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Livingston, William to Catharine Macaulay

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC01793 Author/Creator: Livingston, William Place Written: New York Type: Letter signed Date: 22 September 1769 Pagination: 4 p. ; 32 x 19 cm.

Summary of Content: Livingston thanks her for the present of her history of England and argues that "nothing will satisfy us short of a Constitution" with America able to tax itself.

Background Information: Signer of the U.S. Constitution.

Full Transcript: New York. Sept 22 1769.

Madam
It was with singular pleasure I received the very acceptable present of your [inserted: justly] celebrated History of England; the value of which is greatly enhanced ...by the Merit of the Author, and the polite letter that accompanied it.
The amiable Spirit of Patriotism which breathes throughout the whole of excellent Work: your inflexible Attachment to the best Constitution that perhaps ever was devised by Human Wisdom, with the most unconquerable Aversion to every tyrannous Machination to undermine it is enough, one would think, to inspire even a Court minion with the Love of Liberty & render the most zealous Advocate for Despotism, like Milton's Satan on beholding the happiness of Eve, at least for a moment, stupidly good. It is truly amazing and shines in a strong point of light, the extreme Degeneracy of Human Nature, that so arbitrary a race as that of the Stuarts, who invariably aimed at the utter Extinction both of our Religion & Government, should find, especially in this refined and enlightened age, any pen to Varnish their pernicious Designs or attempt a Vindication of their illegal attacks on the Liberties of a free People. Still more astonishing it is, that the nation [2] after so great a progress of Science should continue that solemn mockery of God whereby Fools perpetuate what Flatterers invented, the Canonization of one of the greatest Tyrants of that unhappy Family & pray for the remission of a sin that never was, or could, in the nature of things, be committed by the persons who implore the Almighty's forgiveness of it.
The Encomium Madam which you are pleased to bestow upon me as one of the most distinguished Guardians of the American Liberty is probably beyond my Deserts. But this I can I hope with Truth declare, that no earthly Consideration whatsoever would bribe me servilely to submit to any measures subversive to our glorious Constitution.
The Americans, Madam, have reason to rejoice that in You they have a Patroness of their Liberties; and that you have a tender feeling for their Sufferings. Heaven grant this feeling may never be obliterated by the Misrepresentations of our Enemies; for be assured upon the Word of an honest Man, that however vestiff [sic] to what we deem unconstitutional Measures, his Majesty has not in all his three Kingdoms any Subjects that Surpass us, for affection to his Royal Person, or attachment to his Illustrious Family. We are generally and almost universally Whigs; and should, I am confident stand by him regardless of our Blood or Treasure, when those who plume themselves upon their [3] boasted Veneration for Prerogative would desert him for any Pretender & probably profess extreme Devotion & Loyalty to the Devil himself, if advanced to the British Monarchy and capable of rewarding their infamous Merit. Sorry indeed we are that one of the best Kings in the World, should employ about his sacred Person, so many designing & selfinterested Men the loss of whose Heads on a Block would perhaps not be too great of a Sacrifice to the National Resentment: But none of this Mismanagement do we impute to his Heart; and an upright Soul should like Charity cover a Multitude of Faults.-
Your desire of having an Account of the Affairs of America from my own hand, is what my Inclination would prompt me with the greatest Alacrity to gratify: But being so generally expressed, it might perhaps lead me into a detail of many facts with which you are already intimately acquainted, while I might pass over in silence such particulars as you have principally in View. I shall therefore until I have the Honour of receiving a more particular specification of your desire (which with me will ever carry the force of a command) content myself with observing that nothing will satisfy us short of a Constitution similar to that enjoyed by our fellow Subjects at home and established upon such a basis that any infringement of it by the Parliament be deemed so fundamental a Violation as would absolve us from all dependence on the Mother Country. We never can [4] acquiesce in such an unheard of System of Government whereby a part of the Commons shall have a Power of taxing the rest of their fellow subjects whom they do not represent, & by that means from the Nature and Depravity of men be perpetually impelled to commit the most fragrant Injustice by easing themselves of the Burden which they are thus invested with the power of laying upon others. A sollicism [sic] in Government not to be paralleled in the History of any People under Heaven.
I take the Liberty to recommend to your Notice the Bearer of this Letter who is a Nephew of mine just bound on a Taunt to London. I doubt not you will find him a sensible young gentleman & capable of resolving you in many Inquiries which your Compassion for our sufferings may induce you to make concerning us. I am.
Madam
With the greatest respect
your most humbled &
most obedient servant
Wil: Livingston

Docket: Wm. Livingston Esq. 213
Sepbr 21 1769- New York-

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People: Macaulay, Catharine, 1731-1791

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Women's HistoryLiterature and Language ArtsGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyFreedom and IndependenceGovernment and CivicsTaxes or TaxationFinance

Sub Era: Road to Revolution

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