Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECT. II.: Whether the War with America is justified by the Principles of the Constitution. - Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty, the Principles of Government, and the Justice and Policy of the War with America
Return to Title Page for Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty, the Principles of Government, and the Justice and Policy of the War with America
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
SECT. II.: Whether the War with America is justified by the Principles of the Constitution. - Richard Price, Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty, the Principles of Government, and the Justice and Policy of the War with America 
Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty, the Principles of Government, and the Justice and Policy of the War with America. To which is added, an Appendix and Postscript, containing, a State of the National Debt, an Estimate of the Money drawn from the Public by the Taxes, and an Account of the National Income and Expenditure since the last War. The 9th edition. (London: Edward and Charles Dilly and Thomas Cadell, 1776).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Whether the War with America is justified by the Principles of the Constitution.
I Have proposed, in the next place, to examine the war with the Colonies by the principles of the constitution.—I know, that it is common to say that we are now maintaining the constitution in America. If this means that we are endeavouring to establish our own constitution of government there; it is by no means true; nor, were it true, would it be right. They have chartered governments of their own, with which they are pleased; and which, if any power on earth may change without their consent, that power may likewise, if it thinks proper, deliver them over to the Grand Seignior.—Suppose the Colonies of France and Spain had, by compacts, enjoyed for near a century and a half, free governments open to all the world, and under which they had grown and flourished; what should we think of those kingdoms, were they to attempt to destroy their governments, and to force upon them their own mode of government? Should we not applaud any zeal they discovered in repelling such an injury?—But the truth is, in the present instance, that we are not maintaining but violating our own constitution in America. The essence of our constitution consists in its independency. There is in this case no difference between subjection and annihilation. Did, therefore, the Colonies possess governments perfectly the same with ours, the attempt to subject them to ours would be an attempt to ruin them. A free government loses its nature from the moment it becomes liable to be commanded or altered by any superior power.
But I intended here principally to make the following observation.
The fundamental principle of our government is, “The right of a people to give and grant their own money.”—It is of no consequence, in this case, whether we enjoy this right in a proper manner or not. Most certainly we do not. It is, however, the principle on which our government, as a free government, is founded. The spirit of the constitution gives it us: and, however imperfectly enjoyed, we glory in it as our first and greatest blessing. It was an attempt to encroach upon this right, in a trifling instance, that produced the civil war in the reign of Charles the First. Ought not our brethren in America to enjoy this right as well as ourselves? Do the principles of the constitution give it us, but deny it to them? Or can we, with any decency, pretend that when we give to the king their money, we give him our own?(a) —What difference does it make, that in the time of Charles the First the attempt to take away this right was made by one man: but that, in the case of America, it is made by a body of men?
In a word. This is a war undertaken not only against the principles of our own constitution; but on purpose to destroy other similar constitutions in America; and to substitute in their room a military force. See page 12.—It is, therefore, a gross and flagrant violation of the constitution.
[(a) ]The author of Taxation no Tyranny will undoubtedly assert this without hesitation; for in page 69 he compares our present sitution with respect to the Colonies to that of the antient Scythians, who, upon returning from a war found themselves shut out of their ownHousesby theirSlaves.