My dear sir,—In the late session of our general court, and in the hurry of important business, a petition was presented signed William Burgess, praying to be naturalized. This gentleman very lately arrived from England, by way of Holland. The senate declined sustaining his petition, and gave him leave to withdraw it. A few days after, an authenticated resolution of congress came to hand, recommending it to the states not to admit any British subject whatever. Yet this man has had interest enough to prevail on the assembly to permit him to go to congress, to have it decided there whether he comes within the meaning of their resolution, because his arrival here was prior to the reception of the resolution by this government. If it should be thought there was in this instance a want of attention, it must be imputed to the circumstance I first mentioned. The general court had before directed his departure from the state; requesting the governor however, to allow him convenient time to prepare for his voyage, which appeared to me a sufficient indulgence. Some of our good citizens are disgusted at the favour shown to Mr. B. They say that being a partner with Messrs. Champion and Dickinson, the latter of whom is reported to have been always inimical to America by his residence here, he will probably be instrumental in the importation of as many English goods as he will be able to vend; or in other words, that the new house in Boston will be nearly if not quite as convenient in the time of war, as the old house in London was in time of peace. Whether there will be any danger, congress will judge. Jealousy is a necessary political virtue, especially in times like these. Such a plan would gratify those among us who are still hankering after the onions of Egypt, and would sacrifice our great cause to the desire of gain. What need is there of our admitting (to use the language of congress) any British subject whatever? Congress surely had some good reason when they so earnestly cautioned us against it. Our citizens are in more danger of being seduced by art, than subjugated by arms. I give you this notice that you may have an opportunity of conversing on the subject in your patriotic circles (if you think it worth while) in season. Mr. B. will set off next week in company with one of our new delegates, who I am satisfied will favour his cause. My friendly regards to Dr. Shippen, and my old friends in congress, if any such are there. Adieu.
Believe me to be very affectionately your friend,
1 A short note to Lee, also dated November 21, is in Ibid., p. 231.
[R. H. Lee, Life of Arthur Lee, vol. ii., pp. 231, 232.]
Boston, Dec 2d, 1782.