How Britain Was Inflaming American Opinion

Author:   Ezra Stiles


Ezra Stiles (1727-1795), a future president of Yale College, was serving as pastor in Newport at the time he wrote this letter. He describes how Parliament’s repressive laws have inflamed Americans, who fled Europe for freedom. He criticizes Britain for not sharing its triumph over France with its colonists. Convinced that the colonists are capable of governing themselves, he predicts future greatness for America.


Not only Britain, but all Europe are Spectators of the Conflict, the Arduous Struggle for Liberty. We consider ourselves as laying the foundation of a glorious future Empire, and acting a part for the Contemplation of Ages. America is ambitious of conducting with that Prudence, Wisdom, Counsel, and true Greatness, which may com[m]end them to the Admiration of Posterity and the World…. The Resolutions of Parliament instead of intimidating only add Fuel to the Flame, invigorate & strength the Resolutions of the Americans. We have the united Wisdom of the Continent incessantly exercised in deliberating, projecting & resolving the public Measures adapted to the present momentous Exigency: and if deserted by our Brethren in Great Britain, and abandoned by the World, we confidently trust in Our GOD that he will deliver us…. America is ready for the last Appeal, which however shocking and tremendous, is by the Body of the Colonies judged less terrible than the Depredations of Tyranny & arbitrary Power….

Our Fathers fled hither for Religion and Liberty: if extirpated from hence, we have no new World to flee to. God has located us here, and by this Location has com[m]anded us here to make a Stand, and see the Salvation of the Lord. In repeated Days of Prayer and Fasting, we have asked Council of Heaven, and com[m]itted our Cause to God…. We are embarked in a glorious and animating Cause, and proceed in it with undoubted Confidence of final Success.[….]

The Maryland Congress has already proceeded to levy Taxes for an Armament. So. Carolina Congress have shut up the Courts of Law. The System proceeds, and may perhaps terminate in an entirely new Colony-Police, by erecting the Congress into the Legislatures of free allied States. And on this Alliance and Confederacy may arise a stated [sic] Continental or Imperial Congress for deliberating Matters of universal Moment. I do not say that this Change would be happiest, wisest & best: but this I say, that the present Measures of Administration & Parl[iamen]t will precipitate & ensure such a Revolution, and if not desisted and departed from, all will very soon terminate in this. If there be no Relaxation speedily, a Continental Army will be raised, and under repeated supposed Defeats, will survive and perpetuate itself, till such or a similar system of Policy shall be eventually established.


Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute