A pamphlet war on the continental congress, 1774-75 a loyalist and a patriot Debate



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A PAMPHLET WAR on the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, 1774-75

__A Loyalist and A Patriot Debate__

Soon after the First Continental Congress adjourned in October 1774, a Loyalist and a

Patriot published essays debating the legitimacy of the Congress and the legitimacy and wisdom of its proposals, especially the non-importation agreement. As was usual for political essays, they were published under pseudonyms. The Loyalist, writing as "A Westchester Farmer," was a 68-year-old British-educated Anglican clergyman in

Connecticut⎯Samuel Seabury. The Patriot, writing as "A Friend to America," was a 19-

year-old college student from the West Indies who first appears on the political scene with these essays-⎯Alexander Hamilton. The six pamphlets totaled over two hundred pages; a taste of their point-counterpoint debate is presented here.

Months after the widely read essays appeared, Seabury's identity was ascertained, and a Connecticut group of the Sons of Liberty

rode into New York City, destroyed the press of printer James Rivington (who had printed both sets of pamphlets), and put Seabury

under house arrest.


SAMUEL SEABURY

A Loyalist, writing as "A Westchester Farmer"



Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental

Congress, 16 Nov. 1774
MY FRIENDS AND COUNTRYMEN,

Permit me to address you upon a subject which, next

to your eternal welfare in a future world, demands your most serious and dispassionate consideration. The American Colonies are unhappily involved in a scene of confusion and discord. The bands of civil society are broken, the authority of government weakened, and in some instances taken away. Individuals are deprived of their liberty, their property is frequently invaded by violence, and not a single Magistrate has had courage or virtue enough to interpose.11 From this distressed situation it was hoped that the wisdom and prudence of the Congress lately assembled at Philadelphia would have delivered us. The eyes of all men were turned to them. We ardently expected that some prudent scheme of accommodating our unhappy dispute with the Mother Country would have been adopted and pursued. But alas! They are broken up [adjourned] without ever attempting it. They have taken no one step that tended to peace. They have gone on from bad to worse, and have either ignorantly misunderstood, carelessly neglected, or basely betrayed the interests of all the Colonies. . . .

Will you be instrumental in bringing the most abject slavery on yourselves?12 Will you choose such Com- mittees [like the Continental Congress]? Will you submit to them, should they be chosen by the weak, foolish, turbulent part of the country people? Do as you please, but, by HIM that made me, I will not. No, if I must be enslaved, let it be by a KING at least and not by a parcel of upstart lawless Committeemen. If I must be devoured, le me be devoured by the jaws of a lion and not gnawed to death by rats and vermin.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON

A Patriot, writing as "A Friend to America"



A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress

from the Calumnies of their Enemies . . . , late Nov. 1774
FRIENDS AND COUNTRYMEN,

It was hardly to be expected that any man could be

so presumptuous as openly to controvert the equity, wisdom, and authority of the measures adopted by the Congress: an assembly truly respectable on every

account!⎯whether we consider the characters of the

men who composed it, the number and dignity of their constituents, or the important ends for which they were appointed. . . .

A little consideration will convince us that the Congress, instead of having "ignorantly misunder- stood, carelessly neglected, or basely betrayed the interests of the colonies," have, on the contrary, devised and recommended the only effectual means to secure the freedom and establish the future prosperity of America upon a solid basis. . . .

What then is the subject of our controversy with the

mother country"⎯It is this: whether we shall preserve

that security to our lives and properties which the law of nature, the genius of the British constitution, and our [colonial] charters afford us, or whether we shall resign them into the hands of the British House of Commons, which is no more privileged to dispose of them than the Grand Mogul?13 What can actuate those men who labor to delude any of us into an opinion that the object of contention between the parent state and the colonies

is only three pence duty upon tea?

The design [plan] of electing members to represent us in general congress was that the wisdom of America might be collected in devising the most proper and expedient means to repel this atrocious invasion of our rights. It has been accordingly done. Their decrees are binding upon all and demand a religious observance.

11


12 13
Here Seabury is referring to acts committed upon Loyalists by Sons of Liberty groups and others supporting American resistance. I.e., by submitting to the non-importation agreement of the Continental Congress. I.e., a Mongol tyrant like Genghis Khan.


National Humanities Center Colonists Respond to the Coercive Acts & the First Continental Congress, 1774 12




SAMUEL SEABURY

A Loyalist, writing as "A Westchester Farmer"



A View of the Controversy between Great Britain and

Her Colonies . . . in a Letter to the Author of

A Full Vindication . . . , 24 Dec. 1774

SIR,

You have done me the honor "to bestow some notion



upon" a little pamphlet which I lately published entitled Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress. . . My present business shall be to examine your Vindication and see whether it fully exculpates the measures of the Congress from the charges brought against them by the friends of order and good govern- ment [i.e., Loyalists]. This task I shall endeavor to perform with all that freedom of thought and expression which, as an Englishman, I have a right to, and which never shall be wrested from me either by yourself or the Congress. . . .

The Congress, Sir, was founded in sedition. Its decisions are supported by tyranny, and is it presumption to controvert [oppose] its authority? In

your opinion, they are "restless spirits"⎯"enemies to

the natural rights of mankind" who shall dare to speak against the Congress. . . .

. . . The manner in which they were chosen was subversive of all law, and of the very constitution of the province. After they had met they were only a popular assembly without check or control, and therefore

unqualified to make laws or to pass ordinances. . . .

. . . Were the Delegates at liberty to do as they pleased? To pursue the most violent measures? To stop up every avenue of accommodation with Great Britain? And render our state ten times worse than they found it? Must all the province religiously observe their wicked decrees? And take all their mad pranks upon themselves, where they will or not? . . .

Now the dependence of the colonies on the mother country has ever been acknowledged. It is an impropriety of speech to talk of an independent colony. The words independence and colony convey contradictory ideas . . . To talk of a colony independent of the mother country is no better sense than to talk of a limb independent of the body to which it belongs. . . .

Consider, Sir, is it right to risk the valuable blessings of property, liberty and life to the single chance of war? Or

the worst kind of war⎯a civil war? a civil war founded

on rebellion? Without ever attempting the peaceable mode of accommodation? . . . But we are rushing into a war with our parent state without offering the least concession, without even deigning to propose an accommodation. You, Sir, have employed your pen and exerted your abilities in vindicating and recommending measures which you know must, if persisted in, have a direct tendency to produce and accelerate this dreadful event.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON

A Patriot, writing as "A Sincere Friend to America"

The Farmer Refuted: or, A More Impartial and

Comprehensive View of the Dispute between Great Britain and the Colonies . . . , Jan. 1775

SIR,


I resume my pen in reply to the curious epistle you

have been pleased to favor me with, and can assure you that, notwithstanding I am naturally of a grave and phlegmatic disposition, it has been the source of abundant merriment to me. The spirit that breathes throughout is so rancorous, illiberal, and imperious . . . that I will venture to pronounce it one of the most ludicrous performances which has been exhibited to

public view during all the present controversy. . . .

Your envenomed pen has endeavored to sully the characters of our continental representatives with the presumptuous charges of ignorance, knavery, sedition,

rebellion, treason, and tyranny⎯a tremendous

catalogue indeed! . . .

As to the justice of proceeding in the manner we have done, it must depend upon the necessity of such a mode of conduct. If the British Parliament are claiming and exercising an unjust authority, we are right in opposing it by every necessary means. If Remon- strances and Petitions have been heretofore found ineffectual, and we have no reasonable grounds to expect the contrary at present, it is prudent and justifiable to try other methods, and these can only be restrictions on trade. . . .

Several of the colonies are now making preparation for the worst (and indeed the best way to avoid a civil war is to be prepared for it). They are disciplining [training] men as fast as possible and, in a few months, will be able to produce many thousands not so much inferior in the essentials of discipline as may perhaps be imagined. . . .

From these reflections, it is more than probable that America is able to support its freedom even by the force of arms, if she be not betrayed by her own sons. And in whatever light we view the matter, the conse- quences [of war] to Great Britain would be too des- tructive to permit her to proceed to extremes unless she has lost all just sense of her own interest. . . .

. . . Nor [is] it true that they have claimed an absolute independence. It is insulting common sense to say so when it is notorious [well known] that they have acknowledged the right of Parliament to regulate the trade of the colonies. . . They have professed allegiance to the British King and have bound themselves, on any emergency, to contribute their proportion of men and money to the defense and protection of the whole empire. Can this be called absolute independence? Is it better for Britain to hazard the total loss [of] these



colonies than to hold them upon these conditions?

National Humanities Center Colonists Respond to the Coercive Acts & the First Continental Congress, 1774 13


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