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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 July, 1818.
In the search for something in the history and statutes of England, in any degree resembling this monstrum horrendum ingens, the writ of assistance, the following examples were found.
In the statute of the first year of King James the II., chapter 3d, “An act for granting to his Majesty an imposition upon all wines and vinegar,” &c., section 8, it is enacted, “That the officers of his Majesty’s customs, &c., shall have power and authority to enter on board ships and vessels, and make searches, and to do all other matters and things, which may tend to secure the true payment of the duties by this act imposed, and the due and orderly collection thereof, which any customers, collectors, or other officers of any of his Majesty’s ports can or may do, touching the securing his Majesty’s customs of tonnage and poundage,” &c., &c., &c. I must refer to the statute for the rest.
In the statute of King James II., chapter 4, “An act for granting to his Majesty an imposition upon all tobacco and sugar imported,” &c., section 5th, in certain cases, “the commissioners may appoint one or more officer or officers to enter into all the cellars, warehouses, store cellars, or other places whatsoever, belonging to such importer, to search, see, and try,” &c., &c., &c. I must again refer to the statute for the rest, which is indeed nothing to the present purpose.
Though the portraits of Charles II. and James II. were blazing before his eyes, their characters and reigns were sufficiently odious to all but the conspirators against human liberty, to excite the highest applause of Otis’s philippics against them and all the foregoing acts of their reigns, which writs of assistance were now intended to enforce. Otis asserted and proved, that none of these statutes extended to America, or were obligatory here, by any rule of law ever acknowledged here, or ever before pretended in England.
Another species of statutes were introduced by the counsel for the crown, which I shall state as they occur to me without any regard to the order of time.
1st of James II., chapter 17, “An act for the revival and continuance of several acts of Parliament therein mentioned,” in which the tobacco law, among others, is revived and continued.
13th and 14th of Charles II., chapter 13, “An act for prohibiting the importation of foreign bone-lace, cutwork, embroidery, fringe, band-strings, buttons, and needlework.” Pray, Sir, do not laugh! for something very serious comes in section third.
“Be it further enacted, that for the preventing of the importing of the said manufactures as aforesaid, upon complaint and information given to the justices of the peace or any or either of them, within their respective counties, cities, and towns corporate, at times reasonable, he or they are hereby authorized and required to issue forth his or their warrants to the constables of their respective counties, cities, and towns corporate, to enter and search for such manufactures in the shops being open, or warehouses and dwelling-houses of such person or persons, as shall be suspected to have any such foreign bone-laces, embroideries, cutwork, fringe, band-strings, buttons, or needle-work within their respective counties, cities, and towns corporate, and to seize the same, any act, statute, or ordinance to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding.”
Another curious act was produced, to prove the legality of writs of assistance, though it was no more to the purpose than all the others. I mean the statute of the 12th of Charles II., chapter 3d, “An act for the continuance of process and judicial proceedings continued.” In which it is enacted, section first, “That no pleas, writs, bills, actions, suits, plaints, process, precepts, or other thing or things, &c., shall be in any wise discontinued,” &c.
But I must refer to the act. I cannot transcribe. If any antiquarian should hereafter ever wish to review this period, he will see with compassion how such a genius as Otis was compelled to delve among the rubbish of such statutes, to defend the country against the gross sophistry of the crown and its officers.
Another act of 12 C. II., ch. 12, “An act for confirmation of judicial proceedings,” in which it is enacted, &c., “that nor any writs, or actions on, or returns of any writs, orders, or other proceedings in law or equity, had, made, given, taken, or done, or depending in the courts of chancery, king’s bench, upper bench, common pleas, and court of exchequer, and court of exchequer chamber, or any of them, &c., in the kingdom of England, &c., shall be avoided, &c.” I must refer to the statute.
In short, wherever the custom-house officers could find in any statute the word “writs,” the word “continued,” and the words “court of exchequer,” they had instructed their counsel to produce it, though in express words restricted to “the realm.” Mr. Gridley was incapable of prevarication or duplicity.
It was a moral spectacle, more affecting to me than any I have since seen upon any stage, to see a pupil treating his master with all the deference, respect, esteem, and affection of a son to a father, and that without the least affectation; while he baffled and confounded all his authorities, and confuted all his arguments and reduced him to silence.
Indeed, upon the principle of construction, inference, analogy, or corollary, by which they extended these acts to America, they might have extended the jurisdiction of the court of king’s bench, and court of common pleas, and all the sanguinary statutes against crimes and misdemeanors, and all their church establishment of archbishops and bishops, priests, deacons, deans, and chapters; and all their acts of uniformity, and all their acts against conventicles.
I have no hesitation or scruple to say, that the commencement of the reign of George III. was the commencement of another Stuart’s reign; and if it had not been checked by James Otis and others first, and by the great Chatham and others afterwards, it would have been as arbitrary as any of the four. I will not say it would have extinguished civil and religious liberty upon earth; but it would have gone great lengths towards it, and would have cost mankind even more than the French Revolution to preserve it. The most sublime, profound, and prophetic expression of Chatham’s oratory that he ever uttered was, “I rejoice that America has resisted. Two millions of people reduced to servitude, would be fit instruments to make slaves of the rest.”
Another statute was produced, 12 C. 2, cap. 19.
“An act to prevent frauds and concealments of his Majesty’s customs and subsidies.” “Be it enacted,” &c., “that if any person or persons, &c., shall cause any goods, for which custom, subsidy, or other duties are due or payable, &c., to be landed or conveyed away, without due entry thereof first made and the customer or collector, or his deputy agreed with; that then and in such case, upon oath thereof made before the lord treasurer, or any of the barons of the exchequer, or chief magistrate of the port or place where the offence shall be committed, or the place next adjoining thereto, it shall be lawful to and for the lord-treasurer, or any of the barons of the exchequer, or the chief magistrate of the port or place, &c., to issue out a warrant to any person or persons, thereby enabling him or them, with the assistance of a sheriff, justice of the peace, or constable, to enter into any house in the daytime, where such goods are suspected to be concealed, and in case of resistance to break open such house, and to seize and secure the same goods so concealed; and all officers and ministers of justice are hereby required to be aiding and assisting thereunto.”
Such was the sophistry; such the chicanery of the officers of the crown, and such their power of face, as to apply these statutes to America and to the petition for writs of assistance from the superior court.