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The Commissioners and the Americans

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

The conduct of the British commissioners since their arrival on this continent, has been such as deserves the highest encomiums from every friend of truth, virtue, and humanity, and the contrast that appears in their conduct compared with the illiberal, indecent, and absurd resolves and acts of Congress, must convince even the rebels that their rulers are a set of men as destitute of humanity and truth as they are of dignity of character; and that the low sphere of life they formerly moved in, is that only in which they could be of use to society. The generous terms offered to the revolted colonies upon the arrival of the British commissioners at Philadelphia, are such, they observe, as need only be known to be approved of, and the magnanimous conduct of Great Britain could never be placed in a clearer point of view. The Congress surely cannot be serious when they imagine that a union with Great Britain on such terms could not be advantageous to them; for were they in full possession of independence, and at peace with all the world, the protection and assistance of Great Britain would be of more consequence to America than any mercenary alliance with a foreign court.

The Congress, in their last manifesto, with all the impudence peculiar to men raised to stations above what they either deserved or could expect, have endeavored to asperse the character of the British army with charges equally illiberal and false. Had the British troops proceeded in the manner they describe, and carried fire and sword before them, it is probable that Congress would not at this time dictate to the continent of America; and perhaps the subjugated colonies would have considered the proceeding as just and useful; just in as far as it was necessary to put a stop to rebellion, and useful in diminishing a contest that now subsists. The offers of his Majesty’s commissioners were generous without lessening the dignity of the kingdom they represented, condescending without servility, and were mutually advantageous to both parties. It was not the prowess of the Americans, their French alliance, nor their resources, that extorted such offers from the mother country. No doubt the interest of the nation coincided with the magnanimity of Britons in holding forth such terms. But from a kingdom arrived at that pitch of glory, riches, and strength, and whose resources are so inexhaustible, it would be absurd to suppose it proceeded from any motive of fear or distrust. Notwithstanding that luxury is the natural concomitant of wealth and riches, the troops of Britain are not enervated; her soldiers and seamen as gallant and numerous as a nation that spreads her canvas on ten thousand ships, and covers the ocean with fleets fraught with her riches, can scarce be supposed to cringe to a Pandemonium that would bow their heads to the representatives of a Machiavelian court. The commissioners of Great Britain have now left the sword to determine the fate of America, and there is little room to doubt which side will be successful. It cannot he supposed that the war will be conducted on the mild principles that have already influenced the conduct of the English. The Congress alone must be accountable for the event. The colonies are British, and her troops must keep or conquer them. If fire and sword is to be the ultimate means used to recover our colonies, when the milder medium of reconciliation has been rejected, it will at last convince the Americans that what they call the natural rights of mankind, are in some cases detrimental to their political rights; and, in a civilized state, often diametrically opposite. This continent does not belong to the Americans; it is a part of the British empire, and cannot be separated without the violation of the most just and dear ties of society.1


1 “Philarethes,” in Rivington’s Royal Gazette, December 9.