809. A Tradesman
Massachusetts Centinel, 19 March 1788

To the OBSERVING COUNTRYMAN.

SIR, As one of the tradesmen of the town of Boston, I feel myself much indebted to you for your good wishes in their favour.—I join with you in lamenting the entire decay of trade, and the reduced situation of the industrious mechanicks of this town. Their distresses, perhaps, are greater than any class of men in the community: These distresses have however had one happy effect—They have led them to frequent communications with one another, and to the exercise of their reason.—They have opened their eyes, and pointed them to the true source of all their misfortunes. They are fast discriminating between their real friends and professional ones only, and they find the necessity of an efficient, firm government, where honesty shall be countenanced, and justice uniformly supported. They have become fully impressed with the sentiment that “Honesty is the best policy,” and that confidence in government is essential to the existence of a people—That credit is established solely by punctual, upright conduct, and that this is all that is wanting to make them a happy, free and wealthy people.—For these reasons they look forward to the new Constitution—and it was for these reasons that one of their respectable delegates asserted, that “it was equal to the mines of Peru.” But however great its blessings, they cannot experience them, until it is organized, and in execution. This they are sensible of to their great sorrow.—Miracles are not performed in a moment, and it would be something unusual in the philosophical world, if the effects of an experiment should be realized, before the experiment itself is made. No truer proverb than the old one, “that we cannot tell before we try.” We want but the trial to prove that respectable gentleman’s assertions. That gentleman, concerning whom you have been either grossly misinformed, or have greatly injured, so far from “wanting attention to the tradesmen,” he has forever made their interest his study, and to their immortal honour, they have been sensible of it, and as a mark of their gratitude, have uniformly elected him, of their own mere motion, unsolicited by either himself or his friends, for these twenty years past, to the first offices in their power to bestow, neither are they unmindful of his exertions in forwarding the very subscription of which you appear to be ignorant, and that his name now stands among the first, and equal with the largest subscriber upon that list.

But this is not the only action for which his fellow citizens, and the publick at large, are indebted to him. They are infinitely more so for an exemplary life of industry and integrity in his proper sphere, for upwards of sixty years:—For his steady attention to publick business, and his uniform love to his country:—For his persevering and pointed opposition to British policy, when persons of far less property to lose, shrunk behind the scenes:—For his frequent and very important loans to government in specie, in the most urgent moments:—For his handsome subscriptions in all publick calamities; and for his uniform encouragement, by advancement of monies from time to time, of every species of manufacture. I dare assert, there has not been a subscription opened since the war, where his name is not to be found: I mention these facts as coming within my own knowledge, though not intimately acquainted with that gentleman, and to be instrumental in preventing the growth of slander and ingratitude, which appear to be deeply interwoven with the prevailing spirit of the day.

I would also inform you, that the “Directors of the Bank” have no authority to subscribe to any lists, the monies of the stockholders:—It is not only contrary to the principles of all banks, but they would exceed the trust originally placed in them—Neither can there be an instance of the kind produced from any bank in the world, or I may add the funds of any other corporate body. They are instituted solely to anticipate for certain periods, the resources of individuals, and communities; and surely no candid man will say that the Massachusetts Bank has been deficient in either of these particulars. If you will examine the list for building the ships, or any other, you will find the individual stockholders as forward in subscribing in their private capacity as any class whatever of their fellow citizens. The fact is that a great proportion of the interests of that bank, since its reduction, is the property of widows and orphans, and the principal they have in the world.

I would only further observe, that the subscription list you refer to is nearly compleated, excepting one or two shares, and would recommend your closing it by the addition of your signature. There will then be at least one observing countryman upon the list;—your future observations will come with much more weight, and be more correspondent to the sacred rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

March 18, 1788.