From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.
The dependence of these colonies on the mother country was, a few years ago, esteemed so essential to their happiness, that the man who could suppose them to have formed the design of a separation, would have been accused of madness, and treated as their greatest enemy. How could it be imagined that the ties of religion, laws, manners, and commerce, not to mention those of duty and allegiance, would have been universally forgot, and that, too, at the very time when the colonists were professing the deepest sense of them? It is certain that the British nation could not, for a long time, be induced to believe that the colonies seriously entertained such a design; and those who, from the inordinate ambition of individuals, and the blind fury of a misguided populace, foretold the event, were doomed, like Cassandra, not to be credited, although they spoke the truth.
But remote from the probability as this design would some time ago have been imagined, it is by no means so strange as the conjunction which the colonies have formed with the French nation—a conjunction so unnatural, that we might as well have expected to see the tiger and the ox feed at one stall, or the lion and the lamb lie down together.
The seeming indifference with which many of the colonists regard this baneful alliance, may serve to remind us of an observation, founded in experience, that those things which would have struck us with amazement if related of former ages, pass without causing any such impression when they happen in our own times. A celebrated writer and great politician carries this matter so far as to declare, that he is well convinced the appointment of Caligula’s horse to be consul was not thought very extraordinary when it actually took place, notwithstanding the gross absurdity of the fact, and the manner we are affected by it as it appears in the page of history.
When posterity shall observe the colonies disdainfully rejecting every advance to an accommodation made by the parent country, with the most liberal offers of freedom and security, and shall behold them, on the other hand, crouching, in the most humiliating manner, to a petty servant of the French despot, from whom they can expect neither liberty nor safety, they will doubtless be struck with indignation and surprise, though too many Americans at this day seem insensible to such emotions.
In politics, as well as in optics, it is necessary for clear and distinct vision, that the object should be placed at a certain distance, because otherwise, in the one case, we may indeed scan a part, but cannot comprehend the whole; and in the other, we are prevented from seeing clearly by that cloud of interest and prejudice which never fails to arise during the existence of the transaction.
For this reason, it may not be amiss in some cases to supply by art the distance that would otherwise be wanting, and we may procure that effect either by producing from history similar transactions, which cannot fail of seizing and affecting the mind of the reader, or by throwing into one striking picture the consequences “of a measure before passion has prepared the people to embrace them.
Thus a lively representation of the distress to which Great Britain was reduced in the reign of King Charles, when designing men, under pretence of oppression, and with affected regard for liberty and property, overthrew the “barriers which the constitution had raised for the security of both; when a military force, for the purpose of a civil war, was intrusted to the direction of butchers, pettifoggers, draymen, and cobblers, and almost every character of worth and distinction in the nation was sooner or later exposed to ruin, with the unbounded despotism in one man which then ensued, and always will ensue, in similar circumstances, might have afforded excellent and obvious lessons to the colonies at the time that they engaged in this unnatural rebellion.
In like manner, the calamities which the Britons underwent, when attending only “to the suggestions of present fears” they invited the Saxons into the kingdom, would, if properly depictured, have been sufficient to deter any prudent people from pledging their country to foreigners, or giving them any considerable footing in it on account of domestic quarrels.
It is sufficient for the present purpose to have just hinted at these matters. The history of every age and every nation may, in like manner, afford excellent cautions to all persons of judgment and reflection. But it may not be improper to suggest a few particulars to the Americans respecting the probable consequences of their alliance and connection with France.
The event of war is always uncertain; but if we may judge from the wealth and resources of Britain—the spirit of the nation—the magnanimity of the king—the abilities, bravery, and experience of the commanders both by sea and land, joined to the approved discipline and valor of her troops, and the expert-ness and courage of her seamen, there is all imaginable reason to suppose that the Grand Monarque will ere long be glad to renounce his perfidious alliance, and the Americans be forced to sue with disgrace for those terms which they might before have accepted with honor. On the other hand, even if America, by the power of France and French troops, should oblige Britain to relinquish her just claim to an equitable union of force and interests, what advantage would the colonies reap from the event? Religion, with tattered garments and mournful eye, would lament the success which exposed her to the shackles of Popish superstition, and the lash of unfeeling persecutors; whilst indignant freedom would fly with disgust from a land devoted to the arbitrary domination, of a French tyrant.
Let us for a moment suppose the American triumph complete, and that some of those events which must inevitably follow it, had already taken place; and let us imagine ourselves reading a few passages of an American newspaper, containing an account of some other particulars, which we may reasonably judge to be of the following nature:
Boston, November 10, 1789.—
His Excellency Count Tyran, has this day published, by authority from his Majesty, a proclamation for the supression of heresy and establishment of the inquisition in this town, which has already began its functions in many other places of the continent under his Majesty’s dominion.
The use of the Bible in the vulgar tongue is strictly prohibited, on pain of being punished by discretion of the inquisition.
The Catholic religion is not only outwardly professed, but has made the utmost progress among all ranks of people here, owing, in a great measure, to the unwearied labors of the Dominican and Franciscan friars, who omit no opportunity of scattering the seeds of religion, and converting the wives and daughters of heretics. We hear that the building formerly called the Old South Meeting, is fitting up for a cathedral, and that several other old meeting-houses are soon to be repaired for convents.
This day being Sunday, the famous Samuel Adams read his recantation of heresy, after which he was present at mass, and we hear he will soon receive priest’s orders to qualify him for a member of the American Sorbonne.
A vessel is just arrived from Nantes, which brings advice that the king has conferred the sole and exclusive right of fishing in the American seas upon a company of merchants in Havre de Grace, and that any of his American subjects who infringe that right will be punished in the severest manner.
The king has been pleased to order that five thousand of the inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay shall be drafted to supply his garrisons in the West Indies; the officers for them are already arrived from France.
Hartford, November 14.—
His Excellency the Marquis D’lmperieuse has, by command of his Majesty, prohibited the making or vending of rum within his government, it having been found by experience to interfere with the sale of French brandy.
New York, November 15.—
The edict for prohibiting the use of the English language, and establishing that of the French in all law proceedings, will take place on the 20th instant. At the same time, the ordinance for abolishing trials by juries, and introducing the imperial law, will begin to take effect.
Philadelphia, November 16.—
On Tuesday last arrived here the St. Esprit, from Bordeaux, with a most valuable cargo of rosaries, mass books, and indulgences, which have been long expected. It is said she has twenty thousand pair of wooden shoes on board. N. B. They are found to be much lighter than any made of English leather.
On Monday next Te Deum will be celebrated in the Grand Cathedral, on account of a great victory obtained over the Dutch in Flanders. It is hoped that the Protestant heresy will soon be extirpated in all parts of Europe. A grand Auto de Fé is to be performed on Wednesday next. Father Le Cruel, president of the inquisition in this city, out of a tender regard for the salvation of mankind, has thought proper that an example should be made of an old fellow of the age of ninety, convicted of Quakerism, and of reading the Bible, a copy of which, in the English language, was found in his possession. He was hardened and obstinate beyond measure, and could not be prevailed on to retract his errors.
A criminal of importance, who has been long imprisoned in the New Bastile, was this day privately beheaded. He commanded the American forces against Great Britain for a considerable time, but was confined by order of government on suspicion of possessing a dangerous influence in a country newly conquered, and not thoroughly settled.
Mr. Duer was, by order of the viceroy, and at the request of the holy tribunal, sentenced to the galleys for profane and obscene language. He would have been broke on the wheel, had he not pleaded his former services in reducing the country to his Majesty’s obedience.
The king has been pleased to parcel out a great part of the lands in America to noblemen of distinction, who will grant them again to the peasantry upon leases at will, with the reservation of proper rents and services.
His Majesty has been graciously pleased to order that none of the natives of America shall keep any firearms in their possession, upon pain of being sentenced to the galleys.
It is expected that the gabelle upon salt will produce a considerable revenue to the crown. After paying the customary duties in France, it is chargeable only with thirty livres per bushel additional duty in America. No salt can be imported except from the French territories in Europe.
Obadiah Standfast, the Quaker, was this day burnt, pursuant to his sentence.
We hear from Williamsburg, in Virginia, that some commotions took place there when the new capitation tax was first executed. But the regiment of Bretagne, being stationed in that neighborhood, speedily suppressed them by firing upon the populace, and killing fifty on the spot. It is hoped that this example will prevent any future insurrection in that part of the country.
His Majesty has directed his viceroy to send five hundred sons of the principal inhabitants of America, to be educated in France, where the utmost care will be taken to imbue them with a just regard for the Catholic faith, and a due sense of subordination to government.
It is ordered that all the trade of America shall be carried on in French “bottoms, navigated by French seamen.”
Such is the glorious specimen of happiness to be enjoyed by America, in case the interposition of France shall enable her to shake off her dependence on Great Britain—Di talem avertite casum.1
1 Rivington’s Royal Gazette, March 17.