Accusations that the British Are Plotting to Deprive Americans of their Liberties

Author:   Charles Thomson


Born in Ulster, Charles Thomson (1729-1824) came to Philadelphia as a young schoolmaster. During the 1765 Stamp Act Crisis, Thomson became a significant figure in local politics, orchestrating resistance to the measure in Philadelphia. Over the next decade, Thomson continued to be a central figure in the organization of Philadelphia opposition to British trade policies. With the coming of the Revolution, Thomson became Secretary of the Continental Congress, a post he retained until the creation of the federal government in 1789. Ignored by the Washington administration, he spent the last 35 years of his life out of public office.

Here, Thomson, writing as a member of the Philadelphia Merchants’ Committee, which strongly supported the non-importation efforts, argues that British actions–the imposition of illegal taxes, the bloated customs bureaucracy, the stationing of an army among the people–all were part of a plot to deprive Americans of their liberties.


First the parliament claims a right to levy taxes upon the Americans without their consent;…they declare that they have a power to make laws to bind them in all cases whatever: By another act they suspend the legislative authority of an American Assembly for daring to dispute their commands…. The army, which was left in America after the late war under the pretence of securing and defending it, is now publicly declared to be for the purpose of enforcing obedience to the authority of Parliament. The remonstrances and Petitions of the Assemblies in favour of their rights, and against these claims of Parliament, are treated as sedition and the attempts of the people to procure a redress of grievances are deemed rebellion and treason: and, in order to intimidate the colonies, an antique, obsolete law is revived and the crown addressed to send for persons accused of treasonable practices in America & try them in England. How much further they may proceed is uncertain; but from what they have already done the colonies see that their property is precarious & their liberty insecure. It is true the impositions already laid are not very grievous; but if the principle is established, and the authority, by which they are laid, admitted, there is no security for what remains. The very nature of freedom supposes that no tax can be levied on a people without their consent given personally or by their representatives.

….I have often viewed with infinite satisfaction the prodigious growth & power of the British Empire and have pleased myself with the hopes that in a century or two the British colonies would overspread this immense territory added to the crown of Britain [i.e. Canada], carrying with them the religion of Protestants, and the laws, customers, manners, & language of the country from whence they sprung;… But alas! the folly of a weak administration has darkened the prospect.


Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute