This John Hancock Circular Letter was distributed by the Boston Town Meeting council members in response to the Townshend Acts - a series of acts passed by the British Parliament which placed new taxes on glass, lead, painters' colors, paper and tea and created a stronger regulatory regime to enforce the taxes.
John Hancock was a leading member of the Boston Town Meeting and the head of the committee that drew up the letter, inviting all the towns in Massachusetts to attend a meeting to discuss how they should respond to the Townshend Acts. John Hancock would later become the President of the Continental Congress and the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.
You can read the John Hancock Circular Letter below.
BOSTON, SEPTEMBER 14, 1768.
YOU are already too well acquainted with the melancholly and very alarming Circumstances to which this Province, as well as America in general, is now reduced. Taxes equally detrimental to the Commercial Interests of the Parent Country and her Colonies, are imposed upon the People, without their Consent; -- Taxes designed for the Support of the Civil Government in the Colonies, in a Manner clearly unconstitutional, and contrary to that, in which 'till of late, Government has been supported, by the free Gift of the People in American Assemblies or Parliaments; as also for the Maintenance of a large Standing Army; not for the Defence of the newly acquired Territories, but for the old Colonies, and in a Time of Peace. The decent, humble and truly loyal Applications and Petitions from the Representatives of this Province for the Redress of these heavy and very threatning Grievances, have hitherto been ineffectual, being assured from authentick Intelligence that they have not yet reach'd the Royal Ear: The only Effect of transmitting these Applications hitherto percievable, has been a Mandate from one of his Majesty's Secretaries of State to the Governor of this Province, to Dissolve the General Assembly, merely because the late House of Representatives refused to Rescind a Resolution of a former House, which imply'd nothing more than a Right in the American Subjects to unite in humble and dutiful Petitions to their gracious Sovereign, when they found themselves aggrieved: This is a Right naturally inherent in every Man, and expresly recognized at the glorious Revolution as the Birthright of an Englishman.
This Dissolution you are sensible has taken Place; the Governor has publickly and repeatedly declared that he cannot call another Assembly; and the Secretary of State for the American Department in one of his Letters communicated to the late House, has been pleased to say, that "proper Care will be taken for the Support of the Dignity of Government"; the Meaning of which is too plain to be misunderstood.
The Concern and Perplexity into which these Things have thrown the People, have been greatly aggravated, by a late Declaration of his Excellency Governor BERNARD, that one or more Regiments may soon be expected in this Province.
The Design of these Troops is in every one's Apprehension nothing short of Enforcing by military Power the Execution of Acts of Parliament in the forming of which the Colonies have not, and cannot have any constitutional Influence. This is one of the greatest Distress to which a free People can be reduced.
The Town which we have the Honor to serve, has taken these Things at their late Meeting into their most serious Consideration: And as there is in the Minds of many a prevailing Apprehension of an approaching War with France, they have passed the several Votes, which we transmit to you; desiring that they may be immediately laid before the Town, whose Prudentials are in your Care, at a legal Meeting, for their candid and particular Attention.
Deprived of the Councils of a General Assembly in this dark and difficult Season, the loyal People of this Province, will, we are persuaded, immediately perceive the Propriety and Utility of the proposed Committee of Convention: And the sound and wholesome Advice that may be expected from a Number of Gentlemen chosen by themselves, an in whom they may Repose the greatest Confidence, must tend to the real Service of our Gracious Sovereign, and the Welfare of his Subjects in this Province; and may happily prevent any sudden and unconnected Measures, which in their present Anxiety, and even Agony of Mind, they may be in Danger of falling into.
As it is of Importance that the Convention should meet as soon as may be, so early a Day as the 22nd of this Instant September has been propos'd for that Purpose -- and it is hoped the remotest Towns will by that Time, or as soon after as conveniently may be, return their respective Committees.
Not doubting but that you are equally concerned with us and our Fellow Citizens for the Preservation of our invaluable Rights, and for the general Happiness of our Country, and that you are disposed with equal Ardor to exert yourselves in every constitutional Way for so glorious a Purpose,
With the greatest Esteem,
Your obedient humble Servants,
Select-Men of Boston.