Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vol. III: Literature of the Revolutionary Period, 17651787
A Warning to the Colonies
By John Dickinson (17321808)
[The Political Writings of John Dickinson, Esq. 1804.]
THOUGH I always reflect with a high pleasure on the integrity and understanding of my countrymen, which, joined with a pure and humble devotion to the great and gracious Author of every blessing they enjoy, will, I hope, insure to them and their posterity all temporal and eternal happiness; yet when I consider that in every age and country there have been bad men, my heart at this threatening period is so full of apprehension as not to permit me to believe, but that there may be some on this continent against whom you ought to be upon your guard. Men, who either hold, or expect to hold certain advantages by setting examples of servility to their countrymen. Men, who trained to the employment, or self-taught by a natural versatility of genius serve as decoys for drawing the innocent and unwary into snares. It is not to be doubted but that such men will diligently bestir themselves on this and every like occasion to spread the infection of their meanness as far as they can. On the plans they have adopted, this is their course. This is the method to recommend themselves to their patrons. They act consistently in a bad cause. They run well in a mean race.
From them we shall learn how pleasant and profitable a thing it is to be for our submissive behavior well spoken of at St. Jamess or St. Stephens; at Guildhall or the Royal Exchange. Specious fallacies will be dressed up with all the arts of delusion to persuade one colony to distinguish herself from another by unbecoming condescensions, which will serve the ambitious purposes of great men at home, and therefore will be thought by them to entitle their assistants in obtaining them to considerable rewards.
Our fears will be excited. Our hopes will be awakened. It will be insinuated to us, with a plausible affectation of wisdom and concern, how prudent it is to please the powerfulhow dangerous to provoke themand then comes in the perpetual incantation that freezes up every generous purpose of the soul in cold, inactive expectationthat if there is any request to be made, compliance will obtain a favorable attention.
Our vigilance and our union are success and safety. Our negligence and our division are distress and death. They are worsethey are shame and slavery. Let us equally shun the benumbing stillness of overweening sloth, and the feverish activity of that ill-informed zeal which busies itself in maintaining little, mean and narrow opinions. Let us, with a truly wise generosity and charity, banish and discourage all illiberal distinctions which may arise from differences in situation, forms of government, or modes of religion. Let us consider ourselves as menfreemenChristian freemenseparated from the rest of the world and firmly bound together by the same rights, interests and dangers. Let these keep our attention inflexibly fixed on the great objects which we must continually regard in order to preserve those rights, to promote those interests, and to avert those dangers.
Let these truths be indelibly impressed on our mindsthat we cannot be happy without being freethat we cannot be free without being secure in our propertythat we cannot be secure in our property, if, without our consent others may, as by right, take it awaythat taxes imposed on us by parliament do thus take it awaythat duties laid for the sole purpose of raising money are taxesthat attempts to lay such duties should be instantly and firmly opposedthat this opposition can never be effectual unless it is the united effort of these provincesthat therefore benevolence of temper towards each other and unanimity of counsels are essential to the welfare of the wholeand lastly, that for this reason every man amongst us who in any manner would encourage either dissension, diffidence, or indifference between these colonies, is an enemy to himself, and to his country.