Samuel Adams, Letter to James Warren Regarding the Boston Port Act, Text

May 14, 1774

In 1774, Parliament passed the Boston Port Act as punishment for the Boston Tea Party. The Act closed the Port of Boston. When the news of the Act reached Boston, Samuel Adams wrote this letter to James Warren. Adams wrote this letter on May 14, 1774.

Samuel Adams, Painting

Samual Adams is the author of this letter, which was sent to his friend and associate James Warren in Plymouth, Massachusetts.


Boston May 14, 1774

My Dear Sir,

This Town has received the Copy of an Act of the British Parliament, wherein it appears that we have been tried and condemned, and are to be punished, by the shutting up of the harbor and other marks of revenge, until we shall disgrace ourselves by servilely yielding up, in effect, the just and righteous claims of America. If the Parliament had a Right to pass such an edict, does it not discover the want of every moral principle to proceed to the destruction of a community, without even the accusation of any crime committed by such community? And for any thing that appears, this is in fact the case. There is no crime alleged in the Act, as committed by the Town of Boston. Outrages have been committed within the Town, and therefore the community, as such, are to be destroyed, without duly inquiring whether it deserved any punishment at all. Has there not often been the same kind of reason why the Port of London should be shut up, to the starving of hundreds of thousands, when their own mobs have surrounded the King’s Palace? But such are the councils of a nation, once famed and revered for the character of humane just and brave.

The people receive this cruel edict with abhorrence and indignation. They consider themselves as suffering the stroke ministerial — I may more precisely say, Hutchinsonian vengeance, in the common cause of America. I hope they will sustain the blow with a becoming fortitude, and that the cursed design of intimidating and subduing the spirits of all America, will, by the joint efforts of all, be frustrated. It is the expectation of our enemies, and some of our friends are afraid, that this Town, singly, will not be able to support the cause under so severe a trial. Did not the very being of every sea-port town, and indeed of every Colony, considered as a free people, depend upon it, I would not even then entertain a thought so dishonorable of them as that they would leave us now to struggle alone.

I enclose you a copy of a vote, passed by this Town at a very full meeting yesterday, which stands adjourned till Wednesday next, to receive the report of a committee appointed to consider what is proper further to be done. The inhabitants in general abhor the thought of paying for the tea, which is one condition upon which we are to be restored to the grace and favor of Great Britain. Our Committee of Correspondence have written letters to our friends in the Southern Colonies, and they are about writing to the several towns in this Province. The merchants of Newburyport have exhibited a noble example of public spirit, in resolving that, if the other sea-port Towns in this Province alone, will come into the measure, they will not trade to the southward of South Carolina, nor to any part of Great Britain and Ireland, till the harbor of Boston is again open and free; or till the disputes between Britain and the Colonies are settled, upon such terms as all rational men ought to contend for his is a manly and generous resolution. I wish Plymouth, which has hitherto stood foremost, would condescend to second Newburyport. Such a determination put into practice would alter the views of a nation, who are in full expectation that Boston will be unthought of by the rest of the continent, and even of this Province, and left, as they are devoted, to ruin. The heroes who first trod on your shore, fed on clams and muscles, and were contented. The country which they explored, and defended with their richest blood, and which they transmitted as an inheritance to their posterity, affords us a super-abundance of provision. Will it not be an eternal disgrace to this generation, if it should now be surrendered to that people who, if we might judge of them by one of their laws, are barbarians. Impius haec tarn culta novalia miles habebit ? Barbarus has segetes? If our brethren feel and resent the affront and injury now offered to this town; if they realize of how great importance it is to the liberties of all America that Boston should sustain this shock with dignity; if they recollect their own resolutions, to defend the public liberty at the expense of their fortunes and lives, they cannot fail to contribute their aid by a temporary suspension of their trade.

I am your friend,

This version of the letter, written by Samual Adams, is from the “Writings of Samuel Adams, Volume III, 1773–1777” by Henry Alonzo Cushing, pages 112-114, published in 1904.

NOTE: For clarity, we have expanded abbreviations, modernized the spelling of some words, and filled in gaps. The Gaps are indicated with brackets.