Front Page Titles (by Subject) INSTRUCTIONS OF THE TOWN OF BOSTON TO THEIR REPRESENTATIVES, 17 JUNE, 1768. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 3 (Autobiography, Diary, Notes of a Debate in the Senate, Essays)
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INSTRUCTIONS OF THE TOWN OF BOSTON TO THEIR REPRESENTATIVES, 17 JUNE, 1768. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 3 (Autobiography, Diary, Notes of a Debate in the Senate, Essays) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 3.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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INSTRUCTIONS OF THE TOWN OF BOSTON TO THEIR REPRESENTATIVES, 17 JUNE, 1768.
The history of the seizure of Mr. Hancock’s sloop Liberty, for a violation of the revenue laws, and of the riots that followed, is given at large by Hutchinson1 and by Gordon.2 It is sufficient for the present purpose, to state, that the event led to a crowded town meeting held on the 13th of June, 1768, at which James Otis was made chairman, and a committee of twenty-one persons was appointed to wait on the governor with an address and remonstrance, ascribed by Governor Hutchinson to Otis’s pen. At the same time another committee was appointed to prepare instructions to the representatives, then newly chosen, for their regulation “at this alarming crisis.” That committee reported the following paper to an adjourned meeting on the 17th, when it was unanimously adopted.
These instructions were written by Mr. Adams. They, as well as the address, are given in full by Mr. Hutchinson in the appendix to the third volume of his history.
TO THE HON. JAMES OTIS, AND THOMAS CUSHING, ESQUIRES; MR. SAMUEL ADAMS, AND JOHN HANCOCK, ESQUIRE.
After the repeal of the late American Stamp Act, we were happy in the pleasing prospect of a restoration of that tranquillity and unanimity among ourselves, and that harmony and affection between our parent country and us, which had generally subsisted before that detestable act. But with the utmost grief and concern, we find that we flattered ourselves too soon, and that the root of bitterness is yet alive. The principle on which that act was founded continues in full force, and a revenue is still demanded from America.
We have the mortification to observe one act of parliament after another passed for the express purpose of raising a revenue from us; to see our money continually collecting from us, without our consent, by an authority in the constitution of which we have no share, and over which we have no kind of influence or control; to see the little circulating cash that remained among us for the support of our trade, from time to time transmitted to a distant country, never to return, or, what in our estimation is worse, if possible, appropriated to the maintenance of swarms of officers and pensioners in idleness and luxury, whose example has a tendency to corrupt our morals, and whose arbitrary dispositions will trample on our rights.
Under all these misfortunes and afflictions, however, it is our fixed resolution to maintain our loyalty and duty to our most gracious Sovereign, a reverence and due subordination to the British parliament, as the supreme legislative in all cases of necessity, for the preservation of the whole empire,1 and our cordial and sincere affection for our parent country; and to use our utmost endeavors for the preservation of peace and order among ourselves; waiting with anxious expectation, for a favorable answer to the petitions and solicitations of this continent for relief. At the same time, it is our unalterable resolution, at all times, to assert and vindicate our dear and invaluable rights and liberties, at the utmost hazard of our lives and fortunes; and we have a full and rational confidence that no designs formed against them will ever prosper.
That such designs have been formed, and are still in being, we have reason to apprehend. A multitude of placemen and pensioners, and an enormous train of underlings and dependents, all novel in this country, we have seen already. Their imperious tempers, their rash, inconsiderate, and weak behavior, are well known.
In this situation of affairs, several armed vessels, and among the rest his majesty’s ship-of-war, the Romney, have appeared in our harbor; and the last, as we believe, by the express application of the board of commissioners, with the design to overawe and terrify the inhabitants of the town into base compliances and unlimited submission, has been anchored within a cable’s length of the wharves.
But passing over other irregularities, we are assured that the last alarming act of that ship, namely,—the violent, and, in our opinion, illegal seizure of a vessel lying at a wharf, the cutting off her fasts, and removing her with an armed force in hostile manner, under the protection of the king’s ship, without any probable cause of seizure that we know of, or indeed any cause that has yet been made known, no libel or prosecution whatever having yet been instituted against her, was by the express order or request in writing of the board of commissioners to the commander of that ship.
In addition to all this, we are continually alarmed with rumors and reports of new revenue acts to be passed, new importations of officers and pensioners to suck the life-blood of the body politic while it is streaming from the veins; fresh arrival of ships-of-war to be a still severer restraint upon our trade, and the arrival of a military force to dragoon us into passive obedience; orders and requisitions transmitted to New York, Halifax, and to England, for regiments and troops to preserve the public peace.
Under the distresses arising from this state of things, with the highest confidence in your integrity, abilities, and fortitude, you will exert yourselves, gentlemen, on this occasion, that nothing be left undone that may conduce to our relief; and, in particular, we recommend it to your consideration and discretion, in the first place, to endeavor that impresses of all kinds may, if possible, be prevented. There is an Act of Parliament in being which has never been repealed, for the encouragement of the trade to America. We mean by the 6th Anne chap. xxxvii. sect. 9, it is enacted, “That no mariner or other person who shall serve on board, or be retained to serve on board any privateer or trading ship or vessel that shall be employed in any part of America, nor any mariner, or other person, being on shore in any part thereof, shall be liable to be impressed or taken away by any officer or officers, of or belonging to any of her majesty’s ships-of-war, impowered by the lord high admiral or any other person whatsoever, unless such mariner shall have before deserted from such ship-of-war belonging to her majesty, at any time after the fourteenth day of February, 1707, upon pain that any officer or officers so impressing or taking away, or causing to be impressed or taken away, any mariner or other person, contrary to the tenor and true meaning of this act, shall forfeit to the master or owner or owners of any such ship or vessel, twenty pounds for every man he or they shall so impress or take, to be recovered, with full costs of suit, in any court within any part of her majesty’s dominions.” So that any impresses of any mariner from any vessel whatever, appear to be in direct violation of an act of parliament. In the next place, it is our desire that you inquire and use your endeavors to promote a parliamentary inquiry for the authors and propagators of such alarming rumors and reports as we have mentioned before; and whether the commissioners or any other persons whatever have really wrote or solicited for troops to be sent here from New York, Halifax, England, or elsewhere, and for what end; and that you forward, if you think it expedient, in the house of representatives, resolutions that every such person who shall solicit or promote the importation of troops at this time, is an enemy to this town and province, and a disturber of the peace and good order of both.
[1 ]History, vol. iii. pp. 189-193.
[2 ]History of the American War, vol. i. pp. 231-236.
[1 ]Hutchinson comments upon this passage as “aiming at independency.” In a note he says, “this is a singular manner of expressing the authority of parliament.” History, vol. iii. p. 193. The curious reader can compare this proposition with the fourth article of the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, made by the congress of 1774, and with Mr. Adams’s account of the origin of that article. See vol. ii. p. 374, and appendix C.