Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO WILLIAM TUDOR. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO WILLIAM TUDOR.
Quincy, 18 September, 1818.
The English doctrine of allegiance is so mysterious, fabulous, and enigmatical, that it is difficult to decompose the elements of which it is compounded. The priests, under the Hebrew economy, especially the sovereign pontiffs, were anointed with consecrated oil, which was poured upon their heads in such profusion that it ran down their beards, and they were thence called “the Lord’s anointed.” When kings were permitted to be introduced, they were anointed in the same manner by the sovereign pontiff; and they, too, were called “the Lord’s anointed.” When the pontiffs of Rome assumed the customs, pomps, and ceremonies of the Jewish priesthood, they assumed the power of consecrating things by the same ceremony of “holy oil.” The Pope who, as vicar of God, possessed the whole globe of earth in supreme dominion and absolute property, possessed also the power of sending the Holy Ghost wherever he pleased. To France it pleased his holiness to send him in a phial of oil to Rheims, in the beak of a dove. I have not heard, that my friend, Louis XVIII. has been consecrated at Rheims, by the pouring on of this holy oil; but his worthy elder brother, Louis XVI., was so consecrated at a vast expense of treasure and ridicule. How the holy bottle was conveyed to England, is worth inquiry. But there it is, and is used at every coronation; and is demurely, if not devoutly, shown to every traveller who visits the tower. These ideas were once as firmly established in England as they were in Rome; and no small quantity of the relics of them remain to this day. Hence the doctrine of the divine right of kings, and the duties, in subjects, of unlimited submission, passive obedience, and non-resistance, on pain (oh, how can I write it?) of eternal damnation. These doctrines have been openly and boldly asserted and defended, since my memory, in the town of Boston and in the town of Quincy, by persons of no small consideration in the world, whom I could name, but I will not, because their posterity are much softened from this severity.
This indelible character of sovereignty in kings and obedience in subjects still remains. The rights and duties are inherent, unalienable, indefeasible, indestructible, and immortal. Hence the right of a lieutenant or midshipman of a British man-of-war to search all American ships, impress every seaman his judgeship shall decree, by law, and in fact, to be a subject of his king, and compel him to fight, though it may be against his father, brother, or son. My countrymen! Will you submit to those miserable remnants of priestcraft and despotism?
There is no principle of law or government, that has been more deliberately or more solemnly adjudged in Great Britain than that allegiance is not due to the king in his official capacity or political capacity, but merely in his personal capacity. Allegiance to Parliament is nowhere found in English, Scottish, or British laws. What, then, had our ancestors to do with Parliament? Nothing more than with the Jewish Sanhedrim, or Napoleon’s literary and scientific Institute at Grand Cairo. They owed no allegiance to Parliament, as a whole or in parts; none to the House of Lords, as a branch of the legislature, nor to any individual peer or number of individuals; none to the House of Commons, as another branch, nor to any individual commoner or group of commoners. They owed no allegiance to the nation, any more than the nation owed to them; and they had as good and clear a right to make laws for England, as the people of England had to make laws for them.
What right, then, had King James I. to the sovereignty, dominion, or property of North America? No more than King George III. has to Georgium sidus, because Mr. Herschell discovered that planet in his reign. His only color, pretension, or pretext is this. The Pope, as head of the church, was sovereign of the world. Henry VIII. deposed him, became head of the church in England, and consequently became sovereign master and proprietor of as much of the globe as he could grasp. A group of his nobles hungered for immense landed estates in America, and obtained from his quasi holiness a large tract. But it was useless and unprofitable to them. They must have planters and settlers. The sincere and conscientious Protestants had been driven from England into Holland, Germany, Switzerland, &c., by the terrors of stocks, pillories, croppings, scourges, imprisonments, roastings, and burnings, under Henry VIII., Elizabeth, Mary, James I., and Charles I. The noblemen and gentlemen of the council of Plymouth wanted settlers for their lands in America, set on foot a negotiation with the persecuted fugitive religionists abroad, promised them liberty of conscience, exemption from all jurisdiction, ecclesiastic, civil, and political, except allegiance to the king, and the tribute, moderate, surely, of one fifth of gold and silver ore. This charter was procured by the council at Plymouth, and displayed off as a lure to the persecuted, fugitive Englishmen abroad; and they were completely taken into the snare, as Charles II. convinced them in the first year of his actual, and the twelfth of his imaginary reign. Sir Josiah Child, enemy as he was, has stated, in the paragraphs quoted from him in a former letter, fairly and candidly the substance of these facts.
Our ancestors had been so long abroad, that they had acquired comfortable establishments, especially in Holland, that singular region of toleration, that glorious asylum for persecuted Huguenots and Puritans, that country where priests have been eternally worrying one another, and alternately teasing the government to persecute their antagonists, but where enlightened statesmen have constantly and intrepidly resisted their wild fanaticism.
The first charter, the charter of James I., is more like a treaty between independent sovereigns than like a charter or grant of privileges from a sovereign to his subjects. Our ancestors were tempted by the prospect and promise of a government of their own, independent in religion, government, commerce, manufactures, and every thing else, excepting one or two articles of trifling importance.
Independence of English church and state, was the fundamental principle of the first colonization, has been its general principle for two hundred years, and now, I hope, is past dispute.
Who, then, was the author, inventor, discoverer of independence? The only true answer must be the first emigrants, and the proof of it is the charter of James I. When we say, that Otis, Adams, Mayhew, Henry, Lee, Jefferson, &c., were authors of independence, we ought to say they were only awakeners and revivers of the original fundamental principle of colonization.