THE FARMER REFUTED.
FEBRUARY 5, 1775.
The Farmer Refuted; or, a more comprehensive and impartial View of the Disputes between Great Britain and the Colonies. Intended as a further Vindication of the Congress, in answer to a Letter from a West-Chester Farmer, entitled a View of the Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies, including a mode of determining the present disputes, finally and effectually, &c. By a sincere friend to America. Tituli remedia pollicentur, sed pixedes ipsae venena continent—The title promises remedies, but the box itself poisons. Printed by James Rivington, 1775.
The writer of the ensuing sheets can, with truth, say more than the generality of those who either espouse or oppose the claim of the BRITISH PARLIAMENT; which is, that his political opinions have been the result of mature deliberation and rational inquiry. They have not been influenced by prejudice, nor by any interested or ambitious motives. They are not the spawn of licentious clamors, or popular declamation; but the genuine offspring of sober reason. To those who are inclined to doubt his sincerity, he begs leave to recommend a little more charily. To those who are possessed of greater candor, and who yet may be disposed to ask,How he can be sure that his opinions have not been influenced by prejudice 1 He answers, Because he remembers the time, when he had strong prejudices on the side he now opposes. His change of sentiment (he firmly believes), proceeded from the superior force of the arguments in favor of the American claims.
Though he is convinced there are too many, whose judgments are led captive by the most venal and despicable motives, yet he does not presume to think every man, who differs from him, either fool or knave. He is sensible there are men of parts and virtue, whose notions are entirely contrary to his. To imagine there are not wise and good men on both sides, must be the effect of a weak head, or a corrupt heart. He earnestly entreats the candid attention of the judicious and well-meaning; and hopes that what he has written may be read with as much impartiality, and as sincere a regard to truth, as the importance of the controversy demands.
SIR,—I resume my pen, in reply to the curious epistle you have been pleased to favor me with; and can assure you, that notwithstanding I am naturally of a grave and phlegmatic disposition, it has been the source of abundant merriment to me. The spirit that breathes throughout, is so rancorous, illiberal, and imperious; the argumentative part of it is so puerile and fallacious; the misrepresentations of facts, so palpable and flagrant; the criticisms so illiterate, trifling, and absurd; the conceits so low, sterile, and splenetic; that I will venture to pronounce it one of the most ludicrous performances which has been exhibited to public view during all the present controversy.
You have not even imposed on me the laborious task of pursuing you through a labyrinth of subtlety. You have not had ability sufficient, however violent your efforts, to try the depths of sophistry; but have barely skimmed along its surface. I should almost deem the animadversions I am going to make un necessary, were it not that without them you might exult in a fancied victory, and arrogate to yourself imaginary trophies.
But, while I pass this judgment, it is not my intention to de tract from your real merit. Candor obliges me to acknowledge that you possess every accomplishment of a polemical writer, which may serve to dazzle and mislead superficial and vulgar minds: a peremptory, dictatorial air; a pert vivacity of expression; an inordinate passion for conceit; and a noble disdain of being fettered by the laws of truth. These, sir, are important qualifications; and these all unite in you in a very eminentdegree. So that, though you may never expect the plaudits of the judicious and discerning, you may console yourself with this assurance, that
“Fools and witlings ‘will’ ev’ry sentence raise, And wonder, with a foolish face of praise.”
You will, do doubt, be pleased with this further concession; to wit: that there is a striking resemblance between yourself and the renowned hero of the Dunciad. “Pert dullness,” seems to be the chief characteristic of your genius as well as his. I might point out a variety of circumstances in which you both agree; but I shall content myself with having given the hint, and leave it to yourself and to your other* admirers, to prosecute a comparison, which will reflect so high luster on the object of admiration.
Having thus briefly delivered my sentiments of your performance in general, I shall proceed to a particular examination of it, so far as may be requisite, towards placing it in that just point of light in which it ought to stand. I flatter myself, I shall find no difficulty in obviating the objections you have produced against the “Full Vindication;” and in showing that your “View of the Controversy between Great Britain and the Colonies,” is not only partial and unjust, but diametrically opposite to the first principles of civil society. In doing this, I may occasionally interweave some strictures on the “Congress Canvassed.”
First, then, I observe you endeavor to bring the imputation of inconsistency upon me, for writing “a long and elaborate pamphlet, to justify decisions, against whose influence none but impotent attempts had been made.” A little attention would have unfolded the whole mystery. The reason assigned for what I did was, “lest those attempts,” impotent as they were, in a general sense, “might yet have a tendency to mislead and prejudice the minds of a few.” To prevent this, I wrote; and if I have been instrumental in preserving a single person from the baneful
* If we may judge from the style and turn of thought, you were pleased to be your own admirer in the card in replyeffects of your insidious efforts, I shall not regret the time I have devoted to that laudable purpose. To confirm, or to add, one friend to his country, would afford a more refined and permanent satisfaction to me, than could possibly animate the breast of the proudest ministerial minion, though elevated to the pinnacle of his wished-for preferment, and basking in the sunshine of court favor, as the despicable wages of his prostitution and servility.
You tell me, “I knew, that at the bar of impartial reason and common sense, the conduct of the Congress must be condemned; but was too much interested, too deeply engaged in party views and party heats to bear this with patience, /had no remedy (you say) but artifice, sophistry, misrepresentation and abuse.” These you call “my weapons, and these I wield like an old experienced practitioner.”
You ask, “Is this too heavy a charge? Can you lay your hand upon your heart, and upon your honor plead not guilty?” Yes, sir, I can do more. I can make a solemn appeal to the tribunal of Heaven, for the rectitude of my intentions. I can affirm, with the most scrupulous regard to truth, that I am of opinion the conduct of the Congress will bear the most impartial scrutiny; that I am not interested more than as the felicity and prosperity of this vast continent are concerned; and that I am perfectly disengaged from party of every kind.
Here, I expect you will exclaim, with your usual vehemence and indecency, “You are now espousing the cause of a party! It is the most daring impudence and falsehood to assert the contrary!” I can by no means conceive, that an opposition to a small herd of malcontents, among whom you have thought pro per to rank, and a zealous attachment to the general measures of America, can be denominated the effect of a party spirit. You, sir, and your adherents, may be justly deemed a faction, because you compose a small number inimical to the common voice of your country. To determine the truth of this affirmation, it is necessary to take a comprehensive view of all the colonies.
Throughout your letter, you seem to consider me as a person who has acted, and is still acting, some part in the formation andexecution of public measures. You tacitly represent me as a Delegate, or member of the Committee. Whether this be done with a design to create a suspicion of my sincerity, or whether it be really your opinion, I know not. Perhaps it is from a complex motive. But I can assure you, if you are in earnest, that you are entirely mistaken. I have taken no other part in the affair, than that of defending the proceedings of the Congress, in conversation, and by the pamphlet I lately published. I approved of them, and thought an undeviating compliance with them essential to the preservation of American freedom. I shall, therefore, strenuously exert myself for the promotion of that valuable end.
In the field of literary contention, it is common to see the epithets artifice, sophistry, misrepresentation, and abuse, mutually bandied about. Whether they are more justly applicable to you, or to me, the public must decide. With respect to abuse, I make not the least doubt but every reader will allow you to surpass me in that.
Your envenomed pen has endeavored to sully the characters of our continental representatives with the presumptuous charges of ignorance, knavery, sedition, rebellion, treason, and tyranny—a tremendous catalogue, indeed! Nor have you treated their friends and adherents with any greater degree of complaisance. You have also delineated the mercantile body as entirely devoid of principle; and the several committees, as bands of robbers and petty tyrants. In short, except the few who are of your own complexion and stamp, “the virtuous friends of order and good government,” you have not hesitated to exercise your obloquy and malevolence against the whole continent.
These things being considered, it is manifest, that in my answer to your “Free Thoughts,” I treated you with more lenity than you had a right to expect; and did by no means observe the strict law of retaliation. None but yourself, will think you can, with the least propriety, complain of abuse.
I congratulate myself upon the sentiments you entertain of my last performance. Such is my opinion of your abilities as a critic, that I very much prefer your disapprobation to your ap-plause. But with respect to the brilliancy of thought you speak of, give me leave to inform you, that I aimed at nothing more than justness of thought. I addressed myself to the judgment, not to the imagination. In works where fancy is predominant, as is the case with yours, there is a better opportunity for dis playing brilliancy of thought, than where reason presides and directs. No wonder, then, if you have excelled me in this particular; since your plan is so much more favorable to it than mine.
I shall, for the present, pass over that part of your pamphlet, in which you endeavor to establish the supremacy of the British Parliament over America. After a proper eclaircissement of this point, I shall draw such inferences as will sap the foundation of every thing you have offered.
The first thing that presents itself, is a wish, that “I had, explicitly, declared to the public, my ideas of the natural rights of mankind. Man, in a state of nature (you say), may be considered as perfectly free from all restraint of law and government; and then, the weak must submit to the strong.”
I shall, henceforth, begin to make some allowance for that enmity you have discovered to the natural rights of mankind. For, though ignorance of them, in this enlightened age, cannot be admitted as a sufficient excuse for you; yet it ought, in some measure, to extenuate your guilt. If you will follow my advice, there still may be hopes of your reformation. Apply yourself, without delay, to the study of the law of nature. I would re commend to your perusal, Grotius, Puffendorf, Locke, Montesquieu, and Burlemaqui. I might mention other excellent writers on this subject; but if you attend diligently to these, you will not require any others.
There is so strong a similitude between your political principles and those maintained by Mr. Hobbes, that, in judging from them, a person might very easily mistake you for a disciple of his. His opinion was exactly coincident with yours, relative to man in a state of nature. He held, as you do, that he was, then, perfectly free from all restraint of law and government. Moral obligation, according to him, is derived from the intro-introduction of civil society; and there is no virtue, but what is purely artificial, the mere contrivance of politicians, for the maintenance of social intercourse. But the reason he run into this absurd and impious doctrine, was, that he disbelieved the existence of an intelligent superintending principle, who is the governor, and will be the final judge of the universe.
As you, sometimes, swear by him that made you, I conclude, your sentiment does not correspond with his, in that which is the basis of the doctrine, you both agree in; and this makes it impossible to imagine whence this congruity between you arises. To grant, that there is a supreme intelligence, who rules the world, and has established laws to regulate the actions of his creatures; and, still, to assert, that man, in a state of nature, may be considered as perfectly free from all restraints of law and government, appear to a common understanding, altogether irreconcilable.
Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dissimilar theory. They have supposed, that the deity, from the relations, we stand in, to himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is, indispensably, obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution whatever.
This is what is called the law of nature, “which, being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid, derive all their authority, mediately, or immediately, from this original.” —BLACKSTONE.
Upon this law, depend the natural rights of mankind, the supreme being gave existence to man, together with the means of preserving and beatifying that existence. He endowed him with rational faculties, by the help of which, to discern and pursue such things, as were consistent with his duty and interest, and invested him with an inviolable right to personal liberty, and personal safety.
Hence, in a state of nature, no man had any moral power to deprive another of his life, limbs, property or liberty; nor the least authority to command, or exact obedience from him; except that which arose from the ties of consanguinity.
Hence also, the origin of all civil government, justly established, must be a voluntary compact, between the rulers and the ruled; and must be liable to such limitations, as are necessary for the security of the absolute rights of the latter; for what original title can any man or set of men have, to govern others, except their own consent? To usurp dominion over a people, in their own despite, or to grasp at a more extensive power than they are willing to entrust, is to violate that law of nature, which gives every man a right to his personal liberty; and can, therefore, confer no obligation to obedience.
“The principal aim of society is to protect individuals, in the enjoyment of those absolute rights, which were vested in them by the immutable laws of nature; but which could not be preserved, in peace, without that mutual assistance, and intercourse, which is gained by the institution of friendly and social communities. Hence it follows, that the first and primary end of human laws, is to maintain and regulate these absolute rights of individuals.” —BLACKSTONE.
If we examine the pretensions of parliament, by this criterion, which is evidently, a good one, we shall, presently detect their injustice. First, they are subversive of our natural liberty, because an authority is assumed over us, which we by no means assent to. And secondly, they divest us of that moral security, for our lives and properties, which we are entitled to, and which it is the primary end of society to bestow. For such security can never exist, while we have no part in making the laws, that are to bind us; and while it may be the interest of our uncontrolled legislators to oppress us as much as possible.
To deny these principles will be not less absurd, than to deny the plainest axioms: I shall not, therefore, attempt any further illustration of them.
You say, “When I assert, that since Americans have not, by any act of theirs, empowered the British Parliament to make laws for them, it follows they can have no just authority to do it; I advance a position subversive of that dependence, whichall colonies must, from their very nature, have on the mother country.” The premises from which I drew this conclusion, are indisputable. You have not detected any fallacy in them; but endeavor to overthrow them by deducing a false and imaginary consequence. My principles admit the only dependence which can subsist, consistent with any idea of civil liberty, or with the future welfare of the British empire, as will appear hereafter.
“The dependence of the colonies on the mother country,” you assert, “has ever been acknowledged. It is an impropriety of speech, to talk of an independent colony. The words independent and colony, convey contradictory ideas; much like killing and sparing* As soon as a colony becomes independent on the parent state, it ceases to be any longer a colony, just as when you kill a sheep, you cease to spare him.”
In what sense the dependence of the colonies on the mother country, has been acknowledged, will appear from those circumstances of their political history, which I shall, by and by, recite. The term colony, signifies nothing more than a body of people drawn from the mother country, to inhabit some distant place, or the country itself so inhabited. As to the degrees and modifications of that subordination, which is due to the parent state, these must depend upon other things besides the mere act of emigration, to inhabit or settle a distant country. These must be ascertained by the spirit of the constitution of the mother country; by the compacts for the purpose of colonizing; and, more especially, by the law of nature, and that supreme law of every society—its own happiness.
The idea of colony does not involve the idea of slavery. There is a wide difference between the dependence of a free people, and the submission of slaves. The former I allow; the
*I find, sir, you take a particular delight in persisting in absurdity. But if you are not totally incorrigible, the following interpretation of the unfortunate adverb, will secure it from any future stripes. It is taken from Johnson’s Dictionary: SPARINGLY, not abundantly, Bacon; 2, frugally, parsimoniously; not lavishly. Hayward; with abstinence, Atterbury; cautiously, tenderly. Substitute frugally, or, not lavishly, for sparingly, and you must blush at your own conceit. ” Kill your sheep frugally, or, not lavishly.” Where is the impropriety of this?latter I reject with disdain. Nor does the notion of a colony imply any subordination to our fellow-subjects in the parent state, while there is one common sovereign established. The dependence of the colonies on Great Britain, is an ambiguous and equivocal phrase. It may either mean dependence on the people of Great Britain, or on the king. In the former sense, it is absurd and unaccountable. In the latter, it is just and rational. No person will affirm that a French colony is independent on the parent state, though it acknowledge the king of France as rightful sovereign. Nor can it, with any greater propriety, be said, that an English colony is independent, while it bears allegiance to the king of Great Britain. The difference between their dependence, is only that which distinguishes civil liberty from slavery; and results from the different genius of the French and English constitutions.
But you deny that “we can be liege subjects to the king of Great Britain, while we disavow the authority of Parliament.” You endeavor to prove it thus :* “The king of Great Britain was placed on the throne, by virtue of an act of Parliament: and he is king of America, by virtue of being king of Great Britain. He is, therefore, king of America by act of Parliament: and, if we disclaim that authority of Parliament which made him our king, we, in fact, reject him from being our king; for we disclaim that authority by which he is king at all.”
Admitting that the king of Great Britain was enthroned by virtue of an act of Parliament; and that he is king of America, because he is king of Great Britain; yet, the act of Parliament is not the efficient cause of his being the king of America. It is only the occasion of it. He is king of America, by virtue of a compact between us and the kings of Great Britain. These colonies were planted and settled by the grants, and under the protection, of English kings, who entered into covenants with us, for themselves, their heirs, and successors; and it is from these covenants, that the duty of protection, on their part, and the duty of allegiance, on ours, arise.
* Vide “Congress Canvassed.”So that, to disclaim the authority of a British Parliament over us, does by no means imply the dereliction of our allegiance to British monarchs. Our compact takes no cognizance of the manner of their accession to the throne. It is sufficient for us that they are kings of England.
The most valid reasons can be assigned for our allegiance to the king of Great Britain; but not one of the least force, or plausibility, for our subjection to parliamentary decrees.
We hold our lands in America by virtue of charters from British monarchs; and are under no obligations to the Lords or Commons for them. Our title is similar, and equal, to that by which they possess their lands; and the king is the legal fountain of both. This is one grand source of our obligation to allegiance.
Another, and the principal source, is, that protection which we have hitherto enjoyed from the kings of Great Britain. Nothing is more common than to hear the votaries of Parliament urge the protection we have received from the mother country, as an argument for submission to its claims. But they entertain erroneous conceptions of the matter. The king him self, being the supreme executive magistrate, is regarded by the constitution as the supreme protector of the empire. For this purpose, he is the generalissimo, or first in military command. In him is vested the power of making war and peace; of raising armies, equipping fleets, and directing all their motions. He it is, that has defended us from our enemies; and to him alone we are obliged to render allegiance and submission.
The law of nature, and the British constitution, both confine allegiance to the person of the king; and found it upon the principle of protection. We may see the subject discussed at large, in the case of Calvin. The definition given of it by the learned Coke, is this: “Legiance is the mutual bond and obligation between the king and his subjects; whereby subjects are called his liege subjects, because they are bound to obey and serve him: and he is called their liege lord, because he is bound to maintain and defend them.” Hence it is evident, that while we enjoy the protection of the king, it is incumbent upon us toobey and serve him, without the interposition of parliamentary supremacy.
The right of Parliament to legislate for us, cannot be ac counted for upon any reasonable grounds. The constitution of Great Britain is very properly called a limited monarchy; the people having reserved to themselves a share in the legislature, as a check upon the regal authority, to prevent its degenerating into despotism and tyranny. The very aim and intention of the democratical part, or the House of Commons, is to secure the rights of the people. Its very being depends upon those rights. Its whole power is derived from them, and must be terminated by them.
It is the unalienable birth-right of every Englishman, who can be considered as a free agent, to participate in framing the laws which are to bind him, either as to his life or property. But, as many inconveniences would result from the exercise of this right in person, it is appointed by the constitution that he shall delegate it to another. Hence, he is to give his vote in the election of some person he chooses to confide in as his representative. This right no power on earth can divest him of. It was enjoyed by his ancestors time immemorial; recognized and established by Magna Charta; and is essential to the existence of the constitution. Abolish this privilege, and the House of Commons is annihilated.
But what was the use and design of this privilege? To secure his life and property from the attacks of exorbitant power. And in what manner is this done? By giving him the election of those who are to have the disposal and regulation of them, and whose interest is in every respect connected with his.
The representative, in this case, is bound, by every possible tie, to consult the advantage of his constituents. Gratitude for the high and honorable trust reposed in him, demands a return of attention, and regard to the advancement of his happiness. Self-interest, that most powerful incentive of human actions, points and attracts towards the same object.
The duration of his trust is not perpetual, but must expire in a few years: and if he is desirous of the future favor of hisconstituents, he must not abuse the present instance of it, but must pursue the end for which he enjoys it; otherwise he forfeits it, and defeats his own purpose. Besides, if he consent to any laws hurtful to his constituent, he is bound by the same, and must partake the disadvantage of them. His friends, relations, children, all whose ease and comfort are dear to him, will be in a like predicament. And should he concur in any flagrant acts of injustice or oppression, he will be within the reach of popular vengeance; and this will restrain him within due bounds.
To crown the whole; at the expiration of a few years, if their representatives have abused their trust, the people have it in their power to change them; and to elect others, who may be more faithful and more attached to their interest.
These securities, the most powerful that human affairs will admit of, have the people of Britain for the good deportment of their representatives towards them. They may have proved, at some times, and on some occasions, defective; but, upon the whole, they have been found sufficient.
When we ascribe to the British House of Commons a jurisdiction over the colonies, the scene is entirely reversed. All these kinds of security immediately disappear; no ties of gratitude or interest remain. Interest, indeed, may operate to our prejudice. To oppress us, may serve as a recommendation to their constituents, as well as an alleviation of their own encumbrances. The British patriots may, in time, be heard to court the gale of popular favor, by boasting their exploits in laying some new impositions on their American vassals; and, by that means, lessening the burthens of their friends and fellow-subjects.
But what merits still more serious attention is this: there seems to be already a jealousy of our dawning splendor. It is looked upon as portentous of approaching independence. This, we have reason to believe, is one of the principal incitements to the present rigorous and unconstitutional proceedings against us. And though it may have chiefly originated in the calumnies of designing men, yet it does not entirely depend upon adventitious or partial causes; but is also founded in the circumstances of our country and situation. The boundless extent of territory wepossess; the wholesome temperament of our climate; the luxuriance and fertility of our soil; the variety of our products ; the rapidity of our population; the industry of our countrymen; and the commodiousness of our ports; naturally lead to a suspicion of independence, and would always have an influence pernicious to us. Jealousy is a predominant passion of human nature, and is a source of the greatest evils. Whenever it takes place between rulers and their subjects, it proves the bane of civil society.
The experience of past ages may inform us, that when the circumstances of a people render them distressed, their rulers generally recur to severe, cruel, and oppressive measures. Instead of endeavoring to establish their authority in the affection of their subjects, they think they have no security but in their fear. They do not aim at gaining their fidelity and obedience, by making them flourishing, prosperous, and happy; but by rendering them abject and dispirited. They think it necessary to intimidate and awe them; to make every accession to their own power, and to impair the people’s as much as possible.
One great engine to effect this in America, would be a large standing army, maintained out of our own pockets, to be at the devotion of our oppressors. This would be introduced under pretext of defending us; but, in fact, to make our bondage and misery complete.
We might soon expect the martial law, universally prevalent to the abolition of trials by juries, the Habeas Corpus act, and every other bulwark of personal safety, in order to overawe the honest assertors of their country’s cause. A numerous train of court dependents would be created and supported at our expense. The value of all our possessions, by a complication of extorsive measures, would be gradually depreciated, till it became a mere shadow.
This will be called too high wrought a picture, a phantom of my own deluded imagination. The highest eulogies will be lavished on the wisdom and justice of the British nation. But deplorable is the condition of that people, who have nothing else than the wisdom and justice of another to depend upon.”Political writers,” says a celebrated author,* “have established it as a maxim, that, in contriving any system of government, and fixing the several checks and controls of the constitution, every man ought to be supposed a knave; and to have no other end, in all his actions, but private interest. By this interest we must govern him; and, by means of it, make him co-operate to public good, notwithstanding his insatiable avarice and ambition. Without this, we shall in vain boast of the advantages of any constitution; and shall find, in the end, that we have no security for our liberties and possessions, except the good will of our rulers; that is, we should have no security at all.
“It is, therefore, a just political maxim, that every man must be supposed a knave. Though, at the same time, it appears somewhat strange, that a maxim should be true in politics which is false in fact. But to satisfy us on this head, we may consider that men are generally more honest in a private than in a public capacity; and will go greater lengths to serve a party than when their own private interest is alone concerned. Honor is a great check upon mankind. But, where a considerable body of men act together, this check is in a great measure removed, since a man is sure to be approved by his own party for what promotes the common interest; and he soon learns to despise the clamors of adversaries. To this we may add, that every court or senate is determined by the greater number of voices; so that, if self-interest influences only the majority (as it will always do), the whole senate follows the allurements of this separate interest; and acts as if it contained not one member who had any regard to public interest and liberty.” What additional force do these observations acquire, when applied to the dominion of one community over another!
From what has been said, it is plain, that we are without those checks upon the representatives of Great Britain which alone can make them answer the end of their appointment with respect to us; which is the preservation of the rights, and the advancement of the happiness of the governed. The direct and inevitable consequence is, they have no right to govern us.
* Hume, vol. 1. Essay 5.Let us examine it in another light. The House of Commons receives all its authority from its electors, in consequence of the right they have to a share in the legislature. Its electors are free holders, citizens, and others, in Great Britain. It follows, there fore, that all its authority is confined to Great Britain. This is demonstrative. Sophistry, by an artful play of ambiguous terms, may perplex and obscure it; but reason can never confute it. The power which one society bestows upon any man, or body of men, can never extend beyond its own limits. The people of Great Britain may confer an authority over themselves, but they can never confer any over the people of America, because it is impossible for them to give that to another which they never possessed themselves. Now, I should be glad to see an attempt to prove that a freeholder, citizen, or any other man in Great Britain, has any inherent right to the life, property, or liberty, of a freeholder, citizen, or any other man in America. He can have no original and intrinsic right, because nature has distributed an equality of rights to every man. He can have no secondary or derivative right, because the only thing which could give him that is wanting—the consent of the natural proprietor. It is incumbent upon you to demonstrate the existence of such a right, or any thing else you may produce will be of little avail. I do not expect you will be discouraged at the apparent difficulty. It is the peculiar province of an enterprising genius to surmount the greatest obstacles, and you have discovered an admirable dexterity in this way. You have put to flight some of my best arguments, with no greater pains than a few positive assertions, and as many pal try witticisms; and you become altogether irresistible by adding, with a proper degree of confidence, You know the case to be as I state it.
When I say that the authority of Parliament is confined to Great Britain, I speak of it in its primitive and original state. Parliament may acquire an incidental influence over others, but this must be by their own free consent; for, without this, any power it might exercise would be mere usurpation, and by no means a just authority.
The best way of determining disputes, and of investigatingtruth, is by descending to elementary principles. Any other method may only bewilder and misguide the understanding, but this will soon lead to a convincing and satisfactory crisis. By observing this method, we shall learn the following truths.
That the existence of the House of Commons depends upon the people’s right to a share in the legislature, which is exercised by means of electing the members of that house. That the end and intention of this right is to preserve the life, property, and liberty of the subject, from the encroachments of oppression and tyranny.
That this end is accomplished, by means of the intimate connection of interest, between those members and their constituents, the people of Great Britain.
That with respect to the people of America, there is no such intimate connection of interest, but the contrary; and therefore that end could not be answered to them; consequently, the end ceasing, the means must cease also.
The House of Commons derives all its power from its own real constituents, who are the people of Great Britain; and that, therefore, it has no power but what they originally had in themselves.
That they had no original right to the life, property, or liberty, of Americans; nor any acquired from their own consent; and of course could give no authority over them.
That, therefore, the House of Commons has no such authority.
What need is there of a multiplicity of arguments, or a long chain of reasoning, to inculcate these luminous principles? They speak the plainest language to every man of common sense; and must carry conviction where the mental eye is not be- dimmed by the mist of prejudice, partiality, ambition, or avarice. Let us now see what has been offered in opposition to them.
But, by the way, let me remark, that I have leveled my battery chiefly against the authority of the House of Commons over America; because, if that be proved not to exist, the dispute is at an end. The efficacy of Acts of Parliament, de-pends upon the due authority of the respective branches, to bind the different orders and ranks of the nation.
It is said, that “in every government there must be a supreme absolute authority lodged somewhere. In arbitrary governments, this power is in the monarch; in aristocratical governments, in the nobles; in democratical, in the people, or the deputies of their electing. Our own government, being a mixture of all these kinds, the supreme authority is vested in the king, nobles, and people; i.e., the King, House of Lords, and House of Commons elected by the people. The supreme authority extends as far as the British dominions extend. To suppose a part of the British dominions, which is not subject to the power of the British legislature, is no better sense than to suppose a country, at one and the same time, to be, and not to be, a part of the British dominions. If, therefore, the colony of New- York is a part of the British dominions, the colony of New- York is subject to, and dependent on, the supreme legislative authority of Great Britain.”
This argument is the most specious of any the advocates for parliamentary supremacy are able to produce; but when we come to anatomize, and closely examine, every part of it, we shall discover, that it is entirely composed of distorted and misapplied principles, together with ambiguous and equivocal terms.
The first branch is, That “in every government, there must be a supreme, absolute authority lodged somewhere.” This position, when properly explained, is evidently just. In every civil society, there must be a supreme power, to which all the members of that society are subject; for, otherwise, there could be no supremacy, or subordination; that is, no government at all. But no use can be made of this principle beyond matter of fact. To infer from thence, that unless a supreme absolute authority be vested in one part of an empire over all the other parts, there can be no government in the whole, is false and absurd. Each branch may enjoy a distinct, complete legislature, and still good government may be preserved everywhere. It is in vain to assert, that two or more distinct legislatures cannotexist in the same State. If, by the same State, be meant the same individual community, it is true. Thus, for instance, there cannot be two supreme legislatures in Great Britain, nor two in New-York. But if, by the same State, be understood a number of individual societies, or bodies politic, united under one common head, then I maintain, that there may be one distinct, complete legislature in each. Thus there may be one in Great Britain, another in Ireland, and another in New-York; and still these several parts may form but one State. In order to this, there must indeed be some connecting, pervading principle; but this is found in the person and prerogative of the king. He it is, that conjoins all these individual societies into one great body politic. He it is, that is to preserve their mutual connection and dependence, and make them all co-operate to one common end, the general good. His power is equal to the purpose; and his interest binds him to the due prosecution of it.
Those who aver, that the independency of America on the British Parliament, implies two sovereign authorities in the same State, deceive themselves, or wish to deceive others, in two ways; by confounding the idea of the same State with that of the same individual society; and by losing sight of that share which the king has in the sovereignty, both of Great Britain and America. Perhaps, indeed, it may with propriety be said, that the king is the only sovereign of the empire. The part which the people have in the legislature, may more justly be considered as a limitation of the sovereign authority, to prevent its being exercised in an oppressive and despotic manner. Monarchy is universally allowed to predominate in the constitution. In this view, there is not the least absurdity in the supposition, that Americans have a right to a limitation, similar to that of the people of Great Britain. At any rate, there can never be said to be two sovereign powers in the same State, while one common king is acknowledged by every member of it.
Let us, for a moment, imagine the legislature of New- York independent on that of Great Britain. Where would be the mighty inconvenience? How would government be frustrated, or obstructed, by this means? In what manner would theyinterfere with each other? In none, that I can perceive. The affairs of government might be conducted with the greatest harmony, and, by the mediation of the king, directed to the same end. He (as I before observed) will be the great connecting principle. The several parts of the empire, though otherwise independent on each other, will all be dependent on him. He must guide the vast and complicated machine of government, to the reciprocal advantage of all his dominions. There is not the least contradiction in this; no imperium in imperio, as is maintained: for the power of every distinct branch will be limited to itself; and the authority of his Majesty over the whole, will, like a central force, attract them all to the same point.
The second part of your paragraph, is this: “In arbitrary governments, this (supreme absolute) power is in the monarch; in aristocratical governments, in the nobles; in democratical, in the people, or the deputies of their electing. Our own government, being a mixture of all these kinds, the supreme authority is vested in the king, nobles, and people; that is in the King, House of Lords, and House of Commons elected by the people.”
You are mistaken when you confine arbitrary government to a monarchy. It is not the supreme power being placed in one, instead of many, that discriminates an arbitrary from a free government. When any people are ruled by laws, in framing which they have no part, that are to bind them, to all intents and purposes, without, in the same manner, binding the legislators themselves, they are, in the strictest sense, slaves; and the government, with respect to them, is despotic. Great Britain is itself a free country; but it is only so, because its inhabitants have a share in the legislature. If they were once divested of that they would cease to be free. So that, if its jurisdiction be extended over other countries that have no actual share in its legislature, it becomes arbitrary to them; because they are destitute of those checks and controls which constitute that moral security which is the very essence of civil liberty.
I will go farther, and assert, that the authority of the British Parliament over America, would, in all probability, be a moreintolerable and excessive species of despotism than an absolute monarchy.* The power of an absolute prince is not temporary, but perpetual. He is under no temptation to purchase the favor of one part of his dominions at the expense of another; but it is his interest to treat them all upon the same footing. Very different is the case with regard to the Parliament. The Lords and Commons, both, have a private and separate interest to pursue. They must be wonderfully disinterested, if they would not make us bear a very disproportional part of the public burthens, to avoid them as much as possible themselves. The people of Britain must, in reality, be an order of superior beings, not cast in the same mold with the common degenerate race of mortals, if the sacrifice of our interest and ease to theirs, be not extremely welcome and alluring. But should experience teach us, that they are only mere mortals, fonder of themselves than their neighbors; the philanthropy and integrity of their representatives will be of a transcendent and matchless nature, should they not gratify the natural propensities of their constituents, in order to ingratiate themselves, and enhance their popularity.
When you say, that “our government, being a mixture of all these kinds, the supreme authority is vested in the king, nobles, and people; that is, the King, House of Lords, and House of Commons elected by the people;” you speak unintelligibly. A person who had not read any more of your pamphlet than this passage, would have concluded you were speaking of our Governor, Council, and Assembly, whom, by a rhetorical
* Mr. Hume, in enumerating these political maxims, which will be eternally true, speaks thus: “It may easily be observed, that though free governments have been commonly the most happy, for those who partake of their freedom, yet are they most ruinous and oppressive to their provinces.” He goes on to give many solid reasons for this; and, among other things, observes, that “a free state necessarily makes a great distinction (between herself and the provinces), and must continue to do so, till men learn to love their neighbors as well as themselves.” He con firms his reflections by many historical facts, and concludes them thus: “Compare the pais conquis of France with Ireland, and you will be convinced of this truth; though this latter kingdom being in a good measure peopled from England, possesses so many rights and privileges as should naturally make it challenge better treatment.”figure, you styled, ” king, nobles, and people.” For how could it be imagined, you would call any government our own, with this description, that it is vested in the king, nobles, and people, in which, our own people have not the least share? If our own government be vested in the king, nobles, and people, how comes it to pass, that our own people have no part in it? The resolution of these questions will afford a proper field in which to display your ingenuity. You must endeavor to transmute the people of America into those of Great Britain, or your description will be considered as mere jargon, by every man of sense. Perhaps you may be able, in imitation of that celebrated sophist Spinosa, to prove, that they are only modally different, but substantially the same. Or, if you please, that syllogism of the schools, by which a man is proved a horse, may serve as an excellent model. If I recollect right, it is in these words:
Homo est animal:
Equus est animal:
Ergo, homo est equus.
which is rendered thus: A man is an animal: A horse is an animal: Therefore a man is a horse. By the same method of argumentation, you may prove, that, as Britons and Americans are generically the same, they are numerically so, likewise, as your description implies. You may form a syllogism thus:
Britons are men:
Americans are the same:
Therefore, Britons and Americans are the same.
This argument will be as good as the one I am next going to examine.
“The supreme authority,” you say, “extends as far as the British dominions extend. To suppose a part of the British do minions, which is not subject to the power of the British legislature, is no better sense, than to suppose a country at one and the same time, to be, and not to be, a part of the British dominions. If, therefore, the colony of New-York be a part of theBritish dominions, the colony of New-York is subject and de pendent on the supreme legislative authority of Great Britain.”
By “this supreme authority,” I suppose you mean the Parliament of Great Britain. I deny that it extends as far as the British dominions extend; and I have given many substantial reasons for this denial: whereas you have never offered any to prove that it does. You have begged the question, and taken that for granted, which is the very point in debate. As to your general position, that there must be a supreme absolute authority lodged somewhere, I have explained in what sense it ought to be understood; and shown, that the several parts of the empire may each enjoy a separate independent legislature, with regard to each other, under one common head, the king.
The seeming proof you have subjoined, is entirely fallacious; and depends upon the use of the terms British dominions, and British legislature, in an equivocal sense. The former may either signify countries subject to the king, or to the legislature of Great Britain. When we say French dominions, we mean countries subject to the king of France. In like manner, when we say British dominions, the most proper signification is, countries subject to the king of Great Britain. At least there is no impropriety in using it in this sense.*
If, by the British legislature, you mean nothing more than the Parliament of Great Britain, it is well; but if you affix a different idea to it, you are not arbitrarily to impose it upon others. If there be any chimera in your fond imagination, which you express by that term, you must allow others the liberty to think it such. In short, if, by the term, you mean an authority resident in one part of his Majesty’s dominions, to make laws for every other part of them; you ought not to apply it in this sense, till you have proved that such an authority does really exist; especially in a controversy about that very matter.
By the British dominions, I mean the countries subject to his
* Or, if there is, all your objection amounts to this: that we have adopted an improper mode of expression; and, for the future, we may, in the language of the honorable House of Assembly, call the colonies his Majesty’s American dominions.Britannic Majesty, in his royal capacity. By the British legislature, I will suppose you intend simply the Parliament of Great Britain. Let us now try whether, “to suppose there may be a part of his Britannic Majesty’s dominions, which is not subject to the Parliament, be no better sense, than to suppose a country, at one and the same time, to be, and not to be, a part of the British dominions.” It is impossible for any thing to be, and not to be; but it involves no contradictions to say, that a country may be in subjection to his Britannic Majesty, and, in that sense, a part of the British dominions, without being at all dependent on the Parliament of Great Britain.* The colony of New- York, therefore, may be a branch of the British empire, though not subordinate to the legislative authority of Britain.
Upon the whole, if, by the British dominions, you mean territories subject to the Parliament, you adhere to your usual fallacy, and suppose what you are bound to prove. I deny that we are dependent on the legislature of Great Britain; and yet I maintain that we are a part of the British empire; but in this sense only, as being the free born subjects of his Britannic Majesty.
Thus I have fully examined that argument, which is esteemed the bulwark of the doctrine of Parliamentary supremacy; and I flatter myself, clearly refuted it. The main pillar being now broken down, the whole structure may easily be demolished. I shall, therefore, proceed with alacrity in the completion of the work. But it is worthy of observation, that a cause must be extremely weak, which admits of no better supports.
Your next argument (if it deserve the name) is this: “Legislation is not an inherent right in the colonies: many colonies
* I doubt not, you will here be disposed to cavil, by urging, that if we deny the authority of Parliament, we also reject his Britannic Majesty, since he com poses a part of it: but, let it be considered, that the Parliament, as such, is a political institution, not a physical being. We may deny his Majesty, in his political capacity, as a part of the legislature of Great Britain, and yet acknowledge him in a similar political capacity, as a part of the legislature of New-York. This is an obvious distinction, and cannot be contested, without an affront to common sense.have been established and subsisted long without it. The Roman colonies had no legislative authority. It was not till the latter period of their republic, that the privileges of Roman citizens, among which, that of voting in Assemblies of the people, at Rome, was a principal one, were extended to the inhabitants of Italy. All the laws of the empire were enacted at Rome. Neither their colonies nor conquered countries, had any thing to do with legislation.”
The fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms, and false reasonings, is a total ignorance of the natural rights of man kind. Were you once to become acquainted with these, you could never entertain a thought, that all men are not, by nature, entitled to a parity of privileges. You would be convinced, that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator, to the whole human race; and that civil liberty is founded in that; and can not be wrested from any people, without the most manifest violation of justice. Civil liberty is only natural liberty, modified and secured by the sanctions of civil society. It is not a thing, in its own ‘ nature, precarious and dependent on human will and caprice; but it is conformable to the constitution of man, as well as necessary to the well-being of society.
Upon this principle, colonists, as well as other men, have a right to civil liberty. For, if it be conducive to the happiness of society (and reason and experience testify that it is), it is evident, that every society, of whatsoever kind, has an absolute and per feet right to it, which can never be withheld without cruelty and injustice. The practice* of Rome towards her colonies, cannot afford the shadow of an argument against this. That mistress of the world was often unjust. And the treatment of her dependent provinces, is one of the greatest blemishes in her history. Through the want of that civil liberty for which we are so warmly contending, they groaned under every species of wan ton oppression. If we are wise, we shall take warning from
* If her practice proves any thing, it equally proves, that she had a right to plunder them as much as possible. This doctrine, I presume, will not be disagreeable to some ears. There are many who would rejoice to see America plundered in a like manner, provided they could be appointed the instruments.thence; and consider a like state of dependence, as more to be dreaded than pestilence and famine.
The right of colonists, therefore, to exercise a legislative power, is an inherent right. It is founded upon the rights of all men to freedom and happiness. For civil liberty cannot possibly have any existence, where the society, for whom laws are made, have no share in making them; and where the interest of their legislators is not inseparably interwoven with theirs. Before you asserted, that the right of legislation was derived “from the indulgence or grant of the parent state,” you should have proved two things:—that all men have not a natural right to freedom; and that civil liberty is not advantageous to society.
“The position,” you say, “that we are bound by no laws but those to which we have assented, either by ourselves, or by our representatives, is a novel position, unsupported by any authoritative record of the British constitution, ancient or modern. It is republican in its very nature; and tends to the utter subversion of the English monarchy.
“This position has arisen from an artful change of terms. To say, that an Englishman is not bound by any laws but those to which the representatives of the nation have given their consent, is to say what is true. But to say that an Englishman is bound by no laws but those to which he hath consented, in person, or by his representative, is saying what never was true, and never can be true. A great part of the people have no vote in the choice of representatives; and, therefore, are governed by laws to which they never consented, either by themselves, or by their representatives.”
The foundation of the English constitution rests upon this principle; that no laws have any validity or binding force, with out the consent and approbation of the people, given in the per sons of their representatives, periodically elected by themselves. This constitutes the democratical part of the government.
It is also undeniably certain, that no Englishman, who can be deemed a free agent in a political view, can be bound by laws, to which he has not consented, either in person, or by his representative. Or, in other words, every Englishman (exclusive ofthe mercantile and trading part of the nation) who possesses a free hold to the value of forty shillings per annum, has a right to share in the legislature; which he exercises, by giving his vote in the election of some person he approves of as his representative.
“The true reason,” says Blackstone, “of requiring any qualification, with regard to property in voters, is to exclude such persons as are in so mean a situation, that they are esteemed to have no will of their own. If these persons had votes, they would be tempted to dispose of them, under some undue influence or other. This would give a great, an artful, or a wealthy man, a larger share in elections than is consistent with general liberty. If it were probable that every man would give his vote freely, and without influence of any kind; then, upon the true theory and genuine principles of liberty, every member of the community, however poor, should have a vote in electing those delegates, to whose charge is committed the disposal of his property, his liberty, and life. But since that can hardly be expected, in persons of indigent fortunes, or such as are under the immediate dominion of others; all popular States have been obliged to establish certain qualifications, whereby some, who are suspected to have no will of their own, are excluded from voting; in order to set other individuals, whose wills may be supposed independent, more thoroughly upon a level with each other.”
Hence, it appears, that such “of the people as have no vote in the choice of representatives, and, therefore, are governed by laws to which they have not consented, either by themselves or by their representatives,” are only those “persons, who are in so mean a situation, that they are esteemed to have no will of their own.” Every free agent, every free man, possessing a freehold of forty shillings per annum, is, by the British constitution, entitled to a vote in the election of those who are in vested with the disposal of his life, his liberty, and property.
It is therefore evident, to a demonstration, that unless a free agent in America be permitted to enjoy the same privilege, we are entirely stripped of the benefits of the constitution, andprecipitated into an abyss of slavery. For, we are deprived of that immunity which is the grand pillar and support of freedom. And this cannot be done without a direct violation of the constitution, which decrees to every free agent, a share in the legislature.
It deserves to be remarked here, that those very persons in Great Britain, who are in so mean a situation as to be excluded from a part in elections, are in more eligible circumstances than they would be in who have every necessary qualification.
They compose a part of that society to whose government they are subject. They are nourished and maintained by it; and partake in every other emolument for which they are qualified. They have, no doubt, most of them, relations and connections among those who are privileged to vote; and, by that means, are not entirely without influence in the appointment of their rulers. They are not governed by laws made expressly and exclusively for them; but by the general laws of their country, equally obligatory on the legal electors, and on the law makers themselves. So that that they have nearly the same security against oppression, which the body of the people have.
To this we may add, that they are only under a conditional prohibition, which industry and good fortune may remove. They may, one day, accumulate a sufficient property to enable them to emerge out of their present state. Or, should they die in it, their situation is not entailed upon their posterity by a fixed and irremediable doom. They, agreeably to the ordinary vicissitudes of human affairs, may acquire what their parents were deficient in.
These considerations plainly show, that the people in America, of all ranks and conditions, opulent as well as indigent (if subjected to the British Parliament), would be upon a less favor able footing than that part of the people of Great Britain, who are in so mean a situation, that they are supposed to have no will of their own. The injustice of this, must be evident to every man of common sense.
I shall now proceed to take such a survey of the political his-tory of the colonies as may be necessary to cast a full light upon their present contest; and, at the same time, to give the public a just conception of the profound and comprehensive knowledge you have of the dispute, the fairness and candor with which you have represented facts, and the immaculate purity of your intentions.
But, previous to this, the following observations may not be destitute of utility.
His Holiness the Pope, by virtue of being Christ’s Vicegerent upon earth, piously assumed to himself a right to dispose of the territories of infidels as he thought fit. And in process of time all Christian princes learned to imitate his example, very liberally giving and granting away the dominions and property of Pagan countries. They did not seem to be satisfied with the title which Christianity gave them to the next world only, but chose to infer from thence an exclusive right to this world also.
I must refer it to sounder casuists than I am to determine concerning the consistency or justice of this principle. It is sufficient for my purpose to observe that it is the only foundation upon which Queen Elizabeth and her successors undertook to dispose of the lands in America. Whatever right, therefore, we may suppose to have existed, it was vested entirely in the crown; the nation had no concern in it. It is an invariable maxim, that every acquisition of foreign territory is at the absolute disposal of the king; and unless he annex it to the realm, it is no part of it. And if it be once alienated, it can never be united to it with out the concurrence of the proprietors.
Were there any room to doubt that the sole right of the territories in America was vested in the crown, a convincing argument might be drawn from the principle of English tenure. By means of the feudal system the king became, and still continues to be, in a legal sense, the original proprietor, or lord paramount, of all the lands in England.* Agreeably to this rule, he must have been the original proprietor of all the lands in America, and
* See Blackstone, vol. 1.was therefore authorized to dispose of them in what manner he thought proper.
The great inquiry, therefore, is concerning the terms on which these lands were really dispensed.
“The first charter granted by the crown, for the purpose of colonization, is” not “that of King James the first, to the two Virginia companies,” as you assert. Previous to that, there was one from Queen Elizabeth to Sir Walter Raleigh, for all the territory he might discover and plant between the thirty-third and fortieth degrees of north latitude, which was not actually possessed by any Christian prince, or inhabited by any Christian people; to have, hold, occupy, and enjoy the same, to him, his heirs and assigns for ever, with all prerogatives, jurisdictions, royalties, privileges, franchises, thereunto belonging, by sea or land; only reserving to herself, her heirs and successors, the fifth part of all gold and silver ore that might be acquired in those regions.
By this grant, Queen Elizabeth relinquished the whole legislative and executive power to Sir Walter, upon no other condition than simple homage, and the above-mentioned fifth part of gold and silver ore; which shows that the crown considered itself as invested with the absolute and entire disposal of the territories in America; and the passive conduct of the nation declares its acquiescence in the same.
After many successless efforts to plant a colony in Virginia, this charter was forfeited and abrogated by the attainder of Sir Walter Raleigh; and then succeeded that of King James the first, to the two Virginia companies, dated the 10th of April, 1606. This was afterwards altered and improved by a second charter, issued in 1609. There was also a third, dated March 12, 1611-12. The mention of this last would not have answered your purpose, and, therefore, you chose to pass it over in silence.
In neither of these three, is there the least reservation made of any authority to Parliament. The colonies are considered in them as entirely without the realm, and, consequently, without the jurisdiction of its legislature.
In the first charter from King James, there are the following clauses:”We do ordain, establish, and decree, &c., that each of the said colonies shall have a council, which shall govern and order all matters and all causes, which shall arise, grow, or happen to, or within the same; according to such laws, ordinances, and instructions, as shall be, in that behalf, given and signed with our hand, or sign manual, and pass under the privy seal of our realm of England.”
“And that, also, there shall be a council established here in England, which shall consist of thirteen persons, to be for that purpose appointed; which shall have the superior managing and direction only of, and for, all matters, that shall or may concern the government of the said several colonies.”
“Also, we do for us, our heirs, &c., declare, that all and every the persons, being our subjects, which shall dwell and inhabit within every, or any, the said several colonies, and every of their children, which shall happen to be born within any of the said several colonies, shall have and enjoy all liberties, franchises, and immunities, within any of our other dominions, to all intents and purposes, as if they had been abiding and born within our realm of England.”
This latter declaration (to which there is one correspondent, or similar, in every American grant), plainly indicates, that it was not the royal intention to comprise the colonies within the realm of England. The powers committed to the two councils, demonstrate the same; for they would be incompatible with the idea of any other than distinct States.
The King could neither exercise, himself, nor empower others to exercise, such an authority as was really vested in the council, without a breach of the Constitution, if the colonies had been a part of the realm, or within the jurisdiction of Parliament. Such an exertion of power would have been unconstitutional and illegal, and of course inadmissible: but we find it was never called in question by the legislature; and we may conclude from thence, that America was universally considered as being without the jurisdiction of Parliament.
The second charter explains and amplifies the privileges of the company, erecting them into “one body or commonalty per-petual;” and confirming to them the property of their former territories, with the addition of all the islands lying within one hundred miles of the shores of both seas ; together with all ” commodities, jurisdictions, royalties, privileges, franchises, and pre eminences,” to be held by the king, his heirs and successors, “in free and common soccage.” They were only to pay one-fifth part of all the gold and silver ore they might find, in lieu of all services.
Their government was vested in a council, first appointed by the king; which, upon every necessary occasion, was to be summoned together by the company’s treasurer. But immediately after the persons appointed are named in the charter, it is declared, that “the said council and treasurer, or any of them, shall be henceforth “nominated, chosen, continued, displaced, changed, altered, or supplied, as death, or other several occasions shall require, out of the company of the said adventurers, by the voice of the greater part of the said company and adventurers;” every member, newly elected, to be sworn into office by the Lord Chancellor.
This council had “full power and authority to make, ordain, and establish, all manner of orders, laws, directions, instructions, forms and ceremonies, of government and magistracy, fit and necessary for, and concerning, the government of the said colony; and the same to abrogate, revoke, or change, at all times, not only within the precincts of the said colony, but also on the seas, in going or coming, to or from the said colony.”
This charter is also silent with respect to Parliament; the authority of which is evidently precluded by the whole tenor of it.
You, sir, took no notice of the circumstance, that the council was to be nominated, chosen, continued, &c., out of the Virginia Company itself, agreeably to the voice of the majority. You omitted this, and gave quite a different turn to the matter: but herein you acted not at all discordant with your usual practice. Nor did you esteem it politic to transcribe the following clause: “that the said company, and every of them, their factors and assigns, shall be free of all subsidies and customs in Virginia,for the space of one and twenty years; and from all taxes and impositions for ever, upon any goods or merchandises, at any time or times hereafter, either upon importation thither, or exportation from thence.”
The third charter is a still farther enlargement of their territory and privileges, and is that by which their present form of government is modeled. The following extract will show the nature of it. “We do hereby ordain and grant, that the said treasurer and company of adventurers and planters aforesaid, shall and may, once every week, and oftener, at their pleasure, hold and keep a court or assembly, for the better order and government of the said plantation; and that any five persons of our council for the time being, of which company the treasurer, or his deputy, to be always one, and the number of fifteen persons, at the least, of the generality of the said company assembled together, in such manner as hath been heretofore used and accustomed, shall be reputed to be, and shall be, a sufficient court for the handling, ordering, and dispatching of all such casual and particular occurrences, as shall, from time to time, happen, touching and concerning the said plantation. And, nevertheless, for the handling, ordering, and disposing of the matters and affairs of greater weight and importance, such as shall, in any sort, concern the weal public, and the general good of the said plantation, as, namely, the manner of government, from time to time, to be used, the ordering and disposing of the lands and possessions, and the settling and establishing of a trade there, or such like, there shall be held and kept, every year for ever, one great general and solemn assembly. In all and every of which said great and general courts, so assembled, our will and pleasure is, and we do, for us, our heirs and successors for ever, give and grant to the said treasurer and company, or the greater number of them, so assembled, that they shall and may have full power and authority, from time to time, and at all times hereafter, to elect and choose discreet persons to be of our said council, for the first colony of Virginia; and to nominate and appoint such officers, as they shall think fit and requisite for the government, managing, ordering, and dispatching of the affairs of the saidcompany; and shall likewise have full power and authority to ordain and make such laws and ordinances for the good and welfare of the said plantation, as to them, from time to time, shall be thought requisite and meet; so always, as the same be not contrary to the laws and statutes of this our realm of England.”
By this charter, King James divested himself wholly both of the legislative and executive authority: but, for his own security, prescribed a model for their civil constitution. Their laws were not to be contrary to the laws and statutes of his realm of England; which restriction was inserted into all the subsequent charters, with some little variation, such as, that their laws should be “consonant to reason, and not repugnant, or contrary, but as near as conveniently may be, agreeable to the laws, statutes, and rights of this our kingdom of England.”
This mode of expression, so indefinite in itself, shows that the use made of the clause, by some ministerial advocates, is by no means natural or warrantable. It could only be intended to set forth the British Constitution as a pattern for theirs: and accordingly we find, that upon the arrival of Sir George Yardly in Virginia, soon after this patent was procured, the government was regulated upon a new plan, that it might “resemble the British Constitution, composed of two Houses of Parliament, and a sovereign. The number of the council was increased, intending this body should represent the House of Lords, while the House of Commons was composed of burgesses, assembled from every plantation and settlement in the country.”
There might be a great dissimilarity between the laws of Virginia and those of Great Britain, and yet not an absolute contrariety: so that the clause in question is not explicit or determinate enough, to authorize the conclusion drawn from it. Be sides, if the colonies were within the realm of England, there would be no necessity for any provision in favor of its laws: and if they were without (as is clearly implied by the clause itself), it must be a contradiction to suppose its jurisdiction could extend beyond its own limits.
But the true interpretation may be ascertained, beyond a doubt, by the conduct of those very princes who granted thecharters. They were certainly the best judges of their own intention, and they have left us indubitable marks of it.
In April, 1621, about nine years after the third Virginia charter was issued, a bill was introduced into the House of Commons, for indulging the subjects of England with the privilege of fishing upon the coast of America: but the House was in formed by the Secretary of State, by order of his Majesty King James, that “America was not annexed to the realm; and that it was not fitting that Parliament should make laws for those countries.” In the reign of his successor, Charles the First (who granted the Massachusetts and Maryland charters), the same bill was again proposed in the House, and was, in the like manner, re fused the royal assent; with a similar declaration, that “it was unnecessary; that the colonies were without the realm and jurisdiction of Parliament.”
Circumstances which evidently prove, that these clauses were not inserted to render the colonies dependent on the Parliament; but only (as I have observed) to mark out a model of government for them. If, then, the colonies were, at first, without the realm and jurisdiction of Parliament, no human authority could afterwards alter the case, without their own voluntary, full, and express approbation.
The settlement of New England was the next in succession, and was instigated by a detestation of civil and ecclesiastical tyranny. The principal design of the enterprise, was to be emancipated from their sufferings, under the authority of Parliament and the laws of England. For this purpose, the Puritans had before retired to foreign countries, particularly to Holland. But Sir Robert Naughton, Secretary of State, having remonstrated to his Majesty, concerning the impolicy and absurdity of dispeopling his own dominions, by means of religious oppression, obtained permission for the Puritans to take up their abode in America, where they found an asylum from their former misfortunes.
Previous to their embarkation at Holland, they had stipulated with the Virginia Company,* for a tract of land in contiguity
* This was after they had received their third charter.with Hudson’s River: but when they arrived in America (by some misconduct of the Pilot), they found themselves at Cape Cod, which was without the boundaries of the Virginia Patent. There the season compelled them to remain; and there they have prosecuted their settlements.
They looked upon themselves as having reverted to a state of nature; but, being willing still to enjoy the protection of their former sovereign, they executed the following instrument.
“In the name of God, Amen! We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, of Great Britain, &c., King* defender of the faith, &c., having undertaken, for the glory of God, and the advancement of the Christian faith, and the honor of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern part of Virginia, do, by these presents, mutually, in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together, into a civil body politic, for our better order and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof, to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
“In witness whereof, we have hereunto subscribed our names, at Cape Cod, November 11, 1620.”
This was the original constitution of New Plymouth. It deserves to be remarked here, that these first settlers possessed their lands by the most equitable and independent title, that of a fair and honest purchase from their natural owners, the Indian tribes. King James, soon after, erected a council at Plymouth, in the county of Devon, “for the planting, ruling, ordering, and
* This ought to silence the infamous calumnies of those, who represent the first settlers in New England, as enemies to kingly government; and who are, in their own opinions, wondrous witty, by retailing the idle and malicious stories that have been propagated concerning them; such as their having erased the words King, Kingdom, and the like, out of their Bibles, and inserted in their stead, Civil Magistrate, Parliament, and Republic.governing, of New England in America;” and granted to “them, their successors and assigns, all that part of America, lying and being, in breadth, from forty degrees of north latitude from the equinoctial line, to the forty-eighth degree of the said northerly latitude, inclusively; and in length of, and within all the breadth aforesaid, throughout all the main land, from sea to sea; together with all the firm lands, soils, grounds, havens, ports, rivers, waters, fishings, mines, minerals, precious stones, quarries, and all and singular other commodities, jurisdictions, royalties, privileges, franchises, and pre-eminences,, both within the said tract of land upon the main, and also within the islands and seas adjacent.—To be held of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, in free and common soccage: and the only consideration to be, the fifth part of all gold and silver ore, for and in respect of all and all manner of duties, demands, and services.”
This council was vested with the sole power of legislation; the election and appointment of all officers, civil and military; authority to coin money, make war and peace, and a variety of other signal privileges. The colony of New Plymouth was comprehended within the grant. In consequence of which, its in habitants, a few years after, purchased the claim of the patentees, with all their rights and immunities, and became an independent state by charter.
The same motives that induced the settlement of New Plymouth, did also produce that of Massachusetts. It was first colonized by virtue of a patent from the council at Plymouth; and in a year after, by a charter from King Charles the First, dated the 4th of March, in the fourth year of his reign; by which the adventurers and inhabitants were formed into “one body politic and corporate, by the name of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England,” and clothed with powers and privileges resembling those of the colony of New Plymouth.
It happened some time before this, that there was a dissolution of the Virginia Company, by a royal proclamation, dated 15th of July, 1624; by which the colony became more immediately dependent on the king. The Virginians were greatlyalarmed at this, and forthwith presented a remonstrance to the Throne; in which they signified an apprehension of “designs formed against their rights and privileges.” In order to banish their fears, the Lords of the Council (in a letter dated the 22d of July 1634,) gave them an assurance, by his Majesty’s direction, “that all their estates, trade, freedom, and privileges, should be enjoyed by them, in as extensive a manner as they enjoyed them before the recall of the company’s patent.” Agreeably to this, their former constitution was confirmed and continued.
The Maryland charter is the next in order, of which you, sir, have made no mention. It was granted by King Charles the First to Lord Baltimore; and contains such ample and exalted privileges, that no man in his senses can read it, without being convinced it is repugnant to every idea of dependence on Parliament.
It bestows on him, “all the country of Maryland, and the islands adjacent; together with all their commodities, jurisdictions, privileges, prerogatives, royal rights, &c. &c., of what kinds soever, as well by sea as land; and constitutes him, his heirs and assigns, true and absolute lords and proprietaries of the said country, and of all the premises aforesaid; saving always the faith and allegiance, and the sovereign dominion, due to himself, his heirs and successors: to beholden of the Kings of England, in free and common soccage, by fealty only, and not in capite; paying two Indian arrows every year, and also the fifth part of all gold and silver ore which shall from time to time happen to be found: Granting also full and absolute power to the said Lord Baltimore, his heirs, &c., to ordain, make, enact, and publish, any laws whatsoever, by and with the advice, assent, and approbation, of the freemen of the said province, or the greater part of them; or of their delegates or deputies; whom, for the enacting of the said laws, when, and as often as need shall require, we will, that the said now Lord Baltimore, and his heirs, shall assemble in such sort and form, as to him and them, shall seem best. Provided, nevertheless, that the said laws be consonant to reason, and be not repugnant, or contrary, but as near as conveniently may be, agreeable to the laws, statutes, and rights of this ou kingdom of England.”In another place it is ordained, that he the “said Lord Baltimore, may from time, to time for ever, have and enjoy, the customs and subsidies, within the said ports, harbors, &c., within the province aforesaid, payable or due for merchandises and wares, there to be laden and unladen; the said subsidies and customs, to be reasonably assessed (upon any occasion), by themselves and the people there, as aforesaid; to whom we give power by these presents, for us, our heirs and successors, upon just cause and in due proportion, to assess and impose the same.”
I confine myself to these extracts, to avoid prolixity, and pass over the enumeration of those many extensive prerogatives this charter confers; such as the appointment of all officers, civil and military; the power of making war and peace; the establishment of boroughs and cities; with all necessary immunities, and the like.
In the fourteenth year of Charles the Second, the two colonies, Connecticut and New Haven, petitioned the King to unite them into one colony, which was complied with. Privileges, as valuable and extensive as any that had been before granted, were comprised in their charter. There was only a reservation of allegiance to the king, without the smallest share of the legislative or executive power. The next year, Providence and Rhode Island procured a charter, with privileges exactly correspondent to those of Connecticut.
You are pleased to assert, “that the charters of Rhode Island and Connecticut are simply matters of incorporation;” and produce an extract in confirmation of this assertion.
I should be astonished at so extraordinary a deviation from truth, if there were not many instances similar to it. Not only the whole tenor of their charters, but their constant practice and form of government, hitherto, declare the reverse of your assertion. But, that I may not unnecessarily prolong this letter by a quotation of the different parts of the respective charters, give me leave to present you with an account of the constitution of these colonies, which was laid before the House of Lords in January 1734.
“Connecticut and Rhode Island,” say the commissioners ofTrade and Plantations, “are charter governments, where almost the whole power of the crown is delegated to the people, who make annual election of their Assembly, their Councils, and their Governors; likewise to the majority of which Assemblies, Councils, and Governors, respectively, being collective bodies, the power of making laws is granted; and, as their charters are worded, they can, and do, make laws, even without the Governor’s assent, no negative voice being reserved to them, as Governors, in said charters. These colonies have the power of making laws for their better government and support; and are not under any obligation, by their respective constitutions, to return authentic copies of their laws to the crown, for approbation or dis allowance; nor to give any account of their proceedings; nor are their laws repealable by the crown; but the validity of them depends upon their not being contrary, but as nearly as may be, agreeable to the laws of England.”
As to the expression, as other our liege people of this our realm of England, or any other corporation or body politic, within the same; if any stress be laid on the particle other, it will imply not only that the colonies were simple matters of corporation, but that the inhabitants of them were considered as being within the realm of England. But this cannot be admitted as true without contradicting other clauses of the same charters. Thus, in the preamble to that of Rhode Island, it is said that the first planters “did, by the consent of our royal progenitors, transport them selves out of this Kingdom of England into America.” And in each of the charters the King stipulates that all the children born in America, shall enjoy “all the liberties and immunities of free and natural subjects, within any of his dominions, as if they and every of them were born within the realm of England.”
The vague and improper manner in which this particle is used in many other places of the several charters, will not allow it the least weight in the present instance. In the eleventh article of the third Virginia charter there is this expression:—”All such, and so many of our loving subjects, or any other strangers that will, &c.” The same rule of inference that makes Rhode Island and Connecticut simple corporations, will also transformthe king’s loving subjects into mere strangers, which I apprehend cannot be done without some degree of absurdity.
In the fifteenth year of Charles the Second, Carolina was erected into a principality. A patent dated March 24, 1663, was granted to eight lord proprietors, vesting them with all its rights, privileges, prerogatives, royalties, &c., and the whole legislative and executive authority, together with the power of creating a nobility. The form of government was determined by a compact between the people and the proprietors, which contained one hundred and twenty articles; and “these were to be and remain the sacred and unalterable rule and form of government in Carolina for ever.” A Palatine was to be erected from among the proprietaries, who was to govern the principality during his life; and at his demise, the surviving lords were to succeed him according to the order of seniority. The legislative power was to reside in the parliament of that country, consisting of the Palatine as sovereign; an upper House, in which the proprietors or their deputies, the Governor and the Nobility, were to sit; and a lower House composed of the delegates of the people. There was likewise a court established, the members of which were three proprietaries, and the Palatine as president, and in this court the whole executive authority was lodged.
There were also several other courts: the Chief Justice’s, the High Constable’s, the Chancellor’s, and High Steward’s Court. The principal officers of the State, in number, titles, and power, resembled those of the realm of England. The proprietors of Carolina considered themselves as possessed of every requisite towards forming a separate independent State, and were always extremely jealous of any encroachments. They even disputed the King’s authority to establish Courts of Vice Admiralty within their precincts, though for the examination and punishment of offences committed without them, and always appointed an Admiral of their own. One of their governors was deposed, for “accepting a commission under King William, as Judge of the Admiralty, when he had, at the same time, a commission from the Lords proprietaries for the same office.”
The Philadelphia charter was next granted, and containedalmost an equality of privileges with that of Maryland. There was, indeed, a reserve in favor of Parliament, perfectly singular and unprecedented in any foregoing charter; and which must either be rejected, or the general tenor of the grant becomes unintelligible.
It happened that the charter of Massachusetts was vacated by a decision in Chancery, and a new one was conferred by William and Mary. The agents for that colony did not accept it, till they had first consulted the most judicious civilians and politicians upon the contents of it; and then drew up an instrument in which they assigned the reasons of their acceptance. The following extract will serve to show their sense of it: “The colony,” say they, “is now made a province; and the General Court has, with the King’s approbation, as much power in New England as the King and Parliament have in England. They have all English privileges and liberties, and can be touched by no law, and by no tax, but of their own making. All the liberties of their religion are for ever secured.”
You say, that “the power to levy taxes is restrained to provincial and local purposes only; and to be exercised over such, only, as are inhabitants and proprietors of the said province.”
They are empowered “to levy proportionable and reason able assessments, rates, and taxes, for our service in the necessary defense and support of the government of the said province or territory; and the protection and preservation of the in habitants there.” The defense and support of government, and their own protection and preservation, are the purposes for which they are to raise supplies; and, in my humble opinion, there are no others to which any society is under an obligation to contribute its wealth or property.
I shall only make one more observation upon this charter; which is, that there was a reservation in it of liberty for the people of England to fish upon their coasts, which would have been useless and absurd, had that province been a part of the realm, and within the jurisdiction of Parliament. Were it necessary to elucidate, still more, a point which is so conspicuous from the several charters of the colonies, as well asthe express declarations of those princes by whom they were granted, to wit, “that the colonies are without the realm and jurisdiction of Parliament;” I might enumerate many striking circumstances besides those I have already mentioned. But as the case is by this time sufficiently clear, I shall confine myself to the recital of only one or two more transactions.
An act of the twenty-fifth of Charles the Second, was the first that ever imposed duties on the colonies for any purpose; and these, as the preamble itself recites, were simply as a regulation of trade, and were of a prohibitory nature. Notwithstanding this, it was the source of great dissatisfaction; and was one of the principal causes of the insurrection in Virginia, under Colonel Bacon, which after his death subsided; and then the province sent agents to England, to remonstrate “against taxes and impositions being laid on the colony, by any authority but that of the General Assembly.” In consequence of this, a declaration was obtained, under the privy seal of King Charles, dated nineteenth of April, 1676, to this effect: that “taxes ought not to be laid upon the proprietors and inhabitants of the colony, but by the common consent of the General Assembly.”
About three years after, when King Charles had occasion to raise a permanent revenue for the support of Virginia, he did not attempt to do it by means of a parliamentary donation; but framed a bill, and sent it there by Lord Culpepper, who was at that time governor, to receive the concurrence of their legislature. It was there passed into a law, and “enacted by the King’s most excellent Majesty, by and with the consent of the General Assembly of the colony of Virginia.” If the Virginians had been subjects of the realm, this could not have been done, without a direct violation of Magna Charta; which provides, that no English subject shall be taxed without the consent of Parliament.
Thus, sir, I have taken a pretty general survey of the American charters, and proved, to the satisfaction of every unbiased person, that they are entirely discordant with that sovereignty of Parliament for which you are an advocate. The disingenuity of your extracts (to give it no harsher name) merits the severest censure; and will, no doubt, serve to discredit all your former, as well as future, labors in your favorite cause of despotism.It is true, that New- York has no charter. But if it could support its claim to liberty in no other way, it might, with justice, plead the common principles of colonization: for it would be unreasonable to exclude one colony from the enjoyment of the most important privileges of the rest. There is no need, however, of this plea. THE SACRED RIGHTS OF MAN KIND ARE NOT TO BE RUMMAGED FOR AMONG OLD PARCHMENTS OR MUSTY RECORDS. THEY ARE WRITTEN, AS WITH A SUN BEAM, IN THE WHOLE VOLUME OF HUMAN NATURE, BY THE HAND OF THE DIVINITY ITSELF; AND CAN NEVER BE ERASED OR OBSCURED BY MORTAL POWER.
The nations of Turkey, Russia, France, Spain, and all other despotic kingdoms in the world, have an inherent right, when ever they please, to shake off the yoke of servitude (though sanctioned by the immemorial usage of their ancestors), and to model their government upon the principles of civil liberty. I will now venture to assert, that I have demonstrated, from the voice of nature, the spirit of the British constitution, and the charters of the colonies in general, the absolute non-existence of that parliamentary supremacy for which you contend. I am not apt to be dogmatical, or too confident of my own opinions; but, if I thought it possible for me to be mistaken, when I maintain, that the Parliament of Great Britain has no sovereign authority over America, I should distrust every principle of my under standing, reject every distinction between truth and falsehood, and fall into a universal skepticism.
Hitherto, I have reasoned against the whole authority of Parliament, without even excepting the right we have conceded, of regulating trade. I considered it, in its original state, as founded in the British constitution, the natural rights of society, and the several charters of the colonies. The power of regulating our trade, was first exercised in the reign of Charles the Second. I shall not examine upon what principle. It is enough, we have consented to it. But I shall proceed to consider the argument you make use of, to establish the propriety of allowing special duties to be imposed by way of tribute, for the protection of our commerce.