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exchange. Great quantities of our rice, too, went to Holland, Hamburg, &c., and the value of that was also sent to Britain. Add to this, that contenting ourselves with paper, all the hard money we could possibly pick up among the foreign West India Islands, was continually sent off to Britain, not a ship going thither from America without some chests of those precious metals.
Imagine this great machine of mutually advantageous commerce, going roundly on, in full train; our ports all busy, receiving and selling British manufactures, and equipping ships for the circuitous trade, that was finally to procure the necessary remittances; the seas covered with those ships, and with several hundred sail of our fishermen, all working for Britain; and then let us consider what effect the conduct of Britain, in 1774 and 1775 and the following years, must naturally have on the future ability of our merchants to make the payments in question.
We will not here enter into the motives of that conduct; they are well enough known, and not to her honor. The first step was shutting up the port of Boston by an act of Parliament; the next, to prohibit by another the New England fishery. An army and a fleet were sent to enforce these acts. Here was a stop put at once to all the mercantile operations of one of the greatest trading cities of America; the fishing vessels all laid up, and the usual remittances, by way of Spain, Portugal, and the Straits, rendered impossible. Yet the cry was now begun against us, These New England people do not pay their debts!
The ships of the fleet employed themselves in cruising separately all along the coast. The marine gentry are seldom so well contented with their pay, as not to like a little plunder. They stopped and seized. under slight pretences, the American vessels they met with, belonging to whatever colony. This checked the commerce of them all . Ships, loaded with cargoes destined either directly or indirectly to make remittance in England, were not spared. If the differences between the two countries had been then accommodated, these unauthorized plunderers would have been called to account, and many of their exploits must have been found piracy. But what cured all this, set their minds at ease, made short work, and gave full scope to their piratical disposition, was another act of Parliament, forbidding any inquisition into those past facts, declaring them all lawful and all American property to be forfeited, whether on sea or land, and authorizing the King's British subjects to take, seize, sink, burn, or destroy, whatever they could find of it. The property suddenly, and by surprise taken from our merchants by the operation of this act, is incomputable. And yet the cry did not diminish, These Americans don't pay their debts!
Had the several states of America, on the publication of this act seized all British property in their power, whether consisting of lands in their country, ships in their harbours, or debts in the hands of their merchants, by way of retaliation, it is probable a great part of the world would have deemed such conduct justifiable. They, it seems, thought otherwise, and it was done only in one or two States, and that under particular circumstances of provocation. And not having thus abolished all demands, the cry subsists, that the Americans should pay their debts!
General Gage, being with his army (before the declaration of open war) in peaceable possession of Boston, shut its gates, and placed guards all around to prevent its communication with the country. The inhabitants were on the point of starving. The general, though they were evidently at his mercy, fearing that, while they had any arms in their hands, frantic desperation might possibly do him some mischief, proposed to them a capitulation, in which he stipulated, that if they would deliver up their arms, they might leave the town with their family and goods. In faith of this agreement, they delivered their arms. But when they began to pack up for their departure, they were informed, that by the word goods, the general understood only household goods, that is, their beds, chairs, and tables, not merchant goods; those he was informed they were indebted for to the merchants of England, and he must secure them for the creditors. They were accordingly all seized, to an immense value, what had been paid for not excepted. It is to be supposed, though we have never heard of it, that this very honorable general, when he returned home, made a just distribution of those goods, or their value, among the said creditors. But the cry nevertheless continued, These Boston people do not pay their debts!
The army, having thus ruined Boston, proceeded to different parts of the continent . They got possession of all the capital trading towns. The troops gorged themselves with plunder. They stopped all the trade of Philadelphia for near a year, of Rhode Island longer, of New York near eight years, of Charleston in South Carolina and Savannah in Georgia, I forget how long. This continued interruption of their commerce ruined many merchants. The army also burnt to the ground the fine towns of Falmouth and Charlestown near Boston, New London, Fairfield, Norwalk, Esopus, Norfolk, the chief trading town in Virginia, besides innumerable tenements and private farm-houses. This wanton destruction of property operated doubly to the disabling of our merchants, who were importers from Britain, in making their payments, by the immoderate loss they sustained themselves, and also the loss suffered by their country debtors, who had bought of them the British goods, and who were now rendered unable to pay. The debts to Britain of course remained undischarged, and the clamor continued, These knavish Americans will not pay us!
Many of the British debts, particularly in Virginia and the Carolinas, arose from the sales made of negroes in those provinces by the British Guinea merchants. These, with all before in the country, were employed when the war came on, in raising tobacco and rice for remittance in payment of British debts. An order arrives from England, advised by one of their most celebrated moralists, Dr. Johnson, in his Taxation no Tyranny, to excite these slaves to rise, cut the throats of their purchasers, and resort to the British army, where they should be rewarded with freedom. This was done, and the planters were thus deprived of near thirty thousand of their working people. Yet the demand for those sold and unpaid still exists; and the cry continues against the Virginians and Carolinians, that they do not pay their debts!
Virginia suffered great loss in this kind of property by another ingenious and humane British invention. Having the small-pox in their army while in that country, they inoculated some of the negroes they took as prisoners belonging to a number of plantations, and then let them escape, or sent them, covered with the pock, to mix with and spread the distemper among the others of their color, as well as among the white country people; which occasioned a great mortality of both, and certainly did not contribute to the enabling debtors in making payment. The war too having put a stop to the exportation of tobacco, there was a great accumulation of several years' produce in all the public inspecting warehouses and private stores of the planters. Arnold, Phillips, and Comwallis, with British troops, then entered and overran the country, burnt all the inspecting and other stores of tobacco, to the amount of some hundred ship-loads; all which might, on the return of peace, if it had not been thus wantonly destroyed, have been remitted to British creditors. But these d—d Virginians, why don't they pay their debts?
Paper money was in those times our universal currency. But, it being the instrument with which we combated our enemies, they resolved to deprive us of its use by depreciating it; and the most effectual means they could contrive was to counterfeit it. The artists they employed performed so well, that immense quantities of these counterfeits, which issued from the British government in New York, were circulated among the inhabitants of all the States, before the fraud was detected. This operated considerably in depreciating the whole mass, first, by the vast additional quantity, and next by the uncertainty in distinguishing the true from the false; and the depreciation was a loss to all and the ruin of many. It is true our enemies gained a vast deal of our property by the operation; but it did not go into the hands of our particular creditors; so their demands still subsisted, and we were still abused for not paying our debts!
By the seventh article of the treaty of peace, it was solemnly stipulated, that the King's troops, in evacuating their posts in the United States, should not carry away with them any negroes. In direct violation of this article, General Carleton, in evacuating New York, carried off all the negroes that were with his army, to the amount of several hundreds. It is not