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Before I conclude this part of my address, I will answer two very singular interrogatories proposed by the “Can we think,” says he, “to threaten, and bully, and frighten the supreme government of the nation into a compliance with our demands? Can we expect to force submission to our peevish and petulant humors, by exciting clamors and riots in England?” No, gentle sir. We neither desire nor endeavor to threaten, bully, or frighten any persons into a compliance with our demands. We have no peevish and petulant humors to be submitted to. All we aim at is, to convince your high and mighty master, the ministry, that we are not such asses as to let them ride us as they please. We are determined to show them that we know the value of freedom; nor shall their rapacity extort that inestimable jewel from us, without a manly and virtuous struggle. But for your part, sweet sir! though we cannot much applaud your wisdom, yet we are compelled to admire your valor, which leads you to hope you may be able to threaten, bully, and frighten all America into a compliance with your sinister designs. When properly accoutred, and armed with your formidable hickory cudgel, what may not the ministry expect from such a champion? Alas for the poor committee gentlemen! How I tremble when I reflect on the many wounds and scars they must receive from your tremendous arm! Alas for their supporters and abettors! a very large part, indeed, of the continent—but what of that? They must all be soundly drubbed with that confounded hickory cudgel; for surely you would not undertake to drub one of them, without knowing yourself able to treat all their friends and adherents in the same manner, since ’t is plain you would bring them all upon your back.
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’Tis said of Severus Cassius that he spoke best extempore, that he stood more obliged to fortune than to his own diligence; that it was an advantage to him to be interrupted in speaking, and that his adversaries were afraid to nettle him, lest his anger should redouble his eloquence. I know, experimentally, the disposition of nature so impatient of a tedious and elaborate premeditation, that if it do not go frankly and gaily to work, it can perform nothing to purpose. We say of some compositions that they stink of oil and of the lamp, by reason of a certain rough harshness that laborious handling imprints upon those where it has been employed. But besides this, the solicitude of doing well, and a certain striving and contending of a mind too far strained and overbent upon its undertaking, breaks and hinders itself like water, that by force of its own pressing violence and abundance, cannot find a ready issue through the neck of a bottle or a narrow sluice. In this condition of nature, of which I am now speaking, there is this also, that it would not be disordered and stimulated with such passions as the fury of Cassius (for such a motion would be too violent and rude); it would not be jostled, but solicited; it would be roused and heated by unexpected, sudden, and accidental occasions. If it be left to itself, it flags and languishes; agitation only gives it grace and vigor. I am always worst in my own possession, and when wholly at my own disposition: accident has more title to anything that comes from me than I; occasion, company, and even the very rising and falling of my own voice, extract more from my fancy than I can find, when I sound and employ it by myself. By which means, the things I say are better than those I write, if either were to be preferred, where neither is worth anything. This, also, befalls me, that I do not find myself where I seek myself, and I light upon things more by chance than by any inquisition of my own judgment. I perhaps sometimes hit upon something when I write, that seems quaint and sprightly to me, though it will appear dull and heavy to another.—But let us leave these fine compliments: every one talks thus of himself according to his talent. But when I come to speak, I am already so lost that I know not what I was about to say, and in such cases a stranger often finds it out before me. If I should make erasure so often as this inconvenience befalls me, I should make clean work; occasion will, at some other time, lay it as visible to me as the light, and make me wonder what I should stick at.