« PreviousContinue »
already. I do not believe that she will cheat us, and I am not certain that she despises us; but I see clearly that you are endeavoring to cheat us by your conciliatory bills; that you actually despised our understandings when you flattered yourselves those artifices would succeed; and that not only France, but all Europe, yourselves included, most certainly and for ever would despise us if we were weak enough to accept your insidious propositions.
Our expectations of the futúre grandeur of America, áre pot so magnificent, and therefore not so vain or visionary, as you represent them to be. The body of our people are not merchants, but humble husbandmeù, who delight in the cul: tivation of their lands; which, from their fertility, and the variety of our climates, are capable of furnishing all the necessaries and conveniences of life without external com
And we have too much land to have the least temptation to extend our territory by conquest from peaceable neighbors, as well as too much justice to think of it. Our militia, you find by experience, are sufficient to defend our lands from jovasion; and the commerce with us will be defended by all the nations who find an advantage in it. We, therefore, have not the occasion you imagine' of fleets or standing armies, but may leave those expensive machines. to be maintained for the pomp of princes, and the wealth of ancient states. We propose, if possible, to live in peace with all mankind; and after you have been convinced to your cost, that there is nothing to be got by attacking us, we bave reason to hope that no other power will judge it pru. dent to quarrel with us, Jest they divert us from our own quiet industry, and turn us into corsairs preying upon theirs. The weight therefore of an independent empire, which you şeom so certain of our inability to bear, will not be so great as you imagine. The expense of our civil government we have always borne, and can easily bear, because it is small. A virtuous and laborious people may be cheaply governed. Determining, as we do, to bave no offices of profit, nor any sinecures or useless appointments, so common in ancient and corrupted states, we can govern ourselves a year for the sum you pay in a single department, or for what one jobbing contractor, by the favor of a minister, can cheat you out of in a single article.
You think we flatter ourselves, and are deceived into an opinion that England must acknowledge our independency. We, on the other hand, think you flatter yourselves in imagining such an acknowledgment a vast boon which we strongly desire, and which you may gain some great advantage by granting or withholding. We have never asked it of you. We only tell you, that you can have no treaty with us but as an independent state; and you may please yourselves and your children with the rattle of your right to govern us, as long as you have done with that of your king's being king of France, without giving us the least concern, if you do not attempt to exercise it. That this pretended right is indisputable, as you say, we utterly deny. Your parliament never had a right to govern us, and your king has forfeited it by his bloody tyranny. But I thank you for letting me know a little of your mind, that even if the parliament should acknowledge our independency, the act would not be binding to posterity, and that your nation would resume and prosecute the claim as soon as they found it convenient from the influence of your passions, and your present malice against us. . We suspected before, that you would not be actually bound by your conciliatory acts longer than till they had served their purpose of inducing us to disband our forces; but we were not certain that you were knaves by principle, and that we ought not to have the least confidence in your offers, promises, or treaties, though confirmed by parliament. I now indeed recollect my being informed long since, when in England, that a certain very great personage, then young, studied much a certain book entitled Arcana Imperii. I had the curiosity to procure the book and read it. There are sensible and good things in it, but some bad ones; for if I remember right, a particular king is applauded for his politically exciting a rebellion among his subjects at a time. when they had not strength to support it, that he might in subduing them take away their privileges which were troublesome to him: and a question is formally stated and discussed, “Whether a prince, who to appease a revolt, makes promises of indemnity to the revolters, is obliged to fulfil those promises ?". Honest and good men would say aye: but this politician says, as you say --no. And he gives this pretty reason, that though it was right to make the promises, because otherwise revolt would not be suppressed ; yet it would be wrong to keep them, because revolters ought to be punished to deter future revolts. · If these are the principles of your nation, no confidence can be placed in you, it is in vain to treat with you, and the wars can only end in being reduced to an utter inability of continuing them.
One main drift of your letter seems to be to impress me with an idea of your own impartiality, by just censures of your ministers and measures, and to draw from me propositions of peace, or approbations of those you have enclosed me, which you intimate may, by your means, be conveyed to the king directly, without the intervention of those ministers. Would you have me give them to, or drop them for, a stranger I may find next Monday in the church of Notre Dame, to be known by a rose in his hat? You yourself, sir, are quite unknown to me, you have not trusted me with your name. Our taking the least step towards a treaty with
England through you, might, if you are an enemy, be made use of to ruin us with our new and good friends. I may be indiscreet enough in many things; but certainly if I were disposed to make propositions, (which I cannot do, having none committed to me to make,) I should never think of delivering them to the Lord knows who, to be carried to the Lord knows where, to serve no one knows what purposes. Being at this time one of the most remarkable figures in Paris, even my appearance in the church of Notre Dame, where I cannot have any conceivable business, and especially being seen to leave or drop any letter to any person there, would be a matter of some speculation, and might, from the suspicions it must naturally give, have very mischievous consequences to our credit here. The very proposing of a correspondence so to be managed, in a manner not necessary where fair dealing is intended, gives just reason to suppose you intend the contrary. Besides, as your court has sent commissioners to treat with the congress, with all the powers that would be given them by the crown under the act of parliament, what good purpose can be served by privately abtaining propositions from us? Before those commissioners went, we might have treated in virtue of our general powers, (with the kuowledge, advice, and approbation of our friends,) upon any propositious made to us. But under the present circumstances, for us to make propositions while à treaty is supposed to be actually on foot with the congress, would be extremely improper, highly presumptuous with regard to our honorable constituents, and answer no good end whatever.
I write this letter to you notwithstanding, (which I think I can convey in a less mysterious manner, and think it may come to your hands); I write it because I would let
you know our sense of your procedure, which appears as insidious as that of your conciliatory bills. Your' true way to obtain peace,
if your ministers desire it, is to propose openly to the congress, fair and equal terms ; and you may possibly come sooner to a resolution, when you find that personal flatteries, general cajolings, and panegyrics on our virtue and wisdom, are not likely to have the effect you seem to expect, the persuading us to act basely and foolishly in betraying our country and posterity into the hands of our most bitter enemies, giving up or selling of our arms and warlike stores, dismissing our ships of war and troops, and putting those enemies in possession of our forts and ports. This proposition of delivering ourselves bound and gagged, ready for hanging, without even a right to complain, and without a friend to be found afterwards among all mankind, you would have us embrace upon the faith of an act of parliament! Good God! an act of your parliament!! This demonstrates that you do not yet know us, and that you fancy we do not know you : but it is not merely this flimsy faith that we are to act upon : you offer us hope, the hope of PLACES, PENSIONS, and PEERAGES. These, judging from yourselves, you think are motives irresistible. This offer to corrupt us, sir, is with me your credential, and convinces me that you are not a private volunteer in your application. It bears the stamp of British court intrigue, and the signature of your king. But think for a moment in what light it must be viewed in America. By PLACES which cannot come among us, for you take care, by a special article, to keep them to yourselves. We must then pay the salaries in order to enrich ourselves with these places. But you will give us PENSIONS; probably to be paid too out of your expected American revenue ; and which none of us can accept without deserving, and perhaps obtaining, a suspension. PEERAGES ! alas! sir, our long observation of