Front Page Titles (by Subject) : Monitor: To the New Appointed Councellors, of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay - American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, vol. 1
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: Monitor: To the New Appointed Councellors, of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay - 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 the New Appointed Councellors, of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay
During the colonial era there had been a struggle between the crown-appointed governors and the popularly elected legislatures in the colonies. Gradually the elected representatives had won the upper hand, but the governors continued to fight back. One tool they had was to appoint prominent colonists to a privy council or quasi-legislative body that functioned almost as an upper house. In 1774 the crown moved to make this creature of the governor function more like the House of Lords, a true second legislative body. This piece in the Massachusetts Spy of August 18, 1774, is typical of the response.
As most of you are new men in state affairs, and are, notwithstanding, men whom a British administration have selected to fill an important department in the government of this Province, which without ever consulting the people they have presumed to new model. in order, as they say, to give it a greater conformity to the constitution and government of Great-Britain, I hope to be indulged in laying down principles whose notoriety might be supposed to render their repetition disgustful; but principles which, it seems have had little weight with you in the present awful transaction wherein you have had but too great a share for your present honor or future quiet. And as I cannot presume that each individual of you either have taken, or will take the pains to revolve a great many books I shall chiefly refer you to the learned author of the commentaries on the Laws of England* for the fundamentals I propose to offer for your consideration; the authority of whom I presume you will hardly be disposed to dispute.
This celebrated jurist tells you [in] vol. I p. 52. that “a state is a collective body, composed of a multitude of individuals united for their safety and convenience, and intending to act together as one man. If it is therefore to act as one man, it ought to act by one uniform will;” and this will once determined and declared is “understood by law.” The form of the agreement of this multitude of individuals, wherein their particular wills are joined together in order to produce that one uniform will which is understood to be law, is commonly called the civil constitution, of the States. In the Island of Great-Britain, there have for many ages been ranks of men very different from each other in point of fortune, education, etc. which however settled down into the general divisions of Lords and Commons. The Lords having commonly a great share of property and many persons subject to their command and directions, whether as vassals, tenants, etc. and also being persons of leisure and opportunity to acquaint themselves with the relations, rights and interests of men in society; and further being but moderately numerous, and capable of sustaining the expence of attending to the conventions needful for that purpose, have chosen to retain the privilege of declaring their sense of any measure proposed to regulate the conduct of society, and have from time immemorial, had such weight in the state that their joint opposition to any such proposed measure was sufficient to prevent its passing into a law. In this body resides the aristocracy of Great Britain, wherein the superior wisdom, power and independency of the state was for many ages gloriously conspicuous. “The commons, says the same great lawyer,† consist of all such men of any property in the kingdom, as have not seats in the House of Lords; every one of which has a voice in parliament, either personally or by his representatives.” For justly, observes he, “In a free state, every man, who is supposed a free agent, ought to be, in some measure his own governor; and therefore a branch at least of the legislative power should reside in the whole body of the people.” And here is the democracy or legal power of the people of Great-Britain.
The happy Agrarian constitution of New-England, having prevented any such distinction as Lords and Commons, the cultivators being in general the Lords of the soil, the whole power of the state, besides what is stipulated to reside in the Governor, must reside in the freemen of the province.
This, gentlemen, you will find fully warranted by our charter, which entitles the grantees to all the liberties and immunities of free and natural subjects of the crown of Great-Britain to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever. If you say the late act of parliament has annulled this clause of the charter, I acknowledge Lord North intended it should; but if every individual freeman ought to be so much his own governor, as that the smallest regulations of his conduct shall not pass into a law without his consent, surely a law that overthrows the whole civil constitution of his country cannot on this principle be supposed to pass into a law capable of binding him. The most ignorant among you must know that this is an absurdity of so glaring a nature, and so fatal in its consequences, that a submission to it at once gives up all that weight which the wisdom, the valour, the property, the probity of the subject in possession of his constitutional negative power has to secure him against any innovation imposed on him by the crown. And what says the great author, before quoted, of the state of a people where the equipoise of their legislative power, or sovereignty is lost? “If the supreme power were lodged in any one of the three branches separately, we must then be exposed to all the inconveniences of absolute monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy; and so want two of the three principal ingredients of good polity, either virtue, wisdom or power. If it were lodged in any two branches; for instance in the King and House of Lords, our laws might be providently made, and well executed, but might not always have the good of the people in view.”‡ Now, gentlemen, please but to follow our authority to the bottom of the page quoted, and he tells you, “for if ever it should happen that the independence of any one of the three should be lost, or that it should become subservient to the views of the other two, there would soon be an end of our constitution. The legislature would be changed from that which was originally set up by the general consent and fundamental act of society”: And such a change however effected, is according to Mr. Locke (he might have added Vatell and many others) at once an entire dissolution of the bonds of government; and the people are thereby reduced to a state of anarchy, with liberty to constitute to themselves a new legislative power, Can you pretend that even a shadow of independence pertains to an aristocracy creable and extinguishable at mere pleasure? If abeting the dissolution of the bonds of government in the subversion of the civil constitution of your country be an evidence of piety, you have certainly a solid claim to the character. If hardly one in ten of you can boast a descent from persons above the rank of shopkeepers and mechanics, where is the lordly, the noble blood which should distinguish you from the common mass of the common people? If you can expose yourselves to the resentment of millions, as the authors of their ruin and misery, and the intailment of slavery on their innocent and numberless posterity, barely for the title of honourable, even admitting the addition of a trifling salary, your claim to any considerable portion of wisdom, will be disputed by some persons, if not the bulk of mankind. Your valour may indeed be put to trial, but remember, it will not be on the side the valour of those nobles was exerted, who forced from a worthless tyrant the acknowledgment of the unalienable rights of Englishmen. Your property, and I may add your personal security, will soon stand on a firm foundation, when like Agrippa the favourite general of Augustus, you have established a power which determines all questions of property, and even life itself, by a sic volo! Were none but you and your families concerned in the event, I would pity the latter, but with little regret behold such abettors of despotism, wringing out the dregs of the cup they had traitorously combined to mingle for their betters. Read but the history of that unfortunate man and tremble at the fate of, not only him, but thousands and tens of thousands, whom avarice and ambition have plunged them in merited and exemplary ruin; always remembering that hostis patria est felo de se.
County of Suffolk, July 12th, 1774.
[* ] Judge Blackstone
[† ] ib. 158
[‡ ] ib. 41.