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TO M. LE ROY.
Authorship of the “ Farmer's Letters.” — Commercial
Resolutions in America. - Political Errors.
London, 31 January, 1769. DEAR SIR, I received your obliging favor of November 15th. I presented your compliments to Sir John Pringle, who was glad with me to hear of your welfare, and desired me to offer his best respects whenever I wrote to you. The Farmer's Letters were written by one Mr. Dickinson, of Philadelphia, and not by me, as you seem to suppose. I only caused them to be reprinted here with that little Preface, and had no other hand in them, except that I see some of my sentiments formerly published are collected, and interwoven with those of others and his own, by the author. I am glad they afforded you any amusement. It is true, as you have heard, that troops are posted in Boston, on the pretence of preventing riots and protecting the custom-house officers; but it is also true, that there was no intention among the people there, to oprose the landing of those troops, or to resist the execution of the law by arms.
The riots talked of were sudden, unpremeditated things, that happened only among a few of the lower sort. Their plan of making war on this country is of a different kind. It is to be a war on commerce only, and consists in an absolute determination to buy and use no more of the manufactures of Britain, till the act is repealed. This is already agreed to by four provinces, and will be by all the rest in the ensuing summer. Eleven ships now here from Boston and New York, which would have carried, one with another, fifty thousand pounds ster
ling each in goods, are going away in their ballast, as the Parliament seems determined not to repeal. I am inclined to think, however, that it will alter its mind before the end of the session. Otherwise it is to be feared the breach will grow wider by successive indiscretions on both sides.
The subject you propose to me, the consequences of allowing a free exportation of corn, the advantages or disadvantages of the Concurrence, &c., is a very extensive one; and I have been, and am at present, so much occupied with our American affairs, as that, if I were ever so capable of handling it, I have not time to engage in it at present to any purpose. I think, however, with you, that the true principles of commerce are yet but little understood, and that most of the acts of Parliament, arrêts and edicts of princes and states, relating to commerce, are political errors, solicited and obtained by particulars for private interest, under the pretext of public good.
The bearer of this, Captain Overy, is a particular friend of mine, who now only passes through Paris for Lyons and Nice, but in his return may stay in your city some time. He is a gentleman of excellent character and great merit, and as such I beg leave to recommend him to your civilities and advice, which may be of great service to him, as he is quite a stranger in Paris. With the greatest esteem and respect, I
am, dear Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
P. S. Your English is extremely good; but, if it is more easy for you to write in French, do not give yourself the trouble of writing in English, as I understand your French perfectly well.
TO CHARLES THOMSON.* Petition of the First Congress presented to the King and Parliament. - Manner in which it was received. Lord Camden.
Camden. — Lord Chatham's Speech and Plan of Conciliation.
London, 5 February, 1775. DEAR SIR, I received duly your favors of November 1st, by Captain Falconer, and afterwards that of October 26th, both enclosing the letter from the Congress, and the petition to the King. Immediately on the receipt of the first, I wrote to every one of the other gentlemen nominated, and desired a meeting to consult on the mode of presenting the petition committed to our care. Three of them, viz. Mr. Burke,t Mr. Wentworth, and Mr. Life, declined being concerned in it, and, without consulting each other, gave the same reason, viz. that they had no instructions relating to it. It rested on Mr. Bollan, Mr. Lee, and myself. We took counsel with our best friends, and were advised to present it through Lord Dartmouth, that being the regular official method, and the only one in which we might on occasion call for an answer. I
We accordingly waited on his Lordship with it, who would not immediately undertake to deliver it, but requested it might be left with him to peruse, which was done. He found nothing in it improper for him
• This letter was written to Mr. Thomson as Secretary of Congress.
† Mr. Burke was at this time agent for New York, in which capacity he had acted for several years.
It was resolved in Congress, October 25th, 1774, “That the Address to the King be enclosed in a letter to the several colony agents, in order that the same may be by them presented to his Majesty ; and that the agents be requested to call in the aid of such noblemen and gentlemen as are esteemed firm friends to American liberty."
to present, and, afterwards sending for us, he informed us, that he had presented the petition to his Majesty, who had been pleased to receive it very graciously, and to command him to tell us it contained matters of such importance, that, as soon as they met, he would lay it before his two Houses of Parliament.
We then consulted on the publication, and were advised by wise and able men, friends of America, whose names it will not be proper to mention, by no means to publish it till it should be before Parliament, as it would be deemed disrespectful to the King. We flattered ourselves, from the answer given by Lord Dartmouth, that the King would have been pleased to recommend it to the consideration of Parliament by some message; but we were mistaken. It came down among a great heap of letters of intelligence from governors and officers in America, newspapers, pamphlets, handbills, &c., from that country, the last in the list, and was laid upon the table with them, undistinguished by any particular recommendation of it to the notice of either House; and I do not find, that it has had any further notice taken of it as yet, than that it has been read as well as the other papers.
To draw it into the attention of the House, we petitioned to be heard upon it, but were not permitted ; and, by the resolutions of the committee of the whole House, which I enclose, you will see that it has made little impression; and, from the constant refusal, neglect, or discouragement of American petitions, these many years past, our country will at least be convinced, that petitions are odious here, and that petitioning is far from being a probable means of obtaining redress. A firm, steady, and faithful adherence to the non-consumption agreement, is the only thing to be depended on. It begins already to work, (as you will see in the votes of the House), by producing applications from the merchants and manufacturers, and it must finally lead Parliament into reasonable measures.
At present, the ministers are encouraged to proceed by the assurance they receive from America, that the people are not unanimous; that a very great part of them disapprove the proceedings of the Congress, and would break through them, if there was in the country an army sufficient to support these friends, as they are called, of government. They rely, too, on being able to divide us still further by various means; for they seem to have no conception, that such a thing as public spirit or public virtue anywhere exists. I trust they will find themselves totally mistaken. The Congress is in high esteem here among all the friends of liberty, and their papers much admired; perhaps nothing of the kind has been more thoroughly published, or more universally read. Lord Camden spoke highly of the Americans in general, and of the Congress particularly, in the House of Lords. Lord Chatham said, that, taking the whole together, and considering the members of the Congress as the unsolicited, unbeseeched choice of a great, free, and enlightened people; their unanimity, their moderation, and their wisdom; he thought it the most honorable assembly of men, that had ever been known; that the histories of Greece and Rome gave us nothing equal to it. Lord Shelburne would not admit, that the Parliament of Britain could be comparable with it, a Parliament obeying the dictates of a ministry, who, in nine cases out of ten, were governed by their under secretaries.
You will see, among the papers herewith sent, the motion made by Lord Chatham, as preparatory to his plan, viz. that the troops should be removed from Boston. I send, also, a copy of the plan itself, which