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McDougall, Alexander (1732-1786) To the free and loyal inhabitants... [Defense of non-importation agreements]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02552 Author/Creator: McDougall, Alexander (1732-1786) Place Written: New York Type: Broadside Date: [1770/05/16] Pagination: 1 p. 31 x 19 cm

Summary of Content: A short printed letter defending the non-importation agreements against Tory merchants. Signed "Brutus" but attributed to Alexander McDougall, because the manuscript was found in his personal papers. Evans 11588. Schlesinger's Colonial Merchants p. 220, Stokes's Iconography of Manhattan 4: 180.

Background Information: The revolutionary era greatly increased popular participation in politics. Political pamphlets proliferated and newspapers were transformed from business organs into vehicles for political discussion. Not only did the number of ...subscribers multiply, but so, too, did the number of letters to the editor, as did circulation outside of cities. Popular demonstrations, many of which were initially and traditionally orchestrated from top down, grew more frequent and more independent of elite control. And the number of examples of people acting independently of government through conventions and voluntary committees also increased.
In this document, a colonist who identifies himself as "Brutus" defends the right of ordinary mechanics and artisans to take an active political role over the objections of gentlemen.
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Full Transcript: Nothing can be more flagrantly wrong than the Assertion of some of our mercantile Dons [leading merchants], that the Mechanics have no Right to give their Sentiments about the Importation ...of British Commodities. For who, I would ask, is the Member of Community, that is absolutely independent of the rest? Or what particular Class among us, has an exclusive Right to decide a Question of general Concern? When the Non-Importation Agreement took Place, what End was it designed to answer? Not surely the private Emolument of Merchants, but the universal Weal [well-being] of the Continent. It was to redeem from Perdition, from total Perdition, that Stock of English Liberty, to which every Subject, whatever may be his Rank, is equally intitled. Amidst all the Disparity of Fortune and Honours, there is one Lot as common to all Englishmen as Death. It is that we are all equally free. Sufficient is it therefore to shew the matchless Absurdity of the exclusive Claim, of which a few interested Merchants have lately attempted, in a most assuming Manner, to avail themselves, in determining on the Question, whether the Non-Importation Agreement shall be rescinded, to observe, that it was not solemnly entered into for the Good of the Merchants alone, but for the Salvation of the Liberties of us all. Of this the trading Interest of this City were convinced, when, after forming themselves into a Society for executing that Agreement, they not only requested a similar Association of the Mechanics, but by frequent Meetings conspired with them in support of the important Compact.... Every Man saw, that between an Importation of Goods, which stern Virtue ought ever to despise as a Means to encourage Luxury, and the Sacrifice of our inestimable Rights as Englishmen, there was no Medium. This view of the Subject begat and brought to Perfection, the important Revolution…. to repeal all the odious Duties, but that on Tea; and this remains unrepealed for no other Reason than that a tyrannical Ministry will not stoop to it unasked; and the East-India Company scorn to request it of that tyrannical Ministry. Has not our Mother Country, by solemn Act of Legislation, declared that she has a right to impose internal Taxes on us? And is not such an Imposition incompatible with our Liberty?...And shall we not, for our own Sakes, shew that we can live without them? What are all the Riches, the Luxuries, and even the Conveniences of Life compared with that Liberty where with God and Nature have set us free, with that inestimable Jewel which is the Basis of all other Enjoyments?...See More

People: McDougall, Alexander, 1732-1786

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Revolutionary WarRevolutionary War GeneralLoyalistNon-Importation AgreementCommerceMerchants and TradeSons of Liberty

Sub Era: Road to Revolution

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