Following the example of Boston merchants, the merchants and traders of Philadelphia got together to consider what they should do in opposition to the Townshend Duties. What arguments does this writer put forward for opposing these new taxes? What evidence is there that the writers had fears of alleged British conspiracies against American liberties?
To the MERCHANTS and TRADERS, of the City of Philadelphia.
THE worthy and patriotic Writer of the Farmer's Letters, has clearly demonstrated, that the Liberties of the British Colonies in America, have been most cruelly violated by the late parliamentary Impositions on Paper, Glass, etc. for the sole Purpose of raising a Revenue upon us without our Consent; every Lover of his Country must therefore rejoice in seeing those Measures taken, which are most likely to obtain Redress of our present Grievances.
The Merchants of Boston have unanimously resolved to suspend the Importation of Goods from Great-Britain during Twelve Months, provided the Colonies of New-York, Pennsylvania, etc. think proper to adopt the same Measure, and the Act, so justly complained of, be not repealed. The Efficacy of such a Resolution has been most happily experienced by the Abolition of the Stamp-Act, and cannot, if now agreed to by us, fail of obtaining a speedy and effectual Relief from this Grievance. Our Prudence and Virtue had all the Success then that could be expected; nor is there a single Circumstance against us now, that did not militate against us then. On the other Hand, we have many Reasons to encourage our Perservance in asserting our just Rights, that did not subsist at that Time.
In the first Place, we have that happy Example. Secondly, We have the two most popular Men in the Kingdom, Lord Chatham [William Pitt], and Lord Cambden, on our Side, who have repeatedly declared, that we could not be taxed without our Consent. Thirdly, The Efforts we lately made, evidently prove, that we cannot suffer any great Inconvenience from agreeing to the above Measure; but rather, that such Determination will be universally beneficial, by inclining us to be more frugal, and affording our Merchants Time to collect their Debts, and enabling them to discharge those they owe to the Mother Country.
But suppose that a few Individuals might suffer a present Disadvantage, by a Prosecution of this Measure, will any Man offer that as a Plea for not subscribing to a Proposal, evidently calculated to promote his Country's Good? Dare he bring Self-interest into the opposite Scale and be the Means of entailing lasting Infamy and Mischief on himself, his Posterity, and his Country?--The Opinion I have always had of my Countrymen, obliges me to think we have no such sordid Spirits among us, but that every one will lend a willing Hand to perfect what Boston has begun.
If we do not exert ourselves now, when TAXED by Parliament, under the exploded Notion of virtual Representation, when shall we exert ourselves? Is there any thing in the Name of the Stamp-Act, that ought to make it more reasonable to oppose that, than to oppose this? The Merchants of this City are now called upon by their vigilant Neighbors, to unite with them in a Measure which is greatly consistent with our Safety, and particularly well adapted to our Circumstances: Let us not, therefore, by Lukewarmness, Self-Interest, or Disaffection to the Public Weal, destroy the noble and necessary Zeal that is now spreading from Province to Province, and give Occasion to future Ages, of lamenting our too submissive and pusillanimous Conduct.
I am clearly of Opinion, that the Fate of the late Act, wholly depends on the Conduct of the Merchants in this City at this Crisis. If they enter, as I doubt not they will, into the same spirited and unanimous Resolutions they did two Years past, the examplary Behaviour of so respectable a Body, will be followed by every other Colony, which has not already embraced the same Measure.