Travels through the middle settlements in North America Introduction

Travels through the middle settlements in North America Introduction is in Travels through the middle settlements in North America.

A few days before I embarked for America, being in a coffee-house with some friends, and discoursing of things relative to that country, an elderly gentleman advancing towards the box where we were fitting, addressed himself to me in the following manner: "Sir," said he, "you are young, and just entering into the world; I am old, and upon the point of leaving it: allow me therefore to give you one piece of advice, which is the result of experience; and which may posslibly, some time or other, be of use to you. You are going to a country where every thing will appear new and wonderful to you; but it will appear fo only for a while; for the novelty of it will daily wear off; and in time it will grow quite familiar to you. Let me, therefore, recommend to you to note in your pocket-book every circumstance that may make an impression upon you; for be allured, for, though it may afterward appear familiar and uninteresting to yourself, it will not appear so to your friends, who have never visited that country, for they will be entertained by it."

The following observations were the result of this advice: they were written upon the several spots to which they refer; and were intended for no other purpose, than that of serving as memorandums. They appeared, by the time I returned to Europe, according to the gentleman's prediction, so very familiar to me, that I scarceiy thought them deserving of the perusal of my friends. Some of these, however, were so obliging as to bestow upon them that trouble; and it is by their advice, and the consideration of the present critical situation of affairs, that I now submit them to the judgment of the public. - Whatever may be their merit, which I fear is but small, I can assure the reader of one thing, I believe they are generally true. They are the fruit of the most impartial inquiries, and best intelligence, that I was able to procure in the different colonies which I visited. If I have been led into any error, or have mis-represented any thing, it has been undesignedly: a spirit of party is universally prevalent in America, and it is not always an easy matter to arrive at the knowledge of truth: but I believe, in general, I have been pretty successful. I conversed indiscriminately with persons of all parties; and endeavoured, by allowing for prejudices and collating their different accounts, to get at the true one. If I have any doubt myself about any particular part of the following observations (and it is one in which I wiih. I may be found to have been mifinformed), it is that which relates to the character of the Rhode-Islanders. I was exceedingly ill at that place, and had not the same opportunity of procuring information as elsewhere. I conversed with but few gentlemen, and they were principally of one party; but they were gentlemen of such universal good character, that I could not but rely in some measure on the accounts with which they favoured me. Some allowance, however, I did make for prejudice; and I am desirous that the reader should make a still larger one; indeed, I should be happy to stand corrected in regard to what I have said of that people, as no one can have less pleasure in speaking unfavourably of mankind than myself.

I have studioufly avoided all technical or scientific terms; such to the informed reader are unnecessary, to the uninformed one they are unintelligible and perplexing: in relations of this kind, they have always an appearance of affectation and pedantry.

For the most valuable part of the following collection, I mean the Diary1 of the Weather, I am intirely indebted to my esteemed friend, Francis Fauquier, esq. son of the late worthy lieutenant-governor of Virginia; who very obligingly transmitted it to me from Williamsburg, while I resided, as chaplain to the British factory, at Leghorn; and has allowed me to make the use of it which I have here done.

Note 1. See Appendix, N° 5.

The present unhappy differences subsisting among us, with regard to America, will, I am sensible, expose the publication of this account to much censure and criticism; but I can truly aver, that I have been led to it by no party motive whatfoever. My first attachment, as it is natural, is to my native country; my next is to America; and such is my affection for both, that I hope nothing will ever happen to dissolve that union, which is necessary to their common happiness. Let every Englishman and American, but for a moment or two, substitute themfelves in each other's place, and, I think, a mode of reconciliation will soon take effect. - Every American will then perceive the reasonableness, of acknowledging the Supremacy of the British legislature; and every Englishman, perhaps, the hardship of being taxed where there is no reprefentation, or assent.

There is scarcely any such thing, I believe, as a perfect government; and solecisms are to be found in all. The present disputes are seemingly the result of one. - Nothing can be more undeniable than the supremacy of parliament over the most distant branches of the British, empire: for although the king being estleemed, in the eye of the law, the original proprietor of all the lands in the kingdom; all lands, upon defect of heirs to succeed to an inheritance, escheat to the king; and all new discovered lands vest in him: yet in neither case can he exempt them from the jurisdiction of the legislature of the kingdom.

He may grant them, under leafes or charters, to individuals or companies; with liberty of making rules and regulations for the internal government and improvement of them; but such regulations must ever be consistent with the laws of the kingdom, and subject to their controul.

On the other hand, I am extremely dubious, whether it be consistent with the general principles of liberty (with those of the British constitution I think it is not) to tax where there is no representation: the arguments hitherto adduced from Manchester and Birmingham, and other great towns, not having representatives, are foreign to the subjects; at least they are by no means equal to it; - for every inhabitant, possessed of forty shillings freehold, has a vote in the election of members for the county: but it is not the persons, but the property of men that is taxed, and there is not a foot of property in this kingdom, that is not represented.

It appears then, that certain principles exist in the British constitution, which militate with each other; the reason of their doing so is evident; it was never supposed that they would extend beyond the limits of Great Britain, or affect so distant a country as America. It is much to be wished, therefore, that some expedient could be thought of to reconcile them.

The conduct of the several adminiftrations, that have had the direction of the affairs of this kingdom, has been reciprocally arraigned; but, I think, without reason; for, all things considered, an impartial and dispassionate mind will find many excuses to alledge in justification of each, - The fewest, I am afraid, are to be pleaded in favour of the Americans; for they settled in America under charters, which expressly reserved to the British Parliament the authority, whether confident or not confident, now asserted. Although, therefore, they had a right to make humble representations to his majesty in parliament, and to shew the impropriety and inconvenience of inforcing such principles, yet they had certainly no right to oppose them.

Expedients may still be found, it is to be hoped however, to conciliate the present unhappy differences, and restore harmony again between Great Britain and her colonies; but whatever measures may be adopted by parliament, it is the duty and interest of America to submit. - But it is impertinent to enter any farther into the discussion of a subject, which is at this time under the deliberation of the supreme council of the nation. I will, therefore, conclude with a sincere prayer, that whatever measures may be adopted, they may be different in their issue, from what the fears of men generally lead them to preconceive; and that, if they be coercive ones, they may be inforced, which, I am persuaded, is practicable, without the effusion of blood: if lenient ones, which are preferable, and which I think equally practicable, conceded without any loss or diminution of the dignity or interest of this kingdom.

Greenwich, Jan. 23d, 1775.