Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO WILLIAM TUDOR. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
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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, 17 June, 1818.
The next statute produced and commented by Mr. Otis was the 15th of Charles II., that is, 1663, chapter 7,—
“An act for the encouragement of trade.”
Sec. 5. “And in regard his Majesty’s plantations beyond the seas are inhabited and peopled by his subjects of this his kingdom of England, for the maintaining a greater correspondence and kindness between them, and keeping them in a firmer dependence upon it, and rendering them yet more beneficial and advantageous unto it, in the further employment and increase of English shipping and seamen, vent of English woolen and other manufactures and commodities, rendering the navigation to and from the same more cheap and safe, and making this kingdom a staple, not only of the commodities of those plantations, but also of the commodities of other countries and places, for the supplying of them; and it being the usage of other nations to keep their plantations trades to themselves.”
Sec. 6. “Be it enacted, &c., that no commodity of the growth, production, or manufacture of Europe, shall be imported into any land, island, plantation, colony, territory, or place, to his Majesty belonging, or which shall hereafter belong unto or be in possession of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, in Asia, Africa or America, (Tangier only excepted,) but what shall be bonâ fide, and without fraud, laden and shipped in England, Wales, or the town of Berwick upon Tweed, and in English built shipping, or which were bonâ fide bought before the 1st of October, 1662, and had such certificate thereof as is directed in one act, passed the last session of the present Parliament, entitled. “An act for preventing frauds and regulating abuses in his Majesty’s customs;” and whereof the master and three fourths of the mariners, at least, are English, and which shall be carried directly thence to the said lands, islands, plantations, colonies, territories or places, and from no other place or places whatsoever; any law, statute, or usage to the contrary notwithstanding; under the penalty of the loss of all such commodities of the growth, production, or manufacture of Europe, as shall be imported into any of them, from any other place whatsoever, by land or water; and if by water, of the ship or vessel, also, in which they were imported, with all her guns, tackle, furniture, ammunition, and apparel; one third part to his Majesty, his heirs, and successors; one third part to the governor of such land, island, plantation, colony, territory, or place, into which such goods were imported, if the said ship, vessel, or goods be there seized or informed against and sued for; 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 of his Majesty’s courts in such of the said lands, islands, colonies, plantations, territories or places where the offence was committed, or in any court of record in England, by bill, information, plaint, or other action, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law shall be allowed.”
Sections 7, 8, 9, and 10 of this odious instrument of mischief and misery to mankind, were all calculated to fortify by oaths and penalties the tyrannical ordinances of the preceding sections.
Mr. Otis’s observations on these statutes were numerous, and some of them appeared to me at the time, young as I was, bitter. But as I cannot pretend to recollect those observations with precision, I will recommend to you and others to make your own remarks upon them.
You must remember, Mr. Tudor, that you and I had much trouble with these statutes after you came into my office, in 1770, and I had been tormented with them for nine years before, that is, from 1761. I have no scruple in making a confession with all the simplicity of Jean Jacques Rousseau, that I never turned over the leaves of these statutes, or any section of them, without pronouncing a hearty curse upon them. I felt them as a humiliation, a degradation, a disgrace to my country, and to myself as a native of it.
Let me respectfully recommend to the future orators on the 4th of July to peruse these statutes in pursuit of “principles and feelings that produced the revolution.”
Oh! Mr. Tudor, when will France, Spain, England, and Holland renounce their selfish, contracted, exclusive systems of religion, government, and commerce? I fear, never. But they may depend upon it, their present systems of colonization cannot endure. Colonies universally, ardently breathe for independence. No man, who has a soul, will ever live in a colony under the present establishments one moment longer than necessity compels him.
But I must return to Mr. Otis. The burden of his song was “writs of assistance.” All these rigorous statutes were now to be carried into rigorous execution by the still more rigorous instruments of arbitrary power, “writs of assistance.”
Here arose a number of very important questions. What were writs of assistance? Where were they to be found? When, where, and by what authority had they been invented, created, and established? Nobody could answer any of these questions. Neither Chief Justice Hutchinson, nor any one of his four associate judges, pretended to have ever read or seen in any book any such writ, or to know any thing about it. The court had ordered or requested the bar to search for precedents and authorities for it, but none were found. Otis pronounced boldly that there were none, and neither judge nor lawyer, bench or bar, pretended to confute him. He asserted farther, that there was no color of authority for it, but one produced by Mr. Gridley in a statute of the 13th and 14th of Charles II., which Mr. Otis said was neither authority, precedent, or color of either in America. Mr. Thacher said he had diligently searched all the books, but could find no such writ. He had indeed found in Rastall’s Entries a thing which in some of its features resembled this, but so little like it on the whole, that it was not worth while to read it.
Mr. Gridley, who, no doubt, was furnished upon this great and critical occasion with all the information possessed by the governor, lieutenant-governor, secretary, custom-house officers, and all other crown officers, produced the statute of the 13th and 14th of Charles II., chapter eleventh, entitled, “An act to prevent frauds, and regulating abuses in his Majesty’s customs,” section fifth, which I will quote verbatim.
“And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that in case, after the clearing of any ship or vessel, by the person or persons which are or shall be appointed by his Majesty for managing the customs, or any their deputies, and discharging the watchmen and tidesmen from attendance thereupon, there shall be found on board such ship or vessel, any goods, wares, or merchandises, which have been concealed from the knowledge of the said person or persons, which are or shall be so appointed to manage the customs, and for which the custom, subsidy, and other duties due upon the importation thereof have not been paid; then the master, purser, or other person taking charge of said ship or vessel, shall forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds: and it shall be lawful to or for any person or persons authorized by writ of assistance under the seal of his Majesty’s court of exchequer, to take a constable, headborough, or other public officer, inhabiting near unto the place, and in the daytime to enter and go into any house, shop, cellar, warehouse or room or other place; and in case of resistance, to break open doors, chests, trunks, and other packages, there to seize, and from thence to bring any kind of goods or merchandise whatsoever, prohibited and uncustomed, and to put and secure the same, in his Majesty’s storehouse in the port, next to the place where such seizures shall be made.”
Here is all the color for “writs of assistance,” which the officers of the crown, aided by the researches of their learned counsel, Mr. Gridley, could produce.
Where, exclaimed Otis, is your seal of his Majesty’s court of exchequer? And what has the court of exchequer to do here? But my sheet is full, and my patience exhausted for the present.