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title:“Essays concerning the Nonimportation Association”
authors:George Mason
date written:1769-5-11

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retrieved:Dec. 5, 2023, 5:42 p.m. UTC

Mason, George. "Essays concerning the Nonimportation Association." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 1. Ed. Bernard Bailyn and James Morton Smith. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 106-09. Print.
Printed from Maryland Gazette

Essays concerning the Nonimportation Association (May 11, 1769)

The Letter of "Atticus"
[11 May 1769]
Æquam memento rebas in arduis
Servare mentem;
It is of the utmost Consequence, in our present Difficulties, equally to avoid Rashness and Despair. Violent Counsels have seldom been productive of good, either in private or public affairs: Despondence is the proper Companion of Guilt, but not of Innocence; and wou'd be even more fatal than Violence itself.
As no Measures shou'd be attempted, until their Justice, Practicability, and Efficacy, have been duly weigh'd; so they shou'd be exerted with Unanimity and Resolution worthy their Importance.
It is the Opinion of the best Judges, that the Trade of Great-Britain with other Nations, has been for some Years upon the Decline: That her Merchants, are undersold at foreign Markets, is a general Complaint, and a natural Consequence of the Luxury diffused thro' all Ranks of People; whereby the Price of Labour and Manufactures is raised above the Value in other Countries. The Spanish Trade, once so lucrative, is, by the Conduct of our own Ministry, and the Family Compact of the House of Bourbon, almost reduced to nothing. The Trade with Portugal, is lessening every Year. The Balance of Trade with France, has long been against them; and, but for the Article of Tobacco, wou'd be immensely so. Numberless Instances, of the same Sort, might be given: Yet, under all these Disadvantages, it is acknowledged, that upon the whole, the Wealth, the Trade, the Shipping, and the maritime Power of Great-Britain, have increased beyond the Idea of former Times.
This she owes to her American Colonies: They have made her ample Amends for the Decay of all her other Commerce: Here is her Grand-Market for all her various Manufactures, and hence is she principally supplied with gross Materials.
This is the only Trade in which she cannot be rivalled; and which nothing but her own Tyranny and Folly can ever deprive her of. Had she suffered her American Subjects to continue in the Enjoyment of a mild and equitable Government, and given proper Encouragement to our Trade, the Benefits she derives from us wou'd have been continually increasing; as all our Gain wou'd have center'd in Great-Britain in return for her Manufactures. But, since a contrary, and unaccountable System of Politics, has been adopted, and we are not allowed to purchase the Manufactures of our Mother-Country, unless loaded with Taxes to raise a Revenue from us, without our Consent; since all our Complaints have been disregarded, and nothing but a total Deprivation of our Liberty, and entailing Slavery upon us, and our Posterity, can satiate the Malice of our Cruel Enemies; is it not high Time to endeavour to convince the Inhabitants of Great-Britain, that our Enemies are equally theirs; and, by refusing to take their Manufactures, and withholding from them our Commodities, until our Grievances are redressed, demonstrate to them that we cannot be wounded but thro' their Sides?
These are the proper Means to use upon the present interesting Occasion. These are the Arms with which GOD and Nature have furnished us for our Defence; a prudent and resolute Exertion of which, will soon obtain what has been refused to our most ardent Supplications.
Some People may think such a Plan impracticable in the Tobacco Colonies: First, because most of our Merchants, being only Factors, cannot enter into an Association for restraining their Imports, without the Consent of their Principals; and, Secondly, because we have so few Manufactures of our own, that we shall still be under a Necessity of importing them from Great-Britain. To the first, it may be answered; that we will, in Justice to these Gentlemen, and their Owners, acquaint them with our Intentions, leaving it entirely to themselves, to import just what they shall think proper: We will not attempt to lay them under any Restrictions, or use any Manner of Violence: We will only cease to import any, but certain enumerated Goods, ourselves, and refuse to purchase them of others, who do import them after a limited Time.
The second Objection is indeed a more weighty one: It is acknowledged that there are some Articles which we must still import; but far the greater Part we can do without: The Necessaries of Life lie within a narrow Compass, and many of these, our own Country will supply. The little Luxuries and Conveniencies of Life, we may chearfully part with, when we reflect that we are thereby securing the Liberty and Happiness of our Posterity.1
We have certainly no Occasion to send to Great-Britain for any Thing that we eat or drink. Finery, from thence, of all Denominations may be rejected, and most Sorts of Household-Furniture; we may confine ourselves to the cheapest Kind of Goods, to Linens and Woollens, &c. not exceeding a certain Price.
A Man may be as warm in a Coat that costs but Ten Shillings, as in one that cost Ten Pounds: Habit and Custom will reconcile us to many Things that are irksome at first, and soon make that reputable, which was before thought mean and scandalous. Let the principal Gentlemen but set the Example, they will be quickly followed by the Bulk of the People.
What will not the Love of Liberty inspire!
This Measure, which has been so often recommended, and is now only repeated, has this peculiar Advantage; that it cannot easily be counteracted: No ministerial Mandates nor circular Letters: No Instructions to Governors, nor Orders to Generals, can oblige us to buy Goods, which we do not choose to buy.
If we were to desist purchasing Slaves, and making Tobacco, we shou'd have a Number of Spare Hands to employ in Manufactures, and other Improvements; every private Family wou'd soon be able to make whatever they wanted, for their own Use: Many of the Manufactures of Great-Britain, finding no longer the usual Encouragement at Home, wou'd remove hither for Employment, a general Spirit of Frugality and Industry wou'd prevail, and our Difficulties daily decrease. It wou'd moreover be attended with another happy Effect; It wou'd convince the British Government, that the Revenue must lose fifty Times more by the late iniquitous ministerial Projects than can ever be raised in America; even if the Nation was to incur no extraordinary Expence by attempting to carry them into Execution.
Our Fellow-Subjects in Great-Britain, wou'd no longer be imposed upon, by that popular, but fallacitous Argument, that their own Burdens will be lessened, in Proportion as ours are increased. Their own Interest wou'd quickly awaken their Attention: They wou'd see, They wou'd feel the Oppressions we groan under, and exert themselves effectually on our Behalf: A candid and a thorough Examination wou'd be brought on, and the Conduct of the Ministry exposed in its proper Light.
Our Complaints wou'd be heard, our just Demands granted, and the mutual Confidence and Harmony, which is so much the Interest both of Great-Britain and America, wou'd be happily restored.

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