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TO WILLIAM TUDOR. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 10.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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TO WILLIAM TUDOR.
Quincy, 9 June, 1818.
I have promised you hints of the heads of Mr. Otis’s oration, argument, speech, call it what you will, against the acts of trade, as revenue laws, and against writs of assistance, as tyrannical instruments to carry them into execution.
But I enter upon the performance of my promise to you not without fear and trembling, because I am in the situation of a lady, whom you knew first as my client, the widow of Dr. Ames, of Dedham, and afterwards as the mother of your pupil, the late brilliant orator, Fisher Ames, of Dedham. This lady died last year, at 95 or 96 years of age. In one of her last years she said, she “was in an awkward situation; for if she related any fact of an old date, anybody might contradict her, for she could find no witness to keep her in countenance.”
Mr. Otis, after rapidly running over the history of the continual terrors, vexations, and irritations, which our ancestors endured from the British government, from 1620, under James I. and Charles I.; and acknowledging the tranquillity under the parliament of Cromwell, from 1648, to the restoration, in 1660, produced the navigation act as the first fruit of the blessed restoration of a Stuart’s reign.
This act is in the twelth year of Charles II., chapter 18,
“An act for the encouraging and increasing of shipping and navigation.”
“For the increase of shipping and encouragement of the navigation of this nation, wherein, under the good Providence and protection of God, the wealth, safety, and strength of this kingdom, is so much concerned, be it enacted, that from and after the first day of December, 1660, and from thence forward, no goods or commodities, whatsoever, shall be imported into, or exported out of, any lands, islands, plantations, or territories, to his Majesty belonging or in his possession, or which may hereafter belong unto or be in the possession of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, in Asia, Africa, or America, in any other ship or ships, vessel or vessels, whatsoever, but in such ships or vessels, as do truly and without fraud, belong only to the people of England or Ireland, dominion of Wales, or town of Berwick upon Tweed, or are of the build of, and belonging to, any of the said lands, islands, plantations, or territories, as the proprietors and right owners thereof, and whereof the master, and three fourths of the mariners, at least, are English; under the penalty of the forfeiture and loss of all the goods and commodities which shall be imported into, or exported out of any of the aforesaid places, in any other ship or vessel, as also of the ship or vessel, with all its guns, furniture, tackle, ammunition, and apparel; one third part thereof to his majesty, his heirs and successors; one third part to the governor of such land, plantation, island, or territory, where such default shall be committed, in case the said ship or goods be there seized, or, otherwise, that third part also to his Majesty, his heirs and successors; and the other third part to him or them who shall seize, inform, or sue for the same in any court of record, by bill, information, plaint, or other action, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law shall be allowed. And all admirals and other commanders at sea, of any of the ships of war or other ships, having commission from his Majesty, or from his heirs or successors, are hereby authorized, and strictly required to seize and bring in as prize all such ships or vessels as shall have offended contrary hereunto, and deliver them to the Courts of Admiralty, there to be proceeded against; and in case of condemnation, one moiety of such forfeitures shall be to the use of such admirals or commanders, and their companies, to be divided and proportioned among them, according to the rules and orders of the sea, in case of ships taken prize; and the other moiety to the use of his Majesty, his heirs and successors.”
Section second enacts, all governors shall take a solemn oath to do their utmost, that every clause shall be punctually obeyed. See the statute at large.
See also section third of this statute, which I wish I could transcribe.
Section fourth enacts, that no goods of foreign growth, production, or manufacture shall be brought, even in English shipping, from any other countries, but only from those of the said growth, production, or manufacture, under all the foregoing penalties.
Mr. Otis commented on this statute in all its parts, especially on the foregoing section, with great severity. He expatiated on its narrow, contracted, selfish, and exclusive spirit. Yet he could not and would not deny its policy, or controvert the necessity of it, for England, in that age, surrounded as she was by France, Spain, Holland, and other jealous rivals; nor would he dispute the prudence of Governor Leverett, and the Massachusetts legislature, in adopting it, in 1675, after it had lain dormant for fifteen years; though the adoption of it was infinitely prejudicial to the interests, the growth, the increase, the prosperity of the colonies in general, of New England in particular, and most of all, to the town of Boston. It was an immense sacrifice to what was called the mother country. Mr. Otis thought that this statute ought to have been sufficient to satisfy the ambition, the avarice, the cupidity of any nation, but especially of one who boasted of being a tender mother of her children colonies; and when those children had always been so fondly disposed to acknowledge the condescending tenderness of their dear indulgent mother.
This statute, however, Mr. Otis said, was wholly prohibitory. It abounded, indeed, with penalties and forfeitures, and with bribes to governors and informers, and custom-house officers, and naval officers and commanders; but it imposed no taxes. Taxes were laid in abundance by subsequent acts of trade; but this act laid none. Nevertheless, this was one of the acts that were to be carried into strict execution by these writs of assistance. Houses were to be broken open, and if a piece of Dutch linen could be found, from the cellar to the cock-loft, it was to be seized and become the prey of governors, informers, and majesty.
When Mr. Otis had extended his observations on this act of navigation, much farther than I dare to attempt to repeat, he proceeded to the subsequent acts of trade. These, he contended, imposed taxes, and enormous taxes, burdensome taxes, oppressive, ruinous, intolerable taxes. And here he gave the reins to his genius, in declamation, invective, philippic, call it which you will, against the tyranny of taxation without representation.
But Mr. Otis’s observations on those acts of trade must be postponed for another letter.
Let me, however, say, in my own name, if any man wishes to investigate thoroughly, the causes, feelings, and principles of the Revolution, he must study this act of navigation and the acts of trade, as a philosopher, a politician, and a philanthropist.