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Reference : Quotations Bartlett, John

With respect to Ireland you think yourself under no obligation to point out where she may find purchasers for her linens so numerous and wealthy as we are; but unless you could do this, you must leave that country in very deplorable circumstances. It is not true, that she may do just as well with her linens upon her hands, as we can with our flaxseed upon ours. Linen is a staple manufacture of hers, and the sole means of subsistence to a large part of her inhabitants. Flaxseed, as an article of commerce, is comparatively of little importance to us; but we shall stand in need of all the flax we can raise, to manufacture linens for ourselves, and therefore shall not lose our seed by ceasing to export it. I shall say more of this hereafter.

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General principles in subjects of this nature ought always to be advanced with caution; in an experimental analysis there are found such a number of exceptions as tend to render them very doubtful; and in questions which affect the existence and collective happiness of these States, all nice and abstract distinctions should give way to plainer interests, and to more obvious and simple rules of conduct.

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All I ask is that you will judge for I don’t desire you to take my opinion, nor any man’s opinion, as the guide of your actions. I have stated a number of plain arguments. I have supported them with several well-known facts. It is your business to draw a conclusion, and act accordingly. I caution you, again and again, to beware of the men who advise you to forsake the plain path marked out for you by the Congress. They only mean to deceive and betray you. Our representatives in General Assembly cannot take any wiser or better course to settle our differences than our representatives in the Continental Congress have taken. If you join with the rest of America in the same common measure, you will be sure to preserve your liberties inviolate, but if you separate from them, and seek for redress alone, and unseconded, you will certainly fall a prey to your enemies, and repent your folly as long as you live.

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From these considerations it is evident she must do something decisive. She must either listen to our complaints and restore us to a peaceful enjoyment of our violated rights, or she must exert herself to enforce her despotic claims by fire and sword. To imagine she would prefer the latter, implies a charge of the grossest infatuation, of madness itself. Our numbers are very considerable; the courage of Americans has been tried and proved. Contests for liberty have ever been found the most bloody, implacable, and obstinate. The disciplined troops Great Britain could send against us would be but few. Our superiority in number would overbalance our inferiority in discipline. It would be a hard, if not impracticable, task to subjugate us by force.

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It is no easy matter to make any tolerably exact estimate of the advantages that accrue to Great Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies from their commercial intercourse with the colonies; nor, indeed, is it necessary. Every man, the least acquainted with the state and extent of our trade, must be convinced it is the source of immense revenues to the parent state, and gives employment and bread to a vast number of his Majesty’s subjects. It is impossible but that a suspension of it, for any time, must introduce beggary and wretchedness, in an eminent degree, both in England and Ireland. And as to the West India plantations, they could not possibly subsist without us. I am the more confident of this, because I have a pretty general acquaintance with their circumstances and dependencies.

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Much less could the West Indies subsist independent of us. Notwithstanding the continual imports from hence, there is seldom, or never, in any of the islands, a sufficient stock of provisions to last six months, which may give us an idea how great the consumption is. The necessaries they produce within themselves, when compared with the consumption, are scarcely worth mentioning. Very small portions of the land are appropriated to the production of such necessaries; indeed, it is too valuable to admit of it. Nor could the quantity be increased to any material degree, without applying the whole of the land to it. It is alleged that “Canada will furnish them with flour, lumber, horses, etc.,” and that “Georgia, the Floridas, and Mississippi abound in lumber; Nova Scotia, in fish.” These countries have been all along carrying on a trade to the West Indies as well as we; and can it be imagined that, alone, they will be able to supply them tolerably? The Canadians have been indolent, and have not improved their country as they ought to have done. The wheat they raise at present, over and above what they have occasion for themselves, would be found to go but little way among the islands. Those who think the contrary, must have mistaken notions of them. They must be unapprised of the number of souls they contain. Almost every one hundred and fifty or two hundred acres of land, exclusive of populous towns, comprehend a hundred people. It is not a small quantity of food that will suffice for so many. Ten or fifteen years’ diligence, I grant, might enable Canada to perform what is now expected from her; but, in the meantime, the West Indians might have the satisfaction of starving.