Samuel Adams—Circular Letter (November 20, 1772)

Background of the American Revolution

The Committee of Correspondence in November, 1772, publishes a circular letter—attributed to Samuel Adams—to be distributed to the various towns in the colonies.

Let us disappoint the Men who are raising themselves on the ruin of this Country. Let us convince every Invader of our freedom, that we will be as free as the Constitution our Fathers recognized, will Justify.

A Letter of Correspondence to the Other Towns.


Boston, NOVEMBER 20, 1772.


WE the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of Boston in Town Meeting duly Assembled, according to Law, apprehending there is abundant to be alarmed at the plan of Despotism, which the enemies of our invaluable rights have concerted, is rapidly hastening to a completion, can no longer conceal our impatience under a constant, unremitted, uniform aim to enslave us, or confide in an Administration which threatens us with certain and inevitable destruction. But, when in addition to the repeated inroads made upon the Rights and Liberties of the Colonists, and of those in this Province in particular, we reflect on the late extraordinary measure in affixing stipends or Salaries from the Crown to the Offices of the Judges of the Superior Court of Judicature, making them not only intirely independent of the people, whose lives and properties are so much in their power, but absolutely dependent on the Crown (which may hereafter, be worn by a Tyrant) both for their appointment and support, we cannot but be extremely alarmed at the mischievous tendency of this innovation; which in our opinion is directly contrary to the spirit of the British Constitution, pregnant with innumerable evils, and hath a direct tendency To deprive us of every thing valuable as Men, as Christians and as Subjects, entitled, by the Royal Charter, to all the Rights, liberties and privileges of native Britons. Such being the critical state of this Province, we think it our duty on this truly distressing occasion, to ask you, What can withstand the Attacks of mere power? What can preserve the liberties of the Subject, when the Barriers of the Constitution are taken away? The Town of Boston consulting on the matter above mentioned, thought proper to make application to the Governor by a Committee; requesting his Excellency to communicate such intelligence as he might have received relative to the report of the Judges having their support independent of the grants of this Province a Copy of which you have herewith in Paper N. 1. To which we received as answer the Paper N. 2. The Town on further deliberation, thought it advisable to refer the matter to the Great and General Assembly; and accordingly in a second address as N. 3. they requested his Excellency that the General Court might Convene at the time to which they then stood prorogued; to which the Town received the reply as in N. 4. in which we are acquainted with his intentions further to prorogue the General Assembly, which has since taken place. Thus Gentlemen it is evident his Excellency declines giving the least satisfaction as to the matter in request. The affair being of publick concernment, the Town of Boston thought it necessary to consult with their Brethren throughout the Province; and for this purpose appointed a Committee, to communicate with our fellow Sufferers, respecting this recent instance of oppression, as well as the many other violations of our Rights under which we have groaned for several Years past—This Committee have briefly Recapitulated the sense we have of our invaluable Rights as Men, as Christians, and as Subjects; and wherein we conceive those Rights to have been violated, which we are desirous may be laid before your Town, that the subject may be weighed as its importance requires, and the collected wisdom of the whole People, as far as possible, be obtained, on a deliberation of such great and lasting moment as to involve in it the fate of all our Posterity—Great pains has been taken to perswade the British Administration to think that the good People of this Province in general are quiet and undisturbed at the late measures; and that any uneasiness that appears, arises from a few factious designing and disaffected men. This renders it the more necessary, that the sense of the People should be explicitly declared.—A free communication of your sentiments to this Town, of our common danger, is earnestly solicited and will be gratefully received. If you concur with us in opinion, that our Rights are properly stated, and that the several Acts of Parliament, and Measures of Administration, pointed out by us are subversive of these Rights, you will doubtless think it of the utmost importance that we stand firm as one man, to recover and support them; and to take such measures by directing our Representatives, or otherwise, as your wisdom and fortitude shall dictate, to rescue from impending ruin our happy and glorious constitution. But if it should be the general voice of this Province, that the Rights as we have stated them, do not belong to us; or that the several measures of Administration in the British Court, are no violations of these Rights, or that if they are thus violated or infringed, they are not worth contending for, or resolutely maintaining;—should this be the general voice of the Province, we must be resigned to our wretched fate; but shall forever lament the extinction of that generous ardor for Civil and Religeous liberty, which in the face of every danger, and even death itself, induced our fathers to forsake the bosom of their Native Country, and begin a settlement on bare Creation—But we trust this cannot be the case: We are sure your wisdom, your regard to yourselves and the rising Generation, cannot suffer you to dose, or set supinely indifferent on the brink of destruction, while the Iron hand of oppression is dayly tearing the choicest Fruit from the fair Tree of Liberty, planted by our worthy Predecessors, at the expence of their treasure, & abundantly water’d with their blood—It is an observation of an eminent Patriot, that a People long inured to hardships, loose by degrees the very notions of liberty; they look upon themselves as Creatures at mercy, and that all impositions laid on by superior hands, are legal and obligatory.—But thank Heaven this is not yet verified in America! We have yet some share of publick virtue remaining: we are not afraid of poverty, but disdain slavery.—The fate of Nations is so Precarious and revolutions in States so often take place at an unexpected moment, when the hand of power by fraud or flattery, has secured every Avenue of retreat, and the minds of the Subject debased to its purpose, that it becomes every well wisher to his Country, while it has any remains of freedom, to keep an Eagle Eye upon every inovation and stretch of power, in those that have the rule over us. A recent instance of this we have in the late Revolutions in Sweden, by which the Prince once subject to the laws of the State, has been able of a sudden to declare himself an absolute Monarch The Sweeds were once a free, martial and valient people: Their minds are now so debaced, that they rejoice at being subject to the caprice and arbitrary power of a Tyrant & kiss their Chains. It makes us shudder to think, the late measures of Administration may be productive of the like Catastrophe; which Heaven forbid!—Let us consider Brethren, we are struggling for our best Birth Rights & Inheritance; which being infringed, renders all our blessings precarious in their enjoyments, and consequently trifling in their value. Let us disappoint the Men who are raising themselves on the ruin of this Country. Let us convince every Invader of our freedom, that we will be as free as the Constitution our Fathers recognized, will Justify.—

The foregoing Report was twice read distinctly, and amended in the meeting. And then the question was put, Whether the same he accepted? And passed in the affirmative, Nem. Con.

A true Copy,



Upon a motion made, Voted, that the foregoing proceedings be attested by the Town-Clerk, and printed in a pamphlet; and that the committee be desired to dispose of Six Hundred Copies thereof to the Select-men of the towns in the province, and such other gentlemen as they shall think fit.

Voted, that the Town-Clerk be directed to sign the foregoing Letter, and forward as many of the fame to the Selectmen of each town in this province, as the committee shall judge proper, and direct.

A true Copy,





(No. I.)


May it please your Excellency,

THE freeholders and other inhabitants of the town of Boston, legally assembled in Faneuil-Hall, beg leave to acquaint your Excellency, that a report has prevailed, which they have reason to apprehend is well-grounded, that stipends are affixed to the offices of the Judges of the superior Court of Judicature, &c. of this province, whereby they are become independent of the grants of the General Assembly for their support; contrary to ancient and invariable usage. This report has spread an alarm among all considerate persons who have heard of it in town and country; being viewed, as tending rapidly to complete the system of their slavery; which originated in the House of Commons of Great-Britain, assuming a power and authority, to give and grant the monies of the colonists without their consent, and against their repeated remonstrances. And, as the judges hold their places during pleasure, this establishment appears big with fatal evils, so obvious that it is needless to trespass on your Excellency’s time in mentioning them.

It is therefore the humble and earnest request of the town, that your Excellency would be pleased to inform them, Whether you have received any such advice, relating to a matter so deeply interesting to the inhabitants of this province, which gives you assurance that such an establishment has been, or is likely, to be made.


(No. II.)

The GOVERNOUR’S ANSWER to the foregoing MESSAGE.


IT is by no means proper for me to lay before the inhabitants of any town whatsoever, in consequence of their votes and proceedings in a Town-Meeting, any part of my correspondence as Governour of the Province, or to acquaint them whether I have, or have not, received any advices relating to the public affairs of the Government. This reason alone, if your address to me had been in other respects unexceptionable, would have been sufficient to restrain me from complying with your desire.

I shall always be ready to gratify the inhabitants of the town of Boston, upon every regular application to me on business of public concernment to the town, as tar as I shall have it in my power consistent with fidelity to the trust which his Majesty has reposed in me.


Province-House, 30 Oct. 1772.

To the inhabitants of the town of Boston in Town-Meeting assembled al Faneuil-Hall.


(No. III.)


The Petition of the Freeholders and other inhabitants of the town of Boston, legally assembled by adjournment in Faneuil-Hall, on Friday October 30, 1772,

Humbly sheweth,

THAT your petitioners are still greatly alarmed at the report which has been prevalent of late, viz. That stipends are affixed to the offices of the Judges of the superior Court of Judicature of this Province, by order of the Crown, for their support.

Such an establishment is contrary, not only to the plain and obvious sense of the charier of this province, but also to some of the fundamental principles of the common law; to the benefit of which, all British subjects, wherever dispersed throughout the British Empire are indubitably intitled.

Such a jealousy have the subjects of England for their rights, liberties and privileges, and so tender a regard has been shown to them by his Majesty, that notwithstanding the provision made at the revolution, that the judges of the King’s superior courts of law there, should hold their commissions, not at pleasure, but during good behaviour, and since that time for their support, his Majesty among other the first acts of his reign, was graciously pleased to recommend it to Parliament, and an act passed, that their commissions should not cease at the demise of the King; whereby every thing possible in human wisdom seems to have been done, to establish an impartiality in their decisions, not only between subject and subject, but between the crown and the subject.—Of how much greater importance must it be to preserve from the least supposeable biass, the Judges of a Court invested by the laws of this province, (which have been approved-of by Majesty,) with powers as full and ample to all intents and purposes whatsoever, as the courts of King’s Bench, Common Pleas and Exchequer, within his Majesty’s kingdom of England, have, or ought to have?

Your Excellency will allow your petitioners, with due submission, to repeat, that this Establishment appears to then) pregnant with such fatal evils, as that the most distant thought of its taking effect, fills their minds with Dread and Horror.

These, Sir, are the sentiments and apprehensions of this metropolis: expressed, however, with due deference to the sentiments of the province, with which your Petitioners are anxiously solicitous of being made acquainted.

It is therefore their earnest and humble request, that your Excellency would be pleased to allow the General Assembly to meet at the time to which it now stands prorogued; in order that in that Constitutional body, with whom it is to inquire into Grievances and redress them, the joint wisdom of the province may be employed in deliberating and determining on a matter so important and alarming.


(No. IV.)



THE royal charter reserves to the Governour full power and authority, from time to time, as he shall judge necessary, to adjourn, prorogue, and dissolve the General Assembly.

In the exercise of this power, both as to time and place, I have always been governed by a regard to his Majesty’s service and to the interest of the province.

It did not appear to me necessary for those purposes that the Assembly should meet at the time to which it now stands prorogued; and, before I was informed of your address, I had determined to prorogue it for a further time.

The reasons which you have advanced have not altered my opinion.

If, notwithstanding, in compliance with your petition, I should alter my determination and meet the Assembly, contrary to my own judgement, at such time as you judge necessary, I should, in effect, yield to you the exercise of that part of the prerogative, and should be unable to justify my conduct to the King.

There would, moreover, be danger of encouraging the inhabitants of the other towns in the province to assemble, from time to time, in order to consider of the necessity or expediency of a session of the General Assembly, or to debate and transact other matters which the law that authorizes towns to assemble does not make the business of a town-meeting.


Province-House, Nov. 2. 1772.

To the inhabitants of the town of Boston in Town-Meeting assembled at Faneuil-Hall.


This reply having been read several times and duly considered; it was moved, and the question accordingly put—Whether the same be satisfactory to the town, which passed in the Negative, Nem. Con.

And thereupon RESOLVED, as the opinion of the inhabitants of this town, that they have, ever had, and ought to have, a right lo petition the King or his representative for the redress of such grievances as they feel, or for preventing of such as they have reason to apprehend; and to communicate their sentiments to other Towns.



Used with the permission of Democratic Thinker.

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