Declaring Independence The Alternative of Williamsburg

The Alternative of Williamsburg
Engraved by Philip Dawe
Published by Robert Sayer
London, February 16, 1775

The Alternative of Williamsburg

(February, 1775)

This political satire was published after the British Parliament passed a series of bills to punish American colonists following the Boston Tea Party. The scene is set in the courtyard of the Capitol building in Williamsburg, Virginia. Citizens are being urged to sign a pledge of loyalty to the resolutions passed by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and to agree not to export tobacco until the repeal of taxes on imported goods. As angry citizens watch, several reluctant citizens are being ushered forward to sign the pledge. The alternative to cooperation with the rebellion is tar and feathers.

One young Englishman traveling in Virginia wrote in his journal on November 1, 1774:

This evening went to the Tavern to hear the Resolves of the Continental Congress. Read a Petition to the Throne and an address to the people of Great Britain. Both of them full of duplicity and false representation. I look upon them as insults to the understanding and dignity of the British Sovereign and people. Am in hopes their petitions will never be granted. I am sorry to see them so well received by the people and the sentiments so universally adopted. It is a plain proof that the seeds of rebellion are already sown and have taken very deep root, but am in hopes they will be eradicated next summer. I am obliged to act the hypocrite and extol these proceedings as the wisest productions of any assembly on Earth, but in my heart I despise them and look upon them with contempt.

Transcribed and published as The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell
by Samuel Thornely (descendant) in 1924;
Published in London, Jonathan Cape, 1925

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