Friday, February 18, 2011

January 6, 1776: William Hooper to James Iredell

In this passage from a letter to James Iredell, William Hooper expressed a wish for reconciliation and peace and a worry with the moral corrosiveness of luxury, sentiments not uncommon among America's Founding Generation. Hooper, a lawyer, served as a delegate to the Continental Congress from the state of North Carolina.

Iredell, a jurist and essayist, was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States by President George Washington in 1790. Iredell served as a Supreme Court Justice until his death in 1799. In the North Carolina Ratyifying Convention, in the summer of 1788, Iredell defended the Constitution's ban on religious tests for public office.

In his letter, dated Jan. 6, 1776, Hooper wrote, "Yes, Britain, It is the Criterion of thy existence; thy greatness totters. Luxury & Wealth with every vice in their train, are hurrying thee down the precipice, & liberty shuddering at thy fate is seeking an Asylum westward. Oh Heaven still check her approaching Ruin, restore her to reason, restore her to the Affection of her American Subjects. May she long flourish the guardian of freedom and when that Change comes and come it must, that America must become the seat of Empire, may Britain gently verge down the decline of life, and sink away in the Arms of her American Sons."

Hooper also used the example of Holland or the Netherlands--the United Provinces--to show the importance of the United Colonies building a navy: "A Fleet is begun here at the Continental Expense, Should it's success be great it will much exceed my expectations. It has a formidable power to cope with, the luxury of Britain has not yet enervated its seamen. However if this War continues, which God forbid, A Navy we must have. That of the United Provinces was trifling in its commencement, its increase and importance shewed the propriety of it. Some small armed Vessels about Boston have made some valuable acquisitions."

The letter appears in Paul Hubert Smith, editor, Letters of Delegates to Congress: Vol. 3: January 1, 1776-May 15, 1776 (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1978), page 45.
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