Today I’m availing myself of the Eighteenth-Century Reading Room blog to share quotes from two publications that express the British/Loyalist side of the conflict. Both examine the primary mystery that baffled imperial politicians of the period: how could Britain’s American colonists could be so blind and/or selfish as to fight to get out of the finest form of government that humanity had ever developed (and, by implication, would ever develop)?
John Andrews (1736-1809) was a London historian and pamphleteer. (He is different from the Boston merchant John Andrews whose letters I like to quote.) Andrews’s four-volume History of the War with America, France, Spain; and Holland; commencing in 1775 and ending in 1783, published two years after the Treaty of Paris, shows how the London establishment viewed the colonies as the political conflict started.
The state of the British Colonies at the Aera of the general pacification [after 1763], was such as attracted the attention of all the politicians in Europe. Their flourishing condition at that period was remarkable and striking; their trade had prospered in the midst of all the difficulties and distresses of a war, in which they were so nearly and so immediately concerned. Their population continued on the increase, notwithstanding the ravages and depredations that had been so fiercely carried on by the French, and the native Indians in their alliance. All this shewed the innate strength and vigour of the constitution of the British Colonies.Today’s second extract is from a pamphlet titled Plain Truth; Addressed to the Inhabitants of America. Containing Remarks on a late Pamphlet, Intitled Common Sense; Wherein are shewn, that the Scheme of Independence is ruinous, delusive, and impracticable.
The conclusion of the quarrel between Great Britain and France, placed them immediately on such a footing as could not fail to double every advantage they already possest. — They abounded with spirited and active individuals of all denominations. They were flushed with the uncommon porosperity that had attended them in their commercial affairs and military transactions. The natural consequence of such a disposition was, that they were ready for all kind of undertakings; and saw no limits to their hopes and expectations.
As they entertained the highest opinion of their value and importance, and of the immense benefit that England derived from its connection with them, their notions were adequately high in their favour. They deemed themselves, not without reason, entitled to every kindness and indulgence which the mother-country could bestow.
Though their pretensions did not amount to a perfect equality of advantages and privileges in matters of commerce, yet in those of government, they thought themselves fully competent to the task of conducting their domestic concerns, with little or no interference from abroad. Though willing to admit the supremacy of Great Britain, they viewed it with a suspicious eye, and with a marked desire and intent speedily to give it limitations.
This pamphlet was advertised for sale by the Pennsylvania Ledger in March 1776, a few months after Thomas Paine’s republican manifesto. It was signed “Candidus,” who has since been identified as James Chalmers (1727-1806), a Maryland planter. Born in Scotland, Chalmers went to the Caribbean as a teenager and earned enough to bring several enslaved people and £10,000 to the mainland when he decided to settle there in 1760. As the war moved closer to his colony, Chalmers wrote:
I have now before me the pamphlet intitled Common Sense; on which I shall remark with freedom and candour. It may not be improper to remind my reader, that the investigation of my subject demands the utmost freedom of enquiry; I therefore entreat his indulgence, and that he will carefully remember, that intemperate zeal is an injurious to liberty, as a manly discussion of facts is friendly to it.Anything but that.
“Liberty, says the great Montesquieu, is a right of doing whatever the laws permit; and if a citizen could do what they forbid, he would no longer be possessed of liberty, because all his fellow citizens would have the same power.” In the beginning of his pamphlet the author asserts, that society in every state is a blessing. This in the sincerity of my heart I deny; for it is supreme misery to be associated with those who, to promote their ambitious purposes, flagitiously pervert the ends of political society. . . .
Our political quack avails himself of this trite expedient, so cajole the people into the most abject slavery, under the delusive name of independence. His first indecent attack is against the English constitution, which, with all its imperfections, is, and ever will be, the pride and envy of mankind. . . . This beautiful system (according to Montesquieu) our constitution is a compound of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. But it is often said, that the sovereign, by honours and appointments, influences the commons. The profound and elegant Hume agitating this question, thinks, to this circumstance, we are in part indebted for our supreme felicity; since, without such controul in the crown, our constitution would immediately degenerate into democracy.