Saturday, June 11, 2011

June 5, 1776: Compelled to Surrender Liberties in Return for Protection

June 5, 1776: Caesar Rodney of New Jersey to his brother Thomas Rodney: “The Petition of the Lord, Mayor and City of London to the King, and his Answer will Convince those people (Who have opposed the Resolution of Congress) of their Error; if they be open to Conviction it certainly will—You will have it in this day's paper.

On March 22, 1776, Sir Thomas Hallifax, Lord Mayor of London, along with “several of the Aldermen, the Sheriffs, and some of the Common Council of the City of London,” presented a petition to King George III at the Court of St. James.

First, the London petitioners recognized what the war meant for Britain. The war left England “naked and exposed” by “draining” it of troops. The petitioners expressed anxiety at the treaties for foreign mercenaries, “whose latitude is such as to provide the means of introducing a foreign Army even into this Realm.”

The Lord Mayor and Aldermen warned of the "calamities" entailed in a protracted war in America: “We cannot, sir, without horrour, look forward to national debt and of burdensome taxes, that loss of our most valuable resources, those distresses of our merchants and manufacturers, those deficiencies of the revenue, that effusion of the blood of our countrymen and brethren, that failure of publick credit, and those dreadful calamities and convulsions, which must follow a civil war so begun and pursued, whose extent no wisdom can foresee.”

Secondly, the petitioners emphasized what the war meant for Americans: “We humbly conceive that no people can be bound to surrender their rights and liberties as a return for protection.”

The Lord Mayor and Aldermen noted that the colonists “are willing…to continue to us all those advantages of a regulated and exclusive commerce,” if only England agreed to “their Charters being inviolably secured” to them. This commerce was the basis for London’s “opulence and prosperity.”

The colonists also offered what the petitioners called “such reasonable voluntary aid as their abilities permit.” The Londoners did not want American contributions, “nor our own sinking funds,” “misapplied to the purpose of corruption,” but applied solely to the relief of Britain’s national debt.

The London petitioners also remarked, “The Colonies have fought our battles with us; and in the last war they so far exceeded, their abilities, that this nation thought it just and necessary to make them an annual compensation….” If the King and both Houses of Parliament offered the colonists “just and honourable terms” for reconciliation and the colonists still refuse to submit, then “your Majesty will undoubtedly be enabled to meet, what will then be rebellion, with the zealous hearts and hands of, a determined, loyal, and united people.” The leadership of London not-so-subtly remarked that the colonists were not yet in rebellion, despite hostilities at sites like Bunker Hill. The British people, likewise, were not yet a “united people” when it came to fighting the Americans.

In his response, the King did not acknowledge or address the concerns raised by Hallifax or the London Aldermen and Councilmen. Instead, he considered the war an ordeal which Americans "have brought upon themselves:"

“I deplore, with the deepest concern, the miseries which a great part of my subjects in North America have brought upon themselves by an unjustifiable resistance to the constitutional authority of this Kingdom; and I shall be ready and happy to alleviate those miseries, by acts of mercy and clemency, whenever that authority is established, and the now existing rebellion is at an end. To obtain these salutary purposes, I will invariably pursue the most proper and effectual means.”
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