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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Duty of Americans

By Josiah Quincy, Jr. (1744–1775)

[Letter to Mrs. Quincy.—London, 14 December, 1774. From Memoir of the Life of Josiah Quincy, Jun. 1825.]

THERE is not a sensible man of either party here, but acknowledges your ability to save your country if you have but union, courage, and perseverance. But your enemies pretend to be sanguine that your avarice of commercial riches will dissolve your union and mutual confidence, that your boasted courage is but vapor, and that your perseverance will be as the morning cloud.

Let me tell you one very serious truth, in which we are all agreed, your countrymen must seal their cause with their blood. You know how often, and how long ago, I said this. I see every day more and more reason to confirm my opinion. I every day find characters dignified by science, rank, and station, of the same sentiment. Lord ——— said to me yesterday: “It is idle, it is idle, Mr. ———; this country will never carry on a civil war against America; we cannot, but the ministry hope to carry all by a single stroke.” I should be glad to name the lord, but think it not best. Surely my countrymen will recollect the words I held to them this time twelvemonth: “It is not, Mr. Moderator, the spirit that vapors within these walls that must stand us in stead. The exertions of this day will call forth events which will make a very different spirit necessary for our salvation. Look to the end. Whoever supposes that shouts and hosannas will terminate the trials of the day entertains a childish fancy. We must be grossly ignorant of the importance and value of the prize for which we contend; we must be equally ignorant of the powers of those who have combined against us; we must be blind to that malice, inveteracy, and insatiable revenge which actuate our enemies, public and private, abroad and in our bosom, to hope we shall end this controversy without the sharpest—the sharpest conflicts; to flatter ourselves that popular resolves, popular harangues, popular acclamations, and popular vapor will vanquish our foes. Let us consider the issue. Let us look to the end. Let us weigh and consider, before we advance to those measures which must bring on the most trying and terrible struggle this country ever saw.”

Hundreds, I believe, will call these words, and many more of the same import, to remembrance. Hundreds, who heretofore doubted, are long ere this convinced I was right. The popular sentiments of the day prevailed; they advanced with “resolutions” to hazard and abide the consequences. They must now stand the issue; they must preserve a consistency of character; they must not delay; they must ——— ——— or be trodden into the vilest vassalage, the scorn, the spurn of their enemies, a by-word of infamy among all men.