The following document seems at odds with the Proceedings of the Committee of Correspondence on July 19, 1774. What arguments does the writer use concerning the tax on tea and Parliament's right to tax the colonies in general? What is the basis for the author's dissatisfaction with the New York Constitutional Resolves?
IN Times of public Danger, I conceive it to be the indispensable Duty of every Member of the Community to communicate his Sentiments to his Fellow Citizens on public Affairs, provided it be done in a decent and pertinent Manner; and that every such Member, who thus endeavours to discharge his Duty to his Country, at least merits the Indulgence, if not the Attention, of the Public, even if his proposals should not be quite unexceptionable. These being my fixed Sentiments, and actuated by the most ardent Regard for our common Safety, as well as that of America in general, I trust, will be a sufficient Apology for my addressing you at this critical Period.
The Committee of Correspondence having nominated five Gentlemen to attend the ensuing Congress, if they meet with your Approbation, and also published a Set of Resolves for your Consideration till Tuesday next, when it is expected that you will collectively signify your Approbation, or Disapprobation of the Gentlemen proposed for Delegates, as well as your Sense of the Resolutions. And here give me Leave to assure you, that I not only unseignedly with they were much less defective, but that they were entirely free from every Thing that has the remotest Tendency to an Acknowledgment of our Submission to Fellow Subjects, or the Power of Parliament, to tax us, or abridge us of any constitutional Right what ever. But as all human Performances are subject to Defect and Error, it is presumed that the Gentlemen of the Committee do not pretend to plead an Exemption from the common Lot of Humanity. This being the Case, I shall proceed to consider the Resolves in their proper Order, beginning with the first, and pointing out whatever is thought to be essentially wrong, or materially deficient, as well as some little Inaccuracies which may be supposed to have escaped the Gentlemen's Notice, through the Hurry of Business: but nevertheless require to be rectified, both for their own Credit, and that of the city.
"1st RESOLVE. That his most sacred Majesty, George III King of Great Britain, is our liege, lawful, and rightful Sovereign, and that it is our indispensable Duty, to the utmost of our Power, by all constitutional Means, to maintain and support his Crown and Dignity." Is not here a Declaration of an absolute, unlimited, and unconditional Obedience, whether we are constitutionally governed or not?--To which, perhaps, it may be replied, that we are to support his Majesty "only by constitutional Means."--To this it is answered, that we may afford constitutional Support without receiving an adequate Return. To remedy which, it is proposed to add at the End of the Sentence the following Clause--"being governed agreeable to the known Principles and Spirit of the English Constitution," or Something to the same Effect--The next Sentence begins with asserting, "that it is our greatest Happiness and Glory to have been born British Subjects;" which, it is thought, might be rendered more consistent with the two succeeding Sentences, by being expressed thus--That we have ever esteemed it our greatest Happiness, under the Enjoyment of our civil and religious Liberties, to have been born, &c. As this would not be so in consistent with "we lament, as the greatest Misfortune," &c. and "view with inexpressible Concern and Grief," &c. in the two last Sentences. I do not know whether the Beginning of the third Sentence be really worthy of Correction, unless it could be supposed that it was intended for what no Person will avow; that is, as a tacit Acknowledgment of his Majesty's being a Noun of Multitude, or a People.--These are the Words. "That we are one People," &c. Now, as no People were mentioned before, nor after this Clause, I should be glad to know what it refers to?--Here, though I had before Occasion to mention some Part of the last Sentence, I find it necessary, in Order to be clearly understood, to take up the Whole again, which is this. "That we therefore view, with inexpressible Concern and Grief, some late Acts of the British Parliament, claiming and exercising Rights which we humbly conceive are replete with Destruction, and may be attended with the most fatal Consequences to the Colonies and their Parent State"--I cannot help acknowledging that I really think this Sentence replete with the most humble Conceptions, and a Concern for the Parent State, fully equal to that for this Country. However, that is not the most dangerous Concession. But when it is said "some late Acts of Parliament, claiming and exercising Rights," &c. I am at a Loss to account for such a fatal Oversight in the united Wisdom of the Committee, especially when the Right of exercising parliamentary Claims is the very Bone of Contention at this truly alarming Crisis. In Order to supply which, suppose it were expressed in this Manner-- unjustly claiming Rights, and exercising Powers in Consequence of such Claim.
2nd. "RESOLVED, That particularly the Act for blocking up the Port of Boston is, in the highest Degree, arbitrary in its Principles, oppressive in its Operation, unparalleled in its Rigor, indefinite in its Exactions, and subversive of every Idea of British Liberty; and therefore justly to be abhorred and detested by all good Men." Here is a severe and strong Censure implied on the Conduct of Parliament: But could not the Inhabitants of London, with Propriety, have said as much, had the Parliament shut up the Port of Bristol in the same Manner, and on a similar Pretence? Ought there not then to have been a Denial added to the foregoing, of a Right which Parliament claims in Consequence of Powers with which it is invested by the People of Great Britain?
3rd RESOLVED, "That the Destruction of the Tea at Boston was not the ONLY Motive for bringing such unexampled Distress on that People; because the Alternative of suffering, or paying for the Tea, had otherwise been left in their Option. It is therefore truly to be lamented, by all the Colonies, that Administration were furnished with any Pretext for the violent Measures now carrying into Execution."--How does this agree with the first Letter which the Committee wrote to the People of Boston, wherein they absolutely declare that they consider them as "suffering in Defence of the Rights of America, and that we consider your Injuries as a common Cause," without any Manner of Intimation that they had been accessary to the impending Ruin of themselves? And does not the latter part furnish Administration with a Pretext for asserting that the Destruction of the Tea was a Motive for their Conduct, as well as tend to create Jealousies between the Colonies at a Time when our very Existence depends on our Union; not only this, but the implied Centure against the Bostonians, for destroying the Tea, will equally apply to the People of this City for destroying of Chamber's Tea, and will, upon the same Principle, furnish the Ministry with the same Pretext against us: And how inconsistent must it be for a People, by a Resolution, to censure their own Conduct?
4th. "RESOLVED, That Vengeance, separately directed, has a more dangerous Tendency, and is more destructive of the Liberties of America, than conjunctively; and that therefore is the indispensible Duty of all the Colonies, according to their different Circumstances to afford every reasonable Assistance to a Sister Colony in Distress; especially when that Distress is evidently calculated to intimidate others from contributing what may be in their Power, to procure the desired Relief."--The Word "Vengeance," in this Resolve, agrees exactly with the implied Idea intended to be conveyed by the first Part of the last Resolve; as 'Vengeance' is oftener used for penal Retribution than any Thing else: So that it has a Tendency to strengthen an exceptionable Part of the third Resolve. Would not the Words Invasion of our Rights, &c. or Oppression, &c. be as apt and not so liable to a Misinterpretation?
5th. RESOLVE: To this there is no Objection.
6th. "RESOLVED, That as the Wisdom of the Colonies will, in all Probability, be collected at the proposed Congress, it would be premature in any Colony to anticipate their Conduct, by resolving what ought to be done; but that it should be left to their joint Councils, to determine on the Mode which shall appear most salutary and effectual, to answer the good Purposes for which they are convened." -- Notwithstanding the Appearances of a Compliment to the Congress, do not the Words "it would be premature in any Colony to anticipate their Conduct, by resolving what ought to be done," imply a strong Censure on the Wisdom of the Colonies at large, when their Resolves generally, advise a Non-importation, and of several, a Non-exportation also?--And do not the Words "but that it should be left to their joint Councils, to determine on the Mode," &c. dictate to the Wisdom of those, whom the foregoing Part of the Sentence condemned for a similar Conduct; that is, for advising what they imagined would be the most likely Method of obtaining Redress?--Is it not also very extraordinary to declare, in the fourth Resolve, that "it is the indispensable Duty of all the Colonies, according to their different Circumstances, to afford every reasonable Assistance to a Sister Colony in Distress," and in this under Consideration to discover such exquisite ensibility, at the bare Apprehension of giving a remote Umbrage to the Congress?
7th. "RESOLVED, That Nothing less than dire Necessity can justify, or ought to induce the Colonies to unite in any Measure that might materially injure our Brethren the Manufacturers, Traders, and Merchants in Great-Britain."--Why was this mentioned?--Could it not have been left to the Wisdom of the Congress? Besides, does it not clash with the preceding Resolve?--Is it not also rather premature to use the Language of the 6th Resolve, to assert that the People of England will applaud our Motives and co-operate with us in all constitutional Measures, &c."
8th "RESOLVED, That if a Non importation Agreement of Goods from Great-Britain, should be adopted by the Congress, it ought to be very general, and faithfully adhered to; and that a Non-importation, partially observed, like the last, would answer no good Purpose; but on the Contrary, only serve to expose all the Colonies to further Injuries."--As this Resolve, in the Opinion of many, has very apparent Symtoms of an Aversion to a Non importation, and consequently may induce the Enemies of America to procrastinate Matters, in Hopes of a Dissolution of our Union, &c. as well as a that it contains invidious Reflections on some of the other Colonies, whose Affections and Confidence ought to be conciliated by every Means in our Power; it is therefore greatly to be wished that it may be expunged, and Something better adopted.
9th. "RESOLVED, therefore, that the Delegates to the Congress ought to be so chosen, or instructed, that they may "be able not only to speak the Sentiments, but to pledge themselves for the good Conduct of the People of the Colonies they respectively represent"--I wish it could be said, that there was not one of the Inconsistencies in this, that was complained of in some of the preceding Resolves; but so it is, they all seem to be distinguished by evident Marks of having but one common Parent. But who that is, I know not, neither do I desire to be informed, unless it could serve the Cause of my Country. Though this I should be glad to know, how the Members of the Congress are to speak the Sentiments of their Constituents, if it be premature to anticipate their Conduct by resolving what ought to be done, or expected from them?
10th. "RESOLVED, That the Tribute of our most grateful Thanks is justly due to all the Friends of all the Colonies in Great-Britain, who are opposed to the severe Measures now exerting against them; and particularly to those illustrious Patriots, who so ably distinguished themselves in both Houses of Parliament, in opposing Laws, which, at the same Time that they subvert the Liberties of America, have a manifest Tendency to injure those of the Mother Country, and may eventually entirely overthrow their ONCE excellent Constitution."
Would not unconstitutional Measures agree better with the general Sense that is entertained of the present Proceedings of Parliament against the Colonies, than "severe Measures," and consequently tend to strengthen the Union.--The Composition of this Resolve is not altogether unworthy a revisal.
Upon the Whole, it is difficult to conceive the Reason why these Resolves are couched in such ambiguous Terms, as to admit of different and unfavourable Constructions, when every Thing of this Nature ought to be expressed in such a plain Manner, as may easily be understood by Persons of the meanest Capacity, or how can they be expected to give their Approbation to what they do not clearly comprehend.
New-York, July 16, 1774.