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Commissioners’ Proclamation Criticized

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

January 24.—Daniel Coxe, upstart, and private secretary to their high mightiness theCommissioners, for restoring peace to the colonies and plantations in North America, and for granting pardons to such of his Majesty’s subjects now in rebellion, as shall deserve the royal mercy, &c.,” has been circulating small bits of paper, with the following printed thereon, in Hugh Gaine’s best style:—”Notice is hereby given, that any rebel desirous of benefiting by the Commissioners’ proclamation,1 is, on his arrival at the first place under the King’s government, to surrender himself to the nearest civil or military officer, and declare to him his intentions. He is then, without loss of time, to repair to the next military post on the road to New York, and to give a like notice of his wish to renounce rebellion, and sue for the King’s grace.

“The officer commanding is hereby authorized and required to give a certificate of such surrender, and a pass to the person to proceed to New York, specifying a reasonable time for that purpose, and the route he is to follow.

“On his arrival at New York, he is to present the pass to the commandant, and make an application to the Secretary of the Commissioners, that, if he falls under the description of persons entitled to the benefits of the proclamation, he may be admitted to take the oaths, and receive his pardon in form.”

This generous notice to such of the loyal Americans who have either too much laziness or cowardice to attempt to enter the British lines, we are afraid will not, even at this favorable period, excite them to activity. Old Dillington, Delancey, or some of those characters, may desire to repose in the bosom of their much-injured king, but Parsons2 keeps too severe a scrutiny over that class of cattle, to admit of their joining in active service against the Americans. We hear of but one person who wishes to take the benefit of the Commissioners’ offer, and that is Old Peggy Warner,3 who wishes to obtain some money she loaned Arnold a short time before he took his late hasty and uncivil leave of West Point.

The stupidity of such productions as the late one of the Commissioners, cannot be estimated. What persons, other than fools, will accept, a pardon, the conditions of which are to be settled after they return to allegiance? Not one! The Americans are not so blear-eyed that they cannot divine the future, and note the consequences of their present actions. On the one hand, the glorious prospect is not far distant of enjoying in peace, in safety, the inestimable blessings of civil and political liberty, secured under the most excellent constitution formed by themselves, and supported with unshaken fortitude, through every hazard, and against every danger. On the other, a base return to the most barbarous of masters, with the dreadful, though certain, expectation of seeing all the effects of British clemency—halters for the most virtuous and brave; chains, whips, and scourges for their remaining brethren, enforced with all the horrors of Tory revenge, sanctified by the exertion of supreme legislation in the Parliament, inflamed by resentment, and rendered familiar by a long series of cruelty, to every idea of inhumanity.4


1 This proclamation was published in December, 1780, and offered pardon to certain persons who would return to their allegiance.
2 General Parsons, commanding the Americans in Westchester, New York.
3 See New Jersey Journal, October 25, 1780.
4 Rivington’s Gazette, January 24; New Jersey Gazette, August 22; and Clift’s Diary.