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General Howe’s Long Island Speech

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

September 6. –A meeting of a large body of the inhabitants of Long Island, New York, was held, at which the following speech was delivered by an American recruiting officer in the Provincials, now raising for his Majesty’s service, by order of his Excellency General Howe:

Gentlemen, Friends, and Countrymen: –Being appointed by his Excellency General Howe to raise a corps of Provincials for his Majesty’s service, I readily engage in the attempt from principle, and in consequence of the fullest conviction that there are yet very many among us who still retain the most unshaken loyalty to our gracious sovereign, and zealous attachment to the blessings of the British constitution; who have long been anxious to wipe away from our country the reproach of a supposed universal revolt and disaffection of the Americans; and who are prompted as well by inclination, as by a sense of duty, to embrace the earliest opportunity of testifying by their conduct a continuance of their allegiance to his Majesty King George the Third, and a willing acknowledgment of the necessary and constitutional supremacy of the British legislature over the whole empire.

It is irksome to censure any collective bodies of our countrymen–we wish their conduct had been less culpable. I am confident we all hope that the sword of justice may be directed by the hand of compassion–that the guilty may be reclaimed, and that the deluded may be received with tenderness and mercy. But, gentlemen, now is the time to exert our endeavors if we wish to rescue ourselves from the evils of Republican tyranny, or our country from ruin. The misrule and persecutions of committees, conventions, and Congresses are no longer to be endured; they have become insupportable–they are too enormous for description. There are none of us but what have already either seen or felt the cruelty and oppression of their Republican despotism. Without effecting one salutary purpose, those self-created bodies have violated all the sacred ties of civil society, prostrated all law and government, and arbitrarily usurped an absolute control over the natural rights, the reason, and the consciences of their fellow-subjects. Instead of supporting constitutional liberty, and redressing public grievances, the special purposes of their original associations, they have denied their fellow-citizens the greatest and most valuable of all possible privileges: those of personal liberty, and freedom of speech. Instead of endeavoring, by dutiful representations in a constitutional method, for a reconciliation with the parent state, and thereby restoring to us the innumerable benefits and advantages of the former happy union between Great Britain and the colonies, they have most unjustifiably and perversely erected the standard of independency. This is not all. They have increased and multiplied the distresses of poverty and want among our poor. They have, moreover, deliberately involved their country in all the turbulence of faction, in all the evils of anarchy and licentiousness; and to complete the transcendent enormity of their crimes against the interest and prosperity of America, as well as the state to which we are united by the ties of nature, and bound by every civil, moral, and political obligation, they have disregarded the liberal and benevolent declaration of his Majesty’s commissioners of peace, and with the most obdurate and unfeeling dispositions for the distresses of their countrymen, obstinately and wickedly precipitated the whole British continent of America into all the guilt of rebellion, and all the horrors and calamities of a civil war. In a few words, gentlemen, they have deluded the populace, they have betrayed their trust, they have forfeited the confidence of the public, they have ruined our country. Not to oppose them and their measures, were criminal. Not to join and assist the King’s forces at this time would be at once unwise, unmanly, and ungrateful. And, gentlemen and countrymen, permit me to add, that the repeated assurances which have been given by the friends of government and good order, of their readiness to enter into his Majesty’s service, leave me no room to doubt of the most immediate and honorable success. Your loyalty to your King, your duty to your country, your regard for your wives and children, the cause of violated justice and of injured majesty, all call aloud for your strenuous aid and united endeavors in assisting the royal army and navy in re-establishing the authority of his Majesty’s government in the colonies, and with it a return to America of those happier days we all have seen, when the voice of peace and plenty was heard in our land, and we experienced, under the protection and benignity of the British State, the tranquil enjoyment of such constitutional and established liberties and privileges as were equal to our wishes, and known only to British subjects.1


1 Gaine’s Mercury, October 14.

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