Papers of John Adams, volume 1

Committee of the Boston Sons of Liberty to John Wilkes, 5 October 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, 5 October 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
Sir Boston Octr 5. 1768

Your very obliging favor1 we receiv'd by Capt. Bruce the 18th ultimo. The members were immediately assembled and inexpressible was the satisfaction of our regale on the genuine sentiments of a worthy Briton.

Your health your friends and cause were the toasts of the evening. We congratulated ourselves on our well plac'd confidence, and presumed much on the exertions of such a Martyr to universal Liberty.

We feel with fraternal concern, that Europe in a ferment, America on the point of bursting into flames, more pressingly require the Patriot-senator, the wise and honest Counsellor, than the desolating conqueror. Your noble disdain of inadequate ministers and contemptible salary hunters has by no means impair'd our sense of the dignity of a Freeman, or the importance of defending his minutest privilege against the determined invasion of the most formidable power on earth. And did not a British affection and hopes of a speedy reform in British councils sooth and restrain a too well founded resentment; no one can divine what long e'er now had been the condition of the creatures of that administration which has fill'd Great Britain and the Colonies with high and universal discontent—Has almost unhinged their commercial and political connections—Has annihilated the constitutional legislature of this Province—Has turn'd our Parliament-house into a main guard—Issued orders to evacuate our Province Factory of its inhabitants to convert it into a Barrack for soldiers, after sufficient provision had been made elsewhere—And endeavour'd by pitiful art, and emissaries to effect what usurped and stretch'd authority dared not to pursue.2

Can Britons wish to see us abandon our lives and properties to such rapine and plunder? To become traitors to that Constitution which for 221 222 ages has been the citadel of their own safety. To acknowledge fellow subjects for absolute sovereigns, that by our example they may be the more readily reduced to absolute slaves.

Is our reluctance to oppose Brother to Brother deemed a prospect of our submission? Or e contra is a mere presumption that indignation and despair must hurry us on to violent measures, ground sufficient to treat us with all the parade of a triumph over vanquish'd Rebels? Humiliating as this may seem, it is Sir, the case of a territory containing near four hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants, which has never hitherto produced a single Jacobite.

With ardent wishes for your speedy enlargement; elated expectations of sharing in your impartial concern for your Country, the spreading empire of your Sovereign wherever extended: We remain—Unshaken Hero Your steady friends and much obliged humble Servants,

Benj. Kent Tho. Young Benja Church Jr. John Adams Joseph Warren

Numerous Friends in the Colonies discovering a great desire to see your Letter to us, we presume to prefer their request for your leave to its publication.3

RC (BM:Add. MSS 30870, f. 75–76); addressed: “To John Wilkes Esqr.”; endorsed: “By Captain Scott: receiv'd Nov. 7. 1768. in the King's Bench Prison.” This letter, signed by JA and others, was probably drafted by Joseph Warren. On 13 April 1769, Warren wrote privately to Wilkes: “I had the Honor (by the Desire of a number of Gentlemen) of writing to you some time past in conjunction with four other Persons” (MHS, Procs. , 47 [1913–1914]:200)


See 6 June 1768, note 3, above.


In the months after the Committee's previous letter to Wilkes, the political independence and opposition to Crown measures shown by the province had provoked stern countermeasures. On 1 July 1768, Gov. Bernard dissolved the General Court after the legislature refused to rescind its circular letter of 11 Feb. 1768 to the other American colonies. In September, citizens learned that four regiments of British troops were to be stationed in Boston. Quartering these troops quickly became a political issue, with the Council and Boston selectmen declining to make any provision for housing the troops until it was shown that the existing barracks at Castle William would be inadequate. Accordingly, when the first two regiments landed on 1 Oct., their commander attempted to install them in the Manufactory House, a facility owned by the province for the housing and employment of indigent citizens. When this failed, the Boston selectmen grudgingly consented to lodge some of the soldiers in Faneuil Hall for a few days. On 2 Oct., the Governor opened part of the Old Town House, meeting place of the General Court, to other members of the regiments (Hutchinson, Massa-223chusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 3:141–154; Boston Evening-Post, 26 Sept., 3 Oct. 1768; M-Ar:Exec. Council Records, 16:353–363).


In his reply to this request, Wilkes cautioned the Committee: “I submit to you, Gentlemen, the propriety of a publication of any letters which may pass between us. You are the true judges for what may respect the new world. Perhaps while I am doom'd to this prison, unfair advantages might be taken against me, which I should find it difficult to overcome. I leave, however, the whole to your mature consideration, with the truest assurance that in whatever way I can serve the generous cause of liberty, I will be active and zealous” (copy of letter of 30 March 1769, BM:Add. MSS 30870, f. 135–136; printed in MHS, Procs. , 47 [1913–1914]: 197–198). For the decision of the Sons of Liberty on publication, see 4 Nov. 1769, below.