Front Page Titles (by Subject) : Massachusettensis [DANIEL LEONARD 1740-1820]: To All Nations of Men - American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, vol. 1
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: Massachusettensis [DANIEL LEONARD 1740-1820]: To All Nations of Men - Charles S. Hyneman, American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, vol. 1 
American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, ed. Charles S. Hyneman and Donald Lutz (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983). 2 vols. Volume 1.
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To All Nations of Men
The several newspaper essays signed “Massachusettensis” are attributed without dispute to Daniel Leonard, a prominent Massachusetts lawyer who divided his time between the county of his birth (Bristol, adjoining Rhode Island) and Boston. Leonard was the son of well-to-do parents, attended Harvard College, and, after the customary period of reading law with a prominent attorney, set up practice in his hometown of Norton. From the beginning he exploited his political connections and before the age of thirty had been elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and was serving as the King’s Attorney for his county. At this stage of his life he stood with the Whigs in opposition to London’s policies and the governor who attempted to enforce them. As late as 1773 Leonard was serving on the Boston Committee of Correspondence, waging a campaign to alert the several colonies to British oppression and ready them for common action if grievances turned into intolerable offenses. By August of 1774 it was clear that he had been converted; he was now a staunch supporter of the newly appointed governor and no longer disposed to join in the clamor about British invasions of American rights. During the fall and winter of 1773-1774, the Massachusettensis letters appeared, and Daniel Leonard found himself irrevocably classified as a Tory. The day after the battle of Concord Bridge he signed up in the British Army, and a month after the Declaration of Independence he was in exile, an American Tory-Loyalist emigré in London. Although unusual in its discussion of Tories, this piece is typical of a large number of newspaper articles in the 1770s drawing upon Locke, Vatel, Burlamaqui, and other Whig theorists, although the notions of a state of nature, etc., were often subtly altered to bring them in line with American political principles. This essay appeared in the November 18, 1773 edition of the Massachusetts Spy, published in Boston.
To all Nations of Men, dwelling upon the face of the whole Earth, especially those of GREAT-BRITAIN and Ireland, more especially the Inhabitants of British North-America, and particularly those of the Massachusetts-Bay in New England.
MEN, BRETHREN and FATHERS,
It is indispensable to the well-being of civil society that every member thereof should have a sure and righteous rule of action in every occurence of life; and also that upon the observance of this rule he should be happy and secure from the molestation and disturbance of all men; municipal law, which is no more than the law of nature applied to man in society, having for its principal objects, the freedom of the person, conscience, and security of the subject in his property. And men enter into society for no other end than to place the execution of those laws in the hands of such as they esteem worthy to be entrusted with them; and to defend themselves, their laws and properties against foreign invasions. They do this in the first place to prevent that confusion and bloodshed which would inevitably take place were each individual left to judge in his own case and take by the strong hand what should appear to him satisfactory. Civil society then (to use the words of a celebrated author* ) is nothing more than the union of a multitude of people who agree to live in subjection to a sovereign (i.e. any power having legislative authority) in order to find through his protection and care that happiness to which they Naturally Aspire. This is equally true whatever self governing community it is applied to, whether to the smallest principality in Germany, the weakest colony in America or the Kingdom of Great-Britain, France or Muscovy. Thus we see what forms a state and can easily perceive what are the duties both of rulers and people; viz. rulers must afford them that protection whereby they may surely attain that felicity they naturally aspire to—The people then should take care not to transgress the laws of society, which being formed by the wisest and best of their own body, must undoubtedly be intended at least, for the promotion and security of the public happiness.
Separate states (all self-governing communities) stand in the same relation to one another as individuals do when out of society; or to use the more common phrase, in a state of nature. And it is necessary says the same learned author that there should be some law among nations to serve as a rule of mutual commerce. This law can be no other than the law of nature, which is distinguished by the name of the law of nations. Mr. Hobbes says “natural law is divided into natural law of man, and natural law of states.” The latter is what we call the law of nations. The laws both of nature and nations, as well as those of every free state, indeed of every lawful government under heaven are extremely watchful in ascertaining and protecting the right of private property. So great is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it, unless applied to the detriment of the Society.—That men have a natural right to retain their justly acquired property, or dispose of it as they please without injuring others, is a proposition that has never been controverted to my knowledge: That they should lose this right by entering society is repugnant to common sense and the united voice of every writer of reputation upon the subject. All agree that no man can be justly deprived of his property without his consent in person or by his representative, unless he has forfeited it by the breach of the laws of his country to the enaction of which he consented.
All demands upon our purse, on other terms, are illegal; and put into execution robbery; if the demand be made sword in hand, the crime is till more attrocious; “it is robbery with murderous intention!” Can any one dispute the justice of one sentence of the above propositions? or admitting them, can they excuse the British parliament, from the violation of these most sacred bonds of human society? Have they not actually invaded the freedom of our persons pretending to bind us by laws to which our consent was never so much as asked? Have they not demanded our money at the point of the bayonet and mouth of the cannon? Have they not utterly subverted the free constitution of our state by making our extreme magistrate a mere dependent on the minister of Great Britain, and thus destroyed all confidence of the body politic in the head? Have they not further interfered with our civil policy and intruded a set of officers upon us, entirely independent of the supreme power of the province constituting that most dangerous and intolerable evil that ever was felt by a people; that source of civil discord, treasons and murders an imperium in imperio, which constitutes the house whose fate the breath of conscience has pronounced, viz. “it cannot stand!” Have they not further, to defeat all prospect of our relieving ourselves by the free course of the laws of the land, held out a bribe to our supreme executive, and doubly corrupted the council, whose duty it is to see the commonwealth suffer no injury? Are we not by these several most intolerable encroachments, these injurious interferences into the civil polity of our state, cut off from all hopes of relief from courts of law, and even from our high court of parliament, which the aforesaid omnipotent parliament of Great-Britain have by a late resolve, rendered, or endeavored to render as useless as a King of the Romans? For if one supreme legislative body, in which the whole continent of America have not a single voice, have power to make laws which shall be binding upon us in all cases whatsoever, rights, liberties, legislative powers, under such absolute suspending, dispensing, establishing annihilating power as this, are meer shadows, Jack o’lanterns serving only to mislead and engulph us.
There can be no doubt but it is fit, and perfectly consistent with the principle of all laws human and divine, to resist robbers, murderers and subverters of the government of free states, whether these crimes are committed by individuals or nations, or more properly a despotism endeavouring to establish itself over the most free and happy nation on the globe. The only question is, whether it be prudent to risque resistance.
To this I answer we must be sure that we have a good cause; and I think of this we are certain. We may then safely venture it with that God who loves righteousness and hates oppression; who has made it our indispensable duty to preserve our own lives and the lives of others, more especially our brethren of the same community. Under his protection we shall be safe while we walk in his commandments, and by his all powerful assistance one may chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.
It is highly probable our oppressors will withdraw their hand when they find our resolution, and consider how fatal it must be to themselves to drive things to extremity. Great-Britain at war with her colonies would be in the condition of a trunk deprived of its members. Besides the foundation of the dispute being an effort of her ministers to diminish the sovereignty of so great a number of free self governing states, and erect an absolute despotism over them, must give umbrage to every other power in Europe, this being an open violation of the law of nations, and punishable by all as Vatel B II. C. IV. [section] 53 declares in these words, “If then there is any where a nation of a restless and mischievous disposition always ready to injure others, to traverse their designs, and to raise domestic troubles; it is not to be doubted but all have a right to join in order to repress, chastise, and put it ever after out of its power to injure them.” And in the next paragraph the interference with their government and dimunition of their sovereignty is declared to be capital injuries. Their schemes of oppression have heretofore been frustrated, and even now they are drove to stratagem. Their efforts to delude this people to their destruction are visible to us, and we perceive plainly the necessity to guard, not only against their brutal force, attempting to enslave us, but also against their artifice. They know we are a religious and conscientious people, but think we are ignorant of the true spirit of the laws respecting meum and tuum; therefore apprehend themselves safe in sending their property to America, notwithstanding that property is now constituted the medium of our political destruction—but they are mistaken in their men. We all know, that when even men themselves become dangerous to society, the public preservation warrant their extirpation, much less can they expect their property will be spared when in the same predicament. Men combined to subvert our civil government, to plunder and murder us, can have no right to protection in their persons or properties among us; they have by their attempts upon our liberty, put themselves in a state of war with us, as Mr. Locke observes, and being the agressors, if they perish, the fault is their own. “If any person in the best condition of the state, demands your purse at the muzzle of his pistol, you have no need to recur to law, you cannot give, i.e. immediate security against your adversary; and for that reason, viz. because the law cannot be applied to your relief, you make your own defence on the principles of natural law, which is now your only rule, and his life is forfeited into your hands, and you indemnified if you take it, because he is the first and a dangerous agressor.” This rule applies itself to states, and to those employed by them to distress, rob or enslave other states; and shall property be secure where even life is forfeited? All wise nations think otherwise, and by every means in their power endeavour to take the forfeiture. There are many influences, wherein men lose the protection of law in their property, some, as was said before, even of their lives. I will instance a few. A ship with the plague on board, destined to any port, be she never so richly laden, or never so full of souls, may be sunk, and thereby both lives and property be lost to individuals, so the ships of a nation at peace with us, if laded with warlike stores or provisions to supply our enemies is forfeited into our hands, and in case of resistance may be sunk to the bottom.
Upon the same principle it is said a number of pole axes and scalping knives were seized by this government, (shipped by a man whose conduct has betrayed no signs of change in political sentiment since that time) when found on board a flag-of-truce bound from Boston to Louisbourgh in time of war; But of this treasonable action we have no account in Mr. Hutchinson’s history of the Massachusetts Bay.
When we are reduced to the sad dilemma that we must destroy the lives of a few of our fellow men and their property or have the community destroyed by them we are not allowed to hesitate a moment; The rule here is that which is chosen by all wise men, and vindicated by the law of nature, viz. of two evils chuse the least, and rid society of such dangerous inmates.
These usurpers, or foreign emissaries, being screened from the power of the laws, by a corruption of both legislative and executive courts, have returned to a state of nature again with respect to this people, and may as justly be slain as wolves, tygers, or the private robbers and murderers above considered; and Jurors on their oaths are as much obliged to acquit the slayers in the one case as in the other. Slaying a man with a wicked intention is certainly highly criminal, but slaying him to prevent his destroying either our own lives or the constitution of the state to which we bear the most indissoluble allegiance is an act of heroism which entitled even a cobler of Messina to the just applauses of every good man who has read his story.
In former times a person outlawed was called Wolfshead and might be put to death by any man who met him, as that ravenous beast might, being as dangerous to society; this is to be understood of persons outlawed by due process, which might have obtained for misdemeanors much inferior to endeavours for the subversion of the state; but those who by this means break off from the society which from infancy afforded them protection, that plunder and devour their fellow men, even their best benefactors, are more execrable brutes, and may be said to be most fully ripe for exemplary destruction.
In recapitulation of the foregoing, please to attend to the few plain Propositions following, viz.
I. That men naturally have a right to life, liberty, and the possession and disposal of their property, in such wise as to injure none other.
II. That the same is true in society, with this difference that whereas in a state of nature each judged for himself, what was just or injurious, in society he submits to indifferent arbiters.
III. That all demands upon us for any part of our substance not warranted by our own consent or the judgment of our peers are robbery with murderous intention.
IV. That on these principles, the administration of Great-Britain are justly chargeable with this complicated crime.
V. That it is fit, and perfectly consistent with the principle of all laws human and divine, to resist robbers, murderers, and subverters of the constitution of our country.
VI. That both legislative and executive powers in this province being corrupted, the partizans of our oppressive plunderers and murderers are screened from public justice.
VII. That this corruption of public justice with regard to these internal enemies, and the deprivation of the people from the application of it for their own safety, naturally throws us back into a state of nature, with respect to them, whereby our natural right of self defence, and revenge returns.
VIII. That life, personal liberty, and private property, when employed to the detriment or destruction of society, where constitutional provisions cannot be applied, are forfeited into the hands of any, who have public spirit enough to take them.
IX. That Jurors who are the sole and only judges of fact and law; and at present our only security against tyranny are bound by the true interest of all law, the public security to acquit any persons who may be brought before them, for cutting off or destroying the life and property of the invaders of our liberties, from this alone consideration, viz. That the law of the land cannot be applied to our relief.
These are matters of the last importance, and demand the serious consideration of every man who values his freedom or his life, (the latter being but of very precarious tenure when the former is ravished) and if the foregoing propositions are founded in truth on the principles of natural justice and the security of human welfare, adopt them, and act in conformity to them; if not reject them, and substitute something better in their stead. Demonstrate that the domination of law, according to the caprice of their own arbitrary will, to the destruction of all laws, constitutions and injunctions, human and divine, is lawful government; and that the subject though certain to be stripped of liberty and property at pleasure; thrown into a bastile to weep out a life of anguish and distress; exposed to all the miseries of cold, hunger and confinement, may be happier than were our noble, free and generous ancestors, and none will be a more zealous and determined tory, than MASSACHUSETTENSIS.
[* ] Burlamaqui, Pol. Law p. 7.