Gunston-Hall 6th. Decemr. 1770.
I have your Favour of the 7th of July, which is the third you have obliged me with since you left Virginia: that I have not answer'd them sooner, I hope you know is not oweing to Want of Friendship; it will always give me pleasure to hear of your Welfare; & a young Fellow of twenty must not stand upon Ceremony with an old one of five & forty.
I am much obliged to you for the Pamphlets you sent me; we have had them in detach'd Peices in the public papers; but there is no judging of such Performances by Scraps. Junius's Letters are certainly superior to anything of the kind that ever appeared in our Language: the two most remarkable periods for Party-writings were about the Change of the Ministry in Queen Ann's Time, & the [latter End] of Sir Robt. Walpoles Ministry, in the late King's Reign; & altho' the ablest Men in the Nation then entered the Lists, their Performances fall far short of Junius. Most of our best Writers have imitated the florid Ciceronian Style, but this Author is really an Original; learned & elegant without the Vanity of seeming so, his Manner of Expression tho' new, & almost peculiar to himself, is yet free from the Affectation of Singularity; bold & nervous, like the Genius of the Nation he writes for.
The non-Importation Associations here are at present in a very languid State, most People seem'd inclined to try what the Parliament will do this winter towards redressing the American Grievances; as they shew'd some Inclination last Session to a Reconciliation. We are not without Hopes that, when Men's Passions have had time to cool & Reason takes Place, this most desireable End may be attain'd, & that happy Harmony restored which for more than a Century produced such mutual Benefits to both Countrys. Perdition seize the Man whose arbitrary Maxims & short-sighted Policy first interrupted it! But shou'd the oppressive System of taxing us without our Consent be continued. The Flame, however smother'd now, will break out with redoubled Ardour, & the Spirit of Opposition (Self-defence is its' proper Name) wear a more formidable Shape then ever—more formidable, because more natural & practicable.
The Associations, almost from one End of this Continent to the other, were drawn up in a Hurry and form'd upon an erronious Principle; it was imagined that they wou'd occasion such a sudden Stagnation in Trade, & such Murmers among the Manufacturers of Great Britain that the Parliament wou'd not only see but feel the Necessity of immediately repealing the American Revenue Acts. One Year wou'd do the Business; & for one Year or two we cou'd do without importing almost anything from Great Britain. Men sanguine in an interesting Subject easily believe that must happen which they wish to happen, & thus the Americans enter'd into Agreements which few were able to perform even for the Short Time at first thought necessary. Many Circumstances have concurr'd to frustrate such a Scheme, particularly the unusual Demand for British Goods from the northern Parts of Europe & more than anything else the Impracticability of the Scheme itself & the Difference between the Plans adopted in the different Provinces. Time has pointed out our Mistakes, & Errors well known are more than half corrected.
Had the Subject been well digested, & an Association entered into which People wou'd have felt themselves easy under, persevered in, had one general Plan been form'd exactly the same for all the Colonys (so as to have removed all cause of jealousy or Danger of interfering with each other) in the Nature of a sumptuary Law, restraining only Articles of Luxury & Ostentation together with the Goods at any Time taxed, and at the same Time giving all possible Incouragement to American Manufactures & Invitations to Manufacturers from Eurpop to remove hither & settle among us, & as these increased from time to time still decreasing our Europian Imports [such] an Association then form'd upon these Principles wou'd have gather'd strength by Execution, & however slow in its Operation it wou'd have been certain in its Effects. It may perhaps be thought that the Trade of Great Britain wou'd be little affected by such a Restriction, but Luxury & Ostentation are comprehensive Terms & I wou'd venture to affirm that it wou'd immediatly lessen the Imports to this Continent from great Britain L300,000 Annum, & the Government wou'd lose more in one Year on two Articles only (manufactured Tobacco & Malt Liquors) than it wou'd gain in ten by the American Revenue Acts. Such a Plan as this is now in Contemplation God grant we may have no cause to carry it into practice. Had the Colonies any Intention of throwing off their Dependance? Was the Sovereignty of great Britain really in Dispute, as the Ministry affect to believe, Administration wou'd be right in asserting the Authority of the Mother Country; it wou'd be highly culpable if it did not do so; but the wildest Chimera that ever disturbed a Madman's Brain has not less Foundation in Truth than this Opinion.
The Americans have the warmest Affection for the present Royal Family; the strongest Attachment to the British Government & Constitution; they have experienced it's Blessings & prefer it to any that does or ever did exist; while they are protected in the Injoyment of [its] Advantages they will never wish to change, there are not five Men of Sense in America who wou'd accept of Independance if it was offered. We know our own circumstances too well; we know that our Happiness our very Being depends upon our Connection with our Mother-Country. We have always acknowledged we are always ready to recognize the Sovereignty of Great Britain but we will not submit to have our own Money taken out our Pockets without our Consent; because if any Man or any Set of Men take from us without our Consent or that of our Representatives one shilling in the Pound we have not Security for the remaining nineteen. We owe to our Mother-Country the Duty of Subjects but will not pay her the Submission of Slaves.1
So long as Great Britain can preserve the Vigour & Spirit of her own free happy Constitution so long may she by a mild & equal Government preserve her Sovereignty over these Colonies. What may be the Effect of Violence & Oppression no Man can answer; but any Man may venture to pronounce that they can never be productive of Good.
In Answer to your Question about the Subscription for Mr. Wilkes, there was a Subscription set on Foot to ship that Gentlemen 45 Hhds. of Tobo. as a small Acknowledgement for his Sufferings in the Cause of Liberty which I believe wou'd have been filled up, but for the very Mr. Miles whom you mention; he very officiously contrived to get the Subscription into his Hands, & after collecting some of the Tobacco & applying it to his own Use; as soon as the Matter took wind, fearing a little American Discipline upon the Occasion, he scamper'd off with the Subscription-Paper, & has never been heard of here since. I do not tell you this of my own Knowledge (for I never saw Miles) but I believe there is no Doubt of the Truth of the Fact.
I received a Letter from my Kinsman Colo. Mercer dated the 24th. of July speaking very doubtfully of the Ohio Company's Affairs in England; this is only the third Letter from him which ever came to my Hands since I saw him in Virginia untill this very Day when I received a small Packet from him containing some interesting Intelligence, but of a very old Date, so long ago as the 2d. of last January from what he says of the many Letters he has wrote me & from what I know of the numbers I have wrote him I am convinced some S—1 who knows our Hand-Writing must have intercepted them; tho I can't pretend even to guess at any particular Person. He tells me in his Letter of the 24th of July that he shall leave England in September, otherwise Mr. McPherson's going to London wou'd have afforded me a certain Opportunity of assuring him that a few Years Absence has neither erased him out of my Memory or Affection; as to the Ohio Company's Affairs here I cou'd have given him no Satisfaction or Information. It is absolutely more difficu[l]t to procure a Meeting of our Members than it is to assemble a German Diet—notwithstanding Appointments & Advertisements without number I verily believe there has never been a Meeting of the Company since he went from Virginia.
As your Brother Robert goes to London in the same Ship by which I write, he will inform you fully of the Situation of your Relatives & Friends in Virginia & Maryland; all at Gunston Hall join in wishing you Health & Happiness, with Dear Sir Yr. affection. Kinsman & hble. Sert.