AN ANSWER TO THE DECLARATION OF THE GENERAL CONGRESS.
WHEN Independent States take up arms, they endeavour to impress the World with a favourable opinion of their own cause, and to lay the blame of hostilities on the in|justice of their Opponents. But if Nations, ac|countable to none for their conduct, deem it ne|cessary to reconcile others to their proceedings, the necessity is still more urgent with regard to those who, breaking through every political duty, draw their swords against the State of which they own themselves the Subjects. The opinions of man|kind are invariably opposed to such men. Their assertions are heard with distrust, their arguments Page 2 weighed with caution; and, therefore, it is as ne|cessary for THEM to adhere to truth, in the former, as it is prudent to avoid sophistry in the latter.
This consideration, however obvious it may ap|pear to others, seems to have totally escaped the attention of the body of men who lately sat at Philadelphia under the name of "The General American Congress." In a paper published un|der the title of "A DECLARATION by the Re|presentatives of the United Colonies of North America"*, the facts are either wilfully or igno|rantly misrepresented; and the arguments deduced from premises that have no foundation in truth. But, as whatever falls from men who call them|selves the Representatives of a People, must fall with some degree of weight on the minds of the undiscerning part of mankind; it becomes, in some measure, necessary to examine briefly the reasons held forth by the Congress to justify the rebellion of their Constituents. On a subject so trite, ar|guments advanced by other Writers may sometimes recur; but novelty is less the object of this part of the disquisition, than perspicuity and precision.
The Declaration of the Congress begins with an involved period, which either contains no meaning, or a meaning not founded on the prin|ciples Page 3 of reason. They seem to insinuate, that no body of men, in any Empire, can exercise
The discretionary and uncontroulable authority of the British Legislature being granted, their right to tax all the Subjects of the British Empire can never be denied. Some ill-informed reasoners in politics have lately started an obsolete maxim, which has been seized with avidity by the Ame|ricans, That
Why it has been so generally received as a maxim, in this country, That Taxation and Re|presentation are inseparable, requires to be ex|plained. Men, little acquainted with the Consti|tution, derived the opinion from their finding, that it is the indisputable right of the Com|mons, that all grants of subsidies and parlia|mentary aids should originate in their House. But though they first bestow those subsidies and aids, their grants, as has been already observed, have no effect without the assent of the other two branches of the Legislature. The common reason given for this exclusive privilege is, That as the supplies are raised upon the body of the people, the people only ought to have the right of taxing themselves. This argument would have been con|clusive, if the Commons taxed none but those by Page 6 whose suffrages they obtained their seats in Parlia|ment. But it has appeared, that more than seven millions of people, besides the Peers, who are in possession of so large a share of property in the kingdom, have no voice in the election of the Mem|bers who sit in the Lower House. The Commons, therefore, and their Constituents not being the only persons taxed, the former cannot possibly have the only right of raising and modelling the supply, from the mere circumstance of Representation. But if they have it not from Representation, they must in fact derive it from the supreme and discretion|ary power, which is reposed in them, in con|junction with the two other branches of the Legi|slature. It appears, upon the whole, that Taxa|tion is the result of that discretionary authority placed in the hands of the Legislature, and ex|erted by them for the necessary support of the State. To this authority the whole Empire must submit, and consequently no one of its subjects can claim any exemption.
The Counties Palatine of Chester, Durham, and Lancaster, were anciently in the same predicament with the Americans, on the article of Taxa|tion. The Earl of Chester and the Bishop of Durham became, by prescription and im|memorial Page 7 custom, possessed of a kind of regal jurisdiction, within their respective territo|ries. A similar form of Government was esta|blished by King Edward III. in the County of Lancaster; which was erected first into an Earldom, and then into a Dukedom, in the person of Henry Plantagenet; whose heiress carried the same rights and privileges to John of Gant, that King's fourth son, and his posterity. But though the SUBORDI|NATE SOVEREIGNS of these Counties could pardon treasons, murders and felonies; though they appointed all Judges, nominated all Justices of the Peace, and, in short, possessed exclusively the whole internal Government of their several Counties; their SUB|JECTS (if the expression may be used) were
Those Counties (it must be confessed), like the Americans, considered their being excluded from having Representatives in an Assembly by which Page 8 they were taxed, a grievance. Accordingly, the Town and County of Chester, as far back as the thirty-fifth of Henry VIII. petitioned the Legisla|ture for the privilege of sending Members to Par|liament; and their request was granted by an ex|press Statute*. The County and City of Durham made a similar application, and with the same suc|cess, in the twenty-fifth of Charles II†. Had the Americans, instead of flying to arms, submitted the same supposed grievance, in a peaceable and dutiful manner, to the Legislature, I can perceive no reason why their request should be refused. Had they, like the County and City of Chester, represented, that
Page 9 But the Colonies, though that circumstance is only insinuated in the Declaration, have uniformly affirmed, that granting the supremacy of Parlia|ment should extend over the whole Empire, yet that they themselves have a right to an exemption from Taxes either by the concessions of the Legi|slature, or by charters from the King. It seems incompatible with reason, say they, that the Co|lonies should have internal Legislatures of their own, possessing the authority of taxation, and that, notwithstanding, the British Parliament should re|tain its power of laying imposts. The first of these assertions is not founded in truth. The Charters give no exemption from Taxation; on the contrary, some of them expressly subject the Co|lonies to the supreme Legislature of Great-Britain; and had the Charters mentioned an exemption, the Legislature, by virtue of its supreme, universal, and discretionary power, can recal any rights they have conferred, when the good of the State renders that measure necessary. Though the King may give away by Charter a right that militates against himself, as hereditary Chief Magistrate, he cannot authorize, by any deed whatever, an exemption from the general laws of the State. In such a case ONE of the THREE branches of the Legislature would usurp the power of the THREE UNITED; a solecism as great in polity, as it is in mathe|maticks Page 10 to assirm, that a part is greater than the whole.
It may be necessary, perhaps, to make an apo|logy for entering so minutely into the argument in favour of the right of Taxation. The Americans themselves have deserted that ground. They speak no longer as subjects. They assume the language of rivals, and they act as enemies. The question between them and Great-Britain (for it is no longer between them and Government) consists of dependence or independence, connection or no connection, except on the footing of a Sovereign State. They have already arrogated to themselves all the functions of Sovereignty. They have formed a great deliberative Council. They have taken the whole executive power into their own hands. They have struck a new currency, raised armies, appointed generals; and that they have not chosen ANOTHER SOVEREIGN, must be ascribed more to their Republican principles, than to any remains of loyalty for their lawful Prince.
In this situation of affairs and opinions, it is matter of little surprize, that men who deny the autho|rity of the State should load the Legislature with opprobrious epithets. The Congress accordingly stigmatize Parliament with various charges of Page 11 tyranny, violence, and oppression. Passing from this strain of general scurrility, they enter into warm encomiums on the ancestors of their Consti|tuents. But they now deviate as much from truth in their applause, as they had done before in their censure. They affirm, that the ancestors of the Colonists obtained the lands which they have trans|mitted to the present race,
Page 12 But, even granting that the Colonists had ob|tained their lands without any charge to the Mother-country, were they capable of keeping those lands without her assistance? Was it not to defend the Americans, that Great-Britain involved herself in the last expensive war? Did not those very
The Congress, in the next paragraph of their Declaration, affect to reprobate the last Peace, though they have derived so many and so great advantages from that treaty. The conduct of the Americans ought also to induce this Kingdom to regret the stipulations she made for their secu|rity. Had Canada remained in the hands of the French, the Colonies would have remained duti|ful subjects. Their fears for themselves, in that case, would have supplied the place of their pre|tended affection for this Nation. They would have spoken more sparingly of their own resour|ces, as they might daily stand in need of our aid. Their former incapacity of defending themselves Page 16 would have always recurred to their minds, as long as the objects of their former terror should continue so near their borders. But their habi|tual fears from France were, it seems, removed only to give room to their ingratitude to Great-Britain.
The effrontery with which the Congress reprobate the late Peace, is scarcely equal to their folly in applauding the Minister who had car|ried on the war. With peculiar inconsistency they affect to commence an aera of
Having represented the pretended ruin brought upon the British Empire by the late Peace, the Congress descend to the fictitious grievances of America since the same period. They affirm, that
In this Kingdom, as well as in every State possessed of freedom, there are always to be found factious persons, who oppose every measure of Go|vernment. In their eagerness to disgrace the Mi|nister, they too frequently obstruct the service, Page 19 and defeat the interests of their Country. Every side of a speculative point is armed with argu|ments, that may impose on the ignorant, and en|courage the sanguine. The Opposition in Parlia|ment, in short, committed themselves too far in favour of the prejudices of the Americans, with regard to the Stamp-Act, to support it with vi|gour, when they themselves, very unexpectedly*, came into Office, a few months after it had passed into Law. Though their view of the object chan|ged with their elevation, they found that the flame which their own factious speeches, in the preceding Session, had raised in America, was too vehement to be extinguished without conces|sions. A natural timidity of disposition, joined to the common want of firmness which accompa|nies novelty in Office, rendered them inclinable to purchase present quiet for themselves, at the ex|pence of the future advantage of their Country. But still they wavered on the point of irresolution, till Mr. Pitt's oratory weighed down the scale. The Stamp-Act was repealed; and from that mo|ment may be dated
Page 20 To enter into the motives of Mr. Pitt's oratory, for the total and absolute repeal of the Stamp-Act, would be to desert a great and public subject for the sake of tracing the private views of an ambi|tious man. In his Argument, if what he advanced deserves the name, he fell in with the vulgar and, it may be said, false maxim, That no profit ought to be expected from the Colonies, but That result|ing from their Commerce. This opinion of Mr. Pitt, whether it proceeded from ignorance or de|sign (and it probably proceeded from both), has formed a popular error in former times, as well as in the present age. Many, who have pretended to understand perfectly the affairs of this kingdom, most firmly, but in my opinion very weakly, be|lieved that the great secret of our political interest consisted in forcing, in a manner, a monopoly of foreign commerce. It was from this persuasion, that the popular Orator used, upon the occasion just mentioned, a figure of rhetoric at once foolish and absurd, when he affirmed, that the Colonists should be prohibited
The Congress had surely forgot this strange rhetorical figure of the great Orator, when they were tempted to date PUBLIC RUIN, from his re|signation in 1761. They have also forgot, or they do not chuse to remember, that he ac|quiesced in the DECLARATORY BILL, brought in and passed by the Marquis of Rocking|ham's Party, who were in office, in the begin|ning of the year 1766. This Bill expresly declares,
Mr. Pitt, to preserve some degree of consistency, objected to the words
The Congress, in a strain of eloquent adulation, speaks with raptures of
In reprobating the Declaratory Act, the Con|gress recur to their usual maxim, That Taxation Page 24 and Representation are inseparable. Though it has been already shewn, that they are as much repre|sented as twenty-four in twenty-five of the inhabi|tants of Great-Britain; though it has been prov|ed, that whole Provinces, not represented, had been for several ages subjected to imposts laid by the Legislature; though it shall, hereafter, appear that they themselves have been uniformly taxed by the British Parliament; this argument they hold forth as invincible, and found upon it their present re|sistance to the supremacy of the Parent-kingdom. In pursuing it injudiciously and too far, they actually discover the expediency, and even neces|sity of that supremacy, of which they so loudly complain. The Parliament of Great-Britain, say they, will certainly perceive,
Though this indulgence has been a source of error to the more ignorant part of the Americans, there are surely many among them, who know, that Parliament hath been uniformly accustomed to extend its supremacy over all the Colonies. In matters of revenue, in commerce, in civil, in all judicial regulations; and, in short, with regard to the general constitution of their government, the Provinces of North-America, till taught other|wise by a disappointed Faction in this Kingdom, allowed, that the whole fabrick of their polity might be new-modelled and reformed by the su|perintending power of Parliament. In fact, it has been so new-modelled and reformed, whenever abuses in the Administration of their Government, under their civil polity, or the general interest of the British Empire, made it necessary for Parliament to interpose its authority. Instances of this inter|position, in both cases, present themselves, in al|most every volume of the Statutes, from the Resto|ration down to the present reign; yet the Ameri|cans falsely insinuate, that it was in the present Page 26 reign the exercise of the authority of Parliament (except only in the regulation of trade) first com|menced.
A brief recital of some of those instances may throw light on a subject, rendered obscure and perplexed by the prejudices of the ignorant, and the arts of designing men. To gain the ears of the Populace, by awakening their ancient jea|lousies, the Americans affect to ascribe the present system of measures to principles of Toryism, which, they pretend, prevail in our Councils. But, unfortunately for this part of their plan of decep|tion, it will appear, that most of the Acts which bind America in coercive regulations, were passed soon after the Revolution; in the reign of the very Prince, who brought about that great event. The WHIG Ministers of King William (perceiving that the Colonies, even then, had entertained views of placing themselves on a ground of inde|pendence on Parliament) advised their Sovereign, and their advice now stands on record, to pursue measures, which, in their consequence, should effectually secure their thorough dependence on the Legislature of this Kingdom.
In consequence of the advice given by a WHIG Ministry to a King who had mounted the throne Page 27 upon WHIG principles; and also upon the ful|lest evidence of the frauds and abuses committed in the Plantations, in violation of the Act of Navi|gation; the Act of the 7th and 8th of William III.
All penalties and forfeitures were made recover|able in the Courts at Westminster, or in Courts of Admiralty, in the Plantations; which Courts were then, for the first time, established throughout all America. In any action or suit concerning his Majesty's Duties, the offence might be laid in any precinct or division of the Plantations, where the same should be alledged to have been com|mitted, at the discretion of the Officer or Informer. All laws, by-laws, usages and customs repugnant to any laws of Great Britain which relate to the Plantations, or mention the same, are declared
But it was not in matters of Trade ONLY, that Parliament, during the reign of King William, superintended and controuled the Colonies. The Colonists, it was found, had encouraged Pirates, in various places; and no justice could be obtained in THEIR Courts against offenders, whom they openly abetted. To remedy this shameful abuse, a remarkable Act was passed, in the 11th and 12th of William III. This Act abolished all jurisdiction in that case, in the Courts in the Plantations. The SOLE power of trying such offences, in the Colonies, was vested in Commissioners, appointed under the Great Seal of England, or Seal of the Admiralty, according to the course of the Admiralty, that is to say, WITHOUT JURY. The Commissioners were also impowered to issue warrants, in any of the Colonies, for arresting such Pirates or their ac|cessaries. They might, at discretion, either try the criminals in America, or send them to Eng|land to be tried. Should the Governors of any Charter or Proprietary Government refuse to assist the Commissioners; should any person in authority, in the Colonies, refuse to pay obedience to the Act; Page 29 such refusal, in either case, was declared to be a forfeiture of the Charter.
An Act passed in the 10th and 11th year of the same reign, confines the advantage of the Fishery of Newfoundland to British ships fitted out from Great-Britain. The execution of the orders and regulations respecting that Fishery, was placed in the hands of the Admirals, in the respective harbours; that is to say, in the hands of the Master of the ship that should first arrive from Great-Britain. The decision in all questions of civil suit is vested in such Admirals, with appeal to the Commander of the King's ships. All criminal offences are to be tried, in any County of England, by the King's Com|missioners of Oyer and Terminer and Goal deli|very.
The opinions of this Nation concerning the Government of the Colonies, may be collected from the above Acts. The authority of Parliament to bind America, in all cases whatsoever, and when|ever the general interest of the whole Empire re|quired it, was never disputed; and it was often exerted to correct abuses, and to suppress the ideas of independence, which began, even then, to be Page 30 cherished by the Colonies. The same principles, and the same policy, were carried down by Parlia|ment through the three succeeding reigns of Queen Anne, and of George I. and George II.
Early in the first of those reigns, the grossest abuses were committed by the petty Legislatures in the Colonies, with respect to Coin. The interposition of Parliament became necessary to correct those abuses. An Act was passed in the 6th of Queen Anne, for that purpose; when the Coun|cils of that Princess were guided by Whigs. By this Act the rates of Foreign Coin, in the Planta|tions, were ascertained; and a severe punishment was inflicted on those who should take them at higher rates. The American Trade was placed in the same reign under further restrictions, by Act of Parliament. Rice and Molasses were added to the list of enumerated commodities. In the reign of George I. Furrs and Copper-ore of the Plan|tations were subjected to the same restrictions.
The British Parliament confined not to Acts their sense of the undoubted right they possessed of controuling the Colonies, in all cases whatsoever. In the Journals of both Houses, there are many Proceedings which furnish proofs of their unde|viating Page 31 adherence to the same principles. In the year 1702, a Bill was brought into the House of Commons, for abolishing all the Charter and Pro|prietary Governments in America, and reuniting them to the Crown. In 1705, the House of Lords came to several Resolutions on the subject of laws enacted in several of those Governments. They declared those laws to be repugnant to the laws of England, and destructive to the Constitu|tion. This proceeding was likewise followed by a Bill for abolishing those Charters.
These Bills, it must be confessed, were not car|ried into laws. But they did not fail, through any doubt entertained by the Legislature against their propriety. They were lost through a change in the situation of those, who brought forward the measure. That the opinion of the Legislature continued the same on this subject, is evident; as the same proposition was again taken up in the year 1716; when a WHIG Ministry governed the Kingdom.
In the reign of George II. the instances of the controuling authority of Parliament over the Co|lonies, are more numerous and striking. By an Act of the 2d of George II. Chap. 35. severe pro|hibitions Page 32 and penalties are imposed and inflicted on such persons as shall cut and destroy whole Pine|trees. Though such trees are growing within the limits of a Township, the penalties are directed to be sued for and recovered in the Courts of Admi|ralty. The Merchants of Great-Britain having, in the 5th of the same reign, preferred a Petition to Parliament, complaining of the difficulties they met with in the recovery of debts in the Planta|tions; an Act was passed, which subjected all real Estates in the Colonies to just debts and demands; and to be assets, in the same manner as in England, for the satisfaction of debts due by Bond. The ex|portation of Hats from any of the Colonies, and even the conveyance of them by land from one Colony to another, is prohibited, under severe penalties, by an Act passed in the same Session.
In the year 1733 the Province of Massachusett's-Bay presented a Petition to the House of Com|mons, praying that they might be heard by Coun|sel on the subject of Grievances. The chief of these was,
We may perceive, from the above circumstance, how jealous Parliament HAVE BEEN of their su|premacy and uncontroulable authority over the Colonies. Another instance must carry the proof of this position beyond the power of reply. In the year 1740, the House of Commons entered into a consideration of
These spirited Resolutions of the Commons checked, for some time, the abuses in the emission Page 35 and circulation of Paper-Money. The New-England Government, however, did not continue long to pay any regard to ROYAL Instructions, though supported and enforced by the authority of the House of Commons. The frauds committed awakened again the attention of Parliament. In the 24th of George II. an Act was passed,
In the year 1741 the Colonies took up the idea of a LAND-BANK, which had proved so unsuccess|ful in England in the reign of King William. The
There are several other Statutes by which Par|liament with equal force assert their authority over the Colonies. In some of these they carry this authority beyond the limits, with which they have hitherto circumscribed it in this Kingdom. In the 29th of George II. cap. 35. Officers of the Army are empowered to enlist, in the Colonies, ap|prentices and indented servants. The persons so enlisted were exempted from arrests in civil actions, where the value of the action exceeds not ten pounds. To these striking instances of the con|trouling power of Parliament over the Colonies, may be added the Act of 23d of George II. cap. 29. By that Act,
The foregoing recital of Statutes binding the Colonies, prior to the present reign, of which the Congress so much complain, is sufficient to con|vince the dispassionate, that the controuling power of Parliament has been perpetually exerted, and never disputed. There is hardly any object of Legislation in which the laws of this Country have not bound America. Taxation has been purposely omitted in the above detail. That article, as the great object of contest, ought to be separately stated. I shall, therefore, throw into one point of view, all the instances of the exercise of the power of the British Parliament in that case.
The first instance of Taxation is the Act of the 12th of Charles II. for granting to the Crown a duty of Tonnage and Poundage. This Act is in point. It directs, that the duties abovementioned
But whatever might have been the reason for NOT collecting the Duties of Tonnage and Poundage in the Colonies, the Law was certainly understood to extend to America. In the year 1680, the Assem|bly of the Island of Jamaica refused
The 25th of Charles II. cap. 7. is the next Act that binds America, in point of Taxation. By that Act certain duties are made payable in the Plantations, upon sugar, tobacco, cotton, wool, Page 39 indigo, ginger, logwood, fustic, and other dying woods, and cocoa-nuts exported to any other place, except England. These Duties continue to be paid to this day.
In the 9th of Queen Anne, an Act was passed, imposing certain Duties on all prize-goods taken in America, and imported into any of the Colonies. These Duties were as follows:
To these Acts, subjecting his Majesty's sub|jects in America to Taxes imposed by the British Parliament, several others may be added. The Act of the 9th of Queen Anne, for establishing a Post-office. The various Acts passed for levying and inforcing the collection of the duty of six|pence per month, out of Seamen's wages, for the support of Greenwich Hospital. All these Page 40 Acts extend to America. They bind the Colonies, as well as the Mother-Country. Their authority was never disputed; and the Taxes imposed by them have been uniformly raised. The Act of the 2d of George II. cap. 7. is still more explicit and decisive in the words. It requires the pay|ment of the Duties for Greenwich Hospital,
It appears from this detail of facts, that the right of Parliament to bind the Colonies, in all cases whatsoever, is not a claim founded on mere theory: on the contrary, that the controuling power of the Legislature is warranted by constant usage, and uninterrupted practice. That the De|claratory Act, of which the Americans complain, contains no new, no assumed powers over the Plantations; and that there is scarce any channel of Legislation, through which the British Parlia|ment has NOT exerted its supremacy, in as full and ample a manner as it has been exerted over the inhabitants of Great-Britain; and all this prior to the present reign, in which the Congress place the commencement of
Page 41 The American Congress, with a partiality for themselves scarcely consistent with their design of gaining others, in the next paragraph of their De|claration, call the Acts, which were the CONSE|QUENCE of the resistance of their constituents, the CAUSE of their rebellion. In descending to particu|lars, their first complaint is stated against
The complaint of the Congress, with regard to the Bill for shutting the Port of Boston, is ri|diculous as well as unjust, as the inhabitants of that place had it in their own power to remove the grievance. The destruction of the East-India Company's tea, at Boston, is well known to have been the deliberate act of a very great majority of the inhabitants. To obtain reparation by the common course of law was impossible, where the number of the offenders screened them effectu|ally from justice. It was a public crime, and the punishment ought to have been general. In pur|suance of that plan of tenderness, which has been fatally lost on the Americans, the Bill for sus|pending the trade of Boston was rendered condi|tional. A door was left open for an immediate reconciliation, should the Assembly of Massachu|set's-Bay make a public grant, for repairing the damage sustained, by a Company of Merchants, through a public outrage. Yet the Congress stigmatize with the name of injustice, a coer|cive statute rendered absolutely necessary by Page 43 the shameless depredations of the inhabitants of Boston; and which statute, they themselves had it in their power to terminate, in an instant, by doing an act of common justice.
With equal effrontery, and with still less reason, the Congress exclaim against the alteration made in the form of the government of Boston. With their usual fallacy in argument, the Americans wish to establish it as a maxim in polity, That Charters granted by the CROWN, can neither be reversed or altered by the LEGISLATURE. They might as well go at once to the whole supremacy; and save themselves the trouble of thus supporting a cause untenable on any other grounds. The three branches of the Legislature united make daily al|terations in the Constitution of Great Britain; and, if their Supremacy extends over the whole empire, they have the same right to alter the constitution of the American Colonies. If the Americans deny this position, all argument is at an end; and they avow an independence, which, in THEIR circumstances, marks them out for enemies. After all, this alteration of which the Congress affect to complain, is no more than putting the inhabitants of Massachuset's-Bay on the same footing with the other Colonies. They have re|ceived in miniature the counter-part of the con|stitution Page 44 of the Mother-Kingdom; and have THEY a right, or can THEY wish to be more free than the freest nation in the world?
The Act for regulating the Government of Quebec, furnishes the Congress with an ample field for declamation. To inveigh against Po|pery and Arbitrary Power has been ever a fa|vourite topic with men, who wish to profit by the prejudices of the people. Had the Congress attended to the general principles of the British Constitution, they might have informed them|selves, that His Majesty, without the inter|position of the two other branches of the Legis|lature, might have permitted the inhabitants of Canada to remain for ever under French laws. There is no maxim in the Law of England more generally known or less controverted than, That in conquered or ceded countries, which have al|ready laws of their own, such laws remain in full force, till they are altered and changed by the Sovereign. Had His Majesty, therefore, enter|tained such designs, as the Congress obliquely lay to his charge, why should he call in the aid of the Legislature to execute what was already done by the Common Law? The Congress will not, surely, affirm, that the system of govern|ment established by the Legislature in Quebec, Page 45 is so arbitrary in itself, or so fit for the purposes of despotism, as the Constitution which subsist|ed in that Province under the French. Ought they not to consider, that no other form of government could have been established, so suitable to the disposition of the inhabitants, the tenures of their property, and the toleration of their religion, to all which they had an undoubt|ed right, by the terms of their Capitulation and the articles of the subsequent Treaty of Peace?
The Opposition at HOME, as well as the Patriots ABROAD, have found an extensive subject for pa|thetic eloquence, in the form of Government now established by Law in Canada. The FORMER have either very treacherous memories, or they change without any ceremony their opinions with their situation. Under the administration of the EARL of CHATHAM, Mr. Morgan, Lord SHELBURNE'S Secretary, was sent PRIVATELY to America, as Commissioner, to settle and regulate a new code for the Government of Quebec. The Governor and Chief Justice of that Province, if I am not mistaken, were joined with Morgan in this SECRET, but important commission. The measure, it is said, was considered by the Board of Trade; it was certainly debated, if not adopted by the Cabinet, Page 46 as far back as the year 1767, during the plenitude of the Earl of Chatham's power. Lord Camden was Chancellor, and gave his sanction to regulations MORE ALLIED TO DESPOTISM than those he repro|bates at present. The Duke of Grafton, the Earl of Shelburne, General Conway, and several others of
The Congress enumerate, among their com|plaints against the British Legislature, the Reso|lution of Parliament to give its due force to an unrepealed statute passed in the time of Henry VIII. It is declared in the Resolution, that upon this statute, treasons and misprisions of treason com|mitted in any of his Majesty's dominions beyond sea, subject to the Crown of Great-Britain, may be tried in England. Though this Resolution is considered by the Congress as a part of the ideal Page 47 system of enslavement, with which they charge the King and Parliament, it contains no novelty, no uncommon stretch of law. A thousand in|stances of the same kind are upon record, long before the present disputes with America began. One instance is extremely remarkable; I mean, the transactions in the Case of the Insurrection in Antigua, in the year 1711. All the proceedings were founded on the Act of Henry VIII. Some of the Insurgents were sent to England; they were tried upon that Statute; and that circumstance has es|tablished a precedent which cannot be controverted. But had even a new law of this kind been made, what reason could the American Congress have to complain? Have not the prejudices, insur|rections, and even rebellion of their own country|men totally interrupted the common course of justice over all the vast Continent which they in|habit; and shall the generality of the crime be ad|mitted a competent excuse against punishment?
From condemning the Acts of the Legislature, the Congress pass to complaints against their So|vereign, as well as his principal servants. They alledge, that the
All these are facts that cannot be controverted. The Congress know the truth, but pursue their plan of deception.
Throughout the whole of their strange Decla|ration, the American Congress appear to adapt their reasonings to the weakness of the prejudiced, and their facts to the credulity of the ignorant. They affirm, that they have uniformly endea|voured to procure an accommodation with the Mother-Country; yet they reprobate the Resolu|tion of the Commons, on the 20th of February, which opened a fair channel for agreement. They call the Resolution
To shew the nature of the Proposition which the Congress stigmatize with the name of an
In this Address the two Houses of Parliament, while they held forth the Sword in one hand, evi|dently tendered the Olive-branch with the other. The Americans themselves were made the ar|biters of their own fate. The choice of war or peace was left in their own hands. But as the offer of Parliament to listen to the real grievances of the Colonists was deemed too general to form a foundation for an agreement between them and the Mother-country, the Minister, wishing to con|ciliate Page 52 matters with America, even contrary to the opinion of many Friends to this Country, laid before the House of Commons some EXPLICIT PROPOSITIONS, which might answer that end. Ac|cordingly, on the twentieth of February, the fol|lowing Propositions were introduced to a Com|mittee of the whole House, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer:
This Resolution, which was carried by a great majority, plainly marked the ground for a nego|tiation, and an equitable agreement with the Co|lonies. It was moderate, comprehensive, and explicit. It named the persons from whom the proposals must come, and those to whom they were to be made. The end and purpose of the Con|tribution were explained. The appropriation of the expected revenue was specified, and precluded every suspicion of its being misapplied. Though the offer was conditional, it was plainly conclu|sive, as long as the Americans themselves should adhere to the agreement. They had it in their power to tax themselves, the great point for which they professed to contend; and the only right re|served by the Legislature was to determine the QUANTUM of the supply; and they alone can de|termine it, as being the supreme power, who are the sole judges of what is necessary to support the State. The Proposition, upon the whole, was AT LEAST as favourable to the pretensions of the Americans, as to the claims of the Mother-Country. The former, therefore, must have accepted the Page 54 proposal, had what they held forth to the Public formed the real principles of their opposition.
The Minority in Parliament, who deemed no|thing so fatal to their own views, as an agreement with the Americans, upon equitable, and conse|quently permanent terms, opposed this Proposi|tion as insidious in its nature, and for that pur|pose rendered obscure and perplexed in its lan|guage. The American Demagogues, whose in|fluence can only exist in the midst of anarchy and confusion, opposed it with similar views. The latter, indeed, have approved so much of the SENTIMENTS, or rather PROFESSIONS of the former, that they have, in their Declaration, echoed back their very words in Parliament. The argument before went only to the claim of the Americans to be permitted, in their Assemblies, to settle the mode of Taxation. They then demanded an ex|clusive privilege of fixing the amount or quan|tum of the supply; and now they will give no supply at all. But if neither the mode nor the QUANTUM is to be left in the power of Parliament, what power has Parliament left, with regard to the taxing of the Americans? Ought the BRITISH LEGISLATURE to lay HUMBLY the wants of the Public before the PETTY LEGISLATURES of Page 55 America, and request their aid for the general support of Government? What would this be, but the total emancipation of the Colonies from that supremacy for which we contend?
The Americans, formerly, declared themselves willing to contribute to the exigences and expences of the State, provided the demand should come by requisition from the King, and not by an imme|diate exertion of Parliamentary authority. This offer his Majesty declined, with that patriotism which has uniformly marked his OWN measures, during his reign. Anxious for the happiness of ALL his subjects, he chose to be the Monarch of ONE great and free nation, rather than the Sove|reign of a number of petty States, weakened by their own disunion. Had his Majesty been actuated by those motives of ambition, which are not uncom|mon among Princes, he would have eagerly closed with the offers of the Americans. Instead of mak|ing himself dependent, for the maintenance of his dignity, upon the grants of ONE Assembly, he might have extricated himself from even the fear of pe|cuniary difficulties, by a proper management of many Assemblies. The Representatives of one Pro|vince might be gratified into the views of the Crown, from the revenue of another; British Mem|bers might receive the wages of corruption in Page 56 America; and American Representatives be sent for the price of their votes to this Kingdom.
But succeeding events have demonstrated, that the Americans were not sincere, in any one of their declarations, in favour of an amicable accommoda|tion. The Propositions voted, on the 20th of Fe|bruary, came up to their own former demands; yet they evaded them, by treating them as insidious. The truth is, they knew their own demerits to|wards this Country, and they could not believe, that proposals so highly favourable could have been, on her part, sincere. One good, however, has resulted from the Propositions. The Colonies, by rejecting them, have left no doubt remaining concerning their real intentions. They confine no longer their claims to the exclusive privilege of taxing themselves. They aim, evidently, at a total independence in all matters whatsoever; and more particularly with regard to the Act of Navigation. They have long made secret but most dangerous encroachments on this PALLADIUM of our Commerce. They now publickly avow their resolution to pay no regard to any Parliamentary restrictions, whether ancient or recent, on THEIR Commerce. They now openly trade all over Eu|rope; and the obtaining the privilege, which they have, at length, usurped, has been the primary Page 57 cause of their resistance to Parliament. The manufacturers and merchants of this Country have been long no strangers to this American po|licy; yet the Congress have the effrontery to ex|pect, that the mercantile interest of Great Britain will espouse their cause.
The American Congress, having in a loose, cursory, and superficial manner, advanced some pretended arguments to justify their rebellion, descend to the misrepresentation of facts, with the same design. They affirm,
The audacity of the Congress, in asserting FALSEHOODS, demands a brief detail of the TRUTH. General Gage, having been informed, that arms, ammunition, cannon, and other implements of war, had been collected in the town of Concord, ordered a detachment of the Army to march with all possible secrecy to that place. He gave orders to the detachment, to observe the most strict discipline, and to resent no insults offered them by the country people, except actual hos|tilities. The General's orders were, in truth, too implicitly observed. There was not one LOADED MUSQUET in the whole detachment, except those in the hands of FIFTY Marines, who formed the van, when they were FIRED upon, by the country people, at Lexington. The affidavits of the Page 59 rebels, on this subject, are impositions and perjuries. There is not a man, whether officer or soldier, in the whole detachment, consisting of 800 men, but is ready, in the most solemn manner, to attest the truth of this fact.
It were to be wished, for the honour of the insurgents, that their BARBAROUS CRUELTY to the wounded soldiers, were more problematical than their firing FIRST on the King's troops. The soldiers who fell by the first fire of the rebels, were found scalped, when the detachment returned from Concord to Lexington Bridge. Two sol|diers who lay wounded on the field, and had been scalped by the savage Provincials, were still breath|ing. They appeared, by the traces of blood, to have rolled in the agonies of this horrid species of death, several yards from the place where they had been scalped. Near these unfortunate men, another dreadful object presented itself. A sol|dier who had been slightly wounded, appeared with his eyes torn out of their sockets, by the bar|barous mode of GOOGING, a word and practice pe|culiar to the Americans. Humanity forbids us to dwell longer on this scene of horror. The rebels, to break the force of accusation, began to recriminate. They laid several instances of wanton cruelty to the charge of the troops; yet nothing is Page 60 better ascertained, than that not one of the soldiers ever quitted the road, either upon their march or return from Concord.
The Congress stigmatize the expedition to Lex|ington and Concord, with the epithets
Page 61 The assertions of the Congress concerning transactions within the town of Boston, are as utterly devoid of truth, as their account of what happened in the country. The hostile intentions of those WITHIN, were as apparent as the rebellion of their brethren WITHOUT was certain. The great law of self-defence must therefore have justi|fied General Gage for having deprived the former of arms, which they almost avowedly intended to raise against all legal authority. After the skir|mish at Lexington and Concord, all supplies from the country were cut off from the town of Boston. Many of the inhabitants desired to remove, with their effects. Their request was granted; but it was at the same time demanded, that they should deliver up their arms. This was, at first, ap|proved by all; but great clamours soon after fol|lowed. Such of the inhabitants as were well af|fected, or pretended to be well affected to Go|vernment, alledged, that none but the ill-inclined shewed any inclination to remove; and that when they should become safe with their effects, the town would be set on fire. A great demur having also arisen about the meaning of the word EFFECTS, whether MERCHANDISE was included; and the General being likewise sensible, that the per|mitting articles of that kind to be carried to the rebels, might strengthen them in their resistance; Page 62 he retained the goods. But they are still safely kept for the owners, should they either continue faithful, or seize his Majesty's mercy, and return to their duty.
The next paragraph of the Declaration, as it is not supported by truth, is addressed to the pas|sions. The Congress complain, with an attempt at the pathos,
In the next paragraph of their Declaration, the Congress, with their usual want of impartiality and fairness, mention the CONSEQUENCES of their own rebellion, as the cause of their taking up arms. They observe, that General Gage issued a Proclamation,
Page 64 With the same degree of arrogant folly the Congress complain, that
The conclusion of the Declaration, though la|boured, contains nothing but empty declamation, and therefore merits little notice. The same dis|regard to truth, or rather the same attention to misrepresentation, which distinguishes the rest of that strange composition, is carried down to the end. They alledge,
Such being the state of opinions among the leaders of Faction on both sides of the Atlantic,
Page 67 The INTERNAL RESOURCES of the Americans are as problematical, as their unanimity in rebel|lion. Consist these mighty resources in a wretched Paper-currency, established on no ostensible fund of credit; and voted by an illegal Assembly, whose authority is feeble, on account of its novelty, and transitory, as it arises from temporary prejudices? Should force, or even folly, stamp a domestic value on the paste-board dollars of the Congress, what foreign nation will receive them for its manu|factures and commodities? Are the Americans themselves capable of furnishing all the great implements necessary for the prosecution of war? Can they supply their armies with tents, with powder, with cannon, or with musquets? Is any one of these articles manufactured in a sufficient quantity in America? And how can they be procured in Europe, with the wretched cur|rency of the General Congress?
The Colonists, had not reason been warped by prejudice in every part of their conduct, might have foreseen, that their commencing a war de|prived them instantly of the resources for carrying it on. Their whole Coast is lined, it is to be hoped, at this very moment, with our ships of war, to put a total stop to their Commerce. They have, therefore, lost at one stroke their whole Page 68 trade in Corn and Rice with Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean; which, at a moderate computation, brought annually One Million Five Hundred Thousand Pounds to North America. They have lost the supplying our own West-India Islands, as well as those of other nations, with provisions; a branch of Commerce estimated little short of a Million annually. They have lost their Fishery, an article too great for computation; and they have lost the exportation to Great-Britain of commodities which would not have answered in any other market, had the sea remained open to their Navigation.
But if the Americans have little reason to de|pend on DOMESTIC RESOURCES, they have still less to hope from FOREIGN AID. Will France, in the present state of her finances, involve herself in a ruinous and expensive war, to gratify the re|venge of a Faction in this Country, or to favour the ambition of Demagogues beyond the Atlantic? Will Spain give her assistance to raise an INDEPEN|DENT EMPIRE in America? Will she encourage her own American subjects to rise against her au|thority, by abetting the rebellion of the American subjects of Great-Britain? Can either Branch of the House of Bourbon be so blind to its own in|terest, as to wish to see a Sovereign State erected Page 69 so near its settlements, which from their proximity, their produce, and their wealth, must, in such a case, become objects of invasion, depredation, and conquest? What has either France or Spain to fear from THIS KINGDOM, whose interest consists solely in preserving what she has already acquired? But have not BOTH every thing to fear, should a new Sovereignty start up in America, in which a want of resources would, in some degree, justify the providing itself at the expence of wealthy neighbours?
Having endeavoured to terrify Great-Britain with their DOMESTIC resources and FOREIGN aids; the Congress thinking, perhaps, they had gone too far, conclude with assurances, that
The haughty Monarch who dreamt of universal monarchy in the last century, could scarcely have expressed himself in more insolent terms to the petty Princes surrounding his dominions, than the Congress have done to the powerful Empire to which they owe the allegiance of subjects. Some allowance ought to be made for THEIR ignorance, and a great deal for the petulance of men new to consequence and authority; but, even in that case, the insolence of the Declaration is calculated to raise indignation, as well as contempt. The Congress, however, are only the echoes of a des|perate Faction in this Kingdom, who have uni|formly, in their public exhibitions, degraded the strength, power, and authority of Great-Britain, to exalt America on the ruins. With an effron|tery without example in any other age or nation, THESE MEN assume the name of Patriots, yet lay the honour, dignity, and reputation of their Country under the feet of her rebellious subjects. With a peculiar refinement on Parricide, they bind the hands of the MOTHER, while they plant a Page 71 dagger in those of the DAUGHTER, to stab her to the heart; and to finish the horrid picture, they smile at the mischief they have done, and look round to the spectators for applause.
It appears, upon the whole, that the Declara|tion, which ought to contain all the argument in favour of the Americans, contains, in fact, no|thing that does not militate against their cause. The right of taxing all the subjects of the Em|pire, for the general support of the State, is a part of that Supremacy which the first principles of the Constitution have vested in the British Legisla|ture. This Supremacy has been exerted by Par|liament, and admitted by the Americans, ever since their ancestors migrated from these kingdoms. If they now deny it, by that very act they cease to be subjects, and become rebels. But granting, for the sake of argument, that Taxation is no part of the supremacy of Parliament, the very conduct of the Americans not only justifies, but even renders it absolutely necessary, that a precedent should be made. They own,
That the FORMER expences of America have drawn from Great-Britain an incredible treasure, may be seen from the following authentic estimate. We shall begin this estimate with the accession of the House of Hanover to the Throne of these Kingdoms.
|From the year 1714 to the year 1775, the money voted by Parliament, for the forces employed in defence of the Co|lonies, amounts to||8,779,925||3||11½|
|Grants in Parliament, for rewards, encou|ragement, and indemnification to the Americans, during the last war||1,081,771||11||9½|
|Bounties on American commodities to the end of 1774||1,609,345||3||9½|
|Sums granted to the Colonies, for the support of their Civil Government and Provincial Forces||3,835,900||7||4½|
|Extraordinary expences for forts, garri|sons, ordnance stores, transports, car|riages, provisions, may be estimated equal to the expences of the forces||8,779,925||3||11½|
|Expences of fleets and naval stations employed and established in America for its defence may be estimated at||10,000,000||00||00|
|Annual presents to the American Indians, for abstaining from hostilities against the Colonies, and for the cession of lands,||610,000||00||00|
Page 73 To this amazing sum might be added, by implication, the other expences of the two last Wars. The FORMER of those wars was undertaken for the protection of the American Commerce, or rather American SMUGGLING, to the Spanish Co|lonies. We entered into the LATTER for the defence of the Colonists; we carried it on for their security; and terminated it for their SOLE advan|tage. The two last Wars have cost this Country, at a moderate computation, ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLIONS. To this extraordinary waste of treasure, what have the Colonies to oppose to balance the account? Is it a languid Com|merce, which scarcely makes its returns once in three years?
We have heard much (indeed, a great deal too much) of this Commerce from factious men on both sides of the Atlantic. This is the mighty engine which they wield over the heads of the ignorant; the great bug-bear with which they terrify the timid. To estimate the value of the American trade with any degree of precision, is impossible. The accounts kept in the Custom|house are no authorities. When exports pay no duty, a door is opened to false entries. The Page 74 vanity of some Merchants, the interest of others, too frequently induce them to magnify, beyond measure, the quantity of their export trade. Be|sides, the mercantile abettors of American resist|ance thought they served the Colonies, whilst they gratified their own private views. We may con|clude, that the Commerce with North America has been greatly over-rated, as the TOTAL LOSS of it has NOT affected this Kingdom. We ought, per|haps, to ascribe to ITS INSIGNIFICANCE what we are taught to attribute to an INCREASE in other channels of trade.
Like all monopolies, the Commerce with North-America, such as it has been, was much more pro|fitable to the Merchant, than advantageous to the Manufacturer. One-third of this commerce with any State in Europe (from which the returns are an|nual) would have brought equal profit to the ma|nufacturer, and would have enabled him to em|ploy an equal number of hands. Political im|postors will not fail to advance magnificent fictions on this head, and the ignorant cannot cease to give them credit. On a subject where proofs are so diffi|cult to be obtained, one may hazard a conjecture. The money expended by this Nation upon America, Page 75 for the PROTECTION of HER inhabitants and the ENCOURAGEMENT of HER Commerce, would have been more than sufficient to purchase ALL the manufactures ever exported from Great-Britain to the Colonies now in rebellion. I mean not to include, in this conjectural estimate, any sums ex|pended by us in any OTHER part of the world during the two last (truly American) Wars.
The Americans, with a degree of folly scarce excuseable in the most consummate ignorance, claim a merit with Great-Britain, for the Revenue arising from imposts laid upon some of their com|modities, in THIS Kingdom. The chief of these are Rice and Tobacco. The Revenue arising from Rice is so insignificant, that it scarce deserves to be mentioned. If exported to the south of Cape Finisterre, Rice pays no duty at all. The con|sumption here and the re-exportation to the North|ward are very inconsiderable. In like manner, Tobacco, when re-exported, pays no duty; and it is a matter of great doubt, whether the frauds committed in the draw-backs may not nearly bal|lance the ostensible Revenue arising to the State from the home consumption.
Page 76 But granting, a great Revenue should arise from Rice and Tobacco to the State, what favour do we owe to our Colonies on that head? That Re|venue is paid by OURSELVES. The Tax is on the Consumer, and not upon the Planter. Should Siberia supply us with Rice and Tobacco, the price would not probably be greater to the Con|sumer, nor the Revenue less to the State. If the Americans claim any merit from those Taxes, what do we NOT owe to the Emperor of China? The Revenue from Tea is much more consider|able than that from Rice and Tobacco. A Con|gress at Pekin might accuse us of ingratitude on this subject, with as much justice as the Assembly lately sitting at Philadelphia.
It is evident, from the above state of facts, that the Colonies have no claim to an exemption from Taxation, on account of any advantage that has accrued to this country from their commerce. But Taxation has now ceased to be any part of the dispute. It goes to the whole authority of the Mother-Country. The Americans offer no longer the very name of Obedience. But why should I speak of Obedience? This VERY CONGRESS, whose Declara|tion is the subject of this disquisition, have passed Page 77 a VOTE OF INDEPENDENCE. They have long acted as rebels, they NOW affect to contend as enemies. Their abettors in this Kingdom are no strangers to this circumstance; yet they dignify avowed re|bellion with the title of
Such is the conduct of the Americans, to which that of Great-Britain has all along formed a strik|ing contrast. With the indulgence and patience of a Parent, she soothed, flattered, and even court|ed them to a reconciliation. In pity to the weakness, in condescension to the folly, in considera|tion to the prejudices of a froward child, she held out the olive branch when she ought, perhaps, to have stretched forth the rod of correction. Her pity, her kindness, and affection, were lost upon the Ameri|cans. They advanced rapidly from claim to claim, and construed her forbearance into timidity. Each Act that was repealed furnished a subject for tri|umph, and not an object for gratitude. Each con|cession became the foundation of some new de|mand, till, at length, by assuming all to them|selves by rebellion, they left the Mother-Country nothing to bestow.
Page 78 In this situation of affairs, Great-Britain must pursue one of two lines of conduct, with regard to her refractory Colonies. She must either put up with the loss of ALL her expence, and emancipate them for ever, or reduce them to that state of dependence which subjects owe to the supreme au|thority in every Empire. As the latter line must of necessity be pursued, it ought to be pursued with a mixture of spirit and prudence. To be in every respect in a condition to force equitable terms, is the best security for their being vo|luntarily offered. But should terms be offered by the rebels, the RIGHTS of THIS COUNTRY must be more regarded in the accommodation, than the CLAIMS of AMERICA. To permit the Colonies to GAIN by one rebellion, is to sow the seeds of another. But if the Colonies, as communities, are not permitted to gain by their refractory conduct, I am far from wishing that individuals should lose any part of their rights as British subjects.
To propose a plan to the Americans, in their pre|sent political frenzy, would be to speak to the winds. To make them less free than the other subjects of the State, can never be the design of this Country. To obtain greater privileges, can Page 79 scarcely be their own design. If they are not madly bent on independence, let them propose the conditions on which they wish to continue subjects. But if they are to continue subjects, they must perform their duty as such, and con|tribute toward the expence of the State, for the general protection. The Legislature of this King|dom cannot possibly depart from any part of its su|premacy over the Colonies; but it is in the power of the Colonies to share in that supremacy. If they complain of being taxed without having the pri|vilege of sending Members to Parliament, let them be represented. Nay, more: Let their representation increase in proportion to the Revenue they shall furnish. If they wish rather to vote their QUOTA towards the general supply, through their own General Courts and Assemblies, the resolution of Parliament on that subject is still open to their choice.
But as long as they assume the language of a Sovereign State, this Kingdom can enter into no negociation, can meet no compromise. Nations, as well as individuals, have a character, a certain dignity, which they must preserve at the risque of their existence. Great-Britain has obeyed the Page 80 dictates of humanity beyond the limits prescribed by her reputation. To tempt her further, is full of peril, as her indignation begins to rise. She has long had reason to complain of American in|gratitude; and she will not bear longer with American injustice. The dangerous resentment of a great people is ready to burst forth. They already begin to ask, with vehemence, Is this the return we ought to expect from Colonies, whom with parental indulgence we have cherished in infancy, protected in youth, and reared to man|hood? Have we spent in their cause so much treasure, and have they the ingratitude to refuse to bear a small portion of our burdens? Have we spilt so much of the blood of their enemies, and do they repay us by imbruing their hands in our own? The law of God and of Nature is on the side of an indulgent Parent, against an undu|tiful Child; and should necessary correction render him incapable of future offence, he has only his own obstinacy and folly to blame.