mistake.

If grievances have arisen in the government, surely the voice of the people may be taken without flying to arms:--and no one can wish to dissolve our happy constitution, unless another is substituted in it's place;--for a state of anarchy is to be dreaded above all other calamities, because there is no evil which it does not involve. But to us, as we shall take leave by and by to submit to your consideration, consequences would flow from such a state which would cause each true American, within the commonwealth, even to regret that he had ever tasted the sweets of civil freedom

If the citizens of the state labour under grievances which can be redressed by the acts of the legislature, we conceive that their privileges in this case can never be enlarged, for the General Court are chosen annually by the people; and though in one year our complaints are not attended to, yet we can in the next election place men in power who will answer our reasonable expectations; and we are constrained to say, that we are ignorant of the time when the representatives of the people in this state have not duly attended to the instructions of their constituents. Some towns have indeed given instructions contrary to the sentiments of the majority in the state, and they therefore have not succeeded;--but is not this always the case when in society the compact is for the minority to submit to the majority? Let the majority be ever so much in the wrong, is there any remedy, within the reach of nature, compatible with the ideas of society and government? To say, the majority shall not govern, is saying, either that we will reduce ourselves to a state of nature, or reject the ideas of civil liberty, establish a despotism, and be subject to the sovereign pleasure of one man.

We then beg you to consider, whether instructing our representatives, who serve us in the legislature, is not our great remedy against any ills we suffer, and which are within the compass of human power to redress.

As we have taken leave to hint to you the mode in which, under the government established by our commonwealth, we conceive all grievances ought to be remedied; we will now beg your patience, and earnestly solicit your candor, while we mention some of the consequences which we think must flow from a continuance of the present commotions.--As an introduction to this part of our Address, we will take a retrospective view of our late situation, and compare our present with that in which we should have been, had not the noble exertions of America, in defence of the dearest rights of mankind, prevented it.

Taxed by Great-Britain, unconstitutionally and illegally, the quantity demanded was not the object of the important stand then made--but the obvious intention of reducing to absolute slavery, to a Prince on an island at three thousand miles distance, the people of an whole continent, demanded an opposition worthy of the blood and treasure expended in it.--Our publick assemblies, in towns and elsewhere, were prohibited; and every precaution taken to deprive us of the enjoyment even of social pity and joint complaint--a standing army, cruelly hostile, as well from their deep-rooted prejudices as the sanguinary nature of their errand, supported at our own expense, was employed to prostrate us before each haughty minion who chose to insult and plunder us.--Where then was the dignity of man! and where, had they succeeded, could the heaven-born idea of civil freedom been entertained? even a sigh for the sweets of liberty would have been treason!--How reverse of this is our now happy situation? subjected to no laws, but such as are made by a Legislature of our own election, agreeably to the form of government established by our own consent, taxed by our own representatives only, and controlled by no authority but what is derived from ourselves.

While we contended for a jewel of this immense value, still invaded on every side by the scourging arm of despotism, how solemnly did we appeal to that Being who sees the inmost recesses of our hearts? and how sacredly did we pledge our lives and fortunes to each other, and to our Congress, in the glorious contest?--And shall we now accomplish the wishes and fulfill the prediction of our enemies, in meanly receding from all our engagements?

Is it possible that any considerate man should suppose that we, as a people, ought to, or can be exempted from the calamities and difficulties incident to human life? Were we not at all times aware that there is no medium between a state of government and a state of nature? and that the latter is at all times a state of warfare, where no man has a property in even the produce of his own labour, but only a precarious possession, maintained by force? Or did any among us vainly believe that we could enjoy the blessings of government without an expence attending it? As well might they expect that the earth would yield her fruits without tillage, and that man could subsist without labour and pain.--The unalterable laws of nature have fixed it, that the path to political, public or private happiness is directed alone through industry and frugality; and we surely ought to submit to the common lot of humanity without repining, because it is one of the first dictates of religion.

We are very sensible that the habits of luxury contracted in the late war, from the vast quantity of goods imported, and the too great profusion of money, together with receiving and giving unlimited credit, have involved many families in distress, and have much diminished our abilities for paying those just debts, contracted in the day of our trouble, as the price of our freedom:--but shall we, because many of us are now distressed, entail ruin upon our posterity! let us lay aside the destructive fashions and expensive superstuities of the day; be sober, temperate and industrious; and, by the blessing of propitious heaven, we shall soon {Omitted text, 1w} our circumstances, and establish our public credit.

When we consider the nature of the present commotions, it presents to us the very important question, whether we shall exist as a nation upon the earth? for we are by no means ignorant that Congress, by our consent, and to our inexpressible joy and satisfaction, procured from our allies a loan of specie, the interest whereof we are obliged annually to discharge.--The shutting up of the courts of justice, preventing the due execution of the laws, and arresting the collection of public taxes, annihilates our government, and loudly proclaims to our foreign creditors, their total insecurity. Should their lenity and patience, supported by a hope of our reclaiming ourselves, and correcting our error, keep their sword in the sheath, yet we may have an enemy who will embrace the unlucky moment, should there ever be one when he finds us without resources, without credit, and without an ally, and deeply revenge himself for the disgrace his arms have sustained. Were there any among us so depraved as to wish to return to the domination of Great-Britain, they may easily perceive that the nations of Europe would never permit such an union of power, but divide us amongst them. Our feelings would indeed, upon such an occasion, point us to a remedy, perhaps, less disgraceful, the establishment of a domestic, instead of a foreign despotism; supported by a standing army, maintained by our own toil, to awe us into such submission that every idea of freedom shall be finally and totally eradicated.

When we have seen the patriot close his eyes in death, with gratitude and rapture committing his posterity to the arms of liberty, shall we see others agonizing in their last moments at yielding their children to the chains of vassalage? Forbid it, that spirit of freedom, which has so long animated and enlightned America! Forbid it, Heaven!

Finding that his Excellency the Governour, pursuant to the duties of his office, by advice of Council, has called upon all the good people of the state to lend their aid in preventing the impending ruin, we can do no less than to recognize anew our solemn engagements to support the government we have so lately and deliberately established;--and we feel ourselves assured, that our numerous, well-affected fellow citizens, in every town, will shew their readiness to join in an effort so clearly pointed out, as the first duty in society.

We are convinced that the present disturbances arise from British emissaries, residing among us, whose every with is for our overthrow and ruin; or from the machinations of wicked and unprincipled men, who seek their own emolument, to the destruction of their country; or from a combination of both. But though ??ny of our fellow citizens are deceived by them, and betrayed into a dangerous mistake, yet we trust that they will, on recollection, spurn from their counsels such base and infamous men; and that a careful discrimination will be made in every town between those who are, and those who are not, for the support of a government no less necessary to the happiness than to the security of the lives, liberty and properties of the people.
Fellow-citizens, we now entreat you, by the mutual ties of friendship and affection,--by the sacred compact which holds us in one society--by the blood of our brethren shed to obtain our freedom--by the tender regard we feel for our rising offspring, claiming freedom from our hands, as their inheritance by the grant of heaven--to use your endeavours that redress of grievances be fought for in a constitutional and orderly way only:--And we pledge ourselves to join our exertions with your's, in the same way, to obtain redress for any such as do really exist.--



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