A New York Loyalist urges reconciliation (1775)


In February 1775, Mr Isaac Wilkins of Westchester, a prominent Loyalist, rose in the New York assembly to urge reconciliation with Britain:


“Mister Speaker, the subject now under our consideration is the most important, I believe, that has ever come before this House. Nothing less than the welfare, I had almost said the existence, of this Colony, and perhaps of all America, depends upon the result of our present deliberations…

There is not, I am persuaded, an individual in this Assembly who does not wish well to America in general, and who is not solicitous for the preservation of this Province in particular. For my own part I feel more real concern than I can well express at the gloomy prospect of our affairs, and I would sacrifice more, much more, than most men would be willing to believe, if I could by that means rescue my country from the ruin and destruction that is now ready to overwhelm her. The necessity of a speedy reconciliation between us and our mother country must be obvious to every one who is not totally destitute of sense and feeling; so that there can be no dispute now, I presume, but about the means of accomplishing it…

When a three-penny duty on tea was demanded of us, we peremptorily refused to comply. Instead of… showing our disapprobation of that Act, by remonstrating in a legal and constitutional way as we ought to have done; instead of… not purchasing that commodity while encumbered with the duty, we flew into the most indecent rage, and hastily adopted every unwarrantable measure that could irritate and provoke the government. We either destroyed or sent back, in a most contemptuous manner, all the tea that entered our harbours. We insulted her ministers and absolutely denied her authority.

The Colony of Massachusetts Bay was the foremost and the most violent in this opposition, and chastisement [has] followed close upon the transgression, which… has kindled such a flame through the whole continent of America as threatens universal devastation. The Colonies, instead of endeavouring to extinguish it, are increasing its violence. Instead of striving to restore peace and good harmony, so essential to the welfare of both countries, [they] are using every possible means to widen the breach and make it irreparable. Good God that we should be so void of common sense; that we should be so blind to our own happiness.

What advantage, in the name of Heaven, can we propose to ourselves, in being at enmity with Great Britain? Shall we by this means become more powerful, more wealthy, or more free? On the contrary, shall we not derive every desirable advantage from being in friendship and amity with her? Shall we not derive strength, protection and stability from that oak around which we have so long twined ourselves, and under the shadow of whose branches we have so long flourished in security?

We are a vigorous and fertile vine but without some prop, without some sufficient support, we shall only trail upon the ground, and be liable to injury and destruction from the foot of every passenger. But if Great Britain gives us her protection; if she cultivates us with tenderness and care, we shall yield her a rich and plentiful vintage, as necessary to her welfare and prosperity as her support is to our existence. In this mutual relation do we stand to each other.

Let us, therefore, like wise men, endeavour to establish a lasting and permanent union between us; let us endeavour to remove every obstacle to this desirable end; and let us reject with the utmost disdain and abhorrence every measure that can tend to increase the difference between us, and make this necessary union impracticable. Let us, to the utmost of our power, endeavour to put a stop to the illegal and disorderly proceedings and resolutions of committees, associations and congresses. They have already driven this Colony to the brink of a precipice.”

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