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address to governor dunmore from the house of burgesses 1 - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 2 (1771-1779) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 2.
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address to governor dunmore from the house of burgesses1
Monday, June 12, 15 Geo. III., 1775.
—We, His majesty’s dutiful and loyal subjects, the Burgesses of Virginia, now met in General Assembly, have taken into our consideration the joint Address of the two Houses of Parliament, His Majesty’s Answer, and the Resolution of the Commons, which your Lordship has been pleased to lay before us. Wishing nothing so sincerely as the perpetual continuance of that brotherly love which we bear to our fellow-subjects of Great Britain, and still continuing to hope and believe that they do not approve the measures which have so long oppressed their brethren in America, we were pleased to receive your Lordship’s notification, that a benevolent tender had at length been made by the British House of Commons towards bringing to a good end our unhappy disputes with the Mother Country. Next to the possession of liberty, my Lord, we should consider such a reconcilliation as the greatest of all human blessings. With these dispositions we entered into the consideration of that Resolution; we examined it minutely; we viewed it in every point of light in which we were able to place it; and, with pain and disappointment, we must ultimately declare it only changes the form of oppression, without lightening its burden. We cannot, my Lord, close with the terms of that Resolution, for these reasons:
Because the British Parliament has no right to intermeddle with the support of civil Government in the Colonies. For us, not for them, has Government been instituted here. Agreeable to our ideas, provision has been made for such officers as we think necessary for the administration of publick affairs; and we cannot conceive that any other legislature has a right to prescribe either the number or pecuniary appointments of our offices. As a proof that the claim of Parliament to interfere in the necessary provisions for the support of civil Government is novel, and of a late date, we take leave to refer to an Act of our Assembly, passed so long since as the thirty second year of the reign of King Charles the Second, intituled, “An Act for raising a publick revenue, and for the better support of the Government of His Majesty’s Colony of Virginia.” This act was brought over by Lord Culpeper, then Governour, under the great seal of England, and was enacted in the name of the “King’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the consent of the General Assembly.”
Because to render perpetual our exemption from an unjust taxation, we must saddle ourselves with a perpetual tax, adequate to the expectations, and subject to the disposal of Parliament alone; Whereas we have a right to give our money, as the Parliament do theirs, without coercion, from time to time, as publick exigences may require. We conceive that we alone are the judges of the condition, circumstances, and situation of our people, as the Parliament are of theirs. It is not merely the mode of raising, but the freedom of granting our money, for which we have contended. Without this, we possess no check on the royal prerogative; and what must be lamented by dutiful and loyal subjects, we should be stripped of the only means, as well of recommending this country to the favours of our most gracious Sovereign, as of strengthening those bands of amity with our fellow-subjects, which we would wish to remain indissoluble.
Because on our undertaking to grant money, as is proposed, the Commons only resolve to forbear levying pecuniary taxes on us, still leaving unrepealed their several Acts passed for the purposes of restraining the Trade, and altering the form of Government of the Eastern Colonies; extending the boundaries, and changing the Government and Religion of Quebeck; enlarging the jurisdiction of the Courts of Admiralty; taking from us the right of Trial by Jury, and transporting us into other countries to be tried for criminal offences. Standing Armies, too, are still to be kept among us, and the other numerous grievances, of which ourselves and sister Colonies, separately and by our Representatives in General Congress, have so often complained, are still to continue without redress.
Because at the very time of requiring from us grants of money, they are making disposition to invade us with large armaments by sea and land, which is a style of asking gifts not reconcilable to our freedom. They are also proceeding to a repetition of injury, by passing Acts for restraining the Commerce and Fisheries of the Provinces of New England, and for prohibiting the Trade of the other Colonies with all parts of the world, except the Island of Great Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies. This seems to bespeak no intention to discontinue the exercise of this usurped power over us in future.
Because on our agreeing to contribute our proportion towards the common defence, they do not propose to lay open to us a free trade with all the world: whereas, to us it appears just that those who bear equally the burdens of Government should equally participate of its benefits; either be contented with the monopoly of our trade, which brings greater loss to us and benefit to them than the amount of our proportional contributions to the common defence; or, if the latter be preferred, relinquish the former, and do not propose, by holding both, to exact from us double contributions. Yet we would remind Government, that on former emergencies, when called upon as a free people, however cramped by this monopoly in our resources of wealth, we have liberally contributed to the common defence. Be assured, then, that we shall be as generous in future as in past times, disclaiming the shackles of proportion when called to our free station in the general system of the empire.
Because the proposition now made to us involves the interests of all the other Colonies. We are now represented in General Congress by members approved by this House, where the former union, it is hoped, will be so strongly cemented, that no partial applications can produce the slightest departure from the common cause. We consider ourselves as bound in honour, as well as interest, to share one general fate with our sister Colonies; and should hold ourselves base deserters of that union to which we have acceded, were we to agree on any measures distinct and apart from them.
There was, indeed, a plan of accommodation offered in Parliament, which, though not entirely equal to the terms we had a right to ask, yet differed but in few points from what the General Congress had held out. Had Parliament been disposed sincerely, as we are, to bring about a reconciliation, reasonable men had hoped, that by meeting us on this ground, something might have been done. Lord Chatham’s Bill, on the one part, and the terms of Congress on the other, would have formed a basis for negotiations, which a spirit of accommodation on both sides might, perhaps, have reconciled. It came recommended, too, from one whose successful experience in the art of Government should have insured it some attention from those to whom it was intended. He had shown to the world, that Great Britain, with her Colonies united firmly under a just and honest Government, formed a power which might bid defiance to the most potent enemies. With a change of Ministers, however, a total change of measures took place. The component parts of the Empire have, from that moment, been falling asunder, and a total annihilation of its weight in the political scale of the world, seems justly to be apprehended.
These, my Lord, are our sentiments on this important subject, which we offer only as an individual part of the whole Empire. Final determination we leave to the General Congress, now sitting, before whom we shall lay the papers your Lordship has communicated to us. To their wisdom we commit the improvement of this important advance; if it can be wrought into any good, we were assured they will do it. To them, also, we refer the discovery of that proper method of representing our well-founded grievances, which your Lordship assures us will meet with the attention and regard so justly due to them. For ourselves, we have exhausted every mode of application which our invention could suggest as proper and promising. We have decently remonstrated with Parliament: they have added new injuries to the old. We have wearied our King with applications: he has not deigned to answer us. We have appealed to the native honour and justice of the British Nation. Their efforts in our favour have been hitherto ineffectual. What, then, remains to be done? That we commit our injuries to the evenhanded justice of the Being who doth no wrong, earnestly beseeching him to illuminate the counsels, and prosper the endeavours of those to whom America hath confided her hopes, that through their wise direction we may again see reunited the blessings of liberty, property, and harmony with Great Britain.
[1 ]From Force’s Archives, 4th, ii., 1204. The preparation of this address was referred by the House of Burgesses on June 10th to a committee consisting of “Mr. Cary, Mr. Treasurer (R. C. Nicholas), Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Mumford, Mr. Mercer, Mr. Jones, Mr. Digges, and Mr. Nelson.” It was reported on the 12th by Archibald Cary, and on its acceptance he was first named on the committee to present it to the Governor, both of which duties were usually assigned to the drafter. But Jefferson claims it as his production in his Autobiography (ante, i., 17) in which he also gives an account of it.