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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 Feeling of Englishmen

By Josiah Quincy, Jr. (1744–1775)

[Letter to Mrs. Quincy.—London, 24 November, 1774. From Memoir of the Life of Josiah Quincy, Jun. 1825.]

AMERICA hath none to fear so much as her own children. Some of these are inveterate and persevering beyond example or conception. Seeing I have not time to give you a regular detail of all I have heard and seen, you will probably inquire, “What is the substance of what you collect? What is your own private opinion?” To gratify my friends on these heads was the cause of my snatching this hasty moment, and transmitting my opinion.

The minds of people are strangely altered in this island;—the many are now as prone to justify and applaud the Americans, as, but a little while ago, they were ready to condemn and punish. I have conversed with almost all ranks of people for these fifteen days past, and having been in very large circles of the sensible part of the community during that time, my opportunity for information was the more fortunate. I came among a people, I was told, that breathed nothing but punishment and destruction against Boston and all America. I found a people many of whom revere, love, and heartily wish well to us. Now is it strange that it should be so? For abstracted from the pleasure that a good mind takes in seeing truth and justice prevail, it is the interest, the highest private interest of this whole nation, to be our fast friends;—and strange as it may seem when you consider the conduct of the nation as represented in Parliament, the people know it. The following language has been reiterated to me in various companies, with approbation and warmth.

“We are afraid of nothing but your division and your want of perseverance. Unite and persevere. You must prevail,—you must triumph.”

This and similar language hath been held to me with a zeal that bespoke it came from the heart,—with a frequency that proved such sentiments dwelt upon the mind. I could name you the first characters for understanding, integrity, and spirit, who have held such language;—but it would be improper to name those who might perhaps be discovered through the indiscretion of American friends, or the prying villany of public conspirators. Bowdoin, Winthrop, Chauncy, Cooper, Warren, etc., can recollect whom they introduced me to, and thence conjecture a few of those whose British hearts are thus in America.

Great is the anxiety here lest the Congress should petition or remonstrate. In the arts of negotiation, your adversaries are infinitely your superiors. If that mode of proceeding is adopted by the Congress, many very many friends will sink,—they will desert your cause from despondency. At present (as I am assured and as I verily believe) could the voices of this nation be collected by any fair method, twenty to one would be in favor of the Americans. You wonder and say, “Then whence is it that they do not exert themselves?” One American phrase will give you the true reason. The people are “cowed” by oppression. It is amazing,—it is incredible how much this is the case. Corruption, baseness, fraud, exorbitant oppression never so abounded as in this island. And will you believe me when I say that Englishmen—that boasted race of freemen—are sunk in abject submission.

From Parliament, therefore, expect no favor but what proceeds from fear,—from the people here expect no aid. It is yourselves, it is yourselves must save you; and you are equal to the task. Your friends know this, and your very enemies acknowledge it. But they believe you are as corrupt and as corruptible as themselves; and as destitute of union, spirit, and perseverance, as the friends of freedom are in this country. For your country’s sake, depend not upon commercial plans alone for your safety. The manufacturers begin to feel,—they know, they acknowledge,—they must feel severely; and if you persevere, they must be ruined. But what are these men,—what are the body of this people? The servants of their masters. How easy it is for the ministry to frown or flatter them into silence. How easy to take the spoils of the nation and, for a season, fill the mouths of the clamorous. It is true, your perseverance will occasion, in time, that hunger which will break through stone walls. But how difficult is it, how impracticable is it, for mere commercial virtue (if indeed it have any existence) to persevere. I repeat, therefore—depend not upon this scheme for your deliverance. I do not say renounce it—I say continue it; but look toward it in vast subordination to those noble, generous, and glorious exertions which alone can save you. Before I came among this people, the friends of liberty desponded; because they believed the Americans would give up. They saw the irretrievable ruin of the whole cause, lost in that fatal yielding. I feel no despondence myself—I am sanguine my country must prevail. I feel the ardor of an American; I have lighted up the countenances of many; I am speaking conviction every day to more. In short, I am infected with an enthusiasm which I know to be contagious. Whether I have caught or spread the infection here, is no matter needful to determine.