The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. 3

Author: John Wilkes  | Date: 1775


On Coercive Measures in America*

The policy, sir, of this measure, I can no more comprehend, than I can acknowledge the justice of it. Is your force adequate to the attempt? I am satisfied it is not. Boston, indeed, you may lay in ashes, or it may be made a stronggarrison; but the province will be lost to you. Boston will be like Gibraltar. You will hold, in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, as you do in Spain, a single town, while the whole country remains in the power and possession of the enemy. Where your fleets and armies are stationed, the possession will be secured, while they continue; but all the rest will be lost. In the great scale of empire, you will decline, I fear, from the decision of this day; and the Americans will rise to independence, to power, to all the greatness of the most renowned states! For they build on the solid basis of general public liberty.

I tremble, sir, at the almost certain consequences of such an address, founded in cruelty and injustice, equally contrary to the sound maxims of true policy, and the unerring rule of natural right. The Americans will certainly defend their property and their liberties with the spirit which our ancestors exerted, and which, I hope, we should exert, on a like occasion. They will sooner declare themselves independent, and risk every consequence of such a contest, than submit to the galling yoke which administration is preparing for them. An address of this sanguinary nature can not fail of driving them to despair. They will see that you are preparing, not only to draw the sword, but to burn the scabbard. In the most harsh manner you are declaring them rebels! Every idea of a reconciliation will now vanish. They will pursue the most vigorous course in their own defense. Thewhole continent of North America will be dismembered from Great Britain, and the wide arch of the raised empire will fall. But may the just vengeance of the people overtake the authors of these pernicious counsels! May the loss of the first province of the empire be speedily followed by the loss of the heads of those ministers who have persisted in these wicked, these fatal, these most disastrous measures!

* Delivered in parliament early in 1775. In October of the previous year Wilkes had become lord mayor, and in his official capacity had presented to the king the remonstrances of the livery against she coercive policy toward America, the manner in which he discharged his duty evoking from the king a remark that he charmed him; had "never known so well bred a lord mayor." Elected to Parliament in 1774, Wilkes continued to oppose wish vigor the measures of the government in America.


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Chicago: John Wilkes, "I On Coercive Measures in America (1775)," The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. 3 in The World’s Famous Orations, ed. William Jennings Bryan (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, December, 1906), 245–246. Original Sources, accessed July 24, 2024,

MLA: Wilkes, John. "I On Coercive Measures in America (1775)." The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. 3, in The World’s Famous Orations, edited by William Jennings Bryan, Vol. 3, New York, Funk and Wagnalls, December, 1906, pp. 245–246. Original Sources. 24 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Wilkes, J, 'I On Coercive Measures in America (1775)' in The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. 3. cited in December, 1906, The World’s Famous Orations, ed. , Funk and Wagnalls, New York, pp.245–246. Original Sources, retrieved 24 July 2024, from