William Hooper letter
to James Iredell
April 26, 1774

William Hooper - Signer of the Declaration of Independence

In this William Hooper letter to his friend James Iredell, this future North Carolina signer of the Declaration of Independence makes the first known prediction that America would finally sever all ties with Great Britain. Because of this, Hooper earned the nickname "Prophet of Independence." James Iredell would later be appointed by George Washington as an associate justice of the first Supreme Court.

William Hooper Letter - April 26, 1774

April 26th 1774. Dear Sir,

You have great reason to reproach me that I have not long before this answered your most acceptable letter of the 30th of December last. Attribute my neglect to business, which I might have postponed, to forgetfulness, to indolence; but by no means to want of respect, for be assured that this had not the smallest share in the omission. It is a crime however, which in some degree, has carried its punishment with it, as it has deprived me of a repetition of your epistolary favors hitherto, from which I might have derived ample instruction and amusement.

It has afforded me the utmost pleasure, that, notwithstanding the multiplicity of business in which you are engaged, you have found some leisure moments to dedicate to the investigation of those political subjects which have engaged the attention and hurt the peace of this province. Every man who thinks with candor is indebted to you for the share you have taken in this interesting controversy. You have discussed dry truths with the most pleasing language, and have not parted from the most refined delicacy of manners in the warmth of the contest. It is a circumstance which much enhances the merit of the performances written in opposition to the measures of Government, that those who have attempted to answer them have for argument substituted personal invectives, and have lost sight of the measure to run foul of the man.

I am happy, dear Sir, that my conduct in public life has met your approbation. It is a suffrage which makes me vain, as it flows from a man who has wisdom to distinguish, and too much virtue to flatter. If I have served the public in any respect, I have done no more than my duty; if I have adopted measures inconsistent with the public good, and pursued the completion of them, it is to be charged upon my understanding, for my heart hath had no share in the transgression. I shall meet the censure of the world with indifference, wrapt in that applause which no external circumstances can rob me of - that I have done my endeavours to the best of my knowledge to serve my country.

With a pleasure which words can scarce express, I have gone hand in hand with those whose virtue baffled the severest trial, by making a sacrifice of private interests to the promotion of the public good; who in private life maintained a character exemplary in being upright, and by the independent rectitude of their conduct in public life, and the open, generous manner in which they expressed their sentiments, might rival the dignity of a more august senate than that in which they were placed. While the scene of life in which I was engaged with them would have rendered any reserve on my part not only improper, but even culpable, you were destined for a more retired, but not less useful conduct; and whilst I was active in contest, you forged the weapons which were to give success to the cause which I supported. To your most intimate friends I am indebted for the discovery of you as a writer; and you will pardon them for the luxury they have furnished me in an opportunity of being grateful to an author who claims no reward for serving the public but the pleasure of it, and deals out his bounty to them without suffering them to know the hand from which it flows.

With you I anticipate the important share which the Colonies must soon have in regulating the political balance. They are striding fast to independence, and ere long will build an empire upon the ruins of Great Britain; will adopt its constitution purged of its impurities, and from an experience of its defects will guard against those evils which have wasted its vigor and brought it to an untimely end. From the fate of Rome, Britain may trace the cause of its present degeneracy, and its impending destruction. Similar causes will ever produce similar effects. The extent of the British dominion is become too unwieldy for her to sustain. Commerce hath generated a profusion of wealth, and luxury and corruption, the natural attendants of it. Those to whom are entrusted the conduct of the State are too much absorbed in debauchery to attend to the rights of the Constitution, or too enervated to dare to support them. Venality is at the standard it was when Jugurtha left Rome, with this difference, that subjects are now found who have wealth enough to make the purchase, and have advanced very far in the infamous traffic. What Sir Robert Walpole gained by the artful use of the public treasury is now the voluntary contribution of individuals, and subjects vie with each other in the pious purpose of subverting the Constitution. In Britain the attack must soon produce its purpose; it is directed at the freedom of elections, its success buys the independence of Parliament, and then farewell Old England. They who view things superficially, are induced to believe, from the authority which the Mother Country maintains abroad, that the body politic is in the highest vigor.

Appearances deceive them. What strikes them as the glow of health, is but the flushing of a fever. The coloring is transitory and fatal. Rome in its greatest lustre was upon the verge of dissolution; an internal malady preyed upon its vitals, which became the more dangerous from being concealed. Good fortune is a powerful enemy to virtue, and mankind become abandoned in proportion to the strength of temptation, and the facility of being gratified. Her ambition was sated. She sat down in indolence to enjoy the fruits of conquests, regardless of the means by which they were to be supported. Luxury and dissipation ensued. The amusements which they had formerly pursued, and which had conspired to brace their nerves and give vigor to their constitution, and thus prepared them for action, took a different turn; the refinement of the arts and sciences, while it softened the ferocity of their manners, depraved the purity of their morals, and Rome from being the nursery of heroes, became the residence of musicians, pimps, panders, and catamites. Their extravagance and profusion every day excited new wants, while the sources were no longer open from whence they were to be supplied. The provinces, dependent on them who had now added the Roman discipline to their own native bravery, prepared to subdue their conquerors with the arms which they had put into their hands. Wearied with being made the mere instruments of pleasure and convenience to Rome, they began to feel their own importance and to aim at independence. The Empire, no longer in a situation to give laws to her remote dependencies, and to enforce obedience by the exercise of her own strength, had recourse to barbarians for succour, and shuddered at the cabals of her own subjects. She fell a sacrifice to a herd of savage miscreants, and the most polished State in the world sunk at once into absolute barbarism. She had been some time ripe for this fate. Some one of enterprise was wanting to make the attempt. Reserve the catastrophe, and might not Great Britain be the original from which this picture is taken?

America is perhaps reserved to be their asylum; may they find it the asylum of liberty too. Be it our endeavour to guard against every measure that may have a tendency to prevent so desirable an object. Thus I have forced upon you my undigested thoughts upon a subject, which some hints in your letter have drawn me into a discussion of, with a prolixity that will require all your good nature to excuse.

I know too well your reverence for our Constitution not to forgive it in another, although it borders upon enthusiasm. There may be an excess even in virtue.

Adieu, dear Sir. I flatter myself that this may be introductory to a frequent and intimate correspondence between us, in which, though I am to be the only gainer in point of instruction or amusement, yet I shall in a manner thereby make you my debtor by furnishing you the highest entertainment - the luxury of obliging a friend.

I am, dear Sir, &c.,


Red stars

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