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Strictures on the Tory Press

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

May 6. –We have often had occasion to observe, that lying and misrepresentation, to the greatest extent, is a necessary part of the ministerial plan of operation against us. They have given us a thousand proofs of this, and continue to give new ones every day, to the utter disregard of truth or justice, sincerity, honor or honesty.

The original design of the court of Great Britain, in their contest with America, was so base and treacherous, and so utterly inconsistent with the principles of the English Constitution, that they were obliged to have recourse to every artifice, in order to deceive the people of England, and even their own emissaries who were not yet so abandoned and hardened in villany, as heartily to co-operate in the destruction of the English Constitution, which had so long been the boast and glory of the nation, had raised it to its highest degree of opulence and splendor, and had been the distinguishing characteristic of England from every other nation. In speculation, one would have thought it impossible to persuade Englishmen, or any of those who were real friends to them, to lend a helping hand to the destruction of that revered Constitution, which it had been the work of ages to form and establish; a Constitution which secured the freedom and property of the people, gave the King as much power as any wise man could wish to have, or as any wise people could, with safety to themselves, possibly trust in the hands of their supreme magistrate. He had an almost unlimited power to do good, and was only restrained from doing evil, and becoming a tyrant in stead of a father to his people. But a wicked and abandoned court and ministry were not content with this. They had broke through every moral and religious restraint, and run into boundless extravagance and expense, which no honest income was sufficient to support; and in defrauding the public, by betraying the trust reposed in them, and converting the national revenues to their own use, they knew they were liable to be called to a severe account and punishment, and could not be screened even by the King himself, under a Constitution, where the law was above him, and bound him as well as his subjects. They knew that under a government where the King is arbitrary and makes his will the supreme law, they could, by keeping in his favor, effectually secure themselves from being called to account for the most atrocious and treasonable breaches of trust they could possibly be guilty of; they therefore, with much application and artful contrivance, formed a deep-laid design to destroy the Constitution, by making the King absolute, and the people slaves.

To execute this design, they found means to draw in a formidable combination, partly of men in similar circumstances with themselves, and the rest, such as had a greater relish for the advantages they might expect under a despotic prince, than in a government where every member, from the highest to the lowest, was under the restraint of law. It was no difficult matter to seduce the King himself to enter into this combination, and promote the design with all his power and influence. He was not of a disposition to resist so strong a temptation as appeared in the offer of unlimited power; and as little doubtful of his qualifications to exercise it with propriety as Phaeton was of his ability to drive the chariot of the Sun. Such were the motives of the King and his ministry for their conduct respecting America. But it was necessary to deceive the people, and pretend other motives for this conduct, in order to conceal these. To this end, the expedient of lying and deception was adopted, and has been continually appropriated by the ministry and all their emissaries, both in Europe and America, to serve their purposes upon all occasions.

Whenever we have had an opportunity to examine any accounts they have published, either from England or America, we have found them either absolutely false, or grossly misrepresented; we have, therefore, reason to suppose they have had the same disregard to truth in those accounts we have not had the means of examining, as we have found in others.

The following paragraphs, lately published, are illustrations of these observations: –“The New Yorkers, we are informed, are exasperated to the highest degree against the Congress, and the army acting under their orders; and declare, that when they act against the rebels, they will neither give nor receive quarter.”

Who are the persons here styled New Yorkers? The city of New York, that rueful scene of ruin, violence, and distress, is inhabited at present by a few sorts of people, viz.:

1. A crew of bloody murderers and base robbers, sent by the King of Great Britain to enslave the Americans, and plunder them of their property.

2. A still more infamous and execrable herd of Tory natives and former inhabitants of New York, who, with unparalleled folly and villany, have joined the foreign enemies of their country in promoting its destruction, in entailing upon it and even their own posterity, endless slavery and subjection to a tyrant’s will. And all this for the despicable consideration of a little present emolument, or perhaps only the delusive hopes even of that; or from the basest cowardice, which, to shun a lesser evil, has plunged them, loaded with guilt, into a greater.

3. A number of poor, helpless, or indigent people, who, unable to remove, or having nothing to lose, have remained in New York, and been forced to submit to every imposition of an insolent, tyrannical enemy.

4. A number of honest, worthy men, who have unfortunately fallen into the enemy’s hands, and because they had acted as friends to their country, as they were in duty bound to do, have not only been detained as prisoners, but treated with every kind of insult, cruelty, and inhumanity. These four sorts make up the present inhabitants of the city of New York.

As to the two first, we have no doubt of their rancor, malice, and cruelty; they have repeatedly given unquestionable proofs of it, and they never had, or ever will have, a disposition to give quarter to any honest man that has had the misfortune to fall into their hands, or even to treat him with humanity. And it is not improbable, that at a time when they thought to carry all before them–that all was quite over with us, that we were entirely in their power and should be obliged to ask for quarter, which they were determined to refuse, they might have made such a declaration, that they would neither give nor receive quarter, in order to give a color of reason and equity to their barbarous treatment of our people. At this time they did not imagine they should ever be in our power, and have occasion to ask that quarter for themselves which they refused to us. But the tables being turned since they made that declaration, we may be assured their humor of refusing quarter has subsided, and they would receive it now with as much humility as they possessed of haughtiness and cruelty when they refused it to us. But their behavior having left them no room to hope for it, there remains only to them a fearful looking for of judgment and retribution. Meanwhile their number is become so small, their strength so weak, their distress and anxiety so great, that their very existence seems to have become a curse, and those they have most injured can hardly wish them to be more miserable than they really are.

By a letter received from Rhode Island, we have advice that an engagement lately happened near that place between seven privateers, fitted out by the colonists, and four King’s frigates, when, after a warm contest, one of the privateers was sunk, and the others were beat off.”

This engagement of the vessels we do not remember to have heard of, and believe it to be no more than a fiction, invented to make their principals think they were still going on with mischief, and had done more than it has been in their power to do; though we must do them the justice to own, they do as much as they can.

We hear that government has received advices by the way of Holland, from New York, which give an account of some further advantages gained over the rebels, and that several despatches had passed between Lord and Sir William Howe and the ruling powers of the Congress, but that nothing decisive had been resolved on when these advices came away.”

This, of their negotiation with the Congress, &c., is a lie throughout, devised, probably, in part for the same purpose as the last mentioned, and partly to amuse the opposite party in England, to whom the ministry pretended that Sir William and Lord Howe were sent out principally with a view to accommodate differences, and effect a reconciliation between Great Britain and America; though the full powers of these famous commissioners extended no farther than to the grant of pardons, if they thought proper, to such of the Americans as should consent to unconditional submission to the authority of the King and Parliament of Great Britain, and to be bound by laws of their making, in all cases whatsoever.

We hear that of the thirty nurses that lately took care of the sick in the Philadelphia hospital, no less than twenty-seven of them died in one week.”

The death of twenty-seven of the thirty nurses in the Philadelphia hospital, is probably a wilful mistake. That it is not true is certain. If the account had been, that of thirty sick persons who had been prisoners at New York, twenty-seven had died under the care of the nurses in the Philadelphia hospital, we might have believed the relation to be true; because it is well known that those poor prisoners were generally starved to death, or from want of food and through barbarous usage in many respects, died in nearly the above proportion, after they were released in exchange for prisoners in our hands, who were well kept, and returned in health and good order.

There are many other articles in the English papers, and from them republished in American papers, that ought not to appear in any of our papers without proper notes to guard the unwary reader from deception and false impressions.1


1 “O.,” in the New York Journal, September 15.

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