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Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

To Massachusettensis
RTP Massachusettensis
January? 1775 To &c.1

“When a People by what means soever are reduced to such a scituation” as to have the dearest Rights of Man Kind of Compacts & Inheritance called in Question at Stake their Claims to them called in Question & every method made use of wch. Interest Envy malice & Revenge can suggest to extort them from us, it is not only excusable but even praise worthy for an Individual to offer to the Public any thing he may think has a tendency to ward off the impending danger & by suitable observations to prevent a people from being misled in matters which so nearly concern them.

It is with this design I now address you, intending to make some observations on divers late Publications more especially on those signed Massachusetensis, the manifest design of which is, by threats perswasions & great misrepresentations to induce us to submit to these new Regulations of Government & all others the ministry may please to impose on us, implicitly & witht. the least species of Resistance.

In penning this plan Massa: has most labouriously drawn into view every circumstance that can be painted to amuse or terrify has given loose to all his powers of discription, & has drawn the most frightful picture his Imagination could suggest or his pen discribe of our scituation witht. even giving the least kind hint of any alternative or what our scituation would 22be if we comply with his proposal: indeed in his first Letter of Decr. 12. he has told we have passed the Rubicon.

Had he taken half the Pains to have described the scituation of this Prov. & Courts: if his Doc. should prove true & he really informed I think he would have drawn a Picture more terrible to view of a Freeman more hardly and admired by an American with his Connections abt. him & his posterity in view, than any thing he has so repeatedly declared the Calamity of Civil War & the punishmt. of Rebellion, a discription that would more deeply harrow up the soul of a Freeman than any Answer supposed by Massa. to be given by “an honest or dishonest Lawyer.”

From this observ: & many others that will occur in the Course of my Strictures I think it will plainly appear that the main Object Massa. has in View is at all Events & by all means to submitt to the new Regulations & that even on the pretence that they are most condusive to the happiness of the Province, so that not withstanding the repeated laboured raucous declarations of his good will & concern for the Gov. it is evident his Chief Concern is to have the Acts executed & how far he may be interested in the Honours Posts profits & perquisites thereof is a matter of no great importance to the Arguments, neither do I pretend that this Inclination of Massa. is any damage to his Argument so far as it is well grounded & fairly deduced, but surely when we see the whole drift & design of this writer we cannot be so unguarded as to substitute his artful declamation in the room of Argument. It must be very observable to any person who has attended to the Course of the Controversy that tho Massa: complains of the restraint of the Press by the Partisans of Liberty, yet that every argument he has made use has been retailed over & over again & as repeatedly Answered till the subject has been in a manner exhausted of both & Massach: by Collecting the Arguments into one declamation & interlarding it with so many pathetic degressions it convenient to review his addresses & point out the misrepresent: & false arguments:

Mass. after having spent his first Letter in an Expostulatory discription of the woful Scituation of the Prov: proceeds in the next & some following Letters to trace “this yet growing distemper thrô its several stages from its first Rise” in doing which he has given a most high coloured history of proceeding till he has worked up the disorders of Parliament Gov. to that Pitch as to make the Interposition of Parl. necessary, but necessary for what, why to lay the storm their own impolitic conduct had raised, till in short the Prophecy of many members of Parliament became 23history, in Order to have a full View of this Controversy & to be able fairly to determine the character of the Gov. resulting from their Conduct ought we not to Call to mind the conduct scituation of our public Affairs in all the parts in wch. Mass. has painted them & see what they were till the time he begins his History, & witht. entring minutely into the matter I may safely assert what has often been advanced by the Impartial, that Gov: in all its parts has been as well executed and Justice as impartially & fully distributed as in any place whatever, no People more sincerely & Zealously loyal to their Sovereign, no Colony People more affectionately connected with a mother Country or less desireous of parting from them disposed on all Occasions to consider their Prosperitys & Adversitys as our own & to exert themselves even beyond their Power to promote the one & avert the other so copious in this Subject & so replete with expressive Instances that fully to express it would exceed the limits of my present design, if there be any that deny this Account let them give any Instance beyond wt. have always been found in popular places & even in GB itself, can any one recollect the Conduct of Gov: during last War wth. feeling the most abundant proof of wt. I have now advance if they can let them read the many Letters & public Speeches of Gov. Bernard & they will be silenced. However I am not apprehensive that Truths so notorious are ever denyed except phps. by some high flying States Men who omit no opportunity to join in the cry against us on acct. of our Rel. Principles:

This was the Scituation of our Public affairs & Character at the close of the last War, when in some ill fated Hour the Genious of Discord was studious to distroy the Peace of Kingdom & Society suggested & urged on the Idea of Raising a Revenue in the Colonys. Here Massa. begins to “trace the growing distemper” & in Order to lay a proper foundation for his “charging our present Calamitys to the bad policy of the a popular party in the Province he sets out by shewing the Reason & propriety of raising a Tax on America, this Para: is well worthy of Notice because however much pains he takes to establish this plan yet we shall find him anon exclaiming against the Americans for making such Clamour for so small a matter as 3d. He tells us that GB found her self 150 millions in debt, that the Colonys are as much benefited. The Rev. from Am. amounted to but little more than the Charges of Collecting it.” “She thought it reasonable.” Upon this I would only observe that this province was allow’d to have done their proportion & more in the last War & the overplus was 24paid by the Parliamt. that the Benifit arising to the Colonys is at best problematical for their Lands fell in value thereby & no additional Trade accrues to them, but if the Consequences of the Conquest be that America must be taxed to pay the charge of the Reduction & also for the future support of the Nation witht. being Represented or having any consultation in or direction abt. the Taxes & at the same time be totally restrained in Trade & be deem’d Rebels & Traitors & threatned with Halters Confiscations fire & Sword, America for resisting such unreasonable & Oppressive Measures America I believe will scarce consider themselves as benefited by the conquest & had these dire consequences been forseen & realiz’d the Rejoycings & loud Pæans on acct. of the Success had been changed for Sorrow Lamentations & Woe; the colonys have always from the beggining supported themselves & are always ready so to do & to extort any thing further must be wrong & impolitic because it must eventually distroy itself by distroying us; taxes levyed in the Colonys by a Parent State are totally inconsistant with the Ideas of Commerce, the Restraining & reaping the full Profits of all our Trade is ample recompence for all the charges of Protection & especially wt. We consider the Revenue arising from it, let us ask wherein consists the Protection afforded us by GB. it doubtless is in their great Superiority at Sea, whence arose this great Superiority of Naval Strength. All Hist. & every writer on the subject tell you it was from her Trade with the colonys by wch. witht. one farthing of Taxes levyed in America she is become the mistress of the Sea & the great arbiter of European Trade & hold the balance of Power in Europe so that in fact the Protection of the Colonys has grown up wth them & from them, what Reason Right or Pretence thence can there be of Taxing a people the whole of whose Exertions centre in GB: Massa. in the beggining of his Letters has rather taken it for granted that we were righteously & equitably Subject to the Taxation & legislation of GB than endeavours to prove it till he comes to the last of his Letters & upon this Supposition he goes on to prove the ill conduct of the Whiggs. Whereas if it should turn out on Examination that there is no such Right in GB. or at least that it is doubtful & uncertain then surely his description of the conduct of the Whiggs in the main will redound to their honour: now this writer must know that the uncontended Right in the B Parl. to make laws binding as in all cases has been disputed from the begginning of the settlement of the Colonys and all occasions that required that matter be enquired into & therefore wn. America saw a settled Plan & System 25found by B Admn. to Raise a Revenue in America, this grand Ques: wch. had laid dormant for many years phps. thrô the whole Reign of the present Family, was revived with great Attention & every Brain was sat to work to reject the Principles on which is founded this most thorney Question: Massa: aclaims “that in an evil hour under the influence of some malignant Planet, the design was formd of opposing the Stamp Act by a denial of the right of Palimnt. to make it” the first Ques. here is whether it ought to have opposed at all? Surely, if wn. Acts are made wch. would overturn our Govermt. & drain us of our money we are not to oppose them, we are in an abject state indeed, if we are to oppose them, why not on the proper principle by sporting that denying that right which it was pretended to be founded, a Remonstrance was sent to Parl. agt. the Expediency of the act, but we were told that the House of Cmns. recieve no Petns. agt. money Bills & so there was no alternative but a tame submission to a Yoke wch. if once put on could never be thrown off, or else to make the fair bold manly opposition we did, it was a Quest. of rights & ought to have been duly Considered before they passed the Declaratry act, but as Massa says on the Occasion “the love of Empire is so predominant in the human breast that we rarely find an Individual content with relinquishing a power he is able to retain over a body of Men” the question seem’d to be settled more by might than Right:

The Repeal of Stamp Act restored Order & Peace saving the bickerings of a few who were disappointed by the Repeal of the Stamp Act & their adherents & tho the Dcly. Act was made, it was hoped to be but for forms sake & that nothing would take place in Consequence of it, but Alass the Plan & determination of Taxing & new Regulating America was too deeply rooted in the Hearts of Some restless shortsighted Politicians in Britain & some greedy seekers Tools & dependants in America to be suffered long to sleep, very soon came over an act imposing Dutys on Paper Glass & Tea &c by this time the Eyes of America were opned & a commercial Opposition of non Importation took place; we obtained a partial Repeal of this stat. of all the Dutys except on Tea “now was the time says Massa. to have made a safe & honble. Retreat” according to his acct. of the matter I think we did for he says our had order in England for Tea.

May we not retort the obs. & say that then was the time for the Parliament to desist new Impositions at a time when the 3d. duty was growing familiar, for it is only on Supposition of the Parl. resting here that it 26could be sd. then was the time to make an honble. Retreat, but so far was this from being the Intention of Parli. much less did they intend to repeal the Act intirely that another Act was made enabling the East India Company to send their Tea directly to America. Here it became evident that it was the determination of Parliament to avail themselves of this Revenue for the purpose of Regulating the Col. to which it was appropriated especially consid. it was then well known the Grant to the Gov. & to the Judges of this Prov. were founded on it, so that it is a most sophistical cavil for Massa. to say that the present Distraction took its rise from the Parlia: taking off 1/ Duty on a lb. of Tea & imposing 3d. Massa. well knows what has been repeatedly expressed & advanced that it was the Apprehension & satisfactory Evidence of a plan laid in Britain & fomented prompted & supported by seekers in America to new Regulate the Colonys in such a manner as to afford a sufficient fund for the support of Idle mischevous Pensioners & Placemen & to reduce as to the state of the Kingdom of Ireland of whom Montiesque2 says “tho’ this constitution is full yet the People are Slaves.” Respecting wt. follows the arrival of the Tea I shall at present only observe that he misrepresent the fact where he says the Consignees detained the first Tea ship that arrived at Castle William & that the Body meeting ordered her up to the wharf whereas the fact was she was far and within the Castle & under the Command of the Man of War when the orders were given to move to the wharf, I shall only add that there is no reason to doubt but that if the Consignees & others who interested themselves on that side had behaved with good disposition towards their Countrymen as the Consignees did at NYork & Philadelphia there is no doubt but the Teas had been sent back as safe as that was.

Let us now make some Strictures on the injurious & delusive manner in wch. Massa. represents the Conduct of the Whiggs under all there reall Sufferings & alarming prospects to what purpose is it he represents the Torys as desiring to close the controvery & the Whiggs to continue it, tho’ he acknowledges they were Men of Ability & Probity, can such men desire to continue so important a Controversy on such slight grounds as Massa. pretends, by no means the truth really is that a great Majority of the most discerning & well meaning people in this & the other Colonys were alarmed at the large strides taken by Admn. to suppress the Spirit of Liberty in America, they did what a people in their circumstances have always done when they have been able, they who had the first notices of 27& were best acquainted with these intentions sounded as in duty bound sounded the Alarm to the Country & informed them of & explained to them the Evils that were coming upon, & as was natural the most knowing took the lead & pointed out the measures: all the thoughtful & judicious, all that valued their own or that liberty of Posterity indeed all but those who prefered the Smiles of power to the good of their Country were rouzed to Consideration & Exertion; this is the Commotion wch. gives Massa. so much uneasiness & wch. he thinks himself obliged to describe in so rediculos & frivolous a motive. Let me ask when an Alarm was sounded thrô the Pro on acct. of D’Anvilles Squadron was it thought improper & stirring up the People witho. a Cause the Conduct of all who had a hand in that affair was deservedly applaud in being the natural & proper Efforts of a free & brave people on the approach of danger; then is no person but must think that the Evils that were feared were of a much more pernicious nature & destructive Consequences, natural therefore was for the people to send such men to represent them in Genl. Court as would exert themselves there to ward of the impending Evil, for this purpose are Representatives chosen & when they neglect or deny to speak the minds of their constituents they have a right to . . . exchange them for such as will do their duty. It is very astonishing that any writer on Politicks should pertend to fault the Majority of a house of Repre: for carrying their Measures agt. the minority, unless he can make it appear that the Electors of them were bribed with the public money & the members bought up by places & pensions to persue ministerial measures it is notorious from his whole Acct. of the matter that this overbearing hectoring dictating majority were sent by their constituents to persue such measures & thereupon the most sensible Calamity took place wch. Massa. Complains of the majority outvoted the minority, one perticular set of members. But says Massa. “a Master stroke in politiks respecting the agent ought not to be neglected.” I am quite of his mind the whole history of our Agency for some Years past ought to be held up as a striking Instance of the unreasonable treatment we recieve from GB. phps. there cannot be a greater Tryall on a free people than the manner in wch. the Admn. have managed that material affair of Colony Agency they say the agent should be jointly chosen by the 3 branches to be a proper Representative of the Colony, under the old Charter when the Gov. was Elective phps. it might be necessary but to me it appears clearly that since the Gov. is appointed by the King & represents him in the Gov. it is far different, our Gov. are 28under ministerial Instruction & never can be supposed to join wth. the people in Opposition the Doct. of our Govn. & their Adherents has been submitt and ask mercy & be content with wt. you recieve be it what it will, but the people abhoring such slavish Doc. thought fit to make their representatives noone in their own Way an Agent is necessary but says Admn. you shall have no Agent to manage this Controversy for you but such as the Gov. Approves & he shall instruct him; & we know he will approve of none that will enter into the spirit of the Opposition in the manner his Constituents most seasonably desire him: Massa. find faults that Town Meetings & Cmttes. of Correspondence &c should state grievance as disorderly & says they ought to be done by Gen. Ct. but say then Gen. Ct. must have no Agent but such as Gov. under ministerial Instructions approve of what is this better than gagging a man & then allowing him to tell his story; Treatment of this kind to the Colonys in the begginning of the Controversy was the real source of all the disorders that followed & not the irregular Conduct Disposition of the Whiggs for they found it necessary to appoint an Agent for the House in Order to have their Case truly represented wch. if right as it appears to me to be it ought not to be faulted & if wrong it is the natural conqueror of such severe treatment.

Massa. The affair of our Agency in general being thus Aspersed by Massa. he lets himself into a Consid: of the Conduct of the late Agent in Particular. I will not spend time to remark perticularly in the servile borrow’d abuse he so illiberally deals out to him, none but a person capable of prostituting his Talents to the basest purposes & of selling himself to speak out & write under the absolute direction of his preacher as could ever have suppose insinuated a person of the Character of the late Agent could descend to such Conduct, however but Massa. is intirely out in supposing this Agent was the primum mobile & that all the high measures were prompted him, however the greatest Odium they can cast on that Great Good Man are no recompence for the irreparable damage he did their cause & the service he did to the American Interest by Sending over the Letters of Gov Hutchinson.

We are now making a near approach to that new Regulation of the Council & Judges of the Supr. Court wch. Massa. & his Party have a long while had so much at heart & in order to reconcile you to it he set out to perswade you that the Council Board was so insulted by the Whiggs as that the political ballance of the province was distroyed, in order to deter 29mine this matter rightly it must first be clearly settled what is meant by the Political Balance if it be meant as the Whiggs say attending to & promoting the true Interest of the Province According to the Charter, then when they saw the Prospective Governour under Influence of Minis. Instructions even acting on the Privileges expressed in the Charter according to the Whigg Construction of it, it surely was their Duty to side with the Whiggs & thus balance them against the Prerogative; but if by this Political Balance is intended that the Council at all Events either support the Measures dictated by the Govr. whither they approved them or not or must always be such men as are full in sentiment wth. the Governour, that construction is mention intirely destroy the design of the Choice being in the People & the Regular way would be for the Gov to have the intire choice of the Council that was to be intirely under his dictation, but it is said a number of men of the first familys note & ability &c. were tumbled from their seats in disgrace. I would ask is not the Council elective, is it hereditary has any family or person a better right to it than Another exclusive of the Choice of the Electors, if these men of family note & ability persued mentained such principles & persued such measures as the People knew to be prejudicial to their Interest would it not have been strange if they had elected them, to what purpose was the power of nega choosing vested in the People & of negativing in the Gov: if they did not respectively excercise their Judgment in using them. The History of the great Change in the Council is well know to many & witht. disparaging those who were dropt those who were chose were esteemed of as good Fam. note & ability & the Council down to the present day has not been wanting in those qualitys, is there any pretence that the affairs of Gov. was not well conducted by the whoever attends to the manner in which this writer introduces his Subjects & comments upon them must see that the whole burthen of the matter is the enforcing the late acts of Parliamt. at all events witht. allowing any mode of Opposition or Complt: such a Hero must be chosen as will not state the Greivances of the People nor consent to any Opposition, will join with the other branches in choosing such an Agent as the Gov. ministerialy instructs will approve of will choose such Connection as from their high Prerogative principles, or their Servile cringing disposition the Gov. may approve off & all this in order that the chair may retain its own constitutional influence wch. by his acct. seems to be all the influence opposed Despotism! & have a Council that will give him assistance” witht. enquiring into the 30Cause; we find that by tracing him further that the affair of the Judges Salarys must be lugged in to make part of his complicated political machine, whether the Gov. Salarys allowed the Judges was Competent to their Station & Services or not has not connection with our political as I know off I know of no instance of their being influenced on the popular side by their dependance of the Courts Grant.

Let us now take a View of this Grand Question of Right of Legislation wch. Massa. so confidently advances they have an undoubted Right, he has not made any formal Argumt. on it but has thrown it out peice meal as he thought it would best suit his design. He grounds himself principally on these positions vizt. that the Crown of England i:e the English Nation acquired a property in the soil by the first discovery of the same if they acquired property at all it must be this for there is no pretence that the nation purchased of the proprietors, had these lands been derilict & the Nation as such had make the first discovery taken possession & at their own & Charge sent people to improve them, there might be more foundation for Argument, but even the Colonists Contract they made with the Colonists contained in Charter or otherwise must have been as sacred as any Contract whatsoever & never cd. be annulled wtht. mutual Consent.

But wt. greater right the discovery of America filled wth. English Inhabitants could give the King or the English Nation than to the Lands so discovered than to the City of Constantinople all the odds is that at the time of the discovery of America it had been a long time known that there was such a place as Constant: but America was but then discoverd: i:e its being known there was such a place as Constant. forbid any Right to the English Nation to go & take possion. but their ignorance of the Existance of if American gave ’em a full right in the first discovery of it to take possession of it as their own.

2dly. that every State must have a supreme uncontrovertable power coextensive with the Empire itself & that the Colony said part of the State



This draft by RTP is a response to the 17 pro-Establishment letters by “Massachusettensis” that appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette from Dec. 12, 1774, to Apr. 3, 1775. The pseudonymous writer, unknown at the time and thought by John Adams to be Jonathan Sewall, was, in fact, RTP’s longtime friend Daniel Leonard, soon to become a Loyalist refugee. RTP in his defense of colonists’ rights quotes the “Massachusettensis” letters of Dec. 12, 19, and 26, and refers to that of Jan. 2, which 31implies that this response was drafted sometime during the month of January and before the publication of the entire series. A good discussion of the “Massachusettensis” controversy together with the 13 responding “Novanglus” letters by John Adams appears in the Papers of John Adams , 2:216–387. RTP’s comments were not published at the time.


RTP seldom cites non-English authorities but here refers to Charles Louis Secondat, baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu. RTP had owned a copy of his Spirit of the Laws since 1762.

From Stephen Collins
Collins, Stephen RTP
Philada. Jany. 14th 1775 Esteemed Friend,

Soon after thy departure from this City, I1 called on, and sent to that Man whoe attempted gitting thy Purs out of the Vault, and endeavoured to prevail with him to make a further Tryal, which on the whole he absolutly refus’d, and declair’d he would have nothing more to do with it, and pretends he was not well treated in the first attempt. I told him his now refusing to do any thing more at it might create a suspicion that he had allready got it, at which he was very outragious and went directly of, and have not seene him since. I made Inquiry for some other suteable person for that purpose, but could find nothing incouraging, and therefore thought best to wate thy coming here in may next, when thou will have an opportunity of Judging whether it is worth another tryal or not. To me it seems very doubtfull. The tale measurs at Portsmouth, Newport, & New London in carrying of the Guns, Powder &c. from the Forts,2 has much Alarmed the people this way, and gives grate tryumph to the Toreys, whoe try all in their power to split and divide the people by representing the above conduct as bordering on Rebellion, and would most likley produce a civil War, & such stupid stuff (I think I may call it). Be that as it may, it has most certainly allarmed, many of those whoe are real Friend to Liberty and Zealous in the Cause, whoe are realy fearfull of some steps being Taken in New England that will tend to a Division of the Colonies. And so sure as any Plan is adopted by one or more Colonies, that may be Protested against by another, it will most certainly work our Ruin, and we shall then fall a Pray to Ministerial Tyranny, which God forbid. It has been very Industeriously Probagated here lately by the disaffected, that your Provincial Congress was disolved on accot. of an attempt being made to raise 20,000 Men Immediately and attack the King’s Troops. The report is, that S. Adams Esqr. made the motion & urged it strongly which was 32opposed by T. Cushing Esqr. as strongly, aleging, the southern colonies would not approve of it, nor stand by you, that S. Adams reply’d, he well knew you would have the suport and assistance of all the Colonies, on which T. Cushing gave him the lie, with saying that is a lie Mr. Adams, & I know it, & you know it, & you know, that I know it, which ocasioned much altercation and Debate, & was the ocasion of your Desolution. This report if False (which I have no Doubt of ) would give me much pleasure to contredict, therefore I beg the favour of thee to write me a Just and candid state of this matter, by the first Post, so as to Inable me to contridict it in the most planest Terms, which I shall Take much pleasure in doing, or any thing else that will promote the General Cause.3 And am with much esteeme & Real regard thy truly sincear & Assur’d Frd.

Step: Collins

RC ; addressed: “Robert Treat Paine Esqr. Taunton. To care of Joseph Clerke Esqr. Newport. Reciev’d & forwarded per yours &c. Jos. Clarke”; endorsed.


Stephen Collins (1733–1794), originally from Lynn, Mass., was a prominent Quaker leader and merchant in Philadelphia (Katherine A. Kellock, “Stephen Collins, Philadelphia Merchant,” Business Archives 36[1972]:6–13). RTP notes in his diary that he visited Collins on his second full day in Philadelphia (Aug. 31, 1774) and occasionally dined at the Collins home thereafter.


In reaction to a letter from the Earl of Dartmouth concerning military stores, colonists raided and removed arms from Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth, N.H., Fort George in Newport, R.I., and in the town of New London, Conn. (see Paul Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” Historical New Hampshire 30[1975]:178–202, 32[1977]:228–236; Samuel Greene Arnold, History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations [New York, 1859–1860], 2:343).


This report was indeed false, as noted below (RTP to Stephen Collins, Feb. 25), but indicates the increasingly apparent rift among the Massachusetts delegates.