Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER FROM CONGRESS TO THE OPPRESSED INHABITANTS OF CANADA. 1 - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
LETTER FROM CONGRESS TO THE “OPPRESSED INHABITANTS OF CANADA.” 1 - John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 1 (1763-1781) 
The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A.M. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890-93). Vol. 1 (1763-1781).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
LETTER FROM CONGRESS TO THE “OPPRESSED INHABITANTS OF CANADA.”1
Friends and Countrymen:
Alarmed by the designs of an arbitrary ministry to extirpate the rights and liberties of all America, a sense of common danger conspired with the dictates of humanity is urging us to call your attention, by our late address, to this very important object.
Since the conclusion of the late war, we have been happy in considering you as fellow-subjects; and from the commencement of the present plan for subjugating the continent, we have viewed you as fellow-sufferers with us. As we were both entitled by the bounty of an indulgent Creator to freedom, and being both devoted by the cruel edicts of a despotic Administration, to common ruin, we perceived the fate of the Protestant and Catholic colonies to be strongly linked together, and therefore invited you to join with us in resolving to be free, and in rejecting, with disdain, the fetters of slavery, however artfully polished.
We most sincerely condole with you on the arrival of that day, in the course of which the sun could not shine on a single freeman in all your extensive dominion. Be assured that your unmerited degradation has engaged the most unfeigned pity of your sister colonies; and we flatter ourselves you will not, by tamely bearing the yoke, suffer that pity to be supplanted by contempt.
When hardy attempts are made to deprive men of rights bestowed by the Almighty; when avenues are cut through the most solemn compacts for the admission of despotism; when the plighted faith of government ceases to give security to dutiful subjects; and when the insidious stratagems and manœuvres of peace become more terrible than the sanguinary operations of war, it is high time for them to assert those rights, and with honest indignation oppose the torrent of oppression rushing in upon them.
By the introduction of your present form of government, or rather present form of tyranny, you and your wives and your children are made slaves. You have nothing that you can call your own, and all the fruits of your labour and industry may be taken from you whenever an avaricious governor and a rapacious council may incline to demand them. You are liable by their edicts to be transported into foreign countries, to fight battles in which you have no interest, and to spill your blood in conflicts from which neither honour nor emolument can be derived. Nay, the enjoyment of your very religion, on the present system, depends on a legislature in which you have no share, and over which you have no control; and your priests are exposed to expulsion, banishment, and ruin, whenever their wealth and possessions furnish sufficient temptation. They cannot be sure that a virtuous prince will always fill the throne; and should a wicked or careless king concur with a wicked ministry in exacting the treasure and strength of your country, it is impossible to conceive to what variety and to what extremes of wretchedness you may, under the present establishment, be reduced.
We are informed you have already been called upon to waste your lives in a contest with us. Should you, by complying in this instance, assent to your new establishment, and war break out with France, your wealth and your sons may be sent to perish in expeditions against their islands in the West Indies.
It cannot be presumed that these considerations will have no weight with you, or that you are so lost to all sense of honour. We can never believe that the present race of Canadians are so degenerated as to possess neither the spirit, the gallantry, nor the courage of their ancestors. You certainly will not permit the infamy and disgrace of such pusillanimity to rest on your own heads, and the consequences of it on your children forever.
We, for our parts, are determined to live free, or not at all; and we are resolved that posterity shall never reproach us with having brought slaves into the world.
Permit us again to repeat that we are your friends, not your enemies, and be not imposed upon by others who may endeavour to create animosities. The taking of the fort and military stores at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and the armed vessels on the lake, was dictated by the great law of self-preservation. They were intended to annoy us, and to cut off that friendly intercourse and communication, which has hitherto subsisted between you and us. We hope it has given you no uneasiness, and you may rely on our assurances that these colonies will pursue no measures whatever, but such as friendship and a regard for our mutual safety and interest may suggest.
As our concern for your welfare entitles us to your friendship, we presume you will not, by doing us an injury, reduce us to the disagreeable necessity of treating you as enemies.
We yet entertain hopes of your uniting with us in the defence of our common liberty, and there is yet reason to believe, that should we join in imploring the attention of our sovereign, to the unmerited and unparalleled oppression of his American subjects, he will at length be undeceived, and forbid a licentious ministry any longer to riot in the ruins of the rights of mankind.
[1 ]Before its adjournment the Congress of 1774, referred to in note, p. 17, made provision for the meeting of another similar body on May 10, 1775. In New York a Provincial Convention was called for the special purpose of electing delegates to the new Congress, and on April 22, 1775, Mr. Jay was again chosen, with Messrs. Philip Livingston, James Duane, John Alsop, Simon Boerum, William Floyd, Henry Wisner, Philip Schuyler, George Clinton, Lewis Morris, Francis Lewis, and Robert R. Livingston, Jr., representing the different counties of the Province, as his colleagues. This Congress of 1775, which met, as before, at Philadelphia, became the continuous body known as the Continental Congress of the Revolution, the individual members changing from time to time. Jay’s first connection with it lasted until May 25, 1776, a little over a year. During that time he was closely absorbed with his public duties and served on many important committees, as the published proceedings of the Congress show. On May 26th he was appointed with Samuel Adams and Silas Deane, to prepare and report a letter to the people of Canada, which was approved, on the 29th, in the form given above. Jay’s biographer credits him with its authorship (vol. i., p. 34), as he does with the authorship of the “Address to the People of Ireland,” a document similar in style and having the same object as that to the Canadians. It appears in Force’s “American Archives.” Jay was also one of the committee to prepare the declaration issued by Congress July 6th, “setting forth the causes and necessity” of taking up arms against the mother country. Two days later the “Petition to the King” was signed by the delegates, the document being drawn up by Mr. Dickenson; the measure, however, originated with Jay, and was successfully urged by him against strong opposition. In regard to this, see “Life,” etc., vol. i., p. 36.