In this session the following texts will be discussed:
1. Jefferson, Declaration of Independence (Jefferson's version)
Source of this extract: Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 2.
Accessed from http://app.libraryofliberty.org/title/755/86068 on 2007-09-12
declaration of independence
July 4, 1776.
A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America in general Congress assembled.
When in the Course of human Events it becomes necessary for a People to advance from that Subordination, in which they have hitherto remained and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the equal and independent Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes, which impell them to the Change.
We hold these Truths to be self evident; that all Men are created equal and independent; that from that equal Creation they derive Rights
inherent and unalienable; among which are the Preservation of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these Ends, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the governed; that whenever, any form of Government, shall become destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter, or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall Seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that Governments long established should not change for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shown, that Mankind are more disposed to Suffer, while Evils are Sufferable, than to right themselves, by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, begun at a distinguish’d Period, and pursuing invariably, the same object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Power, it it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity, which constrains them to expunge their former
Systems of Government. The History of his present Majesty, is a History of unremitting Injuries and Usurpations, among which no one Fact stands Single or Solitary to contradict the uniform Tenor of the rest, all of which have in direct object, the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be Submitted to a candid World, for the Truth of which We pledge a Faith, as yet unsullied by falsehood.
He has refused his Assent to Laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their operation, till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended he has neglected utterly to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them and formidable to Tyrants only.
He has dissolved Representative Houses, repeatedly, and continually, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.
He has refused, for a long Space of Time after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the legislative Powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their Exercise, the state remaining in the mean Time, exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion, from without, and Convulsions within—
He has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither; and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has suffered the Administration of Justice totally to cease in some of these Colonies, refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made our Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their offices, and amount of their Salaries:
He has created a Multitude of new offices by a Self-assumed Power, and sent hither swarms of officers to harrass our People and eat out their Substance.
He has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies and Ships of War.
He has affected to render the military, independent of, and Superiour to, the civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their pretended Acts of legislation; for quartering large Bodies of armed Troops among us; for protecting them by a Mock Tryal from Punishment for any Murders they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States; for cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World; for imposing Taxes on us without our Consent; for depriving Us of the Benefits of Trial by Jury; for transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses, for taking away our Charters, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Government; for suspending our own Legislatures and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, withdrawing his Governors, and
declaring us, out of his Allegiance and Protection.
He has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.
He is at this Time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the Works of death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with Circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.
He has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare is an undistinguished Destruction of all Ages, Sexes, and Conditions of existence.
He has incited treasonable Insurrections of our Fellow Citizens, with the allurement of Forfeiture and Confiscation of our Property.
He has waged cruel War against human Nature itself, violating its most sacred Rights of Life and Liberty in the Persons of a distant People who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into Slavery in another Hemisphere, or to incur miserable Death, in their Transportation thither. This piratical Warfare, the opprobrium of infidel Powers, is the Warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.
He has prostituted his Negative for Suppressing every legislative Attempt to prohibit or to restrain an execrable Commerce, determined to keep open a Markett where Men should be bought and sold, and that this assemblage of Horrors might want no Fact of distinguished Die
He is now exciting those very People to rise in Arms among us, and to purchase their Liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the People upon whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off, former Crimes committed against the Liberties of one People, with Crimes which he urges them to commit against the Lives of another.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress, in the most humble Terms; our repeated Petitions have been answered by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every Act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a People who mean to be free.—future ages will scarce believe, that the Hardiness of one Man, adventured, within the Short Compass of twelve years only, on so many Acts of Tyranny, without a Mask, over a People, fostered and fixed in the Principles of Liberty.
Nor have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them from Time to Time of attempts of their Legislature to extend a Jurisdiction over these our States. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here, no one of which could warrant so strange a Pretension. That these were effected at the expense of our own Blood and Treasure, unassisted by the Wealth or the Strength of Great Britain; that in constituting indeed, our Several Forms of Government, we had adopted one common King, thereby laying a Foundation for Perpetual League and Amity with them; but that Submission to their Parliament, was no Part of our Constitution, nor ever in Idea, if History may be credited; and we appealed to their Nature, Justice and Magnanimity, as well as to the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these usurpations, which were likely to interrupt our Correspondence and Connection. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity, and when occasions have been given them by the regular Course of their Laws of removing from their Councils, the Disturbers of our Harmony, they have by their free Election, re-established them in Power. At this very Time too, they are permitting their Chief Magistrate to send over not only soldiers of our common Blood, but Scotch and foreign Mercenaries, to invade and deluge us in Blood. These Facts have given the last Stab to agonizing affection, and manly Spirit bids us to renounce forever these unfeeling Brethren. We must endeavour to forget our former Love for them, and to hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, enemies in War, in Peace Friends. We might have been a free and a great People together but a Communication of Grandeur and of Freedom it seems is below their Dignity. Be it so, since they will have it: The Road to Happiness and to Glory is open to us too; we will climb it, apart from them, and acquiesce in the Necessity which denounces our eternal Separation.
We therefore the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these States, reject and renounce all Allegiance and Subjection to the Kings of Great Britain, and all others, who may hereafter claim by, through, or under them; We utterly dissolve and break off, all political Connection which may have heretofore subsisted between us and the People or Parliament of Great Britain, and finally we do assert and declare these Colonies to be free and independent States, and that as free and independent States they shall hereafter have Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which independent States may of Right do. And for the Support of this Declaration, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honour.
A Declaration by the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in General Congress assembled.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of natture’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with inherent & inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes: and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations begun at a distinguished period and pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to expunge their former systems of government. The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of unremitting injuries and usurpations, among which appears no solitary fact to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest; but all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this let facts be submitted to a candid world, for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood.
He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good:
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained, and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people unless those people would relinquish the right of representation, in the legislature, a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative houses repeatedly and continually for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the right of the people:
He has refused for a long time after such dissolutions to cause others to be elected whereby the legislative powers incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise, the state remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without and convulsions within:
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states, for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither; and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands:
He has suffered the administration of justice totally to cease in some of these states, refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers:
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices and the amount and payment of their salaries:
He has erected a multitude of new offices by a self assumed power and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance:
He has kept among us in times of peace, standing armies and ships of war without the consent of our legislatures:
He has affected to render the military, independent of and superior to the civil power:
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation, for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us; for protecting them by a mock trial from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states; for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world; for imposing taxes on us without our consent; for depriving us in many cases of the benefits of trial by jury; for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences; for abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies; for taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and fundamentally the forms of our governments for suspending our own legislatures and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever:
He has abdicated government here, withdrawing his governors, and declaring us out of his allegiance and protection.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns and destroyed the lives of our people:
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy unworthy the head of a civilized nation:
He has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions of existence.
He has incited treasonable insurrections of our fellow-citizens, with the allurements of forfeiture and confiscation of our property:
He has constrained others, taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands:
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of distant people, who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished dye, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crime committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injuries. A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a people who mean to be free. Future ages will scarce believe that the hardiness of one man adventured within the short compass of twelve years only, to build a foundation, so broad and undisguised for tyranny over a people fostered and fixed in the principles of freedom.
Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time to attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over these our states. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here, no one of which could warrant so strange a pretension: that these were effected at the expence of our own blood and treasure, unassisted by the wealth or strength of Great Britain: that in constituting indeed our several forms of government, we had adopted a common king, thereby laying a foundation for perpetual league and amity with them: but that submission to their parliament was no part of our constitution nor ever in idea, if history be credited; and we have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, as well as to the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations which were likely to interrupt our connection and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity, and when occasions have been given them, by the regular course of their laws of removing from their councils the disturbers of our harmony, they have by their free elections re-established them in power. At this very time they are permitting their chief magistrate to send over not only soldiers of our own blood, but Scotch and other foreign mercenaries, to invade and destroy us. These facts have given the last stab to agonizing affections, and manly spirit bids us to renounce forever these unfeeling brethren. We must endeavor to forget our former love for them, to hold them as we hold the rest of mankind enemies in war, in peace friends.
We might have been a free and a great people together; but a communication of grandeur and of freedom it seems, is below their dignity. Be it so, since they will have it: the road to happiness and to glory is open to us too; we will climb it apart from them, and acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our eternal separation!
We therefore the representatives of the United States in General Congress assembled in the name and by authority of the good people of these states, reject and renounce all allegiance and subjection to the kings of Great Britain and all others who may hereafter claim by, through, or under them; we utterly dissolve all political connection which may heretofore have subsisted between us and the people or parliament of Great Britain, and finally we do assert and declare these colonies to be free and independant, and that as free and independant states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour.
In Congress, July 4, 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and, when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time after such dissolutions to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation have returned to the People at large for their exercise, the State remaining, in the meantime, exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:—For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: — For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:—For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world: — For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:—For depriving us in many cases of the benefits of Trial by jury:—For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences: — For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:—For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments : — For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here by declaring us out of his Protection, and waging war against us:—
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the Lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has excited domestic insurrection among us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
He has constrained our fellow citizens taken Captive on the high Seas, to bear arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injuries.
A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations which would inevitably interrupt our connection and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must therefore acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent states, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
2. Jefferson, A Summary View
Source of this extract: Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 2.
Accessed from http://app.libraryofliberty.org/title/755/86029 on 2007-09-12
A SUMMARY VIEW
A SUMMARY VIEW OF THE RIGHTS OF BRITISH AMERICA. SET FORTH IN SOME RESOLUTIONS INTENDED FOR THE INSPECTION OF THE PRESENT DELEGATES OF THE PEOPLE OF VIRGINIA. NOW IN CONVENTION.
By a NATIVE, and MEMBER of the HOUSE of BURGESSES. by Thomas Jefferson
WILLIAMSBURG: Printed by CLEMENTINARIND.
Est proprium munus magistratus intelligere, se gerere personam civitatis, debereque; ejus dignitatem & decus sustinere, servare leges, jura discribere, ea fidei suæ commissa meminisse.
CiceroDe Of. L. 1, C. 34.
It is the indispensible duty of the supreme magistrate to consider himself as acting for the whole community, and obliged to support its dignity, and assign to the people, with justice their various rights, as he would be faithful to the great trust reposed in him.
the preface of the editors
The following piece was intended to convey to the late meeting of DELEGATES the sentiments of one of their body, whose personal attendance was prevented by an accidental illness. In it the sources of our present unhappy differences are traced with such faithful accuracy, and the opinions entertained by every free American expressed with such a manly firmness, that it must be pleasing to the present, and may be useful to future ages. It will evince to the world the moderation of our late convention, who have only touched with tenderness many of the claims insisted on in this pamphlet, though every heart acknowledged their justice. Without the knowledge of the author, we have ventured to communicate his sentiments to the public, who have certainly a right to know what the best and wisest of their members have thought on a subject in which they are so deeply interested.
A SUMMARY VIEW
One of the most difficult points to be met by the proposed Congress of the Colonies was an agreement of a common ground on which to rest their statements of grievances and claims for redress. While all the colonies were united in resisting and protesting, they nevertheless, like the individuals in each colony, disagreed on foundations and degrees. The various arguments of James Otis, Stephen Hopkins, John Dickinson, Daniel Dulaney, and Richard Bland had each its own supporters and followers, and were all almost equally untenable. Virginia being so prominent in the movement for the Congress, as well as in colony influence generally, her instructions to her attending delegates would carry great if not controlling influence in that body, and might supply the field for all future contests. Under this belief, Jefferson desired that the strongest position should be taken from the start, and so prepared this paper as the instructions for the delegates from Virginia to the first Congress. Of it, he himself wrote:
“Before I left home to attend the Convention, I prepared what I thought might be given, in instruction, to the Delegates who should be appointed to attend the General Congress proposed. They were drawn in haste, with a number of blanks, with some uncertainties and inaccuracies of historical facts, which I neglected at the moment, knowing they could be readily corrected at the meeting. I set out on my journey, but was taken sick on the road, and was unable to proceed. I therefore sent on, by express, two copies, one under cover to Patrick Henry, the other to Peyton Randolph, who I knew would be in the chair of the Convention. Of the former, no more was ever heard or known. Mr. Henry probably thought it too bold, as a first measure, as the majority of the members did. On the other copy being laid on the table of the Convention, by Peyton Randolph, as the proposition of a member, who was prevented from attendance by sickness on the road, tamer sentiments were preferred, and, I believe, wisely preferred; the leap I proposed being too long, as yet, for the mass of our citizens. The distance between these, and the instructions actually adopted is of some curiosity, however, as it shews the inequality of pace with which we moved, and the prudence required to keep front and rear together. My creed had been formed on unsheathing the sword at Lexington. They printed the paper, however, and gave it the title of ‘A summary view of the rights of British America.’ In this form it got to London, where the opposition took it up, shaped it to opposition views, and, in that form, it ran rapidly through several editions.”
See also Jefferson’s Autobiography, Vol. I., p. 15.
Edmund Randolph gives a further and somewhat different account of it as follows:
“Thomas Jefferson, who was one of the elected, was prevented by indisposition from attending. But he forwarded by express for the consideration of its members a series of resolutions. I distinctly recollect the applause bestowed on the most of them, when they were read to a large company at the house of Peyton Randolph, to whom they were addressed. Of all the approbation was not equal. From the celebrated letters of the Pennsylvanian Farmer (John Dickinson) we had been instructed to bow to the external taxation of parliament, as resulting from our migration, and a necessary dependence on the mother country. But this composition of Mr. Jefferson, shook this conceeded principle although it had been confirmed by a still more celebrated pamphlet of Daniel Dulaney of Maryland, and cited by Lord Chatham as a text book of American rights. The young ascended with Mr. Jefferson to the source of those rights, the old required time for consideration before they could tread this lofty ground, which, if it had not been abandoned, at least had not been fully occupied throughout America. From what cause it happened, that the resolutions were not printed by order of the convention does not appear; but as they were not adopted, several of the author’s admirers subscribed for their publication. When the time of writing is remembered, a range of inquiry not then very frequent, and marching far beyond the politics of the day will surely be allowed them.”—Ms. History of Virginia, p. 25.
These resolutions were printed in a twenty-three-paged pamphlet at Williamsburg, from a copy of which edition, formerly in Jefferson’s possession, and now in the Library of Congress, containing his MS. notes and corrections, it is here reprinted. The numerals inserted in the text indicate the pagings of this edition.
Of this copy Jefferson wrote to Merriwether Jones, Oct. 19, 1804:
“I received last night your favor of the 15th. I have but a single copy of the pamphlet you ask for and that is bound up in a volume of pamphlets of the same year and making one of a long suite of volumes of the same nature. I mention this to impress you with the value I set on the volume as part of the history of the times, and to justify a request of attention in the use and return of it. It happens that Mr. Duval sets out this afternoon for Richmond & furnishes an opportunity of conveying it to you. It should be noted in the republication that the title, the motto and the preface were of the editors, and, with the piece itself, were printed without my knolege. I had drawn the paper at home, set out for the Convention, was taken ill on the road & sent on the paper to Peyton Randolph, moderator of the Convention. It was laid by him on the table of the convention for the perusal of the members, and by them justly deemed ahead of the sentiments of the times: but some of them deemed it useful to publish it & they affixed the title, epigraph and preface. I was informed by Parson Hurt who was in England when it arrived there that it ran through several editions there.”
It was reprinted in Philadelphia, without any change of text, with the following title:
A / summary view / of the / Rights / of / British America./ Set forth in some / Resolutions / Intended for the / inspection / Of the present / Delegates / Of the / people of Virginia, / Now in / Convention./ By a Native, and Member of the / House of Burgesses./ Williamsburg: Printed: / Philadelphia: Re-Printed by John Dunlap./ M,DCC,LXXIV. [8vo. pp. 23.]
Jefferson states that it was “taken up by the opposition” in England, “interpolated a little by Mr. Burke so as to make it answer opposition purposes, and in that form ran rapidly through several editions.” Two editions were printed in England with the following titles:
A / summary view / of the / Rights / of / British America./ Set forth in some / Resolutions / intended for / the Inspection of the present Delegates / of the People of Virginia, now in Con-/ vention./ . . . / By a Native, and Member of the House of Burgesses./ Williamsburg, Printed by Clementina Rind./ London,/ Re-printed for G. Kearsley, at No. 46, near Sergeants /Inn, in Fleet Street, 1774. [8vo. pp. XVI, 5-44.]
A / summary view / of the / Rights / of / British America./ Set forth in some / Resolutions / intended for / the inspection of the Delegates / of the People of Virginia, now in Con-vention./ . . . / By a Native, and Member of the House of Burgesses. / The Second Edition. / Williamsburg, Printed by Clementina Rind./ London,/ Re-printed for G. Kearsley, at No. 46, near Sergeants / Inn in Fleet Street, 1774. [8vo. pp. XVI, 5-44.]
The texts of these two editions are not, however, in the slightest degree altered or added to, except by a new preface. Of it the Monthly Review said:
“It affords a concise and spirited review of the rights and grievances of the colonies, deduced from their first settlement, and proposed as the subject of an address to his majesty from the several ‘States of British America.’
“To this pamphlet is prefixed an address to the King, severely reflecting on the late measures of government, and written with much freedom and boldness, but by whom we are not told.”
This preface here alluded to was written by Arthur Lee, and is as follows:
“To the King.
“There is not a man of thought, in the whole nation, who does not espouse bad measures from bad principles, but is justly alarmed, and seriously anxious, for the common good. Affairs of such magnitude now employ the public attention, as seem to involve in them the fate of EMPIRE. The times are big with great events. What will be the consequences, it is not in human sagacity to foretel. But if the same system be pursued, which for a long time hath employed the attention of your Majesty’s ministers, they ought to tremble for their heads.
“The present contentions with America, if not soon happily terminated, must end in such scenes of trouble, bloodshed, and devastation, which, in contemplation alone, shock us with horror. But little time remains for deliberation or choice: a blow will lead on to the decisive scene; and the tyranny begun. This era of your Majesty’s reign is likely to be marked with the most important characters. It is impossible for subjects to stand by idle, unaffected spectators, when they see their Sovereign, and themselves, nearly involved in distresses, which, for ought he can foresee, may end in the ruin of both: you, Sir! may lose your sovereignty and honour; we, our liberties, fortunes, and lives.
“The charge of presumption upon individuals, for speaking freely upon these important things, is at once taken off, by the evidence of things themselves, and the transcendant interest that every man has in them. Of affairs of state; of the artifice, cunning, address, and subtility of courts, it is the general lot to be ignorant: But of the great principles of government, especially of this free state, of those laws, and proceedings, that are either subversive, or corroborative of the system, many are as able to judge as any minister employed in your Majesty’s service. These, with the first laws of nature, the prerogatives of man in human society, with the sacred and immutable laws of justice, equity, moderation, and wisdom, men fully understand, who were never tutored or well received at court; where indeed, for the most part, men are more likely to lose than gain, accurate ideas of these things. They are not among the arcana imperii: we can judge of them; and have a fair, undoubted, constitutional right, as free subjects, who claim liberty by birth-right, and enjoy it by the laws, to apply these principles to the present conduct of your Majesty’s ministers. And, in justice bound to our country, and ourselves, and that fidelity we owe, Sir, to you, as our Sovereign, we openly declare, that the whole proceedings against our brethren in America, who are entitled, in common with ourselves, to the privileges of men, and the liberties, franchises, and protection of Englishmen, are in open violation of the natural laws of equity and justice: and unparalleled infractions upon the principles, and promulgated laws of this free state: not to say, that every idea of good policy is sacrificed to maintain and inforce the most vicious and dangerous system that ever infatuated despots pursued.
“Fruitless were the hopes that these few pages will effect, what the sagest counsels, the most consummate wisdom and plainest remonstrances, of some of the wisest, and best men, of the present age, have not been able to accomplish. But if the perusal, either by your Majesty, or your ministers, should for a moment, suspend the fatal counsels, or designs which are now taking, or seem systematically planned to overturn AMERICAN LIBERTY, I shall think my labours well rewarded. God is my witness, that I write not these things to excite sedition, or stir up rebellion: I should deem my life well disposed of, if, by the sacrifice, your Majesty could learn the wisdom of righteous government, and your ministers be taught to counsel good things. Happy should I be to convince your Majesty, where legal authority ends, and tyranny begins; and that your dignity alone consists in the happiness of your subjects; and that when virtue and justice forsake your councils, error and ruin must inevitably ensue. With your Majesty’s ministers we can keep no longer. If at any time we pitied their innocent infirmities, that pity has long ago been converted into abhorrence from the wickedness of their counsels, and the injustice of their deeds. By their breaches upon your prerogative, Sir! they have broken down the legal barriers of the constitution, and destroyed the distinctions of government; they have changed, or attempted to change lawful possession into arbitrary dominion: and, in the mad career, they may endeavor to make their Sovereign dispense with every thing that entitles him to obedience; and, by this means, convert the first duty of subjects into an opposition which the great and primary law of nature, self-defence, makes necessary. Those cruel, in-expedient tyrannical measures, which first they adopted, respecting America, notwithstanding the perilous circumstances into which they have brought both the colonies, and our own country, they carry violently on; as if they could persuade us that perseverance was integrity; and open opposition, state necessity. Their system is not only manifestly repugnant to the laws of the state; but it runs counter to the whole stream of authority, and examples derived from the various histories of the several states of the world. From them, they ought to have learned that confidence is the first, and strongest principle of obedience; and, which once lost, is seldom recovered; and that almost all struggles for liberty, against violence, and oppression, have been crowned with success; and, without impiety, whatever doctrines concerning Providence may prevail at court, we attribute such success to the interposition of Heaven: and to Heaven the Americans now appeal. And, would to God that any accommodations could soften those rigours which your Majesty’s ministers seemed determined to pursue. But it seems that no equivalent but Liberty will be deemed a sufficient satisfaction for the affronts which the honest struggles for freedom have given: under the pretence of law, natural justice and equity fall defeated; and the constitution is wounded under the semblance of a temporary cure.—Your ministers, Sir! are total strangers to those nice temperaments and allays to mitigate the evils and maladies of the state, in which much of the wisdom of government consists. They strain, where they ought to relax; and think to accomplish by exertion, what they want abilities to effect by lenient measures. They do not see these happy mediums, so necessary in the adjustments of great affairs; by which authority is preserved on the one hand, and allegiance secured on the other. These impracticable men renounce all expedients but power. They have recourse to arms, when they should seek only counsel. They attempt that by oppression which justice, well administered, would more effectually accomplish.—They talk of enforcing the laws, when they are violating the constitution; and urge the necessities of state, when they themselves are the authors of the very necessities of which they complain. They are for doing that in a free state, which the most despotic, in like circumstances, if wise, would carefully avoid. What is there, Sir! to countenance so great a hazard of ruining America, and distressing ourselves? of exciting them to arms, and ourselves to the slaughter of our own sons? Have your ministers, Sir! discovered mines of inexhaustible riches in America, which they wish to plunder, to discharge our enormous national debt? Alas! they will find no other riches but what a strenuous industry has gained; virtue, which the love of Liberty has inspired; and a race of men not degenerate enough to part with Freedom without a noble struggle. Before their charters were violated, their laws infringed, their trade oppressed, one of their chief cities, and its inhabitants sent to awe and intimidate them, their lives and fortunes were at our disposal: can subjects offer, can they give more? I will be bold to declare to your Majesty, that before these fatal proceedings, no nation in the known history of the world, considering the growing strength, grandeur, and extent of that mighty empire, tho’ dependent, could ever boast such confidence and obedience, as Great Britain did in her Colonies. These are now in danger of being irrecoverably lost, not by their defection, but our own unaccountable folly. Quos Deus vult perdere, eos prius dementat.
“Your ministers, Sir! as tyrants ever do, justify their oppressions, by the resistance they have met with: and perhaps have imposed upon their Prince, by talking of the satisfaction which the honour and dignity of the crown should receive upon their supposed violation. Satisfy, Sir! the dignity and honour of the crown; but let your ministers beware that they do not sacrifice your crown to the vain, and impracticable schemes of satisfying its honour, and maintaining its dignity. I will boldly affirm, Sir, that if the dignity and honour of the crown are to be purchased at the rate your ministers seem to estimate them, that the price will be held too dear by every good, and virtuous man in the nation.
“And here, Sir! pause—disappoint your ministers, and gratify millions of your subjects. The Americans have not as yet revolted. They have not thrown off their allegiance. Their submission is so habitual, that it cannot easily be dispensed with. Do them but justice, and they will esteem it an act of Grace. They will call that a favour now, which hereafter they will claim as their right. What they now demand, the following pages, which, with all due submission, I offer to your Majesty, will declare—hitherto they have kept themselves within proper limits; and have extended their requests no farther than they were countenanced by the laws, and that friendly protection, which from our country, they had reason to expect. But further oppressions, Sir, may probably change their mode of suit. Allegiance will sometimes relax its submission. Wisdom itself does not intermeddle in the regulation of extremities; and what can moderate the conduct of despair? When dangers surround men they are not very nice in the method of salvation. And the only means of extricating themselves, will appear the right. When our friends rise up to oppress us, it is pardonable, and justifiable, to throw ourselves into the arms, even of an enemy, for protection. I am, with all due submission, and allegiance, your Majesty’s faithful subject,
A SUMMARY VIEW, ETC.
Resolved, that it be an instruction to the said deputies, when assembled in general congress with the deputies from the other states of British America, to propose to the said congress that an humble and dutiful address be presented to his Majesty, begging leave to lay before him, as Chief Magistrate of the British empire, the united complaints of his Majesty’s subjects in America; complaints which are excited by many unwarrantable encroachments and usurpations, attempted to be made by the Legislature of one part of the empire, upon those rights which God and the laws have given equally and independently to all. To represent to his Majesty that these his states have often individually made humble application to his imperial throne to obtain, through its intervention, some redress of their injured rights, to none of which was ever even an answer condescended; humbly to hope that this their joint address, penned in the language of truth, and divested of those expressions of servility which would persuade his Majesty that we were asking favours, and not rights, shall obtain from his Majesty a more respectful acceptance. And this his Majesty will think we have reason to expect when he reflects that he is no more than the chief officer of the people, appointed by the laws, and circumscribed with definite powers, to assist in working the great machine of government, erected for their use, and consequently subject  to their superintendance. And in order that these our rights, as well as the invasions of them, may be laid more fully before his Majesty, to take a view of them from the origin and first settlement of these countries.
To remind him that our ancestors, before their emigration to America, were the free inhabitants of the British dominions in Europe, and possessed a right which nature has given to all men, of departing from the country in which chance, not choice, has placed them, of going in quest of new habitations, and of there establishing new societies, under such laws and regulations as to them shall seem most likely to promote public happiness. That their Saxon ancestors had, under this universal law, in like manner left their native wilds and woods in the north of Europe, had possessed themselves of the island of Britain, then less charged with inhabitants, and had established there that system of laws which has so long been the glory and protection of that country. Nor was ever any claim of superiority or dependence asserted over them by that mother country from which they had migrated; and were such a claim made, it is believed that his Majesty’s subjects in Great Britain have too firm a feeling of the rights derived to them from their ancestors, to bow down the sovereignty of their state before such visionary pretensions. And it is thought that no circumstance has occurred to distinguish materially the British from the Saxon emigration. America was conquered, and her settlement made, and firmly established, at the expense of individuals, and not of the British public. Their own blood was spilt in acquiring lands for their settlements, their own fortunes expended in making that settlement effectual; for themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves alone they have right to hold. Not a shilling was ever issued from the public treasures of his Majesty, or his ancestors, for their assistance, till, of very late times, after the colonies had become established on a firm and permanent footing. That then, indeed, having become valuable to Great Britain for her commercial purposes, his Parliament  was pleased to lend them assistance against the enemy, who would fain have drawn to herself the benefits of their commerce, to the great aggrandizement of herself, and danger of Great Britain. Such assistance, and in such circumstances, they had often before given to Portugal, and other allied states, with whom they carry on a commercial intercourse; yet these states never supposed, that by calling in her aid, they thereby submitted themselves to her sovereignty. Had such terms been proposed, they would have rejected them with disdain, and trusted for better to the moderation of their enemies, or to a vigorous exertion of their own force. We do not, however, mean to under-rate those aids, which to us were doubtless valuable, on whatever principles granted; but we would shew that they cannot give a title to that authority which the British Parliament would arrogate over us, and that they may amply be repaid by our giving to the inhabitants of Great Britain such exclusive privileges in trade as may be advantageous to them, and at the same time not too restrictive to ourselves. That settlements having been thus effected in the wilds of America, the emigrants thought proper to adopt that system of laws under which they had hitherto lived in the mother country, and to continue their union with her by submitting themselves to the same common Sovereign, who was thereby made the central link connecting the several parts of the empire thus newly multiplied.
But that not long were they permitted, however far they thought themselves removed from the hand of oppression, to hold undisturbed the rights thus acquired, at the hazard of their lives, and loss of their fortunes. A family of princes was then on the British throne, whose treasonable crimes against their people brought on them afterwards the exertion of those sacred and sovereign rights of punishment reserved in the hands of the people for cases of extreme necessity, and judged by the constitution unsafe to be delegated to any other judicature. While every day brought forth some new and unjustifiable exertion of power over their subjects on that side the water, it was not  to be expected that those here, much less able at that time to oppose the designs of despotism, should be exempted from injury.
Accordingly that country, which had been acquired by the lives, the labours, and the fortunes of individual adventurers, was by these princes, several times, parted out and distributed among the favourites and followers of their fortunes, and, by an assumed right to the crown alone, were erected into distinct and independent governments; a measure which it is believed his Majesty’s prudence and understanding would prevent him from imitating at this day, as no exercise of such power, of dividing and dismembering a country, has ever occurred in his Majesty’s realm of England, though now of very ancient standing; nor could it be justified or acquiesced under there, or in any other part of his Majesty’s empire.
That the exercise of a free trade with all parts of the world, possessed by the American colonists, as of natural right, and which no law of their own had taken away or abridged, was next the object of unjust encroachment. Some of the colonies having thought proper to continue the administration of their government in the name and under the authority of his Majesty King Charles the First, whom, notwithstanding his late deposition by the commonwealth of England, they continued in the sovereignty of their state; the Parliament for the commonwealth took the same in high offence, and assumed upon themselves the power of prohibiting their trade with all other parts of the world, except the island of Great Britain. This arbitrary act, however, they soon recalled, and by  solemn treaty, entered into on the 12th day of March, 1651, between the said commonwealth by their commissioners, and the colony of Virginia by their house of burgesses, it was expressly stipulated, by the 8th article of the said treaty, that they should have “free trade as the people of England do enjoy to all places and with all nations, according to the laws of that commonwealth.” But that, upon the restoration of his majesty king Charles the second, their rights of free commerce fell once more a victim to arbitrary power; and by several acts of his reign, as well as of some of his successors, the trade of the colonies was laid under such restrictions as shew what hopes they might form from the justice of a British Parliament, were its uncontrouled power admitted over these states. History has informed us that bodies of men, as well as individuals, are susceptible of the spirit of tyranny. A view of these acts of parliament for regulation, as it has been affectedly called, of the American trade, if all other evidence were removed out of the case, would undeniably evince the truth of this observation. Besides the duties they impose on our articles of export and import, they prohibit our going to any markets northward of Cape Finisterre, in the kingdom of Spain, for the sale of commodities which Great Britain will not take from us, and for the purchase of others, with which she cannot supply us, and that for no other than the arbitrary purposes of purchasing for themselves, by a sacrifice of our rights and interests, certain privileges in their commerce with an allied state, who in confidence that their exclusive trade with America will be continued, while the principles and power of the British parliament be the same, have indulged themselves in every exorbitance which their avarice could dictate, or our necessities extort; have raised their commodities called for in America, to the double and treble of what they sold for before such exclusive privileges were given them, and of what better commodities of the same kind would cost us elsewhere, and at the  same time give us much less for what we could carry thither than might be had at more convenient ports. That these acts prohibit us from carrying in quest of other purchasers the surplus of our tobaccoes remaining after the consumption of Great Britain is supplied; so that we must leave them with the British merchant for whatever he will please to allow us, to be by him reshipped to foreign markets, where he will reap the benefits of making sale of them for full value. That to heighten still the idea of parliamentary justice, and to shew with what moderation they are like to exercise power, where themselves are to feel no part of its weight, we take leave to mention to his majesty certain other acts of British parliament, by which they would prohibit us from manufacturing for our own use the articles we raise on our own lands with our own labour. By an act passed in the 5th year of the reign of his late majesty king George the second, an American subject is forbidden to make a hat for himself of the fur which he has taken perhaps on his own soil; an instance of despotism to which no parallel can be produced in the most arbitrary ages of British history. By one other act passed in the 23d year of the same reign, the iron which we make we are forbidden to manufacture, and heavy as that article is, and necessary in every branch of husbandry, besides commission and insurance, we are to pay freight for it to Great Britain, and freight for it back again, for the purpose of supporting not men, but machines, in the island of Great Britain. In the same spirit of equal and impartial legislation is to be viewed the act of parliament passed in the 5th year of the same reign, by which American lands are made subject to the demands of British creditors, while their own lands were still continued unanswerable for their debts; from which one of these conclusions must necessarily follow, either that justice is not the same in America as in Britain, or else that the British parliament pay less regard to it here than there. But that we do not point out to his majesty the injustice of these acts, with intent to rest on that principle the cause of their  nullity; but to shew that experience confirms the propriety of those political principles which exempt us from the jurisdiction of the British parliament. The true ground on which we declare these acts void is, that the British parliament has no right to exercise its authority over us.
That these exercises of usurped power have not been confined to instances alone, in which themselves were interested, but they have also intermeddled with the regulation of the internal affairs of the colonies. The act of the 9th of Anne for establishing a post office in America seems to have had little connection with British convenience, except that of accommodating his majesty’s ministers and favourites with the sale of a lucrative and easy office.
That thus we have hastened through the reigns which preceded his majesty’s during which the violations of our rights were less alarming, because repeated at more distant intervals than that rapid and bold succession of injuries which is likely to distinguish the present from all other periods of American story. Scarcely have our minds been able to emerge from the astonishment into which one stroke of parliamentary thunder had involved us, before another more heavy, and more alarming, is fallen on us. Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions begun at a distinguished period, and pursued, unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate and systematical plan of reducing us to slavery.
That the act, passed in the 4th year of his majesty’s reign, entitled “An act for granting certain duties in the British colonies and plantations in America, &c.”
One other act, passed in the 5th year of his reign, entitled “An act for granting and applying certain stamp duties and other duties in the British colonies and plantations in America, &c.”
One other act, passed in the 6th year of his reign, entitled “An act for the better securing the depend-ency of his majesty’s dominions in America upon the crown and parliament of Great Britain”; and one other act, passed in the 7th year of his reign, entitled “An act for granting duties on paper, tea, &c.” form that connected chain of parliamentary usurpation, which has already been the subject of frequent applications to his majesty, and the houses of lords and commons of Great Britain; and no answers having yet been condescended to any of these, we shall not trouble his majesty with a repetition of the matters they contained.
But that one other act, passed in the same 7th year of the reign, having been a peculiar attempt, must ever require peculiar mention; it is entitled “An act for suspending the legislature of New York.” One free and independent legislature hereby takes upon itself to suspend the powers of another, free and independent as itself; this exhibiting a phœnomenon unknown in nature, the creator and creature of his own power. Not only the principles of common sense, but the common feelings of human nature, must be surrendered up before his majesty’s subjects here can be persuaded to believe that they hold their political existence at the will of a British parliament. Shall these governments be dissolved, their property annihilated, and their people reduced to a state of nature, at the imperious breath of a body of men, whom they never saw, in whom they never confided, and over whom they have no powers of punishment or removal, let their crimes against the American public be ever so great? Can any one reason be assigned why 160,000 electors in the island of Great Britain should give law to four millions in the states of America, every individual of whom is equal to every individual of them, in virtue, in understanding, and in bodily strength? Were this to be admitted, instead of being a free people, as we have hitherto supposed, and mean to continue ourselves, we should suddenly be found the slaves not of one but of 160,000 tyrants, distinguished too from all others by this singular circumstance, that they are removed  from the reach of fear, the only restraining motive which may hold the hand of a tyrant.
That by “an act to discontinue in such manner and for such time as they are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading or shipping, of goods, wares, and merchandize, at the town and within the harbour of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay, in North America” which was passed at the last session of British parliament; a large and populous town, whose trade was their sole subsistence, was deprived of that trade, and involved in utter ruin. Let us for a while suppose the question of right suspended, in order to examine this act on principles of justice: An act of parliament had been passed imposing duties on teas, to be paid in America, against which act the Americans had protested as inauthoritative. The East India Company, who till that time had never sent a pound of tea to America on their own account, step forth on that occasion the assertors of parliamentary right, and send hither many ship loads of that obnoxious commodity. The masters of their several vessels, however, on their arrival to America, wisely attended to admonition, and returned with their cargoes. In the province of New England alone the remonstrances of the people were disregarded, and a compliance, after being many days waited for, was flatly refused. Whether in this the master of the vessel was governed by his obstinacy, or his instructions, let those who know say. There are extraordinary situations which require extraordinary interposition. An exasperated people, who feel that they possess power, are not easily restrained within limits strictly regular. A number of them assembled in the town of Boston, threw the tea into the ocean, and dispersed without doing any other act of violence. If in this they did wrong, they were known and were amenable to the laws of the land, against which it could not be objected that they had ever, in any instance, been obstructed or diverted from their regular course in favour of popular offenders. They should therefore not have been distrusted on this occasion.  But that ill fated colony had formerly been bold in their enmities against the house of Stuart, and were now devoted to ruin by that unseen hand which governs the momentous affairs of this great empire. On the partial representations of a few worthless ministerial dependants, whose constant office it has been to keep that government embroiled, and who, by their treacheries, hope to obtain the dignity of the British knighthood, without calling for the party accused, without asking a proof, without attempting a distinction between the guilty and the innocent, the whole of that ancient and wealthy town is in a moment reduced from opulence to beggary. Men who had spent their lives in extending the British commerce, who had invested in that place the wealth their honest endeavors had merited, found themselves and their families thrown at once on the world for subsistence by its charities. Not the hundredth part of the inhabitants of that town had been concerned in the act complained of, many of them were in Great Britain and in other parts beyond sea, yet all were involved in one indiscriminate ruin, by a new executive power unheard of till then, that of a British Parliament. A property, of the value of many millions of money, was sacrificed to revenge, not repay, the loss of a few thousands. This is administering justice with a heavy hand indeed! and when is this tempest to be arrested in its course? Two wharfs are to be opened again when his Majesty shall think proper. The residue, which lined the extensive shores of the bay of Boston, are forever interdicted the exercise of commerce. This little exception seems to have been thrown in for no other purpose than that of setting a precedent for investing his majesty with legislative powers. If the pulse of his people shall beat calmly under this experiment, another and another shall be tried, till the measure of despotism be filled up. It would be an insult on common sense to pretend that this exception was made in order to restore its commerce to that great town. The trade which cannot be received at two wharfs alone must of necessity be transferred to some other place; to which  it will soon be followed by that of the two wharfs. Considered in this light, it would be insolent and cruel mockery at the annihilation of the town of Boston.
By the act for the suppression of riots and tumults in the town of Boston, passed also in the last session of parliament, a murder committed there is, if the governor pleases, to be tried in a court of King’s Bench, in the island of Great Britain, by a jury of Middlesex. The witnesses, too, on receipt of such a sum as the governor shall think it reasonable for them to expend, are to enter into recognizance to appear at the trial. This is, in other words, taxing them to the moment of their recognizance, and that amount may be whatever a governor pleases; for who does his majesty think can be prevailed on to cross the Atlantic for the sole purpose of bearing evidence to a fact? His expences are to be borne, indeed, as they shall be estimated by a governor; but who are to feed the wife and children whom he leaves behind and who have had no other subsistence but his daily labour? Those epidemical disorders too, so terrible in a foreign climate, is the cure of them to be estimated among the articles of expence, and their danger to be warded off by the almighty power of parliament? And the wretched criminal, if he happen to have offended on the American side, stripped of his privilege of trial by peers of his vicinage, removed from the place where alone full evidence could be obtained, without money, without council, without friends, without exculpatory proof, is tried before judges predetermined to condemn. The cowards who would suffer a countryman to be torn from the bowels of their society, in order to be thus offered a sacrifice to parliamentary tyranny, would merit that everlasting infamy now fixed on the authors of the act! A clause for a similar purpose had been introduced into an act passed in the twelfth year of his majesty’s reign, entitled “An act for the better securing and preserving his majesty’s dockyards, magazines, ships, ammunition and stores,” against which, as  meriting the same censures, the several colonies have already protested.
That these are acts of power, assumed by a body of men, foreign to our constitutions, and unacknowledged by our laws, against which we do, on behalf of the inhabitants of British America, enter this our solemn and determined protest; and we do earnestly entreat his majesty, as yet the only mediatory power between the several states of the British empire, to recommend to his parliament of Great Britain the total revocation of these acts, which, however nugatory they may yet prove the cause of further discontents and jealousies among us.
That we next proceed to consider the conduct of his majesty, as holding the executive powers of the laws of these states, and mark out his deviations from the line of duty. By the constitution of Great Britain, as well of the several American states, his majesty professes the power of refusing to pass into a law any bill which has already passed the other two branches of legislature. His majesty, however, and his ancestors, conscious of the impropriety of opposing their single opinion to the united wisdom of two houses of parliament, while their proceedings were unbiassed by interested principles, for several ages past have modestly declined the exercise of this power in that part of his empire called Great Britain. But by change of circumstances, other principles than those of justice simply obtained an influence on their determinations; the addition of new states to the British empire has produced an addition of new, and sometimes opposite interests. It is now, therefore, the great office of his majesty, to resume exercise of his negative power, and to prevent the passage of laws by any one legislature of the empire, which might bear injuriously on the rights and interests of another. Yet this will not excuse the wanton exercise of this power which we have seen his Majesty practise on the laws of the American legislatures. For the most trifling reasons, and sometimes for no conceivable reason at all, his majesty has rejected laws of the most salutary tendency. The abolition of do-mestic slavery is the great object of desire in those colonies,where it was unhappily introduced in their infant state. But previous to the enfranchisement of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude all further importations from Africa; yet our repeated attempts to effect this by prohibitions, and by imposing duties which might amount to a prohibition, have been hitherto defeated by his majesty’s negative: Thus preferring the immediate advantages of a few African corsairs to the lasting interests of the American states, and to the rights of human nature deeply wounded by this infamous practice. Nay, the single interposition of an interested individual against a law was scarcely ever known to fail of success, though in the opposite scale were placed the interests of the whole country. That this is so shameful an abuse of a power trusted with his majesty for other purposes, as if not reformed, would call for some legal restrictions.
With equal inattention to the necessities of his people here has his Majesty permitted our laws to lie neglected in England for years, neither confirming them by his assent, nor annulling them by his negative; so that such of them as have no suspending clause we hold on the most precarious of all tenures, his majesty’s will and such of them as suspend themselves till his majesty’s assent be obtained, we have feared, might be called into existence at some future and distant period, when the time and change of circumstances shall have rendered them destructive to his people here. And to render this aggrievance still more oppressive, his majesty by his instructions has laid his governors under such restrictions that they can pass no law of any moment unless it have such suspending clause; so that, however immediate may be the call for legislative interposition, the law cannot be executed till it has twice crossed the Atlantic, by which time the evil may have spent its whole force.
But in what terms, reconcileable to majesty, and at the same time to truth, shall we speak of a late instruction to his majesty’s governor of the colony of Virginia, by which he is forbidden to assent to any law for the division of a county, unless the new county  will consent to have no representative in assembly? That colony has as yet fixed no boundary to the westward. Their westward counties, therefore, are of indefinite extent; some of them are actually seated many hundred miles from their eastward limits. Is it possible, then, that his majesty can have bestowed a single thought on the situation of those people, who, in order to obtain justice for injuries, however great or small, must, by the laws of that colony, attend their county court, at such a distance, with all their witnesses, monthly, till their litigation be determined? Or does his majesty seriously wish, and publish it to the world, that his subjects should give up the glorious right of representation, with all the benefits derived from that, and submit themselves the absolute slaves of his sovereign will? Or is it rather meant to confine the legislative body to their present numbers, that they may be the cheaper bargain whenever they shall become worth a purchase.
One of the articles of impeachment against Trestlain, and the other judges of Westminister-Hall, in the reign of Richard the second, for which they suffered death, as traitors to their country, was, that they had advised the king that he might dissolve his parliament at any time; and succeeding kings have adopted the opinion of these unjust judges. Since the establishment, however, of the British constitution, at the glorious revolution, on its free and antient principles, neither his majesty, nor his ancestors, have exercised such a power of dissolution in the island of Great Britain; and when his majesty was petitioned, by the united voice of his people there, to dissolve the present parliament, who had become obnoxious to them, his ministers were heard to declare in open parliament, that his majesty possessed no such power by the constitution. But how different their language and his practice here! To declare, as their duty required, the known rights of their country, to oppose the usurpations of every foreign judicature, to disregard the imperious mandates of a minister or governor, have been the avowed causes of dissolving houses of representatives in America. But if such powers be  really vested in his majesty, can he suppose they are there placed to awe the members from such purposes as these? When the representative body have lost their confidence of their constituents, when they have notoriously made sale of their most valuable rights, when they have assumed to themselves powers which the people never put into their hands, then indeed their continuing in office becomes dangerous to the state, and calls for an exercise of the power of dissolution. Such being the causes for which the representative body should, and should not be dissolved, will it not appear strange to an unbiased observer, that that of Great Britain was not dissolved, while those of the colonies have repeatedly incurred that sentence?
But your majesty, or your governors, have carried this power beyond every limit known, or provided for, by the laws: After dissolving one house of representatives, they have refused to call another, so that for a great length of time, the legislature provided by the laws has been out of existence. From the nature of things, every society must at all times possess within itself the sovereign powers of legislation. The feelings of human nature revolt against the supposition of a state so situated as that it may not in any emergency provide against dangers which perhaps threatened immediate ruin. While those bodies are in existence to whom the people have delegated the powers of legislation, they alone possess and may exercise those powers; but when they are dissolved by the lopping off one or more of their branches, the power reverts to the people, who may exercise it to unlimited extent, either assembling together in person, sending deputies, or in any other way they may think proper. We forbear to trace consequences further; the dangers are conspicuous with which this practice is replete.
That we shall at this time take notice of an error in the nature of our land holdings, which crept in at a very early period of our settlement. The introduction of the feudal tenures into the kingdom of England, though ancient, is well enough understood to set this matter in a proper light. In the earlier ages of the Saxon settlement feudal holdings were  certainly altogether unknown; and very few, if any, had been introduced at the time of the Norman conquest. Our Saxon ancestors held their lands, as they did their personal property, in absolute dominion, disencumbered with any superior, answering nearly to the nature of those possessions which the feudalists term allodial. William, the Norman, first introduced that system generally. The land which had belonged to those who fell in the battle of Hastings, and in the subsequent insurrections of his reign, formed a considerable proportion of the lands of the whole kingdom. These he granted out, subject to feudal duties, as did he also those of a great number of his new subjects, who, by persuasions or threats, were induced to surrender them for that purpose. But still much was left in the hands of his Saxon subjects; held of no superior and not subject to feudal conditions. These, therefore, by express laws, enacted to render uniform the system of military defence, were made liable to the same military duties as if they had been feuds; and the Norman lawyers soon found means to saddle them also with all the other feudal burthens. But still they had not been surrendered to the king, they were not derived from his grant, and therefore they were not holden of him. A general principle indeed, was introduced, that “all lands in England were held either mediately or immediately of the crown,” but this was borrowed from those holdings, which were truly feudal, and only applied to others for the purposes of illustration. Feudal holdings were therefore but exceptions out of the Saxon laws of possession, under which all lands were held in absolute right. These, therefore, still form the basis, or groundwork, of the common law, to prevail wheresoever the exceptions have taken place. America was not conquered by William the Norman, nor its lands surrendered to him, or any of his successors. Possessions there are undoubtedly of the allodial nature. Our ancestors, however, who emigrated hither, were farmers, not lawyers. The fictitious principle that all lands belong originally to the king, they were early persuaded to believe  real; and accordingly took grants of their own lands from the crown. And while the crown continued to grant for small sums, and on reasonable rents, there was no inducement to arrest the error, and lay it open to the public view. But his majesty has lately taken on him to advance the terms of purchase, and of holding to the double of what they were, by which means the acquisition of lands being rendered difficult, the population of our country is likely to be checked. It is time, therefore, for us to lay this matter before his majesty, and to declare that he has no right to grant lands of himself. From the nature and purpose of civil institutions, all the lands within the limits which any particular society has circumscribed around itself are assumed by that society, and subject to their allotment only. This may be done by themselves assembled collectively, or by their legislature, to whom they may have delegated sovereign authority; and if they are alloted in either of these ways, each individual of the society may appropriate to himself such lands as he finds vacant, and occupancy will give him title.
That in order to force the arbitrary measures before complained of, his majesty has from time to time sent among us large bodies of armed forces, not made up of the people here, nor raised by the authority of our laws. Did his majesty possess such a right as this, it might swallow up all our other rights whenever he should think proper. But his majesty has no right to land a single armed man on our shores, and those whom he sends here are liable to our laws made for the suppression and punishment of riots, and unlawful assemblies; or are hostile bodies, invading us in defiance of the law. When in the course of the late war it became expedient that a body of Hanoverian troops should be brought over for the defence of Great Britain, his majesty’s grandfather, our late sovereign, did not pretend to introduce them under any authority he possessed. Such a measure would have given just alarm to his subjects in Great Britain, whose liberties would not be safe if armed men of another country, and of another spirit, might be brought into the realm at any time without the con-sent of their legislature. He therefore applied to parliament, who passed an act for that purpose, limiting the number to be brought in, and the time they were to continue. In like manner is his majesty restrained in every part of the empire. He possesses, indeed, the executive power of the laws in every state, but they are the laws of the particular state which he is to administer within that state, and not those of any one within the limits of another. Every state must judge for itself the number of armed men which they may safely trust among them, of whom they are to consist, and under what restrictions they shall be laid.
To render these proceedings still more criminal against our laws, instead of subjecting the military to the civil powers, his majesty has expressly made the civil subordinate to the military. But can his majesty thus put down all law under his feet? Can he erect a power superior to that which erected himself? He has done it indeed by force, but let him remember that force cannot give right.
That these are our grievances which we have thus laid before his majesty, with that freedom of language and sentiment which becomes a free people claiming their rights, as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate: Let those flatter who fear, it is not an American art. To give praise which is not due might be well from the venal, but would ill beseem those who are asserting the rights of human nature. They know, and will therefore say, that kings are the servants, not the proprietors of the people. Open your breast, sire, to liberal and expanded thought. Let not the name of George the third be a blot in the page of history. Your are surrounded by English counsellors, but remember that they are parties. You have no minister for American affairs, because you have none taken up from among us, nor amenable to the laws on which they are to give you advice. It behooves you, therefore, to think and to act for yourself and your people. The great principles of right and wrong are legible to every reader; to pursue them requires not the aid of many counsellors. The whole art of government consists  in the art of being honest. Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail. No longer persevere in sacrificing the rights of one part of the empire to the inordinate desires of another; but deal out to all equal and impartial right. Let no act be passed by any one legislature which may infringe on the rights and liberties of another. This is the important post in which fortune has placed you, holding the balance of a great, if a well poised empire. This, sire, is the advice of your great American council, on the observance of which may perhaps depend your felicity and future fame, and the preservation of that harmony which alone can continue both in Great Britain and America the reciprocal advantages of their connection. It is neither our wish nor our interest to separate from her. We are willing, on our part, to sacrifice everything which reason can ask to the restoration of that tranquillity for which all must wish. On their part, let them be ready to establish union and a generous plan. Let them name their terms, but let them be just. Accept of every commercial preference it is in our power to give for such things as we can raise for their use, or they make for ours. But let them not think to exclude us from going to other markets to dispose of those commodities which they cannot use, or to supply those wants which they cannot supply. Still less let it be proposed that our properties within our own territories shall be taxed or regulated by any power on earth but our own. The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them. This, sire, is our last, our determined resolution; and that you will be pleased to interpose with that efficacy which your earnest endeavors may ensure to procure redress of these our great grievances to quiet the minds of your subjects in British America, against any apprehensions of future encroachment, to establish fraternal love and harmony through the whole empire, and that these may continue to the last ages of time, is the fervent prayer of all British America.
3. Hamilton, A Full Vindication
Source of this extract: Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 1.
Accessed from http://app.libraryofliberty.org/title/1378/64142 on 2007-09-12
A FULL VINDICATION of the
Measures of Congress from the calumnies of their enemies, in answer to a letter under the signature of a Westchester Farmer; whereby his sophistry is exposed, his cavils confuted, his artifices detected, and his wit ridiculed, in a General Address to the inhabitants of America, and a Particular Address to the Farmers of the Province of New York. Veritas magna est et prevalebit—Truth is powerful and will prevail. New York: printed by James Rivington: 1774.
A FULL VINDICATION.
DECEMBER 15, 1774.
Friends and Countrymen:
It was hardly to be expected that any man could be so presumptuous as openly to controvert the equity, wisdom, and authority of the measures adopted by the Congress—an assembly truly respectable on every account, whether we consider the characters of the men who composed it, the number and dignity of their constituents, or the important ends for which they were appointed. But, however improbable such a degree of presumption might have seemed, we find there are some in whom it exists. Attempts are daily making to diminish the influence of their decisions, and prevent the salutary effects intended by them. The impotence of such insidious efforts is evident from the general indignation they are treated with; so that no material ill-consequences can be dreaded from them. But lest they should have a tendency to mislead, and prejudice the minds of a few, it cannot be deemed altogether useless to bestow some notice upon them.
And first, let me ask these restless spirits, Whence arises that violent antipathy they seem to entertain, not only to the natural rights of mankind, but to common-sense and common modesty? That they are enemies to the natural rights of mankind is manifest, because they wish to see one part of their species enslaved by another. That they have an invincible aversion to common-sense is apparent in many respects: they endeavor to persuade us that the absolute sovereignty of Parliament does not imply our absolute slavery; that it is a Christian duty to submit to be plundered of all we have, merely because some of our fellow-subjects are wicked enough to require it of us; that slavery, so far from being a great evil, is a great blessing; and even that our contest with Britain is founded entirely upon the petty duty of three pence per pound on East India tea, whereas the whole world knows it is built upon this interesting question, whether the inhabitants of Great Britain have a right to dispose of the lives and properties of the inhabitants of America, or not. And lastly, that these men have discarded all pretension to common modesty, is clear from hence: first, because they, in the plainest terms, call an august body of men, famed for their patriotism and abilities, fools or knaves; and of course the people whom they represented cannot be exempt from the same opprobrious appellations; and secondly, because they set themselves up as standards of wisdom and probity, by contradicting and censuring the public voice in favor of those men.
A little consideration will convince us that the Congress, instead of having “ignorantly misunderstood, carelessly neglected, or basely betrayed the interests of the colonies,” have, on the contrary, devised and recommended the only effectual means to secure the freedom, and establish the future prosperity of America upon a solid basis. If we are not free and happy hereafter, it must proceed from the want of integrity and resolution in executing what they have concerted, not from the temerity or impolicy of their determinations.
Before I proceed to confirm this assertion by the most obvious arguments, I will premise a few brief remarks. The only distinction between freedom and slavery consists in this: In the former state a man is governed by the laws to which he has given his consent, either in person or by his representative; in the latter, he is governed by the will of another. In the one case, his life and property are his own; in the other, they depend upon the pleasure of his master. It is easy to discern which of these two states is preferable. No man in his senses can hesitate in choosing to be free, rather than a slave.
That Americans are entitled to freedom is incontestable on every rational principle. All men have one common original: they participate in one common nature, and consequently have one common right. No reason can be assigned why one man should exercise any power or pre-eminence over his fellow-creatures more than another; unless they have voluntarily vested him with it. Since, then, Americans have not, by any act of theirs, empowered the British Parliament to make laws for them, it follows they can have no just authority to do it.
Besides the clear voice of natural justice in this respect, the fundamental principles of the English constitution are in our favor. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the idea of legislation or taxation, when the subject is not represented, is inconsistent with that. Nor is this all; our charters, the express conditions on which our progenitors relinquished their native countries, and came to settle in this, preclude every claim of ruling and taxing us without our assent.
Every subterfuge that sophistry has been able to invent, to evade or obscure this truth, has been refuted by the most conclusive reasonings; so that we may pronounce it a matter of undeniable certainty, that the pretensions of Parliament are contradictory to the law of nature, subversive of the British constitution, and destructive of the faith of the most solemn compacts.
What, then, is the subject of our controversy with the mother country? It is this: Whether we shall preserve that security to our lives and properties, which the law of nature, the genius of the British constitution, and our charters, afford us; or whether we shall resign them into the hands of the British House of Commons, which is no more privileged to dispose of them than the Great Mogul. What can actuate those men who labor to delude any of us into an opinion that the object of contention between the parent state and the colonies is only three pence duty upon tea; or that the commotions in America originate in a plan, formed by some turbulent men, to erect it into a republican government? The Parliament claims a right to tax us in all cases whatsoever; its late acts are in virtue of that claim. How ridiculous, then, is it to affirm that we are quarrelling for the trifling sum of three pence a pound on tea, when it is evidently the principle against which we contend.
The design of electing members to represent us in general Congress was, that the wisdom of America might be collected in devising the most proper and expedient means to repel this atrocious invasion of our rights. It has been accordingly done. Their decrees are binding upon all, and demand a religious observance.
We did not, especially in this province, circumscribe them by any fixed boundary; and therefore, as they cannot be said to have exceeded the limits of their authority, their act must be esteemed the act of their constituents. If it should be objected that they have not answered the end of their election, but have fallen upon an improper and ruinous mode of proceeding, I reply by asking, Who shall be the judge? Shall any individual oppose his private sentiment to the united counsels of men in whom America has reposed so high a confidence? The attempt must argue no small degree of arrogance and self-sufficiency.
Yet this attempt has been made; and it is become, in some measure, necessary to vindicate the conduct of this venerable assembly from the aspersions of men who are their adversaries only because they are foes to America.
When the political salvation of any community is depending, it is incumbent upon those who are set up as its guardians to embrace such measures as have justice, vigor, and a probability of success to recommend them. If, instead of this, they take those methods which are in themselves feeble and little likely to succeed, and may, through a defect in vigor, involve the community in a still greater danger, they may be justly considered as its betrayers. It is not enough, in times of imminent peril, to use only possible means of preservation. Justice and sound policy dictate the use of probable means.
The only scheme of opposition suggested by those who have been and are averse from a non-importation and non-exportation agreement, is by remonstrance and petition. The authors and abettors of this scheme have never been able to invent a single argument to prove the likelihood of its succeeding. On the other hand, there are many standing facts and valid considerations against it.
In the infancy of the present dispute, we had recourse to this method only. We addressed the throne in the most loyal and respectful manner, in a legislative capacity; but what was the consequence? Our address was treated with contempt and neglect. The first American Congress did the same, and met with similar treatment. The total repeal of the stamp act, and the partial repeal of the revenue acts, took place not because the complaints of America were deemed just and reasonable, but because these acts were found to militate against the commercial interests of Great Britain. This was the declared motive of the repeal.
These instances are sufficient for our purpose; but they derive greater validity and force from the following:
The legal assembly of Massachusetts Bay presented, not long since, a most humble, dutiful, and earnest petition to his Majesty, requesting the dismission of a governor highly odious to the people, and whose misrepresentations they regarded as one chief source of all their calamities. Did they succeed in their request? No—it was treated with the greatest indignity, and stigmatized as “a seditious, vexatious, and scandalous libel.”
I know the men I have to deal with will acquiesce in this stigma. Will they also dare to calumniate the noble and spirited petition that came from the Mayor and Aldermen of the city of London? Will they venture to justify the unparalleled stride of power by which Popery and arbitrary dominion were established in Canada? The citizens of London remonstrated against it; they signified its repugnancy to the principles of the revolution; but, like ours, their complaints were unattended to. From thence we may learn how little dependence ought to be placed on this method of obtaining the redress of grievances.
There is less reason now than ever to expect deliverance, in this way, from the hand of oppression. The system of slavery, fabricated against America, cannot, at this time, be considered as the effect of inconsideration and rashness. It is the offspring of mature deliberation. It has been fostered by time and strengthened by every artifice human subtility is capable of. After the claims of Parliament had lain dormant for a while, they are again resumed and prosecuted with more than common ardor. The Premier has advanced too far to recede with safety. He is deeply interested to execute his purpose, if possible. We know he has declared that he will never desist till he has brought America to his feet; and we may conclude nothing but necessity will induce him to abandon his aims. In common life, to retract an error, even in the beginning, is no easy task; perseverance confirms us in it, and rivets the difficulty. But in a public station, to have been in an error and to have persisted in it when it is detected, ruins both reputation and fortune. To this we may add, that disappointment and opposition inflame the minds of men and attach them still more to their mistakes.
What can we represent which has not already been represented? What petitions can we offer that have not already been offered? The rights of America and the injustice of Parliamentary pretensions have been clearly and repeatedly stated, both in and out of Parliament. No new arguments can be framed to operate in our favor. Should we even resolve the errors of the Ministry and Parliament into the fallibility of human understanding, if they have not yet been convinced we have no prospect of being able to do it by anything further we can say. But if we impute their conduct to a wicked thirst of domination and disregard to justice, we have no hope of prevailing with them to alter it by expatiating on our rights and suing to their compassion for relief; especially since we have found, by various experiments, the inefficacy of such methods. Upon the whole, it is morally certain this mode of opposition would be fruitless and defective. The exigency of the times requires vigorous and probable remedies; not weak and improbable. It would, therefore, be the extreme of folly to place any confidence in, much less confine ourselves wholly to, it.
This being the case, we can have no resource but in a restriction of our trade, or in a resistance vi et armis. It is impossible to conceive any other alternative. Our Congress, therefore, have imposed what restraint they thought necessary. Those who condemn or clamor against it do nothing more nor less than advise us to be slaves.
I shall now examine the principal measures of the Congress, and vindicate them fully from the charge of injustice or impolicy.
Were I to argue in a philosophical manner, I might say the obligation to a mutual intercourse in the way of trade, with the inhabitants of Great Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies, is of the imperfect kind. There is no law, either of nature or of the civil society in which we live, that obliges us to purchase and make use of the products and manufactures of a different land or people. It is indeed a dictate of humanity to contribute to the support and happiness of our fellow creatures, and more especially those who are allied to us by the ties of blood, interest, and mutual protection; but humanity does not require us to sacrifice our own security and welfare to the convenience or advantage of others. Self-preservation is the first principle of our nature. When our lives and properties are at stake, it would be foolish and unnatural to refrain from such measures as might preserve them because they would be detrimental to others.
But we are justified upon another principle besides this. Though the manufacturers of Great Britain and Ireland and the inhabitants of the West Indies are not chargeable with any actual crime toward America, they may, in a political view, be esteemed criminal. In a civil society it is the duty of each particular branch to promote not only the good of the whole community, but the good of every other particular branch. If one part endeavors to violate the rights of another, the rest ought to assist in preventing the injury. When they do not but remain neutral, they are deficient in their duty, and may be regarded, in some measure, as accomplices.
The reason of this is obvious from the design of civil society; which is, that the united strength of the several members might give stability and security to the whole body, and each respective member; so that one part cannot encroach upon another without becoming a common enemy, and eventually endangering the safety and happiness of all the other parts.
Since, then, the persons who will be distressed by the methods we are using for our own protection, have, by their neutrality, first committed a breach of an obligation similar to that which bound us to consult their emolument, it is plain the obligation upon us is annulled, and we are blameless in what we are about to do.
With respect to the manufacturers of Great Britain, they are criminal in a more particular sense. Our oppression arises from that member of the great body politic of which they compose a considerable part. So far as their influence has been wanting to counteract the iniquity of their rulers, so far they acquiesced in it, and are deemed to be confederates in their guilt. It is impossible to exculpate a people that suffers its rulers to abuse and tyrannize over others.
It may not be amiss to add, that we are ready to receive with open arms any who may be sufferers by the operation of our measures, and recompense them with every blessing our country affords to honest industry. We will receive them as brethren, and make them sharers with us in all the advantages we are struggling for.
From these plain and indisputable principles, the mode of opposition we have chosen is reconcilable to the strictest maxims of justice. It remains now to be examined whether it has also the sanction of good policy.
To render it agreeable to good policy, three things are requisite. First, that the necessity of the times requires it; secondly, that it be not the probable source of greater evils than those it pretends to remedy; and lastly, that it have a probability of success.
That the necessity of the times demands it, needs but little elucidation. We are threatened with absolute slavery. It has been proved that resistance by means of remonstrance and petition would not be efficacious, and, of course, that a restriction on our trade is the only peaceable method in our power to avoid the impending mischief. It follows, therefore, that such a restriction is necessary.
That it is not the probable source of greater evils than those it pretends to remedy, may easily be determined. The most abject slavery, which comprehends almost every species of human misery, is what it is designed to prevent.
The consequences of the means are a temporary stagnation of commerce, and thereby a deprivation of the luxuries and some of the conveniences of life. The necessaries and many of the conveniences our own fertile and propitious soil affords us.
No person that has enjoyed the sweets of liberty can be insensible of its infinite value, or can reflect on its reverse without horror and detestation. No person that is not lost to every generous feeling of humanity, or that is not stupidly blind to his own interest, could bear to offer himself and posterity as victims at the shrine of despotism, in preference to enduring the short-lived inconveniences that may result from an abridgment, or even entire suspension, of commerce.
Were not the disadvantages of slavery too obvious to stand in need of it, I might enumerate and describe the tedious train of calamities inseparable from it. I might show that it is fatal to religion and morality; that it tends to debase the mind, and corrupt its noblest springs of action. I might show that it relaxes the sinews of industry, clips the wings of commerce, and introduces misery and indigence in every shape.
Under the auspices of tyranny the life of the subject is often sported with, and the fruits of his daily toil are consumed in oppressive taxes, that serve to gratify the ambition, avarice, and lusts of his superiors. Every court minion riots in the spoils of the honest laborer, and despises the hand by which he is fed. The page of history is replete with instances that loudly warn us to beware of slavery.
Rome was the nurse of freedom. She was celebrated for her justice and lenity; but in what manner did she govern her dependent provinces? They were made the continual scene of rapine and cruelty. From thence let us learn how little confidence is due to the wisdom and equity of the most exemplary nations.
Should Americans submit to become the vassals of their fellow-subjects in Great Britain, their yoke will be peculiarly grievous and intolerable. A vast majority of mankind is entirely biased by motives of self-interest. Most men are glad to remove any burthens off themselves, and place them upon the necks of their neighbors. We cannot, therefore, doubt but that the British Parliament, with a view to the ease and advantage of itself and its constituents, would oppress and grind the Americans as much as possible. Jealousy would concur with selfishness; and for fear of the future independence of America, if it should be permitted to rise to too great a height of splendor and opulence, every method would be taken to drain it of its wealth and restrain its prosperity. We are already suspected of aiming at independence, and that is one principal cause of the severity we experience. The same cause will always operate against us, and produce a uniform severity of treatment.
The evils which may flow from the execution of our measures, if we consider them with respect to their extent and duration, are comparatively nothing. In all human probability they will scarcely be felt. Reason and experience teach us that the consequences would be too fatal to Great Britain to admit of delay. There is an immense trade between her and the colonies. The revenues arising from thence are prodigious. The consumption of her manufactures in these colonies supplies the means of subsistence to a vast number of her most useful inhabitants. The experiment we have made heretofore shows us of how much importance our commercial connection is to her, and gives us the highest assurance of obtaining immediate redress by suspending it.
From these considerations it is evident she must do something decisive. She must either listen to our complaints and restore us to a peaceful enjoyment of our violated rights, or she must exert herself to enforce her despotic claims by fire and sword. To imagine she would prefer the latter implies a charge of the grossest infatuation, of madness itself. Our numbers are very considerable; the courage of Americans has been tried and proved. Contests for liberty have ever been found the most bloody, implacable, and obstinate. The disciplined troops Great Britain could send against us would be but few. Our superiority in number would overbalance our inferiority in discipline. It would be a hard, if not impracticable, task to subjugate us by force.
Besides, while Great Britain was engaged in carrying on an unnatural war against us, her commerce would be in a state of decay. Her revenues would be decreasing. An armament, sufficient to enslave America, would put her to an insupportable expense.
She would be laid open to the attacks of foreign enemies. Ruin, like a deluge, would pour in from every quarter. After lavishing her blood and treasure to reduce us to a state of vassalage, she would herself become a prey to some triumphant neighbor.
These are not imaginary mischiefs. The colonies contain above three millions of people. Commerce flourishes with the most rapid progress throughout them. This commerce Great Britain has hitherto regulated to her own advantage. Can we think the annihilation of so exuberant a source of wealth a matter of trifling import? On the contrary, must it not be productive of the most disastrous effects? It is evident it must. It is equally evident, that the conquest of so numerous a people, armed in the animating cause of liberty, could not be accomplished without an inconceivable expense of blood and treasure.
We cannot, therefore, suspect Great Britain to be capable of such frantic extravagance as to hazard these dreadful consequences; without which, she must necessarily desist from her unjust pretensions, and leave us in the undisturbed possession of our privileges.
Those who affect to ridicule the resistance America might make to the military force of Great Britain, and represent its humiliation as a matter the most easily to be achieved, betray either a mind clouded by the most irrational prejudices, or a total ignorance of human nature. However, it must be the wish of every honest man never to see a trial.
But should we admit a possibility of a third course, as our pamphleteer supposes,—that is, the endeavoring to bring us to a compliance by putting a stop to our whole trade, even this would not be so terrible as he pretends. We can live without trade of any kind. Food and clothing we have within ourselves. Our climate produces cotton, wool, flax, and hemp; which, with proper cultivation, would furnish us with summer apparel in abundance. The article of cotton, indeed, would do more; it would contribute to defend us from the inclemency of winter. We have sheep, which, with due care in improving and increasing them, would soon yield a sufficiency of wool. The large quantity of skins we have among us would never let us want a warm and comfortable suit. It would be no unbecoming employment for our daughters to provide silks of their own country. The silkworm answers as well here as in any part of the world. Those hands which may be deprived of business by the cessation of commerce, may be occupied in various kinds of manufactures and other internal improvements. If, by the necessity of the thing, manufactures should once be established, and take root among us, they will pave the way still more to the future grandeur and glory of America; and, by lessening its need of external commerce, will render it still securer against the encroachments of tyranny.
It is, however, chimerical to imagine, that the circumstances of Great Britain will admit of such a tardy method of subjugating us, for reasons which have been already given, and which shall be corroborated by others equally forcible.
I come now to consider the last and principal ingredient that constitutes the policy of a measure, which is, a probability of success. I have been obliged to anticipate this part of my subject in considering the second requisite; and, indeed, what I have already said seems to me to leave no room for doubting that the means we have used will be successful; but I shall here examine the matter more thoroughly, and endeavor to evince it more fully.
The design of the Congress in their proceedings, it cannot and need not be denied, was, either, by a prospect of the evil consequences, to influence the ministry to give up their enterprise, or, should they prove inflexible, to affect the inhabitants of Great Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies in such a manner as to rouse them from their state of neutrality, and engage them to unite with us in opposing the lawless hand of tyranny, which is extended to ravish our liberty from us, and might soon be extended for the same purpose against them.
The Farmer mentions, as one probable consequence of our measures, “clamors, discord, confusion, mobs, riots, insurrections, rebellions in Great Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies”; though at the same time he thinks it is, he also thinks it is not, a probable consequence. For my part, without hazarding any such seeming contradictions, I shall, in a plain way, assert that I verily believe a non-importation and a non-exportation will effect all the purposes they are intended for.
It is no easy matter to make any tolerably exact estimate of the advantages that accrue to Great Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies from their commercial intercourse with the colonies; nor, indeed, is it necessary. Every man, the least acquainted with the state and extent of our trade, must be convinced it is the source of immense revenues to the parent state, and gives employment and bread to a vast number of his Majesty's subjects. It is impossible but that a suspension of it, for any time, must introduce beggary and wretchedness, in an eminent degree, both in England and Ireland. And as to the West India plantations, they could not possibly subsist without us. I am the more confident of this, because I have a pretty general acquaintance with their circumstances and dependencies.
We are told, “that it is highly improbable we shall succeed in distressing the people of Great Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies so far as to oblige them to join with us in getting the acts of Parliament which we complain of repealed. The first distress,” it is said, “will fall on ourselves; it will be more severely felt by us than any part of his Majesty's dominions, and will affect us the longest. The fleets of Great Britain command respect throughout the globe. Her influence extends to every part of the earth. Her manufactures are equal to any, superior to most, in the world. Her wealth is great. Her people enterprising and persevering in their attempts to extend, and enlarge, and protect her trade. The total loss of our trade will be felt only for a time. Her merchants would turn their attention another way; new sources of trade and wealth would be opened; new schemes pursued. She would soon find a vent for all her manufactures in spite of all we could do. Our malice would hurt only ourselves. Should our schemes distress some branches of her trade, it would be only for a time; and there is ability and humanity enough in the nation to relieve those that are distressed by us, and put them in some other way of getting their living.”
The omnipotency and all-sufficiency of Great Britain may be pretty good topics for her passionate admirers to exercise their declamatory powers upon, for amusement and trial of skill; but they ought not to be proposed to the world as matters of truth and reality. In the calm, unprejudiced eye of reason, they are altogether visionary. As to her wealth, it is notorious that she is oppressed with a heavy national debt, which it requires the utmost policy and economy ever to discharge. Luxury has arrived to a great pitch; and it is a universal maxim, that luxury indicates the declension of a state. Her subjects are loaded with the most enormous taxes. All circumstances agree in declaring their distress. The continual emigrations from Great Britain and Ireland to the continent are a glaring symptom that those kingdoms are a good deal impoverished.
The attention of Great Britain has hitherto been constantly awake to expand her commerce. She has been vigilant to explore every region with which it might be her interest to trade. One of the principal branches of her commerce is with the colonies. These colonies, as they are now settled and peopled, have been the work of near two centuries. They are blessed with every advantage of soil, climate, and situation. They have advanced with an almost incredible rapidity. It is, therefore, an egregious piece of absurdity to affirm, that the loss of our trade would be felt for a time (which must only signify for a short time). No new schemes could be pursued that would not require, at least, as much time to repair the loss of our trade, as was spent in bringing it to its present degree of perfection, which is near two centuries. Nor can it be reasonably imagined, that the total and sudden loss of so extensive and lucrative a branch would not produce the most violent effects to a nation that subsists entirely upon its commerce.
It is said “there is ability and humanity enough in the nation to relieve those who are distressed by us, and to put them into some other way of getting their living.” I wish the gentleman had obliged his readers so much as to have pointed out this other way. I must confess, I have racked my brains to no purpose to discover it; and I am fully of opinion it is purely ideal. Besides the common mechanic arts, which are subservient to the ordinary uses of life, and which are the instruments of commerce, I know no other ways, in time of peace, in which men can be employed, except in agriculture and the liberal arts. Persons employed in the mechanic arts are those whom the abridgment of commerce would immediately affect; and as to such branches as might be less affected, they are already sufficiently stocked with workmen, and could give bread to no more. Not only so, but I can’t see by what legerdemain a weaver, a clothier, could be at once converted into a carpenter or blacksmith. With respect to agriculture, the lands of Great Britain and Ireland have been long ago distributed and taken up; nor do they require any additional laborers to till them, so that there could be no employment in this way. The liberal arts cannot maintain those who are already devoted to them; not to say, it is more than probable, the generality of mechanics would make but indifferent philosophers, poets, painters, and musicians.
What poor shifts is sophistry obliged to have recourse to! We are threatened with the resentment of those against whom our measures will operate. It is said that “instead of conciliating we shall alienate the affections of the people of Great Britain; of friends, we shall make them our enemies.” And further, that “we shall excite the resentment of the government at home against us, which will do us no good, but, on the contrary, much harm.”
Soon after we are told that “we shall probably raise the resentment of the Irish and West Indians. The passions of human nature,” it is said, “are much the same in all countries. If they find us disposed wantonly to distress them, to serve our own purposes, they will look out for some method to do without us. Will they not look elsewhere for a supply of those articles they used to take from us? They would deserve to be despised for their meanness, did they not.”
To these objections I reply, first, with respect to the inhabitants of Great Britain: that if they are our friends, as is supposed, and as we have reason to believe, they cannot, without being destitute of rationality, be incensed against us for using the only peaceable and probable means in our power to preserve our invaded rights. They know, by their own experience, how fruitless remonstrances and petitions are. They know we have tried them, over and over, to no purpose. They know also how dangerous to their liberties the loss of ours must be. What, then, could excite their resentment, if they have the least regard to common justice? The calamities that threaten them proceed from the weakness or wickedness of their own rulers, which compels us to take the measures we do. The insinuation, that we wantonly distress them to serve our own purposes, is futile, and unsupported by a single argument. I have shown we could have no other resource; nor can they think our conduct such, without a degree of infatuation that it would be impossible to provide against, and therefore useless to consult. It is most reasonable to believe they will revenge the evils they may feel, on the true authors of them—on an aspiring and ill-judged ministry; not on us who act out of a melancholy necessity, and are the innocent causes in self-defence.
With respect to the ministry, it is certain that any thing which has a tendency to frustrate their designs will not fail to excite their displeasure. But since we have nothing to expect from their justice and lenity, it can be no objection to a measure that it tends to stir up their resentment. But their resentment (it is often said) may ruin us. The impossibility of doing that, without at the same time ruining Great Britain, is a sufficient security.
The same may be said with regard to the Irish and the West Indians, which has been said concerning the people of Great Britain. The Irish, in particular, by their own circumstances, will be taught to sympathize with us, and commend our conduct. Justice will direct their resentment to its proper objects.
It is true, self-love will prompt both the Irish and the West Indians to take every method in their power to escape the miseries they are in danger of. But what methods can they take? “The Irish,” it is said, “may be supplied with flaxseed from Holland, the Baltic, and the river St. Lawrence. Canada produces no inconsiderable quantity already.” And as to the West Indies, “they produce now many of the necessaries of life. The quantity may be easily increased. Canada will furnish them with many articles they now take from us: flour, lumber, horses, etc. Georgia, the Floridas, and the Mississippi abound in lumber; Nova Scotia, in fish.”
The Dutch are rivals to the English in their commerce. They make large quantities of fine linens, gauze, laces, etc., which require the flax to be picked before it comes to seed; for which reason, it is not in their power to raise much more seed than they want for their own use. Ireland has always had the surplus from them. They could, if they were ever so willing, enlarge their usual supplies but very little. It is, indeed, probable they may withhold them. They may choose to improve the occasion for the advancement of their own trade. They may take advantage of the scarcity of materials in Ireland, to increase and put off their own manufactures.
The Baltic has ever supplied Ireland with its flax; and she has been able to consume that, with all she could derive from other quarters.
As to Canada, I am well informed, it could at present afford but a very inconsiderable quantity. It has had little encouragement, hitherto, to raise that article; and, of course, has not much attended to it. The instances mentioned of seed being “bought up there at a low price, brought to New York, and sold to the Irish factors at a great advance,” does not prove there is any quantity raised there. Its cheapness proceeds from there being no demand for it; and where there was no demand, there was no inducement to cultivate it.
Upon the whole, it appears that the supplies of flax-seed which Ireland might draw elsewhere would be trifling, in comparison with those received from us, and not at all equivalent to her wants. But if this were not the case, if she might procure a sufficiency without our help, yet could she not do without us. She would want purchasers for her linens after they were manufactured; and where could she find any so numerous and wealthy as we are? I must refer it to the profound sagacity of Mr. A. W. Farmer to explore them. It is too arduous a task for me.
Much less could the West Indies subsist independent of us. Notwithstanding the continual imports from hence, there is seldom, or never, in any of the islands, a sufficient stock of provisions to last six months, which may give us an idea how great the consumption is. The necessaries they produce within themselves, when compared with the consumption, are scarcely worth mentioning. Very small portions of the land are appropriated to the production of such necessaries; indeed, it is too valuable to admit of it. Nor could the quantity be increased to any material degree, without applying the whole of the land to it. It is alleged that “Canada will furnish them with flour, lumber, horses, etc.,” and that “Georgia, the Floridas, and Mississippi abound in lumber; Nova Scotia, in fish.” These countries have been all along carrying on a trade to the West Indies as well as we; and can it be imagined that, alone, they will be able to supply them tolerably? The Canadians have been indolent, and have not improved their country as they ought to have done. The wheat they raise at present, over and above what they have occasion for themselves, would be found to go but little way among the islands. Those who think the contrary, must have mistaken notions of them. They must be unapprised of the number of souls they contain. Almost every one hundred and fifty or two hundred acres of land, exclusive of populous towns, comprehend a hundred people. It is not a small quantity of food that will suffice for so many. Ten or fifteen years’ diligence, I grant, might enable Canada to perform what is now expected from her; but, in the meantime, the West Indians might have the satisfaction of starving.
To suppose the best; which is, that by applying their cane-lands to the purpose of procuring sustenance, they may preserve themselves from starving; still, the consequences must be very serious or pernicious. The wealthy planters would but ill relish the loss of their crops; and such of them as were considerably in debt would be ruined. At any rate, the revenues of Great Britain would suffer a vast diminution.
The Farmer, I am inclined to hope, builds too much upon the present disunion of Canada, Georgia, the Floridas, the Mississippi, and Nova Scotia from other colonies. A little time, I trust, will awaken them from their slumbers, and bring them to a proper sense of their indiscretion. I please myself with the flattering prospect, that they will, erelong, unite in one indissoluble chain with the rest of the colonies. I cannot believe they will persist in such a conduct as must exclude them from the secure enjoyment of those heaven-descended immunities we are contending for.
There is one argument I have frequently heard urged, which it maybe of some use to invalidate. It is this: that if the mother country should be inclined to an accommodation of our disputes, we have, by our rash procedure, thrown an insurmountable obstacle in her way; we have made it disgraceful to her to comply with our requisitions, because they are proposed in a hostile manner.
Our present measures, I have proved, are the only peaceable ones we could place the least confidence in. They are the least exceptionable, upon the score of irritating Great Britain, of any our circumstances would permit. The Congress have petitioned his Majesty for the redress of grievances. They have, no doubt, addressed him in the most humble, respectful, and affectionate terms; assured him of their own loyalty and fidelity, and of the loyalty and fidelity of his American subjects in general; endeavored to convince him, that we have been misrepresented and abused; and expressed an earnest desire to see an amicable termination of the unhappy differences now existing. Can a pretext be wanting, in this case, to preserve the dignity of this parent state, and yet remove the complaints of the colonies? How easy would it be to overlook our particular agreements, and grant us redress in consequence of our petitions? It is easy to perceive there would be no difficulty in this respect.
I have omitted many considerations which might be adduced, to show the impolicy of Great Britain delaying to accommodate matters, and attempting to enforce submission, by cutting off all external sources of trade. To say all the subject allows would spin out this piece to an immoderate length. I shall therefore content myself with mentioning only three things more. First, it would be extremely hurtful to the commerce of Great Britain to drive us to the necessity of laying a regular foundation for manufactories of our own, which, if once established, could not easily, if at all, be undermined or abolished. Secondly, it would be very expensive to the nation to maintain a fleet for the purpose of blocking up our ports and destroying our trade; nor could she interrupt our intercourse with foreign climes without, at the same time, retrenching her own revenues; for she must then lose the duties and customs upon the articles we are wont to export to, and import from, them. Added to this, it would not be prudent to risk the displeasure of those nations, to whom our trade is useful and beneficial. And lastly, a perseverance in ill-treatment would naturally beget such deep-rooted animosities in America as might never be eradicated, and which might operate to the prejudice of the empire to the latest period.
Thus have I clearly proved, that the plan of opposition concerted by our Congress is perfectly consonant with justice and sound policy, and will, in all human probability, secure our freedom against the assaults of our enemies.
But, after all, it may be demanded, why they have adopted a non-exportation; seeing many arguments tend to show that a non-importation, alone, would accomplish the end desired.
I answer, that the continuance of our export is the only thing which could lessen, or retard, the efficacy of a non-importation. It is not, indeed, probable it should do that to any great degree; but it was advisable to provide against every possible obstruction. Besides this, the prospect of its taking place, and of the evils attendant upon it, will be a prevailing motive with the ministry to abandon their malignant schemes. It will also serve to convince them that we are not afraid of putting ourselves to any inconveniences sooner than be the victims of their lawless ambition.
The execution of this measure has been wisely deferred to a future time, because we have the greatest reason to think affairs will be settled without it, and because its consequences would be too fatal to be justified by anything but absolute necessity. This necessity there will be, should not our disputes terminate before the time allotted for its commencement.
Before I conclude this part of my address, I will answer two very singular interrogatories proposed by the Farmer. “Can we think,” says he, “to threaten, and bully, and frighten the supreme government of the nation into a compliance with our demands? Can we expect to force submission to our peevish and petulant humors, by exciting clamors and riots in England?” No, gentle sir. We neither desire nor endeavor to threaten, bully, or frighten any persons into a compliance with our demands. We have no peevish and petulant humors to be submitted to. All we aim at is, to convince your high and mighty master, the ministry, that we are not such asses as to let them ride us as they please. We are determined to show them that we know the value of freedom; nor shall their rapacity extort that inestimable jewel from us, without a manly and virtuous struggle. But for your part, sweet sir! though we cannot much applaud your wisdom, yet we are compelled to admire your valor, which leads you to hope you may be able to swear, threaten, bully, and frighten all America into a compliance with your sinister designs. When properly accoutred, and armed with your formidable hickory cudgel, what may not the ministry expect from such a champion? Alas for the poor committee gentlemen! How I tremble when I reflect on the many wounds and scars they must receive from your tremendous arm! Alas for their supporters and abettors! a very large part, indeed, of the continent,—but what of that? They must all be soundly drubbed with that confounded hickory cudgel; for surely you would not undertake to drub one of them, without knowing yourself able to treat all their friends and adherents in the same manner, since ’t is plain you would bring them all upon your back.
I am now to address myself in particular to the Farmers of New York.
My good countrymen
The reason I address myself to you, in particular, is not because I am one of your number, or connected with you in interest, more than with any other branch of the community. I love to speak the truth, and would scorn to prejudice you in favor of what I have to say, by taking upon me a fictitious character, as other people have done. I can venture to assure you the true writer of the piece signed A. W. Farmer, is not in reality a Farmer. He is some ministerial emissary, that has assumed the name to deceive you, and make you swallow the intoxicating potion he has prepared for you. But I have a better opinion of you than to think he will be able to succeed. I am persuaded you love yourselves and children better than to let any designing men cheat you out of your liberty and property, to serve their own purposes. You would be a disgrace to your ancestors, and the bitterest enemies to yourselves, and to your posterity, if you did not act like men, in protecting and defending those rights you have hitherto enjoyed.
I say, my friends, I do not address you in particular, because I have any greater connection with you than with other people. I despise all false pretensions and mean arts. Let those have recourse to dissimulation and falsehood, who can’t defend their cause without it. ’T is my maxim to let the plain, naked truth speak for itself: and if men won’t listen to it, ’t is their own fault: they must be contented to suffer for it. I am neither merchant nor farmer. I address you, because I wish well to my country, and of course to you, who are one chief support of it; and because an attempt has been made to lead you astray in particular. You are the men, too, who would lose most, should you be foolish enough to counteract the prudent measures our worth Congress has taken for the preservation of our liberties. Those who advise you to do it are not your friends, but your greatest foes. They would have you made slaves, that they may pamper themselves with the fruits of your honest labor. ’T is the Farmer who is most oppressed in all countries where slavery prevails.
You have seen how clearly I have proved, that a non-importation and a non-exportation are the only peaceable means in our power to save ourselves from the most dreadful state of slavery. I have shown there is not the least hope to be placed in any thing else. I have confuted all the principal cavils raised, by the pretended Farmer; and I hope, before I finish, to satisfy you, that he has attempted to frighten you with the prospect of evils which will never happen. This, indeed, I have, in a great measure, done already, by making appear the great probability, I may almost say, certainty, that our measures will procure us the most speedy redress.
Are you willing, then, to be slaves without a single struggle? Will you give up your freedom, or, which is the same thing, will you resign all security for your life and property, rather than endure some small present inconveniences? Will you not take a little trouble to transmit the advantages you now possess to those who are to come after you? I cannot doubt it. I would not suspect you of so much baseness and stupidity as to suppose the contrary.
Pray, who can tell me why a farmer in America is not as honest and good a man as a farmer in England? or why has not the one as good a right to what he has earned by his labor as the other? I can’t, for my life, see any distinction between them. And yet, it seems, the English farmers are to be governed and taxed by their own Assembly, or Parliament; and the American farmers are not. The former are to choose their own representatives from among themselves, whose interest is connected with theirs, and over whom they have proper control. The latter are to be loaded with taxes by men three thousand miles off; by men who have no interest or connections among them, but whose interest it will be to burden them as much as possible, and over whom they cannot have the least restraint. How do you like this doctrine, my friends? Are you ready to own the English farmers for your masters? Are you willing to acknowledge their right to take your property from you, and when they please? I know you scorn the thought. You had rather die than submit to it.
But some people try to make you believe we are disputing about the foolish trifle of three pence duty upon tea. They may as well tell you that black is white. Surely you can judge for yourselves. Is a dispute, whether the Parliament of Great Britain shall make what laws and impose what taxes they please upon us, or not; I say, is this a dispute about three pence duty upon tea? The man that affirms it deserves to be laughed at.
It is true, we are denying to pay the duty upon tea; but it is not for the value of the thing itself. It is because we cannot submit to that without acknowledging the principle upon which it is founded; and that principle is, a right to tax us in all cases whatsoever.
You have heretofore experienced the benefit of being taxed by your own Assemblies only. Your burdens are so light that you scarcely feel them. You’d soon find the difference, if you were once to let the Parliament have the management of these matters.
How would you like to pay four shillings a year, out of every pound your farms are worth, to be squandered (at least a great part of it) upon ministerial tools and court sycophants? What would you think of giving a tenth part of the yearly products of your lands to the clergy? Would you not think it very hard to pay ten shillings sterling, per annum, for every wheel of your wagons and other carriages; a shilling or two for every pane of glass in your houses; and two or three shillings for every one of your hearths? I might mention taxes upon your mares, cows, and many other things; but those I have already mentioned are sufficient. Methinks I see you stare, and hear you ask, how you could live, if you were to pay such heavy taxes. Indeed, my friends, I can’t tell you. You are to look out for that, and take care you do not run yourselves in the way of danger, by following the advice of those who want to betray you. This you may depend upon: if ever you let the Parliament carry its point, you will have these and more to pay. Perhaps, before long, your tables, and chairs, and platters, and dishes, and knives, and forks, and every thing else, would be taxed. Nay, I don’t know but they would find means to tax you for every child you got, and for every kiss your daughters received from their sweet-hearts; and, God knows, that would soon ruin you. The people of England would pull down the Parliament House, if their present heavy burdens were not transferred from them to you. Indeed, there is no reason to think the Parliament would have any inclination to spare you. The contrary is evident.
But being ruined by taxes is not the worst you have to fear. What security would you have for your lives? How can any of you be sure you would have the free enjoyment of your religion long? Would you put your religion in the power of any set of men living? Remember civil and religious liberty always go together: if the foundation of the one be sapped, the other will fall of course.
Call to mind one of our sister colonies, Boston. Reflect upon the situation of Canada; and then tell whether you are inclined to place any confidence in the justice and humanity of the Parliament. The port of Boston is blocked up, and an army planted in the town. An act has been passed to alter its charter; to prohibit its assemblies; to license the murder of its inhabitants; and to convey them from their own country to Great Britain to be tried for their lives. What was all this for? Just because a small number of people, provoked by an open and dangerous attack upon their liberties, destroyed a parcel of tea belonging to the East India Company. It was not public, but private property they destroyed. It was not the act of the whole province, but the act of a part of the citizens. Instead of trying to discover the perpetrators, and commencing a legal prosecution against them, the Parliament of Great Britain interfered in an unprecedented manner, and inflicted a punishment upon a whole province, “untried, unheard, unconvicted of any crime.” This may be justice, but it looks so much like cruelty, that a man of a humane heart would be more apt to call it by the latter than the former name.
The affair of Canada, if possible, is still worse. The English laws have been superseded by the French laws. The Romish faith is made the established religion of the land, and his Majesty is placed at the head of it. The free exercise of the Protestant faith depends upon the pleasure of the Governor and Council. The subject is divested of the right of trial by jury, and an innocent man may be imprisoned his whole life, without being able to obtain any trial at all. The Parliament was not contented with introducing arbitrary power and Popery in Canada, with its former limits; but they have annexed to it the vast tracts of land that surround all the colonies.
Does not your blood run cold, to think that an English Parliament should pass an act for the establishment of arbitrary power and Popery in such an extensive country? If they had any regard to the freedom and happiness of mankind, they would never have done it. If they had been friends to the Protestant cause, they would never have provided such a nursery for its great enemy; they would not have given such encouragement to Popery. The thought of their conduct, in this particular, shocks me. It must shock you, too, my friends. Beware of trusting yourselves to men who are capable of such an action! They may as well establish Popery in New York, and the other colonies, as they did in Canada. They had no more right to do it there than here.
Is it not better, I ask, to suffer a few present inconveniences, than to put yourselves in the way of losing every thing that is precious? Your lives, your property, your religion, are all at stake. I do my duty. I warn you of your danger. If you should still be so mad as to bring destruction upon yourselves; if you still neglect what you owe to God and man, you cannot plead ignorance in your excuse. Your consciences will reproach you for your folly; and your children's children will curse you.
You are told, the schemes of our Congress will ruin you. You are told, they have not considered your interest; but have neglected or betrayed you. It is endeavored to make you look upon some of the wisest and best men in America as rogues and rebels. What will not wicked men attempt! They will scruple nothing that may serve their purposes. In truth, my friends, it is very unlikely any of us shall suffer much; but let the worst happen, the farmers will be better off than other people.
Many of those that made up the Congress have large possessions in land, and may, therefore, be looked upon as farmers themselves. Can it be supposed they would be careless about the farmers’ interest, when they could not injure that without injuring themselves? You see the absurdity of such a supposition.
The merchants, and a great part of the tradesmen, get their living by commerce. These are the people that would be hurt most by putting a stop to it. As to the farmers, “they furnish food for the merchant and mechanic; the raw materials for most manufactures are the produce of their industry.” The merchants and mechanics are already dependent upon the farmers for their food; and if the non-importation should continue any time, they would be dependent upon them for their clothes also.
It is a false assertion that the merchants have imported more them usual this year. That report has been raised by your enemies, to poison your minds with evil suspicions. If our disputes be not settled within eighteen months, the goods we have among us will be consumed; and then the materials for making clothes must be had from you. Manufactures must be promoted with vigor; and a high price will be given for your wool, flax, and hemp. It will be your interest to pay the greatest care and attention to your sheep. Increase and improve the breed as much as possible. Kill them sparingly, and such only as will not be of use toward the increase and improvement of them. In a few months we shall know what we have to trust to. If matters be not accommodated by spring, enlarge the quantity of your flax and hemp. You will experience the benefit of it. All those articles will be very much wanted; they will bring a great deal higher price than they used to do. And while you are supplying the wants of the community, you will be enriching yourselves.
Should we hereafter find it necessary to stop our exports, you can apply more of your land to raising flax and hemp, and less of it to wheat, rye, etc. By which means, you will not have any of those latter articles to lie upon hand. There will be consumption for as much of the former as you can raise; and the great demand they will be in will make them very profitable to you.
Patience, good Mr. Critic! Kill them sparingly, I said. What objection have you to the phrase? You’ll tell me, it is not classical; but I affirm it is, and if you will condescend to look into Mr. Johnson's dictionary, you will find I have his authority for it. Pray, then, for the future spare your wit upon such occasions, otherwise the world will not be disposed to spare its ridicule. And though the man that spares nobody does not deserve to be spared himself, yet will I spare you for the present, and proceed to things of more importance.
Pardon me, my friends, for taking up your time with this digression, but I could not forbear stepping out of the way a little to show the world I am as able a critic and as good a punster as Mr. Farmer. I now return to the main point with pleasure.
It is insinuated, “that the bustle about non-importation, etc., has its rise, not from patriotism, but selfishness”, and is only made by the merchants, that they may get a high price for their goods.
By this time I flatter myself you are convinced that we are not disputing about trifles. It has been clearly proved to you, that we are contending for every thing dear in life; and that the measures adopted by the Congress, are the only ones which can save us from ruin. This is sufficient to confute that insinuation. But to confirm it, let me observe to you, that the merchants have not been the foremost to bring about a non-importation. All the members of the Congress were unanimous in it; and many of them were not merchants. The warmest advocates for it, everywhere, are not concerned in trade; and, as I have before remarked, the traders will be the principal sufferers, if it should continue any time.
But it is said it will not continue, because, “when the stores are like to become empty, they will have weight enough to break up the agreement.” I don’t think they would attempt it: but if they should, it is impossible a few mercenary men could have influence enough to make the whole body of the people give up the only plan their circumstances admit of for the preservation of their rights, and, of course, to forfeit all they have been so long striving to secure. The making of a non-importation agreement, did not depend upon the merchants; neither will the breaking of it depend upon them. The Congress have provided against the breach of the non-importation, by the non-consumption agreement. They have resolved for themselves, and us their constitutents, “not to purchase, nor use, any East India tea whatsoever; nor any goods, wares, or merchandise from Great Britain or Ireland, imported after the first of December; nor molasses, etc., from the West Indies; nor wine from Madeira or the Western Islands; nor foreign indigo.” If we do not purchase, nor use, these things, the merchant will have no inducement to import them.
Hence, you may perceive the reason of a non-consumption agreement. It is to put it out of the power of the dishonest men to break the non-importation. Is this a slavish regulation? Or is it a hardship upon us to submit to it? Surely not. Every sensible, every good man must approve of it. Whoever tries to disaffect you to it ought to meet with your contempt.
Take notice, my friends, how these men are obliged to contradict themselves. In one place you are told, “that all the bustle about non-importation, etc., has its rise, not from patriotism, but from selfishness”; or, in other words, that it is made by the merchants, to get a higher price for their goods. In another place it is said, “that all we are doing is instigated by some turbulent men, who want to establish a republican form of government among us.”
The Congress is censured for appointing committees to carry their measures into execution, and directing them “to establish such further regulations as they may think proper for that purpose.” Pray, did we not appoint our delegates to make regulations for us? What signified making them if they did not provide some persons to see them executed? Must a few bad men be left to do what they please, contrary to the general sense of the people, without any persons to control them, or to look into their behavior, and mark them out to the public? The man that desires to screen his knavery from the public eye will answer, Yes; but the honest man, that is determined to do nothing hurtful to his country, and who is conscious his actions will bear the light, will heartily answer, No.
The high prices of goods are held up, to make you dissatisfied with the non-importation. If the argument on this head were true, it would be much better to subject yourselves to that disadvantage for a time, than to bring upon yourselves all the mischiefs I have pointed out to you. Should you submit to the claim of the Parliament, you will not only be oppressed with the taxes upon your lands, etc., which I have already mentioned, but you will have to pay heavy taxes upon all the goods we import from Great Britain. Large duties will be laid upon them at home; and the merchants, of course, will have a greater price for them, or it would not be worth their while to carry on trade. The duty laid upon paper, glass, painters’ colors, etc., was a beginning of this kind. The present duty upon tea is preparatory to the imposition of duties upon all other articles. Do you think the Parliament would make such a serious matter of three pence a pound upon tea if it intended to stop there? It is absurd to imagine it. You would soon find your mistake if you did. For fear of paying a somewhat higher price to the merchants for a year or two you would have to pay an endless list of taxes, within and without, as long as you live, and your children after you.
But I trust there is no danger that the prices of goods will rise much, if at all. The same Congress that put a stop to the importation of them, has also forbid raising the prices of them. The same committee that is to regulate the one, is also to regulate the other. All care will be taken to give no cause of dissatisfaction. Confide in the men whom you, and the rest of the continent, have chosen the guardians of our common liberties. They are men of sense and virtue. They will do nothing but what is really necessary for the security of your lives and properties.
A sad pother is made, too, about prohibiting the exportation of sheep without excepting wethers. The poor Farmer is at a mighty loss to know how wethers can improve or increase the breed. Truly I am not such a conjurer as to be able to inform him, but, if you please, my friends, I can give you two pretty good reasons why the Congress have not excepted wethers. One is, that for sometime we shall have occasion for all the wool we can raise; so that it would be imprudent to export sheep of any kind. And the other is, that if you confine yourself chiefly to killing wethers, as you ought to do, you will have none to export. The gentleman who made the objection must have known these things as well as myself; but he loves to crack a jest, and could not pass by so fair an opportunity.
He takes notice of the first of these reasons himself; but in order to weaken its force cries: “Let me ask you, brother farmers, which of you would keep a flock of sheep barely for the sake of their wool?” To this he answers: “Not one of you. If you cannot sell your sheep to advantage, at a certain age, you cannot keep them to any profit.” He thinks, because he calls you “brother farmers,” that he can cajole you into believing what he pleases; but you are not the fools he takes you for. You know what is for your own interest better than he can tell you. And we all know that, in a little time, if our affairs be not settled, the demand for wool will be very great. You will be able to obtain such a price as will make it worth your while to bestow the greatest attention upon your sheep.
In another place this crafty writer tells you that “from the day our exports from this province are stopped, the farmers may date the commencement of their ruin.” He asks: “Will the shopkeeper give you his goods? Will the weaver, shoemaker, blacksmith, carpenter, work for you without pay?” I make no doubt you are satisfied, from what I have said, that we shall never have occasion to stop our exports; but if things turn out contrary to our expectation, and it should become necessary to take that step, you will find no difficulty in getting what you want from the merchants and mechanics. They will not be able to do without you; and, consequently, they cannot refuse to supply you with what you stand in need of from them. Where will the merchants and mechanics get food and material for clothing, if not from the farmer? And if they are dependent upon you for those two grand supports of life, how can they withhold what they have from you?
I repeat it, my friends, we shall know how matters are like to be settled by the spring. If our disputes be not terminated to our satisfaction by that time, it will be your business to plant large parts of your land with flax and hemp. Those articles will be wanted for manufactures; and they will yield you a greater profit than any thing else. In the interim, take good care of your sheep.
I heartily concur with the Farmer in condemning all illicit trade. Perjury is, no doubt, a most heinous and detestable crime; and, for my part, I had rather suffer any thing, than have my wants relieved at the expense of truth and integrity. I know there are many pretended friends to liberty who will take offence at this declaration; but I speak the sentiments of my heart without reserve. I do not write for a party. I should scorn to be of any. All I say is from a disinterested regard to the public weal.
The Congress, I am persuaded, were of the same opinion. They, like honest men, have, as much as was in their power, provided against this kind of trade, by agreeing to use no East India tea whatever after the first day of March next.
I shall now consider what has been said with respect to the payment of debts, and stopping of the courts of justice. Let what will happen, it will be your own faults if you are not able to pay your debts. I have told you in what manner you may make as much out of your lands as ever: by bestowing more of your attention upon raising flax and hemp, and less upon other things. Those articles (as I have more than once observed) will be in the highest demand. There will be no doing without them; and, of course, you will be able to get a very profitable price for them. How can it be, that the farmers should be at a loss for money to pay their debts at a time when the whole community must buy, not only their food, but all the materials for their clothes, from them? You have no reason to be uneasy on that account.
As to the courts of justice, no violence can, nor will, be used, to shut them up; but, if it should be found necessary, we may enter into solemn agreement to cease from all litigations at law, except in particular cases. We may regulate lawsuits in such a manner as to prevent any mischief that might arise from them. Restrictions may be laid on, to hinder merciless creditors from taking advantage of the times to oppress and ruin their debtors; but, at the same time, not to put it in the power of the debtors wantonly to withhold their just dues from their creditors when they are able to pay them. The law ruins many a good honest family. Disputes may be settled in a more friendly way. One or two virtuous neighbors may be chosen by each party to decide them. If the next Congress should think any regulations concerning the courts of justice requisite, they will make them; and proper persons will be appointed to carry them into execution, and to see that no individuals deviate from them. It will be your duty to elect persons whose fidelity and zeal for your interest you can depend upon, to represent you in that Congress, which is to meet in Philadelphia in May ensuing.
The Farmer cries: “Tell me not of delegates, congresses, committees, mobs, riots, insurrections, associations;—a plague on them all! Give me the steady, uniform, unbiased influence of the courts of justice. I have been happy under their protection; and, I trust in God, I shall be so again.”
I say: “Tell me not of the British commons, lords, ministry, ministerial tools, placemen, pensioners, parasites. I scorn to let my life and property depend upon the pleasure of any of them. Give me the steady, uniform, unshaken security of constitutional freedom. Give me the right to be tried by a jury of my own neighbors, and to be taxed by my own representatives only. What will become of the law and courts of justice without this? The shadow may remain, but the substance will be gone. I would die to preserve the law upon a solid foundation; but take away liberty, and the foundation is destroyed.”
The last thing I shall take notice of is the complaint of the Farmer, that the Congress will not allow you “a dish of tea to please your wives with, nor a glass of Madeira to cheer your spirits, nor a spoonful of molasses to sweeten your buttermilk with.” You would have a right to complain, if the use of these things had been forbidden to you alone; but it has been equally forbidden to all sorts of people. The members of the Congress themselves are no more permitted to please their wives with a dish of tea, nor to cheer their spirits with a glass of wine, nor to sweeten their buttermilk with a spoonful of molasses, than you are. They are upon a footing with you in this respect.
By Him—but, with your leave, my friends, we’ll try, if we can, to do without swearing. I say, it is enough to make a man mad to hear such ridiculous quibbles offered, instead of sound argument; but so it is,—the piece I am writing against contains nothing else.
When a man grows warm he has a confounded itch for swearing. I have been going, above twenty times, to rap out an oath, By Him that made me; but I have checked myself with the reflection, that it is rather unmannerly to treat Him that made us, with so much freedom.
Thus have I examined and confuted all the cavils and objections, of any consequence, stated by this Farmer. I have only passed over such things as are of little weight, the fallacy of which will easily appear. I have shown that the Congress have neither “ignorantly misunderstood, carelessly neglected, nor basely betrayed you,” but that they have devised and recommended the only effectual means to preserve your invaluable privileges. I have proved that their measures cannot fail of success, but will procure the most speedy relief for us. I have also proved that the farmers are the people who would suffer least, should we be obliged to carry all our measures into execution.
Will you, then, my friends, allow yourselves to be duped by this artful enemy? Will you follow his advices, disregard the authority of your Congress, and bring ruin on yourselves and your posterity? Will you act in such a manner as to deserve the hatred and resentment of all the rest of America? I am sure you will not. I should be sorry to think any of my countrymen would be so mean, so blind to their own interest, so lost to every generous and manly feeling.
The sort of men I am opposing give you fair words to persuade you to serve their own turns; but they think and speak of you, in common, in a very disrespectful manner. I have heard some of their party talk of you as the most ignorant and mean-spirited set of people in the world. They say that you have no sense of honor or generosity; that you don’t care a farthing about your country, children, nor any body else but yourselves; and that you are so ignorant as not to be able to look beyond the present, so that if you can once be persuaded to believe the measures of your Congress will involve you in some little present perplexities, you will be glad to do anything to avoid them, without considering the much greater miseries that await you at a little distance off. This is the character they give of you. Bad men are apt to paint others like themselves. For my part I will never entertain such an opinion of you, unless you should verify their words, by willfully falling into the pit they have prepared for you. I flatter myself you will convince them of their error by showing the world you are capable of judging what is right and left, and have resolution to pursue it.
All I ask is that you will judge for yourselves. I don’t desire you to take my opinion, nor any man's opinion, as the guide of your actions. I have stated a number of plain arguments. I have supported them with several well-known facts. It is your business to draw a conclusion, and act accordingly. I caution you, again and again, to beware of the men who advise you to forsake the plain path marked out for you by the Congress. They only mean to deceive and betray you. Our representatives in General Assembly cannot take any wiser or better course to settle our differences than our representatives in the Continental Congress have taken. If you join with the rest of America in the same common measure, you will be sure to preserve your liberties inviolate, but if you separate from them, and seek for redress alone, and unseconded, you will certainly fall a prey to your enemies, and repent your folly as long as you live.
May God give you wisdom to see what is your true interest, and inspire you with becoming zeal for the cause of virtue and mankind!