Papers of John Adams, volume 1

Committee of the Boston Sons of Liberty to John Wilkes, 6 June 1768 JA Kent, Benjamin Young, Thomas Church, Benjamin Warren, Joseph Boston Sons of Liberty Wilkes, John


Committee of the Boston Sons of Liberty to John Wilkes, 6 June 1768 Adams, John Kent, Benjamin Young, Thomas Church, Benjamin Warren, Joseph Boston Sons of Liberty Wilkes, John
Committee of the Boston Sons of Liberty to John Wilkes
Illustrious Patriot Boston 6th June 1768

The friends of Liberty, Wilkes, Peace and good order to the number of Forty five, assembled at the Whig Tavern Boston New England, take this first opportunity to congratulate your Country, the British Colonies and yourself, on your happy return to the land alone worthy such an Inhabitant: worthy! as they have lately manifested an incontestible proof of virtue, in the honorable and most important trust reposed in you by the County of Middlesex.1


May you convince Great Britain and Ireland in Europe, the British Colonies, Islands and Plantations in America, that you are one of those incorruptibly honest men reserved by heaven to bless, and perhaps save a tottering Empire. That Majesty can never be secure but in the Arms of a brave, a virtuous, and united people. That nothing but a common interest, and absolute confidence in an impartial and general protection, can combine so many Millions of Men, born to make laws for themselves; conscious and invincibly tenacious of their Rights.

That the British Constitution still exists is our Glory; feeble and infirm as it is, we cannot, we will not despair of it. To a Wilkes much is already due for his strenuous efforts to preserve it. Those generous and inflexible principles which have rendered you so greatly eminent, support our claim to your esteem and assistance. To vindicate Americans is—not to desert yourself.

Permit us therefore much respected Sir, to express our confidence in your approved abilities and steady Patriotism. Your Country, the British Empire, and unborn millions plead an exertion, at this alarming Crisis. Your perseverance in the good old cause may still prevent the great System from dashing to pieces. 'Tis from your endeavors we hope for a Royal “Pascite, ut ante, boves”;2 and from our attachment to “peace and good order” we wait for a constitutional redress: being determined that the King of Great Britain shall have Subjects but not Slaves in these remote parts of his Dominions.

We humbly present you the Farmer. His sentiments are ours.

If we dare lisp a wish to be indulged with a line from you a direction to John Marston Esq. at the Whig Tavern Boston would assuredly reach the hands of Worthy Sir

Your most faithfull and obedt. humble Servants,3 Benjamin Kent Tho Young Benjamin Church junr. John Adams Joseph Warren Committee of the Sons of Liberty John Adams in the Town of Boston

RC (BM:Add. MSS 30870, f. 45). Enclosure: John Dickinson, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, probably the edition offered for sale by Edes & Gill in the Boston Gazette, 30 May 1768.


John Wilkes' cause had been espoused by American radicals when the British politician was charged with seditious libel for his part in publishing North Briton, No. 45, in 1763. Interest in his plight abated after he fled to the Continent to escape prosecution under this charge, but American enthusiasm for Wilkes revived in the late spring of 1768 when news of his return to England and his election to Parliament from Middlesex reached the colonies. The 216 Boston Gazette of 30 May had carried a detailed account of his reception and return to Commons, which predicted that Wilkes would be spared further legal action and be allowed to take his seat in Parliament; fourteen days later the Gazette's readers learned that Wilkes had, instead, been arrested and committed to King's Bench prison in April. For an analysis of his place in colonial political thought, see Pauline Maier, “John Wilkes and American Disillusionment with Britain,” WMQ , 3d ser., 20:373–395 (July 1963).


“Put your cows out to pasture as you did before” (that is, before your farm was taken; Virgil, Eclogues, 1. 46).


In his reply of 19 July to the Committee Wilkes expressed his satisfaction at finding that “the true spirit of Liberty [is] so generally diffus'd thro' the most remote parts of the British Monarchy.” He vowed that it would “be the study of my life ... to give you and all my fellow subjects the clearest proofs that I have at heart the wellfare and prosperity of every part of this great Monarchy” (BM:Add. MSS 30870, f. 46; printed in MHS, Procs. , 47 [1913–1914]: 192–193). For the continuation of this correspondence, see 5 Oct. 1768 and 4 Nov. 1769, below.