AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, THE INTEREST AND GLORY OF GREAT BRITAIN; In a SERIES of LETTERS to the LEGISLATURE.
[PRICE HALF A DOLLAR.]
AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE THE INTEREST AND GLORY OF GREAT BRITAIN; CONTAINING ARGUMENTS which prove, that not only in TAXATION, but in TRADE, MANUFACTURES, and GOVERNMENT, the Colonies are entitled to an entire Independency on the BRITISH LEGISLATURE; and that it can only be by a formal DECLARATION of these Rights, and forming thereupon a friendly LEAGUE with them, that the true and lasting Welfare of both Countries can be promoted. In a SERIES of LETTERS to the LEGISLATURE.
It is not to be hoped, in the corrupt State of Human Nature, that any Nation will be subject to another, any longer than it finds its own Account in it, and cannot help itself.
No Creatures suck the Teats of their Dams longer than they can draw Milk from thence, or can provide themselves with better Food; nor will any Country continue their subjection to ano|ther, only because their great Grand-Mothers were acquainted. This is the course of human affairs, and all wise States will always have it before their eyes.
Trenchard on Plantations and Colonies, in Cato's Letters, No. 106.
PHILADELPHIA, Printed and Sold by ROBERT BELL, in Third-Street. MDCCLXXVI.
To Sir GEORGE SAVILLE, Baronet,
IT is not only as the brightest ornament to the following essays, in the cause of indepen|dence, that the writer uses the liberty of prefixing to them your name, but being of opin|ion, that your actions will also best illustrate the principles he wishes to inculcate, he hopes to de|rive from it all the advantages of a well-selected motto. Feeling only for the public, you will suffer even your own merits to be made the theme of praise, so long as the public interests shall be thereby promoted. It is thus that your exam|ple will have its due effect; it is thus that your patriotism will be reflected from a thousand mir|rors; and that, instead of exerting a single voice in the senate, you will harangue from a thousand rostrums at once; inciting in all the nations, to whom are known the English laws and language, a love of virtue, and a resolution to be free. It is this appeal to distinguished worth in real life, that gives the surest efficacy to the precepts of the moralist; it is this which induces the lips of the orator with the powers of persuasion, and is the kindling incentive to a virtuous emulation. How glorious the privileges of patriotic virtue! Not limited by the scanty measure of personal labours, not confined to one age or empire, they extend to unborn times and nations, and the Page vi patriot is the common blessing of human kind. As an Aristides, a Brutus, or a Cato, hath oft given birth to British patriotism; so shall Bri|tons, in some distant period, and future Ameri|cans, catch the same generous flame from the great example of the Saville of these days.
Such indeed is the present low estate of public spirit amongst us, that a man hath need of some fortitude, who, amongst the generality, would so much as contend for the reality of its existence. Nay, it hath not been discarded by the bulk of the gross-minded vulgar only, but our very phi|lophers too, so deep is the taint, have told us, that wisdom is not the portion of that man, who can sacrifice his time and his peace, by taking an active part in public affairs; and yet, notwith|standing the doctrines of these epicurean sages, and as little regarding the united ridicule of the thousands, and the ten thousands of their impli|cit disciples, I am not ashamed to acknowledge myself one of those weak mortals, who can be|lieve, that the ease and luxury of life are con|temptible in the eyes of a good man, when his country demands his labours, his counsel, or his sword. Being of of opinion then, that patriotism is a real, an exalted virtue, I must necessarily think, that to decline its duties, is a meanness un|worthy the manly character, and that its wilful violation, is the most atrocious of crimes. I be|lieve too, that this virtue burns with no small ardour in many a British bosom; nay, I am cre|dulous enough to think, that besides the instance I have particularly singled out, it is to be found Page vii even in the House of Commons: there, I con|fess, its growth is not very abundant; for, it is not of a nature to thrive in the same soil, which the occasional occupier must needs sow with the noxious seeds of prostitution and bribery ere he can secure possession. Happy, could we say of this seed, that
Page viii Since I am now addressing myself to the pub|lic, Sir George, no less than to yourself, it is fit I should remind them, that your parliamentary integrity, is only a natural consequence of those means by which you became a member. In one, as in the other, neither corrupting nor cor|rupted, you stand a noble exception to a general rule; in which, we clearly see, how valuable would be an independent, an upright parliament. Let but the whole of the representative body be elected by the unbribed, and unbiassed suffrages of the freeholders, and we should once more be|hold the House of Commons an assembly of pa|triots, the terror, not the tool of bad ministers; the bulwark, not the abusers of the people.
Perhaps too, the public may be more indebted to you than they seem to consider, for having, by an uniform conduct, through a series of years, effectually overturned the darling, but infamous maxim of modern politicians that every man hath his price, a sentiment which could only arise in the basest and most degenerate heart. Notwith|standing the contrary is a truth, far better esta|blished than any the most notorious historical fact whatever, all history being enriched with numer|ous instances of it; and that it might be corro|borated in the humble and unrecorded scenes of private life, by every man, whose friends are se|lected from the wise and good; and notwith|standing every human heart ought to revolt at so shocking a proposition, yet, it is certain, such is the prevalence of any opinion, how ridiculous so|ever, which falls in with our sordid devotion to Page ix avarice, that master-vice of the times! that we continually find this degrading maxim in the mouths, even of those whose characters in the world are yet respectable. This strange lan|guage is very often to be imputed to a weak in|tellect, or extreme ignorance, and very often to an absence of thought, or that wretched supine|ness of soul, which, for the sake of ease, always adopts the mode of thinking and speaking which is most in fashion.
But when men of understanding, of reflec|tion, and learning, become the controversial champions of this tenet; when they enter the lists in form, make a display of their armour, and their arms, and boldly challenge all oppo|nents, what are we to think? Little do they seem to reflect, that they have no way of com|ing off with honour, but by retiring from the field, and wholly abandoning a bad cause; for so long as they maintain it, do they not, in the very act, proclaim themselves villains in grain, or at best, only negatively honest, for want of tempta|tion to be otherwise, and tacitly acknowledge, it would be a madness in you to intrust them with any secret or deposit, by means of which they could advance their fortune, without hazard from your resentment or a gibbet?
These unhappy men, do not only forfeit by this conduct, all title to trust and confidence in society, but what is still worse, they expressly exclude themselves from the benefits of religion, saying, in effect, that our Saviour's mission, for the purposes of teaching morality, and bestowing Page x salvation on mankind, so far from being an in|stance of divine wisdom and goodness, was exe|cuted like the vague schemes of purblind mortals, to no manner of purpose; for, so long as it is their assertion, that every man hath his price; so long do they assert, that it is impossible to obey the laws of Christ even in a tolerable degree; and to deny, that christianity is capable of inspiring her followers with an incorruptible integrity, is not only to betray a total ignorance of its doctrines, but to make war upon fact, and the common consent of mankind. Thus is this hackneyed pro|position, examined either by the rules of reason or religion, evidently involved in palpable absur|dity, and in rank impiety.
For the most part, they who propagate this wretched opinion, know not what they do; and would be exceedingly shocked, did they perceive, how they were at once subverting their own mo|ral principles, and sapping the very foundations of all integrity in society both public and private. So dangerous, is it, unthinkingly, to swim with the stream of popular opinion! especially since it is become the great master-stroke of the arch-enemies of religion and virtue, to turn the course of this current in their favour, and to make it the vehicle of that poison they are for ever pour|ing in at the fountain head, in order to taint a thoughtless world, They use all the arts of a subtile and ingenious address, to withdraw our attention and respect from authors of sterling me|rit, and to insinuate themselves upon us as our only infallible guides. Under the mask of Page xi candour, they are most decisive and dogmatical, infecting with arrogance those ductile minds, which before were adorned with humility.
In a stile of Attic elegance, they inculcate a frivolous and vitiated taste; teachers of intellec|tual abstraction and refinement, they promote sensuality; with an ostentation of humanity, they loosen the bands of society; professors of morali|ty, they demonstrate that it hath no foundation; deep in all philosophy, they assure us that truth is the only thing we ought to pursue; that it is most difficult to attain, except with their assist|ance; and when attained, they shew us as clearly, that it is not worth our pains; and, like superior intelligences, so very refined and spiritual, (as they would have you believe) as to look down upon human nature as upon a lower order of beings, and to contemplate, with an unmoved indiffer|ence and composure, the blindness and preju|dices, the little passions and anxieties of a fretful and miserable world, they inform us that wis|dom consists in this sublime apathetic insensibili|ty, while they, all the while are, in reality, sacrificing their own tranquillity, in carrying on perpetual hostilities against the invincible powers of truth, religion, and common sense, and yield|ing up the guidance of their restless and indefa|tigable pens to pride, spleen, vanity, caprice, and sordid avarice.
By prostituting to the worst of purposes a flashy wit and specious eloquence, they captivate the shallow, the luxurious and the gay; while, for the relish of those who have understandings Page xii some-what superior, but more gloom and male|volence in their hearts, they season their pernici|ous compositions with a poignant irony and ridi|cule, which is usually heightened in proportion as the object is sacred or divine.
When referring to the Deity, and to the in|comprehensible things of heaven and eternity, one might expect, even of a philosopher, some diffidence, some sobriety and decency; but this were too great a condescension from the mad genius of Geneva, the scribbling buffoon of Fer|ney, or that "fattest hog of Epicurus's stye," the "see-saw sceptic from the remotest North*." With these "men of renown," as leaders of the van, and the Walpolian state-prostitute to conduct the rear-guard; even the disorderly, the coward clans of vice and seduction, are an over-match for the feeble guards of virtue in most fashi|onable minds.
By strengthening the party of the dissolute, and encouraging the unmanly, unprincipled, im|pious, and dissipated spirit, which marks the character of the times, and by making a jest of every thing serious and noble; they insinuate themselves into the unguarded bosoms of that class of triflers, and become their oracles. The bu|siness is now done, for the fashionable world is the mint, where common opinion first obtains its stamp and currency; circulating thence throughout the community like current coin, and, like that too, giving consequence to its pos|sessor Page xiii in proportion to his store of this fictitious, this imaginary wealth.
Hence it is, that in almost every fashionable circle, from the peer to the 'prentice, from the profound writer of stuff, called Essays on the Origin of Evil, to the novel reading miss in her teens, we are for ever pestered with trash, that is the bane of morality, and the disgrace of ra|tional beings. And while the polite praters vain|ly imagine they are displaying their own talents and erudition, their knowledge and liberal way of thinking; they are only the mere ecchoes of those teachers of falsehood; the simple and obe|dient tools, by whose agency those cunning en|gineers are undermining all the defences of religion, of public spirit, and of private virtue.
It is matter of no small astonishment and con|cern, to observe how much an indifference to moral rectitude, a habit of evading the toil of thinking and this passive resignation to the sentiments and principles of others, debilitate the human mind, though naturally active and vi|gorous, and subject it to the reproach of yield|ing to the grossest credulity, and even of assenting to manifest contradictions. Nothing is more common, than for those, who have the Walpo|lian maxim we have been speaking of always at their tongue's end, to form to themselves, I know not how, an ideal distinction between pub|lic integrity and private honesty. While they lay it down, as a fixed principle, that the senator may be corrupted by a court bribe, to injure or oppress his country they will yet allow, that he Page xiv is rigidly just in all his private dealings; that he is the kindest landlord, the gentlest master, the tenderest relation, the truest friend; so very mo|derate in self-gratification, and of so humane a nature, as to bound his expences very far within his income, and to distribute large sums in secret charities, with a minute attention to the mea|sures of distress amongst the objects of his benefi|cence. And, is it to be believed, that such a man—that a Saville is to be made a traitor?—Ye ecchoes of absurdity, think and blush!
But whatever hopes may be entertained of the ingenuous majority of mistaken persons, I know there is yet a party, whose incapacity for a gene|rous thought, or whose malignity is such, that when, by the mention of his name as a sincere patriot, they have been struck dumb with unelu|dible conviction, and obliged, in their own despite, to confess his virtue, have yet sought to tarnish its lustre, by base insinuations, to the pre|judice of his understanding. These insidious creatures are not sparing of cold panegyrics on his general character; but, with much pity for the weakness of a well-meaning man, they la|ment that he should be so deluded; they are amazed, forsooth, that he can fancy he is serv|ing the public, by opposing and embarrassing the necessary and wise measures of government; they are sorry, that such a man should keep in countenance others, who only act the patriot, in order to obtain their own foolish ends; and they must needs say, they think him somewhat too much attentive to popular clamours and popular Page xv praise, and too much guided by a blind popular zeal.
But what they are most anxious to inform you of, with some parade they affect to suppress. In tenderness to him, they do not choose to speak freely on that head—there is no necessity to ex|plain themselves—they are convinced he is ig|norant how much he is imposed on—but they take care, however, before they have done, by certain circumlocutions, by broken sentences, and unambiguous givings-out; to inform you, in pretty plain terms, that he is no better than the dupe of a dangerous party, a mere puppet, played off by the crafty leader of a faction, at|tached to his interest by flattery alone, and court|ed, not for his own intrinsic importance, but merely to grace the cause with a name, upon which the silly multitude have thought fit to bestow an unmerited popularity. What a return for the labours of a life, devoted to the service of that community, of which these wretches com|pose a part! But no benefits can touch the vi|prous heart of ingratitude! Nor shall malice and envy ever sleep, while a spark of virtue remains to bless mankind! Merit, however raised to such an elevation, is a mark placed far above the idle efforts of their fever-shaken distempered nerves. Exposing their own hideous desormity, they ag|grandize by the contrast, that virtue they mean to depreciate, and madden with self-inflicted tor|ment, their peculiar curse. These ingrates to their benefactor, stupid as they are, ought to know, that though his character, like things Page xvi most sacred, may be profaned, yet that the broad aegis of wisdom and virtue renders it invul|nerable.
Forgive me, Sir George, that I say these things in an address to yourself! As humility itself, in a private station, cannot decline to make those honest boasts which bespeak its merit, when that is basely traduced, or ungratefully forgotten; so the public labourer, will not be offended, that his honest fame is held up to his country|men, for the purposes of exalting truth, and subduing falsehood, as an incitement to a steady and high spirited patriotism, and an encourage|ment to the timid in the public cause: while to those foul harpies, who wallow in the filth of corruption, and batten at the ever-bleeding wounds of their country; and to those minor miscreants, doomed by their dulness, and their abject meanness, to remain the drudges of wicked|ness, without its wages; it shall serve as an ada|mantine mirror, before whose brightness, if they have the power to open their fascinated eyes, they shall then shrink at the withering blast, like adders in a consuming fire; praying, but pray|ing in vain, to lose the bitter consciousness of their own infamy,
I shall likewise hope for your pardon, on this occasion, because you understand the world well enough, to know the endless shifts and evasions of the disingenuous and perverse, who persist, with unparalleled effrontery, to deny the most undoubted truths, until they are borne down by the weight of demonstration and the force of Page xvii facts. They will deny, in turn, the existence of every command in the decalogue; and you will dispute with them in vain, until you open the bible, and reduce them to the necessi|ty, of either giving up their argument or their senses. So, when any one shall undertake to re|ply to these maligners of mankind, if he content himself with proving ever so clearly from nature, from reason, or religion, that a real patriot may be found, he had as well argue with the stones under his feet, unless he produce the man, and put it upon his adversaries to disprove the fact.
If by those, who are themselves incapable of a generous sentiment, and cannot believe a dis|interested affection can warm the human breast, I should be accused of an unworthy design to flatter you in this epistle; I shall be ready to ac|knowledge the charge, whenever they prove that I have, in any particular, exceeded the truth or endeavoured to mislead you into a deviation from the paths of honour. And I would observe, that he, who is the professed friend to every virtue, and the declared enemy of every vice, may in|deed, and ought to be applauded; and puts it out of the power of even a Decius (Shakespear's Julius Caesar.) to flatter him—except to acts of goodness. Not having any favourite vice to be soothed, he is only assailable on the side of virtue; and the exquisite satisfaction, arising from the just praise of virtue, being one of the Page xviii rewards designed it by Providence, and intended also to animate it, and urge it onward to its final goal with unremitting ardour, to bestow it where it is due, is therefore as much the duty of every good man, as it
I am, Your grateful Countryman, The AUTHOR.
THE same motives, which first prompted me to publish the following letters sepa|rately, have, upon farther consideration, determined me to do it in a collective form. To the generality, it may not, perhaps, be a recom|mendation of them, when I assure my readers, they wholly proceed from a strong conviction of mind, and a zeal for the cause of liberty, and not from a view of serving, or of distressing any party or particular person whatsoever, except the arguments they contain shall make converts to my political creed concerning America; I fear they are not very likely to please any party, for Britons of all parties and of almost all deno|minations, seem far too unanimous in wishing to tyrannize over their brethren on the other side of the Atlantic.
Happy, most happy, should the writer esteem himself, could he entertain any flattering hopes, that his plain and humble pen might inspire his countrymen with more generous sentiments! But are not his countrymen the brave sons of freedom? lovers of justice, and by nature gene|rous? He will then—he must entertain these Page xx pleasing hopes. To know, that he had thus in|fluenced a single individual, would afford him reflections, that would more than counter-balance the ordinary evils of life.
If, however, he had no other satisfaction on this occasion, it would yet be sufficient, that his American kindred should say,
We may naturally expect, however, that they will be the last amongst the intelligent to receive this doctrine; for long and established habits form, even in liberal minds, very inveterate pre|judices. Accustomed so long to govern, and ha|bituated to the regular exercise of authority, they will find it very difficult to believe, that it ought to be lodged in any other hands; and they must be above the common weaknesses of our nature, could they part with it without an internal struggle, since a love of power is, perhaps, the most 〈◊〉-rooted of all the human passions.
But, for the honor of human nature, and the glory of this free nation, I must believe, that our Page xxi legislators will, in the end, gain this noble victory themselves. Could I suppose a British minister of State to have a few leisure moments, from the drudgery of his office, and the worse drudgery of sopping the hungry hounds that are forever ready to devour him; from directing the endless schemes and manoeuvres of the ministerial cam|paign, and from superintending their operation.
Could I suppose a minister, I say, to have so much leisure from all these avocations, for seri|ously contemplating the present alarming situati|on of his country, and for bestowing a little fore|thought upon what will probably be its sate, in a very short period of time, unless some great re|formations take place; and, could I farther sup|pose this minister, turning his eyes within him|self, to meditate upon what it is from which he can hope to derive any real satisfaction; to exa|mine thoroughly the cobwebs of all mysterious and arbitrary policy, and the rotten pillars of his state and power; and, when sufficiently disgust|ed with their loathsomeness and folly, could I then imagine him to revolve in his mind, how pleasant it would be to carry on the public busi|ness on a liberal and simple plan, pure from cor|ruption, and uniformly friendly to freedom; I have not a doubt but he would most ardently wish to embrace such a plan.
How gladly, if a man of sense, and a lover of integrity, would he exchange for it, his toils and perplexities, his provocations, his anxieties, and distracting cares; but above all, that consci|ousness Page xxii of criminality, which no state-necessity can effectually craze from the mind of a minister, who, wanting the fortitude to forsake the wretched system of the base-minded Walpole, continues to work the wheels of government by the streams of corruption, and who, by being involved in the labyrinths, unavoidable in all sys|tems but the right one, and, in order to avoid the most fatal of all imputations to a minister, that of doing nothing, finds himself obliged to commit frequent violations on the most sacred rights of his fellow-subjects, so that he may get forward at any rate with the work of the day, and keep the people amused, by letting them see he is doing something.
Until fair experiment shall have convinced me of the contrary, I shall never, I believe, think otherwise, than that the most practicable system of government is, at the same time the most sim|ple, upright, coercive and immoveable. Founded in freedom, and the common good of the people, it will cherish the spirit of liberty as its vital prin|ciple; having no dangerous or selfish designs, it will affect no mystery: knowing the necessity of virtue, and the advantages of integrity, it will dis|countenance vice, suppress corruption of every kind, and be inflexible to justice; and thus, by affording general protection, it will find unani|mous support.
But, it being our more immediate business at present, to confine our ideas of reformation to Page xxiii what regards the North-American colonies, which make, at this unhappy time, no small addi|tion to that burthen which galls the ministerial shoulder. I have only to add, that I must firm|ly hold my confidence, that our present minister would, in the following letters, meet with the necessary hints and rudiments, from which, with|out the smallest difficulty, he might plan the means for easing himself of it; to the infinite advantage and glory of his country, to his own honor and satisfaction, and to the inexpressible happiness of the whole people of America.
As I am certain, that no party principles will betray me, to have written from any other mo|tives than those I profess; so when I assure the reader, that the stile and manner in which I have done it are my very best, I hope he will be con|vinced, that I have not folly enough to aspire at literary fame; and that his candour will over|look the very many imperfections of this little work.
Page [unnumbered]N. B. In this Work are included copious Notes; containing Reflections of the BOSTON and QUEBEC ACTS; and a full Justification of the People of Boston, for destroying the British-taxed Tea; submitted to the Judgment, not of those who have none but borrowed Party-opinions, but of the Candid and Honest.AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE. To the LEGISLATURE.Page [unnumbered]
March 20, 1774.
EVEN the most ignorant perceive this to be a crisis of the utmost importance to Great-Britain, and to North America: but it doth not appear that the most sage have yet formed a plan of proceedings that is likely to give content to both parties. With deference to the senti|ments of others, and with a sincere desire of rendering a service to my country, permit me to offer a few thoughts on the subject, and to throw some hints in your way, which I do not perceive to have been as yet started by any political writer. It is most deeply to be lamented, that passion and prejudice, pride and self-interest, have evidently too much influence over the minds of most men, to suffer them to decide impartially and equitably in such delicate conjunctures as the present. We want now to discover, and to establish a princi|ple of lasting union between our colonies and the mother country; while the measures of admini|stration, the deliberations in parliament, the sen|timents of political writers, and the language of the people at large, all tend to prove, that the most probable event will be mutual jealousy, ani|mosity, and strife.
Page 26 It is the misfortune of this country, surely without necessity, that schemes of reformation, and plans of a great and comprehensive nature, for the general benefit of the people, are rarely or never formed before hand in the peaceful closet of a provident minister; and, it is as unusu|al for them to attain their completion by dispas|sionate contemplation, and the calm determi|nations of wisdom. On the contrary, we suffer every trivial error and irregularity to ripen into mischief before we think of reformation; when we undertake it at last with minds heated to fermentation, and we perform it with rashness and violence. Let not, however, on this great occasion, any thing so intemperate and faulty mark your deliberations, nor leave a stain upon your measures. Reflect, that the fate of empires is now in suspence, and that the balance is in your hands. No patriots of any age or country ever had a nobler opportunity of immortalizing their same; nor, what is infinitely more to be desired, of obtaining the inward reward of self-approbation for having given happiness to milli|ons. Remember your duty to mankind; re|member your duty to God. Let not the breath of anger or resentment sully your councils; let not jealousy or ambition poison your breasts, nor hang upon your tongues. Be calm, contem|plative, candid, prudent, wise; let justice and benevolence rule your hearts; in one word, be Christians! embracing with love and charity your American brethren; and consulting their happi|ness equally with your own.
The two grand questions now to be decided are; 1. Whether or not the British parliament or Page 27 legislature, hath the right of sovereignty over North America? And, 2. Whether or not a British parliament hath a right to tax the North Ame|ricans (1)?
Although the latter question be properly in|volved in the former (2), since taxation is a part of legislation, yet being extremely simple and well understood, I shall consider it first, in order to get rid of it; so as it may not embarrass our discussion of the other, which it will be neces|sary for us to treat with all possible perspicuity. As for those who, with great warmth, maintain the right of parliament to tax the North Americans, surely they are rather to be pitied than argued with! Must they not be totally ignorant of the principles of that inestimable constitution, under which they have the happiness to live? How then shall we expect them to be acquainted with the principles of the law of nature, from whence they flow? When I meet a man inclined towards this opinion, I do not contradict him; and I beseech him to avoid disputation above all things. I beg of him also to divest himself totally of every previous inclination for seeing the point in this or in that light; to consult immediately the great Mr. Locke, and other authors of note, and after a careful examination of the arguments for and against the question, to decide upon it himself impartially and honestly. I remind him likewise, that it is his interest, as well as for the advantage of his country, that he should discover the truth: but a matter of total indifferency on which side it lies. If this fail to set him right, I do not dis|pute with him myself, nor do I assume the counte|nance or manner of an opponent; but I intimate Page 28 to him, that, were he of my opinion, it would afford him great satisfaction of mind; since it gives me a consistency of sentiment, by which I see every right of legislation perfectly consonant with the freedom and the happiness of mankind; and I then simply state my reasons for holding it. I have ever found this appeal to a man's own heart and understanding, the most successful way of en|lightening the one, and improving the other. Very few indeed of those with whom I have thus reasoned, on the present subject of American tax|ation, have gone away unsatisfied, or found a ne|cessity of reading, in order to be convinced: but ignorance and obstinacy, heated by former de|bate, have sometimes rendered my endeavours ineffectual; and such as were notorious for a vi|cious ambition, or servility to the ruling powers, have generally remained immoveable, though without producing one just or wise argument in support of their sentiments, or rather their asserti|ons. Such men are not aware how much they lay open to the light that part of their characters they always mean to hide; and that there is as much dishonesty in that disposition which denies an evident truth, as in that which gives a false evidence, or takes a purse. It would have re|quired no learning, but only common sense and common honesty, to have known that a man hath no property, in that which another 'can by right take from him without his consent,' had not the world been pestered with writers of corrupt hearts, who, for wicked ends, have brought this clear proposition into dispute, and involved it in a casuistical jargon, which persons of plain sense, and too busy or too indolent for reflection, are apt Page 29 to mistake for learning and superior skill; and to compliment it, first with doubting, and then de|nying upon trust, what they once understood and believed. But I trust, that characters so weak as these, so profligate as those, will have no in|fluence with the British legislature; that its deli|berations will be carried on with too much wis|dom and too much dignity to give a hearing to the drivelings of shallow and impudent praters; or to suffer the unseemly violence of surious and tyrannical spirits, to discompose that serenity and divestment from passion, which ought ever to be observed in the presence of his Majesty, and in the awful councils of the nation. Here I must express my concern, that it should seem to be thought by very sensible men, that it is necessary to appeal to ancient times, in order to ascertain the right of a free subject not to be taxed without his consent, either in person or by representation. With as much reason might we go about to prove, that no ancient King had a right to take from every subject at his good pleasure, an eye or an ear. It is sufficient that we know any maxim in our law, to be at the same time a maxim of the law of nature, or demonstrably deducible from its fundamental principles. What is it to the pur|pose, whether such a maxim was received and acquiesced in only yesterday, or a thousand years ago? Truth is not the less truth, though man|kind were in ignorance of it until lately. No mathematician, in demonstrating an astronomi|cal problem, thinks it necessary to prove the pro|perties of a triangle, a circle, or an ellipsis; why then should the politician waste his time and em|barrass his argument, with proving principles and Page 30 axioms universally assented to by all just reason|ers? not but that a maxim carries more weight and authority with it, as this of the necessary con|nection between taxation and representation, when we find it has been the uniform sentiment of all ages; and references to antient times, and to various histories, serve very properly to illus|trate political arguments; sometimes facilitating their reception among the timid and suspicious, who are apt to shrink at bold and honest truths, to which they have not been familiarized.
NOTES, &c. to LETTER I.
(1) Let me recommend to the readers perusal, an excellent pamphlet, under the title of Letters from a Farmer in Pennsyl|vania, to the inhabitants of the British Colonies. It is printed for Almon.
(2) I think a noble Lord has lately asserted the contrary; but we shall probably be of the same sentiment, when we come to an explanation of our words. I here mean that just legislation only which is founded on liberty, and in which the people, either personally, or by their representatives, have a share. Every other species of legislation, being clearly an infringement on the inherent rights of mankind, is totally excluded from my ideas of government; so that consining myself to a 〈◊〉 govern|ment, where the people have a share, it still appears to me, that taxation is a part, and included in the general idea of legislation. If it be the sole province and exclusive right of that branch, which consists of the people or their repesentatives, to grant money for the support of government; yet taxation is not com|pleted, nor can it be carried into execution, until the other bran|ches of the constitution have given their concurrence. A mere free gift of the Commons, without an act of legislation, would not be a tax; and we must remember, that though it be wisely provided, that in all taxations, the Commons alone shall give and grant, yet, that the Lords are not exempt from paying. May we not therefore say, with propriety, that taxation is a part of legislation.
March 22, 1774.
TO every man of candour, I apprehend it must be evident, that 'Parliament hath not the rights of sovereignty over his Ma|jesty's American subjects.' Every species, in|deed of declamation and sophistry, have been made use of in order to shew that it hath, because it gratifies the pride of Englishmen in general, to think that, that legislature, in which they feel themselves to have a share, should govern half the world: but there are not wanting an ho|nest few who think more justly and more gene|rously. Amongst this number, a writer who sub|scribes himself A. B. in the Public Advertiser of the 2•d, deserves the thanks of every friend to freedom. Except in his idea of the country of America, having been by the prerogative the property of the crown, which, in the sense of the passage, signifies the King exclusively, I en|tirely agree with him in sentiment. He hath clearly and elegantly refuted the notion of par|liamentary sovereignty; he has, with a generous warmth becoming an Englishman, appealed to the manly sense and to the virtue of his country|men (1). It would be an endless, as well as an useless work, to follow the many daily writers along all the mazes they wander through, in or|der to assert the sovereignty of parliament, and to justify administration in the harsh measures they are now carrying into execution. Notwithstand|ing their laboured and fine-spun performances, there is in reality no difficulty in the case. We Page 32 have no need of profound learning, nor an inti|mate acquaintance with antiquity, nor even of the history of the respective provinces and their different origins; neither do we want copies of grants, charters, or acts of parliament, in order to judge of the question before us. If we com|prehend but the most well known principles of the English constitution; if we comprehend but a few of the plain maxims of the law of nature, and the clearest doctrines of Christianity, all which are so simple and plain, as to be under|stood by hundreds, nay thousands, of plain men who know not that they are possessed of so use|ful a treasure, we have knowledge enough on this occasion. The only requisite wanting be|yond this, is a heart strictly devoted to truth and virtue, without which we shall never under|stand any doctrine that does not soothe our pas|sions.
The gospel of civil as well as religious salvation
It is a capital error in the reasonings of several writers on this subject, that they consider the li|berty of mankind in the same light as an estate Page 33 or chattel, and go about to prove or disprove their right to it by the letter of grants and char|ters, by custom and usage, and by municipal statutes. Hence too we are told, that these men have a right to more, those to less, and some to none at all. But a title to the liberty of mankind is not established on such rotten foundations: 'tis not among mouldy parchments, nor in the cob|webs of a casuist's brain we are to look for it; it is the immediate, the universal gift of God, and the seal of it is that free-will which he hath made the noblest constituent of man's nature. It is not derived from any one, but original in every one; it is inherent and unalienable. The most antient inheritance cannot strengthen this right; the want of inheritance cannot impair it. The child of a slave is as free-born, according to the law of nature, as he who could trace a free ances|try up to the creation. Slavery in all its forms, in all its degrees, is an outrageous violation of the rights of mankind; an odious degradation of human nature. It is utterly impossible that any human being can be without a title to liberty, except he himself hath forfeited it by crimes which make him dangerous to society.
Let us then 〈◊〉 no more of a right in our present-constituted parliament to govern the Americans, as being derived from any former exercise of this sovereignty, from the original dependence and protection of the emigrants and infant colonies, or from the tenour of grants and charters! The respective governments in Ame|rica Page 34 are no longer dependent colonies; they are independent nations.—Not that I allow they ever were otherways than free (although depen|dent) in the most absolute sense: All their ori|ginal constitutions either were, or ought to have been on the true principles of freedom. They are not to be deprived of it as a man would lose an estate, by a flaw in their title; for I have already proved, that their title can have no flaw. Those who are so fond of placing them meta|phorically in the relation of children to a parent state, and thence are childish enough to argue for a blind filial obedience, should recollect, that the power of a parent, even during childhood, doth not extend to any act of tyranny or injustice; and totally ceases when the child arrives at years of maturity. Then, as to the property of a child, a parent cannot take it from him even with his consent; and as soon as his independency puts it in his power to give it to his parent, he hath also the power of with-holding it if he think proper. In short, during infancy, he must be protected agreable to the laws of equity; when arrived at manhood, he is free, and becomes his own protector. But analogy not being the safe road of reason, we resign it again, after this short excursion, to those who carelessly range the fields of politics for amusement; but are not soli|citous, as we are, of reaching the abodes of truth and freedom.
The Americans, in common with the whole race of man, have indisputably an inherent right to Page 35 liberty; and to be governed by such laws as shall best provide for the continuance of that liberty, and for securing their property. These are the hinges on which turn the welfare and happiness of society; these are the true, the only ends of civil government. But how are they to be ob|tained under the sovereignty of a British Parlia|ment? Are not the legislators of every free state to be bound themselves by the laws they make? And, must they not tax their own purses, toge|ther with those of their constituents? Is there any safety for the people without these ties upon their legislators? Will a member of the British parliament be bound by any law enacted for, and confined to, America? Must the purses of the Americans be at his mercy, while his own shall be exempt from every taxation he may vote? What English school-boy, so ignorant of the constitu|tion, as to admit these absurdities! He must first go out into the world, and, by the help of a little political sophistry, unlearn his common-sense, and even his A B C.
The secure enjoyment of liberty and property, in which consist the welfare and happiness of a people, being the true ends of all civil govern|ment; this is the foundation alone on which we must argue concerning who have a right to go|vern. The answer is obvious and short. The rights of sovereignty reside in the people them|selves; that is, they have a right to chuse their own governors. Minds that do not feel the force of self-evidences may deny the truth of this sim|ple Page 36 proposition: but they may be assured, that if they set themselves about controverting it, they will only bewilder themselves in their own sub|tleties without telling us any thing that will be|nefit mankind. Don't we all acknowledge, that the Americans are a free people? But how are they free, if they cannot choose their own gover|nors; if their laws be not enacted by their own representatives? In what doth our freedom con|sist if not in these very rights as the essence of it? In these rights which we have so often asserted, for which we have so often bled! That people cannot be free who are not governed by their own consent. Those who are governed by their own consent, choose their own governors. This is in|dispensably requisite towards the welfare and hap|piness of every people; it is an unalterable law of nature; that is, it is the law of God.
NOTES, &c. to LETTER II.
(1) The letter alluded to, is so well worth preserving, and so much to our present purpose, that I shall take the liberty of transcribing it for the use of my reader.
"The daily papers abound so much in idle declamation against the northern colonies, that it is not surprising, such admirable reasons are ad|vanced in most companies, where the conversation turns upon this important topic, why force should be used to bring them to obedience. Neither is it much to be wondered at, that the people of England are so unanimous in their opinions. Page 37 The same motives, which induce their rulers to abridge their privileges, make the people of England willing to abridge the liberties of Ame|rica. The subjects of the King of Great-Britain consider themselves as the sovereigns of his Ma|jesty's American subjects; for, if the House of Commons have a legislative power over the colo|nies, the people of England must have the same right ultimately, as the House derive all their power from the people by election. But it would be worth an enquiry how the people of England obtained this sovereignty. Was it by the free confessions of the American provinces? By no means; or, did it result from the spirit of the English laws or government upon the migration of oppressed religionists and their settlement in those regions, which, by the prero|gative, were the property of the crown, (2) and which the King, by the same prerogative, had the power of alienating without the consent of the people of England, particularly when such alienation was made to a part of his own sub|jects? It would be difficult to shew that this was the case, and I believe it has never been attempt|ed. That the King should have the sovereignty of the colonies is but reasonable, is consistent with the spirit of the English laws. If English subjects settle upon the lands of the crown out of this realm, with the King's permission and consent, they do not thereby become a state independent of the kingly power; as they were subjects in England, so are they subjects in their new country; Page 38 but they do not become subjects of subjects; des|picable indeed would be their situation were such the case. On the contrary, they have the same rights which they had before, and the same so|vereign executive power. The rights of En|glishmen are not confined to this little spot of land; but they follow the person as a shadow follows the substance; however, it may vary its situation, whether it goes North, West, East, or South. The House of Commons can claim no power of imposing laws on the colonists, for they derive no such power by election. The power of the Commons of Great Britain is circum|scribed; from the spirit of the laws, they have only a legislative power, and that power, bears relation to the purpose for which it was given; which was to impose laws upon the people of Great-Britain, but by no means the people of America, because the power of the electors ex|tended only to themselves. The three orders united, i. e. the parliament have a most extensive power over the subjects of Great-Britain, because every power in the state meets in that body: but considered with respect to the Colonies, their pretension to such a power there clashes with the legislatures of those Colonies, they can never subsist together in the same place. As to the re|lation of parent and child, in which Great-Britain and the colonies are said to stand by some ingeni|ous men, I confess it would be a tolerable good figure in a rhetorical flourish, or would sound very prettily in metre; but with submission, Page 39 when the rights of many opulent and populous provinces are in question, something more than a simile or allusion ought to decide it. Let English|men, who have been admired for ages, for their regard to liberty, blush, when it is now said, that, by superior force, they would deprive three or four millions of their fellow-subjects of those rights and privileges to which they are so attached themselves. How depraved a mind would that individual be said to possess, who would defend his property at the risk of his life, exclaim against the aggressor as a lawless invader, and yet, at the same time, or a moment afterwards, behave in the same unjustifiable manner to his neighbour. Is this the people, will foreigners cry, who are so fond of liberty? No; we have always mistaken them: they are selfish, arbitrary, and tyrannical, fond of the privileges they enjoy; but they would exclude the rest of the world, nay, their fellow subjects, from the same advantages—advantages which they have hitherto enjoyed▪ in common with Englishmen. Is this the people so celebrated for humanity? No; they are most in|human: they invade the most precious rights a human being can enjoy, and would render the rest of mankind miserable servile wretches.—'Tis really strange, the national character of Englishmen should have been so much mis|taken!"
Tuesday, March 22, 1774.
NOTE to LETTER II.
(2) Although the King, by his prerogative, be vested with the power of making grants, it is only officially; and, I am of opi|nion, that ever since a legislative authority hath been established in any colony, his Majesty's prerogative of making grants within the same, ought in strictness, to have been in his official capacity, as first magistrate of that colony▪ and not as first magistrate of En|gland or Great-Britain. As the people of Great-Britain have no power beyond themselves. nor a shadow of a right in the soil of North America, so it is inconsistent with reason to admit, that the King can derive from them a power of granting away those lands; more especially o• any conditions, which should give them a title to sovereignty over their American kindred, who have as good a right to freedom and independency as themselves.
March 24, 1774.
AT the same Time that I hold that "Par|liament hath not the Rights of Sovereignty over his Majesty's American Subjects," and that "these rights reside in themselves," I do not mean to promote an ungrateful forsaking of the mother country by her children, to sever and estrange the sons from the fathers; but where filial duty and obedience ceases, to substitute in its stead a brotherly affection, a manly and inde|pendent friendship, which naturally takes place where the parent hath truly loved and exercised his authority for the sole end of promoting the welfare of the child, without a view to self interest, or the gratification of pride, ambition, or other vicious passion. I would consider the American governments, like that of Ireland, as sister kingdoms; and I would cement a lasting union with them as between the separate branches of one great family. (1) We know that it is impossible to effect such a family union, if the arrogance of the elder branch expect to govern the others, or even demand their homage; and how much more so, if it demand the use of their purses at its own discretion, as a return for former assistance, or under pretence of maintain|ing the honor and interest of the whole combined family. But while every one is left independent, Page 42 and no other influence is made use of but that of sincere brotherly affection, a reciprocation of good offices, and a fair representation of the general advantage of the whole, there is little doubt but that all will be ready to contribute their respective shares, and that due respect and de|ference will ever be paid to the elder house. Fa|mily pride, no less than those advantages which result from unions of such a nature, will produce this effect, except we be ashamed of our family. I hope a selfish and tyrannical spirit in the Eng|lish, will not make the Americans ashamed of their descent: but illustration is misleading us a|gain into the tempting, but unsure, path of ana|logy. Let us quit it once more before we lose fight of the direct road.
Every one of those writers, who endeavour to support the pretensions of parliament to the sove|reignty of America by any shew of abstract rea|soning, have, so far as they have fallen under my observation, either sat out upon defective premises, or from good ones, have drawn salse conclu|sions; as needs must be in this case, until truth become a changeling. Plain 〈◊〉 and an in|genuous mind, are sufficient to guard any one a|gainst their sophistry: but we have need of a lit|tle more penetration, and to be somewhat con|versant in affairs, when we would dispute with a different sort, who plunge headlong into the depths of politics, and hurry us unprepared into all the intricacies of commerce; placing at once before our eyes, in an indirect point of view, that Page 43 multiplicity of wheels within wheels, pulleys upon pulleys, and springs upon springs, which be|long to the complicated machines of government and trade, instead of directing our attention to the first principles of motion, and the few master springs on whose movements all the rest depend in a regular order and subordination. By these means they endeavour to confound, when they cannot convince us. But these are dishonest arts, the common tricks of designing men in every sphere. They are too stale and hackneyed, however, to impose upon men of sound and cul|tivated understandings. These know, that go|vernment and trade, as well as every science whatever, are established on a very small number of sundamental principles of the utmost simpli|city, since they must be self-evident, or they are no principles at all; and they know also, that those who mean honestly, do always ultimately refer every maxim, by clear inferences, to some one or other of these simple, self-evident princi|ples. All the subtleties and refinements, all the ar|guments that the wit of men can invent, will never be sufficient to justify and species of arbitrary do|minion, while we retain a knowledge of this short and simple proposition—"the good of so|ciety is the end of civil government." nor will they ever justify a discretionary taxation by a prince or government, the people being unrepre|sented, so long as we know, that "a man hath no property in that which another can by right take from him without his consent."
Page 44 One of the most specious arguments made use of in support of a sovereign power in parliament over the Americans, is that drawn from a suppos|ed necessity of equipping a powerful armament at a short notice, for the protection of the whole em|pire, as these gentlemen will have it: hereupon we are asked, if his Majesty is to have imposed upon him the arduous task of first obtaining a ma|jority in two Houses of Commons in Europe, and about thirty provincial assemblies in America, be|fore he can raise the necessary supplies? and the interrogators seem to plume themselves much up|on the impossibility of carrying on the executive part of government under such restraints. Let me in return ask how we draw supplies from Ireland? Are they voted in the British House of Commons? Then, in the first place, I answer that if an empire be too large, and its parts too widely separated by immense oceans, or other im|pediments, to admit of being governed on the principles essentially belonging to all free govern|ments, it is an overgrown empire, and ought to be divided before it fall to pieces. The welfare and happiness of mankind supercede every other possi|ble claim or pretension to govern. When we find ourselves subject to a distant power, which cannot possibly govern us on any other principles than those of tyranny, we have an inherent right, by the law of nature, and it is an indispensible duty to ourselves and to our posterity, to shake off such an unjust yoke, and to erect a free government amongst ourselves. Those degenerate English|men, Page 45 who are now seeking to enslave the Ameri|cans, would ill brook the government of the Em|peror of Germany, if by any means he should lawfully inherit the crown of these kingdoms, and make Vienna the seat of government. Would they suffer themselves to be taxed by German ministers or German diets? Would they not say to their sovereign,
Establish the mode of governing which these persons contend for, and there will still be the same inevitable delay, with regard to the Ameri|can supplies, as they would have us believe is pe|culiar to the mode which the people there claim a right to exercise. For though a British Parlia|ment might vote them with their usual alacrity, yet we must send to America to collect them. And if our armament cannot go on without first sending so far for this collection, its operations might as well be suspended a few days or a few weeks longer, in order to obtain it on British, rather than on Prussian, principles. But the truth is, we should not defer the equipment of any necessary arma|ment one moment on this account (2). Do we Page 46 at present wait for the assembling of Parliament, and a vote of supplies, before we arm in any just cause in which the safety, the interest or honour of the state is concerned? Doth not the executive branch of government, by virtue of its own pow|ers and in discharge of its duty, put the state in a posture of defence upon every alarm without loss of time, and then apply to parliament for its ap|probation and support? Is it ever with-held in a just cause? hath the government no resources, no ways and means of its own, for discharging or contracting for the future discharge of, these prompt expences of the state? If the uncertainty of meeting with like support from America, as they find in Great-Britain, should be a clog upon our ministers in their warlike projects, might it not be fortunate for the people of both countries? Would it not make them extremely cautious and prudent how they involved us in continental poli|tics and in German wars? No ingenuous man will, however, entertain a serious doubt of the readi|ness of the Americans to contribute their share to every necessary expence of government, so long as they shall find themselves in possession of their freedom (3).
They must contribute their share; that is to say, they must preserve their own existence as a people, and defend their own property, under any form of government whatever. When men tell us, that an enlightened and free people are refrac|tory; that they will not contribute their propor|tion of taxes; that at the hazard of their lives by Page 47 the sword or the halter, they oppose and seek to subvert the government, and this for a succession of years; they tell us, with a moral certainly, though perhaps without meaning it, that they feel some real oppressions, some real invasions made on their rights or liberties; for no other causes ever did, or ever will, produce a general and permanent opposition in the whole body of a people towards their governors. When we re|mark likewise, that, in the present contest, there is no religious zeal of persecution; no national antipathy or rancour, but quite the reverse; no introduction of a new code of laws by a foreign conqueror; no imaginary pretender to weaken the allegiance of the people towards their sove|reign; nor indeed any one cause of dissatisfaction, but the avowed one; and that, on the part of the people, clearly justified on the obvious principles of the English constitution, can we hesitate a mo|ment to pronounce what ought to be done? We ought to allow the Americans to tax themselves as an inseparable adjunct to freedom.
NOTES, &c. to LETTER III.
(1) It is not my meaning, that the American colonies should feel the effects of that narrow, and, may I not call it, barbarous policy, by which this country hath conducted herself towards her sister Ireland. Besides the liberty of raising her own taxes, and that share of legislation which she enjoys in her own parliament. I must confess, I see no reason why her trade should not be as free as that of Great-Britain. Nature seems to have formed her for an union with the greater island. This once effected, on a liberal plan of equality in trade and freedom, any future jealousy would be an instance of that folly which is exposed in the fable of the Page 48 belly and members. Humanity, wisdom, and virtue dictate an union. Should Ireland then rival us in trade, (which I fear it would never be in a condition to do) I know of no consequences but good ones. It might possibly tend to abate our luxury and ex|travagance, by a more equal division of wealth, and of circulating money in the two kingdoms; at the same time, that it would excite an industrious emulation in commerce, to the mutual be|nefit of both countries; and, consequently, augment the num|bers of useful people, the riches and strength of the united state.
(2) If the British parliament will not relinquish its arbitrary sovereignty, let it not, however, double the injury by such op|pressions, needless even to its own unjust policy.
(3) I make use of the word freedom in this place, although I am arguing on a supposition of the British parliament continuing to exercise a sovereign power over the Americans, which I hold to be tyrannical in its principle; because the Americans them|selves are as yet not averse to it, and universally breathe towards it none but sentiments of respect and submission, so long as it shall not be exercised to tax or to oppress them. Perhaps I may be asked, why do I, while the Americans are thus submissively inclined towards parliamentary sovereignty, officiously endeavour to withdraw their respect and obedience; therefore, as a general answer on this head, let me say once for all, that it is the dictate of my conscience; the same as it would be to warn any indivi|dual against ignorantly or heedlessly acquiescing in any selfish, crafty, or unjust pretensions of another person, which, in its na|tural and unavoidable consequences, must end in his own distress, and the ruin of his children, and all this without even benefiting his oppressor; but, on the contrary, rendering him criminal and unhappy, and preparing the way for his hasty downfal. If an or|dinary regard to justice, and the duties of humanity, would have required this at our hands, in a case where only a few individuals were concerned, how much more is it the duty of a good citizen to sound the alarm, when he sees millions, and successions of millions thro' future ages, in danger of sinking into slavery, with all it's attendant curses! and I moreover think it my duty, to seize this occasion, of advancing my opinions against the sup|posed and pretended right of sovereignty in the British parliament over America, because too many writers, through misjudgment, disingenuousness, or a base prostitution to the lust of tyrannic power, have taken advantage of this acquiescence on the part of the colonists, and of this principle with regard to the sovereignty being so generally acknowledged, as a good political axiom; to deduce from it a right in parliament even to tax the colonies. Thus, by preving too much, they raised a suspicion, that their Page 49 first principles were unsound, and their leading proposition a mere sophism; and, upon examination, the reader, I flatter myself, finds them to be so. Leave our adversaries but possessed of this intrenched ground of parliamentary sovereignty, and the event of the contest, concerning the right of taxation will be doubtful; at least, they will so long be enabled to make a shew of maintaining the dispute; but when truth and fair argument have forced this feeble intrenchment, as I cannot but think they have now done, they will soon be driven out of the field; and the standard of freedom, supported by the hand of justice, be fixed there for ever.
March 25, 1774.
SOME theorists make a proposal to allow the Americans a representation in the British Parliament, in order to justify our taxation of them; but from the small number of such re|presentatives, which I have understood to be pro|posed, and their being restricted from voting as some would have them, in any but American questions, I should fear that this proposal proceed|ed from a sense of shame, as not appearing to pre|serve even the common forms of justice, rather than from a strict and sacred regard to justice it|self; or on a supposition, that this representation should be an adequate one, how would it be pos|sible for the American representatives to serve their constituents in a proper manner. Could they, during every recess of Parliament, visit their respective counties, as the members can in Great-Britain? Could they, by a post letter, in a day or two, communicate to, or receive from, their con|stituents Page 50 all necessary intelligence? or, could they meet and consult with them on all emergencies at a short notice? Must they reside a thousand or fifteen hundred leagues from their estates and compting-houses, in order to serve their country in parliament? Surely so weak a system of go|vernment must have been the visionary suggesti|on of a dream! But we may rest assured, that while the Americans are themselves awake, they will never consent to it. Will they trust their property, their freedom, their dearest rights, their every thing, in the hands of exiles, sent half way to the Antipodes, in order to sit in council for their government! Sent to reside in a luxurious, extravagant country, immersed in dissipation and corruption, and exposed to every temptation to betray them! Believe me, they are not so sense|less. In the imaginations of these visionaries, the vast Atlantic is no more, I presume, than a mere ferry.
Those who have thought proper to indulge themselves in the way of declamation, tell us of the mighty things done for the Americans by the mother country, and make a great cry of their re|bellion and ingratitude. Nay, they are silly enough to urge these obligations as so many irre|•••gable reasons why the Americans are bound to obey the British parliament: on this foundation they build our right of sovereignty. But who ever heard of a suit prosecuted in any English court of justice for ingratitude? Is a frugal son, out of his little competency, and to the prejudice of his own children, obliged, Page 51 by any law of England, or of nature, to mi|nister to the extravagancies of a proud, luxuri|ous parent, and in what degree that parent shall direct? Do the obligations of friendship deprive the person obliged of his future freedom and inde|pendency? Doth not an attempt to enslave, can|cel, in a moment, every former obligation? These declaimers should keep in mind, that voluntary good offices are moral and religious, not civil or political, obligations. We may safely admit the whole catalogue of them in their full force, with|out thereby affording parliament the most sha|dowy pretension to the rights of sovereignty over the Americans: but, in justice to the character of that people, we must positively deny their ex|istence; for they have been amply repaid in a profi|table commerce to this country. Men must surely be lost to a sense of common decency, who would impose upon us as truth, that the part which go|vernment hath ever taken, in settling and assisting the American colonies, was solely or primarily to benefit the settlers; whereby they have been laid under this vast load of obligation to the mo|ther country, which nothing less than a surren|der of their liberty can cancel. Every honest, un|prejudiced man, who will reason, and not wran|gle, must acknowledge, that government's first object was, as indeed it always ought to be, to extend the commerce of this kingdom. This was the end: the countenance and assistance giv|en to American settlers, was only the means, and therefore could be no more than a secondary con|sideration. Page 52 When the colonies were in danger of falling a prey to France, was it pure affection and generosity towards them, or jealousy of that am|bitious power, which caused Great-Britain to take up arms 〈◊〉 Did not her own existence depend on the preservation of her American colonies? so that, though we do not mean to say affection, for her kindred had no share in moving her to draw her sword, yet, we presume, it will be admitted, that her own safety, her own interest, her own honor, were the only motives that could have engaged her to proceed such lengths, at that juncture; and this will the more evidently appear, when we consider, that according to her notions of her right to the sovereignty, she saw the protection of her colonies, literally in the light of self-defence, and the more heartily undertook it accordingly. Surely, it must be a very bad title to dominion, which is built upon an error of her judgment, and a political selfishness. Had the Hanoverians or Dutch, the Prussians, Portuguese, or Hungari|ans; Had even the very French, with whom she fought, at that time stood in the place of her American colonies, she would, on the same prin|ciples, have been as lavish of her blood and trea|sure in their support, as every one of them hath heretofore experienced; and yet our opponents in argument, would not have maintained, that services of this kind, done to any such state, would have entitled this kingdom to the same right of ruling and of taxing it, as they contend for upon the same principle in the case of Ame|rica. Page 53 America, therefore, is not ungrateful; but is not rather Great-Britain unwise, ambitious, and tyrannical? The obligations, in fact, were mutual, and as equivalent as the nature of things would admit; so that it would be a very nice, perhaps an impossible, but certainly an useless speculation, to decide which party hath been most benefited. The attempt is insidious, and he who makes it, is no friend either to America or Great-Britain.
Many definitions of government have been given us, and a multitude of arguments employ|ed, in order to shew the well known necessity of one central supreme power being somewhere lodged in every empire, which shall be all suf|ficient of itself to perform the whole of legisla|tion, and consequently taxation, as an essential part of it. But this will make nothing for the claims of parliament to the sovereignty of Ame|rica. On the reverse, it only points out more strongly the error which most people have fallen into in their notion of the British empire. They will have it, that the British empire comprehends within it all his Majesty's dominions in America; whereas the American governments, except that of Newfoundland, are independent nations, hav|ing within themselves the rights and the actual powers of legislation, which cannot be taken from them, and lodged in the hands of British legisla|tors, without a manifest wrong, and the subvert|ing of so many free governments. Here we shall be told, that our Kings, in granting them Page 54 their original charters and privileges, only exer|cised a prerogative which they derived from the constitution; wherefore the Americans are still dependent upon, and owe allegiance, not to the King alone, but to the state of Great-Britain. But still I maintain, that the inherent rights of mankind, above all, their freedom, are not to de|pend on casuistical niceties and logical distincti|ons, (which, by the way, must be false, when they would disprove these rights) but are theirs inde|pendently of all the Kings, all the governments in the universe. Kings and constitutions of go|vernment are the creatures, not the creators, of these rights. They are held immediately of God himself, who gave them. Had the original charters to the American settlers been granted on the express and sole condition of acknowledging the sovereignty of parliament, even all that would not have bettered our present title one jot; for freedom, notwithstanding all that sophistry may say to the contrary, cannot be alienated by any human creature; much less can he enslave his posterity; and, therefore, such a contract could only be binding, so far and so long as freedom should not be infringed by it; but, with regard to a virtue in it, of depriving a future people, many nations, of their freedom, it would be null and void in its own nature to all intents and pur|poses; and 'tis a mockery to our common-sense, to plead it as an authority to this end.
It is a mistaken notion, that planting of colo|nies, and extending of empire, are necessarily Page 55 one and the same thing. Even the intention of the planters will not make it so, where the rights of mankind, and the nature of things are not adapted to it; where growing colonies are so situated and so circumstanced, that, in the nature of things, they cannot be governed by the parent state on the principles of justice and freedom; it is surely paying little respect to our understand|ings, and shocks every feeling of a free mind, to assert, that they must nevertheless submit to its oppressive rule, Having denied that America, when we drop the popular language, and speak correctly, is a part of the British empire, it will naturally be expected I should say what are, and where are its limits, The British empire, then, I hold to be confined to the British Isles (I), and to the various settlements and factories of our trade in the different parts of the world, including the government of Newfoundland; together with the garrisons of Gibralter and Minorea. As to the West india islands, they, as well as the continen|tal colonies, certainly have a right to their inde|pendency, whenever they shall think proper to demand it, as they contain within themselves every necessary of legislation; but, if it be their choice, to acknowledge the sovereignty of the British Parliament, as I apprehend it may, be|cause, I believe, it will be their interest, I see no objection in that case to its being exercised. If it be true, as I believe all writers agree, that they would be depopulated, was it not for annual sup|plies of white men as well as blacks, this, and Page 56 some other arguments, drawn from West-Indian manners and sentiments, seem to indicate, that it is not in their nature, nor perhaps in their wish, to support an independency; nor ought we to for|get, that their soil itself points out to them de|pendency, supplying only the means of effemi|nacy, luxury, and intoxication, while for bread, and the necessaries of life, its inhabitants must de|pend upon other countries. It matters not how much, in the nature of trading settlements, our first colonies might have been, (though were not in fact) nor at what period they might be said to become independent nations: it matters not that they were orginally planted and protected by the government of this country, (I admit this plant|ing; I make no reservation of those who fled from persecution and want) nor what were the inten|tions of government in so doing; for, having in them (the people of those colonies) the inherent and unalienable rights of freemen, they had therein the rights of independency, whenever they should think proper to assert them. Doth a man, who furnishes a young indigent relation with every necessary, who settles him in a trading accompting-house, who supplies him with mo|ney, and supports him with every species of pro|tection whereby he prospers in the world, and raises a fortune; doth the man, I say, to whom he owes all this, obtain thereby a right, a legal title, to take from him, without his consent, a single shilling of this fortune? men of slavish principles would have us believe, that the rights Page 57 of private persons, of subjects, being mean and insignificant considerations, are level with the ca|pacities of, and may be conprehended by the people; but that the sublime and mysterious rights of empire are only to be judged of, and de|termined upon, by those who govern, and by those to whom these mysteries are confidentially revealed, in order to be treated of with due pro|fundity and unintelligibility, not to enlighten the people, but to impress them with a proper respect for things so awful and sacred. True enough it is, that what hath too frequently been written concerning them, hath not been level with the capacities of the people, nor with any other capa|cities; for no man can understand what hath no sense or meaning, what is palpable nonsense.
NOTE, &c. to LETTER IV.
(1) I say British Isles, since I consider Ireland as naturally a de|pendent upon Great-Britain, until an union shall take place, and make her an equal. In barbarous times, she might have remained separate and independent; but such a state would now be incon|sistent with the self preservation of the larger kingdom, and there|fore the law of nature dictates an union, or a curb
March 26, 1774.
IT is demanded, with an air of confidence and imaginary triumph,
We are told, that empire hath been observed to make its progress westward; that every empire hath had its infancy, its youth, its vigour, its declension, its death; and that they necessarily follow each other with the same certainty as in the frail life of man; and lastly, we are re|minded, that Great-Britain hath past her meridi|an, and empire is now rising fast in America. To the first, I answer, that empire must needs have travelled westward from its source, except Europe had remained a desart; that it also travell|ed East, South, and North, as well as West, witness China, Indostan, Abyssinia, Russia; and that it hath already been in America, witness Peru and Mexico; and that it hath also taken retro|grade courses, witness Turky and the Persian em|pire under Nadir Shah; and with regard to mo|dern Europe, I can see no probability why it Page 63 may not remain to the end of time, divided in proportions, not much differing from the present. To the second argument, I have only to say, that analogical reasoning is always very fallacious, and that there is no analogy between things mortal and immortal. To the third, I must repeat, that Great-Britain, having in her constitution the principles of renovation and recovery, from cor|ruption and decay, and the seeds of immortality (which no other state ever had) is in no great danger of a declension, so long as this World is likely to last; and that the British North American states having, all of them, christianity void of persecution, as a light from Heaven; British freedom as a soul, and a spirit of com|merce as the breath of life; it must be thought next to an impossibility that any one of them should ever swallow up all the rest, and then ex|tend its conquests beyond the Atlantic and Paci|fic Oceans. The times for "heroes and demi-gods" are past; and the phrenzy for universal em|pire is somewhat out of date and out of counte|nance. They prevailed, and only could prevail, when the minds of men were in a proper tone for such extravagances; when the advantages of commerce, the true principles and ends of govern|ment, and the religion of peace and pure virtue, were either wholly or very imperfectly known: besides, no searcher into prophecy hath yet disco|vered in the womb of time, an empire that is to be so formidable to the liberties of the world; and, if it be true, that the species, as well as the indi|viduals of mankind, obtains knowledge, wisdom, Page 64 and virtue progressively, its latter days will, ac|cording to the nature of things, and by means of the divine assistance that hath been vouchsafed it, to all appearance, be more wise, peaceable, and pious, than the earlier periods of its existence. To this end let every one labour; and his own happiness at least, if not the general happiness of mankind, will most assuredly be his reward.
NOTES, &c. to LETTER V.
(1) "I wish," says Lord Camden,
(2) We are now sending a code of British laws to our settle|ments in India, and establishing courts to administer them.
March 27, 1774.
WHEN we talk of asserting our sovereign|ty over the Americans, do we foresee to what fatal lengths it will carry us? Are not those nations encreasing with astonishing rapidity? Must they not, in the nature of things, cover in a few ages that immense continent like a swarm of bees? Do we vainly imagine, that we can then hold the reins of government, and hurl our thunders on the heads of the disobedient? Where are we to stop? or, shall we pretend to circumscribe America populations? To say, 'thus far shall ye go, and no farther?' No! Swollen in|deed must we be with the pride of dominion, and drunk with the fumes, if we can foolishly ima|gine these things (1). It is high time that we opened our eyes to the unintentional encroach|ments we have been making upon the liberties of mankind, and to the necessity of setting bounds to our dominion. Without the American conti|nent, the British empire will be large enough in all reason. But if government persist in main|taining our sovereignty there, it may possibly oc|casion our own destruction, but can be produc|tive of no good to us, either present, or future. After all that has been done to alarm the Ameri|cans for their rights as free men, and calling up their attention to a thorough investigation of them; after the flame of opposition hath been Page 66 kindled in every breast, and now annimates them as one man, it will be in vain to steer any middle course; to adopt measures for light oppressions, and compelling obedience to laws moderately tyranni|cal. We must either relinquish at once our claim to sovereignty, or fix on their neck with strong hand the galling yoke of slavery. We must either conquer ourselves or them. Justice, wisdom, humanity, and religion leave us without a doubt which to prefer; and, should the latter be determined on, woe be to Great-Britain! We may, indeed, by means of fleets and armies, main|tain a precarious tyranny over the Americans for a while; but the most shallow politicians must foresee what this would end in (2). It would expose us to the certain attacks of all our Europe|an rivals; and, when we found the necessity of courting the assistance of the Americans, we should deservedly find them the bitterest of our enemies. With the nations of Europe we con|tend for commerce, for glory, and some imagina|ry objects; with those of America, the contest would be for the dearest rights, the very dignity of humanity. After the struggles of interest and prowess, a tolerable reconciliation may take place, but eternal enmity and hate always succeed those between a free people and their tyrants. From the spirit of freedom, which hath in all ages glow|ed in the bosoms of true Englishmen, and which hath brought to its present perfection our glori|ous constitution in defiance of every attempt to crush it; we ought to know, that until we can extinguish this spirit in the breasts of the Ameri|cans, Page 67 and eradicate from their very nature its first and noblest principles, self-preservation and free-will, that all our efforts to bow them down in subjection to our authority must finally be ineffectual, and will recoil sooner or later perhaps with tenfold retribution upon ourselves. There are some politicians who think, that present expediency is a sufficient justification of any mea|sures; and who, from the ideas of re-imbursing ourselves for the charges of the last war, of sup|plying the present exigencies of the state, and se|curing our power over the American commerce, make no scruple to bid us draw the accursed sword, and enslave our children and our brethren. But, be it known to them, that though our very existence as a nation, depended on violating the express laws of God, it must not be done. And if their ignorance, which may be implied from the folly of their proposal, hath not yet made the discovery, let them be told that policy, na|tional as well as individual, must have justice and the laws of God for its basis, or, 'tis the policy of villains, the policy of sots and fools. Can the legislature of Great-Britain, I once more ask, govern the Americans on the true principles of freedom? For the reasons I have already given, I believe it to be impossible (3). As to their re|imbursing us the sums of money spent on their ac|count in the last war, they will do it, if we act wisely and justly, in the only way it is possi|ble they should, and in the only way we expected of them when we undertook the war; that is, by a commerce beneficial to this kingdom. And by Page 68 leaving them to their own independency, the charges of government may be greatly retrenched.
Thus far had I written, when the political tracts of a reverend Dean fell into my hands. They amply supply all the examples and expla|nations necessary to illustrate my principles, and and shew to a demonstration the absolute neces|sity, in a political light, of relinquishing our claims to the sovereignty of America; to which the whole tenour of my letters point, and with which they are to conclude. But I am far from subscribing to this gentleman's doctrine as to the rights of sovereignty. If I could acknowledge the truth of that, I should very much doubt of the propriety of his proposed separation of Ame|rica from Great-Britain; for giving up one's right, cannot be thought a good rule for promoting his interest. But in this case, as is very frequent, his common-sense hath been obliged to subdue his learning before he arrived at truth. While metaphysical refinements teach him to think, that Britain hath a right to govern America, the in|vincible force of truth extorts from him an ac|knowledgment that she must, if governed by true policy, relinquish it. 'Tis a pity so able a writer had not discovered that the Americans have a right to choose their own governors, and thence inforced the necessity of his proposed separation as a religious duty, no less than a measure of nati|onal policy. In so doing, he would have been consistent; there would then have been no ob|scurity nor would his sentiments of right and ex|pediency have been at variance; but his conclu|sion Page 69 would naturally and evidently have flowed from his premises, supported by that trite, but true and most excellent maxim, that honesty is the best policy. But, perhaps, some may be of opinion, that the propriety of a separation is more strongly enforced, by its appearing to be the on|ly result he could possibly arrive at through the medium of opinions that pointed the direct contrary way, The same opinions have, in all other writers, led them only to consider, by what means the unity of the whole British empire (taking in America) might be best preserved; how the supreme legislative power might be best supported, and enforce obedience to the utmost bounds of this vast dominion. Every project for this purpose (without a single exception) being embarrassed with a sundamental incompatibility, a radical error in suppossing a right, where, in truth, there is none, hath been visionary, oppres|sive, sanguinary, and totally impracticable; so difficult it is to strive against the stream of nature and truth.
The Dean, with more good sense, with an ex|tensive insight into the human heart and the springs of commerce, and with the temper of a philosophic, uninterested looker-on, hath nobly abandoned the full persuasion of his own mind on the point of right; and, while he thinks we are entitled to govern, foresees and demonstrates the fatal consequences of attempt|ing it. He accordingly advises us to separate in good humour, and trusts to our mutual interests for its producing, in fact, a real and Page 70 sincere union, and this, he says, is "the only means of living in peace and harmony with them."
In the whole course of his work, wherever the dispute of right is not immediately in view, his reasonings flow spontaneously, and in spite of himself, from the feelings of right in his own heart. In page 12, he says,
NOTES, &c. to LETTER VI.
(1) I find it is one of the avowed principles of the Quebec Act, by the accounts of its ablest advocates, to check as much as pos|sible, all population in the upper and interior country, at the back of the colonies. (See a pamphlet entitled, The justice and Po|licy of the late Act of Parliament, for making more effectual pro|vision for the government of the Province of Quebec, asserted and proved, page 43; and an Appeal to the Public, stating and con|sidering the objections to the Quebec Bill, page 46) At the same time that I honour all the real humanity, shewn in this act to the Canadians; I most heartily condemn the general policy of it, with regard to the other Colonies. The evils complained of in the above-mentioned uns••••d country, and made the same pretence for enlarging so extravagantly the province of Quebec, by the annexation of the whole of it, are evils wholly occasioned by the Page 72 inactivity and omissions of government for twelve years past; if it be true, that it is the want of laws, which introduces disorder into any society; and they are, with great injustice charged upon the bordering Colonies, as legislative states; (in which light, I find, they are to be considered by their enemies, whenever it may serve a turn to their disadvantage. See the appeal above mention|ed, page 50.) and as an artful pretence for denying them leave of settlement, and that share in the peltry trade which they are most advantageously situated for enjoying. Provided Great Bri|tain had no people to spare, for sending out colonies to occupy that desolate country, I can see no right she had to hinder the American states from so doing, except by voluntary agreement between her and them, unless she claim a power of counteracting God's first benediction to mankind.—
(2) The ••fatuated people of this country, are not sparing of their ridicule and illiberal jests on the Bostonians, now the iron hand of power hath got them in it's grasp. No man of sense ever doubted the present power of Great-Britain, to crush any one opposing colony, or, possibly, to trample on the united necks of them all; but this arrogance and injustice she will assuredly repent. I wish it may not be in sackcloth and ashes—I wish it may not be very soon.
(3) In framing the Quebec Act, it were much to have been desired, that none of the other Colonies had been so much as thought of, it might then, perhaps, have breathed pure wis|dom and benevolence; but, having interwoven in it that fatal po|licy. which is daily sowing the seeds of discord between Great-Britain and America, I am inclined to think, it is justly censur|able in a high degree; and that it is far less beneficial to the Cana|dians than it ought to be, although it may be very true, that they are at present incapable of receiving all the rights and privileges, and the full liberty of British subjects, yet that will be no justifi|cation of us, for intailing on their posterity so much servitude to an arbitrary power, as by this act is vested in the governor and council; all at the appointment of the crown during pleasure. To have had an assembly, wherein the people should have been re|presented, they had an undoubted right; to deny it them is ty|rannical, and a mere evasion, to insinuate the impracticability of such a plan. Surely that power, which now totally deprives them of this essential to freedom, had been exerted more agreeable to the principles of justice and humanity; had it granted them but the rudest model of an assembly, containing within it the seeds of freedom, to have germinated and expanded with their prospe|rity, and their advancement in arts and knowledge! Those who assert the contrary, must be little acquainted with the origin and rise of almost all the free states that have flourished in the world, and must conceive the Canadians to be more stupid and barba|rous than the Hottentots or Samoiedes. As to any intention of our ministers to promote in this act the interests of Popery, I think they may stand freely acquitted of them; and though I am of opinion, the religious part of it might be amended, yet I can|not but smile at the terrors that have been expressed on this occa|sion, as if his Holiness was at the very door of St. Paul's. No; the error of the legislature hath been in not seeing, that the most perfect freedom in America, is not only compatible with, but is now become necessary to, the prosperity of Great-Britain; and its crime, if a crime hath been committed, in seeking to support a tottering tyranny over the antient colonies, by erecting an arbi|trary government in Quebec. For the sake of Britons on both Page 74 sides of the Atlantic equally; for the sake of the Canadians, and for the sake of freedom's holy cause universally, I sincerely hope a little reflection on an end so abominable, and the still more abomina|ble means, will dispose our legislators to retrieve, e're it be too late, such an unconstitutional and alarming step. The act of parlia|ment of which we have been speaking, as well as two other me|morable ones, passed since the writer first began to publish these letters separately in a news-paper, are thought by sober and re|flecting men, to be melancholy records of human passions and in|firmity; affording us most striking admonitions, that in national conduct, as well as in that of individuals, a mistaken principle of action, if not forsaken, or one false step, if unretrieved in time, may easily hurry us on to lengths of folly and wickedness, at which we should once have shuddered with horror, but can after|wards persist in to our utter destruction, regardless of all the mise|ries we at the same time bring upon others. Will rational and moral beings never learn, that without justice, 'tis impossible there should ever be wisdom in the councils of a nation? or can statesmen believe it will obtain their acquittal at the last tribunal, to plead, that in their private capacity, "they did justice and remembered mercy," though in their public stations, they vio|lated these sacred regards; and through a false notion of serving and aggrandizing their country, they endeavoured to establish ty|ranny, and to intail on millions and millions, the deadliest curse that can imbitter life? In what light must a truly good and wise man behold a law, which is at once a yoke of bondage to one colony, and a scourge to the rest! Although greater miseries, previously endured, together with an ignorance in the value of, and the requisites to, freedom, may cause the poor Canadians, in their present circumstances, to receive it with joy and thank|fulness; will that justify towards them, so ungenerous, so mean a policy?
March 28, 1774.
SINCE, my last letter was sent to the Printer, I have a second time looked into the pub|lication therein referred to; and finding it likely to make a strong impression on its readers, as well as that there is the most striking inconsist|ency between its foundation and superstructure▪ I perceive that I cannot well pass it over without a regular though concise examination of its third and fourth tract. These alone being immediate|ly to the point, I shall confine my observations to them, without taking notice of the rest of the book.
In the beginning of the third tract, entitled,
And here I must remark, that his quotations of them, in order to prove the sovereignty of parliament, have not the weight of fair evidence in the trial now before the tribunal of the pub|lic; since they stand in the place, and in the nature of parties concerned. It is these very "public statutes of the realm," arrogating a right to govern and to tax the Americans which are cal|led in question; therefore their testimony goes for nothing, If the cause be given in their fa|vour, then it will be time enough for them to operate; but if it goes against them, they must all be condemned as usurpations. We are now ar|guing what is just and right, and ought to bePage 78 practised, not what has been practised by those who had the power in their hands; not what they have been pleased, in their declarations to call just and and right. Although Parliament should enact, that reason and truth should no longer be reason and truth, yet plain and honest people would be apt to call them reason and truth still, and to rely upon them with the same assurance they do at present. Hence it is, and ever will be, a truth as evident and as uncontrovertible as any law of nature can be, that "an American," not|withstanding the ingenuity of this author, and all that has been, or can be said to the contrary, has a right to insist,
How often must it be repeated, that pride, ambition, and lust of dominion, are not, on any pretence whatsoever, to be gratified at the expence of nations; and that the sole end of civil govern|ment is to promote the good of the people? If an empire become too wide and unwieldy for this purpose, I do assert, that by the laws of nature, which are the laws of God, it is no empire, that is to say, not a just empire. It therefore must Page 80 be divided, unless we admit that tyranny can be rightfully established, which God forbid! In our own case, I only want it to be done in form, as it is already done in fact, in which the Dean agrees with me;
Is not this an abuse that calls aloud for reform|tion? Can any thing be more notorious, than that a great majority of the national representatives are elected by a small number of indigent and cor|rupt men, who professedly make a trade of vo|ting, and who gratify, in the very act, a sordid self-interest, in direct violation of the rights and interests of the nation collectively. These electors being primarily the representatives of the nation, may be called the elective representatives; and are answerable to the nation for the exercise of that great trust. If they pervert it from the end for which it was given them, and transfer it to bad men for their own selfish purposes, it is fit Page 82they should be deprived of it, in order to the esta|blishing a more just and safe mode of electing the legislative representatives of the nation. But to return; I am of opinion, the Dean might as well have spared his reproaches of "folly and absurdity" upon the positions of the Americans, concerning their want of an adequate representa|tion, (p. 98) and have omitted his comparison of the state of the city of London, although it
NOTE, &c. to LETTER VII.
(1) As justice says it ought to be so; good sense will inform us that it must be so; notwithstanding the profound policy of the Quebec act.
April 8, 1774.
WHEN our reverend author is not in a jeering humour, he will acknowledge that it is, in reality,
Our author proves, very satisfactorily, that the cause of contention between us and the colonies, is no recent affair—not the factious contrivance of a Lord Chatham, or a Lord Cambden, as the historians of the day would have it, but existed in no small force so early in the last century as 1670, (p, 5,) and in 1696, (p. 6,) gave oc|casion to a very remarkable act, for the very pur|pose chiefly of asserting the sovereignty of parlia|ment. Acts of Parliament do not take place on such occasions until the mischief to be remedied is already at some degree of ripeness; and ac|cordingly it appears, that the colonies had for a considerable time previous to 1696, shewn a dis|position to doubt, to dispute, and in some sort to oppose the authority of the English Parliament. Their eyes began to be open, and nature made them feel their inherent rights as men, long be|fore Page 89 they could define them. On the other hand, false definitions of law and right, have as long sup|pressed the feelings of equity in the minds of those possessed of the power. Let us make true definitions, and consult our true feelings, and we shall then no longer doubt of the right of in|dependence in the Americans; I say true feelings, because, without we are circumspect, we are continually acquiring false ones, as well as false opinions; and the latter has a wonderful power in generating the former. Witness the daily and perpetual severities we see practised towards chil|dren, to the injury both of body and mind, by in|judicious parents, who yet want neither humani|ty nor tenderness, and who act upon principle. A false system begetting false feelings, while they are injuring and punishing their children, they think they are serving them and consulting their true happiness; and they consequently feel self-approbation for a conduct that ought to inspire horror and self-reproof. Now, with regard to our American children and kindred, let us divest ourselves of every interest, of every passion, of eve|ry prejudice; let us pluck from our hearts that deep-rooted love of rule, and for a moment put ourselves in their places; and then, deliberately and solemnly laying our hand upon our heart, remembering that we are christians, and answera|ble at the awful tribunal of the Deity for our ve|ry thoughts; let us ask ourselves these plain ques|tions: is not the end of government to the Ame|ricans the same as to all other people, that is to say, the welfare and happiness of the society? Page 90 Can there be welfare and happiness without free|dom? Can freedom exist under a taxation, at the discretion of the legislature of another, and that a distant, a luxurious, a necessitous country? Is it agreeable to common-sense to imagine, that an American representation in the British-Parliament could answer the true ends of representation to the people of that country? or, is it possible, ac|cording to any plan which human wisdom hath yet conceived, that the Parliament of Great-Bri|tain should govern the many and multiplying na|tions of America on the true principles of free|dom, or without a certainty of sinking herself un|der the weight of empire? And is it fit that, on the authority of a few logical distinctions, (ad|mitting they were just, which, by the way, they are not) and for the sake of proudly maintaining an absolute, a deceased claim to an empty sove|reignty, (for so it is confessed to be, by its advo|cate the Dean) that we should forget all these con|siderations, all the ties of consanguinity and af|fection, all the feelngs of humanity, and the di|vine lessons of our holy religion, and enforce the obedience of the Americans to an odious tyranny by fire and sword?
It is matter of the greatest astonishment to me, that a writer, so learned and so clear sighted as the Dean, should have so far over-looked all arguments of this nature, as to have left himself without a just, a moral reason, as well as a political one, for his proposed separation. As to the matter of fact, concerning the possibility of keeping the sove|reignty in our hands he and I are well agreed, Page 91 as I have already shewn in my quotation from p. 12; nay, we both agree, that we have it not to keep, that it is already gone, never to be reco|vered but by conquest, never more to be held but with greater armies, and at a greater expence than ever this country supported in any war. I have also, in a former letter, q•••ed, what he says in the same page, (12) in order to shew, that it hath ever been the nature of all colonies, in all ages, to aspire after independence, and made my reflections thereupon, so that we may now hasten to the consideration of his five proposals, and to the conclusion of the task we have assigned our|selves. If I have trespassed upon the reader, by a repetition of the same arguments in different pla|ces, I would observe, that the sew plain and clear arguments, on which this question depends, need to be repeated again and again, and never to be lost sight of; for the enemies of liberty, like the disingenuous foes of religion, are a sort of people, who, conscious that they cannot convince, and de|termined to wrangle, do not scruple to advance the same stale arguments that have been a thou|sand and a thousand times refuted before, and if not refuted again, as often as they have the shamelessness to revive them, they insult their ad|versaries with affected shouts of victory and tri|umph.
But my manner of treating the subject may, nevertheless, need many apologies. I shall, how|ever, only plead, that these letters have been writ|ten as leisure would permit, and sent away to the Printer, without reserved copies to refer to: be|sides Page 92 which it may be proper to add, that at the time I am writing this eighth, no more than the two first have made their appearance in the paper. As for the presumption of entering on a subject, without abilities equal to the attempt, I shall only offer, in my defence, that I have been prompted to it through a warm, a passionate love of liberty, and a sincere desire of promoting its cause.
Whatever may be my success, I shall never want the pleasing reflection of having done my duty conscientiously, as a member of society, al|though in a subordinate degree to greater work|men: and, I hope, it is not uncharitable to think, that if every writer would resign his pen to the same guidance, we should all be agreed very soon, as nearly as would be requisite, and that mankind would then reap such benefits from po|litical disquisitions, as I fear are not likely to take place, while controverly is carried upon other principles.
April 9, 1774.
WE come now to the consideration of our author's final settlements, and in p. 14, we find him thus expressing himself:—
First, To suffer things to go on for a while as they have lately done, in hopes that some favourable opportunity may offer for recovering the jurisdiction of the British legislature over her colonies, and for maintaining the authority of the mother country; or, if these temporizing measures should be found to strengthen and confirm the evil instead of removing it, then,
Secondly, To attempt to persuade the colo|nies to send over a certain number of deputies, or representatives, to sit and vote in the British parliament, in order to incorporate America Page 94 and Great Britain into one common empire; or, if this proposal should be found imprac|ticable, whether on account of the difficulties attending it on this side the Atlantic, or because that the Americans themselves would not con|cur in such a measure; then,
Thirdly, to declare open war against them as rebels and revolters; and after having made a perfect conquest of the country, then to govern it by military force and despotic sway; or if this scheme should be judged (as it ought to be) the most destructive, and they least eligible of any; then,
Fourthly, To propose to consent that Ame|rica shall become the general seat of empire, and that Great-Britain and Ireland should be governed by viceroys sent over from the court-residencies either at Philadelphia or New-York, or at some other American imperial city; or, if this plan of accommodation should be ill|digested by home-born Englishmen, who, I will venture to affirm, would never submit to such an indignity; then,
Fifthly, to propose to separate entirely from the colonies, by declaring them to be a free and independent people, over whom we lay no claim, and then by offering to guarentee this freedom and independence against all foreign invaders whomsoever.
Now, these being all the plans which, in the nature of things, seem capable of being pro|posed, let us examine each of them in their or|der.
Page 95 I shall not need myself to accompany the Dean throughout this examination, in order to point out the fatal policy of attempting, and total im|practicability of executing, any one of the four first of these schemes, since he has done it so ef|fectually himself as to need no assistance. But though I agree with him in the result, that they are all both impolitic and impracticable, yet I differ widely from him in several arguments in|troduced in the discussion, and no less in the fundamental principles he frequently argues from. When he talks of the mother country governing 'in the manner she ought to do;' (p. 18) and according to the original terms of the constitution, I presume we are to understand the constitution to be some one individual con|tract between the mother country and her race of colonies, some certain deed signed and sealed be|tween them and her in due form. Is this the same constitution he told us of in p. 94, of which Magna Charta was the basis? But if terms or conditions be the marks of our constitution, it may indeed be a colony charter, a marriage act, a stamp act, or, in short, any act of Parliament, or of the crown either, so that it will be a mat|ter of very little consequence, whether it have Magna Charta for its basis, or any basis at all, besides that of the statute in being. Since he lays so much stress on those original terms, by which the colonies are bound to suffer their res|pectable mother to govern as he thinks
Before I take my final leave of the four first of our author's proposals, I must make two observations upon what appears on the face of them. In the first place, let me request the reader to mark attentively the obvious sentiment, the unambiguous language of the second pro|posal. When the Dean is off his guard, and when the mistaken principles he adopted, respect|ing the sovereignty of parliament over America, are for a moment out of sight, see how naturally, how unavoidably he allows all I contend for!—Here he admits, by direct and unavoidable im|plication, that parliament hath not the rights of sovereignty over America; he admits, that Ame|rica is not a part of the British empire, or he could not possibly propose
We now come to the consideration of the Dean's fifth and last proposal of an amicable and friendly separation, concerning which he very justly demands p. 50,
These are the principles he sets out upon; but behold the result of all his subtle, all his la|boured reasonings!—At the end of a second work upon the subject, and after exhausting the Page 99 chaotic treasuries of sophistry for arguments in support of these principles, he concludes with a proposal to the legislature, to declare that par|liament doth not claim these rights. Nay, but a minute before, and, as I have observed when off his guard, he acknowledges that parliament hath not these rights, and even proposes 'to at|tempt to persuade the colonies to agree to an uni|on.' There is something too irreconcileable in the idea as before remarked, of giving up one's rights, in order to promote one's interest; but false principles will ever produce fallacious rea|sonings. How can we possibly say more for an amicable separation from America, than that the absolute necessity of it took, as it were by storm, a mind naturally strong and vigorous, and forti|fied with all the powers of art against the attack! The Dean, in journeying to the great, the im|perial city of truth, whose eternal foundations occupy a rock that overlooks the country around, unfortunately sets off in a mist of prejudice.
Sometimes he takes a direct contrary course; sometimes intervals of a clearer light keep him steady in the right road; but then again, as the density of the mist either totally obstructs his view, or discovers truth in faint glimmerings, he fre|quently deviates into bye paths and hollow ways, to the danger of being lost, even when near his journey's end. At last, however the sun of con|viction bursts forth in meridian blaze, the mist is gone, and he arrives at the eternal city. But after having thus proposed a separation,
'I frankly acknowledge,' says our author, p. 63,
There are conjunctures in the affairs of king|doms when none but an intrepid statesman can stem a head-long torrent of popular zeal, or avert a gathering storm which threatens his authority. If the urgent necessity of the case shall not admit of temperate measures, but shall demand a daring act of temporary violence, such a statesman, if he be wise and virtuous also, will avail himself of the short-lived calm that succeeds the conflict, and before the discontents of the people can break forth afresh with redoubled and irresistable im|petuosity, he will effectually remove them, by removing their causes, and by giving them a se|curity against future alarms. I hope that the late bill (2) will prove only a temporary violence, and that these moments, which are generally thought to be a sullen calm, foreboding some Page 102 dreadful political convulsion, may be pregnant with more salutary measures and plans of peace (3) The remembrance of it will, in a moment, be done away, when Great-Britain shall once have done justice to the Americans, by an open de|claration of their independence, and by offering them her friendship. Our mutual jealousies will be buried in oblivion, and, as the Dean foretels, the Americans will then consider us as their pro|tectors, mediators, benefactors.
NOTES, &c. to LETTER IX.
(1) The Boston Port Bill.
(2) Notwithstanding the act for the better regulating the govern|ment of the Massachusetts Bay, and notwithstanding the Quebec Act, I will not yet part with my hope, that the eyes of the legislature will soon be opened; and that these acts, as well as the other, will only prove temporary acts of violence. They have all been passed before the minds of the ministers have had time to cool.
(3) I would not have the reader imagine, I mean to justify every tarring and feathering rioter at Boston, and all disorderly pro|ceedings in America indiscriminately. Some of the people, I doubt not, may have been to blame; for the commonalty of that country must have had a portion of wisdom and patience, which hath not at any time before been found in the world, had all their expressions of resentment for ill usage, been confined within the bounds of moderation. When governors become tyrants, shall we wonder, that an injured and insulted people become riot|ous and unruly! Have ambitious and encroaching rulers ever yet thought of rendering satisfaction, of making reparation, for the cruellest injuries they have so constantly committed; and have they not always thought themselves wonderfully gracious and condescending, when they have merely ceased to oppress? but if a free people, finding their humble petitions, and most dutiful remonstrances scattered to the winds with contempt, be|ing stung with a sense of accumulated wrongs, and feeling an in|dignation at being treated like slaves and villains, do but assault the meanest miscreant in the train of power; 'tis rebellion! felony! treason! Goals and gibbets, ball and bayonet, must here be the correctives. Is this human polity! Are these the proceedings of men, of fellow creatures, of fellow christians? Page 103 When merely ceasing to oppress, is all the reparation required for a long train of injuries and insults; shall authority, with whom wisdom ought ever to reside, become deaf to that voice which called her into being, and think it meritorious to persist in doing wrong?
So universally have I heard the Bostonians condemned for de|stroying the tea, and the action pronounced illegal and rebellious, that I have taken some pains to examine all the particulars of that affair. Now, to my agreeable disappointment, and to the best of my judgment, instead of an act of rebellion, I find it one reflecting honour, and stamping the character of good subjects, on those who performed it; instead of being illegal it appears to me to be warranted by the law of nature, the great original of all human laws, when just. Those who would wish to think justly, and to speak honestly of this matter, will do well to examine for themselves. When they shall have so done, with care and candour, and admitting on my part, for the sake of taking no advantage in the argument, the Bostonian character to be as black as malignantly represented, I should be glad to propose to them this plain question:
They had only this one alternative; they were driven to this dilemma by their magistrates, either to suffer an insidious attempt against their sacred rights and liberties to take effect, or to destroy the hated instrument. Having had no other choice, they must neces|sarily have either done this, or suffered that. Which ought to be have been chosen by every brave and honest man, I leave the reader to determine. 'Tis visionary, even to childishness, to say, they might have permitted the tea to have been landed, and yet have defeated the tax, by unanimously refusing to have purchased it. The conductors of that noble action must have been patriots indeed, and most wonderfully wise, to have left their country, by going this way to work, at the discretion and mercy of the most ignorant and vicious of its inhabitants, to have relied upon the prudence and self-denial of every tea-drinker in America! Besides Page 104 that the wisdom of each well-meaning individual was not to be de|pended on for foreseeing all the ill consequences of purchasing a pound of tea, nor their resolution in preventing them; I fear there might have been some traitors to the public cause, some tools of government or the India Company, or some suspected persons at least, in whom to have confided, for not setting the ex|ample, and using all their cunning to seduce others, would not have argued any extraordinary degree of prudence.
What teacher of morals or politics, ever was lunatic enough to build all his hopes of serving his country, on an expectation of bringing every individual of it to be of one mind, and as unani|mously to act up to the same rigid principle of virtue? and which of us would care to risk the safety of the city of London from some dreadful calamity, on a confidence that every female, from the fine lady to the washerwoman, every man, from the minister of state down to the blackguard, might be prevailed upon totally to abstain from the use of tea, porter, or gin, except the temptation was re|moved out of their way.
To all my readers, except those unhappy ones, who have learn|ed the fatal art of occasionally closing the mental eye, so as to ad|mit just so much, and no more of the light of truth as their passions and prejudices will bear; I must needs think, it would be reflecting upon their understandings and their ingenuousness, to attempt any farther proof of my proposition, that the Bostonians did what was strictly consonant to right and justice in destroying the tea; but, in order to open the self-closed, winking eyes of the prejudiced, I will propose one more comparison, which, I apprehend, will be admitted as a fair one, since it is agreed on all hands, except by the calm advancers of direct falsehoods and lies, and the bold denyers of demonstration, that with regard to taxa|tion, the colonists, as legitimate shoots from a parent stock of freedom, have at least an equal right to be their own tax-masters as the people of Ireland, which was a conquered, and every one knows, a very rebellious kingdom for many ages.
Let then the reader only substitute Ireland and Dublin, for Massachusett's-Bay and Boston, and try the cause over again in his own mind. If he pleases, we will suppose, that instead of a duty on tea, we should attempt to touch the pockets of the Irish, by a duty on certain stamped papers, being publications of gross im|moralities and blasphemies, tending to debauch the minds of the people, and fit them for slavery; and that an assocation of honest citizens of Dublin, more mindful of their duty to God and their country, than of obedience to an ordinance they held to be sub|versive of their liberties, should find this precious cargo, precisely in a similar situation with the tea at Boston; that the Lord Mayor, the magistrates, and revenue myrmidons, like the Boston governor Page 105 and officers of Customs, should all absolutely refuse their per|mission and clearances for its departure from the port, and the ship should be well imprisoned by surrounding batteries; then, what is to be done? what course is to be pursued? Shall those, who ought to be the guides and guardians of the city, admit these pernicious compositions within their walls; patiently behold them displayed in the shops, hawked about the streets, and dispersed throughout the country, with every art of invitation to those in|clined to purchase?
Is the city to be deluged with these impieties, and it's man|ners, morals, and liberties undermined, rather than an united company of merchants trading in mischief should lose their property? a property not only detrimental in itself, but in this case made a venture, with the direct intention of betraying a brave and generous nation into obedience to a despotic ordinance, containing in it the seeds of a more complete tyranny, and used as the most tempting bait to lure the silly multitude into the political mouse|trap; and therefore, on the principles of self-preservation, and agreeable to the spirit of the law of nature and nations, subject to be destroyed, if not removed upon fair warning. Are the city guardians, I say, to observe all this, and content themselves all the while with a patriotic resolve, not to buy or to read a single paper, and with preaching to the unlistening people to follow their example? If this, in the enlightened and virtuous city of Dublin, would be an experiment, that even a driveller would hardly dream of making; how much less safe would it have been for the American patriots to have hazarded their all, on the univer|sal good sense, on the piety and public spirit of the people, in the stupid, the hypocritical, the impious, the ungrateful, and rebellious town of Boston!
What then, I once more ask, ought the patriots of Dublin or of Boston to have done? What! but with indignation to have cast the hated instrument of tyranny into the sea! whither its pro|prietors deserved also to have followed it headlong. Is it for this wise, brave, and generous action, that not only the actors of it, but the whole people of Boston, are now smarting under the heaviest vengeance of Great-Britain! of a people who have hi|therto justly prided themselves in being the undaunted resisters of tyrants! Fie, boasters, fie! Britannia blushes for your degenera|cy; she disowns ye for her sons. When a pawnbroker knowingly puts arms into the hands of a highwayman or ruffian, does any law insure to him payment for the same, at the hands of any one who being assaulted, seized and destroyed them? Are not all deadly weapons, all snares, traps, and poisons, made use of in violation to the laws of civil society, for injuring any man in life, limb, or property, a lawful spoil to the injured party? When the miscreant, Page 106 pick-pocket Jew, in the service of iniquity, was once driving a trade amongst the Westminster school-boys, with a parcel of TEA, out of the green cannister of the celebrated Mrs. Phillips, who, that had a spark of virtuous indignation, but applauded the illegal proceedings of the spirited master, when, disregarding the laws of property, he threw into the fire all of this tea he could lay his hands on; and, as little confidering the penalties for an assault, horsed the vile factor, and scourged him to the quick?
I must therefore repeat, that the destroyers of the tea at Boston were, in my opinion, a band of virtuous patriots, whose names, when once made public, will doubtless be held in eternal venera|tion by their countrymen; and that the glorious illegality (if every statute, whether just or unjust, be properly comprehended in the word law) they atchieved, was an act of absolute moral and poli|tical necessity, and therefore exempt from even good laws; of sin|gular wisdom, of strict justice, and remarkable temper and forbear|ance, considering their provocations since it was done in self-de|fence, with the greatest good order and decency, and unaccom|panied with incivility to any one, or the smallest damage to any thing in the ships besides the treacherous tea. I must likewise re|peat, that this tea, for the reasons I have given, and agreeable to the spirit of the law of nature and nations, was justly forfeited to the injured Americans; and that the East-India Company are not entitled to any satisfaction or payment for the same.
April 14, 1774.
NOTHING now remains to be spoken of but the act of parliament necessary to that separation, proposed by the re|verend author of the tracts, and seconded in these letters; and that General treaty between Great-Britain and the states of America, which will be the necessary, and doubtless the immediate con|sequence of it. When Parliament shall have du|ly weighed this great, this important matter,—the greatest by far that ever came before any na|tional council whatever!—with the attention it merits, and in the temper recommended in my first letter, we may hope to see a nemine contradi|cente act, whose preamble shall run in some such form as the following viz.
Although, by those unhappy persons, who have no just ideas of right and wrong, and who have not intellects for perceiving, that the origi|nal power of Great-Britain over her colonies, is on the point of expiring beyond all help and re|medy, parliament may be supposed to be a loser by the proposed separation; yet all must confess that his Majesty will be a gainer, inasmuch as he will thereby receive fifteen independent king|doms in exchange for as many dependent, and hardly dependent provinces, and become the fa|ther of three millions of free and happy subjects, instead of reigning joint tyrant over so many dis|contented slaves, or losing by revolt so many of his people. What a divine glow of satisfaction must expand the ← royal → bosom on an event so full of bliss, so consonant to humanity and to virtue!—an event more full of real lustre—more aggran|dizing Page 111 by many degrees than ever before was ex|perienced by any earthly monarch—How poor, how contemptible, how hateful the triumphs of butchering conquerors compared to this solid glo|ry! May such a transcendant glory, be the glory of George the third.
We must not be surprized if shallow and de|signing men, some with real, some with affected ignorance, should cry out,
It will still be obvious to all sensible men, es|pecially to those who compose the national coun|cil, that when Great-Britain shall have done the noblest act of justice towards the Americans, that the annals of mankind can produce, they will, as one man, fly to her for protection, court her friendship, submit themselves to her advice, and be ready to put into her hands a chart blanche; and so long as she continues to act upon the same principles, she may undoubtedly influence each Page 112 separate state, and dictate the terms of general ac|commodation without any fear of even future dis|satisfactions. To deny these conclusions, would be to deny that effects follow their causes.
The author of the tracts has already proved, that it is not our power, but the superior advan|tage of our trade, which secures to us the com|merce of the Americans, or that can secure it to us. We shall still have the same power to awe America into a faithful observance of her treaties, that we now have, to enforce a disputed and odi|ous sovereignty, and with this manifest advan|tage, that treating with each state separately, we shall only have one at a time to contend with; whereas we have experienced by our stamp and tea projects, that while we pretend to govern the whole, the whole will unite to resist us.
That bond of union once dissolved, and the na|tural and necessary jealousy of each other taking place, Great-Britain, as the common umpire, will become in effect the general sovereign, so long as she interposes her good offices for maintaining the common independence; and this her own interest will always dictate. Great Britain, will of course take care, in the first place, to recover all her debts in America, which, instead of bad debts, as they are now too justly esteemed to be, will, in the transports of their gratitude for a de|clared and guaranteed independence, be punctu|ally paid, though with their last shilling. Not to mention that fear of offending, (for Great-Bri|tain will then become truly formidable to each separate state) would effectually produce this ef|fect Page 113 we shall, by the league secure on the most lasting foundation, every advantage of trade with America we now enjoy, and by the separation relieve ourselves from many heavy expences it now costs us; for a proof of which, I again refer to the Dean's work: we may then disband so much of our expensive and unconstitutional stand|ing army, as we now keep up on account of A|merica; and instead of being execrated, as we now are, for that fleet which blocks up their ports, and is commissioned to humble Boston to the dust, and through her sides, to gall every province on the continent, they will readily con|sent to its presence for seeing to the exact ful|filling of their treaties, and they will then look upon it with a friendly▪ an affectionate and re|spectful eye, while they consider it as their sure protector against invasion, their refuge in distress, and the avenger of their wrongs.—Not being able to pay Great-Britain in subsidies of ready money for her protection and friendship, they will grant her an equivalent in exclusive trade; and they will enter into some general stipulation for the mode and the measure of payment for any such extraordinary assistance of ships as they may at any time solicit, or we, penetrating the designs of our common enemies, may send to their assistance.
As for troops, a country containing millions of inhabitants, never can want any: let them rely upon the natural, the best resource—a national militia; but, for heaven's sake! never more let Page 114 the face of a British soldier be seen in North-America.
A Flanders or a Germany, on the other side of the globe would be a grave wide enough to swallow the whole strength and treasure of this kingdom. The Americans are in no condition to set themselves up as a maritime power, or to support a ← navy → fit to guard their own coasts, but must rely upon Great-Britain for their safety by sea, as indeed it will ever be their interest so to do, knowing by experience, that with regard to them, she is not a conquering, but a commercial state; and having reason to conclude, that a con|federacy of their maritime states would probably terminate, like that of Greece, in wars upon one another, and be perverted to answer the ends of ambition to some one, instead of protection to all. After what has been said, I need not point out (but for the sake of my timid and uninformed reader) that it will be totally unnecessary, and unbecoming the dignity of parliament, to hesitate a moment in passing the act of declaration, for fear the Americans should not afterwards consent to the league. 'Tis absurd to imagine they will act in contradiction to the principles of self interest and self-preservation, merely because they shall be free from controul; nor is it more possible to conceive, how they should object to a treaty with Great-Britain, merely because she had just done them an act of magnanimity and generosity un|parallelled in history, and given them an unde|niable proof, that she was intitled to their un|bounded confidence, particularly in its not being Page 115 possible she should have any design upon their li|berties. Besides Great-Britain, until she have resigned her assumed sovereignty as the mother country, cannot, on the principles of equity, as before illustrated, give any validity to a contract with her children, while held in subjection to her authority. No! the generous spirit that shall set them free, will disdain the meanness of a proceeding so little and so distrustful; and that wisdom which could form so comprehensive a plan, will despise the crookedness and folly of such a narrow policy.
Thus have I given a faint sketch of the many and great benefits of an American league—the reader's imagination and judgment will finish the picture. If then he can think, that they do not infinitely preponderate against the advantages to be hoped for from persisting to assert our odious sovereignty, and plundering the colonies by ar|bitrary tax-gathers, I have only to say, that he and I can scarcely be made of the same common materials of humanity; but I shall begin to listen to those profound sages, whose acute penetration, assisted by a certain microscopic species of philo|sophy, hath discovered, that the Mosaic revela|tion is a fable, and that, instead of one, there are indeed many different races of men. On the one hand, the most we can expect is a forced and reluctant submission, with some advantages in trade; but these even for a very, very short period. Mean while, discontent and detestation, brooding in the bosoms of the colonists, will na|turally generate a rancorous hate and abhorrence; Page 116 which, aided by our restless enemies the French, will shortly terminate in defiance and revenge. On the other hand—but repetition is needless. In short, the multiplying millions of America, must either be our deadly foes, or our steadfast friends. Great-Britain, take thy choice!
What remains, but that we renew our appeal to the manly sense and magnanimity of the great council of this kingdom; a kingdom, great and happy above all the kingdoms of the earth; a council the most august in the whole world, as nursed in the bosom of freedom, and trained in the true principles of just government and pure religion, of which they are the guardians! If men, thus favoured of heaven, thus enlightened, thus elevated, shall not set examples of sterling virtue, where, alas! shall we find it? Consult then your own hearts, ye legislators of Great-Britain! Be true to your own feelings, and let the moral sense prevail. If ye are conscious of a love of power, know that 'tis the genuine offspring of the love of liberty. This the root, that the branch. If your hearts be held in the curling branch's close embrace, think how, in the hearts of all men, the tenacious root strikes to the bottom, and twines it's clasping sibres around the very springs of life, never to lose their hold!
Remember that ye are now to decide on the fate of nations—perhaps your own. Remember the great legislator beholds your doings. Be your doings like unto his doings. Be tender to hu|manity; be firm to freedom; be inflexible to justice. Emancipate in one god-like act, a long Page 117 roll of nations, whose names it is tedious to re|count. In one act, lift up the well-pleasing name of Great-Britain to Heaven, and spread her matchless fame to the ends of the wondering earth. The depth of her wisdom, the transcen|dency▪ of her virtue, shall be unexampled, and this act remain a monument of her great feli|city, an everlasting model of justice, and a theme of praise to all nations, and to all ages. Poten|tates have, unto dethroned Princes restored their ravished dominions; renowned monarchs, sated with ambition, and the abuse of authority, have, in the plenitude of their power, abdicated thrones; heroes and patriots have given freedom to their native countries; but for the present legislators of Great-Britain was reserved the superior, the supreme glory of bestowing in a foreign soil, li|berty on millions!
NOTE, &c. to LETTER X.
(1) In order to obviate some objections, which, I foresee, both well meaning and ill designing persons may be ready to offer to this part of my proposal, let me observe to them, that this nego|ciation will not be attended with those difficulties and embarrass|ments, which their imaginations or their artifice may possibly suggest. We may presume, that our commissioners would have the outlines of the proposed league ready sketched out, from the most approved general regulations of the acts of trade and navi|gation, which now relate to the colonies collectively, and taking in such other conditions as should be evidently calculated for the mutual benefit of Great Britain and North-America; one as the planting, the other as the manufacturing country; one as the cli|ent, the other as the patron. This general league might be very concise, compared with national treaties in common; it might 〈◊〉 extremely perspicuous, and so clearly established on principles of equity and common advantage▪ as to leave the American depa|ties without a pretence, or a desire to propose any but •••ght alter|ations, and without a possibility of not acceding to it with the ut|most readiness and satisfaction; and it is still less likely, there Page 118 should be any insuperable difficulties started by them, when they should come to enter into their respective separate treaties.
How the trade of a colony can be limited, and its manufactures restricted by the mother-country, on the principles of justice, ex|cept with its own free consent, I confess I have not eyes to discover. If it can be made appear, that the British Parliament hath a right to say to an American,
Observing, that not only the unreasoning multitude, but the members in both houses of Parliament, minority as well as majo|rity, not even excepting the honest opposers of American taxati|on, all seemed to agree, that Great-Britain hath a right to bind the colonies by her regulations and restrictions in and upon their trade, navigation and manufactures; I, for a long time, suffered my own reason to be borne down, and my feelings suppressed by the weight of such respectable, though not infallible authority; but, the self evident fallaciousness of this proposition for ever re|curring upon me, and striking my mind with redoubled force every time I considered it, I was at last obliged to yield to the force of an irresistible internal conviction, and to reject that doc|trine as erroneous, and as a national prejudice, arising from prece|dents, established by the mother country, when her children were helpless new born babes, and carefully instilled into their minds while growing up, as among the sacred precepts of filial piety; from the self-flattering and self-interested suggestions of British minds; and from the general acknowledgement of the Americans themselves. One of their judicious and truly patriotic writers (before referred to p. 30. in a note to the first letter) on this head, expresses himself thus:—
But why, I want to know, are the colonies to be held for ever in the situation of cities besieged? Why is the mother-country to be the sole judge of such restrictions as may be consistent with the ori|ginal Page 120 intention of settling colonies; seeing that this original inten|tion was not, in some cases, the intention of the legislature, but the intention of the emigrants themselves, when they fled from per|secution, misery, and want, to take shelter in the more friendly wilds of America? Why are the selfish and arbitrary terms pre|scribed by one party, to be implicitly received by the other, in a commercial affair of mutual concern, and professed by the dic|tating party, to be for their mutual advantage? Voluntary consent and agreement, independent bargain and contract, are in the very essence of all equitable dealings in trade. I presume the Ame|ricans may be as good judges, as the people who ridiculously as|sume the right of judging for them, what it is their advantage to restrict themselves to in manufactures and trade; and will be ready to take care to confine themselves to such branches, as will be most consistent with that first political maxim, of securing at all events, the protection of Great-Britain, and her valuable trade, from which they have benefits to expect, that no other European market can yield them. To acknowledge their independency, and to form with them a friendly league, is therefore the only method, on the principles of equity, of laying them under restric|tions in trade and manufactures, for the exclusive advantage of their protectors; but continuing to impose these restrictions by our own authority and by force, as it deeply affects them in their property, by preventing money coming into their pockets, (which is very nearly allied, when done unjustly, to taking it out of their pockets without their consent) is undoubtedly tyrannical.
When our legislators, and others, divesting themselves of every selfish and arbitrary bias, (the characteristics of little and uncultivated minds) and guarding against all suggestions, but those of truth, justice, and benevolence, shall have duly reflected on this very important question, I flatter myself they will per|ceive the wisdom of our anticipating the Americans in a candid discussion of it, and will agree with me, in sentiment, that America cannot▪ according to any ideas of justice or freedom, be laid under restrictions of any kind, for the purpose of strengthening and aggrandizing the state or legislature of Great Britain, except with her free-will and consent, independently and volunta|rily given by express stipulation and contract; and consequently, that they will see the moral as well as the political necessity, for the proposed DECLARATION and LEAGUE; and that, in fact, it remains for Great Britain to choose, whether by acting the deaf and haughty tyrant, she shall sink herself into poverty and con|tempt, or, by a conduct worthy herself and her boasted know|ledge, and love of freedom, she shall render herself, not only the all-powerful guarantee of the independence, and monopolizer of the trade of America, but at the same time the dreaded, the dictatorial arbiter of Europe.
The following Extract from the Monthly Review, being all that is at present attain|able, will perhaps gratify some Readers.
☞ If any GENTLEMAN, possessed of the English second Edition of this Pamphlet, will be so obliging, as to favour the Printer ROBERT BELL with it, for a few days only, he will thereby render an essential service to the cause of LIBERTY and LITERATURE in AMERICA.
AMERICAN Independence the interest and Glory of Great-Britain. A New Edition, To which is added a copious Appendix, containing two additional Let|ters to the Legislature; a Letter to Edmund Burke, Esq controverting his Principles of American Government. And a Postscript, containing new Agruments on the Subject; a Draught of a Bill proposed to be brought into Parliament for restoring Peace and Harmony between Great-Britain and British America, and for perpetuating the same. Together with the essential Materials for a proposed grand British League and Confederacy, to be entered into by Great-Britain and all the States of British Ame|rica: The whole of which shews beyond Denial or Doubt, that by granting the Colonists an un|restrained civil Freedom and legislative Indepen|dence Page 122 we may most effectually secure their fu|ture commercial Dependence upon, and conse|quently shall best promote the Interest, and support the Glory, of Great-Britain. Octavo, price 2s. 6d. sterling 1775.
Of the former edition of this performance an account was given in our Review for November last. Respecting the Appendix, it may be pro|per to observe, that in the letter to Mr. Burke our Author's general opinions of the right of the Colonists are applied in opposition to the argu|ments which had been alledged to support the American Declaratory Act. The proposed Bill for rendering the Colonies independent of the le|gislative authority of Parliament is founded on those principles of which we before gave a general account; but the particular application of them in the 'draught' before us well deserves consider|ation. The latter part of the Postscript contains several important additional proposals, respecting the future administration of government in the several states, as parts of the proposed 'Grand British League and Confederacy,' among which we shall extract the following:
"And for the more effectually preserving the future balance of power between all the states of that immense continent, might it not be expe|dient that the limits and boundaries of each, which they should never hereafter pass, should Page 123 be newly defined by the Grand British League and Confederacy; and some of their nominal in|terior boundaries now lying very far within the wilderness, be changed for others at a nearer dis|tance?—For the same good purpose and other apparent good reasons, might not the remainder of the wilderness be partitioned out into certain determinate and limited tracts, according to soil and situation; each of which should be considered as the territory of some future state which in pro|cess of time might be therein directed. And I would propose that no interruption should be given to the growing of such new states (other than every government has a right to give by wholesome laws within itself to prevent as much as may be a spirit or practice of emigration;) but that until the settlers within any such partitioned tract of the wilderness should be increased and multiplied to the number of fifty thousand souls, they should be considered as incapable of form|ing an independent political state▪ and be subject for the intermediate time to the government of Great-Britain. But as soon as their numbers should amount to fifty thousand 〈◊〉 as aforesaid, they should be entitled and free to erect them|selves into an independent political state▪ and to constitute for their own government such a legis|lative power as they should judge most proper; provided only that they acknowledged the King of Great-Britain as their lawful sovereign, that they made the protestant faith the established re|ligion Page 124 of the country, and consented to become a party to the Grand British League and Conse|deracy."
"During the short space of time indeed that remains of that winter's day, to the evening of which we may hope to continue the despotic lords of North-America, those immense divisions of country we have affected to make by our char|ters and by act of parliament on a late memorable occasion, may, like all other arbitrary compen|diums, be convenient to us, so long as we deter|mine to continue arbitrary rulers; or it might hereafter be favorable to the ambition of some one American state hungering to swallow up its neighbours, to have its territory like that of the ambitious Catherine reaching from the salt ocean to the fresh water seas in midland, and thence to the salt ocean again quite across the vast con|tinent; but in neither case would it be desirable or good for the people of those countries."
"Nations are most free and happy when their extremities are near enough to the vital seat of government to feel its pervading principle in its full warmth and activity, and by the spring of of their own re-action to pour into the heart a|gain full-flowing tides of health, life, and vigour. On these principles I should wish to see the North American states arranged back to back like habi|tations in a well-built city, leaving those yet to Page 125 rise into being to front the lakes and great rivers St. Lawrence and Mississippi, as the present ones do the Atlantic sea. We have already enumerat|ed in the foregoing draught for an act of parlia|ment eighteen states already formed; and by such a division of the remaining country by the grand confederacy as we have proposed, provision might be made for the future gradual and quiet esta|blishment of nineteen more at least, all of ample extent, and every one having a very considerable frontier accessible to shipping and upon waters which are at this time navigated by the British ← navy."
"Thus each of these numerous states, by the same means that would enable it through com|merce to become a respectable member of the grand British confederacy, would be effectually subject to the controul and influence of Great-Britain, their common maritime protector and umpire, so necessary for preserving the harmony of the whole. According to this system no state adjoining to the two great rivers should possess the shores on both sides; as navigations of such magnitude and importance should be always boundaries and frontier."
Character of the Work from the ENGLISH Monthly REVIEWERS.
THESE Letters were published (in London) a few months since. The Writer considers the American Colo|lonies as distinct independent States. His arguments are chiefly derived from the spirit of our Constitution, and the liberal principles of reason and equity, on which he contends, that communities governed by a power in which they have neither controul or participa|tion, are in a state of slavery.—That the freedom and happiness of a people supersede every possible claim of government—That mankind have a better right to preserve their liberties than any power can have to abridge them—That the distance of the colonies ren|ders it impossible to govern them by autho|rity of parliament, without subverting the principles of all free Governments.