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Charles S. Hyneman, American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, vol. 1 [1983]

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Charles S. Hyneman, American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805, ed. Charles S. Hyneman and Donald Lutz (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983). 2 vols. Volume 1.

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About this Title:

These volumes provide a selection of seventy-six essays, pamphlets, speeches, and letters to newspapers written between 1760 and 1805 by American political and religious leaders. Many are obscure pieces that were previously available only in larger research libraries. But all illuminate the founding of the American republic and are essential reading for students and teachers of American political thought. The second volume includes an annotated bibliography of five hundred additional items for future reference. The subjects covered in this rich assortment of primary material range from constitutionalism, representation, and republicanism to freedom of the press, religious liberty, and slavery. Among the more noteworthy items reprinted, all in their entirety, are Stephen Hopkins, “The Rights of the Colonies Examined” (1764); Richard Bland, “An Inquiry into the Rights of the British Colonies” (1766); John Adams, “Thoughts on Government” (1776); Theophilus Parsons, “The Essex Result” (1778); James Madison, “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” (1785); James Kent, “An Introductory Lecture to a Course of Law Lectures” (1794); Noah Webster, “An Oration on the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence” (1802); and James Wilson, “On Municipal Law” (1804).

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The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [[i]]
American Political Writing during the Founding Era 1760-1805
Volume I
Liberty Fund
Edition: current; Page: [[ii]]

This book is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., a foundation established to encourage study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.


The cuneiform inscription that serves as our logo and as the design motif for our endpapers is the earliest-known written appearance of the word “freedom” (amagi), or “liberty.” It is taken from a clay document written about 2300 bc in the Sumerian city-state of Lagash.

© 1983 by Charles S. Hyneman and Donald S. Lutz. All rights reserved. This book was manufactured in the United States of America.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Main entry under title:

American political writing during the founding era, 1760-1805.

Includes bibliographies and index.

1. United States—Politics and government—Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775—Sources. 2. United States—Politics and government—Revolution, 1775-1783—Sources. 3. United States—Politics and government—1783-1809—Sources. I. Hyneman, Charles S., 1900-.

II. Lutz, Donald S., 1943-.

JK113.A716 1983 973.3. 82-24884

ISBN 0-86597-038-6 (set)

ISBN 0-86597-039-4 (v. 1)

ISBN 0-86597-040-8 (v. 2)

ISBN 0-86597-041-6 (pbk.: set)

ISBN 0-86597-042-4 (pbk.: v. 1)

ISBN 0-86597-043-2 (pbk.: v. 2)

94 93 92 91 90 C 6 5 4 3 2

01 00 99 98 97 P 7 6 5 4 3a

Edition: current; Page: [[iii]]

American Political Writing during the Founding Era 1760-1805

Edition: current; Page: [[iv]]


Works of Fisher Ames W.B. Allen, ed.

Union and Liberty John C. Calhoun

In Defense of the Constitution George W. Carey

American Political Writing During the Founding Era: 1760-1805 Charles S. Hyneman and Donald S. Lutz, eds.

Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805 Ellis Sandoz, ed.

George Washington: A Collection W.B. Allen, ed.

Edition: current; Page: [[v]]

Table of Contents

  • Preface, xi
  • Acknowledgments, xvii
  • volume i
    • [1] Abraham Williams, An Election Sermon, boston, 1762 3

      General principles of government

    • [2] T.Q., and J., [Untitled], boston, 1763 19

      Separation of Powers

    • [3] U., [Untitled], boston, 1763 33

      State of nature, and violence in civil society

    • [4] [anonymous], [Untitled], boston, 1764 38

      Public virtue and self-government

    • [5] Philo Publicus, [Untitled], boston, 1764 42


    • [6] Stephen Hopkins, The Rights of Colonies Examined, providence, 1764 45

      Relationship of American colonies to Britain

    • [7] Aequus, From the Craftsman, boston, 1766 62

      Relationship of colonies to Britain

    • [8] Richard Bland, An Inquiry into the Rights of the British Colonies, williamsburg, 1766 67

      Legal relationship of colonies to Britain

    • [9] Britannus Americanus, [Untitled], boston, 1766 88

      Relationship of colonies to Britain

    • [10] The Tribune, No. xvii, charleston, 1766 92

      Public virtue and freedom

    • [11] [silas downer] A Son of Liberty, A Discourse at the Dedication of the Tree of Liberty, providence, 1768 97

      Popular consent and the relationship of the colonies to Britain

    • [12] Daniel Shute, An Election Sermon, boston, 1768 109

      Why government needs a constitution and what should be in it

    • [13] [john perkins] A Well-Wisher to Mankind, Theory of Agency: Or, An Essay on the Nature, Source and Extent of Moral Freedom, boston, 1771 137

      The foundations of liberty in moral philosophy

      Edition: current; Page: [[vi]]
    • [14] John Tucker, An Election Sermon, boston, 1771 158

      The origin, nature, and end of civil government

    • [15] The Preceptor, Vol. II. Social Duties of the Political Kind, boston, 1772 172

      The benefits of civil society

    • [16] A Constant Customer, Extract of a Letter from a Gentleman in the Country to His Friend, boston, 1773 181


    • [17] Simeon Howard, A Sermon Preached to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in Boston, boston, 1773 195

      Justifies breaking with Britain

    • [18] [daniel leonard] Massachusettensis, To All Nations of Men, boston, 1773 209

      Uses state of nature argument to justify break with Britain

    • [19] [benjamin rush] A Pennsylvanian, An Address to the Inhabitants of the British Settlements in America Upon Slave-Keeping, philadelphia, 1773 217

      Opposition to it based on religion and practicality

    • [20] Continental Congress, Appeal to the Inhabitants of Quebec, philadelphia, 1774 231

      The foundations of a free people

    • [21] Thomas Bradbury, The Ass: or, the Serpent, A Comparison Between the Tribes of Issachar and Dan, in Their Regard for Civil Liberty, newburyport, massachusetts, 1774 240

      Contrasts the slavish spirit with the freedom-loving spirit

    • [22] Nathaniel Niles, Two Discourses on Liberty, newburyport, massachusetts, 1774 257

      The origin, nature, and consequences of liberty

    • [23] Monitor, To the New Appointed Councellors, of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay, boston, 1774 277

      Representation and the basis for forming a legislature

    • [24] Gad Hitchcock, An Election Sermon, boston, 1774 281

      On liberty—natural, civil, and religious

    • [25] Levi Hart, Liberty Described and Recommended: in a Sermon Preached to the Corporation of Freemen in Farmington, hartford, 1775 305

      Freedom from sin, from the British, and for the slaves

    • [26] [anonymous], An English Patriot’s Creed, Anno Domini, 1775, boston, 1776 318

      The true English patriot loves liberty

      Edition: current; Page: [[vii]]
    • [27] [anonymous], The Alarm: or, an Address to the People of Pennsylvania on the Late Resolve of Congress, philadelphia, 1776 321

      Constitutions should be written by special conventions

    • [28] [carter braxton], A Native of This Colony, An Address to the Convention of the Colony and Ancient Dominion of Virginia on the Subject of Government in General, and Recommending a Particular Form to Their Attention, virginia, 1776 328

      Summary of political principles

    • [29] Demophilus [george bryan?], The Genuine Principles of the Ancient Saxon, or English[,] Constitution, philadelphia, 1776 340

      The excellence of direct democracy

    • [30] [anonymous], Four Letters on Interesting Subjects, philadelphia, 1776 368

      The fundamental character of constitutions

    • [31] [anonymous], The People the Best Governors: Or a Plan of Government Founded on the Just Principles of Natural Freedom, new hampshire, 1776 390


    • [32] John Adams, Thoughts on Government, boston, 1776 401

      Succinct statement of republican principles

    • [33] Samuel West, On the Right to Rebel Against Governors, boston, 1776 410

      The religious basis for resisting tyranny

    • [34] Worcestriensis, Number IV, boston, 1776 449

      Separation of church and state, and religious freedom

    • [35] [anonymous] and William Whiting, Berkshire’s Grievances (Statement of Berkshire County Representatives, and Address to the Inhabitants of Berkshire), pittsfield, massachusetts, 1778 455

      How is it possible to have a government without a constitution?

    • [36] [theophilus parsons], The Essex Result, newburyport, massachussets, 1778 480

      Comprehensive statement of American political principles

    • [37] Phillips Payson, A Sermon, boston, 1778 523

      On the virtues essential for popular self-government

    • [38] Zabdiel Adams, An Election Sermon, boston, 1782 539

      Comprehensive view of relationship between citizens and governors

      Edition: current; Page: [[viii]]
    • [39] [anonymous], Rudiments of Law and Government Deduced from the Law of Nature, charleston, 1783 565
    • [40] [thomas tudor tucker] Philodemus, Conciliatory Hints, Attempting, by a Fair State of Matters, to Remove Party Prejudice, charleston, 1784 606

      Coherent statement of strongly democratic principles

    • [41] [james madison et al.], Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, virginia, 1785 631

      Freedom of religion

    • [42] Amicus Republicae, Address to the Public, Containing Some Remarks on the Present Political State of the American Republicks, etc., exeter, new hampshire, 1786 638

      Strong defense of state constitutions and Whig principles

    • [43] Dean Swift, Causes of a Country’s Growing Rich and Flourishing, worcester, massachusetts, 1786 656
    • [44] Joseph Lathrop, A Miscellaneous Collection of Original Pieces (Selections), springfield, 1786 658

      Origin of government, virtue, frugality, industry, etc.

    • [45] Benjamin Rush, A Plan for the Establishment of Public Schools and the Diffusion of Knowledge in Pennsylvania; to Which Are Added, Thoughts upon the Mode of Education, Proper in a Republic, philadelphia, 1786 675
    • [46] Theophrastus, A Short History of the Trial by Jury, worcester, massachusetts, 1787 693

      Opposed to removing names of Tories from jury lists

    • [47] The Worcester Speculator, No. VI, worcester, massachusetts, 1787 699

      Public virtue, education, and republican government

    • [48] Bostonians, Serious Questions Proposed to All Friends to The Rights of Mankind, With Suitable Answers, boston, 1787 702

      How a constitution should be framed and adopted

    • [49] An Elector, To the Free Electors of This Town, boston, 1788 705

      Electioneering as a corrupt practice

    • [50] Benjamin Franklin, An Account of the Supremest Court of Judicature in Pennsylvania, viz., The Court of the Press, philadelphia, 1789 707

      The limits of freedom of the press

      Edition: current; Page: [[ix]]
    • [51] [anonymous], Ambition, charleston, 1789 711

      The importance of ambition for excellence

    • [52] Benevolous, Poverty, charleston, 1789 714

      The effects of poverty

    • [53] David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution (Selections), philadelphia, 1789 719
    • [54] Robert Coram, Political Inquiries, to which is Added A Plan for the Establishment of Schools Throughout the United States, wilmington, 1791 756
    • [55] Joel Barlow, A Letter to the National Convention of France on the Defects in the Constitution of 1791, new york, 1792 812

      Equality and effective popular control of government

    • [56] Timothy Stone, Election Sermon, hartford, 1792 839

      Liberty, leadership, and community

    • [57] David Rice, Slavery Inconsistent With Justice and Good Policy, augusta, kentucky, 1792 858
    • [58] Theodore Dwight, An Oration, Spoken Before the Connecticut Society, for the Promotion of Freedom and the Relief of Persons Unlawfully Holden in Bondage, hartford, 1794 884

      The effects of slavery on slaves, masters, and society

    • [59] [timothy ford] Americanus, The Constitutionalist: Or, An Inquiry How Far It Is Expedient and Proper to Alter the Constitution of South Carolina, charleston, 1794 900


    • [60] James Kent, An Introductory Lecture to a Course of Law Lectures, new york, 1794 936

      Justifies judicial review by Supreme Court

    • [61] Samuel Williams, The Natural and Civil History of Vermont (Chapters XIII, XIV, and XV), walpole, new hampshire, 1794 950

      How material circumstances affect culture and politics

    • [62] [john leland] Jack Nips, The Yankee Spy, boston, 1794 971

      Freedom of religion

    • [63] Peres [perez] Fobes, An Election Sermon, boston, 1795 990

      Freedom of speech, respect for public officials

    • [64] Justice [jacob] Rush, The Nature and Importance of an Oath—the Charge to a Jury, rutland, vermont, 1796 1014

      Oaths and political obligation

    • [65] Nathanael Emmons, A Discourse Delivered on the National Fast, wrentham, massachusetts, 1799 1023

      Civil disobedience and obedience to constituted authorities

      Edition: current; Page: [[x]]
    • [66] Jonathan Maxcy, An Oration, providence, 1799 1042

      Liberty and equality

    • [67] Alexander Addison, Analysis of the Report of the Committee of the Virginia Assembly, philadelphia, 1800 1055

      Limits to freedom of the press, compact theory of government

    • [68] Joel Barlow, To His Fellow Citizens of the United States. Letter II: On Certain Political Measures Proposed to Their Consideration, philadelphia, 1801 1099


    • [69] An Impartial Citizen, A Dissertation Upon the Constitutional Freedom of the Press, boston, 1801 1126
    • [70] Jeremiah Atwater, A Sermon, middlebury, vermont, 1801 1170

      Liberty, republican government, human nature, and virtue

    • [71] John Leland, The Connecticut Dissenters’ Strong Box: No. 1, new london, connecticut, 1802 1189

      Religious freedom

    • [72] Zephaniah Swift Moore, An Oration on the Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America, worcester, massachusetts, 1802 1206

      Public opinion, virtue, education, and popular government

    • [73] Noah Webster, An Oration on the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, new haven, 1802 1220

      The underlying principles and design of American government

    • [74] Samuel Kendal, Religion the Only Sure Basis of Free Government, boston, 1804 1241

      Dependence of government upon religious sentiment

    • [75] James Wilson, On Municipal Law, philadelphia, 1804 1264

      Law, consent, and political obligation

    • [76] Fisher Ames, The Dangers of American Liberty, boston, 1805 1299

      Equality, faction, bigness, corruption, community, virtue

  • A Selected List of Political Writings by Americans Between 1760 and 1805, 1349
  • A List of Newspapers Examined, 1388
  • Collections of Writing from the Founding Era, 1392
  • Index, 1395
Edition: current; Page: [[xi]]


The political writing of the founding era is tremendous in volume. The books, pamphlets, and letters to newspapers written in the last quarter of the eighteenth century that would repay careful reading by students and teachers of American political thought would fill a few dozen volumes the size of the two that this comment introduces. And even appraisals of amount and worth take no account of the personal letters printed in the collected writings of men and women who achieved prominence and of the correspondence in manuscript preserved in archives and libraries. At least one collection of essays, The Federalist, has long been a classic of western literature. In the light of such an impressive literature, the appearance of a score, if not a half a hundred, brief essays hitherto unknown except to scholars ought to be high priority reading for political leaders and for those who make analysis and criticism of government a prime concern.

The second volume of this collection closes with the editors’ choice of five-hundred-odd items thought to represent the best analytic and polemic writing put into print in the English colonies that converted into states during the forty-five years following 1760; if printed in the type-size of this collection, they would overflow at least fifteen, and possibly eighteen, volumes the size of these two. The editors are convinced that in compiling a selected list of political writings by Americans between 1760 and 1805, they have rejected an equal amount of wordage that met tests of relevance but seemed to be less satisfying on some test of merit.

It is quite clear that a vast amount of wordage went into print during this era and that only a modest proportion of that wordage is in places where readers can get to it today. With few exceptions, what the compilers of this collection examined and considered for inclusion is confined to items available in major university libraries, the less accessible holdings of a few rare book libraries, and the newspapers of that early period which have been preserved. Catalogs of American imprints cite many items which are not to be found in the libraries Edition: current; Page: [[xii]] that were visited, and it must be supposed that much that is in print has not yet been transferred to microcards and microfilm.

Much more important than speculation about the enormous volume of writing from this era are questions about the tests applied and the judgment invoked by the editors in deciding which item to reprint, which to cite in a selected list of political writings by Americans between 1760 and 1805, and which to exclude in either case for lack of interest or merit or because of present accessibility. How the selections were made is best disclosed by giving a brief account of how the enterprise originated and how it was executed. The probe into the early writing was initiated by the senior editor, and the story will be told in fewest words if related by him in the first person.

Three years before my retirement from teaching I was asked to provide a seminar for selected freshmen. The initial specification was that attention would be restricted to “the founding of the American political system and getting it under way.” I had a fair acquaintance with the books of readings to be found in the university library and I was aware that, whether compiled by a historian or political scientist, those that touched on early experience tended to feature government documents over analytic and argumentative writing. I was totally unprepared, however, for the dearth of expository and polemical essays defining and describing republican government, setting forth its ideals and goals, and offering advice on surest ways of making popular self-government operative in North America. The thought that went into the design of the state constitutions turned out to be a valley of unexplored terrain all but concealed from sight by towering preoccupation with the case for independence from Britain and the strategies for forming a federal union. Students could read in print John Adams’ Thoughts on Government and The Essex Result if I would risk their tearing to shreds a volume of the Works of John Adams and the Handlins’s Popular Sources of Political Authority. It turned out when my syllabus was completed that, save for what was in The Federalist or a less illustrious later publication, A Second Federalist, compiled by Hyneman and Carey, almost everything the students were asked to read was supplied to them in mimeographed copy.

So provoked, I swore a mighty oath that as soon as I could find time for it I would put into print a collection of the best writings of Edition: current; Page: [[xiii]] the founding era on the conception and establishment of republican government in America.

Proceeding beyond Indiana University and its Lilly Library I settled down in The Huntington Library. The first thing I learned on arrival in San Marino was that Huntington maintained an up-to-date file of all American imprints in its possession arranged by year of publication and alphabetically by author. This chronological file became my primary guide for identifying the books, pamphlets, and broadsides that I was to examine. For newspapers I would have to look elsewhere. The titles that I had noted from footnotes and bibliographies of other writers and from the aids provided by professional bibliographers would tip me off to items that the Huntington Library did not have. My first resort was to examine every printed piece in the Huntington Library that carried a title suggesting it might have something interesting to say. If the title page identified an election day sermon, or a sermon delivered before the local militia or at the funeral of a former public official, I read it; if it celebrated the ordination of a minister or promised to weigh the pros and cons of baptizing infants in cold weather, I did not read it. Discourses, dissertations, and orations on comets and pleas for kindness to dumb animals I did not look at. But if the title was simply A Discourse; A Dissertation; An Oration; A Sermon—in that case I had the piece before me and turned enough pages to make a decision to reproduce or to reject on the basis of judgment rather than presumption. David Daggett’s Oration: Sunbeams May Be Extracted from Cucumbers, But the Process Is Tedious I would have sent for even if it had carried a subtitle: A Repository of Advice Recommended for Morons Only.

Assuming the Huntington chronological file was as complete as the Library’s staff supposed it to be, the probability of overlooking anything relevant to the subjects I kept at the front of my mind is slight indeed. Far more critical are these two questions: (1) What did I conceive to be relevant to the founding experience? And (2) What considerations ought to control a decision that a piece of writing would repay reading by polished scholars and aspiring students in our own time? Lacking foreknowledge of what bounds a prospective publisher might set for range of subject matter, and unwilling to guess how many pages of print I might have to settle for, I resolved all doubts in favor of inclusion. My personal interest was fixed on the character Edition: current; Page: [[xiv]] of republican government and whatever might hinder or support it but I examined pamphlets that promised attention to the placement of America in the British empire, sentiments of localism and union, satisfaction and dissatisfaction with political institutions, policies, and practices; and on to disputes and strategies relating to independence, formation of new governments, union, and nationhood. Visions of the virtuous individual and the good society, exposition of ideals, analysis of conditions affecting the achievement of goals—anything commonly conceived to be theoretic or philosophic in constrast to the descriptive and narrational was prospective content for the compilation I had in mind.

Cut-off points for quality were settled in an arbitrary if not perfunctory manner. It seemed to me that when the time came to choose the items to be reprinted, I ought to have before me for comparative scrutiny three to five pieces for every one that would finally claim a place in the collection. And so, if I saw a chance that for one reason or another a piece might ultimately be selected for appearance in a collection of 2,000 pages, I placed an order for its reproduction by Xerox or photo-film. Subsequent experience justified the decision. The repository of political thought now before you contains forty pamphlets which were located in the Huntington Library or Library of Congress by the process just described; they were final choices from more than five times that number of pamphlets which were copied for comparative evaluation.

It is now time to introduce the other half of the team, Donald Lutz. When I was deep enough into the search to sense the size of the lion whose tail I had latched onto, apprehensions of geriatric origin prompted an appeal for help. Lutz assumed the responsibility of searching out the content of newspapers available on microcards or to be found in original print in the Library of Congress, pursuing essentially the policies for selection described above. Beyond this, he checked out the two volumes of Shipton and Mooney, National Index of American Imprints (NIAI) for items not located at the Huntington Library or the Library of Congress, and guided by the abbreviated titles supplied in NIAI read microcards for promising items that had so far been missed. Finally, titles found in the footnotes and bibliographic listings of prominent writers—Bernard Bailyn, Trevor Colburn, Jack Greene, Jack Pole, Gordon Wood, etc.—were brought under scrutiny if they had not already been encountered.

Edition: current; Page: [[xv]]

This account of procedure should assure readers that the items reprinted here were selected with care. In addition to the purposeful exclusion of personal correspondence, many important writings are missing here because they are already readily accessible in university and major college libraries. More regrettable are the items missed because considerations of time and resources set limits to this search.

Within the restrictions just noted, no piece was denied a place in this collection if the editors viewed it as among the best of the best. But for most of the candidates for inclusion there were rival contenders. In some instances where aptness and force of argument seemed near equal we made the choice that favored a wider distribution of authorship or extended the range of topics discussed. Also, we sacrificed two or three pieces of unusual length whose primary value was reinforcement of points made in other essays, and so made room for several short statements that addressed basic principles, assumptions, or beliefs widely held but rarely discussed in the public press. A good example is Essay 49, the 1788 piece by “An Elector” which lays out the case against electioneering, a practice commonly viewed with apprehension at the time.

With only a very few exceptions, every piece is reproduced in its entirety. The literature of the founding period included a number of essays running to a hundred pages or more, some that were of book length, and a few multi-volume histories. Such lengthy texts could not be reprinted in full, yet to exclude some of them altogether would not only have repressed some extremely good writing but have denied notable and influential authors a rightful claim to stand with their peers in public memory. We chose in those instances to reproduce selected portions of the lengthy work.

Care has been taken to preserve the original text, with certain exceptions. The letters “f” and “s” are scarcely distinguishable in much of the original print. To ease readability we have made the letter “f” look the way it ought to. Aside from this consistent alteration, such other changes as were made are mentioned in the notes introducing the items where the revisions occur. These exceptions are rare. In general we have retained the original grammar and spelling whether correct or not. If a word could not be deciphered from the original a bracketed space is inserted in its place. If there is more than one version of a text available and some later editor has inserted the supposed word, we have placed this word in brackets. When more Edition: current; Page: [[xvi]] than one version of the text was available we chose the earliest version for reproduction. This usually meant choosing the newspaper version over the pamphlet form where both were available. In a few instances the newspaper version was so blurred that we felt more secure reproducing the later pamphlet form. If the newspaper version is being reprinted we have identified the title and date of the newspaper. If it is a pamphlet that is being reproduced, only the date and place of publication are noted. The original pagination of each essay is indicated by bracketed page numbers embedded in the text—the only other emendation made in the original.

Finally, the reader unfamiliar with the literature of the period should be warned that there is one important respect in which these essays are not representative of the massive outpouring of printed material during the era. Political writing then was often quite colorful as a result of being vituperative, self-serving, prone to name-calling, full of high-flown rhetoric, or just plain nasty. The anonymity of authors was as likely to be used so as to avoid action for libel as to avoid prosecution by authorities. The essays reproduced here retain a certain colorful quality, but the reasoned analysis they contain is exceptional, not necessarily typical.

charles s. hyneman
donald s. lutz

Charles S. Hyneman is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Indiana University. He is a past President of the American Political Science Association and author of many books and articles, including Popular Government in America and The Supreme Court on Trial.

Donald S. Lutz, a former student of Professor Hyneman, is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston. He is book review editor of Publius, The Journal of Federalism, and the author of Popular Consent and Popular Control.

Edition: current; Page: [[xvii]]


This compilation of the best writing of the founding fathers received the warm support of William J. Baroody, Sr., from its inception until his death, and that relationship continued when William J. Baroody, Jr., succeeded his father as President of American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. From the beginning AEI picked up the tab for travel and living costs incurred by either of the editors in visiting libraries and meeting occasionally in conference, and for reproduction of pamphlets and newspaper articles from which final selection of items was made. Howard R. Penniman was a skillful negotiator of the terms and conditions of this collaboration, later joined by Austin Ranney, who came to share with Penniman some of the responsibility for AEI’s projects relating to American politics. To all these men everyone who finds these two volumes useful is indebted. For two years the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars provided the senior editor a living and a room for work and accumulation of litter, all of which necessities for scholarship contributed substantially to this project. Finally, Richard Ware and the Earhart Foundation once more exhibited a disposition to come to the relief of the editors when commendable ambition of either of them rubbed too abrasively against limited resources.

There is no chance of saying too much in favor of the Huntington Library as a place to explore the holdings they have accumulated. For the literature of the founding period their collection is voluminous. Without miss, in several visits, the service staff was genial, courteous, diligent, and knowledgeable, words especially applicable to those we mainly did business with: Virginia J. Renner, Noelle Jackson, and Mary Wright in Readers’ Services; Barbara Quinn of Photographic Reproduction; and Senior Research Scholar Ray A. Billington. Staff of the Rare Book Room of the Library of Congress were consistently courteous and concerned to meet every request. Anne C. Palumbo at the Woodrow Wilson Center and Raymond L. Faust at Indiana University helped in the early stages of the search for elusive material and have earned our appreciation.

Edition: current; Page: [[xviii]]

Jack P. Greene of the Johns Hopkins University, Ronald M. Peters of the University of Oklahoma, Gordon S. Wood of Brown University, and James M. Banner, Jr., Director of the American Association for the Advancement of the Humanities, each made suggestions for inclusion in this collection which were heeded. Although we appreciate their interest and efforts, their approval for what has finally appeared in these two volumes was neither sought nor given. Responsibility for what was finally included for publication rests solely with the editors.

Dean Charles F. Bonser, Professor Charles Moffatt, and Judy Deckard threw the doors of Indiana University wide open for the comfort and convenience of the senior member of the team. The junior member did much of the culling and assembly of the manuscript while on a leave granted by the Faculty Development Leave Committee of the University of Houston. Professor David Brady, Professor Richard Hofstetter, and Provost George Magner at the University of Houston each made administrative decisions which eased the work or made available resources for work on the manuscript. Final preparation of the manuscript by the junior editor was done as part of the program of Liberty Fund, Inc. Last but not least Sharon McCormick, Martha Knutson, Lucy Redding, and Denise Reddick ably assisted in the final manuscript preparation.

Edition: current; Page: [[1]]

American Political Writing during the Founding Era 1760-1805
Volume I

Edition: current; Page: [[2]] Edition: current; Page: [[3]]

[1]: Abraham Williams 1727-1784

An Election Sermon

Independent and audacious enough while a student at Harvard to be known in some ministerial groups as “the Grand Heretick Williams,” Abraham chose to pursue a course of caution and reasonableness after his selection for a Congregationalist pulpit in Sandwich, near Boston. “Doctrines and opinions that have been long and generally received,” he proclaimed, “have at least such a presumption in their favor as to demand a fair and impartial examination.” Examine them he did, but the limited amount we know about him affords no reason to suppose that his determination to be fair and impartial ever enticed the Reverend Williams to testify to something he did not believe or to find much to praise in the teachings of John Calvin. The sermon delivered before the Governor and General Court of Massachusetts at the age of thirty-five appears to mark his closest approach to an intrusion into political affairs. In this sermon he rather efficiently lays out almost all the basic assumptions underlying American political thinking on the eve of the Stamp Act—principles that would inform theoretical discourse during the Revolution until challenged by Federalist theory in the 1780s.

I Cor. XII. 25.

That there should be no Schism in the Body, but that the Members should have the same Care one for another.

The natural Body consists of various Members, connected and subservient one to the other, each serving some valuable purpose and the Edition: current; Page: [[4]] most perfect and happy State of the Body results from all the Members regularly performing their natural Offices; so collective Bodies, or Societies, are composed of various Individuals connected together, related and subservient to each other. Every Person has his proper Sphere, and is of Importance Edition: 1983; Page: [2] to the whole; and the public Peace and Welfare is best secured and promoted, by every Member attending to the proper Business of his particular Station. This Resemblance between the natural Body and Societies, being so obvious, affords a striking Argument from Analogy from one to the other, and was improved, with good Effect, by the ancient Sages, to appease Commotions, perswade to Contentment, and a faithful Discharge of all relative Duties.

The Apostle Paul has applied this Argument to Christian Societies, and from hence strongly inforced Unity, Peace and Harmony, Justice and Truth, Fidelity and Kindness. By a beautiful Allusion to the natural Body, he reproves the improper Behaviour of the Corinthians, in their Use of the spiritual Gifts, bestowed for the Edification of the Church, as well as their own Benefit; and directs them to such an Improvement, as would render them all harmonious, and highly advantageous to themselves, to the Church, and to the World.

As the natural Body is one,—though it have many Members, yet they are all so adjusted and fitted one to the other, as never to interfere,—none is superfluous,—each contributes it’s Part to the Perfection and Happiness of the Body:—So the Body of Christ is one,—all it’s Members are related to one another—tho’ their Gifts and Stations are different, Edition: 1983; Page: [3] yet they are all consistent, and ought to be so used, as to promote the Peace and Edification of the Church; that there be no Schism, Discord or Division in the Body; but that all the Members consider their mutual Relations and Dependencies, and duly perform the Duties of their respective Stations, and thus express their Care one for another.—The Christian Church would be happy, if a due Regard was paid to the Apostle’s Argument.

The same Reasoning is evidently applicable to civil Societies; and were their Members of all Ranks influenced thereby, it would greatly promote their Peace and Happiness.

In this View, I shall take the Liberty to improve my Text as an Introduction to some Observations, concerning the—Origin—Nature—and End of civil Societies and Government;—the various Orders and Ranks necessary to answer the Purposes of Society;—and Edition: current; Page: [[5]] the Obligations the different Orders are under faithfully to discharge the Duties of their Stations, to answer the general Ends of Government, that the Members have the same Care one for another, and there be no Schism in the Body.

As to the origin of civil Societies or Governments; the Author of our Being, has given Man a Nature fitted for, and disposed to Society. It was not good for Man at first to be alone; his Nature is social, having Edition: 1983; Page: [4] various Affections, Propensities and Passions, which respect Society, and cannot be indulged without a social Intercourse: The natural Principles of Benevolence, Compassion, Justice, and indeed most of our natural Affections, powerfully incite to, and plainly indicate, that Man was formed for Society. To a Man detached from all Society, many essential Parts of his Frame are useless—are troublesome: He is unable to supply himself with many Materials of Happiness, which require the Assistance and Concurrence of others: Most of the Conveniencies of Life require the Concurrence of several. If we suppose a Man without exterior Assistance, able to procure what is barely necessary to his Being,—at best it would be with Difficulty,—but in Sickness and the Decline of Life, would be impossible: yet allowing it possible, all the Elegancies and Comforts, of Life would be wanting. If we examine the Materials of our temporal Happiness, we shall find they chiefly result from Society: from hence proceed the Pleasures,—of books,—Conversation,—Friends,—Relations, and all the social and relative Virtues. So that the social Nature of Man, and his natural Desire of Happiness, strongly urge him to Society as eligible;—to which, if we add, the natural Principle of Self-Preservation, the Dangers Mens Lives and Properties are exposed to, when considered as unconnected with others, Society will appear necessary.

Edition: 1983; Page: [5] All Men being naturally equal, as descended from a common Parent, enbued with like Faculties and Propensities, having originally equal Rights and Properties, the Earth being given to the Children of Men in general, without any difference, distinction, natural Preheminence, or Dominion of one over another, yet Men not being equally industrious and frugal, their Properties and Enjoyments would be unequal. This would tempt the idle and imprudent to seize what they had not laboured for; which must put the industrious and honest upon Methods of Self-defence, and dispose them to unite in Societies for mutual Security, against the Assaults of rapacious Men, as well as voracious Animals. The social Affections of human Nature, and the Desire of Edition: current; Page: [[6]] the many Conveniencies, not to be obtained or enjoyed, without the concurrence of others, probably, first induced Men to associate together: the Envy, Ambition, Covetousness, and Sensuality, so much prevailing in the Depraved Nature of Man, since the Apostacy, obliged them to enter into closer Connections, Combinations and Compacts, for mutual Protection and Assistance. Thus civil Societies and Governments would be formed which in this View appear to be natural. Some Societies being formed, interfering Interests, and Men’s unruly Lusts, would cause Wars.—The same Principle of Self-Preservation, upon which they at first associated would induce several Edition: 1983; Page: [6] of these small Societies to unite and form greater Bodies; from which Coalition, with the natural Increase of Mankind, all Civil Societies and governments, probably arose. In this Way; Government comes from God, and is his Ordinance. The Kingdom is the Lords, and he is Governor among the Nations; (Psal. 22.28.) By him Kings reign, and Princes decree Justice, even all the Judges of the Earth, (Prov. 8, 15, 16) He has made the Earth, and given it to whom it seemeth meet to him; (Dan. 2. 20.) He changes Times and Seasons, and ruleth in the Kingdoms of Men, (Dan. 4. 17.) There is no Power but of God—The Powers that be, are ordained by God etc. (Rom. 13. ch.) The Meaning is, That God is the Supreme Governor and Disposer of all Things.—His alwise Providence super-intends all Events, particularly those relating to Mankind: And Government is a divine Constitution, founded in the Nature and Relations of Things,—agreeable to the Will of God,—what the Circumstances of his Creatures require:—And when Men enter into civil Societies, and agree upon rational Forms of Government, they act right, conformable to the Will of God, by the Concurrence of whose Providence, Rulers are appointed. Thus the origin of Government if from God, tho’ it be an human Ordinance or Creature, (1 Pet. 2, 13) and immediately proceeds from Men; as all other Blessings and Things advantageous to Mankind, proceed from him, tho’ visibly effected by second Causes.

Edition: 1983; Page: [7] The End and Design of civil Society and Government, from this View of it’s Origin, must be to secure the Rights and Properties of it’s Members, and promote their Welfare; or in the Apostle’s words, that Men may lead quiet and peaceable Lives in Godliness and Honesty, (I Tim. 2.1.) i.e. that they may be secure in the Enjoyment of all their Rights and Properties righteously acquired, and their honest Industry quietly proffess it’s proper Rewards, and they enjoy all the Conveniencies of a social Life, to which Uprightness entitles them; and that Edition: current; Page: [[7]] Men may peaceably practice Godliness,—may worship & serve the Supreme Being, in the Way they believe most acceptable to him, provided they behave peaceably, and transgress not the Rules of Righteousness in their Behaviour towards others.

In all Governments, Magistrates are God’s Ministers, designed for Good to the People. The End of their Institution, is to be Instruments of Divine Providence, to secure and promote the Happiness of Society; to be Terrors to the doers of Evil,—to prevent and punish Unrighteousness, and remedy the Evils occasioned thereby; and to be a Praise, a Security and Reward to them that do well, (Rom. 13. ch.) The End and Design of Government, is to secure Men from all Injustice, Violence and Rapine, that they may enjoy their Rights and Properties; all the Advantages of Society, and peaceably practice Edition: 1983; Page: [8] Godliness:—that the Unjust and Rapacious may be restrained, the ill Effects of their Wickedness be prevented, the secular Welfare of all be secured and promoted.

The Nature of civil Society or Governments is a temporal worldly Constitution, formed upon worldly Motives, to answer valuable worldly Purposes. The Constitution, Laws and Sanctions of civil Society respect this World, and are therefore essentially distinct and different from the Kingdom of Christ, which is not of this World. (Joh. 18.36.) The Notion of a civil Society, includes a Number of Persons combined together for civil Purposes.

As in a State of Nature prior to Govenment, every Man has a Right to the Fruits of his own Labour, to defend it from others, to recover it when unjustly taken away, or an Equivalent, and to a Recompence for the Damage and Trouble caused by this unrighteous Seizure; and to take reasonable Precautions for Security against future Rapine; So when civil Societies are formed, the Community is naturally possessed of all the civil Rights of its Members. Men reasonably surrender to the Society the Right they before had of judging in their own Case, and of executing those righteous Judgments: It is therefore the Right, and is the Business of the Society, to defend it’s Members, to secure Edition: 1983; Page: [9] their Properties from foreign Invasions, and to preserve Order and Peace, and execute Justice between it’s own Members. The Law of Nature (or, those Rules of Behaviour, which the Nature God has given Men, the Relations they bear to one another, and the Circumstances they are placed in, render fit and necessary to the Welfare of Mankind) is the Law and Will of the God of Nature, which all Men are obliged Edition: current; Page: [[8]] to obey. Almighty God, as Head of the System, and Supreme Governor of the Universe, will suitably animadvert upon every Violation. And every Man, prior to Government, is authorized by the universal King, so far as his Happiness is interrupted, his Property disturbed or injured, by any Violation of these immutable Laws of Equity, to vindicate his own Right, and inflict adequate Punishment on the Invader; not from a Spirit of Revenge,—or to cause Misery for it’s own Sake;—but to inflict such Penalties, as will probably prevent future Injuries, and render Mens Right and Properties, as secure as they were before this dangerous Example of Injustice. In civil Society this Right is in general, transfer’d to the Body, or Government, who have a Right, and it is their Duty, to punish those Violations of the Laws of Nature, whereby the People’s Properties are injured. Every Society has a Right to publish, and execute equitable Laws and Rules, for the civil Order, Peace and Welfare Edition: 1983; Page: [10] of the People;—for ascertaining and securing their Rights and Properties, with suitable Penalties to the Transgressors: Which Laws are, or ever ought to be, only the Laws of Nature explained and applied, both Laws and Sanctions being founded in Reason and Equity. Things unreasonable, or absolutely indifferent (if such there be) ought not to be imposed by Law. A Law without a Penalty is of no Force; and to subject a Man to suffer, for doing or forbearing what in the Nature of things is indifferent, is wrong and unreasonable. Men’s outward Behaviour only affects, or may injure the Properties and Enjoyments of others; this therefore is all the Society ought, ’tis indeed all it can command. Human Laws can’t controul the Mind.—The Rights of Conscience, are unalienable; inseparable from our Nature;—they ought not—they cannot possibly be given up to Society. Therefore Religion, as it consists in right Sentiments, Affections, and Behaviour towards God,—as it is chiefly internal and private, can be regulated only by God himself:—Yet civil Societies have a Right, it is their Duty, to encourage and maintain social public Worship of the Deity, and Instructions in Righteousness; for without social Vertues, Societies can’t subsist; and these Vertues can’t be expected, or depended on, without a belief in, and regard to, the Supreme Being, and a future World: Consequently, a religious Fear and Regard to God, ought to be encouraged in every Society, Edition: 1983; Page: [11] and with this View, publick social Worship and Instructions in social Virtues, maintained. This is consistent with an entire Liberty of Conscience as to Forms and additional Principles, and Duties, which Edition: current; Page: [[9]] however important with Respect to another World; it is possible Men may think and act differently about, and yet practice that Piety and Virtue, which the Nature and Ends of civil Society require.

Upon the whole, the general Idea of a civil Society or Government, is a Number of Persons united by Agreement, for mutual Defence and Convenience in this World, with a Power of Making and executing Laws, or of publishing those Laws of Nature, which respect Mens civil Rights and Properties, and inflicting reasonable Punishment upon Transgressors.

As to the various Orders and Ranks necessary to answer the Purposes of civil Society,—A Society without different Orders and Offices, like a Body without Eyes, Hands and other Members, would be uncapable of acting, either to secure its internal Order and Well-being, or defend itself from external Injuries. Whatever Power is in the Society, unless it be united, under one Direction, will be useless, or hurt instead of serving the Community. The natural Laws of Reason and Equity, Carelessness may over-look, or Prejudice and Vice misunderstand or pervert. In many Cases more Attention Edition: 1983; Page: [12] and Care is required to discover them than most will allow: And the general Security and Happiness of Mankind depending on the Knowledge and Observation of these Rules of Equity,—Persons of Penetration, Attention and Uprightness, ought to be employed for this Purpose; and when thus discovered, the Reasonableness and Obligation of them, may immediately appear to Persons that of themselves would never have investigated them. The Transgression of these natural Laws of Equity must be punished, to compensate the Injured, and prevent future Offences: Unless proper Persons are appointed for this Purpose in Societies, it will probably be omitted, or unduly multiplied, and Schism and Confusion be in the Body. Therefore as a Society has a Right to defend it self, and regulate its own Members; to secure their Rights and Properties from the Violence of one another, as well as from foreign Enemies,—it is expedient, and even necessary, to have established Forms of civil Government;—Some to guide and direct their publick Affairs, and secure their Rights with Relation to other Societies, some to search into and publish the natural Laws of Equity, with proper Sanctions, which relate to Society in general, and to that Society in particular under it’s peculiar Circumstances;—And some to execute these Laws, punish Evil-doers, adjust Differences, and determine Men’s Rights and Properties according Edition: 1983; Page: [13] to them. These Edition: current; Page: [[10]] Considerations show the Necessity of different Orders, with various Subordinations, to answer the Ends of Society.—The Forms of Government are various, every Society having a Right to chuse that which appears best, and if upon Trial it prove inconvenient, to alter it for a better. Persons that manage the Affairs of Government, may be considered as distinct from the Governed, but in Reality, they are closely united in one Body,—have a common Interest—and are appointed for their Benefit.—All these Orders and Ranks, in the Body Politic, however distinct one from the other, having different Provinces and Duties, designed for different Purposes, and immediately answering different Ends, are in themselves Harmonious, and when properly conducted, coincide and center in one grand End,—the Security and Happiness of the whole, and of every Member.

This leads me to consider,

The Obligations of the different Orders and Ranks in civil Society, to attend to their respective Duties, that they may answer the important Ends of Society;—that the Members have the Care one for another, and there be no Schism in the Body.

As in the natural Body, the several Members have their distinct Offices, for which they are adapted, and when in their proper Order, they perform Edition: 1983; Page: [14] their natural Functions, the Body is in it’s most perfect State; so in the politic Body, when it’s several Orders attend to their respective Duties, proper to their Rank; the Welfare of the whole Community, and of every Individual, is secured and promoted. In the natural Body, if the Eye would do the Office of the Ear, or the Ear of of the Eye; Discord and Confusion would ensue, and the usurped Office not be performed: the same holds proportionably in the civil Body. ’Tis the Concern of every Person, in every Station, to attend to his proper Duty, and mind his own Business, if he would be a good Member of Society and promote the public Weal. Schisms will rend the Body, if the Members forsake their proper Sphere, and act out of Character.

The great Ends of Society,—the secure Enjoyment of our Rights and Properties, can’t ordinarily be obtained, unless the various Ranks and Offices, carefully perform their respective Duties—Whatever Precedency, some may claim above others, and whatever Subordinations in Rank, there may be, yet the Dignity and Authority, of each,—of all, is derived from the whole Society, for whose Good they are ordained by Him, from whom originally all Power proceeds. As in a natural, so Edition: current; Page: [[11]] in the civil Body, all the Parts are harmonious; there is no superfluous Order, none whose real Interest is detached from, or inconsistent with the public Good. The Peace and Edition: 1983; Page: [15] Prosperity of the Community depends upon the regular Discharge of the relative Duties incumbent on the various Members: To a faithful and honest Performance of which Duties, the Nature and Relations of Things indispensably oblige them.

If we consider some of the principal Orders in civil Society, it will be very evident that the public Security and Happiness greatly depends on their Fidelity to their Trusts, which proves their Obligation.

The Business of Legislation is very important, and the Capacity, Fidelity, and public Spirit, of those concerned in it, are closely connected with the public Welfare. They are to investigate and publish the Rules of Equity, as the Circumstances of Things require, and to annex such Sanctions as Reason directs, to secure the Rights and Properties of the Society, and of every Individual: The due Performance whereof requires a penetrating and calm Mind, and upright and benevolent Heart: Whereas Carelessness, selfish Passions, and private Interest, acting in this Sphere, will produce the greatest Disorders and Injuries.—Rules by which the Lives and Properties of Men are to be determined, ought to be demonstrably good and righteous.

As it is of the greatest Importance to Society, therefore those to whom this great Trust is committed, of making Laws, are from the Ends of Society, and the Edition: 1983; Page: [16] Nature of the Office, under the strongest Obligations, rationally and faithfully to discharge the Duties of their exalted Station. A Fault here will produce the greatest Schism, and may ruin the Body; but Wisdom and Uprightness will most effectually secure and promote the public Good, the Order, Harmony, Peace and Prosperity of the whole, and engage the Members to a due Care of one for another.

The Application and Execution of Laws made for the public Good, is another great Trust in civil Society. The Peace and Welfare of the Community, the Security and Enjoyment of every Individual, much depend upon the Skill and Uprightness of those to whom it is committed. The End of their Institution, is to be a Terror to evil Doers, and a Praise to those that do well. Laws are published to be observed: The Fitness of them is the Reason and Ground of their Obligation;—The Security and Happiness of Society depend upon their Observation. As it is fit that Persons be appointed to execute these Laws, the Society Edition: current; Page: [[12]] must greatly suffer, and the Ends of it be frustrated, if they neglect their Business:—Communities may be ruined, if they pervert those Laws, design’d for general Security, to the Prejudice of it’s Members—But a faithful Execution of these Rules of Equity, and a due Punishment of Transgressors, will secure the innocent and honest; and answer the great Purposes of civil Society. They Edition: 1983; Page: [17] that execute equitable Laws, establish Peace and Righteousness, make others, and are themselves good Members of the Body, and express a proper Care for the other Members.

The Persons whose Business it is to secure the Society against foreign Enemies, are obliged to exert themselves with Courage, Prudence and Fidelity, to defend the Public, because the Security and Continuance of civil Societies, under God, greatly depends on their Wisdom, Virtue and Fortitude.

The public Good is promoted, and therefore the People in general who constitute the Body, are obliged in their private Stations and Occupations, to mind their own Business, with Industry, Frugality and Uprightness,—treating others, as they would reasonably desire to be treated by them—observing the equitable Laws of the Community, rendering Obedience, Honour and Tribute to those that are employed in the important Affairs of the Public, and are God’s Ministers to them for Good.

I might proceed to other Orders of the Common-Wealth, and shew their Obligation to a proper Discharge of their relative Duties, from the Nature and Ends of civil Society, as well as from the plain Precepts of our holy Religion; but the Point seems to require no further Illustration. I shall therefore endeavour to offer some pertinent Reflections.

Edition: 1983; Page: [18] And,

1. Let us gratefully acknowledge the Goodness of divine Providence, in favouring us with so wise and good a civil Government: A Constitution the best proportioned and adapted to answer the Ends of civil Society, to secure the Enjoyment of our private Properties, and every Satisfaction and Advantage of social Life. By a happy Mixture and Union of the several Forms of Government; most of the Inconveniencies of each are avoided, and the peculiar Advantages of each secured.—A Government, so prudently and righteously administered, that most of our Laws are just and reasonable; and in general, equitably executed. If we take a Survey of other Nations—their Forms of Edition: current; Page: [[13]] Government—the Menaces of their Rulers—the Poverty and Slavery of the common People,—we shall find abundant Reason for Gratitude to God, who maketh us to differ: He hath not dealt so with other Nations—Praise ye the Lord. The great Governor of the World, imperceptibly, yet effectually influences the Minds of Men, in Ways adapted to their rational Nature, to execute his own divine Schemes, with Relation to this World and the next, to our temporal and everlasting Interest. His wise and good Providence is to be acknowledged in all Revolutions of Government; and we ought sincerely to praise him, for placing us under a Government, so wise and good in its Constitution and Administration.

Edition: 1983; Page: [19] 2. Let us humbly adore and praise the Supreme Lord of the Universe, that he has so remarkably interposed, for the Preservation of our civil Constitution, and that he gives us so reasonably Hopes of it’s Continuance to the latest Generations. We still enjoy our Liberties and Properties, and the same free and good Government, notwithstanding the Attempts of domestic Traitors, arbitrary bigotted Tyrants, and foreign unrighteous Enemies, in former and later Times; He that sitteth on High, to whom Victory belongs, has confounded the Devices of the Crafty and scattered those that delight in, and prompted by the Lusts of Ambition and Covetousness, injuriously began War. Whatever new Enemies join the unrighteous Cause, yet from the Justice of our Cause, the Deliverances and Successes already afforded us by the Lord of Host, the almightly Judge, that will do Right, we have Reason to hope and trust, he will still favour us, and bring to nought the Combinations of unreasonable Men, and that the Cause of Truth and Right shall finally prevail.

3. Let all concerned in the Administration of Government, be excited to Unanimity and Fidelity in their respective Trusts; to prevent as much as possible any Schism in the Body. And by expressing their Care for the Members, promote public Harmony and Prosperity. However different their Ranks, Offices and Duties, they are all connected, and tend when properly Edition: 1983; Page: [20] conducted, to one End. There is no Discord or interfering in the Constitution; and if there be among those that administer public Affairs, it indicates a Defect in Capacity or Integrity—it arises from unruly Lusts or turbulent Passions, and not from the Nature of their Offices. As in the Body, every Member ought to perform it’s proper Office, and not that of others; so in Government, since there must be various Orders and Subordinations, every Person’s Edition: current; Page: [[14]] Concern is to act his own Part well, not envying or usurping what belongs to others. As the natural Body is more frequently destroyed by internal Disorders, than external Violence; so Factions, Divisions, and Parties in the State, (fomented by those whose Business it is to preserve Order and Peace,) are more dangerous, and have more frequently proved fatal than foreign Enemies. It is a great,—a scandalous Immorality,—a crying Sin against God,—an insufferable Injury to Men—to accept a Trust—an important Trust,—and even to neglect it,—much more to abuse it,—to improve it to different Purposes from what was intended, to Purposes inconsistent with, or subversive of the good Ends proposed by their Employers:—This is an Iniquity deserving the Indignation of Mankind, and may expect the Wrath and Curse of God in this and the future World.

In a wise civil Constitution, all the Orders and Offices, tend by different Ways to the same Point, Edition: 1983; Page: [21] the public Good; the Way to this, in general, is plain and easy, to those that will attend, and are disposed to walk in it. Private Views, selfish Lusts, and haughty Passions, lead another Way; and when these are cloaked over with specious Pretences to public Good, we may naturally expect, Tergiversations, Intrigues, and all the artful Labyrinths of Machiavellian Politicks.

The Nature and End of Government is not so mysterious, but a Person of common Sense, with tolerable Application, may attain a competent Knowledge thereof, and with an upright Heart, Honourably perform any Part Providence may assign him. Therefore, since the Happiness of Society, so much depends upon the faithful Discharge of the Duties of the various Offices, and all who are well disposed, can so easily perform them; this shows the Obligation, and should be a powerful Motive to Fidelity, as they well answer it at the Tribunal of the great Judge, when he calls them to account for their Talents

4. This Subject may suggest suitable Reflections, to those at the Head of our political Body, by reminding them, of what I ought to suppose they already know,—the Nature and Importance of their Trust, and the Obligations they are under to Uprightness, Fidelity and Unanimity.

Edition: 1983; Page: [22] We may esteem it a Happiness, that the Gentleman, who fills the most exalted Station in our Government, whose Consent is necessary to our Laws, is so well acquainted with the Laws of our Nation (in general so agreeable to the Law of Nature)—born and Edition: current; Page: [[15]] educated in the Land of Liberty, under the best civil Government;—whose Interest it is—to whom it must be natural to defend and secure the Rights and Liberties of British Subjects:—who is particularly acquainted with the Importance of Understanding and Knowledge, Uprightness and Fidelity, in the executive Part of Government—Under whose Administration, therefore we may reasonably expect, no arbitrary, illegal Measures, no unreasonable, trifling, or unrighteous Laws—that all Officers of his Nomination and Appointment, will be Persons of known Capacity and Integrity, and in all Respects the fittest for their respective Posts;—that so far as his Influence extends, Piety and Virtue, Peace and Union, Order and Fidelity in every Trust, will generally prevail among all Ranks:—that his Administration, will be wise and equitable, and happy to himself and to us;—that when all secular Honours shall cease, He may receive a Crown of Glory, that fadeth not away.

In the political Body, by the Voice of the People, which in this Case is the Voice of God, the honourable his Majesty’s Council, and House of Edition: 1983; Page: [23] Representatives, are raised to the most important Trust,—They are as Eyes to the Body, to direct the Way: If the Eye be single, be sincere, the Body is full of Light, will be properly directed, but if the Eye be depraved, the Body is exposed to numberless Inconveniences and Disasters. Tis their Business to discover and publish the Rules of Equity, and inforce them with proper Sactions. The Law of Nature, which is the Constitution of the God of Nature, is universally obliging,—it varies not with Men’s Humours or Interest, but is immutable as the Relations of Things: Human Laws bind the Conscience only by their Conformity hereto.—Laws ought to be plain and intelligible, consistent with themselves,—with Reason—with Religion.—Government ought to be supported by it’s Members, in exact Proportion to the Benefits they enjoy, and the Protection they receive from it. Those therefore who conduct these Affairs, we have Reason to expect will pay a due Regard to them.—As a public Spirit, a rational Desire and Endeavour to promote the publick Welfare, ought to animate all the Members of the Community; so it should be more conspicuously the Character of those intrusted with public Affairs. ‘Tis their proper Business, to which they should continually attend, to preserve the public from Damage,—to promote social Virtue, Peace and Happiness: To this End they ought to encourage social Worship,—Instructions in Righteousness,—well regulated Schools Edition: 1983; Page: [24] and Means Edition: current; Page: [[16]] of Education.—The civil and religious Liberties of the Community ought to be held inviolable, by all the Members, especially by those at the Head of Government.

As the Community has originally the Right to chuse it’s Magistrates, so it seems prudent to retain so much of this Right, as is consistent with Order and Peace; which may require other Methods for continuing some Officers than was expedient, or practicable for their first Appointment.—There appears a peculiar Propriety in, many Advantages result from, a considerable Part of the Legislature being frequently chosen, from all Parts of the Society: Hereby it’s true State is better known; and those arbitrary Principles and Practices too apt to prevail where Power is hereditary or long continued, are check’d, and their fatal Influence prevented.—As the apparent Danger of natural Death often restrains many Extravagances, and causes Men to practice many Duties, which are not regarded when this Danger is removed; so probably there may be something analogous to this in elective Offices. Therefore the annual Choice of two Branches of our Legislature, is generally tho’t a valuable Priviledge, that properly improved greatly conduces to the publick Safety and Welfare.—By Virtue of this Privilege one Branch of the Legislature is this Day to be chosen, for the ensuing Year.—The honourable Gentlemen, intrusted with this important Edition: 1983; Page: [25] Affair, as the public Good was the End, they ought, and professed to have in View, in seeking and accepting this Trust; with Reason we expect,—and have good Right to expect, that in the Choice of Councellors, the public Welfare will be their sole Aim:—that sinister Views will not be allowed in the least Degree to biass their Minds;—that partial Affections, natural Relations, private Piques, and Passions, will not be permitted in any Measure to influence their Choice.—The supreme Legislator of Mankind, has graciously condescended to describe the Character suited to this Trust—(Exod. 18. 21.) Provide out of all the people, able men. Persons of Wisdom and Capacity to discern between Good and Evil; that fear God, have a Sense of his Perfections, that reverance his Authority, fear his Displeasure, believe themselves accountable to him, and pay a due Regard to his Approbation: Men of Truth, Sincerity, Uprightness and Faithfulness in every Trust; hating Covetousness, not govern’d by private Interests, but truly regarding the public Good.—The Ruler in Israel, was obliged to write a Copy of the Law, and read therein all the Days of his Life, (Deut. 17. 18.). Proportionably, in other Governments, the Care of the Public should Edition: current; Page: [[17]] be committed only to such Persons as pay a suitable Regard to the Laws established by the great Governor of the World.—Societies of Christians act an imprudent Part, to trust their public Edition: 1983; Page: [26] Affairs to those who pay no Regard to their holy Religion,—who disbelieve it,—whose Tempers and Lives are manifestly inconsistent with it. Christianity fairly proposed, has sufficient Evidence, to engage the assent of upright, impartial Minds; and there is reason to distrust the Capacity or Integrity of the Person that rejects it:—While he behaves well, and lives honestly, he ought peaceably to enjoy the Protection of Government; yet it is a Reflection upon Christians, if they are obliged to chuse Persons of this Character into places of great Trust. Once more, Rulers should be Men known among their Tribes, (Deut. 1. 13.) Persons whose good Characters are known and established, who will probably behave well in whatever Station they are placed. These Qualifications must be regarded by the Electors, as they will answer it to God, to the Community, or to their own Consciences.

Those who are called Gods,—who by divine Providence, are raised to important Stations; particularly, who conduct the weighty Affairs of this Day; ought to remember, that there is One higher than They;—who judgeth among the Gods; (and tho’ they may not in legal Form be accountable to their Constituents, yet) to Him they are accountable for all their Talents. He Fitteth upon the Circle of the Earth, and views all the Children of Men; and with Him is no respect of Persons: He has said, that Edition: 1983; Page: [27] the Gods, those raised to the highest Authority over their Fellows, shall die like other Men; and after Death, is the Judgment; when they that have been faithful in little, and rightly improved their temporal Trust, shall be crowned with everlasting Honours; but the unfaithful, however great and dignified —shall in vain try to hide themselves in Caves of the Earth from the Face of him that sitteth on the Throne, and from the Wrath of the Lamb.—He that is wise will consider these Things.

Finally, let us all of every Rank and Order, consider our selves as Members of the civil Body, who have our proper Sphere of Action; and whatever Part Providence has assign’d us, let us perform it well. It is not our Concern, who fills this or that Station provided the Duties of it are faithfully performed, and there be no Schism in the Body. If the public Good be promoted, we ought to be content, tho’ we may imagine our selves, or some of our Friends, better qualified for some Posts, than the present Possessors. Our proper Concern is to be faithful Edition: current; Page: [[18]] to our own Trusts, not making a Schism in the Body, but expressing a real Care and good Will for the other Members: Thus we shall preserve Harmony, and promote general Happiness.

Government is a natural and a divine Ordinance, and when tolerably answering the good Ends of it, Edition: 1983; Page: [28] ought quietly to be submitted to, for Conscience sake. Did we more cultivate Love to God, and to Mankind, this mutual Care for one another, would more prevail, and fewer Schisms be in the Body: Public Vertue would diffuse public Peace, Tranquility and Happiness. Did we consider and improve the Text in the view the Apostle used it as a Motive and Reason for Peace and Faithfulness as Members of the Body of Christ, it would render us good Members of civil Society. Let this then be our Endeavour, to be true and living Members of Christ’s Body; in the Ways of his Appointment, let us seek an Union to and Interest in him, and pray that his Spirit, as a vital Principle may animate us, that we may be sincerely pious toward God, universally righteous toward Men, strictly sober with Regard to ourselves; then we shall be at Peace with God, and with one another. We shall be true Members of his Church here, peaceable and useful Members of the Body politic; and when all civil Societies shall be disbanded,—all secular Honours laid in the Dust,—and civil Distinctions be no more,—we shall be Members of the General Assembly and Church of the First-born in Heaven, where universal Love, Order and Virtue, shall reign with uninterrupted and everlasting Peace, Harmony and Felicity. Amen.

Edition: current; Page: [[19]]

[2]: T. Q. AND J.


Contrary to our broader understanding today, the doctrine of “separation of powers” was originally understood essentially as a prohibition on multiple office holding. These three letters nicely illustrate this and discuss the reasons for the prohibition as well as the possible limits to the prohibition. The lower chamber of the legislature under the Massachusetts Charter of 1691 was elected by the freemen of the colony, while the upper legislative chamber, the Council, was elected at a joint session of the lower house and last year’s Council. The Council was a full partner in the lawmaking process and served also to advise and assist the governor. In 1763 the possibility arose of the lieutenant governor and one or more judges being elected councillors, and the three letters reproduced here discuss the propriety of such multiple office holding. All but a few paragraphs are reproduced, some modernization of spelling and punctuation occurs, and words in brackets have been added to ease the understanding of the text.

1. Letter by T.Q. in The Boston Gazette and Country Journal for April 18, 1763.

Political liberty, as it is defined by a great writer [Baron de Montesquieu] is “a tranquility of mind arising from the opinion each man has of his own safety.” When this liberty is once destroyed it is to very little purpose to enquire how it was brought about; but before that is done, it is wisdom to guard against whatever has a tendency Edition: current; Page: [[20]] to it, in order to prevent it. Among many other things of this nature and tendency, the entrusting the same gentlemen with legislative and judiciary power, or the power of making laws and judging of them after they are made, has been warmly objected against in this paper. Such an objection we conceive may be made without breaking upon the rules of strict decency. It cannot however be a reflection upon a single gentleman because there are and have been for more than two years past, more instances than one of these different powers being invested in the same persons. Some of the arguments that have been used for this purpose, were taken from the admired writer of The Spirit of the Laws [Montesquieu]. We should be glad to see them fully answered, the doing of which before the ensuing elections would tend much more to the conciliating the minds of the good people of this province than many such pieces as we have seen published of late. Those who think the reasoning of the aforementioned writer conclusive are humbly of opinion that though “we are in the enjoyment of as great civil and religious liberties as any people under heaven,” we are at present in a way “most effectually to destroy them.” “There is no liberty,” says this writer, “if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative power; for the judge being the maker of the law, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control.” Consequently no subject how honest soever could be sure of his safety, and this uncertainty is inconsistent with political liberty.

It has also been questioned whether a Lieutenant-Governor can with any propriety be chosen a counsellor. If the question had been of a commander-in-chief no one perhaps would hesitate a moment to determine the impropriety of it, for this would be evidently to unite the legislative and executive powers in one person—a thing equally destructive to liberty as the other because “apprehensions may arise lest he should make tyrannical laws [in order] to execute them in a tyrannical manner.” Let it then be considered that in the absence of a commander-in-chief, a Lieutenant Governor fills his place, becomes invested with his executive powers, and acts in his stead. This has been the case and may be again. Have we not seen the time when the province must have been deprived of one of its able counsellors, [because otherwise] the same gentleman must have acted as governor and councellor, or in the executive and legislative trusts at the same time. The expediency of the one or the congruity of the other with the constitution, we should be glad to have explained to us. Besides, Edition: current; Page: [[21]] a gentleman must have an uncommon steadiness of mind to act with impartiality in the one of these truths while he is so nearly connected as to be continually almost within the sphere of the other. Many inconveniencies might be mentioned which ought by no means to be imputed to disaffection to, much less construed as an injurious reflection on, the present Lieutenant Governor who in our opinion fills up his different places with as much reputation as any other gentleman in the province could. At the same time it will give him no offence, however some others may take it, to suppose that some gentleman may be found in the province as well qualified, at least for a seat at the council board, as he. The objection we are now considering is not a new one; it was made many years ago. Lieutenant Governor Dummer was a gentleman of a most amiable character, and deserved as well from his country as perhaps any man ever did. Yet some of the best and most sensible men in the province, who had the highest personal regard for that excellent man, strenuously opposed his election for a counsellor upon the principles now urged. And their reasons were so prevalent in that day as at length to prevent his being chosen, after which he never had a seat at the board though he lived many years. What situation must the poor subjects be in under those republics where [the body of magistrates who execute the laws are able to utilize a whole body of powers] which they have given themselves in another capacity as legislators. They may plunder the state by their general determinations; and as they have likewise the judiciary power in their hands, every private citizen may be ruined by their particular decisions.

All men will allow that it is possible for one gentleman to be possessed of more power than is consistent with the safety of a community. The enquiry ought not to be how much he may possess with safety, but with prudence. The greater good any man hath done to his country, the more danger there is of his being entrusted with exorbitant power. Power, if we may be allowed the expression, naturally intoxicates the mind. It even alters men’s dispositions and inclines them to be masters instead of benefactors of their country. It affords them opportunity and prompts them to the exercise of a sort of tyranny by art, as fatal as if exercised by the sword. The Greeks found out an expedient to prevent these mischiefs, that is to keep their good men from growing formidably great. The Greeks were a wise people, and all governments would do well in this particular to imitate their example. It may be said, there can be no danger at Edition: current; Page: [[22]] present. But let it be considered that history affords us instances of men who had done great good to their country, for which they were even adored; and afterwards, having too much power in their hands, they betrayed their country! As long therefore as human nature is the same, as long as there is the same ambition in the minds of men, exorbitant power will have the same operations, and the same causes will produce the same effects. Julius Caesar, says a fine writer, was employed by the commonwealth to conquer for it, and he succeeded in his commission. Thus he was a benefactor to his country. But as a reward he took the commonwealth for his pains. Julius Caesar was a man of art and address. He distinguished himself by a courtesy and politeness of behavior as well as by his learning and his arms. He knew very well how to ingratiate himself with his countrymen. He gained their confidence by flattery and intrigue. And as soon as he had got power enough he made himself their master and ruined their liberties. If we have not a Caesar among us, and we would be far from insinuating that we have, it is wisdom for us to take care not to introduce one. If Gentlemen are now armed with so much fortitude and possessed of so much moderation, wisdom, and public virtue as to be aware of and withstand those temptations by which men in power are always encountered, and which have bore down even good as well as great men in former times, it ought to be remembered that great men are not always wise and good. The time may come when an ill use may be made of the precedents which are now establishing; when others—by being invested with the same offices with which it is said Gentlemen may be now entrusted with safety—may have an inclination as well as power not barely to disturb the peace, but to destroy the liberties of a province. This, then, may be as happy a reason to put a stop to such precedents as we may ever expect to have, since the only reason assigned for lessening the powers of any gentlemen at present is: that they possess rather too much.

2. Letter by J. in The Boston Evening Post for May 23, 1763. Supplement.

I am led into these reflections, by the alarms which have, of late, been industriously sounded upon all occasions, in public assemblies and in more private meetings, of the imminent dangers which threaten the liberties and constitution of this province [resulting from the circumstance Edition: current; Page: [[23]] of] his Honour the Lieut. Governor and the honourable justices of the Superior Court having a seat at the council board. . . .

I have before me the Boston Gazette of the 18th of April last, wherein is a piece upon this subject, signed T.Q.—a piece which, if compared with some other productions of the Gazette, may be called a moderate piece. It is the first I remember to have read in the Gazette in which sound argument and sober reasoning has not seemed to have been industriously avoided; all the others, upon this subject, having consisted wholly in bold assertions and personal reflections—and how far the reasoning in this is conclusive shalt now be considered. . . .

The Gentleman has given us a definition of political liberty, from the very justly celebrated author of The Spirit of the Laws: “The political liberty of the subject,” says this great writer, “is tranquility of mind, arising from the opinion each person has of his safety.” To which I beg leave to add what the same inimitable author says, a little before, upon this subject: “Political liberty does not consist in an unrestrained freedom. In governments, that is in societies directed by laws, liberty can consist only in the power of doing what we ought to will, and in not being constrained to do what we ought not to will. We must have continually present to our minds the difference between independence and liberty. Liberty is a right of doing whatever the laws permit.” The whole of this taken together forms, in my opinion, the just idea of political liberty as it regards the constitution and as it has relation to the subject—any other, than this complex idea of political liberty, is partial and will lead to endless error.

The question then to be considered is, whether it be inconsistent with, or dangerous to, our political liberty (taken in this complex sense) to have the Lieut. Governor, or the Justices of the Superior Court, members of His Majesty’s Council for this Province? T.Q. has taken the affirmative side of the question; and, if I rightly understand him, his main argument is grounded upon this single maxim of the same penetrating Montesquieu, viz: That, “in order to the preservation of liberty, it is necessary that the three powers—the legislative, executive, and judiciary—be not united, but be kept separate”—a maxim which, T.Q. and I shall agree, is perfectly consonant to right reason, sound policy, and common sense. But I believe we shall not so readily agree upon the sense in which it is to be understood. In my apprehension, Montesquieu no where says or would be understood to mean that liberty is in danger, or is lost, whenever any one member Edition: current; Page: [[24]] of that body which exerciseth the judiciary power is a member also of that body which exerciseth the legislative power—or in other words, when the same person is a judge and [at the same time] a member of one branch of the legislative body. [Montesquieu’s] meaning, I conceive, is no more than this: that the body which exerciseth the legislative power should be composed of members, a majority (or if it be more agreeable to T.Q., a large majority) of whom should have no share in the exercise of the judiciary power. I confine myself at present to the legislative and judiciary powers; the executive will be considered presently.

The sense in which T.Q. does, and must, understand this maxim, if he would avail his argument of it, is this (viz.): “There is no liberty where the legislative and judiciary powers are not kept so entirely separate, that the same person is not a judge and [at the same time] a member of the legislative body.” Now if my construction be right, it is evident, I think, that all arguments against the judge’s being of His Majesty’s Council, founded upon the foregoing maxim of Baron Montesquieu, are sophistical and inconclusive. To the easy task of proving my construction to be right, I proceed therefore in very few words.

Let it be observed then, and kept in mind, that the chapter of The Spirit of the Laws from which this maxim, and most of T.Q.’s other quotations, are taken is that wherein the Baron is professedly treating of the constitution of England. Let it also be observed that by the constitution of England the Lords Temporal, who sit in Parliament by reason of their dignities held by descent or creation, are not deprived of their seats or voices in Parliament by being made Chancellors or Judges of any other courts in the kingdom; but continue to sit and vote there notwithstanding such commissions. Let it be farther observed that from the first institution of the courts of Westminster-Hall to this day, it has been no uncommon thing for the Chancellors and Lord Chief Justices of the courts of Kings-Bench and Common Pleas to be created Peers of the Realm by patent or summons, at or after the time of their appointment to their respective offices. These are facts so well known to all who have the least acquaintance with the constitution of England that it would be needless to produce authorities in support of them. However, if any one doubts the truth of them, let him consult the 4th Institute and Rapin’s, or Edition: current; Page: [[25]] any other good history of England. It may not be amiss here just to mention, as a recent instance of this last kind, that the present Lord Chief Justice of the Kings-Bench in England was created a Peer, Anno 1756, by the title of Lord Mansfield of Mansfield; and has now a seat and voice in the House of Lords, and is, to all intents and purposes as completely a member of that branch of the legislative body, as any one member of that august house. Once more, let it be observed that the House of Lords is the supreme court of judicature in the nation, to whom appeals lie from decrees given in chancery, and before whom writs of error are brought upon judgments given in the court of King’s-Bench. Now can it be supposed that the great Montesquieu, who had but just before observed that the English nation “has for the direct end of its constitution political liberty,” and was now professedly describing the constitution of England, should yet lay it down as a maxim that: “there is no liberty where the legislative and judiciary powers are not entirely separated,” in T.Q.’s sense? Or can it be supposed that the Baron was unacquainted with facts so notorious and so essentially incompatible with his grand maxim (as T. understands it) as the foregoing are? Or will it be said that the legislative and judiciary powers are not separate, and consequently that there is no political liberty in England? No man, I think, who has read The Spirit of the Laws will suppose the former; and no Englishman in his senses, I am sure, will say the latter. Therefore I conclude, and I think very fairly, that T.Q. has essentially misapprehended the Baron’s meaning—i.e., that Judges may be members of the legislative body in perfect consistency with the constitution of England and with Montesquieu’s maxim. I will only add here that if my argument is conclusive with respect to England, which I presume cannot be denied, it is so a fortiori in regard to this Province because our Board of Councellors is not the Supreme Court of Judicature here, as the House of Lords is there.

I come now to consider “whether a Lieut. Governor can with any propriety be chosen a Councellor.” I must here first premise that to assert: “There can be no liberty where he who exerciseth the executive power, has any share in the legislative”—is such a mistake as I cannot suppose the great Montesquieu to be guilty of; because it is well known, that by the constitution of England, of which (it must be remembered) he is speaking, the King, who has the sole exercise of Edition: current; Page: [[26]] the executive power and is therefore by our English lawyers called “the universal judge of property”—“the fountain of justice”—“the supreme magistrate of the kingdom, intrusted with the whole executive power of the law,” and the like,—has also an essential share in the exercise of the legislative power; namely, the power of rejecting. Therefore when this great writer says: “the executive and legislative powers ought not to be united,” he must be understood to mean, as he often expresseth himself, “the whole executive, and the whole legislative powers ought not to be united” as they are in the republics of Italy—or in other words, a majority of the body which exerciseth the legislative power should have no share in the executive. Understood in this sense, and in no other, the Baron speaks like himself—a man of superior genius, and extensive knowledge. And so long as the legislative and executive powers are kept thus separate, they are an effectual check upon each other; which is the reason assigned by this great writer, why they ought not to be united.

I readily agree with T.Q. that “there would be an impropriety in choosing the commander-in-chief a Councellor,” though not for the reason which he assigns, namely, that “this would be evidently to unite the legislative and executive powers in one person.” For I deny that the whole or the major part of the legislative power would in this case be in the commander-in-chief. And consequently [I deny] that the two powers would in reality, or could with any propriety of language, be said to be united in him any more than they are now because he exerciseth the executive power and hath also the power of rejecting or negativing in the legislative—which, as has been shown, is precisely conformable to the constitution of England.

The same answer may be given to this objection applied to the Lieut. Governor upon the supposition of his becoming Commander-in-Chief by the absence of the Governor. And so long as his Excellency is resident in the province, I can conceive no objection to the Lieut. Governor’s being of the Council, unless a bare title without power, disqualifies him—which, as it has not been, so I presume it will not be pretended.

But it is objected that “in case of the absence of the commander-in-chief, the Lieut. Governor fills his place, and then the province must either lose one of its Councellors or else the same Gentleman must act as Governor and Councellor.” To this I answer: (1) This is a contingent event which may or may not happen—and to deprive Edition: current; Page: [[27]] ourselves of an able councellor forever for fear we should some time or other be deprived of him for a short space of time, would be as if we should starve ourselves this year for fear we should not have an abundance twenty years hence. (2) Considering Councellors as councellors or advisers to the commander-in-chief, the objection is grounded on a wrong supposition for, in the case put, we should not in fact be deprived of one of our able councellors unless it be said that because he is commander-in-chief, therefore he must not consult his own understanding. (3) Considering them as legislators, the most that can be said is that in this case we should have but twenty-seven of twenty-eight members in one branch of the legislative body, a case which often happens without any apprehensions of danger to our political liberty. Whether this mere possibility be a sufficient reason for our depriving ourselves of an able counsellor, I leave to all reasonable men to judge. The objection, as it supposeth an unconstitutional union of the legislative and executive powers, is answered by adding to what is said above: that if the chief command should devolve upon the Lieut. Governor, in such case his Honour would not act as a Councellor, considering them as legislators.

Thus I have endeavored, in compliance with T.Q.’s desire, “to conciliate the minds of the good people of this province” by showing that his Honour the Lieut. Governor, and the honourable justices of the Superior Court, may be of His Majesty’s Council in perfect harmony with the great Montesquieu’s eternal maxim of truth: “there is no liberty where the legislative, executive and judiciary powers are not kept separate.”

Some other positions in T.Q.’s piece should be considered; but that I perceive this would carry me to too great a length. I shall only add that the pretended danger of arbitrary power must appear a mere phantom, a bugbear, to any one who only considers that we are a dependent state, under the control and protection of Great-Britain. If we could be weak enough to suspect his Honour the Lieut. Governor of having the wicked design to enslave his country (though I can’t make the supposition, even for the sake of the argument, without pausing to ask his Honour’s pardon) yet we must be weak indeed to fear him, unless we can also suppose the King, Lords, and Commons of Great-Britain to be in combination with him.

Upon the whole, I submit it to all sober men to examine and judge for themselves whether the late indecent clamor and uproar Edition: current; Page: [[28]] about liberty and the constitution has not had it’s true source in something essentially different from or diametrically opposite to a sincere concern for the public good.

3. Letter by T.Q. in The Boston Gazette and Country Journal for June 6, 1763.

I think myself particularly obliged to the author of the piece in the last Monday’s Evening Post that he hath not treated me in such high terms of reproach with which several performances in that paper, distinguished by the same capital letter J, have so much abounded. On the contrary, he condescends to say that I am, comparatively, a moderate writer, and thinks it is the only Gazette he has read in which sound arguments and sober reasoning has not seemed to have been industriously avoided. . . .

Political liberty is a tranquility of mind arising from the opinion each person has of his own safety. This is an independent proposition in The Spirit of the Laws and needs not any thing that goes before or follows after it to give us a just idea of what the author would define by it, it being itself a full definition of political liberty. And I desire Mr. J would observe it is the only one contained in the chapter on the constitution of England. It needs no great stretch of understanding to conclude that whatsoever has a tendency to destroy the opinion which each man has of his own safety, and the tranquility of mind arising therefrom, is inconsistent with political liberty. The aforesaid author tells us that when the judge is the maker of the law, the life and liberty of the subject is exposed to arbitrary control. Now this arbitrary control destroys the subject’s opinion of his own safety and the tranquility of mind arising therefrom; and is consequently inconsistent with political liberty according to the above definition of it. I should then have concluded, had not the wisdom of the Government determined it otherwise, that it is inconsistent with our political liberty for the justices of the Superior Court to be members of His Majesty’s Council, considered as legislators, [or to be members] of the House of Representatives in the province, which is the question in dispute. I have nothing against Mr. J’s taking into his idea of liberty what the author of The Spirit of the Laws says of it in another distinct chapter: that it does not consist in an unrestrained freedom—that it Edition: current; Page: [[29]] can consist only in a power of doing what we ought to will—that we must have continually present to our mind the difference between independence and liberty—and that it is a right of doing what the laws permit. But I cannot see why he need to insist upon it, for it does not appear to me to be necessary [in order] to form an adequate idea of liberty.

“In order to the preservation of liberty, it is necessary that the three powers—the legislative, executive, and judiciary—be not united, but be kept separate.” This Mr. J says is perfectly consonant to right reason, sound policy, and common sense. And yet he very soon after tells us that it is not to be understood that liberty is in danger when [an executive officer is] one member of that body which exerciseth the legislative power. But I should think, and I believe it is obvious to any man, that according to the aforesaid maxim, liberty must be in danger in proportion to the degree of influence which a single member of one body may have in the other. Mr. J’s argument admits of this—though he does not seem to be aware of it or intend it—when he allows that it is necessary that a large majority of the members of the legislative body should have no share in the judiciary power. Pray from when should this necessity arise but from its being incompatible and dangerous to liberty? And if for this reason it is necessary that a large majority of the legislative should have no share in the judiciary powers, for the same reason it is necessary that not a single man who has a share in the judiciary power should be a member of the legislative body. If a single member of the one body may also be a member of the other, why may not more? Why not five as is contended for? I must own Mr. J seems to have one more particularly in his view. The more addition is made of the members of the one body to the other, the nearer it approaches to a large majority, and so in Mr. J’s own opinion to such a degree of influence as is destructive to liberty. If every addition of one man tends to the destruction of liberty, it is dangerous to liberty. If every such addition weakens the subject’s opinion of his safety and the tranquility of mind arising therefrom, it is a breach upon liberty. Mr. J may easily see that it is the weight of influence we are all along speaking of as alarming. And he himself is aware, when he speaks of a large majority, of the certain destruction of liberty if the weight of influence in the legislative should be in those members of it who are also members of the judiciary body. It is then worth his consideration how much greater the influence of a Edition: current; Page: [[30]] judge may be supposed to be than that of any other gentleman is presumed to be. [A judge] generally is of the first character for natural endowments and acquired abilities. The authority involved upon him is great. His dependents, whether he chuses it or not, are many—that is, there are many who are constantly expectant upon his decisions. Hence his connections must be very strong and his influence very powerful, too powerful perhaps for one man, even to a degree of danger to common liberty.

Chancellors and other judges, Mr. J says, have their seats and voices in parliament; it is no uncommon thing for them to be created peers of the realm, at or after the time of their appointment to their respective offices. Be it so. The author of The Spirit of the Laws no where that I know of says that it is not inconsistent with liberty that it should be so or that it is reconcileable with his maxim—which Mr. J allows is perfectly consonant with right reason, sound policy, and good sense. But it is not so very common a thing, as he would insinuate, for Lord Chief Justices to be created peers of the realm. It is however confessed there are such instances, and the present Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench is one. A Peer of the Realm and a Councellor of this province are created by two very distinct powers. The one is the Sovereign’s act; the other the election of the people. A Sovereign may exercise his legal prerogative as he pleases. But will it follow that because the Sovereign is pleased to create a Lord Chief Justice a Peer of the Realm, it is expedient for the people of this province to make a judge a Councellor? This is the force of Mr. J’s reasoning here. Or will it necessarily follow that it is perfectly consistent with liberty, according to his own complex idea of it? Or lastly, will it follow that it is agreeable to Montesquieu’s sentiments of liberty, after he has expresly said: there can be no liberty if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative power? “The nation has for the direct end of its constitution, political liberty”; this is Montesquieu’s opinion. Yet it may so happen that a practice may sometimes take place, which may interfere with and obstruct the direct end of the constitution. Mr. J’s inference that it is constitutional because it has sometimes been a fact, I take to be inconclusive. His argument, therefore, a fortiori; with regard to this province, upon which he builds so much, must fall to the ground.

This writer [J] says that to assert that “there can be no liberty where he who exerciseth the executive power has any share in the Edition: current; Page: [[31]] legislation” is a mistake because [says J] the King, who has the sole exercise of the executive power, has also an essential share in the exercise of the legislative power, normally that of rejecting. By the power of rejecting, the author of The Spirit of the Laws tells us, he means not the right of ordaining by their own authority or of mending what has been ordained by others, for this is the power of resolving. If a prince says he should have a share in legislation by the power of resolving, liberty would be at an end. Mr. J then should take away from a Councellor his essential power which he partakes in—of ordaining and amending what has been ordained by others—or his argument fails. [It is not enough for J to say] “as the executive power has no other part in legislation than the power of rejecting, it can have no share in the public debates.” A commander-in-chief, if he is a Councellor, has another part in legislation besides the power of rejection and a share in the public debates. The whole share which the executive power has in legislation is barely legislative; it may or may not annul the resolutions of the legislative body as it pleases. But a Councellor has a positive share in those resolutions.

The legislative body is composed of two parts. Each one checks the other by the mutual privilege of rejection. They are both checked by the executive power, as the executive by the legislative. There is and should be a sufficient weight in each of these powers to keep an even balance. . . .

If the commander-in-chief should be a Councellor at the same time, the two powers being invested in the same person (though with respect to the legislative, in part only), unavoidably, in certain degree, there would fall in the scale of executive power too much weight of influence. In other words the person possessed of the whole executive power would have an undue weight in the legislative body, and the balance would be disadjusted. Mr. J seems to allow that this should be an unconstitutional union, and says that in such a case a Lieutenant-Governor would not act as a Councellor, considering them as legislators. But can he assure the public of this? Power is enchanting. All men are fond of it. There are few men, if any, who would refuse at least as much as is offered to them. And if a Lieutenant Governor, in the case supposed, should choose to think that it was not an unconstitutional choice, and to act in both capacities, who could hinder him? Mr. J says: “It is a contingent event, and it may not happen.” But it has happened, and how soon it may happen again can only be conjectured. Edition: current; Page: [[32]] “To deprive ourselves,” says he, “of an able Councellor forever for fear we should some time or other be deprived of him for a short space of time, would be as if we should starve ourselves this year for fear we should not have an abundance twenty years hence.” Whether, if his honor the Lieutenant Governor should be left out of the Council, some other gentleman might not possibly be found qualified to fill his seat or whether we should be totally deprived of an able Councellor forever without any hopes of ever repairing the loss, is a question quite new. I choose for prudent reasons to waive it, at least till I hear further from my friend Mr. J.

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[3]: U.


The author of this letter to the editor, writing only under the name of U., is apparently responding to an altercation in the Massachusetts legislature. Despite the obvious depth of feeling, the author places the incident in a broad theoretical context that reveals much about the grounds of political discourse at the time. The essay appeared in the Boston Gazette on August 1, 1763.


Man is distinguished from other Animals, his Fellow-Inhabitants of this Planet, by a Capacity of acquiring Knowledge and Civility more than by any Excellency, corporeal, or mental, with which mere Nature has furnished his Species.—His erect Figure, and sublime Countenance, would give him but little Elevation above the Bear, or the Tyger: nay, notwithstanding those Advantages, he would hold an inferior Rank in the Scale of Being, and would have a worse Prospect of Happiness than those Creatures; were it not for the Capacity of uniting with others and availing himself of Arts and Inventions in social Life. As he comes originally from the Hands of his Creator, Self Love, or Self-Preservation, is the only Spring that moves within him.—He might crop the Leaves, or Berries, with which his Creator had surrounded him to satisfy his Hunger—He might sip at the Lake or Rivulet to slake his Thirst—He might screen himself behind a Rock or Mountain from the bleakest of the Winds—or he might fly from the Jaws of voracious Beasts to preserve himself from immediate Destruction.—But would such an Existence be worth preserving? Edition: current; Page: [[34]] Would not the first Precipice, or the first Beast of Prey, that could put a Period to the Wants, the Frights and Horrors, of such a wretched Being, be a friendly Object, and a real Blessing?

When we take one Remove from this forlorn Condition, and find the Species propagated, the Banks of Clams and Oysters discovered, the Bow and Arrow invented, and the Skins of Beasts or the Bark of Trees employed for Covering: altho’ the human Creature has a little less Anxiety and Misery than before; yet each Individual is independent of all others: There is no Intercourse of Friendship: no Communication of Food or Cloathing: no Conversation or Connection, unless the Conjunction of Sexes, prompted by Instinct, like that of Hares and Foxes, may be called so: The Ties of Parent, Son, and Brother are of little Obligation: The Relations of Master and Servant, the Distinction of Magistrate and Subject, are totally unknown: Each Individual in his own Sovereign, accountable to no other upon Earth, and punishable by none.—In this Savage State, Courage, Hardiness, Activity and Strength, the Virtues of their Brother Brutes, are the only Excellencies to which Men can aspire. The Man who can run with the most Celerity, or send the Arrow with the greatest Force, is the best qualified to procure a Subsistence. Hence to chase a Deer over the most rugged Mountain; or to pierce him at the greatest Distance will be held, of all Accomplishments, in the highest Estimation. Emulations and Competitions for Superiority, in such Qualities, will soon commence: and any Action which may be taken for an Insult will be considered as a Pretension to such Superiority; it will raise Resentment in Proportion, and Shame and Grief will prompt the Savage to claim Satisfaction, or to take Revenge. To request the Interposition of a third Person to arbitrate, between the contending Parties would be considered as an implicit Acknowledgment of Deficiency in those Qualifications, without which none in such a barbarous Condition would choose to live. Each one then, must be his own Avenger. The offended Parties must fall to fighting. Their Teeth, their Nails, their Feet or Fists, or perhaps the first Clubb or Stone that can be grasped, must decide the Contest by finishing the Life of one. The Father, the Brother, or the Friend begins then to espouse the Cause of the deceased; not indeed so much from any Love he bore him living, or from any Grief he suffers for him, dead, as from a Principle of Bravery and Honour, to shew himself able and willing to encounter the Man who had just before vanquished another.—Hence arises the Idea of an Edition: current; Page: [[35]] Avenger of Blood: and thus the Notions of Revenge, and the Appetite for it, grow apace. Every one must avenge his own Wrongs, when living, or else lose his Reputation: and his near Relation must avenge them for him, after he is dead, or forfeit his.—Indeed Nature has implanted in the human Heart a Disposition to resent an Injury when offered. And this Disposition is so strong, that even the Horse, treading by Accident on a gouty Toe, or a Brick-batt falling on the Shoulders, in the first Twinges of Pain seem to excite the angry Passions, and we feel an Inclination to kill the Horse and to break the Brick-batt. Consideration, however, that the Horse & Brick were without Design, will cool us; whereas the Thought that any Mischief has been done on Purpose to abuse raises Revenge in all its Strength and Terrors: and the Man feels the sweetest, highest Gratification when he inflicts the Punishment himself.—From this Source arises the ardent Desire in Men to judge for themselves when and to what Degree they are injured, and to carve out their own Remedies, for themselves.—From the same Source arises that obstinate Disposition in barbarous Nations to continue barbarous; and the extreme Difficulty of introducing Civility and Christianity among them. For the great Distinction between Savage Nations and polite ones lies in this, that among the former, every Individual is his own Judge and his own Executioner; but among the latter, all Pretensions to Judgment and Punishment are resigned to Tribunals erected by the Public: a Resignation which Savages are not without infinite Difficulty persuaded to make, as it is of a Right and Priviledge extremely dear and tender to uncultivated Nature.

To exterminate from among Mankind such revengeful Sentiments and Tempers is one of the highest and most important Strains of civil & humane Policy: Yet the Qualities which contribute most to inspire and support them may, under certain Regulations, be indulged and encouraged. Wrestling, Running, Leaping, Lifting, and other Exercises of Strength, Hardiness, Courage and Activity may be promoted among private Soldiers, common Sailors, Labourers, Manufacturers and Husbandmen, among whom they are most wanted, provided sufficient Precautions are taken that no romantic cavalier-like Principles of Honor intermix with them, and render a Resignation of the Right of judging and the Power of executing, to the Public, shameful. But whenever such Notions spread, so inimical to the Peace of Society, that Boxing, Clubbs, Swords or Fire-Arms, are resorted to for deciding Edition: current; Page: [[36]] every Quarrel, about a Girl, a Game at Cards, or any little Accident, that Wine, or Folly, or Jealousy, may suspect to be an Affront; the whole Power of the Government should be exerted to suppress them.—

If a Time should ever come when such Notions shall prevail in this Province to a Degree that no Priviledges shall be able to exempt Men from Indignities and personal Attacks; not the Priviledge of a Councellor, not the Priviledge of an House of Representatives of “speaking freely in that Assembly, without Impeachment or Question in any Court, or Place,” out of the General Court; when whole armed Mobs shall assault a Member of the House—when violent Attacks shall be made upon Counsellors—when no Place shall be sacred, not the very Walls of Legislation—when no Personages shall over awe, not the whole General Court, added to all the other Gentlemen on Change—when the broad Noon-Day shall be chosen to display before the World such high, heroic sentiments of Gallantry and Spirit,—when such Assailants shall live unexpelled from the Legislature—when slight Censures and no Punishments shall be inflicted—there will really be Danger of our becoming universally ferocious, barbarous and brutal, worse than our Gothic Ancestors before the Christian Æra.

The Doctrine that the Person assaulted “should act with Spirit,” “should defend himself, by drawing his Sword, and killing, or by wringing Noses and Boxing it out, with the Offender,” is the Tenet of a Coxcomb, and the Sentiment of a Brute.—The Fowl upon the Dung-Hill, to be sure, feels a most gallant and heroic Spirit at the Crowing of another and instantly spreads his Cloak and prepares for Combat.—The Bulls Wrath inkindles into a noble Rage, and the Stallions immortal Spirit can never forgive the Pawings, Neighings, and Defiances of his Rival. But are Cocks, and Bulls and Horses, the proper Exemplars for the Imitation of Men, especially of Men of Sense, and even the highest Personages in the Government!

Such Ideas of Gallantry have been said to be derived from the Army. But it was injuriously said, because not truly. For every Gentleman, every Man of Sense and Breeding in the Army has a more delicate and manly Way of thinking; and from his Heart despises all such little, narrow, sordid Notions. It is true that a Competition, and a mutual Affectation of Contempt, is apt to arise among the lower, more ignorant and despicable of every Rank and Order in Society. This Sort of Men, (and some few such there are in every Profession) among Divines, Lawyers, Physicians, as well as Husbandmen, Manufacturers Edition: current; Page: [[37]] and Labourers, are prone from a certain Littleness of Mind to imagine that their Labours alone are of any Consequence in the World, and to affect a Contempt for all others. It is not unlikely then, that the lowest and most despised Sort of Soldiers may have expressed a Contempt for all other Orders of Mankind, may have indulged a Disrespect to every Personage in a Civil Character, and have acted upon such Principles of Revenge, Rusticity, Barbarity and Brutality, as have been above described. And indeed it has been observed by the great Montesquieu, that “From a Manner of Thinking that prevails among Mankind (the most ignorant and despicable of Mankind, he means) they set an higher Value upon Courage than Timourousness, on Activity than Prudence, on Strength than Counsel. Hence the Army will ever despise a Senate, and respect their own Officers; they will naturally slight the Orders sent them by a Body of Men, whom they look upon as Cowards; and therefore unworthy to command them.”—This Respect to their own Officers, which produces a Contempt of Senates and Counsels, and of all Laws, Orders, and Constitutions, but those of the Army and their Superiour Officers; tho’ it may have prevailed among some Soldiers of the illiberal Character above described, is far from being universal. It is not found in one Gentleman of Sense and Breeding in the whole Service. All of this Character know that the Common Law of England is Superiour to all other Laws Martial or Common, in every English Government; and has often asserted triumphantly its own Preheminence against the insults and Encroachments of a giddy and unruly Soldiery. They know too that Civil Officers in England hold a great Superiority to Military Officers; and that a frightful Despotism would be the speedy Consequence of the least Alteration in these Particulars.—And knowing this, these Gentlemen who have so often exposed their Lives in Defence of the Religion, the Liberties and Rights of Men and Englishmen, would feel the utmost Indignation at the Doctrine which should make the Civil Power give Place to the Military; which should make a Respect to their superior Officers destroy or diminish their Obedience to Civil Magistrates, or which should give any Man a Right, in Conscience, Honor, or even in Punctilio and Delicacy, to neglect the Institutions of the Public, and seek their own Remedy for Wrongs and Injuries of any Kind.

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The importance of public virtue for a self-governing people, and the importance of religion for public virtue, were constant themes during the founding era. This short piece, published in the September 17, 1764 issue of the Boston Gazette, is representative of many similar essays to be found in newspapers throughout the founding era.

To the PUBLISHERS, &c.

There is an inseparable connection between publick virtue and publick happiness: Individuals, we are assured, must render an account hereafter of every part of their moral conduct in this state; but communities, as their existence will cease with this world, can neither be rewarded or punish’d as such in the next: It therefore appears rational to conclude, that present rewards and punishments are distributed to them, according to their present moral behaviour. Hence we see the importance of morality to a community: It should engage the serious attention of every individual, and his endeavor, to do all that lies in his power in his own sphere to encourage and promote it; and I think it is worth consideration, whether the decay of morality, which is too visible among us, is not very much owing to too much laxness in family government: I am far from being austere in my principles of the government of a family: I believe that too rigid a restraint upon young folks is usually attended with bad effects in the end; yet I will venture to ask whether we are not in general in the opposite extreme, and whether there are not already some instances of the fatal consequences of it?

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I believe it will be allowed by all christians, that a due observation of the Lord’s Day is one material branch of moral duty: The legislature of Great-Britain, and every subordinate legislature in her dominions, and to be sure the civil authority of this province, have always consider’d the first day of the week as wholly set apart for the purposes of devout religion: If then the supreme civil power; & if by far the greater part, if not every private individual, who is a serious christian, are not all mistaken in this matter, it must be very affecting to see the contempt that is cast, and the opposition that is made by some of our youth, to the good and wholesome laws of the province for the strict observation of that day. It is evident I think, that it is not only the particular law lately made that gives offence to these young people: let any one recollect four or five years ago, before this law was pass’d, what opposition was made to the Sabbath laws then in being: this his Honor the chief justice was pleas’d to observe upon in open court, the last Week: As much contempt was cast upon the justices of the peace who executed those laws then, as is now cast upon the gentlemen appointed to execute this: so that it rather seems to be an impatience in these thoughtless giddy youth under the restraint of any law at all: such restraint they cry out against as an attack upon their liberty: and so it is, upon a liberty to prophane a part of time which God Almighty at the creation of the world was pleas’d to pronounce holy: corrupt minds are apt to mistake all laws for reformation as an attack upon liberty: these young people it is to be fear’d are countenanced by some others, from whom as citizens at least, better things might be expected: but tis hoped their parents or masters will instruct them otherwise.

A good deal depends upon the youth of a country being train’d up to virtue and good manners: They are to act upon the stage of life, when the present generation is gone: It ought therefore to be the common concern of all—magistrates—ministers of the gospel & heads of families—all who have a regard for the future happiness of their country—and may I not say, all who wish that the Supreme Being, (who hath shown so much favor to New England in former and later times) may be honer’d by its posterity, to use all possible means to destroy vice & immorality of every kind, and to cultivate & promote the fear of God and a love to religion in the minds of our young people—I cannot help thinking that this chiefly depends upon the good government and instruction of families: public laws are made for the punishment and terror of evil doers: now, if every family was duly Edition: current; Page: [[40]] instructed and governed; if the youth were restrained by those who have the care of them at home, from acting in public, contrary to the declared mind of the public, there would be less occasion to put the laws in severe execution: but when the laws of God and man are openly violated, and those who are entrusted with the execution of them, are abused and insulted, it is high time for all orderly citizens to unite in a proper defence of them, and as openly to countenance them in bringing such notorious offenders to punishment—otherwise, what mischief may we not expect! The contagion will spread like the leprosy and infect the whole land! I should pity the father whose son should be bro’t to shame and the punishment of the law: but as I am a Father, and an aged father, I should in such a case willingly sacrifice my son, though it should bring my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.—Have not all civilized nations of the world regarded their morals, and made provision for the reformation of their manners? But what are all laws, if not animated by a laudable execution of them? The most solemn enacting clauses are but the image of authority while they remain in parchment.—Is there any one amongst us, who can look upon spreading vice, and think of the train of evils which must attend it, and not be inspired with [a] degree of zeal for a reformation? At this particular juncture especially, when we feel the just punishment of Heaven for our sins, and have reason to dread more? Are not our poor multiplied, and still multiplying and the charges upon others increasing? Are not our taxes heavy, and is not our trade labouring under new and intollerable burthens? Have we not trembled under severe judgments—fire, earthquake, sword and pestilence! and ought not these things to awaken our attention? When we shall be restored to virtue and sobriety, we may hope by the kind interposition of providence, to be eas’d of our present burthens, and have all our fears remov’d: but ’till then, what thoughtful man will expect it?—

I did not intend to have said so much upon a subject which seems to be more adapted to the pulpit, than a weekly newspaper: I shall conclude with a quotation from an author of great repute in England—

Think, what will become of us, if we suffer the laws for the reformation of manners to be broken, or born down: Think, if the wretches that debauch your children or servants, can find money, friends and advocates, to entangle the prosecutions, by Edition: current; Page: [[41]] increasing the difficulties and charge, and thereby make the law a terror to them that do well: Think, if those laws that fence about your property, and guard your peace, are so often violated now; if religion is not only neglected, but insulted, the Sabbath prophaned, and God blasphemed! If dissoluteness and debauchery now face the sun, and often out-brave both Heaven and the laws at once: Good God! What would it be if there were none to call for justice? if there were none to make the laws heard and felt, or sinners afraid by the due execution of them, which is their only significancy. The Devil would return upon us with seven spirits worse than the former. All future attempts for a reformation would be laughed out of countenance; and a flood of iniquity that has been long swelling on its dam, would at length bear down all before it. Vice would be triumphant: The very laws against immorality would become obsolete, or be voted a public nuisance, and an abridgement of the people’s liberty: Can any one profess a love to virtue and good manners, and not dread things coming to such a pass? or rather is it not of the last importance to prevent them?—

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[5]: Philo Publicus


Frugality was a central virtue for the Puritans, and it was esteemed throughout New England as one of the pristine American virtues setting them apart from the corrupt, venal, and extravagent English in the mother country. The anonymous author of this short essay stakes out a position frequently reiterated in American newspapers during the founding era. Frugality was a virtue with political implications for two reasons. First, a people hoping to be self-governing, it was felt, needed to be frugal if they were to restrain themselves in their demands on the public wealth. Money saved rather than spent could be invested to increase the common wealth. Also, the colonies, and later the young republic, produced few of the luxuries of life. These had to be imported from England and elsewhere, which not only used up scarce sterling but also tended to undercut American independence from foreign influence. Messrs. Edes and Gill were the editors of the Boston Gazette when this letter appeared on October 1, 1764.

Messieurs EDES & GILL,

As I am a hearty Well-wisher to every Attempt towards a public Reformation, it gives me peculiar Pleasure to heart that Numbers of the Inhabitants of Boston have entered into an Agreement to suppress Extravagance and promote Frugality; as Friends to Society they deserve the Thanks of every Individual; thro’ the Channel of your Paper I return them mine.

We have taken wide Steps to Ruin, and as we have grown more Edition: current; Page: [[43]] Luxurious every Year, so we run deeper and deeper in Debt to our Mother Country; and ’tis hard to say where the growing Evil will stop, if some vigorous Endeavours are not speedily us’d to retrieve our Affairs. Industry and Frugality are Virtues which have been buried out of Sight; ’tis Time, high time to revive them. He that Leads in this Cause, and is himself the Example, is a Patriot. I hope the present Appearances will not issue in a bare Flourish, but be exhibited in real Life; and that not only the Extravagancies of Dress, but of the House and the Table, will come under proper Regulations. When I enter the Doors of a Gentleman in Trade, and observe the Decorations of the Parlour, the shining Side Boards of Plate, the costly Piles of China; when he asks me to take a friendly Meal, and I behold a Variety of Meats and other Elegancies on his Table, and his Side Board enrich’d with a Collection of different Wines; and see the Mistress of it dress’d in Apparel which can be worn by none with Propriety but those who live on their Income; I say when I observe all this, I wonder not when I hear of frequent Bankruptcies.—I therefore beg Leave humbly to propose, that some Addition be made to the Articles agreed to by those Gentlemen who aim to give a helping Hand to their sinking Country, and wou’d ask. Why we may not limit the Number of Dishes at our Tables to Two?—Why we can’t sleep as well after supping on an Oyster, or a Bowl of Milk, as if we had feasted on a Patridge or a Rabbit?—And why the Cyder and the Beer of our own Manufacture will not agree as well with our Constitutions, as the Wines of Madeira, Bordeaux or Lisbon?—or at least may not the latter be us’d with Caution; and rather presented as a Cordial is to the Sick, when Nature really requires its Aid? and while our Gardens and our Fields afford us so many excellent Plants and Roots which our merciful Creator has provided for our Use, why need we on ev’ry slight Mallady run to the Physician to prescribe, and the Apothecary to supply us with foreign and very expensive Drugs? In this Article only great Sums are annually expended, and to my Knowledge in many Cases very needlessly—Here I am aware some Gentlemen of the Faculty will think me their declared Enemy, but not so the more judicious. I esteem the Profession, and am for supporting a sufficient Number of them in an honourable Manner; but I appeal to the most sensible of them, whether they are not often causelessly applied to, and even forced against their Judgments to prescribe Medicines where there is Edition: current; Page: [[44]] scarce any real Disease, at least none but Temperance, Exercise and Simples wou’d soon remove?

And on this Occasion, my fair Country-women will allow me to wish a general Reformation among them.—May they lay aside their Fondness for Dress and Fashions, for Trinkets and Diversions, and apply themselves to manage with Prudence the Affairs of the Family within, while their Husbands are busied in providing them the Means. May none think themselves above looking into every Article of Expence,—nor exempt from performing any Part of Family Business, when properly called to it—And especially do I wish they would bear on their Minds the Importance of educating their Children in the Principles of Virtue and Oeconomy, and assiduously apply themselves to cultivate the Minds, and form the Manners of those who in future Times will be either the Glory or the Disgrace of New England.

philo publicus.
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[6]: Stephen Hopkins 1701-1785

The Rights of Colonies Examined

Stephen Hopkins wrote this pamphlet, with the approval of the Rhode Island legislature, while he was governor of the state. Hopkins later served in the First and Second Continental Congresses, signed the Declaration of Independence, and helped write the Articles of Confederation. While not a brilliant theorist, Hopkins was a superb writer and here captures as well as anyone the central convictions held by most thoughtful Americans during the Stamp Act crisis.

  • Mid the low murmurs of submissive fear
  • And mingled rage, my Hampden rasi’d his voice,
  • And to the laws appeal’d . . .
  • Thompson’s Liberty

Liberty is the greatest blessing that men enjoy, and slavery the heaviest curse that human nature is capable of. This being so makes it a matter of the utmost importance to men which of the two shall be their portion. Absolute liberty is, perhaps, incompatible with any kind of government. The safety resulting from society, and the advantage of just and equal laws, hath caused men to forego some part of their natural liberty, and submit to government. This appears to be the most rational account of its beginning, although, it must be confessed, mankind have by no means been agreed about it. Some have found its origin in the divine appointment; others have thought it took its rise from power; enthusiasts have dreamed that dominion was founded in grace. Edition: 1983; Page: [4] Leaving these points to be settled by the descendants of Filmer, Cromwell, and Venner, we will consider the British constitution Edition: current; Page: [[46]] as it at present stands, on Revolution principles, and from thence endeavor to find the measure of the magistrate’s power and the people’s obedience.

This glorious constitution, the best that ever existed among men, will be confessed by all to be founded by compact and established by consent of the people. By this most beneficent compact British subjects are to be governed only agreeable to laws to which themselves have some way consented, and are not to be compelled to part with their property but as it is called for by the authority of such laws. The former is truly liberty; the latter is really to be possessed of property and to have something that may be called one’s own.

On the contrary, those who are governed at the will of another, or of others, and whose property may be taken from them by taxes or otherwise without their own consent and against their will, are in the miserable condition of slaves. “For liberty solely consists in an independency upon the will of another; and by the name of slave we understand a man who can neither dispose of his person or goods, but enjoys all at the will of his master,” says Sidney on government. These things premised, whether the British American colonies on the continent are justly entitled to like privileges and freedom as their fellow subjects in Great Britain are, shall be the chief point examined. In discussing this question we shall make the colonies in New England, with whose rights we are best acquainted, the rule of our reasoning, not in the least doubting but all the others are justly entitled to like rights with them.

New England was first planted by adventurers who left England, their native country, by permission of King Charles I, and at their own expense transported themselves to America, with great risk and difficulty settled among Edition: 1983; Page: [5] savages, and in a very surprising manner formed new colonies in the wilderness. Before their departure the terms of their freedom and the relation they should stand in to the mother country in their emigrant state were fully settled: they were to remain subject to the King and dependent on the kingdom of Great Britain. In return they were to receive protection and enjoy all the rights and privileges of freeborn Englishmen.

This is abundantly proved by the charter given to the Massachusetts colony while they were still in England, and which they received and brought over with them as the authentic evidence of the conditions they removed upon. The colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island Edition: current; Page: [[47]] also afterwards obtained charters from the crown, granting them the like ample privileges. By all these charters, it is in the most express and solemn manner granted that these adventurers, and their children after them forever, should have and enjoy all the freedom and liberty that the subjects in England enjoy; that they might make laws for their own government suitable to their circumstances, not repugnant to, but as near as might be agreeable to the laws of England; that they might purchase lands, acquire goods, and use trade for their advantage, and have an absolute property in whatever they justly acquired. These, with many other gracious privileges, were granted them by several kings; and they were to pay as an acknowledgment to the crown only one-fifth part of the ore of gold and silver that should at any time be found in the said colonies, in lieu of, and full satisfaction for, all dues and demands of the crown and kingdom of England upon them.

There is not anything new or extraordinary in these rights granted to the British colonies. The colonies from all countries, at all times, have enjoyed equal freedom with the mother state. Indeed, there would be found very few people in the world willing to leave their native country Edition: 1983; Page: [6] and go through the fatigue and hardship of planting in a new uncultivated one for the sake of losing their freedom. They who settle new countries must be poor and, in course, ought to be free. Advantages, pecuniary or agreeable, are not on the side of emigrants, and surely they must have something in their stead.

To illustrate this, permit us to examine what hath generally been the condition of colonies with respect to their freedom. We will begin with those who went out from the ancient commonwealths of Greece, which are the first, perhaps, we have any good account of. Thucydides, that grave and judicious historian, says of one of them, “they were not sent out to be slaves, but to be the equals of those who remain behind”; and again, the Corinthians gave public notice “that a new colony was going to Epidamnus, into which all that would enter, should have equal and like privileges with those who stayed at home.” This was uniformly the condition of all the Grecian colonies; they went out and settled new countries, they took such forms of government as themselves chose, though it generally nearly resembled that of the mother state, whether democratical or oligarchical. ’Tis true, they were fond to acknowledge their original, and always confessed themselves under obligation to pay a kind of honorary respect to, and show Edition: current; Page: [[48]] a filial dependence on, the commonwealth from whence they sprung. Thucydides again tells us that the Corinthians complained of the Corcyreans, “from whom, though a colony of their own, they had received some contemptuous treatment, for they neither payed them the usual honor on their public solemnities, nor began with a Corinthian in the distribution of the sacrifices, which is always done by other colonies.” From hence it is plain what kind of dependence the Greek colonies were under, and what sort of acknowledgment they owed to the mother state.

Edition: 1983; Page: [7] If we pass from the Grecian to the Roman colonies, we shall find them not less free. But this difference may be observed between them, that the Roman colonies did not, like the Grecian, become separate states governed by different laws, but always remained a part of the mother state; and all that were free of the colonies were also free of Rome, and had right to an equal suffrage in making all laws and appointing all officers for the government of the whole commonwealth. For the truth of this we have the testimony of St. Paul, who though born at Tarsus, yet assures us he was born free of Rome. And Grotius gives us the opinion of a Roman king concerning the freedom of colonies: King Tallus says, “for our part, we look upon it to be neither truth nor justice that mother cities ought of necessity and by the law of nature to rule over their colonies.”

When we come down to the latter ages of the world and consider the colonies planted in the three last centuries in America from several kingdoms in Europe, we shall find them, says Pufendorf, very different from the ancient colonies, and gives us an instance in those of the Spaniards. Although it be confessed these fall greatly short of enjoying equal freedom with the ancient Greek and Roman ones, yet it will be said truly, they enjoy equal freedom with their countrymen in Spain: but as they are all under the government of an absolute monarch, they have no reason to complain that one enjoys the liberty the other is deprived of. The French colonies will be found nearly in the same condition, and for the same reason, because their fellow subjects in France have also lost their liberty. And the question here is not whether all colonies, as compared one with another, enjoy equal liberty, but whether all enjoy as much freedom as the inhabitants of the mother state; and this will hardly be denied in the case of the Spanish, French, or other modern foreign colonies.

Edition: 1983; Page: [8] By this it fully appears that colonies in general, both ancient Edition: current; Page: [[49]] and modern, have always enjoyed as much freedom as the mother state from which they went out. And will anyone suppose the British colonies in America are an exception to this general rule? Colonies that came out from a kingdom renowned for liberty, from a constitution founded on compact, from a people of all the sons of men the most tenacious of freedom; who left the delights of their native country, parted from their homes and all their conveniences, searched out and subdued a foreign country with the most amazing travail and fortitude, to the infinite advantage and emolument of the mother state; that removed on a firm reliance of a solemn compact and royal promise and grant that they and their successors forever should be free, should be partakers and sharers in all the privileges and advantages of the then English, now British constitution.

If it were possible a doubt could yet remain, in the most unbelieving mind, that these British colonies are not every way justly and fully entitled to equal liberty and freedom with their fellow subjects in Europe, we might show that the Parliament of Great Britain have always understood their rights in the same light.

By an act passed in the thirteenth year of the reign of his late Majesty, King George II, entitled An Act For Naturalizing Foreign Protestants, etc., and by another act, passed in the twentieth year of the same reign, for nearly the same purposes, by both which it is enacted and ordained “that all foreign Protestants who had inhabited and resided for the space of seven years or more in any of His Majesty’s colonies in America” might, on the conditions therein mentioned, be naturalized, and thereupon should “be deemed, adjudged, and taken to be His Majesty’s natural-born subjects of the kingdom of Great Britain to all intents, constructions, and purposes, as if they, and every one of them, had been or were born Edition: 1983; Page: [9] within the same.” No reasonable man will here suppose the Parliament intended by these acts to put foreigners who had been in the colonies only seven years in a better condition than those who had been born in them or had removed from Britain thither, but only to put these foreigners on an equality with them; and to do this, they are obliged to give them all the rights of natural-born subjects of Great Britain.

From what hath been shown, it will appear beyond a doubt that the British subjects in America have equal rights with those in Britain; that they do not hold those rights as a privilege granted them, nor enjoy them as a grace and favor bestowed, but possess them as an Edition: current; Page: [[50]] inherent, indefeasible right, as they and their ancestors were freeborn subjects, justly and naturally entitled to all the rights and advantages of the British constitution.

And the British legislative and executive powers have considered the colonies as possessed of these rights, and have always heretofore, in the most tender and parental manner, treated them as their dependent, though free, condition required. The protection promised on the part of the crown, with cheerfulness and great gratitude we acknowledge, hath at all times been given to the colonies. The dependence of the colonies to Great Britain hath been fully testified by a constant and ready obedience to all the commands of his present Majesty and his royal predecessors, both men and money having been raised in them at all times when called for with as much alacrity and in as large proportions as hath been done in Great Britain, the ability of each considered. It must also be confessed with thankfulness that the first adventurers and their successors, for one hundred and thirty years, have fully enjoyed all the freedoms and immunities promised on their first removal from England. But here the scene seems to be unhappily changing: the British ministry, whether induced by a jealousy of the colonies by false informations, or by some alteration in the system of political Edition: 1983; Page: [10] government, we have no information; whatever hath been the motive, this we are sure of: the Parliament in their last session passed an act limiting, restricting, and burdening the trade of these colonies much more than had ever been done before, as also for greatly enlarging the power and jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty in the colonies; and also came to a resolution that it might be necessary to establish stamp duties and other internal taxes to be collected within them. This act and this resolution have caused great uneasiness and consternation among the British subjects on the continent of America: how much reason there is for it we will endeavor, in the most modest and plain manner we can, to lay before our readers.

In the first place, let it be considered that although each of the colonies hath a legislature within itself to take care of its interests and provide for its peace and internal government, yet there are many things of a more general nature, quite out of the reach of these particular legislatures, which it is necessary should be regulated, ordered, and governed. One of this kind is the commerce of the whole British empire, taken collectively, and that of each kingdom and colony in it as it makes a part of that whole. Indeed, everything that Edition: current; Page: [[51]] concerns the proper interest and fit government of the whole commonwealth, of keeping the peace, and subordination of all the parts towards the whole and one among another, must be considered in this light. Amongst these general concerns, perhaps, money and paper credit, those grand instruments of all commerce, will be found also to have a place. These, with all other matters of a general nature, it is absolutely necessary should have a general power to direct them, some supreme and overruling authority with power to make laws and form regulations for the good of all, and to compel their execution and observation. It being necessary some such general power should exist somewhere, every man of the least knowledge of the British Edition: 1983; Page: [11] constitution will be naturally led to look for and find it in the Parliament of Great Britain. That grand and august legislative body must from the nature of their authority and the necessity of the thing be justly vested with this power. Hence it becomes the indispensable duty of every good and loyal subject cheerfully to obey and patiently submit to all the acts, laws, orders, and regulations that may be made and passed by Parliament for directing and governing all these general matters.

Here it may be urged by many, and indeed with great appearance of reason, that the equity, justice, and beneficence of the British constitution will require that the separate kingdoms and distant colonies who are to obey and be governed by these general laws and regulations ought to be represented, some way or other, in Parliament, at least whilst these general matters are under consideration. Whether the colonies will ever be admitted to have representatives in Parliament, whether it be consistent with their distant and dependent state, and whether if it were admitted it would be to their advantage, are questions we will pass by, and observe that these colonies ought in justice and for the very evident good of the whole commonwealth to have notice of every new measure about to be pursued and new act that is about to be passed, by which their rights, liberties, or interests will be affected. They ought to have such notice, that they may appear and be heard by their agents, by counsel, or written representation, or by some other equitable and effectual way.

The colonies are at so great a distance from England that the members of Parliament can generally have but little knowledge of their business, connections, and interest but what is gained from people who have been there; the most of these have so slight a Edition: current; Page: [[52]] knowledge themselves that the informations they can give are very little to be depended on, though they may pretend to determine with confidence Edition: 1983; Page: [12] on matters far above their reach. All such kind of informations are too uncertain to be depended on in the transacting business of so much consequence and in which the interests of two millions of free people are so deeply concerned. There is no kind of inconveniency or mischief can arise from the colonies having such notice and being heard in the manner above mentioned; but, on the contrary, very great mischiefs have already happened to the colonies, and always must be expected, if they are not heard before things of such importance are determined concerning them.

Had the colonies been fully heard before the late act had been passed, no reasonable man can suppose it ever would have passed at all in the manner it now stands; for what good reason can possibly be given for making a law to cramp the trade and ruin the interests of many of the colonies, and at the same time lessen in a prodigious manner the consumption of the British manufactures in them? These are certainly the effects this act must produce; a duty of three pence per gallon on foreign molasses is well known to every man in the least acquainted with it to be much higher than that article can possibly bear, and therefore must operate as an absolute prohibition. This will put a total stop to our exportation of lumber, horses, flour, and fish to the French and Dutch sugar colonies; and if anyone supposes we may find a sufficient vent for these articles in the English islands in the West Indies, he only verifies what was just now observed, that he wants truer information. Putting an end to the importation of foreign molasses at the same time puts an end to all the costly distilleries in these colonies, and to the rum trade to the coast of Africa, and throws it into the hands of the French. With the loss of the foreign molasses trade, the cod fishery of the English in America must also be lost and thrown also into the hands of the French. That this is the real state of the whole business is not fancy; this, nor any part of it, is not exaggeration but a sober and most melancholy truth.

Edition: 1983; Page: [13] View this duty of three pence per gallon on foreign molasses not in the light of a prohibition but supposing the trade to continue and the duty to be paid. Heretofore there hath been imported into the colony of Rhode Island only, about one million one hundred and fifty thousand gallons annually; the duty on this quantity is fourteen thousand three hundred and seventy-five pounds sterling to be paid Edition: current; Page: [[53]] yearly by this little colony, a larger sum than was ever in it at any one time. This money is to be sent away, and never to return; yet the payment is to be repeated every year. Can this possibly be done? Can a new colony, compelled by necessity to purchase all its clothing, furniture, and utensils from England, to support the expenses of its own internal government, obliged by its duty to comply with every call from the crown to raise money on emergencies; after all this, can every man in it pay twenty-four shillings sterling a year for the duties of a single article only? There is surely no man in his right mind believes this possible. The charging foreign molasses with this high duty will not affect all the colonies equally, nor any other near so much as this of Rhode Island, whose trade depended much more on foreign molasses and on distilleries than that of any others; this must show that raising money for the general service of the crown or of the colonies by such a duty will be extremely unequal and therefore unjust. And now taking either alternative, by supposing, on one hand, the foreign molasses trade is stopped and with it the opportunity or ability of the colonies to get money, or, on the other, that this trade is continued and that the colonies get money by it but all their money is taken from them by paying the duty, can Britain be gainer by either? Is it not the chiefest interest of Britain to dispose of and to be paid for her own manufactures? And doth she not find the greatest and best market for them in her own colonies? Will she find an advantage in disabling the colonies to Edition: 1983; Page: [14] continue their trade with her? Or can she possibly grow rich by their being made poor?

Ministers have great influence, and Parliaments have great power—can either of them change the nature of things, stop all our means of getting money, and yet expect us to purchase and pay for British manufactures? The genius of the people in these colonies is as little turned to manufacturing goods for their own use as is possible to suppose in any people whatsoever; yet necessity will compel them either to go naked in this cold country or to make themselves some sort of clothing, if it be only the skins of beasts.

By the same act of Parliament, the exportation of all kinds of timber or lumber, the most natural produce of these new colonies, is greatly encumbered and uselessly embarrassed, and the shipping it to any part of Europe except Great Britain prohibited. This must greatly affect the linen manufactory in Ireland, as that kingdom used to receive great quantities of flaxseed from America; many cargoes, being Edition: current; Page: [[54]] made of that and of barrel staves, were sent thither every year; but as the staves can no longer be exported thither, the ships carrying only flaxseed casks, without the staves which used to be intermixed among them, must lose one half of their freight, which will prevent their continuing this trade, to the great injury of Ireland and of the plantations. And what advantage is to accrue to Great Britain by it must be told by those who can perceive the utility of this measure.

Enlarging the power and jurisdiction of the courts of vice-admiralty in the colonies is another part of the same act, greatly and justly complained of. Courts of admiralty have long been established in most of the colonies, whose authority were circumscribed within moderate territorial jurisdictions; and these courts have always done the business necessary to be brought before such courts for trial in Edition: 1983; Page: [15] the manner it ought to be done and in a way only moderately expensive to the subjects; and if seizures were made or informations exhibited without reason or contrary to law, the informer or seizor was left to the justice of the common law, there to pay for his folly or suffer for his temerity. But now this course is quite altered, and a customhouse officer may make a seizure in Georgia of goods ever so legally imported, and carry the trial to Halifax at fifteen hundred miles distance; and thither the owner must follow him to defend his property; and when he comes there, quite beyond the circle of his friends, acquaintance, and correspondents, among total strangers, he must there give bond and must find sureties to be bound with him in a large sum before he shall be admitted to claim his own goods; when this is complied with, he hath a trial and his goods acquitted. If the judge can be prevailed on (which it is very well known may too easily be done) to certify there was only probable cause for making the seizure, the unhappy owner shall not maintain any action against the illegal seizor for damages or obtain any other satisfaction, but he may return to Georgia quite ruined and undone in conformity to an act of Parliament. Such unbounded encouragement and protection given to informers must call to everyone’s remembrance Tacitus’ account of the miserable condition of the Romans in the reign of Tiberius their emperor, who let loose and encouraged the informers of that age. Surely if the colonies had been fully heard before this has been done, the liberties and properties of the Americans would not have been so much disregarded.

The resolution of the House of Commons, come into during the Edition: current; Page: [[55]] same session of Parliament, asserting their rights to establish stamp duties and internal taxes to be collected in the colonies without their own consent, hath much more, and for much more reason, alarmed the British subjects in America than anything that had ever been done before. Edition: 1983; Page: [16] These resolutions, carried into execution, the colonies cannot help but consider as a manifest violation of their just and long-enjoyed rights. For it must be confessed by all men that they who are taxed at pleasure by others cannot possibly have any property, can have nothing to be called their own. They who have no property can have no freedom, but are indeed reduced to the most abject slavery, are in a condition far worse than countries conquered and made tributary, for these have only a fixed sum to pay, which they are left to raise among themselves in the way that they may think most equal and easy, and having paid the stipulated sum the debt is discharged, and what is left is their own. This is much more tolerable than to be taxed at the mere will of others, without any bounds, without any stipulation and agreement, contrary to their consent and against their will. If we are told that those who lay these taxes upon the colonies are men of the highest character for their wisdom, justice, and integrity, and therefore cannot be supposed to deal hardly, unjustly, or unequally by any; admitting and really believing that all this is true, it will make no alteration in the nature of the case. For one who is bound to obey the will of another is as really a slave though he may have a good master as if he had a bad one; and this is stronger in politic bodies than in natural ones, as the former have perpetual succession and remain the same; and although they may have a very good master at one time, they may have a very bad one at another. And indeed, if the people in America are to be taxed by the representatives of the people in Britain, their malady is an increasing evil that must always grow greater by time. Whatever burdens are laid upon the Americans will be so much taken off the Britons; and the doing this will soon be extremely popular, and those who put up to be members of the House of Commons must obtain the votes of the people by promising to Edition: 1983; Page: [17] take more and more of the taxes off them by putting it on the Americans. This must most assuredly be the case, and it will not be in the power even of the Parliament to prevent it; the people’s private interest will be concerned and will govern them; they will have such, and only such, representatives as will act agreeable to this their interest; and these taxes laid on Edition: current; Page: [[56]] Americans will be always a part of the supply bill, in which the other branches of the legislature can make no alteration. And in truth, the subjects in the colonies will be taxed at the will and pleasure of their fellow subjects in Britain. How equitable and how just this may be must be left to every impartial man to determine.

But it will be said that the monies drawn from the colonies by duties and by taxes will be laid up and set apart to be used for their future defense. This will not at all alleviate the hardship, but serves only more strongly to mark the servile state of the people. Free people have ever thought, and always will think, that the money necessary for their defense lies safest in their own hands, until it be wanted immediately for that purpose. To take the money of the Americans, which they want continually to use in their trade, and lay it up for their defense at a thousand leagues distance from them when the enemies they have to fear are in their own neighborhood, hath not the greatest probability of friendship or of prudence.

It is not the judgment of free people only that money for defending them is safest in their own keeping, but it hath also been the opinion of the best and wisest kings and governors of mankind, in every age of the world, that the wealth of a state was most securely as well as most profitably deposited in the hands of their faithful subjects. Constantine, emperor of the Romans, though an absolute prince, both practiced and praised this method. “Diocletian sent persons on purpose to reproach him with his neglect of the public, and the poverty to which he was Edition: 1983; Page: [18] reduced by his own fault. Constantine heard these reproaches with patience; and having persuaded those who made them in Diocletian’s name, to stay a few days with him, he sent word to the most wealthy persons in the provinces that he wanted money and that they had now an opportunity of showing whether or no they truly loved their prince. Upon this notice everyone strove who should be foremost in carrying to the exchequer all their gold, silver, and valuable effects; so that in a short time Constantine from being the poorest became by far the most wealthy of all the four princes. He then invited the deputies of Diocletian to visit his treasury, desiring them to make a faithful report to their master of the state in which they should find it. They obeyed; and, while they stood gazing on the mighty heaps of gold and silver, Constantine told them that the wealth which they beheld with astonishment had long since belonged to him, but that he had left it by way of depositum in the hands of Edition: current; Page: [[57]] his people, adding, the richest and surest treasure of the prince was the love of his subjects. The deputies were no sooner gone than the generous prince sent for those who had assisted him in his exigency, commended their zeal, and returned to everyone what they had so readily brought into his treasury.” Universal Hist., vol. XV, p. 523.

We are not insensible that when liberty is in danger, the liberty of complaining is dangerous; yet a man on a wreck was never denied the liberty of roaring as loud as he could, says Dean Swift. And we believe no good reason can be given why the colonies should not modestly and soberly inquire what right the Parliament of Great Britain have to tax them. We know such inquiries by a late letter writer have been branded with the little epithet of mushroom policy; and he insinuates that for the colonies to pretend to claim any privileges will draw down the Edition: 1983; Page: [19] resentment of the Parliament on them. Is the defense of liberty become so contemptible, and pleading for just rights so dangerous? Can the guardians of liberty be thus ludicrous? Can the patrons of freedom be so jealous and so severe? If the British House of Commons are rightfully possessed of a power to tax the colonies in America, this power must be vested in them by the British constitution, as they are one branch of the great legislative body of the nation. As they are the representatives of all the people in Britain, they have beyond doubt all the power such a representation can possibly give; yet great as this power is, surely it cannot exceed that of their constituents. And can it possibly be shown that the people in Britain have a sovereign authority over their fellow subjects in America? Yet such is the authority that must be exercised in taking people’s estates from them by taxes, or otherwise without their consent. In all aids granted to the crown by the Parliament, it is said with the greatest propriety, “We freely give unto Your Majesty”; for they give their own money and the money of those who have entrusted them with a proper power for that purpose. But can they with the same propriety give away the money of the Americans, who have never given any such power? Before a thing can be justly given away, the giver must certainly have acquired a property in it; and have the people in Britain justly acquired such a property in the goods and estates of the people in these colonies that they may give them away at pleasure?

In an imperial state, which consists of many separate governments each of which hath peculiar privileges and of which kind it is evident Edition: current; Page: [[58]] the empire of Great Britain is, no single part, though greater than another part, is by that superiority entitled to make laws for or to tax such lesser part; but all laws and all taxations which bind the whole must be made by the whole. This may be fully verified by the empire of Germany, which consists of many states, some Edition: 1983; Page: [20] powerful and others weak, yet the powerful never make laws to govern or to tax the little and weak ones, neither is it done by the emperor, but only by the diet, consisting of the representatives of the whole body. Indeed, it must be absurd to suppose that the common people of Great Britain have a sovereign and absolute authority over their fellow subjects in America, or even any sort of power whatsoever over them; but it will be still more absurd to suppose they can give a power to their representatives which they have not themselves. If the House of Commons do not receive this authority from their constituents it will be difficult to tell by what means they obtained it, except it be vested in them by mere superiority and power.

Should it be urged that the money expended by the mother country for the defense and protection of America, and especially during the late war, must justly entitle her to some retaliation from the colonies, and that the stamp duties and taxes intended to be raised in them are only designed for that equitable purpose; if we are permitted to examine how far this may rightfully vest the Parliament with the power of taxing the colonies we shall find this claim to have no sort of equitable foundation. In many of the colonies, especially those in New England, who were planted, as before observed, not at the charge of the crown or kingdom of England, but at the expense of the planters themselves, and were not only planted but also defended against the savages and other enemies in long and cruel wars which continued for an hundred years almost without intermission, solely at their own charge; and in the year 1746, when the Duke D’Anville came out from France with the most formidable French fleet that ever was in the American seas, enraged at these colonies for the loss of Louisbourg the year before and with orders to make an attack on them; even in this greatest exigence, these colonies were left to the protection of Heaven and their own efforts. These colonies Edition: 1983; Page: [21] having thus planted and defended themselves and removed all enemies from their borders, were in hopes to enjoy peace and recruit their state, much exhausted by these long struggles; but they were soon called upon to raise men and send out to the defense of other colonies, and to make Edition: current; Page: [[59]] conquests for the crown. They dutifully obeyed the requisition, and with ardor entered into those services and continued in them until all encroachments were removed, and all Canada, and even the Havana, conquered. They most cheerfully complied with every call of the crown; they rejoiced, yea even exulted, in the prosperity and exaltation of the British empire. But these colonies, whose bounds were fixed and whose borders were before cleared from enemies by their own fortitude and at their own expense, reaped no sort of advantage by these conquests: they are not enlarged, have not gained a single acre of land, have no part in the Indian or interior trade. The immense tracts of land subdued and no less immense and profitable commerce acquired all belong to Great Britain, and not the least share or portion to these colonies, though thousands of their men have lost their lives and millions of their money have been expended in the purchase of them, for great part of which we are yet in debt, and from which we shall not in many years be able to extricate ourselves. Hard will be the fate, yea cruel the destiny, of these unhappy colonies if the reward they are to receive for all this is the loss of their freedom; better for them Canada still remained French, yea far more eligible that it ever should remain so than that the price of its reduction should be their slavery.

If the colonies are not taxed by Parliament, are they therefore exempted from bearing their proper share in the necessary burdens of government? This by no means follows. Do they not support a regular internal government in each colony as expensive to the people here as the internal government of Britain is to the people there? Have not Edition: 1983; Page: [22] the colonies here, at all times when called upon by the crown, raised money for the public service, done it as cheerfully as the Parliament have done on like occasions? Is not this the most easy, the most natural, and most constitutional way of raising money in the colonies? What occasion then to distrust the colonies—what necessity to fall on an invidious and unconstitutional method to compel them to do what they have ever done freely? Are not the people in the colonies as loyal and dutiful subjects as any age or nation ever produced; and are they not as useful to the kingdom, in this remote quarter of the world, as their fellow subjects are who dwell in Britain? The Parliament, it is confessed, have power to regulate the trade of the whole empire; and hath it not full power, by this means, to draw all the money and all the wealth of the colonies into the mother country Edition: current; Page: [[60]] at pleasure? What motive, after all this, can remain to induce the Parliament to abridge the privileges and lessen the rights of the most loyal and dutiful subjects, subjects justly entitled to ample freedom, who have long enjoyed and not abused or forfeited their liberties, who have used them to their own advantage in dutiful subserviency to the orders and interests of Great Britain? Why should the gentle current of tranquillity that has so long run with peace through all the British states, and flowed with joy and happiness in all her countries, be at last obstructed, be turned out of its true course into unusual and winding channels by which many of those states must be ruined, but none of them can possibly be made more rich or more happy?

Before we conclude, it may be necessary to take notice of the vast difference there is between the raising money in a country by duties, taxes, or otherwise, and employing and laying out the money again in the same country, and raising the like sums of money by the like means and sending it away quite out of the country where it is raised. Where the former of these is the case, although the sums raised may be Edition: 1983; Page: [23] very great, yet that country may support itself under them; for as fast as the money is collected together, it is again scattered abroad, to be used in commerce and every kind of business; and money is not made scarcer by this means, but rather the contrary, as this continual circulation must have a tendency to prevent, in some degree, its being hoarded. But where the latter method is pursued, the effect will be extremely different; for here, as fast as the money can be collected, ’tis immediately sent out of the country, never to return but by a tedious round of commerce, which at best must take up much time. Here all trade, and every kind of business depending on it, will grow dull, and must languish more and more until it comes to a final stop at last. If the money raised in Great Britain in the three last years of the late war, and which exceeded forty millions sterling, had been sent out of the kingdom, would not this have nearly ruined the trade of the nation in three years only? Think, then, what must be the condition of these miserable colonies when all the money proposed to be raised in them by high duties on the importation of divers kinds of goods, by the post office, by stamp duties, and other taxes, is sent quite away, as fast as it can be collected, and this to be repeated continually and last forever! Is it possible for colonies under these circumstances to support themselves, to have any money, any trade, or other business, carried on in them? Certainly it is not; nor Edition: current; Page: [[61]] is there at present, or ever was, any country under Heaven that did, or possibly could, support itself under such burdens.

We finally beg leave to assert that the first planters of these colonies were pious Christians, were faithful subjects who, with a fortitude and perseverance little known and less considered, settled these wild countries, by God’s goodness and their own amazing labors, thereby added a most valuable dependence to the crown of Great Britain; were ever dutifully subservient to her interests; so taught their children Edition: 1983; Page: [24] that not one has been disaffected to this day, but all have honestly obeyed every royal command and cheerfully submitted to every constitutional law; have as little inclination as they have ability to throw off their dependency; have carefully avoided every offensive measure and every interdicted manufacture; have risked their lives as they have been ordered, and furnished their money when it has been called for; have never been troublesome or expensive to the mother country; have kept due order and supported a regular government; have maintained peace and practiced Christianity; and in all conditions, and in every relation, have demeaned themselves as loyal, as dutiful, and as faithful subjects ought; and that no kingdom or state hath, or ever had, colonies more quiet, more obedient, or more profitable than these have ever been.

May the same divine goodness that guided the first planters, protected the settlements, inspired Kings to be gracious, Parliaments to be tender, ever preserve, ever support our present gracious King; give great wisdom to his ministers and much understanding to his Parliaments; perpetuate the sovereignty of the British constitution, and the filial dependency and happiness of all the colonies.

Edition: current; Page: [[62]]

[7]: Aequus

From the Craftsman

This piece appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Newsletter on March 6, 1766. Supposedly reprinted from a London newspaper, it was either written by an American living in London, or else the attribution to an anonymous London author was made for propaganda purposes, and it was really written by someone in Boston. The reasoning is concise, and the conclusion is pro-colonist. As with the next piece in this volume, written by Richard Bland the same week this appeared, the present essay illustrates advanced thinking on the matter of England’s relationship with her colonies and clearly foreshadows the arguments to be used ten years later. The careful exposition lifts this piece beyond mere rhetoric and nicely summarizes colonial attitudes toward their mother country.

An ex post facto question, soon expected to be advisedly discussed, is “whether the mother-country has a right of imposing local taxes on all her American colonies?” The precedent fact is supposed to have been ministerially pre-resolved, and influentially established. This necessary previous question, as to the right, remains still to be put; and it is hoped the wisdom and equity of Both Houses will not suffer it to be craftily slurred over, and much less precipitately carried—as it were by a Coup de Main.

The proper arguments, stript of all political refinements and expediences, must turn on the two political points, viz. the constitutional power of the British Parliament, respecting the aforementioned fact; and the actual exertions of Royal Prerogative, in the point of right; Edition: current; Page: [[63]] under which it is admitted that the colonies lay claim to and avow their respective legislative privileges.

English Liberty is a propriety attached to the individuals of the community, founded on the original frame or constitution of our government, and might be defined, “the primitive right that every freeholder had of consenting to those laws by which the community was to be obliged.” Time and a change of circumstances extended this circle of comprehension, and made every subject in some respect or other a member of the legislature; his consent, at first personally denoted, was afterward allowed to be given by a proxy or representative. Usage and conveniency transformed that indulgence into a right; and a general presence in parliament being only judicially supposed, is thus rendered something more than a legal fiction; hence the maxim prevailed,—“that every one was a party to all acts of parliament.” This privilege of becoming a party to the laws, or being in effect his own governor, was as it were the consideration or price of individual subjection: and from the express or implied exercise of it, the duty of our legal obedience is inferred. But an Englishman in America has no means of being present or represented in the British Legislature quasi a colonist; where then is to be found his consent to parliamentary acts operative there; and by what construction can he be said to give his voice? being thus in neither sense a party, as wanting the fundamental privilege above-mentioned; and not having been subjected to any obligation of this kind by original patent or charter; but on the contrary, an express power being thereby granted to the colonies of enacting their own laws, provided the same be not repugnant to those of Great-Britain. It is hard to conceive from what constitutional principle applicable to a colony, not a conquered country, his obedience to a statute-law can be deduced. I say, to statute-law or a mere act of parliament, independently of any auxiliary jurisdiction derived from the blended exertion of prerogative in cases of that legal repugnancy, which in terminis are excepted by their said charters; and wherein prerogative singly, or conjunctively with both Houses, has and may acknowledgedly interpose, pursuantly to the same. This obedience would certainly be, with respect to him a naked duty; an ex parte obligation obtruded upon him, which is repugnant to the nature of all legalities and destructive of that principle wherein English Liberty essentially consists. But farther, were the English Americans not only to be bound there by the acts of the British parliament in all cases, Edition: current; Page: [[64]] but also by those of their own assemblies:—here would be a subjection within a subjection, which might subordinate their actions to alternate contrarities and cross penalties! a duplicity of jurisdiction over the same objects, and equally in the first instance, unknown to the law! a supersaetation in the legislative system, which seems monstrous and unnatural! The delegation therefore of a legislative power to the colonies must, one would think, from its necessary efficacy, be considered not only as uncurrent with, but as exclusive of all parliamentary participation in the proper subjects of their legislation, that is to say, in cases not repugnant to the laws of Great-Britain. And in all such cases may not the maxim be fitly applied;—“Designatio unius est exclusto alterius, et expressum facit cessare tacitum?”

That such a question should be occasioned at this time of day, seems altogether surprizing; after our very parliaments have taken occasional notices of and impliedly confirmed the acts of the American assemblies, in local levies and assessments; and the administration itself having had frequent resources to them for supplies in such pressing seasons, when, if the mother country had a right of imposing taxes, the importance of the occasion would have worthily becomed her to have done so, and, on the supposition of that right, should have done it,—for the sake of certainty and dispatch.

But it has been asserted with more justice and consistency that the King’s Scepter is the instrument of power over the colonies, and Prerogative the rule by which their obedience must be regulated. In this case, however, have not the royal charters been granted, establishing a constitution, and delegating to them the before-mentioned qualified power of legislation? To which the crown, even for the necessary provision and maintenance of their government, has frequently referred itself, as to an essential principal, concurring party; thereby recognizing that vested right in the colonies, the establishment whereof itself had originally prescribed and chartered. Moreover, is not the King a perpetual constituent branch of their legislatures representedly present in every assembly, and an actual party to all their laws? And this being the case, prerogative must indeed be owned to have herein tempered its operations agreeable to the spirit of the English constitution, and to have thus generously bound and limited itself. Nor could it well have happened otherwise: for if, as has been said, the common-law followed the subject to America, it is presumed that prerogative could have only acted there consistently with, and in Edition: current; Page: [[65]] conformity to it. Further with particular respect to the point in question, numerous are the instances of money-levies and assessments enacted by the American assemblies, that have travelled through occasional examinations, of the several boards and cognizances here, and nevertheless been confirmed, or received the royal approbation: and no instance that I can find has occurred, where any such act has been disallowed merely on account of its particular tendency, or of those legislatures having exercised a power which did not appertain to them. And the royal confirmation of the actual exercise of this power proceeded, no doubt, from a respect to and consideration of the statute, De tallagio non concedendo; or, “The prohibition of imposing any taxes or aids without the universal consent of the freemen,” &c. An exemption, founded on common law and ancient English liberty! which it seems the colonists do conceive themselves intitled to, as their birthright: that birthright by which they are themselves tied in interest to the mother country, and bound to a correllative loyalty, which thus requires not any military force to be secured or vindicated. So that whether this question, of a substituting right to impose œconomical taxes on the colonies, be applied to the British parliament, independently as before-noticed; or to the royal prerogative, exclusive of the American assemblies; in both cases it would be a lost point. On the other hand, should this right, so delegated to the colonies, be now considered by any after-thought as a reversible error; be it remembered, that at first it was so delegated by solemn acts of government; that it proved the means of their vast increase and cultivation, and by consequence of those immense profits and advantages which have thence accrued to us; that it is sanctified by successive usage, grounded upon a generous reliance on English Faith and Compact, and that usage—ratified by repeated authoritative acquiescence: and lastly, that any violation of their constitutions, by what means soever executed, might unhinge the principles of their natural and civil attachment to the mother-country; thereby opening to our foreign enemies a direct passage to our Palladium itself.

Nor, this privilege being left them, let it be thought that the colonies will of course be independent. No! numerous are the residuary ties which the Crown and Parliament have upon them:—the Navigation Act, by which they are directly excluded from all foreign markets;—the power of laying duties on their exports—transmitted to Britain;—the right of port entry and clearance;—the command of their castles, Edition: current; Page: [[66]] fortifications and militia;—the appointment of their several officers, civil as well as military;—the executive power of government;—the right of convening, proroguing, and dissolving their assemblies;—the Governor’s negative to any bill;—the determination of appeals from their courts of judicature;—and, as a clincher, the absolute jurisdiction of annulling their acts, when their before-mentioned legislative power appears to have been exceeded. This is a general sketch of the nature of that supremacy, which, with some partial exceptions, the mothercountry has retained over her colonies—By it, it will appear, how little has been left them; and, were that little now to be taken away, how soon, at the best, they might probably be deserted. To conclude: were it not for this privilege, the condition of our Americans would be worse than that of our other English subjects: a condition, that would argue the most intemperate folly and perverseness to reduce them to; a folly and perverseness, which must not be imputed to the policy of the English nation.

Edition: current; Page: [[67]]

[8]: Richard Bland 1710-1776

An Inquiry into the Rights of the British Colonies

Born in Virginia, Richard Bland graduated from William and Mary College and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1742 until 1775. Always a cautious politician, and somewhat conservative in bent, Bland was nevertheless consistently sent by his constituents to represent them in any revolutionary convention. Their trust in his ability to pursue American interests had to stem, at least in part, from the contents of this pamphlet, and from the fact that when it was published during the week of March 7, 1766, it was unique for the period in having the author’s name boldly listed on the title page—“By Richard Bland, of Virginia.” A collector of old documents, many of which survive to this day only because of his efforts, Bland’s careful study of such documents led to his being considered the best authority of his time on colonial legal history. His expertise is reflected throughout the pamphlet. Reprinted in the Virginia Gazette on May 30, 1766, and then in London in 1769, Bland’s essay seems to have generated surprisingly little interest elsewhere in the colonies, at least it was never reprinted again. The pamphlet was, however, the earliest published defense of the colonial attitude toward taxation and laid out the argument to be adopted during the revolutionary era. Indeed, the final outcome of the pamphlet is to be found in the Declaration of Independence.


I take the Liberty to address you, as the Author of “The Regulations lately made concerning the Colonies, and the Taxes imposed upon them considered.” It is not to the Man, whoever you are, that I address myself; but it is to the Author of a Pamphlet which, according Edition: current; Page: [[68]] to the Light I view it in, endeavours to fix Shackles upon the American Colonies: Shackles which, however nicely polished, can by no Means sit easy upon Men who have just Sentiments of their own Rights and Liberties.

You have indeed brought this Trouble upon yourself, for you say that

many Steps have been lately taken by the Ministry to cement and perfect the necessary Connexion between the Colonies and the Mother Kingdom, which every Man who is sincerely interested in what is interesting to his Country will Edition: 1983; Page: [4] anxiously consider the Propriety of, will inquire into the Information, and canvas the Principles upon which they have been adopted; and will be ready to applaud what has been well done, condemn what has been done amiss, and suggest any Emendations, Improvements, or Additions which may be within his Knowledge, and occur to his Reflexion.

Encouraged therefore by so candid an Invitation, I have undertaken to examine, with an honest Plainness and Freedom, whether the Ministry, by imposing Taxes upon the Colonies by Authority of Parliament, have pursued a wise and salutary Plan of Government, or whether they have exerted pernicious and destructive Acts of Power.

I pretend not to concern myself with the Regulations lately made to encourage Population in the new Acquisitions: Time can only determine whether the Reasons upon which they have been founded are agreeable to the Maxims of Trade and sound Policy, or not. However, I will venture to observe that if the most powerful inducement towards peopling those Acquisitions is to arise from the Expectation of a Constitution to be established in them similar to the other Royal Governments in America, it must be a strong Circumstance, in my Opinion, against their being settled by Englishmen, or even by Foreigners, who do not live under the most despotick Government; since, upon your Principles of Colony Government, such a Constitution will not be worth their Acceptance.

The Question is whether the Colonies are represented in the British Parliament or not? You affirm it to be an indubitable Fact that they are represented, and from thence you infer a Right in the Parliament to impose Taxes of every Kind upon them. You do not insist Edition: 1983; Page: [5] upon the Power, but upon the Right of Parliament to impose Edition: current; Page: [[69]] Taxes upon the Colonies. This is certainly a very proper Distinction, as Right and Power have very different Meanings, and convey very different Ideas; For had you told us that the Parliament of Great Britain have Power, by the Fleets and Armies of the Kingdom, to impose Taxes and to raise Contributions upon the Colonies, I should not have presumed to dispute the Point with you; but as you insist upon the Right only, I must beg Leave to differ from you in Opinion, and shall give my Reasons for it.

But I must first recapitulate your Arguments in Support of this Right in the Parliament. You say

the Inhabitants of the Colonies do not indeed choose Members of Parliament, neither are nine Tenths of the People of Britain Electors; for the Right of Election is annexed to certain Species of Property, to peculiar Franchises, and to Inhabitancy in some particular Places. But these Descriptions comprehend only a very small Part of the Lands, the Property and People of Britain; all Copy-Hold, all Leave-Hold Estates under the Crown, under the Church, or under private Persons, though for Terms ever so long; all landed Property in short that is not Freehold, and all monied Property whatsoever, are excluded. The Possessors of these have no Votes in the Election of Members of Parliament; Women and Persons under Age, be their Property ever so large, and all of it Freehold, have none: The Merchants of London, a numerous and respectable Body of Men, whose Opulence exceeds all that America can collect; the Proprietors of that vast Accumulation of Wealth, the Publick Funds; the Inhabitants of Leeds, of Halifax, of Birmingham, Edition: 1983; Page: [6] and of Manchester, Towns that are each of them larger than the largest in the Plantations; many of lesser Note, that are incorporated; and that great Corporation the East India Company, whose Rights over the Countries they possess fall very little short of Sovereignty, and whose Trade and whose Fleets are sufficient to constitute them a maritime Power, are all in the same Circumstances: And yet are they not represented in Parliament? Is their vast Property subject to Taxation without their Consent? Are they all arbitrarily bound by Laws to which they have not agreed? The Colonies are exactly in the same Situation; all British Subjects are really in the same; none are actually, all are virtually, represented in Parliament: For every Member of Edition: current; Page: [[70]] Parliament sits in the House not as a Representative of his own Constituents, but as one of that august Assembly by which all the Commons of Great Britain are represented.

This is the Sum of what you advance, in all the Pomp of Parliamentary Declamation, to prove that the Colonies are represented in Parliament, and therefore subject to their Taxation; but notwithstanding this Way of reasoning, I cannot comprehend how Men who are excluded from voting at the Election of Members of Parliament can be represented in that Assembly, or how those who are elected do not sit in the House as Representatives of their Constituents. These Assertions appear to me not only paradoxical, but contrary to the fundamental Principles of the English Constitution.

To illustrate this important Disquisition, I conceive we must recur to the civil Constitution of England, and from thence deduce and ascertain the Rights and Privileges Edition: 1983; Page: [7] of the People at the first Establishment of the Government, and discover the Alterations that have been made in them from Time to Time; and it is from the Laws of the Kingdom, founded upon the Principles of the Law of Nature, that we are to show the Obligation every Member of the State is under to pay Obedience to its Institutions. From these Principles I shall endeavour to prove that the Inhabitants of Britain, who have no Vote in the Election of Members of Parliament, are not represented in that Assembly, and yet that they owe Obedience to the Laws of Parliament; which, as to them, are constitutional, and not arbitrary. As to the Colonies, I shall consider them afterwards.

Now it is a Fact, as certain as History can make it, that the present civil Constitution of England derives its Original from those Saxons who, coming over to the Assistance of the Britons in the Time of their King Vortigein, made themselves Masters of the Kingdom, and established a Form of Government in it similar to that they had been accustomed to live under in their native Country1; as similar, at least, as the Difference of their Situation and Circumstances would permit. This Government, like that from whence they came, was founded upon Principles of the most perfect Liberty: The conquered Lands were divided among the Individuals in Proportion to the Rank they held in the Nation2; and every Freeman, that is, every Freeholder, Edition: current; Page: [[71]] was a member of their Wittenagemot, of Parliament3. The other part of the Nation, or the Non-Proprietors of Land, were of little Estimation4. Edition: 1983; Page: [8] They, as in Germany, were either slaves, were Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water, or Freedmen; who, being of foreign Extraction, had been manumitted by their Masters, and were excluded from the high Privilege of having a Share in the Administration of the Commonwealth, unless they became Proprietors of Land (which they might obtain by Purchase or Donation) and in that Case they had a Right to sit with the Freemen, in the Parliament or sovereign Legislature of the State.

How long this Right of being personally present in the Parliament continued, or when the Custom of sending Representatives to this great Council of the Nation, was first introduced, cannot be determined with Precision; but let the Custom of Representation be introduced when it will, it is certain that every Freeman, or, which was the same Thing in the Eye of the Constitution, every Freeholder,5 had a Right to vote at the Election of Members of Parliament, and therefore might be said, with great Propriety, to be present in that Assembly, either in his own Person or by Representation. This Right of Election in the Freeholders is evident from the Statute 1st Hen. 5. Ch. 1st, which limits the Right of Election to those Freeholders only who are resident in the Counties the Day of the Date of the Writ of Election; but yet every resident Freeholder indiscriminately, let his Freehold be ever so small, had a Right to vote at the Election of Knights for his County so that they were actually represented; And this Right of Election continued until it was taken away by the Statute 8th Hen. 6. Ch. 7. from those Freeholders who had not a clear Freehold Estate of forty Shillings by the year at the least.

Edition: 1983; Page: [9] Now this statute was deprivative of the Right of those Freeholders who came within the Description of it; but of what did it deprive them, if they were represented notwithstanding their Right of Election was taken from them? The mere Act of voting was nothing, of no Value, if they were represented as constitutionally without it as with it: But when by the fundamental Principles of the Constitution Edition: current; Page: [[72]] they were to be considered as Members of the Legislature, and as such had a Right to be present in Person, or to send their Procurators or Attornies, and by them to give their Suffrage in the supreme Council of the Nation, this Statute deprived them of an essential Right; a Right without which by the ancient Constitution of the State, all other Liberties were but a Species of Bondage.

As these Freeholders then were deprived of their Rights to substitute Delegates to Parliament, they could not be represented, but were placed in the same Condition with the Non-Proprietors of Land, who were excluded by the original Constitution from having any Share in the Legislature, but who, notwithstanding such Exclusion, are bound to pay Obedience to the Laws of Parliament, even if they should consist of nine Tenths of the People of Britain; but then the Obligation of these Laws does not arise from their being virtually represented in Parliament, but from a quite different Reason.

Men in a State of Nature are absolutely free and independent of one another as to sovereign Jurisdiction,6 but when they enter into a Society, and by their own Edition: 1983; Page: [10] Consent become Members of it, they must submit to the Laws of the Society according to which they agree to be governed; for it is evident, by the very Act of Association, that each Member subjects himself to the Authority of that Body in whom, by common Consent, the legislative Power of the State is placed: But though they must submit to the Laws, so long as they remain Members of the Society, yet they retain so much of their natural Freedom as to have a Right to retire from the Society, to renounce the Benefits of it, to enter into another Society, and to settle in another Country; for their Engagements to the Society, and their Submission to the publick Authority of the State, do not oblige them to continue in it longer than they find it will conduce to their Happiness, which they have a natural Right to promote. This natural Right remains with every Man, and he cannot justly be deprived of it by any civil Authority. Every Person therefore who is denied his Share in the Legislature of the State to which he had an original Right, and every Person who from his particular Circumstances is excluded from this great Privilege, and refuses to exercise his natural Right of quitting the Country, but remains in it, and continues to exercise the Rights of a Citizen in all other Respects, must be subject to the Laws which by these Acts he Edition: current; Page: [[73]] implicitly, or to use your own Phrase, virtually consents to: For Men may subject themselves to Laws, by consenting to them implicitly; that is, by conforming to them, by adhering to the Society, and accepting the Benefits of its Constitution, as well, as explicitly and directly, in their own Persons, or by their Representatives substituted in their Room.7 Thus, if a Man whose Property does not Edition: 1983; Page: [11] entitle him to be an Elector of Members of Parliament, and therefore cannot be represented, or have any Share in the Legislature,

inherits or takes any Thing by the Laws of the Country to which he has no indubitable Right in Nature, or which, if he has a Right to it, he cannot tell how to get or keep without the Aid of the Laws and the Advantage of Society, then, when he takes this Inheritance, or whatever it is, with it he takes and owns the Laws that gave it him. And since the Security he has from the Laws of the Country, in Respect of his Person and Rights, is the Equivalent for his Submission to them, he cannot accept that Security without being obliged, in Equity, to pay this Submission: Nay his very continuing in the Country shows that he either likes the Constitution, or likes it better, notwithstanding the Alteration made in it to his Disadvantage, than any other; or at least thinks it better, in his Circumstances, to conform to it, than to seek any other; that is, he is content to be comprehended in it.

From hence it is evident that the Obligation of the Laws of Parliament upon the People of Britain who have no Right to be Electors does not arise from their being virtually represented, but from a quite different Principle; a Principle of the Law of Nature, true, certain, and universal, applicable to every Sort of Government, and not contrary to the common Understandings of Mankind.

If what you say is a real Fact, that nine Tenths of the People of Britain are deprived of the high Privilege of being Electors, it shows a great Defect in the present Constitution, which has departed so much from its original Purity; but never can prove that those People are even virtually represented in Parliament. Edition: 1983; Page: [12] And here give me Leave to observe that it would be a Work worthy of the best patriotick Spirits in the Nation to effectuate an Alteration in this putrid Part of the Constitution; and, by restoring it to its pristine Perfection, prevent Edition: current; Page: [[74]] any “Order or Rank of the Subjects from imposing upon or binding the rest without their Consent.” But, I fear, the Gangrene has taken too deep Hold to be eradicated in these Days of Venality.

But if those People of Britain who are excluded from being Electors are not represented in Parliament, the Conclusion is much stronger against the People of the Colonies being represented; who are considered by the British Government itself, in every Instance of Parliamentary Legislation, as a distinct People. It has been determined by the Lords of the Privy Council that “Acts of Parliament made in England without naming the foreign Plantations will not bind them8.” Now, what can be the Reason of this Determination, but that the Lords of the Privy Council are of Opinion the Colonies are a distinct People from the Inhabitants of Britain, and are not represented in Parliament. If, as you contend, the Colonies are exactly in the same Situation with the Subjects in Britain, the Laws will in every Instance be equally binding upon them, as upon those Subjects, unless you can discover two Species of virtual Representation; the one to respect the Subjects in Britain, and always existing in Time of Parliament; the other to respect the Colonies, a mere Non-Entity, if I may be allowed the Term, and never existing but when the Parliament thinks proper to produce it into Being by any particular Act in which the Colonies Edition: 1983; Page: [13] happen to be named. But I must examine the Case of the Colonies more distinctly.

It is in vain to search into the civil Constitution of England for Directions in fixing the proper Connexion between the Colonies and the Mother Kingdom; I mean what their reciprocal Duties to each other are, and what Obedience is due from Children to the general Parent. The planting Colonies from Britain is but of recent Date, and nothing relative to such Plantation can be collected from the ancient Laws of the Kingdom; neither can we receive any better Information by extending our Inquiry into the History of the Colonies established by the several Nations in the more early Ages of the World. All the Colonies (except those of Georgia and Nova Scotia) formed from the English Nation, in North America, were planted in a Manner, and under a Dependence, of which there is not an Instance in all the Colonies of the Ancients; and therefore, I conceive, it must afford a Edition: current; Page: [[75]] good Degree of Surprise to find an English Civilian9 giving it as his Sentiment that the English Colonies ought to be governed by the Roman Laws, and for no better Reason than because the Spanish Colonies, as he says, are governed by those Laws. The Romans established their Colonies in the Midst of vanquished Nations, upon Principles which best secured their Conquests; the Privileges granted to them were not always the same; their Policy in the Government of their Colonies and the conquered Nations being always directed by arbitrary Principles to the End they aimed at, the subjecting the whole Earth to their Empire. But the Colonies in North America, except those planted within the present Century, were founded by Englishmen; who, becoming Edition: 1983; Page: [14] private Adventurers, established themselves, without any Expense to the Nation, in this uncultivated and almost uninhabited Country; so that their Case is plainly distinguishable from that of the Roman, or any other Colonies of the ancient World.

As then we can receive no Light from the Laws of the Kingdom, or from ancient History, to direct us in our Inquiry, we must have Recourse to the Law of Nature, and those Rights of Mankind which flow from it.

I have observed before that when Subjects are deprived of their civil Rights, or are dissatisfied with the Place they hold in the Community, they have a natural Right to quit the Society of which they are Members, and to retire into another Country. Now when Men exercise this Right, and withdraw themselves from their Country, they recover their natural Freedom and Independence: The Jurisdiction and Sovereignty of the State they have quitted ceases; and if they unite, and by common Consent take Possession of a new Country, and form themselves into a political Society, they become a sovereign State, independent of the State from which they separated. If then the Subjects of England have a natural Right to relinquish their Country, and by retiring from it, and associating together, to form a new political Society and independent State, they must have a Right, by Compact with the Sovereign of the Nation, to remove into a new Country, and to form a civil Establishment upon the Terms of the Compact. In such a Case, the Terms of the Compact must be obligatory and binding upon the Parties; they must be the Magna Charta, the fundamental Principles of Government, to this new Society; and every Edition: current; Page: [[76]] Infringement of them must be wrong, and Edition: 1983; Page: [15] may be opposed. It will be necessary then to examine whether any such Compact was entered into between the Sovereign and those English Subjects who established themselves in America.

You have told us that “before the first and great Act of Navigation the Inhabitants of North America were but a few unhappy Fugitives, who had wandered thither to enjoy their civil and religious Liberties, which they were deprived of at Home.” If this was true, it is evident, from what has been said upon the Law of Nature, that they have a Right to a civil independent Establishment of their own, and that Great Britain has no Right to interfere in it. But you have been guilty of a gross Anachronism in your Chronology, and a great Errour in your Account of the first Settlement of the Colonies in North America; for it is a notorious Fact that they were not settled by Fugitives from their native Country, but by Men who came over voluntarily, at their own Expense, and under Charters from the Crown, obtained for that Purpose, long before the first and great Act of Navigation.

The first of these Charters was granted to Sir Walter Raleigh by Queen Elizabeth under the great Seal, and was confirmed by the Parliament of England in the year 168410. By this Charter the whole Country to be possessed by Sir Walter Raleigh was granted to him, his Heirs and Assigns, in perpetual Sovereignty, in as extensive a Manner as the Crown could grant, or had ever granted before to any Person, or Persons, with full Power of Legislation, and to establish a civil Government in it as near as conveniently might be agreeable to Edition: 1983; Page: [16] the Form of the English Government and policy thereof. The Country was to be united to the Realm of England in perfect LEAGUE and AMITY, was to be within the Allegiance of the Crown of England, and to be held by Homage, and the Payment of one Fifth of all Gold and Silver Ore, which was reserved for all Service, Duties, and Demands.

Sir Walter Raleigh, under this Charter, took Possession of North America, upon that Part of the Continent which gave him a Right to the Tract of Country which was between the twenty-fifth Degree of Latitude and the Gulf of St. Laurence; but a variety of Accidents happening in the Course of his Exertions to establish a Colony, and Edition: current; Page: [[77]] perhaps being overborn by the Expense of so great a Work, he made an Assignment to diverse Gentlemen and Merchants of London, in the 31st Year of the Queen’s Reign, for continuing his Plantations in America. These Assignees were not more successful in their Attempts than the Proprietor himself had been; but being animated with the expectation of mighty Advantages from the Accomplishment of their Undertaking, they, with others, who associated with them, obtained new Charters from King James the First, in whom all Sir Walter Raleigh’s Rights became vested upon his Attainder, containing the same extensive Jurisdictions, Royalties, Privileges, Franchises, and Pre-eminences, and the same Powers to establish a civil Government in the Colony, as had been granted to Sir W. Raleigh; with an express Clause of Exemption for ever from all Taxes or Impositions upon their Import and Export Trade.

Under these Charters the Proprietors effectually prosecuted, and happily succeeded, in planting a Colony upon that Part of the Continent which is now called Edition: 1983; Page: [17] Virginia. This Colony, after struggling through immense Difficulties, without receiving the least Assistance from the English Government, attained to such a Degree of Perfection that in the Year 1621 a General Assembly, or legislative Authority, was established in the Governour, Council, and House of Burgesses, who were elected by the Freeholders as their Representatives; and they have continued from that Time to exercise the Power of Legislation over the Colony.

But upon the 15th of July, 1624, King James dissolved the Company by proclamation, and took the Colony under his immediate Dependence; which occassioned much Confusion, and created mighty Apprehensions in the Colony lest they should be deprived of the Rights and Privileges granted them by the Company, according to the Powers contained in the Charters.

To put an end to this Confusion, and to conciliate the Colony to the new System of Government the Crown intended to establish among them, K. Charles the First, upon the Demise of his Father, by Proclamation the 13th of May, 1625, declared “Virginia should be immediately dependent upon the Crown; that the Affairs of the Colony should be vested in a Council, consisting of a few Persons of Understanding and Quality, to be subordinate and attendant to the Privy Council in England; that he was resolved to establish another Council in Virginia, to be subordinate to the Council in England for Edition: current; Page: [[78]] the Colony; and that he would maintain the necessary Officers, Ministers, Forces, Ammunition, and Fortifications thereof, at his own Charge.” But this Proclamation had an Effect quite different from what was intended; Edition: 1983; Page: [18] instead of allaying, it increased the Confusion of the Colony; they now thought their regular Constitution was to be destroyed, and a Prerogative Government established over them: or, as they express themselves in their Remonstrance, that “then Rights and Privileges were to be assaulted.” This general Disquietude and Dissatisfaction continued until they received a Letter from the Lords of the Privy Council, dated July the 22nd, 1634, containing the Royal Assurance and Confirmation that “all their Estates, Trade, Freedom, and Privileges, should be enjoyed by them in as extensive a Manner as they enjoyed before the recalling the Company’s Patent;” whereupon they became reconciled, and began again to exert themselves in the Improvement of the Colony.

Being now in full Possession of the Rights and Privileges of Englishmen, which they esteemed more than their Lives, their Affection for the Royal Government grew almost to Enthusiasm; for upon an Attempt to restore the Company’s Charter by Authority of Parliament, the general assembly, upon the 1st of April, 1642, drew up a Declaration of Protestation, in the Form of an Act, by which they declared “they never would submit to the Government of any Company or Proprietor, or to so unnatural a Distance as a Company or other Person to interpose between the Crown and the Subjects; that they were born under Monarchy, and would never degenerate from the Condition of their Births by being subject to any other Government; and every Person who should attempt to reduce them under any other Government was declared an Enemy to the Country, and his Estate was to be forfeited.” This Act, being presented to the King at his Court at York, July 5th, 1644, Edition: 1983; Page: [19] drew from him a most gracious answer, under his Royal Signet, in which he gave them the fullest Assurances that they would be always immediately dependent upon the Crown, and that the Form of Government should never be changed. But after the King’s Death they gave a more eminent Instance of their Attachment to Royal Government, in their Opposition to the Parliament, and forcing the Parliament Commissioners, who were sent over with a Squadron of Ships of War to take Possession of the Country, into Articles of Surrender, before they would submit to their Obedience. As these Articles reflect no small Honour upon this Infant Colony, Edition: current; Page: [[79]] and as they are not commonly known, I will give an Abstract of such of them as relate to the present Subject.

  • 1. The Plantation of Virginia, and all the inhabitants thereof, shall be and remain in due Subjection to the Commonwealth of England, not as a conquered Country, but as a Country submitting by their own voluntary Act, and shall enjoy such Freedoms and Privileges as belong to the People of England.
  • 2. The General Assembly as formerly shall convene, and transact the Affairs of the Colony.
  • 3. The People of Virginia shall have a free Trade, as the People of England, to all, Places, and with all Nations.
  • 4. Virginia shall be free from all Taxes, Customs, and Impositions whatsoever; and none shall be imposed on them without consent of the General Assembly; and that neither Forts nor Castles be erected, or Garrisons maintained, without their Consent.

Upon this Surrender of the Colony to the Parliament, Sir W. Berkley, the Royal Governour, was removed, Edition: 1983; Page: [20] and three other Governours were successively elected by the House of Burgesses; but in January 1659 Sir William Berkley was replaced at the Head of the Government by the People, who unanimously renounced their Obedience to the Parliament, and restored the Royal Authority by proclaiming Charles the 2d King of England, Scotland, France, Ireland, and Virginia; so that he was King in Virginia some Time before he had any certain Assurance of being restored to his throne in England.

From this Detail of the Charters, and other Acts of the Crown, under which the first Colony in North America was established, it is evident that “the Colonists were not a few unhappy Fugitives who had wandered into a distant Part of the World to enjoy their civil and religious Liberties, which they were deprived of at home,” but had a regular Government long before the first Act of Navigation, and were respected as a distinct State, independent, as to their internal Government, of the original Kingdom, but united with her, as to their external Polity, in the closest and most intimate League and Amity, under the same Allegiance, and enjoying the Benefits of a reciprocal Intercourse.

But allow me to make a Reflection or two upon the preceding Account of the first Settlement of an English Colony in North America.

Edition: current; Page: [[80]]

America was no Part of the Kingdom of England; it was possessed by a savage People, scattered through the Country, who were not subject to the English Dominion, nor owed Obedience to its Laws. This independent Country was settled by Englishmen at their own Expense, under particular Stipulations with the Crown: These Stipulations then must be the sacred Band of Edition: 1983; Page: [21] Union between England and her Colonies, and cannot be infringed without Injustice. But you Object that “no Power can abridge the Authority of Parliament, which has never exempted any from the Submission they owe to it; and no other Power can grant such an Exemption.”

I will not dispute the Authority of the Parliament, which is without Doubt supreme within the Body of the Kingdom, and cannot be abridged by any other Power; but may not the King have Prerogatives which he has a Right to exercise without the Consent of Parliament? If he has, perhaps that of granting License to his Subjects to remove into a new Country, and to settle therein upon particular Conditions, may be one. If he has no such Prerogative, I cannot discover how the Royal Engagements can be made good, that “the Freedom and other Benefits of the British Constitution” shall be secured to those People who shall settle in a new Country under such Engagements; the Freedom, and other Benefits of the British Constitution, cannot be secured to a People without they are exempted from being taxed by any Authority but that of their Representatives, chosen by themselves. This is an essential Part of British Freedom; but if the King cannot grant such an Exemption, in Right of his Prerogative, the Royal Promises cannot be fulfilled; and all Charters which have been granted by our former Kings, for this Purpose, must be Deceptions upon the Subjects who accepted them, which to say would be a high Reflection upon the Honour of the Crown. But there was a Time when some Parts of England itself were exempt from the Laws of Parliament: The Inhabitants of the County Palatine of Chester were not Edition: 1983; Page: [22] subject to such Laws11 ab antiquo, because they did not send Representatives to Parliament, but had their own Commune Concilium; by whose Authority, with the Consent of their Earl, their Laws were made. If this Exemption was not derived originally from the Crown, it must have arisen from that great Principle in the British Constitution by which the Freemen in the Nation are not subject to any Laws but Edition: current; Page: [[81]] such as are made by Representatives elected by themselves to Parliament; so that, in either Case, it is an Instance extremely applicable to the Colonies, who contend for no other Right but that of directing their internal Government by Laws made with their own Consent, which has been preserved to them by repeated Acts and Declarations of the Crown.

The Constitution of the Colonies, being established upon the Principles of British Liberty, has never been infringed by the immediate Act of the Crown; but the Powers of Government, agreeably to this Constitution, have been constantly declared in the King’s Commissions to their Governours, which, as often as they pass the Great Seal, are new Declarations and Confirmations of the Rights of the Colonies. Even in the Reign of Charles the Second, a Time by no Means favourable to Liberty, these Rights of the Colonies were maintained inviolate; for when it was thought necessary to establish a permanent Revenue for the Support of Government in Virginia, the King did not apply to the English Parliament, but to the General Assembly, and sent over an Act, under the Great Seal of England, by which it was enacted “by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Consent of the General Assembly,” that two Shillings per Edition: 1983; Page: [23] Hogshead upon all Tobacco exported, one Shilling and Threepence per Tun upon Shipping, and Sixpence per Poll for every Person imported, not being actually a Mariner in Pay, were to be paid for ever as a Revenue for the Support of the Government in the Colony.

I have taken Notice of this Act, not only because it shows the proper Fountain from whence all Supplies to be raised in the Colonies ought to flow, but also as it affords an Instance that Royalty itself did not disdain formerly to be named as a Part of the Legislature of the Colony; though now, to serve a Purpose destructive of their Rights, and to introduce Principles of Despotism unknown to a free Constitution, the Legislature of the Colonies are degraded even below the Corporation of a petty Borough in England.

It must be admitted that after the Restoration the Colonies lost that Liberty of Commerce with foreign Nations they had enjoyed before that Time.

As it became a fundamental Law of the other States of Europe to prohibit all foreign Trade with the Colonies, England demanded such an exclusive Trade with her Colonies. This was effected by the Act of 25th Charles 2d, and some other subsequent Acts; which not only Edition: current; Page: [[82]] circumscribed the Trade of the Colonies with foreign Nations within very narrow Limits, but imposed Duties upon several Articles of their own Manufactory exported from one Colony to another. These Acts, which imposed severer Restrictions upon the Trade of the Colonies than were imposed upon the Trade of England, deprived the Colonies, so far as these Restrictions extended, of the Privileges of English Subjects, and constituted an unnatural Difference between Men under the same Allegiance, born equally free, and entitled to the same civil Rights. In this Edition: 1983; Page: [24] Light did the People of Virginia view the Act of 25th Charles 2d, when they sent Agents to the English Court to represent against “Taxes and Impositions being laid on the Colony by any Authority but that of their General Assembly.” The Right of imposing internal Duties upon their Trade by Authority of Parliament was then disputed, though you say it was never called into Question; and the Agents sent from Virginia upon this Occasion obtained a Declaration from Charles 2d the 19th of April 1676, under his Privy Seal, that Impositions or “Taxes ought not be laid upon the Inhabitants and Proprietors of the Colony but by the common Consent of the General Assembly, except such Impositions as the Parliament should lay on the Commodities imported into England from the Colony:” And he ordered a Charter to be made out, and to pass the Great Seal, for securing this Right, among others, to the Colony.

But whether the Act of 25th Charles 2d, or any of the other Acts, have been complained of as Infringements of the Rights of the Colonies or not, is immaterial; for if a Man of superiour Strength takes my Coat from me, that cannot give him a Right to my Cloak, nor am I obliged to submit to be deprived of all my Estate because I may have given up some Part of it without Complaint. Besides, I have proved irrefragably that the Colonies are not represented in Parliament, and consequently, upon your own Position, that no new Law can bind them that is made without the Concurrence of their Representatives; and if so, then every Act of Parliament that imposes internal Taxes upon the Colonies is an Act of Power, and not of Right. I must speak freely, I am considering a Question which affects the Rights of above two Millions of as Edition: 1983; Page: [25] loyal Subjects as belong to the British Crown, and must use Terms adequate to the Importance of it; I say that Power abstracted from Right cannot give a just Title to Dominion. If a Man invades my Property, he becomes an Aggressor, and puts himself into a State of War with me: I have a Right to Edition: current; Page: [[83]] oppose this Invader; If I have not Strength to repel him, I must submit, but he acquires no Right to my Estate which he has usurped. Whenever I recover Strength I may renew my Claim, and attempt to regain my Possession; if I am never strong enough, my Son, or his Son, may, when able, recover the natural Right of his Ancestor which has been unjustly taken from him.

I hope I shall not be charged with Insolence, in delivering the Sentiments of an honest Mind with Freedom: I am speaking of the Rights of a People; Rights imply Equality in the Instances to which they belong, and must be treated without Respect to the Dignity of the Persons concerned in them. If “the British Empire in Europe and in America is the same Power,” if the “Subjects in both are the same People, and all equally participate in the Adversity and Prosperity of the Whole,” what Distinctions can the Difference of their Situations make, and why is this Distinction made between them? Why is the Trade of the Colonies more circumscribed than the Trade of Britain? And why are Impositions laid upon the one which are not laid upon the other? If the Parliament “have a Right to impose Taxes of every Kind upon the Colonies,” they ought in Justice, as the same People, to have the same Sources to raise them from: Their Commerce ought to be equally free with the Commerce of Britain, otherwise it will be loading them with Burthens at the Edition: 1983; Page: [26] same Time that they are deprived of Strength to sustain them; it will be forcing them to make Bricks without Straw. I acknowledge the Parliament is the sovereign legislative Power of the British Nation, and that by a full Exertion of their Power they can deprive the Colonists of the Freedom and other Benefits of the British Constitution which have been secured to them by our Kings; they can abrogate all their civil Rights and Liberties; but by what Right is it that the Parliament can exercise such a Power over the Colonists, who have as natural a Right to the Liberties and Privileges of Englishmen as if they were actually resident within the Kingdom? The Colonies are subordinate to the Authority of Parliament; subordinate I mean in Degree, but not absolutely so: For if by a Vote of the British Senate the Colonists were to be delivered up to the Rule of a French or Turkish Tyranny, they may refuse Obedience to such a Vote, and may oppose the Execution of it by Force. Great is the Power of Parliament, but, great as it is, it cannot, constitutionally, deprive the People of their natural Rights; nor, in Virtue of the same Principle, can it deprive them of their civil Rights, which are founded Edition: current; Page: [[84]] in Compact, without their own Consent. There is, I confess, a considerable Difference between these two Cases as to the Right of Resistance: In the first, if the Colonists should be dismembered from the Nation by Act of Parliament, and abandoned to another Power, they have a natural Right to defend their Liberties by open Force, and may lawfully resist; and, if they are able, repel the Power to whose Authority they are abandoned. But in the other, if they are deprived of their civil Rights, if great and manifest Oppressions are imposed upon them by the State on which they are dependent, their Remedy is to Edition: 1983; Page: [27] lay their Complaints at the Foot of the Throne, and to suffer patiently rather than disturb the publick Peace, which nothing but a Denial of Justice can excuse them in breaking. But if this Justice should be denied, if the most humble and dutiful Representations should be rejected, nay not even deigned to be received, what is to be done? To such a Question Thucydides would make the Corinthians reply, that if “a decent and condescending Behaviour is shown on the Part of the Colonies, it would be base in the Mother State to press too far on such Moderation:” And he would make the Corcyreans answer, that “every Colony, whilst used in a proper Manner, ought to pay Honour and Regard to its Mother State; but, when treated with Injury and Violence, is become an Alien. They were not sent out to be the Slaves, but to be the Equals of those that remain behind.”

But, according to your Scheme, the Colonies are to be prohibited from uniting in a Representation of their general Grievances to the common Sovereign. This Moment “the British Empire in Europe and in America is the same Power; its Subjects in both are the same People; each is equally important to the other, and mutual Benefits, mutual Necessities, cement their Connexion.” The next Moment “the Colonies are unconnected with each other, different in their Manners, opposite in their Principles, and clash in their Interests and in their Views, from Rivalry in Trade, and the Jealousy of Neighbourhood. This happy Division, which was effected by Accident, is to be continued throughout by Design; and all Bond of Union between them” is excluded from your vast System. Divide et impera is your Maxim in Colony Administration, lest “an Alliance should be Edition: 1983; Page: [28] formed dangerous to the Mother Country.” Ungenerous Insinuation! detestable Thought! abhorrent to every Native of the Colonies! who, by an Uniformity of Conduct, have ever demonstrated the deepest Edition: current; Page: [[85]] Loyalty to their King, as the Father of his People, and an unshaken Attachment to the Interest of Great Britain. But you must entertain a most despicable Opinion of the Understandings of the Colonists to imagine that they will allow Divisions to be fomented between them about inconsiderable Things, when the closest Union becomes necessary to maintain in a constitutional Way their dearest Interests.

Another Writer,12 fond of his new System of placing Great Britain as the Centre of Attraction to the Colonies, says that

they must be guarded against having or forming any Principle of Coherence with each other above that whereby they cohere in the Centre; having no other Principle of Intercommunication between each other than that by which they are in joint Communication with Great Britain, as the common Centre of all. At the same Time that they are each, in their respective Parts and Subordinations, so framed as to be acted by this first Mover, they should always remain incapable of any Coherence, or of so conspiring amongst themselves as to create any other equal Force which might recoil back on this first Mover; nor is it more necessary to preserve the several Governments subordinate within their respective Orbs than it is essential to the Preservation of the Empire to keep them disconnected and independent of each other.

But how is this “Principle of Coherence,” as this elegant Writer calls it, between the Colonies, to be prevented? The Colonies Edition: 1983; Page: [29] upon the Continent of North America lie united to each other in one Tract of Country, and are equally concerned to maintain their common Liberty. If he will attend then to the Laws of Attraction in natural as well as political Philosophy, he will find that Bodies in Contact, and cemented by mutual Interests, cohere more strongly than those which are at a Distance, and have no common Interests to preserve. But this natural Law is to be destroyed; and the Colonies, whose real Interests are the same, and therefore ought to be united in the closest Communication, are to be disjoined, and all intercommunication between them prevented. But how is this System of Administration to be established? Is it to be done by a military Force, quartered upon private Families? Is it to be done by extending the Jurisdiction of Courts of Admiralty, and thereby depriving the Colonists of legal Edition: current; Page: [[86]] Trials in the Courts of common Law? Or is it to be done by harassing the Colonists, and giving overbearing Taxgatherers an Opportunity of ruining Men, perhaps better Subjects than themselves by dragging them from one Colony to another, before Prerogative Judges, exercising a despotick Sway in Inquisitorial Courts? Oppression has produced very great and unexpected Events: The Helvetick Confederacy, the States of the United Netherlands, are Instances in the Annals of Europe of the glorious Actions a petty People, in Comparison, can perform when united in the Cause of Liberty. May the Colonies ever remain under a constitutional Subordination to Great Britain! It is their Interest to live under such a Subordination; and it is their Duty, by an Exertion of all their Strength and Abilities, when called upon by their common Sovereign, to advance the Grandeur and the Glory of the Nation. May the Edition: 1983; Page: [30] Interests of Great Britain and her Colonies be ever united, so as that whilst they are retained in a legal and just Dependence no unnatural or unlimited Rule may be exercised over them; but that they may enjoy the Freedom, and other Benefits of the British Constitution, to the latest Page in History!

I flatter myself, by what has been said, your Position of a virtual Representation is sufficiently refuted; and that there is really no such Representation known in the British Constitution, and consequently that the Colonies are not subject to an internal Taxation by Authority of Parliament.

I could extend this Inquiry to a much greater Length, by examining into the Policy of the late Acts of Parliament, which impose heavy and severe Taxes, Duties, and Prohibitions, upon the Colonies; I could point out some very disagreeable Consequences, respecting the Trade and Manufacturers of Britain, which must necessarily result from these Acts; I could prove that the Revenues arising from the Trade of the Colonies, and the Advantage of their Exports to Great Britain in the Balance of her Trade with foreign Nations, exceed infinitely all the Expense she has been at, all the Expense she can be at, in their Protection; and perhaps I could show that the Bounties given upon some Articles exported from the Colonies were not intended, primarily, as Instances of Attention to their Interest, but arose as well from the Consideration of the disadvantageous Dependence of Great Britain upon other Nations for the principal Articles of her naval Stores, as from her losing Trade for those Articles; I could demonstrate that these Bounties are by no Means adequate to her Savings in such Edition: current; Page: [[87]] foreign Trade, if the Articles upon which they are given can be procured from the Colonies Edition: 1983; Page: [31] in Quantities sufficient to answer her Consumption; and that the Excess of these Savings is so much clear Profit to the Nation, upon the Supposition that these Bounties are drawn from it; but, as they will remain in it, and be laid out in its Manufactures and Exports, that the whole Sum which used to be paid to Foreigners for the Purchase of these Articles will be saved to the Nation. I say I could extend my Inquiry, by examining these several Matters; but as the Subject is delicate, and would carry me to a great Length, I shall leave them to the Reader’s own Reflection.

Edition: current; Page: [[88]]

[9]: Britannus Americanus


Published only a week after that by Richard Bland in Virginia, this brief essay captures almost all of the same essential points in a position that was to become full-blown ten years later and enshrined in the Declaration of Independence as part of the justification for breaking with England. The anonymous author who wrote this for the March 17, 1766 issue of the Boston Gazette deserves to be counted among the founders of our country even though he is here responding directly only to the Stamp Act.

When the first settlers of this country had transplanted themselves here, they were to be considered, either as in the state of nature, or else as subjects of that kingdom from whence they had migrated: If they were in the state of nature, they were then entitled to all the rights of nature; no power on earth having any just authority, to molest them in the enjoyment of the least of these rights, unless they either had or should forfeit them by an invasion of the rights of other: If the Crown and people of England had at that time, no right, property or claim to that part of the earth, which they had fix’d upon to settle and inhabit, it follows, that in the suppos’d state of nature, neither the crown nor people of England had any lawful and equitable authority or controul over them more than the inhabitants of the moon: they had a right to erect a government upon what form they thought best; or to connect themselves, for the sake of their own advantage and security, either with the natives, or any other people upon the globe, who were willing to be connected with them: It is a Edition: current; Page: [[89]] fact, that they chose to erect a government of their own, much under the same form, as that was, which they had formerly been under in Europe; and chose the King of England for their King, whose subjects they had been in their state of society before their emigration.—Thus upon the foregoing supposition, the King of Old England became connected with the settlers of New England, and their King: But the people of England could have no more political connection with them or power of jurisdiction over them, than they now have with or over the people of Hanover, who are also subjects of the same King: And if they have since obtain’d no power of jurisdiction, by virtue of any treaty, compact agreement or consent, in which alone, all legal jurisdiction has its establishment, the people here still remain under the most sacred tie, the subject of the King of Great-Britain; but utterly unaccountable to, and uncontroulable by the people of Great-Britain, or any body of them whatever; their compact being with the King only, to him alone they submitted, to be govern’d by him, agreable to the terms of that compact, contain’d in their charter.

But on the other supposition, if after their arrival here they remained, as undoubtedly they did, the subjects of the Kingdom of England, they then remain’d without the necessity of charter declarations to confirm it justly entitled to all and every the rights, liberties, privileges and immunities of such; for to talk of English subjects who are free, and of other English subjects, not so free, provided they have not legally forfeited any part of their freedom, appears to be absurd.—Of all the rights of Englishmen, those of consenting to their own laws, and being tried by juries, are the most material and important: Upon the present supposition, the parliament of England has no more lawful power to make an act which shall deprive the people of New England of those rights, than they have to make an act to deprive the people of Old England of the same rights: If these are the indefeasible rights of the one, so they must be of the other; they being fellow subjects, and standing upon equal footing: The people of Old England would think it very unjust, to have an act of parliament made, which should deprive them of the unalienable rights of the constitution; just so would the people of New England think, and for the same reason; and human nature being the same and both being animated with the same love of freedom and equally attached to the same happy constitution, such a law in either case would probably produce the same effects: it is hoped the people of England will never think it Edition: current; Page: [[90]] necessary for them to make such laws for the Colonies, for it might prove a fatal necessity: It might at least be detrimental to Great Britain in proportion as the Colonies are important to her: Would not such laws, in a moral view, cut the thread of political connection and obligation? Does not allegiance infer protection? Has not the latter the strongest claim? Would men ever have had the idea of allegiance to an earthly Prince, had they not first found it necessary to form a government on earth, under God, to protect their natural rights? Is not therefore the Subject’s allegiance first due to the constitution of government, which secures the natural rights of the governed; and as a necessary means thereof circumscribes and limits the power of those, whom they have or shall constitute to be their legislators and governors, whether Kings, or Parliaments, or both?

To ascertain the rights of the New-England subjects, the King early gave them a Charter, in which it was declared, what those rights were; and to show his royal mind, that by their attempting at their own cost and pains, to settle a new world, they could by no means be thought to have forfeited their rights as Englishmen: He expressly declares them and their posterity entitled to all those rights, as fully as if they had remained in England. Indeed, if they could possibly have been suppos’d to have lost their rights, by means of their emigration, being yet innocent people, and subject to no other power on earth, they must have been reduced to a state of nature and independence; for to talk of English subjects without any of the rights of the constitution, is a solicism.

It was not possible for them to enjoy these Rights without erecting a legislative and other powers of government among themselves: For it was not possible for them at such a distance, to have that weight and importance in the legislative power in England, which every individual there has a right to by the constitution, and by act of parliament is declared actually to have: The granting them show the power of government was not mere favor, but that which was right, fit, equitable; for without it they must have been depriv’d of that right, which others enjoy’d who were no more than their equals; and which were some of them the essential rights of nature, as well as the constitution, and therefore inseparable from them either as men or subjects.—By virtue of these powers of government they now stand (as in all respects they ought in justice) upon a footing with their fellow subjects in England. Their laws are now made, with the consent Edition: current; Page: [[91]] of representatives of their own free election; which laws like those made by the two houses of the British parliament, are laid before the Sovereign, who has the same power of rejection, upon both: Would it not then be just as equitable, and just as consistent with the British constitution, which extends to all his Majesty’s British subjects throughout his dominions, for the representatives of the people of New-England, or any other colony, to make a law to tax their fellow subjects in England, as for their representatives to make a law to tax their fellow subjects in the colonies?

britannus americanus.
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[10]: The Tribune

No. xvii

Few Americans today realize that the revolutionary war was fought as much to preserve American virtue as it was to secure economic independence. Americans, as well as Europeans, tended to view Americans as embodying the sturdy traits of the traditional English yeomen—frugality, industriousness, temperance, simplicity, openness, and virility. They viewed England, on the other hand, as the prototype of a corrupt society characterized by luxury, venality, effete cowardice, and a love of refinement and distinction. Excessive wealth and inequality were the cause of English corruption, and a moderate wealth more or less equally distributed in America was the source of virtue. Breaking with English control thus preserved the basis of American liberty, its pristine virtues, and provided immediate political liberty. This piece appeared in the October 6, 1766 issue of the South Carolina Gazette (Charleston). Its theme runs throughout the literature of the founding era, although in the late 1780s and 1790s a counter argument in favor of economic growth becomes more prominent.

As the stability and prosperity of this kingdom must primarily depend on freedom, and the security of freedom can only be in public virtue, it must of course follow to be pronounced, that whatever tends to undermine public virtue should be most carefully guarded against. This hydra mischief is pictured with great life, by a late Poet in the following lines.

  • He pride, he pomp, he luxury diffus’d;
  • He taught them wants beyond their private means;
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  • And strait in bounty’s pleasing chains involv’d,
  • They grew his slaves—Who cannot live on little,
  • Or, as his various fortune shall permit,
  • stands in the market to be sold.

That luxury naturally creates want, and that want, whether artificial or real, has a tendency to make men venal, are truths that are too evident to be disputed. Luxury therefore leads to Corruption; and whoever encourages great luxury in a free state must be a bad citizen; so, of course, whatever government does the same must be a bad government, because it therein acts against the interest of the community.

That we had ministers [] enough to avow and glory in such a system, there can be no intelligent man who will be so hardy as to deny; and their motives to such practice have been these, an unworthy compliance with the will of the sovereign, in un-national engagements, and unconstitutional gratifications to themselves and their adherents. The fatal effects of this wicked system are what we are now groaning under, an insupportable load of debts, taxes, pensions, sine-cures, and employments, with an universal spirit of Rapine and Combination, to supply the cravings of avarice, luxury, and prostitution; while the waste of the drones of the hive exceeds all the means of industry to furnish, with but a reserve of what is needful for its own support. And the wicked plea having long been, we must make necessity impel the utmost exercions of labour to the utmost, for public good, so it seems at least to have become the mad aim of partiallity, even to add starving to toil, upon a similar wise plan to that of the [] who undertook to make his horse live without eating; which he had no sooner brought him to do than the horse unfortunately died.

But surely a large body of men of eminence, who should have thought themselves free, and to have had an honour to support, must have abandoned all principles, or been made of an odd kind of stuff, to ever suffer themselves to be told openly, that every man had his price, and that a minister would be a pitiful fellow, who did not turn out every one that would not implicitly obey his orders, even in their discharge of a most sacred trust from others; and by way of countenancing the profligacy he encouraged, dared boldly to alledge; that the man was a fool, who pretended to be a whit honester than the times in which he lived. Surely, while such were open doctrines, we ought not to wonder at Edition: current; Page: [[94]] the wicknedness of any practice, or at what we have been made since to suffer by them. All that we should wonder at is, that any man could be so daringly wicked with impunity, and yet that there should remain even a phantom of liberty.

But when ministers dare not only to talk but also to act arbitrarily in a free state, and, no matter in what mode, so as even to invert the very nature of constitutional institutions, in defiance of an inherent right in the people to call him to a strict account for so doing, and to procure punishment being inflicted on him adequate to his offense, then must public virtue have lost all its elastic powers, and not only liberty, but also right, and even justice, be alike considered to be no better than phantoms; for when men, from the prevalence of corruption can be flagitious with impunity, the most constitutional remedies against the worst of evils to a people may truly be said to have got out of their reach; and what then do they become, but slaves to the will of a prince, or a minister, though in a mode that perhaps may be peculiar? But surely, the mere varying of forms cannot be said to alter the essences of things.

Machiavel [Machiavelli] places all the constitutional strength of a people in a free state, in their facility of means for bringing great offenders to condign punishment; and indeed, without such sure and facile means in their hands, there may be expected a ceaseless invasion of their most sacred rights and privileges. But this right, like all others that are substantial, will be tendered of no effect, whenever their greatest right of all, their legislative right, which comprehends the former, becomes exercised, not for the good and advantage of those who are represented, but of those who represent; and how far such was the real case in the times of which I am writing, is left to the reader’s determination. But this may be said, that if it ever hereafter should become the case, that sacred right will be then found so effectually inverted, that agents will become principals; and instead of acting for the service of the people, the popular rights will only be considered as their merchandize; so that the people will be made the mere instruments for aggrandizing their agents, at their own great expence and injury both in property and security; or, in other words, they will be made to invest their representatives with a power to dispose of their rights and properties to a purchaser who will pay them for so doing with their own money.

Whenever such becomes the case, the abuses will be made glaring Edition: current; Page: [[95]] by their mischievous effects. The system of governing policy will then be apparently corruption. Ministers will make it their chief study and care to seduce the representatives of the people and guardians of their rights into a combination or conspiracy to betray and plunder them, for their own benefit. The very necessity will be urges of executive government’s being secure of a majority of tractable representatives of the people, and therefrom not only the public purse will be at their command, but ministers will also, in effect, have an uncontroulable power to do whatever they list without hazard to themselves; as they will by such wicked means, be sure of protectors in those who, in cases of iniquity, should be their accusers and prosecutors; so that the people will be left without the means of obtaining remedy or redress for any kind of injury, or the power to procure justice to be done on those by whom they are made to suffer the greatest violences and oppressions.

Without great public virtue, such a system of corruption must naturally take place, and whenever it does take place, the constitution will then become unhinged, and all liberty and right in the people indeed but a mere phantom. Nor can public virtue exist but by a refusance of luxury, for that is sure to create artificial wants that will be boundless, and at [] time be productive of more miseries than enjoyments to those who indulge it. To men who are superior to the baits of luxury there can be no temptations to become corrupt, either as electors or representatives; and therefore it must be on the virtues of such men only that public freedom, justice and security can ever rest; so that whenever there ceases to be a sufficient number of such men, then all those blessings must become in danger of being forever lost.

By these criterions, therefore, we can only frame right judgments of either administrations or individuals, and of course they may be considered as the barometers of times, for pointing to the degrees in which public virtue and security at any time exist; for if administrations are seen to encourage luxury and profusion, it may certainly be concluded, that they do it on the view of creating a necessity in men to become servile and corrupt; and if individuals by their own profusion, do reduce themselves to want and perplexity, we may be assured that their necessities will make them become corrupt; so that such ministers, or men, cannot with safety be relied on; and, of course, as undeserving of public confidence, they should ever be opposed.

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Let individuals then be but true to their common interests, and it will always be secure. But if they have not virtue or sense enough to do so, they will suffer themselves first to be made fools, and then deservedly slaves and wretches; for where power, on one side, has no bounds, their misery on the other, will be sure soon to have no limits, as we may be convinced by a candid survey of the conditions of many nations, and at no great distance from our own country.

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[11]: A Son of Liberty
[SILAS DOWNER 1729-1785]

A Discourse at the Dedication of the Tree of Liberty

After graduating from Harvard, Downer settled in Providence, Rhode Island, where he united minor political appointments with small business ventures to launch a career that eventually won him considerable repute as a lawyer. Politics seems to have been too attractive, however, to permit any great success in accumulating wealth. He was a rebel in the cause of resistance that steadily developed into a demand for independence, involving himself from their first appearance in the activities of the Providence Committee of Correspondence and several other local organizations devoted to information and arousal of the Rhode Island citizenry. The passionate plea for liberty printed here was delivered to a Providence audience eight years before the fateful Declaration of Independence. The tradition of dedicating a tree of liberty probably goes back to the ancient practice of Saxon clans’ assembling to hold their tungemoot (town meeting) under some large tree. Under Norman rule since the eleventh century, the Saxons would dedicate a tree of liberty to symbolize their former liberty. In any case, the practice was common in the American colonies well before the struggle for independence. Silas Downer here uses the occasion to rehearse the American position developed during the recently concluded Stamp Act crisis. He clearly states the basic formula that the American people are equal to the British people in the mother country. This formula, implicit in one or two of the earlier pieces reproduced here, would be reiterated hundreds of times in colonial and, later, revolutionary newspaper articles and pamphlets. In this context, the words by Jefferson that “all men are created equal,” despite any individualistic meaning he may have had, were certainly Edition: current; Page: [[98]] read by the average reader as meaning just what Downer says here: the American people are equal to the people in England, and not in any sense subordinate.

Dearly beloved Countrymen,

We His Majesty’s subjects, who live remote from the throne, and are inhabitants of a new world, are here met together to dedicate the Tree of Liberty. On this occasion we chearfully recognize our allegiance to our sovereign Lord, George the third, King of Great-Britain, and supreme Lord of these dominions, but utterly deny any other dependence on the inhabitants of that island, than what is mutual and reciprocal between all mankind.—It is good for us to be here, to confirm one another in the principles of liberty, and to renew our obligations to contend earnestly therefor.

Our forefathers, with the permission of their sovereign, emigrated from England, to avoid the unnatural oppressions which then took place in that country. They endured all sorts of miseries and hardships, before they could establish any tolerable footing in the new world. It was then hoped and expected that the blessing of freedom would be the inheritance of their posterity, which they preferred to every other temporal consideration. With the extremest toil, difficulty, and danger, our great and noble ancestors founded in America a number of colonies Edition: 1983; Page: [4] under the allegiance of the crown of England. They forfeited not the privileges of Englishmen by removing themselves hither, but brought with them every right, which they could or ought to have enjoyed had they abided in England.—They had fierce and dreadful wars with savages, who often poured their whole force on the infant plantations, but under every difficulty and discouragement, by the good providence of God they multiplied exceedingly and flourished, without receiving any protection or assistance from England. They were free from impositions. Their kings were well disposed to them, and their fellow subjects in Great Britain had not then gaped after Naboth’s vineyard. Never were people so happy as our forefathers, after they had brought the land to a state of inhabitancy, and procured peace with the natives. They sat every man under his own vine, and under his own fig tree. They had but few wants; and luxury, extravagance, and debauchery, Edition: current; Page: [[99]] were known only by the names, as the things signified thereby, had not then arrived from the old world. The public worship of God, and the education of children and youth, were never more encouraged in any part of the globe. The laws which they made for the general advantage were exactly carried into execution. In fine, no country ever experienced more perfect felicity. Religion, learning, and a pure administration of justice were exceeding conspicuous, and kept even pace with the population of the country.

When we view this country in its extent and variety of climates, soils, and produce, we ought to be exceeding thankful to divine goodness in bestowing it upon our forefathers, and giving it as an heritage for their children.—We may call it the promised land, a good land and a large—a land of hills and vallies, of rivers, brooks, and springs of water—a land of milk and honey, and wherein we may eat bread to the full. A land whose stones are iron, the most useful material in all nature, and of other choice mines and minerals; and a land whose rivers and adjacent seas are stored with the best of fish. In a word, no part of the habitable world can boast of so many natural Edition: 1983; Page: [5] advantages as this northern part of America.

But what will all these things avail us, if we be deprived of that liberty which the God of nature hath given us. View the miserable condition of the poor wretches, who inhabit countries once the most fertile and happy in the world, where the blessings of liberty have been removed by the hand of arbitrary power. Religion, learning, arts, and industry, vanished at the deformed appearance of tyranny. Those countries are depopulated, and the scarce and thin inhabitants are fast fixed in chains and slavery. They have nothing which they can call their own; even their lives are at the absolute disposal of the monsters who have usurped dominion over them.

The dreadful scenes of massacre and bloodshed, the cruel tortures and brutal barbarities, which have been committed on the image of God, with all the horrible miseries which have overflowed a great part of the globe, have proceeded from wicked and ambitious men, who usurped an absolute dominion over their fellows. If this country should experience such a shocking change in their affairs, or if despotic sway should succeed the fair enjoyment of liberty, I should prefer a life of freedom in Nova-Zembla, Greenland, or in the most frozen regions in the world, even where the use of fire is unknown, rather than to live here to be tyrannized over by any of the human race.

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Government is necessary. It was instituted to secure to individuals that natural liberty, which no human creature hath a right to deprive them of. For which end the people have given power unto the rulers to use as there may be occasion for the good of whole community, and not that the civil magistrate, who is only the peoples trustee, should make use of it for the hurt of the governed. If a commander of a fortress, appointed to make defence against the approaches of an enemy, should breech about his guns and fire upon his own town, he would commence tyrant and ought to be treated as an enemy to mankind.

The ends of civil government have been well answered Edition: 1983; Page: [6] in America, and justice duly administred in general, while we were governed by laws of our own make, and consented to by the Crown. It is of the very essence of the British constitution, that the people shall not be governed by laws, in the making of which they had no hand, or have their monies taken away without their own consent. This privilege is inherent, and cannot be granted by any but the Almighty. It is a natural right which no creature can give, or hath a right to take away. The great charter of liberties, commonly called Magna Charta, doth not give the privileges therein mentioned, nor doth our Charters, but must be considered as only declaratory of our rights, and in affirmance of them. The formation of legislatures was the first object of attention in the colonies. They all recognized the King of Great-Britain, and a government of each was erected, as like to that in England, as the nature of the country, and local circumstances, would admit. Assemblies or parliaments were instituted, wherein were present the King by his substitutes, with a council of great men, and the people, by their representatives. Our distant situation from Great-Britain, and other attendant circumstances, make it impossible for us to be represented in the parliament of that country, or to be governed from thence. The exigencies of state often require the immediate hand of governments and confusion and misrule would ensue if government was not topical. From hence it will follow that our legislatures were compleat, and that the parliamentary authority of Great-Britain cannot be extended over us without involving the greatest contradiction: For if we are to be controuled by their parliament, our own will be useless. In short, I cannot be perswaded that the parliament of Great-Britain have any lawful right to make any laws whatsoever to bind us, because there can be no fountain from whence such right can flow. It is Edition: current; Page: [[101]] universally agreed amongst us that they cannot tax us, because we are not represented there. Many other acts of legislation may affect us as nearly as taking away our monies. There are many kinds of property as dear to us as our Edition: 1983; Page: [7] money, and in which we may be greatly injured by allowing them a power in, or to direct about. Suppose the parliament of Great-Britain should undertake to prohibit us from walking in the streets and highways on certain saints days, or from being abroad after a certain time in the evening, or (to come nearer to the matter) to restrain us from working up and manufacturing materials of our own growth, would not our liberty and property be as much affected by such regulations as by a tax act? It is the very spirit of the constitution that the King’s subjects shall not be governed by laws, in the making of which they had no share; and this principle is the greater barrier against tyranny and oppression. If this bulwark be thrown down, nothing will remain to us but a dreadful expectation of certain slavery. If any acts of the British parliament are found suitable and commensurate to the nature of the country, they may be introduced, or adopted, by special acts of our own parliaments, which would be equivalent to making them anew; and without such introduction or adoption, our allowance of the validity or force of any act of the English or British parliament in these dominions of the King, must and will operate as a concession on our part, that our fellow subjects in another country can choose a set of men among themselves, and impower them to make laws to bind us, as well in the matter of taxes as in every other case. It hath been fully proved, and is a point not to be controverted, that in our constitution the having of property, especially a landed estate, entitles the subject to a share in government and framing of laws. The Americans have such property and estate, but are not, and never can be represented in the British parliament. It is therefore clear that that assembly cannot pass any laws to bind us, but that we must be governed by our own parliaments, in which we can be in person, or by representation.

But of late a new system of politics hath been adopted in Great-Britain, and the common people there claim a sovereignty over us although they be only fellow subjects. The more I consider the nature and tendency of this Edition: 1983; Page: [8] claim, the more I tremble for the liberties of my country: For although it hath been unanswerably proved that they have no more power over us than we have over them, yet relying on the powerful logic of guns and cutlery ware, they cease not to make Edition: current; Page: [[102]] laws injurious to us; and whenever we expostulate with them for so doing, all the return is a discharge of threats and menaces.

It is now an established principle in Great-Britain, that we are subject to the people of that country, in the same manner as they are subject to the Crown. They expressly call us their subjects. The language of every paultry scribler, even of those who pretend friendship for us in some things, is after this lordly stile, our colonies—our western dominions—our plantations—our islands—our subjects in America—our authority—our government—with many more of the like imperious expressions. Strange doctrine that we should be the subjects of subjects, and liable to be controuled at their will! It is enough to break every measure of patience, that fellow subjects should assume such power over us. They are so possessed with the vision of the plenitude of their power, that they call us rebels and traitors for denying their authority. If the King was an absolute monarch and ruled us according to his absolute will and pleasure, as some kings in Europe do their subjects, it would not be in any degree so humiliating and debasing, as to be governed by one part of the Kings subjects who are but equals. From every part of the conduct of the administration, from the acts, votes, and resolutions of the parliament, and from all the political writings in that country, and libels on America, this appears to be their claim, which I think may be said to be an invasion of the rights of the King, and an unwarrantable combination against the liberties of his subjects in America.

Let us now attend a little to the conduct of that country towards us, and see if it be possible to doubt of their principles. In the 9th. of Anne, the post-office act was made, which is a tax act, and which annually draws great sums of money from us. It is true that such an establishment would have been a great use, but then the Edition: 1983; Page: [9] regulation ought to have been made among ourselves. And it is a clear point to me that let it be ever so much to the advantage of this country, the parliament had no more right to interfere, than they have to form such an establishment in the electorate of Hanover, the King’s German dominions.

They have prohibited us from purchasing any kind of goods or manufactures of Europe except from Great-Britain, and from selling any of our own goods or manufactures to foreigners, a few inconsiderable articles excepted, under pain of confiscation of vessel and cargo, and other heavy penalties. If they were indeed our sovereign lords and Edition: current; Page: [[103]] masters, as they pretend to be, such regulations would be in open violation of the laws of nature. But what adds to this grievance is, that in the trade between us they can set their own prices both on our and their commodities, which is in effect a tax and of which they have availed themselves: And moreover, duties are laid on divers enumerated articles on their import, for the express purpose of a revenue. They freely give and grant away our monies without our consent, under the specious pretence of defending, protecting, and securing America, and for the charges of the administration of justice here, when in fact, we are not indebted to them one farthing for any defence or protection from the first planting the country to this moment, but on the contrary, a balance is due to us for our exertion in the general cause; and besides, the advantages which have accrued to them in their trade with us hath put millions in their pockets. As to the administration of justice, no country in the world can boast of a purer one than this, the charges of which have been always chearfully provided for and paid without their interposition. There is reason to fear that if the British people undertake the business of the administration of justice amongst us it will be worse for us, as it may cause an introduction of their fashionable corruptions, whereby our pure streams of justice will be tainted and polluted. But in truth, by the administration of justice is meant the keeping up an outfit Edition: 1983; Page: [10] of officers to rob us of our money, to keep us down and humble, and to frighten us out of our undoubted rights.

And here it may be proper to mention the grievances of the custom house. Trade is the natural right of all men, but it is so restrained, perplexed and fettered that the officers of the customs, where there happens a judge of admiralty to their purpose, can seize and get condemned any vessel or goods they see fit. They will seize a vessel without shewing any other cause than their arbitrary will, and keep her a long time without exhibiting any libel, during all which time the owner knows not on what account she is seized, and when the trial comes on, he is utterly deprived of one by a jury, contrary to the usages among our fellow subjects in Britain, and perhaps all his fortune is determinable by a single, base, and infamous tool of a violent, corrupt, and wicked administration. Besides, these officers, who seem to be born with long claws, like eagles, exact most exorbitant fees, even from small coasting vessels, who pass along shore, and carry from plantation to plantation, bread, meat, firewood, and other Edition: current; Page: [[104]] necessaries, and without the intervention of which the country would labour under great inconveniencies, directly contrary to the true intent and meaning of one of the acts of trade, by which they pretend to govern themselves, such vessels by that act not being obliged to have so much as a register. It is well known that their design in getting into office is to enrich themselves by fleecing the merchants, and it is thought that very few have any regard to the interest of the Crown, which is only a pretence they make in order to accomplish their avaricious purposes.

The common people of Great-Britain very liberally give and grant away the property of the Americans without their consent, which if yielded to by us must fix us in the lowest bottom of slavery: For if they can take away one penny from us against our wills, they can take all. If they have such power over our properties they must have a proportionable power over our persons; and from hence it will follow, that they can demand and take away our Edition: 1983; Page: [11] lives, whensoever it shall be agreeable to their sovereign wills and pleasure.

This claim of the commons to a sovereignty over us, is founded by them on their being the Mother Country. It is true that the first emigrations were from England; but upon the whole, more settlers have come from Ireland, Germany, and other parts of Europe, than from England. But if every soul came from England, it would not give them any title to sovereignty or even to superiority. One spot of ground will not be sufficient for all. As places fill up, mankind must disperse, and go where they can find a settlement; and being born free, must carry with them their freedom and independence on their fellows, go where they will. Would it not be thought strange if the commonalty of the Massachusetts Bay should require our obedience, because this colony was first settled from that dominion? By the best accounts, Britain was peopled from Gaul, now called France, wherefore according to their principles the parliaments of France have a right to govern them. If this doctrine of the maternal authority of one country over another be a little examined, it will be found to be the greatest absurdity that ever entered into the head of a politician.—In the time of Nimrod, all mankind lived together on the plains of Shinar, from whence they were dispersed at the building of Babel. From that dispersion all the empires, kingdoms, and states in the world are derived. That this doctrine may be fully exposed, let us suppose a few Turks or Arabs to be the present inhabitants of the plains of Shinar, Edition: current; Page: [[105]] and that they should demand the obedience of every kingdom, state, and country in the world, on account of their being the Mother Country, would it be one jot more ridiculous than the claim made by the parliament of Great-Britain to rule and reign over us? It is to be hoped that in future the words Mother Country will not be so frequently in our mouths, as they are only sounds without meaning.

Another grievance to be considered, is the alarming attempt of the people of Old England to restrain our manufactures. This country abounds in iron, yet there is Edition: 1983; Page: [12] an act of parliament, passed in the late King’s reign to restrain us from manufacturing it into plates and rods by mill work, the last of which forms are absolutely necessary for the making of nails, the most useful article in a new country that can be conceived.—Be astonished all the world, that the people of a country who call themselves Christians and a civilized nation, should imagine that any principles of policy will be a sufficient excuse, for their permitting their fellow subjects on a distant part of the earth from making use of the blessings of the God of nature. There would be just as much reason to prohibit us from spinning our wool and flax, or making up our cloaths. Such prohibitions are infractions on the natural rights of men and are utterly void.

They have undertook, at the distance of three thousand miles, to regulate and limit our trade with the natives round about us, and from whom our lands were purchased—a trade which we opened ourselves, and which we ought to enjoy unrestricted. Further, we are prohibited by a people, who never set foot here from making any more purchases from the Indians, and even of settling those which we have made. The truth is, they intend to take into their own hands the whole of the back lands, witness the patents of immense tracts continually solicited and making out to their own people. The consequence will be shocking, and we ought to be greatly alarmed at such a procedure. All new countries ought to be free to settlers, but instead thereof every settler on these patent lands, and their descendants forever will be as compleat slaves to their landlords, as the common people of Poland are to their lords.

A standing army in time of profound peace is cantoned and quartered about the country to awe and intimidate the people.—Men of war and cutters are in every port, to the great distress of trade. In time of war we had no station ships, but were obliged to protect our trade, but now in time of full peace, when there are none to make us Edition: current; Page: [[106]] afraid we are visited with the plague of men of war, who commit all manner of disorders and irregularities; Edition: 1983; Page: [13] and behave in as hostile a manner as if they were open and declared enemies. In open defiance of civility, and the laws of Great-Britain, which they protest to be governed by, they violently seize and forcibly carry on board their ships the persons of the King’s loving subjects. What think ye my brethren, of a military government in each town?—Unless we exert ourselves in opposition to their plan of subjecting us, we shall all have soldiers quartered about upon us, who will take the absolute command of our families. Centry boxes will be set up in all the streets and passages, and none of us will be able to pass without being brought too by a soldier with his fixed bayonet, and giving him a satisfactory account of ourselves and business. Perhaps it will be ordered that we shall put out fire and candle at eight of the clock at night, for fear of conspiracy. From which tearful calamities may the GOD of our fathers deliver us!

But after all, nothing which has yet happened ought to alarm us more than their suspending government here, because our parliaments or assemblies (who ought to be free) do not in their votes and resolutions please the populace of Great Britain. Suppose a parcel of mercenary troops in England should go to the parliament house, and order the members to vote as they directed under pain of dissolution, how much liberty would be left to them? In short, this dissolving of government upon such pretences as are formed, leaves not the semblance of liberty to the people.—We all ought to resent the treatment which the Massachusetts Bay hath had, as their case may soon come to be our own.

We are constantly belied and misrepresented in our gracious sovereign, by the officers who are sent hither, and others who are in the cabal of ruining this country. They are the persons who ought to be called rebels and traitors, as their conduct is superlatively injurious to the King and his faithful subjects.

Many other grievances might be enumerated, but the time would fail.—Upon the whole, the conduct of Great-Britain shews that they have formed a plan to subject us Edition: 1983; Page: [14] so effectually to their absolute commands, that even the freedom of speech will be taken from us. This plan they are executing as fast as they can; and almost every day produces some effect of it. We are insulted and menaced only for petitioning. Our prayers are prevented from reaching the royal ear, Edition: current; Page: [[107]] and our humble supplications to the throne are wickedly and maliciously represented as so many marks of faction and disloyalty. If they can once make us afraid to speak or write, their purpose will be finished.—Then farewel liberty.—Then those who were crouded in narrow limits in England will take possession of our extended and fertile fields, and set us to work for them.

Wherefore, dearly beloved, let us with unconquerable resolution maintain and defend that liberty wherewith God hath made us free. As the total subjection of a people arises generally from gradual encroachments, it will be our indispensible duty manfully to oppose every invasion of our rights in the beginning. Let nothing discourage us from this duty to ourselves and our posterity. Our fathers fought and found freedom in the wilderness; they cloathed themselves with the skins of wild beasts, and lodged under trees and among bushes; but in that state they were happy because they were free.—Should these our noble ancestors arise from the dead, and find their posterity trucking away that liberty, which they purchased at so dear a rate, for the mean trifles and frivolous merchandize of Great Britain, they would return to the grave with a holy indignation against us. In this day of danger let us exert every talent, and try every lawful mean, for the preservation of our liberties. It is thought that nothing will be of more avail, in our present distressed situation, than to stop our imports from Britain. By such a measure this little colony would save more than 173,000 pounds, lawful money, in one year, besides the advantages which would arise from the industry of the inhabitants being directed to the raising of wool and flax, and the establishment of manufactures. Such a measure might distress the manufacturers and poor people Edition: 1983; Page: [15] in England, but that would be their misfortune. Charity begins at home, and we ought primarily to consult our own interest; and besides, a little distress might bring the people of that country to a better temper, and a sense of their injustice towards us. No nation or people in the world ever made any figure, who were dependent on any other country for their food or cloathing. Let us then in justice to ourselves and our children, break off a trade so pernicious to our interest, and which is likely to swallow up both our estates and liberties.—A trade which hath nourished the people, in idleness and dissipation.—We cannot, we will not, betray the trust reposed in us by our ancestors, by giving up the least of our liberties.—We will be freemen, or we will die—we cannot endure the thought of being Edition: current; Page: [[108]] governed by subjects, and we make no doubt but the Almighty will look down upon our righteous contest with gracious approbation. We cannot bear the reflection that this country should be yielded to them who never had any hand in subduing it. Let our whole conduct shew that we know what is due to ourselves. Let us act prudently, peaceably, firmly, and jointly. Let us break off all trade and commerce with a people who would enslave us, as the only means to prevent our ruin. May we strengthen the hands of the civil government here, and have all our exertions tempered with the principles of peace and order, and may we by precept and example encourage the practice of virtue and morality, without which no people can be happy.

It only remains now, that we dedicate the Tree of Liberty.

We do therefore, in the name and behalf of all the true Sons of Liberty in America, Great-Britain, Ireland, Corsica, or wheresoever they are dispersed throughout the world, dedicate and solemnly devote this tree, to be a Tree of LibertyMay all our councils and deliberations under it’s venerable branches be guided by wisdom, and directed to the support and maintenance of that liberty, which our renowned forefathers sought out and found under trees and in the wilderness. Edition: 1983; Page: [16]May it long flourish, and may the Sons of Liberty often repair hither, to confirm and strengthen each other.—When they look towards this sacred Elm, may they be penetrated with a sense of their duty to themselves, their country, and their posterity:—And may they, like the house of David, grow stronger and stronger, while their enemies, like the house of Saul, grow weaker and weaker. Amen.

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[12]: Daniel Shute 1722-1802

An Election Sermon

Harvard graduate and Congregationalist minister in Hingham on the east coast of Massachusetts, Daniel Shute took an active interest in colonial grievances against British policy but appears on the whole to have been a moderate in his views on the necessity for independence. He is said to have “stood aside and watched the Revolution run its course,” but the little we know of him today does not suggest that his parishoners classified him as a Loyalist. In any event, after independence had been won and government under the Articles of Confederation had proved ineffective, Shute stood well enough in the eyes of his neighbors for the town of Hingham to name him a delegate to the Massachusetts Convention called to approve or reject the new federal constitution drawn up in Philadelphia. He supported adoption and spoke strongly in favor of its provision forbidding the application of religious tests in choosing persons for public office. Shute in this sermon is addressing the Governor, Council, and House of Representatives in the annual Election Day Sermon. As is typical for such efforts, he rehearses the values and commitments of the community through the explication of a biblical text so as to edify and instruct the decision makers of the community. Shute’s effort is a good example of the breadth of concern and consistency in quality of these sermons.

Province of Massachusetts-Bay.

Ordered, That Isaac Royall, Benjamin Lincoln, and Royall Tyler, Esquires, be a Committee to wait on the Rev’d Mr. Daniel Shute, and return him the Thanks of the Board for his Sermon Edition: current; Page: [[110]] preached Yesterday, before the Great and General Court, being the Day appointed by the Royal Charter for the Election of Councellors for the Province; and that they desire a Copy of the same for the Press.

A. Oliver, Sec’y.


Ezra X. 4

ARISE; for this matter belongeth unto thee; we also will be with thee; be of good courage, and do it.

He whose happiness can admit no accession, and whose perfect rectitude excludes every degree of malevolence, must design the happiness of those creatures he calls out of nothing into existence; to suppose the contrary is inconsistent with absolute perfection, and implies the worst of characters.

Edition: 1983; Page: [6] The communication of happiness being the end of creation, it will follow, from the perfections of the creator, that the whole plan of things is so adjusted as to promote the benevolent purpose; to which the immense diversity in his works; the gradation in the species of beings that we know of, and many more perhaps than we know of, and the somewhat similar gradation in the same species, arising from their make, their connections, and the circumstances they are placed in, are happily subservient. And every creature in the universe, according to its rank in the scale of being, is so constituted, as that acting agreeably to the laws of its nature, will promote its own happiness, and of consequence the grand design of the creator.

Agreeably hereto, all beings in the class of moral agents are so formed, that happiness will result to them from acting according to certain rules prescribed by the creator, and made known to them by reason or revelation. The rules of action, conformity to which will be productive Edition: 1983; Page: [7] of happiness to such beings, must be agreeable to moral fitness in the relation of things; in perfect conformity to which the rectitude, and happiness of the creator himself consists. And such is the connection and dependency of things, that happiness will result from conformity to these rules, not only to individuals, but likewise Edition: current; Page: [[111]] to the whole; for the beneficial effects of such conformity are reciprocal.—It naturally tends to promote the order and harmony of the moral system, and so the general good.

The plan of the creator being thus manifestly adapted to promote the happiness of his creation, his conduct herein becomes a pattern to his creatures that are rational moral agents, and the rule of their duty, according to their measure; for all moral obligation on such, indubitably, arises from the will of God, as there is so exact a coincidence between his will, and the relative fitness of things; so that the nearer they resemble him, the nearer they will come to the perfect standard of right action, and the nearer they come Edition: 1983; Page: [8] to this the more happiness will be produced.

It being so evidently the will of God, from the general constitution of things, that the happiness of his rational creatures should be promoted, all such are under moral obligation in conformity thereto, according to their ability, to promote their own, and the happiness of others.

The nature of the human species, therefore, being so adapted to society as that society will afford vastly more happiness to them, than solitary existence could do, indicates the will of their creator, and makes it morally fit that they should associate. From the make of man, the disadvantages of a solitary, and the advantages of a social state, evidently appear. A state of separation from the rest of the species will not admit the exercise of those affections and virtues, in which, from his natural constitution, his happiness very much consists; but in connection with others there will be opportunity for the exercise of them. As Edition: 1983; Page: [9] each individual living in a separate state would be preventive of the happiness for which men were evidently formed; and as this happiness can be obtained only in a social state, to form into society must be not only their interest, but their duty.

The instinct, or propensity, implanted in the human species leading them, as it were mechanically, to that to which they are morally obliged, is an instance of the creator’s goodness as it facilitates the performance; and in the same proportion it does so, must make their neglect the more inexcusable.

Mankind being formed into society, the moral obligation they are under to civil government will appear from the same principle, as being necessary to secure to them those natural rights and privileges which are essential to their happiness. Life, liberty, and property, are Edition: current; Page: [[112]] the gifts of the creator, on the unmolested enjoyment of which their happiness chiefly depends: yet they are such an imperfect set of beings that they are liable to have Edition: 1983; Page: [10] these invaded by one another: But the preservation of them in every fit method is evidently their duty. The entering into society lays the foundation of a plan for securing them; but this plan will be incomplete without the exertion of the united power of the whole for their mutual safety. The exertion of this power for that purpose, correspondent to the everlasting rules of right, is what is, here, intended by civil government; and as this is a method the best adapted, in their power, to secure the rights and privileges necessary to their happiness, to go into it is morally fit, and evidently the will of their creator.

Whatever mankind are obliged to perform must be within the verge of their power: The impracticability of the human species continuing to be one society for the purpose before mentioned, makes it necessary and fit they should form into distinct and separate societies, and erect civil government in them for that end.

Upon the same principle, still, the natural Edition: 1983; Page: [11] rights of one society being invaded by the superior power of another, so long as the former are unable to assert their freedom, it is morally fit they should receive laws from the latter tending to their happiness, as being the best means in their power to promote it, rather than admit a state of anarchy, big with confusion and every evil work: But from these circumstances it is morally fit they should rescue themselves whenever it is in their power, only it may be as fit to use caution, that by such attempts they do not plunge themselves the deeper into distress.

The obligation mankind are under to civil government, in some form, as essential to their happiness in the present state, and perhaps not without its influence upon their happiness in a future, is not only deducible from the natural constitution of things, but also supported by written revelation; in which it is represented as greatly tending to their good, and therefore an ordinance of the great benefactor of the world, whose tender mercies are over all his works. In the epistle to the Edition: 1983; Page: [12] Romans, the civil power is expressly said to be of God, to be ordained of him, and the civil ruler to be the minister of God for good.

The line, indeed, between one society, and another, is not drawn by heaven; nor is the particular form of civil government; as whether it shall be conducted immediately by the whole society, or by a few Edition: current; Page: [[113]] of their number, or if by a few, who they shall be, expressly pointed out; but, as mankind are rational and free agents, these are left to their determination and choice; only herein they are restricted by those rules which arise from the moral fitness of things productive of the general good, which they are ever bound invariably to observe.

Nor does the sacred story of the Hebrew polity militate against the established order of things relative to civil government among men. The theocracy of the Jews, was an extraordinary vouchsafement of God to that particular nation, but not counter to, or designed to alter, the general constitution of mankind.

Edition: 1983; Page: [13] The right the supreme ruler of the world has to bestow favours upon some out of the common course of things, while others are left in the enjoyment of their natural privileges, can, in reason, no more be doubted, than his right to create one being superior to another; for, though unknown to us, that, as well as this, may be in the original plan for the communication of happiness.

The ecclesiastic, and civil polity of the Jewish nation, being under the immediate direction of God himself, was not only a signal favor to them, but also designed to answer very important purposes in his government of mankind.

Their civil polity coincided with the fitness of society, and civil government among men, in all their salutary effects; but the extraordinary manner, in which it was conducted, was never exhibited as a pattern to the other nations of the earth; but they were still left to judge for themselves, as to the form of civil government, within their power, that Edition: 1983; Page: [14] might be most subservient to the public good.

That this peculiar form among the Jews was not designed to be perpetual appears probable, from the particular directions early given, by Moses the servant of the Lord, to regulate the administration of a king that should, from among themselves, in future time, be set over them; and also by the revolution that in process of time ensued by more than the divine permission. After which the civil state of the Jews symbolized with the civil state of other nations.

The Deity’s condescending to be, in a political sense, king in Israel, being a signal favor to them, as hereby they had a civil government better adapted to their circumstances, and better contrived to promote their welfare, than they could have had by all the wisdom of man, it must have been impiously ungrateful to reject him in that Edition: current; Page: [[114]] character, and desire that one of the imperfect sons of men should be their supreme ruler; and therefore deserving Edition: 1983; Page: [15] the severe reprehension given them, by the prophet, under the direction of God himself.

But though their inadvertent and rash desire was such an ungrateful resignation, and just forfeiture of the special favor they enjoyed, that God saw meet to discontinue it, and to chastize them for their wickedness therein, yet he did not withdraw the protection and blessing of his providence from them in the exercise and enjoyment of the rights and privileges common to human nature. And if the alteration made at their desire, the extraordinary vouchsafement of the Deity apart had not been agreable to the natural constitution of mankind, and fit in the relation of things, it is not easy to conceive how he should so far countenance the thing as to be active in setting kings over them: And not only direct them on their choice, but also prescribe rules for the regulation of such an office, and express his approbation of, and afford his blessing to those who formed their administration according to them.

Edition: 1983; Page: [16] The difference between them, now, and the other nations seems chiefly to have arisen from their religious state; which indeed had still some kindly influence upon their civil. In the exercise of their natural constitutional rights relative to civil government, it was no doubt fit to seek direction from him by whose providence kings reign. Their expectation of immediate direction from heaven was founded on the peculiar gracious dispensation they were under; and therefore the like could not be expected by any other nation.

No set of beings can, in reason, suppose themselves wiser than their maker; but must think that to which he directs to be wisest and best; and, therefore, when they have certain notice of his pleasure respecting any transaction of theirs, both duty and interest urge them to a compliance. And what nation of men on earth, in the exercise of this natural right, unalienable to any mortal, would not be glad of immediate indubitable direction from heaven? But when Edition: 1983; Page: [17] these special directions are not obtainable, as according to the natural constitution of mankind they are not, the affair being so important to society, and the happiness of the whole so intimately connected with it, it is fit that they should first implore the influence of providence, which may be real, though not immediate and sensible; and then transact it in the exercise of that liberty wherewith the creator has made them free.

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Ezra’s advancement to the government over the Jews did not, indeed, originate from their election, but from the civil power of that nation to which they were then in subjection; but yet, as their circumstances would not admit of their exercising all the rights of a free state, it became fit that they should chearfully acquiesce in that appointment to promote their happiness, as it was the best method in their power.

They were now emerging from the lowest state of depression; for seventy years they had been unable to break the Edition: 1983; Page: [18] iron yoke of captivity, and to assert their national freedom. But under the favor of Cyrus part of the nation had returned to their own land, and were laying anew the foundations of the commonwealth of Israel. Their dependence on a foreign power, not only for permission to return to the land of Palestine, but also for protection in the re-settlement of it, made it evidently their duty to submit to a deputation from that power, with a view to promote their welfare.

And Ezra’s being sent from the Persian Court, with ample commission to settle affairs among them, ecclesiastic, and civil, according to their pristine form, was no doubt highly agreable to them, as he was of their own nation, and his qualifications were so adequate to the important trust, for he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, and well understood the magna charta of their constitution; and also as he was a man of great piety, and virtue, and ardently disposed to advance the interest of his nation: Who therefore could be more welcome, Edition: 1983; Page: [19] who more likely to put things into a proper situation, and to promote the welfare of the community; the only worthy end of government?

The kind reception he met with appears, in part, from the early application made to him respecting illegal marriages in vogue among them, to which, the words I have read immediately refer.—, The story shows how ready he was to exert himself for their good; his known character points out his qualifications for the purpose; and the united efforts of the people with him, to this end, with an acknowledgement of his authority, are expressed in the text: Arise, for this matter belongeth unto thee, and we will be with thee; be of good courage, and do it. And if we may be indulged to take this instance as a specimen of Ezra’s general administration, and of the people’s friendly spirited assistance through the whole; and as we go along to notice his distinguished character; the way will be open to turn our attention—to Edition: current; Page: [[116]] the part of civil rulers—to the qualifications of such—Edition: 1983; Page: [20] and to the necessity of the united exertions of the people with their rulers, to answer the salutary purposes of civil government.

And FIRST, The part of civil rulers, in general is to keep in view the end of civil government, and of their own particular advancement, and to act accordingly.

Though in the constitution of things it does not belong to man to live alone, or without government in society; yet he is invested with certain rights and privileges, by the bounty of the creator, so adapted to his nature that the enjoyment of them is the source of his happiness in this world, and without which existence here would not be desirable. And mankind have no right voluntarily to give up to others those natural privileges, essential to their happiness, with which they are invested by the Lord of all: for the improvement of these they are accountable to him. Nor is it fit, that Edition: 1983; Page: [21] any of the sons of men should take from others that which they have no right to give, nor by their misconduct have forfeited; though in this case there should be mutual consent, the compact would be illegal, and both parties indictable at the bar of heaven.

Civil government among mankind is not a resignation of their natural privileges, but that method of securing them, to which they are morally obliged as conducive to their happiness: In the constitution of things, they can naturally have no rights incompatible with this; and therefore none to resign. For each individual to live in a separate state, and of consequence without civil government, is so pregnant with evil, and greatly preventive of that happiness of which human nature is made capable, that it could never be designed as a privilege to man by the munificent creator: And, perhaps, is not a privilege to other orders of rational creatures, as much superior to man, in virtue, as in rank of being.

Edition: 1983; Page: [22] Mankind may naturally have a liberty to live without civil government in the same sense that they have a liberty, i.e. a power to neglect any moral duty: But they are evidently made dependent on one another for happiness; and that method of action, which in the constitution of things, will prevent misery, and procure happiness to the species, on supposition of their being acquainted with it, and in a capacity of going into it, is not only wrong in them to neglect, but even duty indispensible to pursue. From hence arises their obligation to civil government as mentioned before; and when the same reason Edition: current; Page: [[117]] urges the lodging this government in the hands of a few of the number associated, the same obligation lies on them to do so.

A Community having determined that to commit the power of government to some few of their number is best, the right the some few can have to it, must arise from the choice of the whole; for in this state the government belongs to the whole, and one has no more right Edition: 1983; Page: [23] to govern than another; the right therefore that individuals can have to this must be delegated. This delegation is not indeed the giving away of the right the whole have to govern, but providing for the exercise of their power in the most effectual manner.

It is by virtue of the previous consent of society as being best, that government may devolve on some by succession, and that others may be appointed to rule by those already in authority.

A compact for civil government in any community implies the stipulation of certain rules of government. These rules or laws more properly make the civil constitution. How various these rules are in different nations is not the present enquiry; but that they ought in every nation to coincide with the moral fitness of things, by which alone the natural rights of mankind can be secured, and their happiness promoted, is very certain. And such are the laws of the constitution of civil government that we, and all Edition: 1983; Page: [24] British subjects are so happy as to live under.

The rectitude of the laws of a civil constitution are of more importance to the well-being of society than the particular form of administration, but that form which is best adapted to secure the uninterrupted course of such laws is most eligible, and herein also we outvie other nations.

Those laws which prescribe the rights of prerogative, and the rights of the people, should be founded on such principles as tend to promote the great end of civil institution; and as they are to be held sacred by both, it may be supposed, ought to be as plain as the nature of the thing will admit: Mysteries in civil government relative to the rights of the people, like mysteries in the laws of religion, may be pretended, and to the like purpose of slavery, this of the souls, and that of the bodies of men.

Edition: 1983; Page: [25] The design of mankind in forming a civil constitution being to secure their natural rights and privileges, and to promote their happiness, it is necessary that the special end of the electors in chusing some to govern the whole, should be assented to by the elected to Edition: current; Page: [[118]] vest them with a right to govern, so far at least as to direct the administration, without which they are indeed vested with no authority; for the being chosen to a particular purpose by those in whom the right of choice is, can give no rightful power to act beside or counter to this purpose. And therefore to the proper investiture of any in the office of civil rulers to which they are chosen by the people, it is necessary they should consent to act the part for which they are chosen; and this sets them in the high office of government, and gives them authority to regulate the whole.

Their consent to take the office to which they are chosen by the community lays rulers under a moral obligation to discharge the duties of it with fidelity. Edition: 1983; Page: [26] And if for the greater security of society, they who are thus introduced into office are bound to the faithful discharge of it by the solemnity of an oath, their obligation hereto is the greater.

What is right in the relation of things, and which has the general consent of mankind, being the rule of civil government in a well constituted state, civil rulers are to be so far from invading, that they ought to be the guardians of the natural and constitutional rights of their subjects; which are here supposed to be so nearly the same that there is no interfering between them. To form a civil constitution otherwise would be to establish iniquity by law.

The various duties of their office then centre in one point, the end of their election, and that is to promote the public welfare.

Minutely to enumerate these duties is not indeed pretended, not only as it would take up too much time, but Edition: 1983; Page: [27] also as the wisdom of the politician can better apply general rules to particular cases as circumstances vary; I therefore shall take the liberty only in a more general way to observe: That whatever is injurious to the community, whether foreign or intestine, is theirs to endeavor to prevent. In this state of imperfection and sin, particular societies are liable to injuries from one another, hence vigilance becomes one part of the duty of civil rulers; to this they are more obliged than other men: In office they are as eyes to the political body, the proper use of which is necessary to its safety. It is no small part of their care to descry danger, to penetrate the designs formed abroad to the detriment of the community. And as they are set for the public defence, when such dangers are discovered by them, it is their part to provide against them at the public expense; which must be in their power at all times, or at some times it may not be in their power to act in the character Edition: current; Page: [[119]] of guardians to the public. Individuals of the same society are likewise liable to unequal treatment from one Edition: 1983; Page: [28] another, which also claims their attention. They are to rescue the weak and helpless, the widow and fatherless, from the cruel hands of oppression, and equally secure to all, high and low, their rights.

And whatever is for the advantage and emolument of society, is also their part to promote, not only barely to secure to their subjects the cardinal privileges of human nature, but also kindly endeavour to heighten their happiness in the enjoyment of them. Those methods which will be most conducive to the preservation and prosperity of the whole are to be studiously devised, and faithfully urged by them; hence agriculture and commerce, liberal and mechanical arts should be encouraged, as pointed out in providence for the benefit of mankind; in proportion to improvement in which will be the benefit resulting from them, by which a supply may be obtained not only for necessity, but also for delight; and hereby their political strength will be increased, and they become more able to support the common cause. The wealth Edition: 1983; Page: [29] of the people is the strength of the state; and therefore, as the diligent hand maketh rich, they should reduce the vagrant, and call the idle to labor, and all to industry in their respective callings, so essential to the public utility.

But wisdom is a defence as well as money, and necessary to the well being of a community. The education of the youth is therefore carefully to be provided for; that hereby such improvements may be made, as happily tend to abate the ferocity of uncultivated nature, to soften the temper, and give a high relish to the sweets of social life; and such geniuses may be formed as public offices require; that the people, in church or state, may not be destroyed for lack of knowledge; but wisdom and knowledge may be the stability of the times.

The civil power also should be exerted to suppress vice as pregnant with mischief to society; and to support virtue as the foundation of social happiness.

Edition: 1983; Page: [30] That public homage which the community owe to the great Lord of all; and which is equally their interest as their duty to pay, should be earnestly promoted by their rulers. The fitness of which, reason dictates and revelation confirms, as a proper expression of the dependence of mankind on him, and of their grateful sentiments towards him, who giveth to all life and breath and all things; and also as the way more deeply to impress on their minds a sense of their Edition: current; Page: [[120]] obligations to conform to his will; conformity to which will produce order and harmony, and, qualify for the blessings of his providence.

The great advantages acruing from the public social worship of the Deity may be a laudable motive to civil rulers to exert themselves to promote it; and will have an influence on them who have the public good at heart, as well as a proper sense of duty to him, who is higher than the highest: In this way, while the ministers of religion are under the patronage of the civil power, the people will be instructed in those principles, and urged to Edition: 1983; Page: [31] those practices, which will greatly subserve the interest of the community, and facilitate the end of government.

Ezra’s commission extended to church as well as state; and there is indeed such a connection between them, and their interest is so dependent upon each other, that the welfare of the community arises from things going well in both; and therefore both, though with such restrictions as their respective nature requires, claim the attention and care of the civil rulers of a people, whose duty it is to protect, and foster their subjects in the enjoyment of their religious rights and privileges, as well as civil, and upon the same principle of promoting their happiness.

It is therefore the part of civil rulers to make, and as occasion shall offer, to execute such laws as tend to promote the public welfare. These indeed are in some measure to be varied, according to the temper and circumstances of the subjects, by the wisdom of the legislators; but yet it is necessary there should be in them Edition: 1983; Page: [32] a conformity to the immutable laws of nature, to answer the true design of civil institution.

To these laws it is fit they should add such sanctions as will give them energy if they are suitably applied by those in civil office whose part it is to put the laws into execution.

Provided always, that no laws be made invasive of the natural rights of conscience, and no penalties inflicted by the civil power in things purely religious, and which do not affect the well being of the state: In these, every man has an unalienable right, in the constitution of things, to judge for himself: No man, and no number of men therefore have a right to assume jurisdiction here.

On the free exercise of their natural religious rights the present as well as future happiness of mankind greatly depends; the abridgement of which by penal laws is evidently incongruous to the eternal rules Edition: current; Page: [[121]] of equity; but these rules Edition: 1983; Page: [33] are never to be violated in the exercise of civil power. Civil laws, of right, can relate only to those actions which have influence on the welfare of the state; and to all such the subject may be urged by the civil authority consistently with that freedom of mind, in judging of points of speculation, and that liberty of conscience relative to modes of worship, which he has a natural right unmolested to enjoy.

Obligation on civil rulers to secure the rights and promote the happiness of the people, most certainly implies a power in them to that purpose,—to make laws and execute them; without which, ruler is but an empty name: To this purpose they are indeed cloathed with authority, and armed with the united power of the community; only in the exercise of this power they are under the same moral restrictions with those by whom it was delegated to them.

As in a well constituted civil state there is a subordination among rulers, and each has his respective part to act Edition: 1983; Page: [34] with a view to the public good; so to carry the grand design into execution it is necessary that each should keep the line of his own particular department; every excentric motion will introduce disorder and be productive of mischief: But each keeping a steady and regular course in his own sphere, will dispense a benign influence upon the community, and harmoniously conspire to promote the general good: As in the solar system, every planet revolving in its own orbit round the sun produces that order and harmony which secures the conservation of the whole.

The part that civil rulers have to act supposes qualifications for that purpose, and accordingly we have begged leave in the SECOND place, from the distinguished character of Ezra to suggest some of them.

Religion, learning, and firmness of mind in the discharge of the duties of his office, were conspicuous parts of his character, and comprehend perhaps most of the qualifications requisite in civil rulers.

Edition: 1983; Page: [35] Religion includes piety and virtue, and is acting agreeably to the will of God according to the capacity of the moral agent. To this all men are under obligation as they would answer the end of their creation, and qualify themselves for the happiness for which they were formed: And to this they are obliged in their social connections, that the happy effects of it may be felt not only by themselves but also by others. Nor is there any station among mankind so elevated as to free from this obligation.

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The public good is in proportion to right action in every individual.—But as in the civil subordination among men some have it in their power to do more good or mischief to the whole than others, so it is of more importance to society that such should be more virtuous than others. There is an essential difference between virtue and vice, and their different consequences to society will be sensibly felt: nor is it in the power of earth, or hell, to alter the natural constitution of things.

Vice is detrimental to society in some Edition: 1983; Page: [36] degree in any of its members, but is more so in those who manage the public affairs of it. It disqualifies for public services at the same rate, as it debases the mind, weakens the generous movements of the soul, and centres it’s views in the contracted circle of self-interest.

But virtue qualifies for public offices as it dilates the mind with liberal sentiments, inspires with principles of beneficent actions, and disposes to a ready compliance with the apostolic injuction, look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of another.

The religion of Jesus is designed to destroy the works of the devil, to bring men from darkness to light, from error to the truth, and from the power of Satan unto God—It inspires the mind with a sacred regard to God, and with benevolence to men,—it is an imitation of his example, who came down from heaven and went about doing good,—of his, who is good to all, and whose mercy endures forever—and it also more powerfully inforces all moral obligations, as it illucidates a future state of rewards and punishments.

Edition: 1983; Page: [37] That character therefore which is formed from those principles, which are abhorrent to sinister views, and indirect measures to promote a man’s own private interest, and lead to generous godlike actions diffusive of goodness to mankind, and which afford the strongest motives to such actions, evidently corresponds to a public station, and is most likely ceteris paribus, to discharge with fidelity the duties of a civil post.

Nor is the influence, the example of rulers will, in high probility, have upon others, unimportant to society: Facts demonstrate examples to be very forcible on human nature. Inferiours especially are apt to copy the pattern set them by superiours, and too often even to servile imitation. In some proportion then as the example of those who are in exalted stations is virtuous or vicious it may naturally be expected the character of the whole will be: Nor is sacred history silent as to Edition: current; Page: [[123]] the influence public characters have had upon the morals of a people; in this view therefore it is the wisdom and interest of a community to prefer Edition: 1983; Page: [38] the virtuous to the vicious for their rulers.

But the goodness of the heart influential on the life, without discernment in the head, will yet leave civil rulers short of a qualification necessary to discharge the duties of their office. Men may be pious and virtuous and yet not capable of penetrating very far into the nature and connection of things, and therefore unequal to transactions which require more than common abilities.

The natural and acquired accomplishments of mankind are various, all answering good purposes in their respective situations, and subservient to the general good; and in proportion to these they are qualified for different employments. Of Ezra’s learning particular notice is taken in his commission for government, as qualifying him for the important post. And something corresponding hereto in all civil rulers is undoubtedly requisite in their several departments; I mean a capacity of discerning the nature and duties of their office, and how to perform them. Edition: 1983; Page: [39] It is not indeed of so much importance how they come by this qualification, whether by less or greater application, as that they are really possessed of it; on this in no small degree the welfare of society depends. Those posts, to perform the duties of which distinguishing abilities, clearness of understanding and soundness of judgement are required, cannot be filled to advantage by those in whom these are wanting; if the blind lead the blind both will fall into the ditch. In this fluctuating uncertain state, the community will, at particular seasons more especially, need wise men for pilots, to save the threatned bark from surrounding gaping ruin. The weighty and multifarious concerns of state require great and extensive abilities to stear the whole in that channel which will terminate in the public security and emolument.

Capacity for posts of public trust without virtuous principles is indeed precarious, and not safely to be depended on; but when probity and wisdom unite in the same person they form a character that tends greatly to support the confidence, Edition: 1983; Page: [40] and secure the happiness of the people.

But to these we may yet add firmness of mind in the execution of their office as a very necessary qualification in civil rulers, without which an habitual disposition to do their duty, and the good sense to understand it, may not in all circumstances answer the end. The Edition: current; Page: [[124]] necessity of this is supposed by Shechaniah when he says to Ezra in the text, be of good courage, and do it. And was exemplified by that ruler in his administration.

The present state of things will afford frequent occasions of trying the virtue as well as the wisdom of rulers.—Like other men they are exposed to temptations, and perhaps to more and greater than others; and human nature at best is very imperfect. The temper of domination so strongly interwoven in the make of man may induce them to a wanton exercise of the power reposed in them. Flattery by its soothing addresses and artful insinuations may insensibly divert them from a right course, and lead Edition: 1983; Page: [41] them to dispense the blessings of government with a partial hand. Calumny and cruel censure may provoke in them too great resentment, or subject them to that fear of man which bringeth a snare: Firmness of mind is therefore necessary to repel these and a thousand other temptations—to supress every undue sally of the soul, and to urge the spring of action, that they may pursue with steadiness and vigor the great end of their office.

Those noble exertions of mind which a due administration requires clearly evinces the necessity of this temper in civil rulers: As in order hereto the art of self-denial must be learned and frequently practised by them;—a prevailing attachment to their own private interests and gratifications be given up to the public—angry resentments be tempered down to the standard of right action,—their ease superseded by incessant labors, and sacrificed to the benefit of others.

Softness and timidity of mind indulged into habit will weaken resolution, and relax the nerves of effort in the most Edition: 1983; Page: [42] trying seasons, and perhaps betray the cause their office calls, and their virtue inclines them to support. But firmness and fortitude of soul arising from principle, and cultivated with care, will not easily admit those sordid views that lead supinely to neglect, or tamely to surrender the interest of society, but enable them to comport with personal inconveniences, and stand firm amidst the severest trials, in executing the duties of their office.

Good may indeed be done by him, who is distinguished by one of these qualifications alone, and more especially in his connections with others employed in the same office; their different qualities may operate in subserviency to each other, and by their mutual aid lead into measures conducive to the general safety; and happy to mankind that in this imperfect state it is so! But without determining which of Edition: current; Page: [[125]] them being wanting in civil rulers would be of most dangerous consequence to society, it is very certain their meeting in the same person forms a character that will best answer the design of such promotion; and the more there Edition: 1983; Page: [43] are of this character among them, the more likely it is that the public welfare will be promoted.

But, if every good quality should meet in civil rulers yet THIRDLY, the united exertions of the people with them are necessary to answer the salutary purposes of civil government.

A community having delegated to some of their number the power of civil government as a method of exercising that power the best adapted to secure their natural rights and promote their happiness are not at liberty to counteract the method, but under obligation, in every fit way, to support it; and indeed without their exerting themselves to this purpose, their rulers, however well qualified, will be unable to answer the end of their advancement.

The cause in which rulers and ruled are engaged is the same, though the parts they have to act are different; these all tend to one grand point, the welfare of Edition: 1983; Page: [44] the community; and people are as much, obliged to fidelity and ardor in the discharge of their duty, as rulers to theirs, in supporting the common cause.

The discharge of the duties of civil office merits an adequate reward from them whose business is done thereby; and the community are unquestionably obliged to see that business performed. Rulers devoting their time and their talents to the service of the public entitles them to an easy and honourable support: For real service and great benefit done them, it is the duty of the people to render to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, and custom to whom custom. If this should not be afforded them by the public, they could not attend continually upon the duties of their station; and of consequence civil government, on which so much depends, could not be upheld to advantage.

A respectful treatment of their rulers is also due from the people, and greatly conducive to the end of civil institution. They are raised to exalted station by the people, under the governance Edition: 1983; Page: [45] of his providence, who wills the happiness of all men, and in promoting which they are to be considered as his vicegerents executing his will, and therefore worthy of esteem and veneration. Their success in administration also very much depends upon this respectful deportment toward them: To pour contempt upon rulers is to weaken government Edition: current; Page: [[126]] itself, and to weaken government is to sow the seeds of libertinism, which in a soil so prolific as human nature, will soon spring up into a luxuriant growth; nor will it be in the power of rulers to stop the growing mischief, or, to keep things in a proper situation, without, the concurring aid of the people.

A sacred regard to civil authority, according to the true design of it, is to be cultivated in all; and as a means naturally tending to this, including the necessity of divine influence in their arduous and benevolent work, it is directed by the supreme law-giver, that supplications; and prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made—for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a Edition: 1983; Page: [46] quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

To keep up a veneration for rulers, is to keep up a regard to government itself in the community, and to open the way for its happier influence. Honor therefore should be rendered to them to whom it is due for the good services they have already done, and as being the way to give them opportunity of doing more, and to stimulate them to improve the opportunity by the vigorous exertions of their abilities to that purpose.

But still and more especially, the united efforts of the people with their rulers are necessary to the putting those laws into execution that are made for the good of the community.

It is here supposed, that the laws made by civil rulers coincide with moral fitness, and are calculated to answer the end for which only they are impowered to make laws; if otherwise, the subject can be under no obligation to observe them; but may be morally obliged to resist Edition: 1983; Page: [47] them, as it must ever be right to obey God rather than men. The doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistence in the unlimited sense it has been urged by some, came not down from above, as it can be supported neither by reason nor revelation; and therefore if any where, may be urged with a better grace by the rulers of darkness, in the regions below, upon those who by the righteous decree of heaven, are excluded the common benefits of creation, than by those powers that are ordained of God for the good of mankind. But though with the highest propriety this doctrine may be exploded, it does not at all lessen the moral obligation of obedience in the people to an equitable administration; and to use their endeavours that the laws made by their rulers to promote the good of the community should take place to that purpose: This is only the continued exertion of that power Edition: current; Page: [[127]] which is necessary to carry into effect the plan of civil government laid by themselves, and without which the best laws will fall short of it. There may be good laws, and faithful executors of them, and yet such a practical combination of the subjects as in Edition: 1983; Page: [48] some measure to frustrate the happy effects of them: The violation of these laws may be so connived at in one another, as to prevent the executors having the opportunity to suppress them. The laws of the supreme legislator of the world are unquestionably just and good, and yet are transgressed by daring mortals every day: And though under his all-discerning eye the impenitent shall not finally escape with impunity, yet the transgressors of human laws founded on the same principles as the divine, may illude the inspection of man and the force of his laws: And when this practice shall become general in civil society, the energy of government will of course be relaxed. Nor can it be in the power of rulers the best qualified and the most sedulously attentive to the duties of their office to prevent it, unless they were gods in a higher sense than the scripture intends by giving them that title, and were able not only to make good laws, but also to inspire their subjects with a principle of obedience to them.

Edition: 1983; Page: [49] It is therefore plain, that the united efforts of the people are necessary to support civil government, and make it efficacious to the great and happy end for which it was instituted: And as rulers are holden by the strongest ties to consult and endeavour the welfare of the people; the people are equally bound to aid and assist them in these endeavours.

What has been imperfectly suggested in this discourse may lead to some reflections on the goodness of the supreme ruler of the world, to mankind in general and to ourselves in particular, in the present state, more especially as expressed in the institution of civil government: And give occasion to urge the attention of rulers and people to the duties of their respective stations.

The goodness of the Creator appears through all his works, but more illustriously to man than to any other creature on this earth; him he hath set at the head of this part of his creation: The place of his present abode is accomodated Edition: 1983; Page: [50] to his necessity and pleasure; and his mind is endowed with reason and understanding to guide and regulate him in the enjoyment. With a view to secure him in the possession of the munificence of his creator, he is directed by instinct Edition: current; Page: [[128]] and reason to associate, and amicably unite the strength of individuals for the defence and safety of the whole.

And this method is peculiarly adapted to the present depraved state of mankind, in which by leaping the mounds of right man is the greatest enemy to man. If there was no such thing as civil government among them, what ravages! and what depredations would there be! This earth would be the habitation of cruelty, and a field of blood. The consequences of perfect anarchy among mankind would be more unhappy and mischievous to them, than if the foundations of the earth were out of course, the sun should be darkened, and the moon not give her light, and the stars fall from heaven; And the natural order of this system should be interrupted by a general and most ruinous confusion.

Edition: 1983; Page: [51] But the plan of civil government, as included in the constitution of things, and obvious to the common sense of mankind, well executed by them, gives such a check to evil doers, and support to them that do well, that the nearer mankind pursue it, in its true intention, the more this earth will become a habitation of peace, of security and happiness. This privilege is put into their hands by the Lord of all, as the great security and completion of their earthly felicity; to him therefore their united acknowledgements should like incense, with fervor ascend.

We ourselves have reason, not only to join in the universal tribute, as partaking of the blessings of the creator in common with mankind, but also in particular to express our warmest gratitude to him whose providence determines the bounds of the habitations of all the nations of men that dwell on the face of the earth; that we live under a constitution of civil government the best adapted to secure the rights and liberties of the subject: The fundamental laws of which are agreeable to the laws of nature resulting from the relation Edition: 1983; Page: [52] of things, worthy of men and christians; and the form of administration the best contrived to secure a steady adherence to those laws in the exercise of civil power. Our King sways the sceptre in righteousness, and his throne is upholden by mercy: The legislative and executive powers are guided by the same laws.

The beneficial effects of the happy constitution extend to the remotest parts of the British empire: Britons exult in the enjoyment of their natural rights under its auspicious influence, nor less the colonists in North-America while they participate with grateful and loyal hearts the like blessings from the same source.

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The colonists indeed on account of local circumstances, have been indulged to form into little distinct states under the same head, and to make laws and execute them, restricted at the same time by the laws and dependent on the supreme power of the nation as far as it is consistent with the essential rights of British subjects and necessary to the well-being of the whole. And this is so far from being Edition: 1983; Page: [53] the ground of their complaint that it is in their opinion the very foundation of their happiness; from the antient stock they delight to draw nutrition as hereby they flourish, and in their turn bear to that proportionable fruit. Nor could any thing more sensibly affect them, or be thought of with more regret, than to be rescinded from the body of the empire, and their present connections with Great-Britain.

In their little dependent states they have long enjoyed her parental smiles, which has greatly increased their attachment to her: The relief she has kindly afforded them in times of danger and distress will always invigorate the addresses, and support the confidence of her children towards her, under the like circumstances, till they shall find themselves discarded by her. Which sad catastrophe may all-gracious Heaven prevent! But the same patronage is still to be hoped for by the colonists while they do nothing to forfeit it. Nor is it to be thought that Great-Britain would designedly enslave any of her free-born sons, and thereby break in Edition: 1983; Page: [54] upon that constitution so friendly to liberty, and on which her own safety depends.

This Province has not the least share in privileges derived from the civil constitution of her parent country, and which are amply secured to us by royal charter.

Our Governor is by deputation from our most gracious Sovereign as the representative of his sacred person in our provincial model of civil government. His Majesty’s paternal care in this respect is most readily acknowledged by us, as the Gentleman who has this honor at present is well acquainted with the laws and formalities of our civil constitution, and has abilities equal to the important post. Whose presence forbids every thing that looks like adulation, but may admit of the warmest wishes for his happiness in this world and the next.

The other two branches of the legislature are chosen by the people, either immediately by themselves or mediately by their representatives, which coincides with the freedom of the British constitution, Edition: 1983; Page: [55] and we shall always esteem as a pledge of the Royal favor.

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The return of his day is auspicious to our civil liberties, and fills every honest heart with joy. The liberty of chusing men from among ourselves, whose interest is inseparably connected with the whole, for his Majesty’s Council in the province, whose part is not only to aid the power of legislation, but also “freely to give advice at all times to the Governor for the good management of the public affairs of government,” will always be considered as a privilege dear and sacred by all who are not, by blind prejudice or sordid views, lost to a sense of the inestimable value of their natural and constitutional freedom.

The election of so important a branch of the legislature will naturally gain the attention of those who are concerned in it. Fidelity in the discharge of the trust reposed in them, and a regard to the welfare of the province will determine their choice. All personal piques, and personal friendships, and private interests will be laid aside upon this interesting occasion. And Edition: 1983; Page: [56] while the public good is kept in view, qualifications for a place of so much weight and influence in government will be chiefly regarded.

We rest assured in the good opinion we have of the Electors, that they will divest their minds of every wrong byass, and will not take those who neither fear God, nor regard man; who have no steady principles of action to be depended upon, unless those that lead them to break through the highest moral obligation, and to live as without God in the world, and in whose minds private interest evidently turns the balance against the public. Not those who are unfriendly to learning, who at the most have only taken the intoxicating draught at the pierian spring, but have not drank so deep as to open their eyes and give them a just discernment of things, who in their patriotic phrenzy would deprive church and state of the means greatly conducive to the well-being of both. Nor yet the pusillanimous who would not dare to speak their minds in their Country’s cause in trying seasons, and are only fit for a private station.

Edition: 1983; Page: [57] Their virtue and wisdom will fortify them against artful addresses and wily intreagues in this important transaction. A just concern for the interest of their country will lead them to prefer those qualities and accomplishments which are most likely to promote it, and to give their suffrages for men evidently possessed of them to sit at the Council-Board the ensuing year.

And may all, who by the people under God are advanced to posts Edition: current; Page: [[131]] of civil power and trust, attend to the true design of their advancement, and with fidelity and incessant ardor pursue it.

The matter which belongeth unto them being altogether interesting to us, as every thing dear in this world is connected with it, we surely may be allowed to hope for an upright and wise management of it, and as the task is arduous, and attended with various and great trials, to press them by every consideration to be of good courage, and do it.

And no motives to urge them to patriotic Edition: 1983; Page: [58] efforts are wanting.—The neglect of their duty, or that which is worse the counteracting the grand design of their office, by indirect methods, they will be able to answer, neither to their country, to their own conscience, nor to God the judge of all; for not only the present, but future generations also, will feel the unhappy consequences, and execrate the authors of what they feel. Their consciences will give them trouble at certain periods, but: especially at the near approach of the decisive day, when all their dignity will forsake them, and they will appear in their real worthless character, and creep into the holes of the rocks, and caves of the earth for fear of the Lord, to shelter themselves from that vengeance which yet will inevitably light on their devoted heads. On the other hand, the diligent, the faithful and intrepid execution of the duties of their office, will make them benefactors to the people at present, and transmit their names with honor to posterity, who, in futurity, will participate in the blessings. And such conduct will afford to their mind a satisfaction that nothing can equal short of Edition: 1983; Page: [59] the plaudit of their judge; who will not forget their labor of love, but amply reward their services for mankind, and as they have been faithful over a few things he will make them rulers over many things.

The happiness of this people in the enjoyment of their natural rights and privileges under providence is provided for by their being a part of the British empire, by which they are intitled to all the privileges of that happy constitution; and also by the full and ample recognition of these privileges to them by character.

Their civil constitution as the basis of all their temporal felicity is their dearest stake. Every privation of their natural rights is subversive of their happiness, and every infringement of the form of their constitution has a tendency to such privation: The preservation of their constitutional rights, in every fit method, will therefore ever forceably claim their attention; and to this purpose, while they are awake to a Edition: current; Page: [[132]] sense of their interest, the vigilance and care of their rulers Edition: 1983; Page: [60] will, of right, be earnestly expected by them.

Their being dependent on the supreme power of the nation as a part of the whole, is so far from making it unfit to remonstrate under grievances of this nature, that it is a reason why they should do so; when by the constitution every subject has an equal claim to protection and security in the exercise of that very power.

Their being loyal subjects to the best of Kings, whom may God long preserve! and disposed to cultivate, and if possible to increase their loyalty, will always incline his gracious ear; and give weight to their petitions with his parliament.

With indifference to surrender constitutional rights, or with rashness to oppose constitutional measures, is equally to rebel against the state. Anarchy and slavery are both diametrically opposite to the genius of the British constitution, and indeed to the constitution of the God of nature; and equal care at least is to be Edition: 1983; Page: [61] taken to avoid the former as the latter. A ready compliance with constitutional measures will always justify a tenacious claim to constitutional privileges, and support the hope of their continuance.

The wellfare of the province, at all times, demands the attention of the guardians of our natural and civil rights; to this purpose the legislative and executive powers are to be exercised. But laws are useless in a state, unless they are obeyed; nor will putting the executive power into the best hands avail to the designed purpose, if there is not proper application made to it upon those occasions that require the exercise of it; for in proportion to the want of this application the most excellent code of laws will be a dead letter. It is necessary in the nature of the thing, and indispensably obligatory upon the people to unite their endeavours with their rulers to give life and energy to the laws in producing the designed happy effects.

We have good laws; and magistrates appointed to put those laws into execution, Edition: 1983; Page: [62] whose fidelity may not be impeached: What therefore seems to remain to complete our political happiness is the exerting ourselves to aid the civil power, in surpressing every thing that may be detrimental, and in promoting that which may be of advantage to the whole.

Though some are appointed and bound by oath to give information of breaches of the law which come within their knowledge, yet all are under certain obligation to assist in conveying such information Edition: current; Page: [[133]] through the proper channels to the executive power, as it is the ordinance of God for the good of the community. But from the want of a due regard to the public—or from a misguided fondness for ourselves, we are too apt to be criminally indulgent to one another, and of consequence to desert the magistrate, and in some degree frustrate the design of his office. We have laws wisely provided against the evils of idleness and intemperance—and whatever has appeared to the wisdom of the legislature to be hurtful to society; to whom then may the increase of such disorders be attributed? Edition: 1983; Page: [63] to those whose business it is to execute the law upon offenders, on due information, or those who rather than give, such information chuse to have fellowship with iniquity:—But not only they who are specially appointed for the purpose, but all should attend to the moral obligation they are under to exert themselves, in their respective stations, to prevent the interruption of the happiness of society, and instead of leaving the magistrates unaided, should voluntarily rise up for them against the evil doers, and lend their assistance to bring the workers of iniquity to condign punishment.

By this general exertion the most happy effects would be produced;—transgressors would soon be taught a greater reverence for the law, and all be more secure in the enjoyment of their rights: Hereby obstructions would be removed, and the executive power have free course; and judgment would run down as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Instead therefore of speaking evil of dignities, and cruelly charging them with Edition: 1983; Page: [64] the blame of prevailing disorders, we should recriminate on ourselves, and do our part to aid the magistrates in putting the laws already made into execution, and confide in the wisdom and fidelity of the legislators to make such new ones as the circumstances of the community may require.

And while the guardians of this people are intent upon securing their rights and promoting their happiness, in every wise and laudable method, liberal support should be granted, great honors done, and cheerful obedience yielded to them.

Our safety and happiness must always arise from the united exertions of rulers and ruled to the same salutary purposes. The security of our liberty and property by the fundamental laws of our civil constitution is the strongest motive to maintain an inviolable attachment to it; and to exert ourselves to promote the interest of the nation Edition: current; Page: [[134]] to which we belong. Every well-directed effort to support the constitution on which the happiness Edition: 1983; Page: [65] of the whole depends, and to augment the wealth and strength of the British empire, as our duty and interest, should be readily made by us. To multiply settlements on the uncultivated lands, and reduce the wilderness to a fruitful field, by emigration from our older towns, and especially by the introduction of foreigners not unfriendly to our constitution—to make greater improvements in agriculture and in every useful art evidently tends to the general welfare.

Arbitrary and oppressive measures in the state would indeed dispirit the people and weaken the nerves of industry, and in their consequences lead to poverty and ruin; but a mild and equitable administration, will encourage their hearts and strengthen their hands to execute with vigor those measures which promote the strength and safety of the whole.

To lay a foundation of greater security to ourselves is indeed a laudable motive Edition: 1983; Page: [66] to such efforts; and may be justified by the principle of self-preservation: But the advantages of such improvements will not be confined to ourselves—the more populous and opulent we grow, the more able we shall be to defend this important part of the British dominions—the more our nation will be a terror to her enemies—and the better able shall we be to make remittance for what we shall necessarily want of her manufactures.

By a proper attention to the general interest, and vigorous pursuits of measures that tend to promote it, things may be put into such a situation as to be of mutual advantage. The growth and prosperity of her colonies must be of real advantage to Great-Britain.—The means for exportation being increased in them, will be so to the colonies, by which they may sink their present heavy debts, and more easily defray necessary public charges.

The same attention, with a little prudence, would lead us to retrench extravagant Edition: 1983; Page: [67] expences, and to promote frugality, good order, and industry, that we might give a seasonable check to increasing debility, enjoy what we possess to more advantage and widen the foundation of future felicity. Under greater advantages we may receive monitory and directive hints, by turning our eye to the provident ant, which having no guide, overseer or ruler provides her meat in the summer and gathereth her food in the harvest.

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We are now reaping the happy fruits of our Fathers hard labor and ineffable sufferings; and shall not a concern for future generations warm our hearts—produce some acts of self denial, and closer application for their sakes? or shall we do nothing for our posterity when the first renowned settlers, here, did so much for theirs? Could they look down—or rather be permitted in flesh to visit their dear-bought country, with what astonishment would they behold the ungrateful neglect—with what severity reprove the prostitution of patrimonial Edition: 1983; Page: [68] privileges, and chide the criminal want of philanthropy, in their degenerate offspring: and with what ardor would they urge them to perfect the work they had nobly begun, and thereby make room for millions yet unborn quietly to enjoy their natural, their civil, and religious liberties.

In fine. To secure his own, and to promote the happiness of others, is the part of every one in this great assembly. To this end were we born, and for this cause came we into the world. We were placed in that rank of being, and under those circumstances, which the infinitely wise and good Creator saw proper. And as we are moral agents, and accountable; it is of great importance to us in every station, to keep in view the end of our being called into existence.

This is but the bud of being—we are candidates for a succeeding state; into which, we are assured by the gospel of the Son of God, the consequences of our actions in this, will follow us. Nor in Edition: 1983; Page: [69] the constitution of things have we long to continue here, but mortality will soon translate us to the state of retribution. With what care then should we avoid every action debasing to the mind, and with what assiduity pursue those that tend to raise it to nobler heights.

By inattention and vice we may forfeit the blessings of creation and redemption, and by a continued course of sordid and unworthy actions, dishonorary to God and unfriendly to mankind, we may finish the ruins of our nature; and put ourselves into such a state, that it would have been good for us if we had never been born. But by a diligent improvement of the talents committed to our trust in exercises of piety towards God, and charity to men, we may enoble the mind, and qualify it for the sublime happiness for which it was originally designed. Having therefore acted our part with fidelity in the service of God and our generation, we shall quit this imperfect state with dignity and honor, and rise superior to the highest grandeur and Edition: current; Page: [[136]] felicity in these Edition: 1983; Page: [70] regions of mortality; and by the immerited munificence of the Creator


High in Salvation, and the Climes of Bliss.*

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[13]: A Well-Wisher to Mankind
[JOHN PERKINS 1698-1781]

Theory of Agency: Or, An Essay on the Nature, Source and Extent of Moral Freedom

Perkins was a physician of Lynn, Massachusetts, who authored a number of pamphlets on earthquakes, comets, and other natural phenomena. This present essay is the only instance where he is known to have taken on political matters in print. Americans during the founding era frequently had a deeper philosophical or theological basis for their understanding of concepts like freedom and equality than is apparent from their political writing. Such theoretical assumptions and underpinnings were frequently taken for granted. Perkins here lays out the basis for consent—a concept central to American politics but rarely analyzed philosophically.


The consideration of the subject of Liberty has been, not only an agreeable amusement to the Author, but really interesting; he having formerly been carried away by the metaphysical, and very specious reasonings of the Necessitarians, into a favourable opinion of their notion.

What gave him lately an occasion of considering the matter, was, the reading an Essay entitled Principles of Morality, written as it seems, to establish the doctrine of Fatalism. In that piece, the author represents the strong sense, or feeling, as he calls it, of Liberty, so universal in mankind, as a deceitful idea. That in want of power to confer liberty, the Divinity was oblig’d to impress our minds with this fallacious perception, to dispose us to perform the part assigned us. This was too striking to pass without attention: Edition: current; Page: [[138]] It had the effect; and but for this, the Author of the following pages had probably remain’d quiet, and secure, in the Necessitarian tenets. In examining the matter, he put down his thoughts in writing, as they occurr’d Edition: 1983; Page: [4] not indeed as any answer to that piece, but for his own information, and in the most impartial manner he was capable of; if possible to find on which side of the question the truth lay. In this way he became assured of the reality of Liberty, particularly by a discovery of what it consisted in, and how it originated in the operations of the mind. This is what he has in the following pages endeavour’d to explain. Upon the whole, he thinks a Theory of Liberty practicable, and accordingly leaves the consideration of it, together with the materials he has collected, to the candor of the publick: Not without a pleasing hope that some better hand may undertake and perfect the idea.

Edition: 1983; Page: [5] THEORY OF AGENCY, &c.

Considering the design’d brevity of the following Essay, any particular examination of what others have written upon the subject, may not be expected: neither that much notice should be taken of the terms they have used, to express their meanings and explain the thing. A few words concerning absolute liberty, and moral freedom, may suffice to introduce the Author’s private way of thinking.

By absolute liberty, a person has been supposed capable of determining differently, all circumstances remaining the same. Coactive necessity is its reverse; and both equally destructive of true liberty: One being absolute will, without any reason for action; the other being acted from without, as a mere machine.

On both sides of the question, it has been firmly believed, that some degree of a self-determining power was necessary to the existence of liberty; on neither side, however, has any one been able to find it; and probably many may have become Fatalists for no other Edition: 1983; Page: [6] reason, than because they could not conceive of Liberty without it.

By Moral Freedom, has been meant a power of determining according to apprehended good and evil; opposed to a state of moral necessity, either natural, or induced by long custom, habit, passion, or some special depravity; which may be further taken notice of in the sequel: For the present, we may observe, that the question of Liberty turns upon this, viz.

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Whether there be any moral power or faculty in the mind, whereby it can occasionally change a prior determination? Wherein this consists? and by what operation of the mind effected?

Preparatory to a solution of this question, we may consider some of the differences between the rational and the sensitive world; together with the nature of what is called the will.

The powers of all creatures are suited to their wants and intentions; and their liberty is of the same nature, and proper to their powers. The brute, with only sensitive powers, and what are called instincts, acts according to these, and without constraint; or as he lists; but cannot have moral freedom; this being the exclusive property of the rational nature. Man has the inherent power of controuling the animal affections, which is denominated moral. So that he is not, as may by Edition: 1983; Page: [7] and by appear, in all things necessitated. I say in all, because in many things he is so; thus by the constitution of his nature, as a corporeal being; in what life consists; and in some appetites, desires and aversions; but wholly so, till arrived to the use of reason, as in childhood, and at any time of life when reason fails; or the subject criminally neglects the proper use of it.

All appearances evidence that man was form’d for self-direction; since by his intellectual powers he can govern the sensitive clues in the use of proper means; rectify errors in judgment; disengage himself from prejudices; foresee events, and conduct accordingly: All which, by consideration; not by any thing of an absolute intention; the appearances of which are deceitful. The same may be said of the choice of two exactly similar objects, wherein there is no preference. I mention this, because the pitching upon one, instead of the other, has been objected as a proof of free-will: Tho’ the person takes one instead of the other, only to get rid of the difficulty, which is all the motive he has in the case.

But suppose a person could chuse without a motive, (i.e.) with absolute liberty, what would be the wisdom of such a power? To what purpose an unmeaning determination more likely to produce ill than good effects? It is Edition: 1983; Page: [8] time enough for willing and determination, when some cause, some reason for it appears.

The notion of absolute liberty leads us to enquire into the nature of what is call’d the Will: A thing which, as it seems, has not been rightly understood by the writers in morals. Much has been said of it in the affair of liberty; some have imagined it the first mover in the Edition: current; Page: [[140]] mind; and long use has associated a notion of something arbitrary in the mental economy, which has occasioned great confusion and obscurity.

The common expression is, that man has a Will; his faults are charg’d on the Will; and his Liberty called Freedom of the Will. Now in these expressions, we have strong intimations of some certain subsistence, faculty, or distinct power in the mind, by which it chuses and refuses, wills and nills, as the terms have been, and which have, as it were, given a sanction to the notion, and prejudiced people against an examination of the thing; whereas by a little observation of what passes in their own minds, almost any one might perceive the mistake.

By looking inwards with respect to will, nothing appears but desire and aversion; and by these, we constantly observe the mind determined; and by no other means. By these, we pursue apprehended good, and avoid evil; our determination wills, or choices, which are Edition: 1983; Page: [9]* synonimous, are as our desires and aversions; and these, as our perceptions, and the ideas we have of things; or as our external and internal senses are affected. By all which it is evident, that will is no other than the mind determined by motive.

These affections of the mind, determining to action and conduct, are what have been invariably express’d by the term will. And indeed a proper name was necessary, as well as convenient, to prevent tedious and irksome descriptions of the complex idea. The fault has been, that in the name, we have lost the true nature of the thing; we have insensibly taken that for a cause, which was only an effect. Thus much may suffice in a preliminary way. We come now to the enquiry what our Liberty is, and how it originates.

The great Mr. Lock placed it in suspension of the mind, (i.e.) as I suppose, a being duly disposed to determine as evidence should appear. Suspension implies impartiality, and a freedom from byas and prejudice; but it does not solve the difficulty of motive; so that none Edition: current; Page: [[141]] have receiv’d any real information from Edition: 1983; Page: [10] it. But it appears that the author himself was not satisfy’d of the existence of Liberty; for in a letter to his friend Molineux, he owns that he could not conceive of Liberty being compatible to the omniscience of the Deity. This no doubt was from a notion of something absolute being necessary to the idea of Liberty; the universal mistake of all the writers in the controversy, on one side as well as on the other, while the thing is so far otherwise, that the mind is evidently passive in every thing it gives attention to, at least it is so in a state of vigilance, since the spirit here strictly observes the laws of its union with the body, though it may be otherwise in sleep. And probably from this effect of the laws of union, the Necessitarians have been induced to rest their cause on the power of motive, and latterly have persuaded themselves that this alone is an effectual bar to liberty.

If, say they, we do nothing without a motive, we cannot by any means have liberty. And they add, that a moral determination no more admits of freedom, than a natural or physical one; in which they plainly make no distinction between the sensitive, and the rational nature. Nor do they better, when they would confirm their doctrine of Fatality, by the sophistical whim of motive depending on motive, in infinitum, (i. e.) that there is no first Edition: 1983; Page: [11] mover. A notion too puerile to admit of a grave answer, were it not that many sober writers have adopted it, as if it was really to their purpose. But so it is, that in attempting a system of absurdities, one must give an answer to such stuff as this as well as the rest; therefore quo ineptia trahunt, retrahuntque sequamur.

This notion of a boundless series of motives, must have been the offspring of contracted views, as well as the impossibility of tracing them back to a first mover, viz. the external senses in their first affecting the mind; before this, it is to be observed there could be no motive. What chiefly gave occasion to the whim, seems to have been the impossibility of tracing them back to their source. The case is such, that long before we are capable of looking back, our first perceptions in childhood have escaped us. The memory of childhood is not retentive. In infancy the perceptions are seldom retain’d to the next day; tho’ in a short time they may remain two or three risings and settings of the sun; but were it otherwise, in the course of a few years our faculties pass through such a variety of action, associations, improvements, and interweavements of ideas; and too often such actual Edition: current; Page: [[142]] depravities of our moral powers, that the hundredth part of these may be well thought more than enough to prevent our pursuing the thread of motive back to its original.

Edition: 1983; Page: [12] But there is yet a way by which we may satisfy ourselves; and that is, by beginning at the first perceptions of the human mind: What these are, we may be assured by considering our frame; the order of our ideas; and what must, in the nature of things, have been our first perceptions: And indeed the impossibility of their having been any other than what originated in external sense. The first of these senses in use, are feeling and tasting; we feel first, then taste, loath, or else suffer hunger. Our use of the other senses appear to follow, but no mental ones are perceptible, till the bodily ones have been exercised. Anger is the first of the passions, and grief known by shedding tears, (i. e. weeping); for in the first days, the child cries without tears. After some experience, imagination begins; and in length of time reason, and the moral sense unfolds. All these, in their uses supply a vast number of images, ideas, and correspondent motives, forming a wilderness effectually preventive of any other way of inquiry; while in this it will evidently appear, that our first motives originated in external sense. For we have no innate ideas; nor have we the least appearance of mental powers, before perception by our senses. We must have perception before we can have motive; and sensation before we can have perception: So that here is the beginning of all motive. Motive then is not such an infinite Edition: 1983; Page: [13] thing as the Necessitarians would have us believe; they make it like space, unbounded; for which this was once deify’d: As for the same reason, according to them, motive might be too.

By the way, I have taken for granted that others have the same idea of motive that I have, (i. e.) any perception exciting to action; or determining the judgments we make of things. It may be considered of two kinds, natural and moral; the former immediately from our various senses; the latter the offspring of our understandings, in reasoning; on which account I take the liberty of distinguishing them by the terms primary and secondary.

At the first view, man appears constituted of two natures, the animal and the intellectual. Motive necessitates all mere animals without a remedy; and it does the same by every human creature; as far as he is governed by his animal affections, so far he is necessitated. But experience shows he can controul these. Socrates and others in all Edition: current; Page: [[143]] ages have done so, by considering things, and their circumstances; and further by disciplines and use, facilitating the capacity, and improving the habit of reflection. We can consider the bodily claims, and submit to, or reject them.

In considering the power of Motive, I readily grant the Necessitarians all the facts they build upon; but not the assumed principles, Edition: 1983; Page: [14] and hypothesis. I own we are in all things determined by Motive; that we never act without and never contrary to the present one. These concessions no ways interfere with our Liberties. What this consists in, is a particular prior to secondary Motives. Our Liberty consists in the procuring this sort of Motive. By consideration we determine concerning the propriety of our Motives, and confirm or reject them, in lieu of such as we approve: (i. e.) We reject the primary ones occasionally, and adopt others, which I call secondary, as more eligible: In the same manner as a servant who has leave for it, upon consideration of two persons, chuses which shall be his master.

In fact, we find our Motives do often change, and why? but by seeing things in different lights. It is true that they frequently change, as it were, by chance; but this is far from being always the case. New Ideas, and of consequence, new Motives arise in a way of reasoning and reflection; and this difference of origination alters the quality of the Motives, with respect to Liberty; in the latter case, we are active in their production: It is in this way we controul our inferior affections, according to the natural order, that the nobler powers should rule the ignobler. The thing is, that upon examination, finding the reasons intended action, conduct, judgment or opinion faulty, a Edition: 1983; Page: [15] change of Motive naturally ensues, for other, or contrary ones. Any one may recollect that he has often done so, and satisfy himself that he can on like occasions, do the same again; viz. as reasons occur in reflection.

Here the Necessitarians may probably ask, Where shall we find the Motives for consideration? since they hold it not at our command.

The question indeed is proper to the occasion; but in putting it, they virtually own a fault they have always been reprehensible for, viz. a negligence in their enquiries into the frame of the human mind, and the operations of it; or they might have answer’d this question by themselves.

We freely grant that we have no immediate power of commanding consideration: But we have an equivalent, for all human purposes, implanted in the mind; a naturally strong disposition to it, which Edition: current; Page: [[144]] nothing but culpable self neglects, and rejections of its use, destroy: So that we have only to submit to our native promptings, to its use, on all occasions; and we shall sufficiently consider. Where there is reason, consideration and reflection constantly and readily offer. A much wiser provision for us, than any absolute power of commanding it; we can let the disposition take place; or we can shut the eyes of the mind against it; we can use or refute it as free creatures.

Edition: 1983; Page: [16] We may with an agreeable propriety, call consideration the eye of the mind; since we make discoveries by it. And in comparing it with the bodily organ of sight, we may find we have a like power over both. The bodily eye is automatically, and naturally kept open by a proper muscle for that purpose; while yet we have a voluntary power of shutting it by another prepar’d for that office. The power of consideration is as really and as much under our command, in its design’d use, as the bodily eye is to view, or not, any external object. And we are in the general as much promted to the use of it, with this advantage, besides others, that the new motives obtain’d by the use of it, are our own property; redound to our praise and benefit; as the neglect of it does to our guilt and injury.

But the Necessitarians object, that desires and aversions are not in our power, and therefore we have no Liberty.

The reader will easily perceive the sameness of these and Motive, in so many respects, that the same answer might have served for both: But as particular expressions and sounds have very great influence on some minds; and considering that a separate discussion may give occasion to the mentioning some things which more or less affect the argument, I was determined to give it a place by itself.

Edition: 1983; Page: [17] It is then readily own’d, that desires and aversions are not immediately at our command, as has been observ’d of Motive; but we have a remote power of obtaining new ones; or altering them, which is sufficient for our purpose. Experience teaches that we can procure very different, and even contrary ones, by industry and application of mind.

The body and the mind are both improveable, and by improving their faculties, likings and dislikings, are generated: Custom and use have great influence in altering our likings and dislikings; so applications of mind in the use of the understandings, as in arts and sciences, we become delighted with them in proportion as we increase in understanding them: The mind is like the palate, to which many Edition: current; Page: [[145]] things by use become agreeable which before were irksome, as oyl, olives, tobacco, &c.

Observation and attention make some things agreeable, by giving us right notions of them; thus we see the rustic, who at first despis’d the gentle manner and obliging behavior of the well-bred and polite, esteeming them incompatible with a manly fortitude and resolution, upon further acquaintance, becoming delighted with them.

Would we rectify our tastes concerning buildings, sculpture, paintings, &c. we may do it by frequent observations on them; and thus alter our erroneous likings and aversions. And Edition: 1983; Page: [18] it is the same with our moral likings and aversions which we rectify, or change, by obtaining better notions of the things themselves, with their tendencies and benefits.

By consideration we become reconciled to various disagreeable self-denials; as with respect to the means for recovery from sickness; for the preservation of life and health: For these we deny ourselves many, otherwise desireable gratifications; the contrary becoming desirable by reflection.

Here I cannot pass some notice of what happened in the hot weather, while I was revising these pages for the press; particularly the death of divers by drinking freely cold water, or other cold small liquors, to quench thirst, when they were overheated by the sun, or exercise; now although accounts of such accidents are well known to every one, yet they are not attended to for want of consideration, and a resolution to consider and to take their drink leisurely, and by mouthfuls, at intervals, swallowing it slowly, ’till cool enough to make free with it. One would think the past and striking instances of mortality, by indulging in such circumstances, should render every one attentive and considerate; whereas we see them soon forgot; and why? but because no astonishing sound like thunder attends them. Altho’ for one that dies by lightnight, there are many that die by such inconsideration. The least Edition: 1983; Page: [19] thought might prevent many of these accidents. If no more than this remark is remembered, of this essay, I shall think all the rest, which gave occasion to it, well rewarded; and have the satisfaction of having been useful to the world.

But to proceed,—

I have observed elsewhere, that we can consider, or we can reject consideration; and that in both these we have liberty; altho’ by the latter, in the use of liberty, we act against the continuance of it, so Edition: current; Page: [[146]] as gradually to lose the capacity for it, by depravities which always take place in the neglect of it. Both the learned, and the unlearned, are faulty in consideration. In their inquiries, they have too many resting places; they are too apt to take up with the first appearances of truth, by which they frequently come short of it. On a cursory view, we should be at a loss to say which of these classes of men are most faulty. We have therefore to consider, that among the learned, as among the vulgar, there are the knowing, and the unknowing. That man, alone, is knowing, who has not only acquired a proper stock of ideas, but well digested his notions of things. Not the mere scholars, that have scamper’d through the fields of science for the vanity of a title, and university diploma, without any becoming improvement of mind, or substantial principles of knowledge; these are generally more disposed to avoid consideration, Edition: 1983; Page: [20] than the illiterate; those they despise under the term of the prophanum vulgus. They have more important and injurious prejudices, with an additional obstinacy, and arrogant assurance, from the pride of vain and imaginary knowledge. The plain, the simple, and honestly well-meaning, are, if I may be allowed the expression, infinitely more free, than those whose self-affections are exalted by a mere formal education. Practical knowledge only is valuable; literature is but a mean for obtaining it, but often falls short of the end. Right knowledge is a moral principle, which, besides other things, qualifies for self-government, and so the enlargement of moral liberty; as literature without it tends to its destruction: We see the pride of literature and contempt of the sense of mankind in a Bolingbroke, Morgan, Coventry, Hume, Wolston, and others; who have made the most violent attacks upon all religion, both natural and revealed: These however suit only the grosser palates, who can swallow absurdity without any seasoning, besides a little elegance of language to recommend it; they are therefore much less dangerous to religion than another sort of writers who are little suspected; and of which there is a great number: These in a covert and insinuating way, with the specious cloak of moral principles, and refined notions of things, are unsuspectedly poisoning the minds of the people. Nothing Edition: 1983; Page: [21] shows the depravity of mankind more than the zeal with which these writers endeavour to root out of the minds of their readers, those principles which have the best tendency for the happiness of mankind. They are prejudiced, and voluntarily continue so: They avoid a manly reflection and consideration, being apprehensive it would prove an interruption to their love of licence: Their fondness Edition: current; Page: [[147]] for this, has an effect upon them similar to that of the serpent’s enchantment of small animals, which is said to be done by a bewitching appearance round the serpent’s head, when his eyes are fixed on the creature; drawing it, by admiration, to still nearer views of the thing, till it is brought within his reach, so weaken’d that he becomes an easy prey.

It is not pretended that the most considerate can in all things find truth; but then they will be generally cautious of misleading others: And yet a strong ruling passion may without a steady watch, betray them into gross enormities. Thus ambition and an over-fondness for honor, as by high offices in church or state, or the being esteemed as persons of superiour talents, knowledge and abilities: Such persons if not sufficiently attach’d, and zealous for a particular party, will be apt to list on the side of a controversy where their most flattering hopes of distinction attract them. In this class Edition: 1983; Page: [22] perhaps, we might place the Author of an Essay on the Principles of Morality. An Author, who had he written in favor of Liberty, with the same genius and capacity he has done against it, would have done himself honor; and sav’d one, unus’d to the pen, from attempting such an abstruse subject.

Edition: 1983; Page: [23] PART II: Containing a few presumptive Proofs of Liberty.

The Author imagined it might not be amiss to subjoin to the foregoing theoretic thoughts, some moral probabilities of the reality of our freedom; which perhaps may prove more agreeable to some readers than the other more philosophic treatment. To these may be premised a few words concerning the ancient Fatalists, and the general belief of Liberty in the first ages.

It is acknowledged that universal consent is no infallible criterion of the truth. And yet it seems worth observing, that in all ages mankind have been invariable persuaded of the reality of Liberty; and this assurance continued till the Grecian Philosophers, by their blind way of inquiry, overlook’d and deny’d it: Edition: 1983; Page: [24] However it was several ages before the doctrine of Necessity spread farther than themselves, even to the days of Epicurus. Epicurus erected an academy, and taught it to his disciples, and these propagated it: But what manner of reasoners he and they were, may be seen in Lucretius, who handed Edition: current; Page: [[148]] down his imaginations to posterity. After Epicurus, Liberty became more disputed; but was still believ’d by all that were not more or less taught to disbelieve their senses. Our modern Fatalists would reduce us to this, by confusing our minds with their abstract reasonings, which if they prove any thing, imply a great deal too much; particularly by the lengths they carry their power of motive. If we would have liberty, in their way of talk, we must be void of passions, appetites, desires and aversions; and be capable of willing differently, all circumstances the same. Unless our liberty be absolute, they will not allow it to be liberty. So that according to them, if a man’s property is limited, it is no property; if he is confin’d to his own house, or parcel of land, he has no liberty within his own walls; if he has not the strength of a giant, he has no strength at all: But besides this, their notion ends in ridiculous nonsense; as that only inanimate things can have liberty: A stone then, a stock, or the posts in the streets have it. A man certainly cannot, unless he is fast asleep, and does not so much as dream. Edition: 1983; Page: [25] But enough of this; the particulars here intended follow.

The faculty of reason strongly implies Liberty. In the foregoing part, it was considered as the faculty in which it inher’d, as it was evidenced in the article of consideration. Here I take it in a different light, as a proof of its reality.

Reason in man is in lieu of instinctive direction. Man has but few instincts; and these only such as are for purposes prior to, or rather out of the province of reason; while more had been superfluous for a creature furnished with rational powers. Our frame is contriv’d, as every thing through universal nature is, with nothing wanting, nothing redundant. And our being endow’d with reason and understanding, instead of more instinctive powers, shows that we were ordain’d for self-direction, in conducting by the former: And in fact, we find that we determine frequently on action and conduct by consideration and reflection, without any instinctive impulse, further than self-love, which without the other, is blind in the human species.

Man is plainly form’d not only to provide as the sensitive hoarding species do, the necessaries of life, but to procure both them and the conveniences of life, to look beyond what sense and instinct can direct him, for this and other purposes; to take in by his understanding Edition: 1983; Page: [26] large prospects; consider the effects and events of prosecuting excursions into them; and determining on the suitable conduct for his intentions. His understanding is accordingly analagous to a prospective glass, Edition: current; Page: [[149]] which furnishes views beyond what the eye unassisted could afford him; and which he is upon innumerable occasions, in wisdom and prudence oblig’d to make use of, or suffer for the neglect. This glass we may use, or refuse in supplying the mind with materials for conduct so peculiarly needful in the system of man, and no other ways provided for him: It is the mean, as before observed, by which he can occasionally change his mere animal motives, and whereby he is denominated free. Upon this occasion, I may be allowed to repeat, That our being naturally oblig’d to act in conformity to the judgments we procure by consideration, is no objection to our liberty; since this arises only in the consideration itself, which is prior to the judgment. The essence of our liberty consisting in that use of reason whereby we can occasionally turn our present determination into another channel.

In the next place the moral sense, or conscience, so universally found in our species, is a strong presumptive proof of liberty.

Every human creature has a sense of right and wrong, ought and ought not, which are evidently intended to remind him of duty and Edition: 1983; Page: [27] obligation; and without which he could have no idea of it. It is as really a natural sense, as the external ones of sight, feeling, tasteing &c. As constitutional as the other internal ones of honor, harmony, benevolence, &c. All which where any of them are wanting, no industry or discipline can give the subject any idea of their objects, whatever the Fatalists or Moralists pretend to the contrary. It is well known that these gentlemen assert it to be generated by the occasions, although by these it is only excited into action, upon the appearance of its objects: It unfolds when the person is arrived to the use of reason, and this being its nature, it evidently implies moral laws with a capacity of obeying and refusing. Here then it is to be observ’d, that such a sense could be to no pertinent purpose, if we had not liberty. The faculty would otherwise shew great unkindness in the construction of the mind. Is it possible to believe that an infinitely wise and good Being, would have plac’d such a severe chastiser in our frame, were we really necessitated; but rather that he would have form’d us so as not wrongfully and injuriously to afflict ourselves. We should rather believe that he would have impressed mankind with an effectual bias to right conduct, or else with proper instincts for every laudable purpose. vid. Divine moral government next to be considered.

Edition: 1983; Page: [28] The appearances of a divine moral government are presumptive of liberty.

In the general course of common providence a scheme of moral Edition: current; Page: [[150]] government appears. We find that right action and conduct tend to happy enjoyments; as the contrary naturally to evil effects; and this by an establishment in the nature of things. So that we are beforehand apprised of the respective general consequences, in which we find ourselves interested, and naturally accountable: Common providence having thus the nature of law and government.

As to any special providence, the Materialists would have us believe there is no such thing; but that every event is the effect of general laws without any interpositions. They are no ways concerned that observation and facts are against them, as well as the universal sense of the first ages. We find the ancients firmly persuaded of a particular and special providence, and frequently observing that good morals and religious observances, engage a kind and indulgent providence on their side. That where these and religious observances have been duly attended to, especially by their rulers, a people have been divinely smiled upon by providence; and not only so, but many times honoured with riches, power and grandeur; together with the prolonging their duration as a people; and contrariwise. This was matter of Edition: 1983; Page: [29] their observation, an evidence of what the universal Father of his creatures expects in the moral world, viz. That all mankind, of whatever condition, or however circumstanced, should use their intelligent powers in the best manner they were capable of; by improving and disciplining themselves into virtuous, and approvable conduct; and with the use of the best religious observances they are furnished with, or can obtain. A confirmation of which we have in the beginning of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

What shall we then think of the present doctrine of our sectaries, That materially good deeds are hateful to the Deity, unless in a state of grace; and that by every act of obedience, although performed with an honest intention to amend our lives, we render ourselves more abominable in the sight of God, and are further remov’d from his grace and favour, than by a course of licencious living, and total disregard of every thing praise-worthy. Do not these teachings tend to render the divine word, dispensations and grace, inconsistent and contradictory to one another, and to the harmony of the divine attributes; as well as abhorrent to any idea we can form of the divine wisdom and rectitude? But I return.

By careful examination it might evidently appear, that events are not always effects of general laws, but that at least some of them Edition: 1983; Page: [30] Edition: current; Page: [[151]] are really expressive of a divine, and special administration. Cursory observers may not be sensible of this; so few of the instances being explicit enough to satisfy such persons. And yet in this very particular, they are most agreeable to that divine wisdom which would not too much interrupt our liberty. Which observations bring me to the following question;

By what rules the divine disposer governs the moral world?

And the general answer to this may be, That he does it in a manner suitable to the moral nature of mankind. Has he given man moral powers? Then surely he rules him in a moral manner, so far as those powers reach. To suppose any thing different from this, would be to charge unerring rectitude with impropriety. The most evident appearances are, that he deals with mankind as rational beings, in a state of trial and probation. Agreeable to this, if we only contemplated the system of man, with his relations to his Maker, it would naturally appear, and even prior to any perception of the fact, that there must be some sort of correspondent treatment, as by revealed will, and specialties in providence. The nature of man, and the circumstances he is placed in, absolutely require it; and the wisdom of the Deity appears concerned in it. But the mode is to treat these things with banter and ridicule; or to explain them away; or at best to give no solid reasons against them.

Edition: 1983; Page: [31] The learned, and from them the unlearned, form to themselves, what they esteem honorary notions of the Deity. They judge of the divinity by themselves; they find care, and extensive employment, burdensome; and esteem attention to small things servile. On the contrary, that it is great and noble to have their affairs carry’d on without their own attention and looking after. This they imagine God-like. They do not advert to it, that inaction is unnatural to intelligences; and that continued, and eternal action, is essential to the Deity, the supream intelligence. From their feelings, they imagine the Deity hath surely so dispos’d the laws of nature, as to bring about all his designs without any specialties, and please themselves with their own conclusions. They indeed own there are some events which cannot be accounted for by the known laws, but they do not allow them to be specialties, or interpositions. Instead of this they tell us, there are unknown laws by which they are effected: But they do not advert to it, what such an imagination, if pursued through its Edition: current; Page: [[152]] consequences, would run up into. I shall mention only one thought upon it.

Suppose then there are such unknown laws, Do we not hold that there are no confusions, contradictions, or absurdities in, or among, these laws, whether there be more or fewer, but a perfect harmony, as in the attributes of Edition: 1983; Page: [32] their divine author? Allowing this, how shall we reason about events which require laws contrary to the known ones, and subversive of them; for such instances might be given, but for some reasons must be left to the reader’s reflections to supply for himself. Such, whatever they be, must be resolv’d into a supernatural agency, an agency that does not affect matter in the manner of the laws of nature; some power interposing in the natural course of things: And for which there is always some special and moral, not natural occasion, but effected by an immediate will and agency, which it would be improper to term a law of nature, since it does not always have effect on the same occasions, and in the same circumstances. Let the matter be considered, without bias and prejudice and it will appear that there is in specialties no repugnancy to any of the natural laws, farther than a temporary suspension of their operations; or only a particular exertion of power; having the natural laws directly after to take place.

Can it imply any contradiction in the divine government, to admit such additions to common providence? I confess, that as a divine moral government of the world requires it, I can form no idea of such an administration without them: But on the contrary, that they appear most wise, and honorable to the divinity, and beneficial to the world. The Edition: 1983; Page: [33] short question is, Hath the Divinity never interpos’d? If it be allowed that he has once done so, the argument is or ought to be given up.

It is difficult in this day of modern opinion to offer any thing in contradiction to the vogue. It is well known that there are [some] who hold the notion of visitations from the unseen world, and of various kinds: as there are others who deny them. Without asserting or denying the thing, I shall offer a few thoughts upon the supposition of it.

They who hold the doctrine of specialties, do it as the divine method of supplying events for answering the designs of infinite wisdom: This is pious and well; but may there not be some remote and future uses of them as well as the immediate intentions? for the Edition: current; Page: [[153]] present, supposing such events, which by the way it would be unbecoming rashly to deny, certainly the natural tendency would be to excite considerations of various kinds; particularly concerning an unseen world; the agency of a supreme cause; the being and employment of intelligences, and a divine government; by these religious reflections would naturally arise in the mind. He that form’d us knew our weakness and need of mementos; and, however the present question be determin’d has certainly Edition: 1983; Page: [34] order’d all things in infinite wisdom. Our concern is not to injure ourselves by mistakes; but in this as in all things else, to think impartially, distinguishing well between the real, and the only apparent; and not be implicitly carry’d away by any vulgar apprehensions on one side, or modish opinions on the other: In a word, to observe well, and judge accordingly.

Mankind are creatures immers’d in sense; every instance therefore of supernal power must, and will, if realiz’d prove more or less a balance to their original sensitive propensities, which naturally impel them to undue indulgences and gratifications; it would excite ideas of their dependent state, and their obligations: Ideas of their being divinely observ’d by an all-seeing eye upon them for their good, if they conduct wisely. It may be consider’d whether they who endeavor to lessen the credibility of interpositions in providence, and the other mention’d events, are friendly to the cause of religion and virtue, and duly cautious for the supporters of revelation, the reality of which cannot be prov’d without allowing an intercourse between both worlds. Revelation was founded on miracle; and the continuance of any special agencies and visitations from the unseen world, may be ultimately design’d to prevent mankind’s losing Edition: 1983; Page: [35] all sense of the reality of it as well as of religious obligation; agreeable to what has been before observ’d, and also to what we now see, that as these specialties are denied, revelation is so too.

The Deists may tell us that natural religion would remain without any assistances of these kinds, or any other. Suppose then it did so, what effect would it have? What in any case are the benefits of it without a practical sense? alone it does not appear to be any sufficient principle of virtue. It might be shown that it is only a foundation for a superstructure; and that it is no more than a meer capacity without this. That good breeding, an impress’d habit of right decorum, with a native common honesty, are much more effectual to all the purposes of a good life than this; although it has been improv’d by its patrons, Edition: current; Page: [[154]] with all the helps they could obtain from revelation. Indeed the influence of the above imaginary qualifications of their natural religion have, by the Deists, been palm’d upon us as the effects of it, whereas their religion is no more than a mental sense rendering the human species capable of receiving reveal’d religion; that as far as nature goes, it might take place in belief.

Edition: 1983; Page: [36] Opinion grounded on common providence alone, is far from answering the intentions plainly pointed out in the understanding, and moral powers of the human mind. On the contrary, the course of nature, and common providence, are, by themselves, coincident with, and every way agreeable to, the doctrines of Necessity, and Materialism.

Natural religion is founded on what is observable in the course of nature, and material objects. It is indeed own’d that these imply an intelligent author of nature; but they do not enlighten us what business we have with this cause. We see that the laws of nature affect all creatures with good or evil, according as they do, or do not, attend to them: For instance, if they approach too near the fire, it burns them; if they immerge too long under water, it drowns; and so in a thousand other mistakes, they suffer for their errors. And it is chiefly in owning the wisdom of the laws of creation, that natural religion consists; and at best, on no better principle than weak opinion, all its obligations end.

It follows as a corollary, that this natural sense of dependence on, and obligation to heaven, this native disposition to religious observance, is a proof of the design of the Maker, that man should be a religious creature, that Edition: 1983; Page: [37] all, both good and bad, should use their utmost care to regulate their lives, and moralise their minds, by every means in their power. All powers of the creature were given with wise design, and not one of them intended to be useless, altho’ some of them were designed to be regulated by the natural understanding, moral sense, and rules of life. But if this natural power of amendment is not to be used till it is superceeded by a divine and special change of heart, it was given in vain; and to be as the S. S. phrase is, wrapt in a napkin. We see, in the story of the criminal alluded to, the condemnation of a servant who neglected the use of his powers because they were small, and with the pretence, perhaps a perswasion, of his lord’s being a hard master: He would not employ them according to the intention of the giver. Was he then in a converted state? certainly not; and yet his endeavors were required. To say no more, the notion Edition: current; Page: [[155]] is grounded on an erroneous piety, inadvertently exalting one of the divine attributes and dispensations, at the expence of the others. As to the rest, the intelligent observer will easily see how it is founded, and with what faulty arts conducted and inculcated in the present day.

After what has been said of specialties and interpositions, a Materialist may probably ask some such question as this; if specialties Edition: 1983; Page: [38] have such a beneficial tendency, why did not the divine Being order them more frequently, and in a more determinate, and perspicuous manner? This requires an answer, and accordingly a few lines upon it will not be amiss.

All will allow, in words, at least, that there is through every part of the divine works and dispensations, the utmost consistency and agreement, no repugnancy or clashing, and nothing contradictory, redundant or deficient to be found: Whereas, was the divine conduct altered, to what the Materialists in the question requires, the case would be quite otherwise in the moral world. It would have destroy’d all Liberty, and subverted a state of probation. Man would be necessitated contrary to the divine intention. Had the divine will been to secure an uninterrupted and uniform moral conduct, no doubt the instances of specialties and interpositions would have been much more frequent, and explicit, together with immediate rewards of good, and punishment of ill deeds. The divine finger barred to mortal sight had no question astonish’d mankind into continued moral order, without any room for praise or blame. The event would have been the same as if he had impell’d mankind into right conduct, by effectual instinctive impressions, or mechanically dispos’d them to religious observance, without any capacity to the contrary. Edition: 1983; Page: [39] But man then would not have been man. He would have been a cold unspirited lump of absurdity; such only as a Lucretian genius, or materializing projector could have had the credit of devising—No! infinite wisdom laid a nobler plan, in which the rational creature, by the use of moral powers, with Liberty, might approve himself to his maker in a suitable and determin’d degree; with attention to whose laws, providential dispensations, and by the assistances provided for him, he should obtain the happiness his nature was made capable of. I say approve himself, in the use of the talents he has given him, for it would be presumption to expect his maker should do that for him which he has Edition: current; Page: [[156]] given him the powers to perform; while yet in all beyond this, and what is requisite for him, he may piously expect his gracious assistance.

I shall mention but one more of these proofs of liberty, viz. that of the notions we naturally form of the Deity. As soon as we are capable of consideration, we perceive ourselves constitutionally led to negative every idea that appears to imply imperfection; and to attribute to the divine Being whatever implies the highest degrees of excellency and perfection, with the most perfect harmony of the divine attributes. And upon severe examination of the matter, we find we were right Edition: 1983; Page: [40] in these sentiments. Whereas when we enquire into the consequences that arise from the doctrine of Necessity, we find them derogatory to them; particularly to those of divine power, wisdom, and goodness: Besides that, it unavoidably makes the perfection of holiness the author of sin; while on the contrary, the doctrine of liberty shows the origin of moral evil to be a very different thing. Thus we also find we agree with the genuine sense and meaning of S. S. I need only add, that our natural notions and common sense, have more real weight and intrinsic worth, than our Necessitarians, and Semimaterialists, of which we have a great number, will admit. But we must take care to distinguish between what is truly common sense, and the notions that arise from educated ignorance, and various misleading causes, in the course of life; together with the bias of our corporeal affections.

I shall finish what I have to say on liberty, with some very short observations on the divine fore-knowledge of events.

The Necessitarians would have us believe, that unless every action of mankind were previously decreed, (i. e.) absolutely determin’d, they could not be foreknown by the Deity. It remains therefore to examine this agreably to the foregoing theory, by which the contrary will be evident.

Edition: 1983; Page: [41] But in order to make a right judgment concerning this weighty question, we must be suitably prepared by a competent knowledge of the nature of man, particularly the operations of his mind; how far he is necessitated and how far free; according to, or in some such manner as has been already expres’d. But especially we must have right notions of the Deity; right so far as they go, for we cannot have adequate ones. We must allow the infinite difference between his manner of knowing, and that of mankind; of him who sees the essence of matter, and all effects in their causes; to whom the past, the present, and the future are ever before him in one perfect, Edition: current; Page: [[157]] and continued view. We must acknowledge the boundless immensity of that wisdom and power by which he made all Worlds; and that Omnipresence by which he is every moment of duration present to them, to every part of them, and to all, even the minutest beings in them. Then if we add to this, the dependent nature of man, whose Liberty is no more than a capacity of passing occasionally, from one necessitating motive to another, we shall be in some measure prepared to satisfy ourselves in the present question.

Admitting then the foregoing postulate, which I think will not be disrupted, we shall Edition: 1983; Page: [42] perceive that as the Almighty sees all effects in their causes, so all the causes and changes of Motive must be accordingly foreknown by him; that he can foresee whether the subject will consider or not; whether partially or impartially; and in either case, what the event will be. For we may easily perceive, that he can as well forsee what the mental eye of the mind in consideration will discover, as what will appear to the bodily eye in the course of life; and equally what the effect will be, (i.e.) how the rational creature will determine.

It is own’d, that the determinations of the mind are greatly influenced by the different characters of persons. So that although they see the same thing, and under the same individual circumstances, they will yet judge very differently; but however perplexing this may be to mankind to determine what the party will do, it makes no difference with Omniscience. He equally sees their special peculiarities as he does any simple object; their original nature, various complications, and special influences; and in one self-same view, what particular in the whole will determine them, and exactly how. So that he cannot need an absulute decree to know what one will do.

Edition: 1983; Page: [43] This short account of the matter, may prove sufficient for the impartial and contemplative, while the most clear and full rationale would be to no purpose for others. On this, and the foregoing way of thinking, it is evident, to me, that the Almighty could make a free agent; and that, man having liberty, his every action is yet foreknown. Such objection being remov’d, affords one more presumption of the reality of liberty, as distinguished from any absolute self-determining power; and upon the whole, that such a power is not necessary to the idea of Moral Freedom.

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[14]: John Tucker 1719-1792

An Election Sermon

English colonists in America began living under local government based upon the consent of the majority before John Locke was born, and by the time he wrote his Second Treatise they had evolved most of the institutions and practices that Locke’s theory implied. Nevertheless, Locke’s work had considerable impact on Americans by the middle of the eighteenth century, probably because it nicely justified theoretically what Americans were already doing. Locke built his theory from rationalist assumptions, while Americans built their institutions on biblical foundations, especially upon the notion of a covenant. While to men in the 1770s there seemed to be no essential conflict between what Locke and the Bible were telling them, their synthesis of the two was in fact an American accomplishment, not a logical necessity. John Tucker, pastor of the First Church in Newbury, here, in the Election Day Sermon of 1771, demonstrates how the synthesis was accomplished.

I Peter II. 13, 14, 15, 16.

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: Whether it be to the King as supreme, or unto Governors, as unto Governors, as unto them who are sent by him, for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well.

For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

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The great and wise Author of our being, has so formed us, that the love of liberty is natural. This passion, like all other original principles of the human mind, is, in itself Edition: 1983; Page: [6] perfectly innocent, and designed for excellent purposes, though, like them, liable, through abuse, of becoming the cause of mischief to ourselves and others. In a civil state, the genius of whose constitution is agreeable to it, this passion, while in its full vigor, and under proper regulation, is not only the cement of the political body, but the wakeful guardian of its interests, and the great animating spring of useful and salutary operations; and then only is it unjurious to the public, or to individuals, when, thro’ misapprehension of things, or by being overballanced by self-love, it takes a wrong direction.

Civil and ecclesiastical societies are, in some essential points, different. Our rights, as men, and our rights, as christians, are not, in all respects, the same. It cannot, however, be reasonably supposed, but that this useful and important principle, must, in its genuine influence and operation, be friendly to both: For although our Saviour has assured us, his kingdom is not of this world; and it be Edition: 1983; Page: [7] manifest from the Gospel, which contains its constitution and laws, that his subjects stand in some special relation and are under some peculiar subjection to him, distinct from their relation to and connection with civil societies, yet we justly conclude, that as this divine polity, with its sacred maxims, proceeded from the wise and benevolent Author of our being, none of its injunctions can be inconsistent with that love of liberty he himself has implanted in us, nor interfere with the laws and government of human societies, whose constitution is consistent with the rights of men.

Christ came to set up a kingdom diverse, indeed, from the kingdoms of this world, but it was no part of his design to put down, or destroy government and rule among men. He came to procure liberty for his people, and to make them free in the most important sense, yet not to exempt them from subjection to civil powers, or to dissolve their obligations to one another, as members of political bodies.

Edition: 1983; Page: [8] As to things of this nature, all ecclesiastical constitutions and laws, as coming from God, must leave men just as they were; because all civil societies, founded on principles of reason and equity, are, as well as the peculiar laws of Christianity, agreeable to the Deity, and Edition: current; Page: [[160]] certainly, intimations from the all-perfect mind cannot be contradictory.

These things, seem not to have been rightly apprehended, and well understood by men at all times and in all places. The Jews, some of whom were early proselyted to the christian faith, had imbibed high notions of their liberty and superiority to all others, as the peculiar people of God; and were loth to own subjection to the Romans, as a civil state, when they were actually under their dominion. And some converts from among the Gentiles, tho’ they had not these national prejudices, yet from their subjection to Jesus Christ, as their King and Ruler, and, as ‘tis probable, from mistaking the meaning of some apostolic declarations asserting Edition: 1983; Page: [9] their freedom as christians, disclaimed likewise all human authority over them.

Men of this cast, gave no small trouble both to Church and State, in the early days of the Gospel. Of such the Apostle Peter speaks where he says—They despise government: Presumptuous are they. Self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.

Such men as these, and their seditious, turbulent behaviour, I doubt not, this same Apostle had in view, when he delivered the instructions in my text, by which he endeavoured to guard christians against their evil practices.

But, as all authority, demanding submission, and all submission, due to such authority, are likely to be best understood, by having these things reduced to their first principles; by having the foundation of such authority fairly produced, and its just boundaries, which must be the measure of submission due to it, clearly marked out: And as such submission is most likely to be duly yielded, Edition: 1983; Page: [10] by having the reasons and motives thereof plainly exhibited, so these are things which seem here aimed at by the Apostle. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the King as supreme; or unto Governors, as unto them who are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

In these words he gives us a compendium of civil government; representing its origin and great design; that submission, or obedience which is due to it; and the true principles from which such obedience should flow.

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Upon this general view of the subject, it is obvious, that if handled with any degree of propriety, it may offer useful instructions, both to Rulers, and those under their government.—A modest attempt to do this, will not, it is hoped, be Edition: 1983; Page: [11] disagreeable to this respectable audience, by whom I ask to be heard with patience and candor.

The first thing offered to our consideration is, the ORIGIN of civil government, from whence all authority in the state must take its rise. And this is said to be from man. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, etc. More intelligibly, perhaps, it might be rendered, “to every human institution or appointment.” And this may be justly understood, as having respect to every kind of civil government, under whatever form it is administred:—It is the ordinance,—the institution or appointment of man.

This does not imply, however, that civil government is not from God; for thus it is sometimes represented, and is expressly said to be the ordinance of God. So St. Paul declares—There is no power but of God. The powers that be, are ordained by God. Whoever therefore resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God.

Edition: 1983; Page: [12] Civil government is not, indeed, so from God, as to be expressly appointed by him in his word. Much less is any particular form of it there delineated, as a standing model for the nations of the world. Nor are any particular persons, pointed out, as having, in a lineal descent, an indefeasible right to rule over others.

But civil government may be said to be from God, as it is he who qualifies men for, and in his over-ruling providence, raises them to places of authority and rule; for by him Kings reign:—As he has given us, in his word, the character of Rulers, and pointed out both their duty, and the duty of those under their authority; which supposes, not only the existence of civil government, but that it is agreeable to his will: And especially and chiefly, as civil government is founded in the very nature of man, as a social being, and in the nature and constitution of things. It is manifestly for the good of society:—It is the dictate of nature:—It is the voice of reason, which may be said to be the voice of God.

Edition: 1983; Page: [13] It being only thus that civil government is the ordinance of God, there is no impropriety in asserting likewise that it is the ordinance of man. For though it is founded in the nature of man, and Edition: current; Page: [[162]] in the constitution of things, which are from God, yet nothing is plainer, than that it proceeds immediately from men. It is not a matter of necessity, strictly speaking, but of choice. This is the case, as to the government in general.—This is most evidently the case, as to any particular form of government.

All men are naturally in a state of freedom, and have an equal claim to liberty. No one, by nature, nor by any special grant from the great Lord of all, has any authority over another. All right therefore in any to rule over others, must originate from those they rule over, and be granted by them. Hence, all government, consistent with that natural freedom, to which all have an equal claim, is founded in compact, or agreement between the parties;—between Rulers and their Subjects, and can be no Edition: 1983; Page: [14] otherwise. Because Rulers, receiving their authority originally and solely from the people, can be rightfully possessed of no more, than these have consented to, and conveyed to them.

And the fundamental laws, which are the basis of government, and form the political constitution of the state,—which mark out, and fix the chief lines and boundaries between the authority of Rulers, and the liberties and privileges of the people, are, and can be no other, in a free state, than what are mutually agreed upon and consented to. Whatever authority therefore the supreme power has, to make laws, to appoint officers, etc. for the regulation and government of the state, being an authority derived from the community, and granted by them, can be justly exercised, only within certain limits, and to a certain extent, according to agreement.

To suppose otherwise, and that without a delegated power and constitutional right, Rulers may make laws, and appoint Edition: 1983; Page: [15] officers for their execution, and force them to effect, i.e. according to their own arbitrary will and pleasure, is to defeat the great design of civil government, and utterly to abolish it. It is to make Rulers absolutely despotic, and to subject the people to a state of slavery; because it will then be in the power of Rulers, by virtue of new laws and regulations, they shall please to make, to subvert and annihilate the present constitution, and to strip the subject of every kind of privilege.

This may be briefly evidenced by a single instance.

It is essential to a free state, for without this it cannot be free, that no man shall have his property taken from him, but by his own consent, given by himself or by others deputed to act for him. Let it Edition: current; Page: [[163]] be supposed then, that Rulers assume a power to act contrary to this fundamental principle, what must be the consequence? If by such usurped authority, they can demand and take a Edition: 1983; Page: [16] penny, by the same authority they may a pound, and even the whole substance of the subject, so as to make him wholly dependent on their pleasure, having nothing that he can call his own; and what is he then but a perfect slave.*

This, at first view, is manifestly inconsistent with all just conception of freedom; and is the very essence of arbitrary and tyrannical power.

Now, all Rulers in a state, and all power and authority with which they are vested;—the very being, and form of government, with all its constitutional laws, being thus from the people, hence civil government, is called, and with great propriety, the ordinance of man,—an human institution.

Edition: 1983; Page: [17] This is the case, as to the British government in particular, under which we have the happiness to live. Its constitutional laws are comprized in Magna-Charta, or the great charter of the nation. This contains, in general, the liberties and privileges of the people, and is, virtually, a compact between the King and them; the reigning Prince, explicitly engaging, by solemn oath, to govern according to these laws:—Beyond the extent of these then, or contrary to them, he can have no rightful authority at all.

If the preceding positions, and the reasonings from them are just, the following things may be noticed, as deducible therefrom, or closely connected therewith,—That it is highly requisite, for the good of the state, that both Rulers and people be well acquainted with, and keep in mind the constitutional laws of government—Rulers, that they may be directed and guided thereby, and not depart from, or counteract the design of their institution, to the injury, or disquietude Edition: 1983; Page: [18] of the people.—And people, that knowing the bounds of Edition: current; Page: [[164]] submission, and the extent of their privileges, they may be guarded against transgression, and yield a ready and full obedience.

Equally requisite it must be likewise, for the same end, that there be no mysteries in the governing plan:—That all laws and rules of government, be as plain as possible, and easy to be understood, to prevent contentious disputes between Rulers and their subjects;—to preclude the former, from tyrannical oppression, under colour of lawful authority, and the latter from rebellious disobedience, under pretence of privilege.

For, it follows from what has been said, that as all disobedience in subjects, to constitutional authority, is rebellion against government, and merits punishment adequate to the crime, so all assumed power in Rulers, not granted them by the constitution, is without just authority, and so far forth, can claim no submission. Edition: 1983; Page: [19] “As usurpation,” says the great and judicious Mr. Locke, “is the exercise of power which another hath a right to, so Tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which no body can have a right to.” And again, “Where-ever law ends, Tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another’s harm. And whosoever in authority exceeds the power given him by law, and makes use of the force, he has under his command, to compass that upon the subject, which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate: And acting without authority, may be opposed as any other man who by force invades the right of another.”

And tho’ it may not always be prudent and best, to resist such power, and submission may be yielded, yet that the people have a right to resist, is undeniable; otherwise the absurd and exploded doctrines of passive obedience, and non-resistance, must be admitted in their utmost extent, and their consequences patiently borne. And it must be granted finally, that the people as well as their Edition: 1983; Page: [20] Rulers, are proper judges of the civil constitution they are under, and of their own rights and privileges; else, how shall they know when these are invaded;—when submission is due to authoritative requisitions, and when not?

But we are now to consider

Secondly, the great design of Civil Government, and the end for which Rulers are appointed; and that is the good of the community, or political body—Whether it be to the King, as supreme; or unto Governors, as unto them who are sent by him, for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well.

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Rulers are not appointed, indeed, for the happiness of the people, exclusive of their own, as if these things were unconnected. But, as it would be unreasonable, that some should be advanced above their brethren,—be cloathed with authority, and honorably supported meerly for the sake of their own ease, Edition: 1983; Page: [21] dignity and grandeur, so it would be equally unreasonable, that Rulers should be slaves to the people, and watch and labour for their welfare, without sharing in it.

But the happiness of rulers and of their Subjects, are not thus exclusive of each other, but perfectly coincident. They are both parts of the same body,—their true interests are interwoven, and their happiness inseparable. Rulers, acting agreeable to their institution, and attending on that very thing, are justly entitled to esteem and reverence, and an honorable support from the people, though these are not the things they ought to have chiefly in view.

They are to consider themselves as raised above their brethren, and invested with authority, for more noble and generous purposes;—for the peace and wellfare of the Community, committed to their care: Hence it is said, of the civil Ruler, he is the minister of God to thee for good.

Edition: 1983; Page: [22] Nor can any other end be imagined, worthy of reasonable beings, why men should put themselves out of a state of natural freedom, and subject themselves to the authority and rule of others, but for their greater good;—for the securing, more effectually, their just rights, liberties and privileges.

This is the great end of their forming into society;—of their establishing certain laws, as the general measures of right and wrong, and giving power to some, to govern the whole community by such laws.

This being the design of civil government, good Rulers are justly considered as benefactors to the people. They are placed as watchmen and guardians over the state, whose special business it is, both in their legislative and executive capacity, to consult and promote its wellfare. To curb and restrain the unrighteous and factious, from acts of fraud, rapine and violence, and to protect others in the peaceable enjoyment of their rights. Edition: 1983; Page: [23] To punish transgressors;—to relieve the oppressed, dispensing, with an equal and impartial hand, justice to all.

For, it is necessary for the support of government, and that the Edition: current; Page: [[166]] great and salutary ends of it may be answered, not only that its laws be just, but that they be enforced by proper sanctions; fitted to affect the human mind, and to engage obedience; and that Rulers have power to execute such laws, in punishment of evildoers, and for a praise,—for the support and encouragement of them that do well.

From this view of our subject, it appears of high importance, to the good of the state, that they who are vested with power to make laws for the Community, as there shall be occasion, and to appoint officers for their execution, have qualifications answerable to their high places of power and trust.—That they be men of superior knowledge and wisdom;—well acquainted with the civil constitution;—with the just boundaries between Edition: 1983; Page: [24] the prerogative of Rulers, and the liberties of the People, that their laws may be duly framed, and adjusted to the political system.—Men able critically to examine the complection of the state;—to search out its disorders, and to apply proper remedies:—Able to judge of the natural course and tendency of things and to foresee, beyond what is common, the operation, and consequences of their own acts;—how the rights of individuals—how the common good will be affected thereby.

They should be men of great ingenuity and candor;—ready to receive light when offered,—to redress grievances, when convinced of them, and to amend, or repeal their own Acts, when found injurious, or not answering the good intentions designed. Pretences to perfect wisdom and knowledge, and inerrability of judgment, in civil, as well as ecclesiastical matters, ill become the highest mortal; and are likely to produce unhappy effects, when found in Rulers, especially if accompanied with an obstinate adherence to their own measures.

Edition: 1983; Page: [25] They should be men of great goodness and benevolence of heart, who will naturally care for the welfare of their brethren, and treat them with condescention and kindness. Such a behaviour, corrected and managed by prudence, is perfectly consistent with their maintaining the dignity of their character, and will greatly endear them to the people. That councel of the old men, to king Rehoboam, was wise and good, and agreeable to the sentiments and feelings of human nature. If thou wilt be a servant to this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants forever.

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Again, RULERS should be men free from a sordid covetous temper, which has self-interest like the pole star ever in view, and endeavours to steer all things by that direction. As they are designed to act for the public good, they should be men of liberal and generous souls;—ready to prefer the common safety and happiness, to their own private emolument.

Edition: 1983; Page: [26] They should be likewise men of great resolution and firmness of mind;—not easily dismayed and overcome by difficulties, or intimidated by threatened dangers:—Able to maintain a calmness of mind, and to guide with a steady hand, in tempestuous seasons:—Able to bear with the unpolished plainness of some honest men, and with the weaknesses and follies of others:—Not apt, in a pet, to desert the common cause, and to sacrifice the public happiness to their own passionate resentments.

And, finally. It must be a great importance, to the good order and wellfare of the state, that Rulers be men of distinguished piety and virtue, who will be likely to rule by example as well as law. It was an act of prudence, as well as piety in Nehemiah,—his appointing one to a place of high trust in government; because he was a faithful man, and feared God above many. A firm belief of Revelation:—A strong impressive sense of the divine and everlasting things declared in the Gospel,—this will secure Edition: 1983; Page: [27] the good conduct of Rulers, especially when under temptation to do wrong, above every thing else. True religion inlarges, and strengthens the mind,—fixes deep in the heart, the principles of right action, and gives steadiness and uniformity of behaviour.

Men of this character will act with fidelity and zeal in the service of the public, considering themselves as accountable to God, as well as to men. They look beyond the present state of things, and view their conduct as connected with futurities of a most interesting nature; and will aim at approving themselves, not only to the people, but to their own minds, and to God the Judge of all.

Such Rulers will best answer the great ends of their institution. They will be to the people, as the directing,—as the chearing and comforting light of the sun.—As the refreshing rain,—as the firm, unshaken pillars of the state,—the shield of its defence and safety, and the source Edition: 1983; Page: [28] of constant blessings. Nor can they fail of engaging the esteem and love, and submission of the people.

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We may now in the THIRD place, consider that submission which is due to governments; and take some particular notice of the nature and extent of it. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, whether it be to the King as supreme, or unto Governors, etc. Similar to which is that of St. Paul, Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.—Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, etc.

The duties of Rulers and Subjects are reciprocal, and mutually imply each other. If some are to govern, others are to submit to their government, and to be obedient to their authority; otherwise Rulers are but an empty name;—the constitution is dissolved, and anarchy ensues.

Nor is this submission due only to the Supreme Ruler, but to all in lawful authority Edition: 1983; Page: [29] under him, down to the lowest officer in the state. Not only to the King, but to those who are sent by him, to carry on the various parts of the administration. Disobedience to inferior officers, while acting by lawful authority, is disobedience to the highest power, as it is by authority derived from thence, that all in subordinate places of civil trust, execute their offices. Submission is likewise due to all constitutional laws, whether they suit the present interest of individuals, or not. A man is not to disobey a just law, calculated for the public good, because, in certain circumstances, it operates against his private interest.

Unlimited submission, however, is not due to government, in a free state. There are certain boundaries, beyond which, submission cannot be justly required, nor is therefore due. These limits are marked out, and fixt, by the known, established, and fundamental laws of the state. These laws being consented to by the governing power, confine, as well as direct its operation and influence, and Edition: 1983; Page: [30] are the connecting band between authority and obedience.

And no wise and just Ruler, we may suppose, would aim at wantonly leaping over these bounds, and acting beyond them, as this would be, not only acting without lawful authority, and injuriously robbing the people of their rights, but would tend to create unhappy jealousies, and to stir up broils and contentions in the state, which might give him much uneasiness, if no worse consequences should follow.

It was a fine expression of a Spartan Ruler, and indicated the freedom and happiness of the state, upon being asked, “Who governed at Sparta? answered the laws, and the magistrates according to these Edition: current; Page: [[169]] laws.” The constitutional laws of the state, are, properly, the supreme power, being obligatory on the whole community,—on the highest officer, as well as the lowest subject.

Edition: 1983; Page: [31] Here then, we have the just measure and extent of submission. It is due to all decrees and requisitions of the legislature, which are consistent with the known, and fundamental laws of the state, by which fundamental laws, the very law-making power itself is limited, and beyond which it cannot pass.

And it seems immaterial, as to the present point, whether such authority in Rulers, and submission in subjects, result directly and wholly from the original constitution and frame of government, or from subsequent compacts between them, mutually agreed to.

All such compacts, whether under the name of charter-grants, or however denominated, must be supposed agreeable to the fundamental laws of the state, and grounded thereon, i.e. Such as the ruling power has authority to make, or enter into, and the people freely accept of.

Edition: 1983; Page: [32] Upon such agreement, a particular kind of government, in some respects new, may take place; but, so far as it is new, or variant from the original constitution, this subsequent agreement between Rulers and people, ought to be the invariable measure of administration.—This bounds the authority of Rulers, and the submission of subjects.—The people, while they owe obedience, have an undoubted right to their granted, or stipulated privileges; and may justly claim, and insist upon them, unless, by misconduct, they are forfeited.

Upon the whole therefore. Proper submission, in a free state, is a medium, between slavish subjection to arbitrary claims of Rulers, on one hand, and a lawless licence, on the other. It is obedience in subjects to all orders of government, which are consistent with their constitutional rights and privileges. So much submission is due, and to be readily yielded by every subject; and beyond this, it cannot be justly demanded, because Rulers and People are Edition: 1983; Page: [33] equally bound, by the fundamental laws of the constitution.

The state of the world, and temper of mankind, may render these observations necessary and highly important;—important and necessary as a check upon Rulers of a despotic turn; and a restraint upon the licentious among the people; that neither, by breaking over their just bounds, may disturb the peace, and injure the happiness of the state.

For there have been Rulers, and may be such again, who look with wishful eyes on the liberties and privileges of the people. Who Edition: current; Page: [[170]] consider them as a prey, worthy to be seized, for the gratification of their pride and ambition,—of their cruelty or covetousness. Such, under one pretence or other, will be stretching and enlarging their power, and grasping at more and more, ’till, if not obstructed, civil government will be converted into absolute tyranny, and a free people into slaves.

A people in love with liberty, and Edition: 1983; Page: [34] sensible to their right to it, cannot but be jealous of such Rulers; and ought to be on their guard against unjustifiable, and arbitrary claims. Tamely to submit, would be highly unworthy of them as free men and shew they deserved the yoke, under which they so readily put their necks.

On the other hand. There are found among the people, persons of a querulous and factious disposition.—Ever restless and uneasy, and prepared to raise and promote popular tumults. From the meer love of wrangling, or from ambitious views,—to rise from obscurity, to public notice, and to an important figure, they find fault with Rulers, and point out defects in the administration.—Small mistakes are magnified.—Evil designs are suggested, which, perhaps never existed, but in their own heads. They cry up liberty, and make a mighty stir to save the sinking state, when in no danger, but from themselves, and others of a like call.

There are ambitious and designing men, in the state, as well as in the Edition: 1983; Page: [35] church; and there are fit tools to serve the purposes of both. As some make hereticks in the church, and raise an ecclesiastic posse to demolish them, chiefly with a view to render themselves distinguished, as found in the faith, so others make traitors in the state, and raise the popular cry against them, to gain to themselves the name of Patriots.

The wise and prudent will make a pause, before they inlist under such political zealots. They will judge for themselves of the faulted conduct of their Rulers. They will make reasonable allowances for human frailties, and be as ready to yield submission where it is due, as to defend their liberties where they are in danger.

We proceed now in the LAST place.—To take notice of the principles from which submission and obedience to government should flow. And these are, a sense of our duty to God, as well as to civil Authority, connected with, and animated by a sense of liberty. Edition: 1983; Page: [36] Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.—As free, Edition: current; Page: [[171]] and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

True religion:—A sacred reverence of the Deity:—The love of virtue and goodness, are as necessary to make good subjects, as good Rulers: And a spirit of liberty is requisite, to render obedience true and genuine both to God and man.

Even the supreme Ruler of the world, is not a despotic, arbitrary Monarch, nor does he require obedience by meer authority. His sacred laws,—all framed agreeable to the perfect rectitude of his nature, and resulting from his infinite goodness, and righteousness, are wisely adapted to the human system, and calculated for its good.

They recommend themselves to the reason of our own minds, and manifestly tend to our happiness:—We feel our interest as well as our duty in them, and that these are closely connected.

Edition: 1983; Page: [37] Agreeable to the nature and tendency of these divine mandates, the obedience God requires of us, is not that of slaves, to a tyrannical master, but that of children, to a wise and benevolent father. It must be free,—a matter of choice, and not of force, driving us on against a reluctant mind.

Like to this, is the obedience we owe to civil government. Supposing its laws founded, as they ought to be, in reason and equity, and calculated for the good of society, they demand our approbation. And being under their authority, as members of the political body, both duty and interest require our submission.

But as all earthly Rulers, as well as all human institutions, may be supposed to be imperfect; and submission may be required, inconsistent with our just rights and privileges, there is a liberty, of a somewhat different nature, respecting civil government, we have a claim to, and which should have influence on our conduct, i.e. a liberty to -hold, as well as to yield submission.

Edition: 1983; Page: [38] For, even a christian people who, from their character, as servants of God, are bound to submit to the higher powers, and to obey Magistrates, are not, out of courtly complaisance to their Rulers, or from a mean, timorous, and slavish temper, to resign up their just rights, when imperiously demanded, or craftily sought after. Remembering they are freemen and not slaves, they should act as free.

They have an undoubted privilege to complain of unconstitutional measures in government, and of unlawful incroachments upon their rights, and may, while they do it, with becoming decency, do it with Edition: current; Page: [[172]] that noble freedom and firmness, which a sense of wrong, joined with the love of liberty, will inspire.

Even under great and manifest oppression, a prudent regard to their own, and the public safety, may forbid, indeed, violent means of resistance; but should never lead them, tamely to yield to unlawful claims.

Edition: 1983; Page: [39] Challenging their right, and pleading for it, tho’ this should not prevail to the immediate redress of grievances, yet may be of high importance, to keep alive,—to cherish and strengthen,—not a spirit of faction and discontent, but that spirit of liberty which is, as it were, the animating soul of a free state,—which being once gone, every thing valuable will become an easy prey, and a state of abject slavery ensue, to live in which, may be far worse, than to be free among the dead.

But still, on the other hand. While a people consider themselves as free, and are zealous to maintain their liberty, they should remember also their subjection to civil authority, and to God, the righteous Judge of all, and be careful not to carry liberty beyond its just bounds:—Not to use it for a cloke of maliciousness:—Not, under coulour and pretence of this, to refuse just obedience;—to be disorderly, factious and tumultuous. As the servants of God, and accountable to him, they should render unto all their dues, and seek Edition: 1983; Page: [40] not only their own, but the welfare and happiness of all.

Would people, in general, possess their minds of such sentiments, and act under their direction and influence, how much would this tend to the peace and happiness of society! Many groundless and unreasonable complaints, from restless and ambitious, or from ignorant and peevish men, would be discountenanced and suppressed, and the community, by a general steady course of well-doing, would, agreeable to the will of God, put to silence the ignorance of such foolish men.

And in case of real and grievous oppression from unrighteous Rulers, such principles as these, would be likely to produce the most happy effects. They would unite the members of society, as one body.—They would guard them against rash and unlawful measures of defence;—lead them to such as are prudent and justifiable; and engage them to act with that determined resolution and firmness, resulting from reason Edition: 1983; Page: [41] and virtue, which is most likely to hold Edition: current; Page: [[173]] out, and to prevail, in time, over every species of injustice and oppression.

And would both Rulers and Subjects imbibe such sentiments, and, under their direction and influence, discharge with fidelity the duties of their respective places, what a prosperous and flourishing condition might they hope for!

The springs of government, acting with vigor, and under a right direction, and the members of society, yielding correspondent and uniform submission, a general harmony and happiness must ensue.

The political state would be like a body in full health. The constitutional laws, preserved inviolate, would, like strong bones and sinews, support and steady the regular frame. Supreme and subordinate Rulers duly performing their proper functions, would be like the greater and lesser arteries, keeping up their proper tone and vibrations; and justice, fidelity, and every social virtue, Edition: 1983; Page: [42] would, like the vital fluid, run without obstruction, and reach, refresh, and invigorate the most minute and distant parts: While the multitude of subjects, yielding, in their various places and relations, a ready and cheerful obedience, would, like the numerous, yet connected veins, convey back again the recurrent blood, to the great fountain of it, and the whole frame be vigourous, easy, and happy.

Upon that view of Civil Government we have now been taking; and while feeling in our own breaths a warm sense of liberty, and the blessings of it, can we help dropping a tear over the multitudes of our fellow creatures, who are groaning under the iron yoke of tyranny and oppression—subjected to the arbitrary will of their imperious and despotic Lords,—and to all the wretchedness, which lawless pride and ambition; which wanton cruelty and unbridled lust can inflict upon them.

How much to be pittied are such miserable objects! How ardently is it to be Edition: 1983; Page: [43] wished that the principles of civil liberty may prevail through the earth to the breaking in pieces the power of oppressors every where, and the restoring the oppressed to freedom and happiness.

From such scenes of human wretchedness and woe, we naturally reflect, with gratitude to heaven, on our own happy condition, as subjects of the British Empire.—A constitution founded in the law of God, and of nature;—on the principles of reason and equity:—A Edition: current; Page: [[174]] form of government admireably contrived for the due support of authority, and the security of the rights and privileges of the people.

May this excellent constitution, formed and established by the experience and wisdom of ages, be preserved inviolate, the source of blessings to this and future generations: And his present Majesty, our most gracious Sovereign (whom may God long preserve) ever esteem it his glory, and find it his happiness, to reign over a free and loyal people.

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[15]: The Preceptor

Vol. II. Social Duties of the Political Kind

Originally published in the May 21, 1772 issue of the Massachusetts Spy (Boston), this essay proceeds efficiently in laying out the basic principles of the American Whig perspective. Of special interest is the emphasis on communitarian rather than individualistic principles, and the articulation of the “politics of deference” commonly held during the colonial era, according to which the “better sort” should be deferred to in political matters, although all freemen are considered politically equal. Only quietly implied here, the grounds for breaking with England are rehearsed as a natural extension of Whig political thought.

Political Connections

The social principle in man is of such an expansive nature, that it cannot be confined within the circuit of a family, of friends, or a neighbourhood; it spreads into wider systems, and draws man into larger confederacies, communities and commonwealths. It is in these only, that the higher powers of our nature attain the highest improvement of which they are capable. These principles hardly find objects in the solitary state of nature. There the principle of action rises no higher at farthest than natural affection towards ones offspring. There personal or family wants entirely engross the creature’s attention and labour and allow no leisure, or, if they did, no exercise for views of a more enlarged kind. In solitude all are employed in the same way, in providing for the animal life. And even after their utmost labour Edition: current; Page: [[176]] and care, single and unaided by the industry of others, they find but a sorry supply of their wants, and a feeble precarious security against wild beasts; from inclement skies and seasons; from the mistakes or petulant passions of their fellow creatures; from the preference of themselves to their neighbours; and from all the little exorbitances of self love. But in society, the mutual aids which men give and receive, shortens the labours of each, and the combined strength and reason of individuals, give security and protection to the whole body. There is both a variety and subordination of genius among mankind. Some are formed to lead and direct, others to contrive plans of happiness for individuals, and of government for communities, to take in a public interest, invent laws and arts, and superintend their execution, and in short to refine and civilize Human life. Others who have not such good heads, may have as honest hearts, a truly public spirit, love of liberty, hatred of corruption and tyranny, a generous submission to laws, order and public institutions, and an extensive Philanthropy. And others who have none of these capacities either of heart, or head, may be well formed for manual exercises and bodily labour. The former of these principles have no scope in solitude, where a man’s thoughts and concerns do all either center on himself, or extend no farther than a family; into which circle all the duty and virtue of the solitary mortal is crouded. But society finds proper objects and exercises for every genius, and the noblest objects and exercises for the noblest geniuses, and for the highest principles in the human constitution; particularly for that warmest and most divine passion which God hath kindled in our bosoms, the inclination of doing good and reverencing our nature; which may find here both employment, and the most exquisite satisfaction. In society a man has not only more leisure, but better opportunities of applying his talents with much greater perfection and success, especially as he is supported with the joint advice and affections of his fellow creatures, who are more closely united one with the other, and sustain a common relation to the same moral system, or community. This then is an object proportioned to his most enlarged social affections, and in serving it he finds scope for the exercise and refinement of his highest intellectual and moral powers. Therefore society or a state of civil government rests on these two principal pillars, “that in it we find security against those evils which are unavoidable in solitude—and obtain those goods, some of which cannot be obtained at all, and others not so well in that state where men depend solely on their individual sagacity and industry.”

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From this short detail it appears that man is a Social creature, and formed for a Social state; and that society, being adapted to the higher principles and destinations of his nature, must, of necessity, be his Natural state.

Political Duties

The duties suited to that state, and resulting from those principles and destinations, or in other words, from our social passions and social connections, or relation to a public system, are love of our country, resignation and obedience to the laws, public spirit, love of liberty, sacrifice of life and all to the public, and the like.

Love of One’s Country

Love of our country is one of the noblest passions that can warm and animate the human breast. It includes all the limited and particular affections to our parents, children, friends, neighbours, fellow citizens and countrymen.

It ought to direct and limit their more confined and partial actions within their proper and natural bounds, and never let them encroach on those sacred and first regards we owe to the great public to which we belong. Were we solitary creatures, detached from the rest of mankind, and without any capacity of comprehending a public interest, or without affections, leading us to desire and pursue it, it would not be our duty to mind it, nor criminal to neglect it. But as we are Parts of the Public system, and are capable of not only taking in large views of its interests, but with the strongest affections connected with it, and prompted to take a share of its concerns, we are under the most sacred ties to prosecute in security and welfare with the utmost ardour, especially in times of public trial. This love of our country does not import an attachment to any particular soil, climate, or spot of earth, where perhaps we first drew our breath, though those natural [attachments] are often associated with the moral ones; and like external signs or symbols, help to ascertain and bind them; but it imports an affection to that moral system, or community which is governed by the same laws and magistrates, and whose several parts are variously connected one with the other, and all united upon Edition: current; Page: [[178]] the bottom of a common interest. Perhaps indeed every member of the community cannot comprehend so large an object, especially if it extends through large provinces, and over vast tracts of land; and still less can he form such an idea if there is no public, i.e. if all are subjects to the caprice and unlimited will of one man; but the preference they generally shew to their native country, and concern and longing after it which they express, when they have been long absent from it; the labours they undertake and the sufferings they endure to save or serve it; and the peculiar attachment they have to their countrymen, evidently demonstrate that the passion is natural, and never fails to exert itself, when it is fairly disengaged from foreign clogs, and is directed to its proper object. Whenever it prevails in its genuine vigour and extent, it swallows up all sordid and selfish regard, it conquors the love of ease, power, pleasure, and wealth; nay when the amiable partialities of friendship, gratitude, private affection, or regards to a family come in competition with it, it will teach us bravely to sacrifice all, in order to maintain the rights and promote or defend the honour and happiness of our country.

Resignation and Obedience to the Laws, etc.

Resignation and obedience to the laws, and orders of the society to which we belong, are political duties necessary to its very being and security, without which it must soon degenerate into a state of licence and anarchy. The welfare, nay, the nature of civil society requires, that there should be a subordination of order, or diversity of ranks and conditions in it; that certain men or orders of men be appointed to superintend and manage such affairs as concern the public safety and happiness; that all have their particular provinces assigned them; that such a subordination be settled among them as none of them may interfere with another; and finally that certain rules, or common measures of actions be agreed on, by which each is to discharge his respective duty to govern or be governed, and all may concur in securing the order, and promoting the felicity of the whole political body. Those rules of action are the laws of the community, and those different orders are the several officers, or magistrates, appointed by the public to explain them, and superintend or assist in their execution. In consequence of this settlement of things it is the duty of each Edition: current; Page: [[179]] individual to obey the laws enacted, to submit to the executors of them with all due deference and homage, according to their respective ranks and dignity, as to the keepers of the public peace, and the guardians of the public liberty; to maintain his own rank, and perform the functions of his own station with diligence, fidelity and incorruption. The superiority of the higher orders, or the authority with which the state has invested them, entitle them, especially if they employ their authority well, to the obedience and submission of the lower, and to a proportionable honour and respect from all. The subordination of the lower ranks claim protection, defence, and security from the higher. And the laws, being superior to all, require the obedience and submission of all, being the last resort, beyond which there is no decision or appeal. Besides these natural and stated subordinations in society, there are other accidental & artificial, the opulent and indigenous, the great and the vulgar, the ingenious and prudent & those who are less so. The opulent are to administer to the necessities of the indigent and the indigent to return the fruits of their labour to the opulent. The great ought to defend and patronize their dependents and inferiors, and they in their turn, return their combined strength and assistance to the great. The prudent should improve the ingenuities of the mind for the benefit of the industrious and the industrious lend the dexterities of their strength for the advantage of the prudent.

Foundation of Public Spirit, Love of Liberty, etc.

Public spirit, heroic zeal, love of liberty, and other political duties do, above all others, recommend those who practice them to the admiration and homage of mankind; because as they are the offspring of the noblest minds, so are they the parents of the greatest blessing to society. Yet exalted as they are, it is only in equal and free governments, where they can be exercised and have there due effect. For there only does a true public prevail, and there only is the public good made the standard of the civil constitution. As the end of society is the common interest and welfare of the public associated, this end must of necessity be the supreme law or common standard by which the particular rules of action of the several members of the society toward each other are to be regulated. But a common interest can be no other than that which is the result of the common reason, or common feelings of all. Private men, Edition: current; Page: [[180]] or a particular order of men, have interests and feelings peculiar to themselves, and of which they may be good judges; but these may be separate from, and often contrary to the interests and feelings of the rest of society; and therefore they can have no right to make, and much less to impose, laws on their fellow-citizens inconsistent with, and opposite to those interests and those feelings. Therefore, a society, a government, or real public, truly worthy of the name, and not a confederacy of banditti, a clan of lawless savages, or a band of slaves, under the whip of a master, must be such an one as consists of freemen, chusing and consenting to laws themselves; or, since it often happens that they cannot assemble and sit in a collective body, delegating a sufficient number of representatives, i.e. such a number as shall most fully comprehend, and most equally represent, their common feelings and common interests, to digest and vote laws for the conduct and controul of the whole body, the most agreeable to those common feelings and common interests.

Political Duties of Every Citizen

A society thus constituted by common reason, and formed on the plan of a common interest, becomes immediately an object of public attention, public veneration, public obedience, a public and inviolable attachment, which ought neither to be seduced by bribes, nor awed by terrors; an object, in fine, of all those extensive and important duties which arise from so glorious a confederacy. To watch over such a system; to contribute all he can to promote its good by his reason, his ingenuity, his strength, and every other ability, whether natural or acquired; to resist, and, to the utmost of his power, defeat every encroachment upon it, whether carried on by a secret corruption, or open violence; and to sacrifice his ease, his wealth, his power, nay life itself, and what is dearer still his family and friends, to defend or save it, it is the duty, the honour, the interest, and the happiness of every citizen; it will make him venerable and beloved while he lives, be lamented and honoured if he falls in so glorious a cause, and transmit his name and immortal renown to his latest posterity.

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Political Duties of the People

As the People are the fountain of power and authority, the original seat of Majesty, the authors of laws, and the creators of officers to execute them; if they shall find the power they have conferred abused by their trustees, their majesty violated by tyranny, or by usurpation, their authority prostituted to support violence, or screen corruption, the laws grown pernicious through accidents unforeseen, or unavoidable, or rendered ineffectual through the infidelity and corruption of the executors of them; then it is their right and what is their right is their duty, to resume that delegated power, and call their trustees to an account; to resist the usurpation and extirpate the tyranny; to restore their sullied majesty, and prostituted authority; to suspend, alter, or abrogate those laws, and punish their unfaithful and corrupt officers. Nor is it the duty only of the united body, but every member of it ought, according to his respective rank, power, and weight in the community, to concur in advancing and supporting those glorious designs.

Political Duties of Britons

The obligation of Briton’s to fulfil the political duties, receive a vast accession of strength, when he calls to mind of what a noble and well-balanced constitution of government he has the honour to partake; a constitution founded on common reason, common consent, and common good; a constitution of free and equal laws, secured against arbitrary will and popular licence, by an admirable temperament of the governing powers, controuling and controuled by one another. How must every one who has tolerable understanding to observe, or tolerable honesty to acknowledge its happy effects, venerate and love a constitution, in which the majesty of the people is, and has frequently been recognized; in which Kings are made and unmade by the choice of the people; laws enacted or annulled only by their own consent, and for their own good, in which none can be deprived of their property, abridged of their freedom, or forfeit their lives without an appeal to the laws, and the verdict of their Peers or equals; a constitution, in fine, the nurse of heroes, the parent of liberty, the patron of learning and arts, the dominion of laws, “the pride of Britain, the envy of her neighbours” Edition: current; Page: [[182]] and their Sanctuary too! How dissolute and execrable must their character and conduct be, who, instead of sacrificing their interest and ambition, will not part with the least degree of either, to preserve inviolate, and intail in full vigour to their posterity such a glorious constitution, the labour of so much blood and treasure; but would choose rather to sacrifice it, and all their independency, freedom, and dignity, to personal power, and hollow grandeur, to any little pageant of a King, who should prefer being the master of slaves to being the guardian of freemen, and consider himself as the proprietor, not the father of his people! But words cannot express the selfishness and servility of those men; and as little the public and heroic spirit of such, if any such there are as have virtue enough still left to stem the torrent of corruption, and guard our sacred constitution against the profligacy and prostitution of the corruptors and the corrupted.

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[16]: A Constant Customer

Extract of a Letter from a Gentleman in the Country to His Friend

This short piece, showing a resonance with the theory in longer essays on the same subject, is typical of much found in the newspapers of the era. It appeared in the Massachusetts Spy on February 18, 1773.

It gives me joy to hear something is now before the General Court concerning the emancipation of the blacks among us. It has long been a surprise to me and many others, that a people who profess to be so fond of freedom, and are taking every method to preserve the same themselves, and transmit it to their posterity, can see such numbers of their fellow men, made of the same blood, not only in bondage, but kept so even by them. Can such a conduct be reconcilable with the love of freedom? I freely confess, to one who is a stranger to the true character of this people, it has the appearance rather of temper and resentment against the rulers, than a hearty regard to that best of heaven’s temporal blessings.

Men may talk and write as they please, but I must be excused from judging of any man or body of men, otherwise than by their works. The patriots in every town throughout the province, are weekly telling us how highly they value freedom, and that every temporal blessing without it is scarce worth enjoying; yet at the same time, they are stopping their ears to the cries of multitudes of their poor unhappy suffering brethren.

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I readily grant there are difficulties which attend the freeing of them. It is no more than might justly be expected. Every community as well as every individual acting wrong, must suffer; and shall that be an excuse for not altering his or their conduct? No, they but encrease the evil by withholding the remedy; for either ruin or the remedy, which will be painful in the operation, must take place.

I pretend not to say what remedy is best to be taken by our rulers, but this one thing I may venture to say, that if a deaf ear is still turned to the complaint of those unhappy men—this people have no just reason to expect the righteous Governor of the earth, who punishes communities in this world, will afford his blessing to your endeavors to save a sinking country; but may say unto them as he did to Israel of old, “Ye have not hearkened unto me in proclaiming liberty every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbor: Behold I will proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed to all the kingdoms of the Earth.”

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[17]: Simeon Howard 1733-1804

A Sermon Preached to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in Boston

Born in Massachusetts and educated at Harvard, he was regarded as only moderately bright among his classmates, but later in life Simeon Howard was said by some of his peers in the ministry to be “one of the ablest men New England ever produced.” For reasons of health he chose Nova Scotia for his first preaching assignment but after two years rejected a call to a pastorate and returned to Boston for further study and occasional preaching. Soon he was invited to accept the pastorate recently vacated on the death of the great Jonathan Mayhew. Howard was widely denounced by New England Congregationalists as a heretic and suffered some ostracism because of his beliefs. He could not reconcile himself to Calvinist theology; the dogmas of predestination were repulsive to him. Hostility of surrounding congregations and harassment by British troops and American Loyalists then dominant in Boston forced Howard and his followers either to disband their church or to flee Boston. They chose to move en masse (1775) to Nova Scotia, where their pastor had enjoyed a friendly reception in his youth. Life proved to be hard in Canada, however, and learning that British forces had vacated Boston, he and his flock were back in their Massachusetts homes within a couple of years. There Howard devoted the remainder of his life to reestablishing his church, serving in various posts at Harvard University, and broadcasting his personal creed of the innate goodness of man and the infinite love of God. This sermon, preached to a Boston artillery company before the brief exile in Canada, illustrates how ideas drawn from the Bible and English Whig doctrine blended to support American experience and, rehearsed during the Stamp Act crisis, served to prepare Americans for the showdown with England they were about Edition: current; Page: [[186]] to face. As a consequence, when independence became a common goal, there was firmly planted and widely distributed in the population a theory that supplied a thoroughly satisfying justification of their struggle.


Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.

Mankind are generally averse to innovations both in religion and government. Laws and constitutions to which they have been long used, they are fond of retaining, even though better are offered in their stead. This appeared in the Jews. Their law required a burdensome and Edition: 1983; Page: [6] expensive service: christianity set them free from this law. Nevertheless, many of them were desirous of continuing the observation of it, after they became christians; and of having the gentile converts also submit to it. Accordingly there were some Judaifing teachers who endeavoured to persuade the Galatians to this submission. The Apostle, therefore, in this epistle, particularly in the immediately foregoing chapter, asserts and proves, that christians have nothing to do with the ceremonial law of the Jews, they being freed by Christ, from this burden. And then as an inference from what he had said, and by way of admonition to the Galatians, he subjoins the exhortation in the text; stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.

But though the words originally refer to that freedom from the Jewish law which the gospel confers on the church of God, yet the reason of the inference holds good in the case of any other real and valuable liberty which men have a right to: So that this observation is plainly deducible from the text; vis. that it is the duty of all men to stand fast in such valuable liberty, as providence has confered upon them.

This observation I shall endeavour, by the help of God, to illustrate and improve: In order to which, I shall shew;

Edition: 1983; Page: [7] I. What I intend by that liberty in which men ought to stand fast.

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II. In what way they ought to stand fast in this liberty, or what they may and ought to do in defence of it.

III. The obligations they are under to this duty.

After which, I shall subjoin some reflections, and apply the subject to the present occasion.

I. I am to shew what is intended in this discourse by the liberty in which men ought to stand fast.

Though this word is used in various senses, I mean by it here, only that liberty which is opposed to external force and constraint, and to such force and constraint only, as we may suffer from men. Under the term liberty, taken in this sense, may naturally be comprehended all those advantages which are liable to be destroyed by the art or power of men; every thing that is opposed to temporal slavery.

This liberty has always been accounted one of the greatest natural blessings which mankind can enjoy. Accordingly, the benevolent and impartial Father of the human race, has given to all men a right, and to all naturally an equal right to this blessing.

Edition: 1983; Page: [8] In a state of nature, or where men are under no civil government, God has given to every one liberty to pursue his own happiness in whatever way, and by whatever means he pleases, without asking the consent or consulting the inclination of any other man, provided he keeps within the bounds of the law of nature. Within these bounds, he may govern his actions, and dispose of his property and person, as he thinks proper.* Nor has any man, or any number of men, a right to restrain him in the exercise of this liberty, or punish, or call him to account for using it. This however is not a state of licentiousness, for the law of nature which bounds this liberty, forbids all injustice and wickedness, allows no man to injure another in his person or property, or to destroy his own life.

But experience soon taught that, either thro’ ignorance of this law, or the influence of unruly passions, some were disposed to violate it, but encroaching upon the liberty of others; so that the weak were liable to be greatly injured by the superior power of bad men, without any means of security or redress. This gave birth to civil society, and Edition: current; Page: [[188]] induced a number of individuals to combine together for mutual defence and security; to give up a part of their natural liberty for the sake of enjoying the remainder in greater safety; to agree upon certain laws among themselves to regulate the social conduct of each individual, or to intrust to one or more Edition: 1983; Page: [9] of their number, in whose wisdom and goodness they could confide, a power of making such laws, and putting them in execution.

In this state, the liberty which men have is all that natural liberty which has been mentioned, excepting what they have expressly given up for the good of the whole society; a liberty of pursuing their own happiness governing their actions, and disposing of their property and persons as they think fit, provided they transgress no law of nature, and keep within those restrictions which they have consented to come under.

This liberty will be different in different communities. In every state, the members will, probably, give up so much of their natural liberty, as they think will be most for the good of the whole. But different states will judge differently upon this point, some will give up more, some less, though still with the same view, the publick good. And every society have doubtless a right to act according to their own judgment and discretion in this matter, this being only an exercise of that natural liberty in which all are bound.

When a society commits to one or a few a power to govern them, the general practice is to limit this power by certain prescribed rules and restrictions. But sometimes this is omitted, and it does not appear from any act of the people, but that the power, with which they have intrusted their rulers, is unlimited. In this case Edition: 1983; Page: [10] common sense will tell us that the power granted to rulers is to be limited by the great end and design of society and government, and he must be destitute of common sense, who does not know that this is the general good, the happiness and safety of the whole society. So that though a people should, through inadvertency, neglect to prescribe any bounds to the power of their rulers, this power would nevertheless be limited, and they would be at liberty to refuse submission to such restraints or laws, as were plainly inconsistent with the publick good.

There are some natural liberties or rights which no person can divest himself of, without transgressing the law of nature. A man cannot, for instance, give up the liberty of private judgment in matters of religion, or convey to others a right to determine of what religion Edition: current; Page: [[189]] he shall be, and in what way he shall worship God. A grant of this nature would destroy the foundation of all religion in the man who made it, and must therefore be a violation of the law of nature; nor would he be obliged to abide by it, if in consequence of it, he should be required to act contrary to the dictates of his conscience. Or should a man pretend to grant to others a power to order and govern all his actions that were not of a religious nature, so that in all cases he must act agreeable to their direction; this would be inconsistent with that submission which he owes to the authority of God, and his own conscience. The grant would be in itself void, and he would, notwithstanding, be at liberty to act according Edition: 1983; Page: [11] to his own conscience, though contrary to the command of those to whom he had made so extravagant a donation.

Should therefore the legislature of a state make laws requiring the subjects to do things immoral, and which they knew to be so, such, for instance, as were apparently destructive of public happiness, though it was in consequence of an express grant of unlimited power, the subjects would be at liberty to refuse obedience, and not violate conscience or destroy their own happiness.* So that only such laws of society as are not plainly inconsistent with the end of society, or, in any other respect, inconsistent with the law of nature, the eternal rules of mortality, can restrain and limit the natural liberty of those who belong to it.

It is to be further observed here, that states or communities, as such, have naturally the same liberty which individuals have in the state of nature: but this liberty is restrained, in some measure, by what are called the laws of nations, which are certain rules, that by a tacit consent are agreed upon among all communities, at least among those who are accounted the polite and civilized part of mankind. These, nations are not at liberty to violate.

Edition: 1983; Page: [12] What has been said may be sufficient to shew what that liberty is in which men ought to stand fast. In a state of nature it is all that liberty which is consistent with the law of nature; under civil government, it is all which is consistent with the law of nature, and Edition: current; Page: [[190]] with such restrictions as they have consented to come under consistently with the law of nature and the end of society: and when we consider one independent state in reference to another, it is all that natural liberty which is consistent with the laws of nations.

And whatever share men enjoy of this liberty, we may properly say in the words of the text, that Christ has made them free with it, since after his resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of the Majesty on high, all power in heaven and in earth was committed to him, and he now sits, and is to continue at the head of God’s providential government, till he hath put all enemies under his feet, after which, he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father—that God may be all in all.

II. I am in the next place to shew in what way men are to stand fast in their liberty, or what they may and ought to do in defence of it.

It is here supposed that some attempts are made to injure it. And it has been found in all ages and places that such attempts have been made by unreasonable and wicked men. The history of mankind is filled with instances Edition: 1983; Page: [13] of this; insomuch that if from the great number of historical books that have been written, we should leave out those parts that relate to their encroachments upon one another, their injuries and injustice, most of those huge volumes would shrink to a very small size. Cain began this practice very soon after the creation: and it has been continued ever since, both among kingdoms and individuals. And the same practice is still to be expected, while human nature continues what it is.

Now for men to stand fast in their liberty means, in general, resisting the attempts that are made against it, in the best and most effectual manner they can.

When any one’s liberty is attacked or threatened, he is first to try gentle methods for his safety, to reason with, and persuade the adversary to desist, if there be opportunity for it; or get out of his way, if he can; and if by such means he can prevent the injury, he is to use no other.

But the experience of all ages has shewn, that those, who are so unreasonable as to form designs of injuring others, are seldom to be diverted from their purpose by argument and persuasion alone. Notwithstanding all that can be said to shew the injustice and Edition: current; Page: [[191]] inhumanity of their attempt, they persist in it, till they have gratified the unruly passion which set them to work. And in this case, what is to be done by the sufferer? Is he Edition: 1983; Page: [14] to use no other means for his safety, but remonstrance or flight, when these will not secure him? Is he patiently to take the injury and suffer himself to be robbed of his liberty or his life, if the adversary sees fit to take it? Nature certainly forbids this tame submission, and loudly calls to a more vigorous defence. Self-preservation is one of the strongest, and a universal principle of the human mind: And this principle allows of every thing necessary to self-defence, opposing force to force, and violence to violence. This is so universally allowed that I need not attempt to prove it.

But since it has been supposed by some that christianity forbids all violent resisting of evil, or defending ourselves against injuries in such a manner as will hurt, or endanger those who attack us; it may not be amiss to enquire briefly, whether defensive war be not allowed by the gospel of Christ, the Prince of peace.

And there are, if I mistake not, several passages in the new testament, which shew, that, it was not the design of this divine institution to take away from mankind the natural right of defending their liberty, even by the sword.

I will not alledge the words of John the baptist when in answer to the demand which the soldiers made; What shall we do?—he said unto them, do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages.* For Edition: 1983; Page: [15] though they plainly imply, that, at that time, the military profession was not unlawful, and, consequently, that men might use the sword when there was occassion for it, yet it does not follow from hence, that the religion which Jesus was to institute, would allow of that profession and the use of the sword.

But there are other passages proper to be here alledged.

The first that I shall mention is our Lord’s own words to Pilate, when under examination before that Governor. The chief charge bro’t against Jesus was, that he was going to set up a temporal kingdom inconsistent with the sovereignty of the Roman Emperor. In answer to which he declared, that his kingdom was not of this world; and then offered the following argument to prove the assertion: If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered Edition: current; Page: [[192]] to the Jews: But now is my kingdom not from hence. There is an ellipsis in the latter clause; but the sense of the whole is obviously what follows. You know that those who aim at temporal dominion, endeavour to establish their authority and defend themselves, by force of arms, when it is necessary: If this had been my aim I should have taken the same method, and ordered my servants to fight against the Jews when they came to apprehend me: Wherefore, since I have made no violent resistance, but, on the contrary, “hindered Edition: 1983; Page: [16] one of my disciples from fighting who fought to rescue me,” it must now be evident to you, that the kingdom which I claim is not of this world. Our Lord here, plainly allows that it is fit and proper to temporal kingdoms to fight in defence of their liberty. His own kingdom is not, indeed, to be defended in this way, which being wholly spiritual, consisting of the obedience of men’s wills and affections to the laws of God, is incapable of being directly either injured or defended by the sword, as the kingdoms of this world, and men’s temporal interest may.

Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian band, was directed by an angel of God to send for Peter, who should tell him “what he ought to do.”** But we do not find that the apostle directed him to quit his military profession, or intimated that it was inconsistent with the spirit of christianity; which he certainly would have done, had the character of a soldier and a good christian been incompatible.

The apostle Paul exhorts the Romans thus: If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.* Which words plainly imply, that notwithstanding all their endeavours to preserve peace, it might be impossible for them to live peaceably with all men, or not to contend and be at strife with some; i.e. impossible in a moral sense, improper, unlawful, for they do not require us to do all which we have a natural power to do for the sake of peace, but only Edition: 1983; Page: [17] all that we can do consistently with higher obligations, with our duty in other respects.

Once more—let me observe that in the apocalypse of St. John, where we have a prophetic account of the future state of the church on earth, till the consummation of all things, there are several passages which intimate, that the saints of the Most High, will fight in their defence against their enemies; and that though they shall in various Edition: current; Page: [[193]] instances be overcome, yet that they shall at length, by an amazing slaughter of their persecutors, obtain for themselves the peaceable enjoyment of that liberty, wherewith Christ hath made them free. Now it cannot reasonably be supposed that the spirit of God would have represented his faithful servants, as thus fighting against their enemies, and being so favoured by divine providence, as finally to prevail over them, if defensive war was inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel.

It is not, however, to be denied that there are some passages in the new testament which seem to forbid all war: particularly, our Saviour’s own words in his sermon on the mount. I say unto you that ye resist not evil—love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, etc. And those of the apostle Paul; Recompence to no man evil for evil.—Avenge not your selves: and some others of Edition: 1983; Page: [18] the like import. And from such passages some have supposed that christians are not allowed to defend themselves by force of arms, how violently soever they may be attacked.

Give me leave then, to offer a few remarks to take off the force of this objection.

1. When our Saviour forbids us to resist evil, he seems to have had in view only small injuries, for such are those which he mentions in the following words, as an illustration of the precept; smiting on the cheek, taking away one’s coat, or compelling him to go a mile. And to such injuries it is oftentimes a point of prudence, as well as duty to submit, rather than contend. But it does not follow, that because we are forbidden to resist such slight attacks, we may not defend ourselves when the assault is of a capital kind. But,

2. Supposing our Lord’s words to refer only to small injuries, they ought not to be taken in an absolute sense. Expressions of this nature frequently occur in scripture, which are universally understood with certain restrictions and limitations. For instance; Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world.** Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth.†† Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.* Now, I believe, no body ever supposed, not even the honest Quakers, that these precepts were to be Edition: current; Page: [[194]] understood so literally, as to forbid all love of the Edition: 1983; Page: [19] world, and all care to provide the good things of it; or to oblige us “to give to every idle fellow all he may think fit to ask, whether in charity or loan.” And we have as good a right to limit the precept which forbids our resisting evil, by the nature and reason of things, as we have to limit these other indefinite expressions.

3. Defending ourselves by force of arms against injurious attacks, is a quite different thing from rendering evil for evil. The latter implies doing hurt to another, because he has done hurt to us; the former implies doing hurt to another, if he is hurt in the conflict, only because there is no other way of avoiding the mischief he endeavors to do us: the one proceeds from malice and revenge; the other merely from self-love, and a just concern for our own happiness, and argues no ill will against any man.

And therefore it is to be observed,

4. That necessary self-defence, however fatal it may prove to those who unjustly attack us, implies no principle inconsistent with that love to our enemies which Christ enjoins. For, at the same time that we are defending ourselves against their assaults, we may bear good-will towards them, wish them well, and pray God to befriend them: All which we doubtless ought to do in respect to our bitterest enemies.

Enough has been said to shew the consistency of war with the spirit of the gospel.

Edition: 1983; Page: [20] But it is only defensive war that can be justified in the sight of God. When no injury is offered us, we have no right to molest others. And christian meekness, patience and forbearance, are duties that ought to be practiced both by kingdoms and individuals. Small injuries, that are not likely to be attended with any very pernicious consequences, are rather to be submitted to, than resisted by the sword. Both religion and humanity strongly forbid the bloody deeds of war, unless they are necessary. Even when the injury offered is great in itself, or big with fatal consequences, we should, if there be opportunity, endeavour to prevent it by remonstrance, or by offering to leave the matter in dispute to indifferent judges, if they can be had. If these endeavours are unsuccessful, it then becomes proper to use more forceable means of resistance.

A people may err by too long neglecting such means, and shamefully suffer the sword to rust in its scabberd when it ought to Edition: current; Page: [[195]] be employed in defending their liberty. The most grasping and oppressive power will commonly let its neighbours remain in peace, if they will submit to its unjust demands. And an incautious people may submit to these demands, one after another, till its liberty is irrecoverably gone, before they saw the danger. Injuries small in themselves, may in their consequences be fatal to those who submit to them; especially if they are persisted in. And, with respect to such injuries, we should ever act upon that ancient maxim of prudence; obsta principiis. The first unjust Edition: 1983; Page: [21] demands of an encroaching power should be firmly withstood, when there appears a disposition to repeat and increase such demands. And oftentimes it may be both the right and duty of a people to engage in war, rather than give up to the demands of such power, what they could, without any inconveniency, spare in the way of charity. War, though a great evil, is ever preferable to such concessions, as are likely to be fatal to public liberty. And when such concessions, are required and insisted upon, as the conditions of peace, the only consideration to be attended to by the abused state, is that which our Saviour intimates common prudence will always suggest in such cases: What king going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first and consulteth whether he be able, etc.*

An innocent people threatened with war are not always obliged to receive the first attack. This may frequently prove fatal, or occasion an irreparable damage. When others have sufficiently manifested an injurious or hostile intention, and persist in it, notwithstanding all the admonition and remonstrance we can make, we may, in order to avoid the blow they are meditating against us, begin the assault.

After a people have been forced into war for their own security, they ought to set reasonable bounds to their resentment, or they may become as guilty as the first aggressors. They should aim at nothing more than repelling the Edition: 1983; Page: [22] injury, obtaining reparation for damages sustained, and security against future injuries. If, after these ends are obtained, they continue the war, in order to distress their enemies, or reduce them under their power, they become offenders, and the war on their side is unjust.

Submitting the foregoing general observations to your candor, I go on to hint at some things proper to be attended to, by every Edition: current; Page: [[196]] people, in order to their being in a capacity to defend themselves against encroachments on their liberty.

1. They should endeavor to be united and at peace among themselves. The strength of a society, as well as its honour and happiness, depends much upon its union. Our Saviour’s maxim is founded in reason, and has been confirmed by the experience of all ages: Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation. When the body politic is divided into parties, and the members make a business of opposing each other, it is in a fair way to ruin. They are not likely to unite in measures of defence against a common enemy, and will therefore lie open to the encroachments of violence and oppression, and become an easy prey to every invader. The tyrants of the earth, sensible of this, have commonly acted upon this maxim, divide et impera: let us first divide the people, whom we mean to enslave, into parties, and we shall then easily bring them under our power.

Edition: 1983; Page: [23] 2. They should endeavor to maintain among themselves a general disposition to submit to government. Society cannot subsist without government; and there can be no government without laws, and a submission to laws. If a licentious spirit prevails among a people, a general disposition to trample upon laws and despise government, they will probably make but a poor figure in defending themselves against a common enemy, for, in making this defence, there must be leaders and followers, some to command and some to obey: And, other things being equal, the more a disposition to submit to rule and order prevails among a people, the more likely will they be to defend their liberty against foreign invasions. Indeed without any enemy from abroad, the general prevalence of a licentious spirit may as effectively destroy the liberty of a people, as the most despotic government, for civil “liberty is something as really different from that licentiousness which supposeth no government, as from that slavery which supposeth tyranny: it is a freedom restrained by beneficial laws, and living and dying with public happiness.”*

3. That people that would be in a capacity to defend themselves successfully against encroachments, should take care that their internal government be free and easy; allowing all that liberty to every one which is consistent with the necessary restraints of government; laying Edition: current; Page: [[197]] no burdens upon any, but what are for the good of the whole, and to which the whole society has Edition: 1983; Page: [24] actually or virtually consented. Though the contrary evil takes its rise from the weakness or wickedness of rulers, yet in every free state it is the right and duty of all, subjects as well as rulers, to use their influence against it: And where the subjects have no constitutional right to do any thing to prevent or, remove such an evil, they are already slaves, and it may be tho’t improper to talk of their defending their liberty, though they ought, doubtless, to endeavor to recover it. However, I say, it is highly necessary that this freedom from unreasonable restraints be preserved, in order to a people’s retaining a spirit of liberty, and being in a capacity to defend themselves against a common enemy. It is justly observed by that great statesman, lord Verulam, that “the blessing of Judah and Issachar will never meet, that the same people or nation should be both the lion’s whelp, and the ass between two burdens: neither will it be, that a people overlaid with taxes, should ever become valiant and martial.”* The laying unreasonable burdens and restraints upon a people, will, if they are submitted to, debase their minds, break their spirits, enervate their courage, and sink them into cowards: if they are not submitted to, the consequence will be internal tumult, disorder, strife and contempt of government; and in either case, the defensive power of the state is greatly diminished. Behold, then the policy, or rather the madness and folly of oppressive rulers: if they are successful in their injurious measures, they are exposing themselves and their subjects Edition: 1983; Page: [25] an helpless prey to the ravages of some ambitious neighbour: if they are not; they are raising up enemies against themselves at home, and, as it were, setting fire to their own habitations.

4. A people who would stand fast in their liberty, should furnish themselves with weapons proper for their defence, and learn the use of them.

It is indeed an hard case, that those who are happy in the blessings of providence, and disposed to live peaceably with all men, should be obliged to keep up the idea of blood and slaughter, and expend their time and treasure to acquire the arts and instruments of death. But this is a necessity which the depravity of human nature has laid upon every state. Nor was there ever a people that continued, for any Edition: current; Page: [[198]] considerable time, in the enjoyment of liberty, who were not in a capacity to defend themselves against invaders, unless they were too poor and inconsiderable to tempt an enemy.

So much depends upon the military art, in the present day, that no people can reasonably expect to defend themselves successfully without it. However numerous they may be, if they are unskilled in arms, their number will tend little more to their security, than that of a flock of sheep does to preserve them from the depredations of the world: accordingly it is looked upon as a point of wisdom, in every state, to Edition: 1983; Page: [26] be furnished with this skill, though it is not to be obtained without great labor and expence.

In some nations the method has been to trust for defence and security to what is called a Standing Army; a number of men paid by the public, to devote themselves wholly to the military profession; while the body of the people followed their peaceable employments, without paying any attention to the art of war.

But this has ever been thought, by the wise and prudent, a precarious defence.

Such armies are, as to the greater part of them, generally composed of men who have no real estate in the dominions which they are to defend; their pay is their living, and the main thing that attaches them to their employers, their manner of life tends to corrupt their morals, and, though they are naturally of the same temper with other men, they seldom continue long in this profession, before they become distinguished by their vices: So that neither their temporal interest, nor their regard to virtue can be supposed to attach them so strongly to the country that employs them, but that there will always be danger of their being tempted by the promise of larger pay to betray their trust, and turn their arms against it. No people therefore, can with safety trust intirely to a standing army, even for defence against foreign enemies.

But without any such enemy, a standing army may be fatal to the happiness and liberty Edition: 1983; Page: [27] of a community. They generally propagate corruption and vice where they reside, they frequently insult and abuse the unarmed and defenceless people: When there is any difference between rulers and subjects, they will generally be on the side of the former, and ready to assist them in oppressing and enslaving the latter. For though they are really servants of the people, and paid by them; yet this is not commonly done in their name; but in the name of the Edition: current; Page: [[199]] supreme magistrate.* The King’s Bread, and the King’s Service, are familiar expressions among soldiers, and tend to make them consider him as their only master, and prefer his personal interest to that of the people. So that an army may be the means, in the hands of a wicked and oppressive sovereign, of overturning the constitution of a country, and establishing the most intolerable despotism. It would be easy to shew from history, that this measure has been fatal to the liberties of many nations. And indeed, it has seldom been approved by the body of a people.

But rulers of an arbitrary disposition, have ever endeavored to have a standing army at their command, under a pretence indeed, of being for the safety of the state, though really with a view Edition: 1983; Page: [28] of giving efficacy to their orders. It has sometime been pretended, that this is necessary to aid and support civil government. But whoever considers, that the design of government is the good of the people, and the great improbability there is, that a people, in general, should be against measures calculated for their good, and that such measures only ought to be enforced, will look upon this as the idlest pretence. For rulers to use a military power, to enforce measures of a contrary tendency, is one of the wickedest and most unjustifiable kinds of offensive war; a violation not only of the common laws of justice and humanity, but of their own sacred engagements to promote the public good. The keeping up troops sufficient to guard exposed frontier posts, may be proper; but to have an army continually stationed in the midst of a people, in time of peace, is a precarious and dangerous method of security.

A safer way, and which has always been esteemed the wisest and best, by impartial men, is to have the power of defence in the body of the people, to have a well-regulated and well-disciplined militia. This is placing the sword in hands that will not be likely to betray their trust, and who will have the strongest motives to act their part well, in defence of their country, whenever they shall be called for. Edition: current; Page: [[200]] An army composed of men of property, who have been all their days inured to labour, will generally equal Edition: 1983; Page: [29] the best veteran troops, in point of strength of body and firmness of mind, and when fighting in defence of their religion, their estates, their liberty, and families, will have stronger motives to exert themselves, and may, if they have been properly disciplined, be not much inferior to them in the skill of arms.

It was by a militia, by an army composed of men of property and worth of their own nation, that ancient Rome rose to be mistress of the world. The battles of Agincourt, Poictiers and Cressy are memorable proofs of the martial prowess of the ancient militia of England. Our own country will also furnish us with many instances of the bravery of a militia, both formerly and latterly.

Caution however ought to be used in constituting a militia, that it may answer the end for which it is designed, and not be liable to be made an instrument of tyranny and oppression. It should be subject to discipline and order, and somewhere in the state should be lodged a power of calling it forth to action, whenever the safety of the people required it. But this power should be so limited and restrained, as that it cannot call it unnecessarily, or oblige it to commit violence or oppression upon any of the subjects. Edition: 1983; Page: [30]

5. Once more, it is necessary for a people who would preserve their liberty, to maintain the general practice of religion and virtue. This will tend to make them courageous: The truest fortitude is ever to be found where the passions and affections are in subjection to the laws of God. Religion conciliates the favor of God, upon whom success in war essentially depends, and the hope of this favour will naturally inspire a brave and undaunted resolution. Not to mention that the unity, riches, and bodily strength of a people are greatly favoured by virtue. On the other hand, vice naturally makes men timerous, and Edition: current; Page: [[201]] fills the breast with baseness and cowardise. What is here said is agreeable to the observation of that wise King and inspired writer, who tells us, “the wicked flee, when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

III. Let me now offer a few considerations to shew the obligations men are under to defend that liberty which providence has conferred upon them.

This is a trust committed to us by heaven: we are accountable for the use we make of it, Edition: 1983; Page: [31] and ought therefore, to the best of our power to defend it. The servant, who hid his talent in a napkin, is condemned in our Lord’s parable, and he who through inattention, indolence or cowardise, suffers it to be wrested from him, is little less criminal. Should a person, for instance, whose ability and circumstances enable him to do good in the world, to relieve his distressed brethren, and be an example of charity and other virtues, tamely yield up all his interest and become an absolute slave to some unjust and wicked oppressor, when he might by a manly resistance have secured his liberty, would he not be guilty of great unfaithfulness to God, and justly liable to his condemnation? This would in its consequences be really worse than hiding his talent in a napkin; it would be not only not improving it for the glory of the giver, but conveying it into hands which will, in all probability, employ it greatly to his dishonour. This reasoning is as applicable to a community as to an individual. A kingdom or common wealth, as such, is accountable for the improvement it makes of it’s advantages: It is bound to preserve them, and employ them for the honour of God, so far as it can, to be an example of virtue to neighbouring communities, and afford them relief when they are in distress: but by yielding up their possessions and liberties to an encroaching oppressive power, they become, in a great measure, incapable of these duties, and are liable to be made the ministers of sin through the compulsion of their masters. Out of faithfulness then, to God, and in order to escape the Edition: 1983; Page: [32] doom of slothful servants, we should endeavour to defend our rights and liberties.

Men are bound to preserve their own lives, as long as they can, consistently with their duty in other respects. Would not he, who should lose his life by neglecting to resist a wild beast, be criminal in the sight of God? And can he be innocent who loses it by neglecting Edition: current; Page: [[202]] to oppose the violent attacks of wicked men, oftentimes as fierce and cruel as the most savage beast?

Men are also bound, individuals and societies, to take care of their temporal happiness, and do all they lawfully can, to promote it. But what can be more inconsistent with this duty, than submitting to great encroachments upon our liberty? Such submission tends to slavery; and compleat slavery implies every evil that the malice of man and devils can inflict. Again,

The regard which we owe to the happiness of others makes this a duty.

Every man is bound both by the law of nature and revelation, to provide in the best manner he can, for the temporal happiness of his family, and he that neglects this, has, according to the declaration of an inspired apostle, denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. But in what way can a man be more justly chargeable with this neglect, than by suffering himself Edition: 1983; Page: [33] to be deprived of his life, liberty or property, when he might lawfully have preserved them?

Reason, humanity and religion, all conspire to teach us, that we ought in the best manner we can, to provide for the happiness of posterity. We are allied to them by the common tie of nature: They are not here to act their part: A concern for them is a debt which we owe for the care which our progenitors took for us: Heaven has made us their guardians, and intrusted to our care their liberty, honour, and happiness: For when they come upon the state, they will be deeply affected by the transactions of their fathers, especially by their public transactions. If the present inhabitants of a country submit to slavery, slavery is the inheritance which they will leave their children. And who that has the bowels of a father, or even the common feelings of humanity, can think without horror, of being the means of subjecting unborn millions to the iron scepter of tyranny?

But further; a regard to the happiness of mankind in general, makes it a duty to resist great injuries. Yielding to the unjust demands of bad men, not only lessens our power of doing good, but encourages them to repeat their injuries, and strengthens their hands to do mischief: It enables them to give fuller scope to their lusts, and more effectually to spread corruption, distress and misery. It is therefore an act of benevolence to oppose and destroy that power which is employed in injuring others, Edition: 1983; Page: [34] and as much, when it is that of a tyrant, as of a wild beast.

Edition: current; Page: [[203]]

Once more, from a regard to religion men are obliged to defend their liberty against encroachments, though the attack should not immediately affect religion. Slavery exposes to many temptations to vice, and by debasing and weakening the mind, destroying its fortitude and magnanimity renders it less capable of resisting them, and creates a dependance upon, and subjection to wicked men, highly prejudicial to virtue. Hence it has been often observed, and is confirmed by experience that the loss of liberty is soon followed by the loss of all virtue and religion.*

Besides; the destruction of civil liberty is generally fatal to religions. The latter has seldom existed long in any place without the former. Nor is it to be expected that those who are wicked enough to deprive a people of that, should, when they have got them under their power, suffer them long to enjoy this; especially as tyranny has generally made these two evils subservient to each other.

But I may not enlarge: The considerations which have been suggested shew, if I mistake not, that it is not only the right but the duty of Edition: 1983; Page: [35] men to defend that liberty, with which providence has made them free: And a duty of high obligation, as the neglect of it may be attended with consequences, the most prejudicial to human virtue and happiness, and greatly dishonorary to God.

All that now remains is to offer some reflections, and apply the subject to the present occasion.

1. What has been said may serve to caution all against invading the liberty of others;—Whoever does this, obliges others to resist him: he puts himself into a state of war with them, and is justly liable to all the evil which their necessary self-defence may bring upon him. And though he may think that his power is so great, and their’s so little, that he can be in no danger from their resentment, the event may convince him of his mistake. Men, who have a just sense and value of liberty, will sometimes do wonders in its defence.

  • —“They have great odds
  • Against the astonish’d sons of violence,
  • Who fight with awful justice on their side.”
Edition: current; Page: [[204]]

Oppressors may indeed for a time, be successful and overcome all opposition; yet it seldom happens that they persevere in their injurious practice, without meeting with such resistance as causes their mischief to return upon their own heads, and their violent dealings to come down upon their own Edition: 1983; Page: [36] pates: It is an old observation, that few tyrants descend in peace to the grave. If therefore, the laws of God will not, a regard to their own safety should restrain men from invading the rights of the innocent.

2. If it be so important a duty for men to resist encroachments upon their liberty; then it cannot be improper for the christian minister, to inculcate this upon his hearers; to exhort them to be watchful over it, and ready to oppose all attempts against it. This is so far from being improper, that it is, I humbly conceive, his indispensible duty. Nor can I see how he could answer it to God, or his own conscience, if, when he thought his country was in danger of being enslaved, for want of a proper sense of, and opposition to the approaches of tyranny, he should neglect to point out the danger, and with

  • —“honest zeal
  • To rouse the watchmen of the public weal.”

It is readily owned, that designedly to spread false alarms, to fill the minds of people with groundless prejudices against their rulers, or a neighbouring state, to stir up faction and encourage opposition to good government, are things highly criminal, and whoever does thus, whatever character he may wear among men, is in reality a minister, not of Christ, but of the devil, the father of falsehood, confusion and rebellion. But to shew people their real danger, point out the source of it, and exhort them to such exertions Edition: 1983; Page: [37] as are necessary to avoid it, are acts of benevolence becoming every disciple, and especially every professed minister of Christ.

3. Since the preservation of public liberty depends so much upon a people’s being possessed of the art of war; those who exert themselves to encourage and promote this art, act a laudable part, and are intitled to the thanks of their brethren. Upon this account, the company, which is the occasion of this solemnity, deserves to be esteemed honorable though its institution were much less ancient than it is. And Edition: current; Page: [[205]] as this society has in former days furnished many brave men, who died worthily in defence of our country, so, from the spirit which at present prevails among the gentlemen who compose it, we doubt not but it will furnish others, whenever there shall be occasion for it. How far this institution, by exciting in others a spirit of imitation or emulation, has been the occasion of the present general attention to the military art among us, I pretend not to say: But whatever be the cause, it must give pleasure to every friend of public liberty, to see this people so generally engaged in military exercises. This argues a manly spirit, a sense of liberty, a just apprehension of its danger, a resolution to stand fast in it, and, as far as any thing in our power can do it, promises freedom to our country.

We are not, I hope, insensible that peace is a great blessing, and, in itself, ever to be prefered Edition: 1983; Page: [38] to war; nor unthankful to Him who ruleth among the nations, the God of peace, for the enjoyment we have had of this blessing for a number of years past. But we have little reason to expect, however ardently we may wish, that this country will always be the habitation of peace. Ambition, avarice, and other unruly passions have a great hand in directing the conduct of most of the kingdoms of this world. British America is already become considerable among the European nations for its numbers, and their easiness of living; and is continually rising into greater importance. I will not undertake to decypher the signs of the times, or to say from what quarter we are most likely to be molested. But from the course of human affairs, we have the utmost reason to expect that the time will come, when we must either submit to slavery, or defend our liberties by our own sword. And this perhaps may be the case sooner than some imagine. No one can doubt but there are powers on the continent of Europe, that would be glad to add North-America to their dominions, and who, if they thought the thing practicable, would soon find a pretence for attempting it. The naval power of Great-Britain has been hitherto our chief security against invasions from that continent. But every thing belonging to the present state, is uncertain and fluctuating. Things may soon be in such a situation with Great-Britain, that it will be no longer proper for us to confide in her power, for the protection of our liberty. Our greatest security, under God, will be our being in a capacity to defend ourselves. Were we, Edition: 1983; Page: [39] indeed, sure that Great-Britain would always be both able and willing to protect us in our liberty, which, from present appearances, Edition: current; Page: [[206]] we have little reason to expect, it would be shameful for so numerous a people as this, and a people of so much natural strength and fortitude, to be, thro’ inattention to the art of war, incapable of bearing a part in their own defence. Such weakness must render them contemptible to all the world.

British America, especially the northern part of it, is by its situation calculated to be a nursery of heroes. Nothing is wanting but our own care and application to make us, with the neighbouring colonies, a formidable people. And religion, honor, patriotism, and even self-love, all unite in demanding from us this application and care. This people, it may be presumed, will never of choice, keep among them a standing army in time of peace: Virtue, domestic peace, the insulated walls of our State-House, and even the once crimsoned stones of the street, all loudly cry out against this measure. But every well-wisher to the public, should countenance and encourage a military spirit among our militia through the province.

Our political Fathers have it in their power to do much for this end; and we have a right to expect that, out of faithfulness to God and this people, they will not neglect it. From the countenance which his Excellency and the honorable Council shew to the military transactions of this Edition: 1983; Page: [40] day, we would gladly hope, that, they in conjunction with the other branch of the legislature, will, in this way, as well as others, prove themselves to be God’s ministers for good to the people.

It is also in the power of persons of rank and fortune, in their private capacity, greatly to promote this cause by their example and otherwise. It is highly absurd, though not uncommon, that those who have most to lose by the destruction of a state, should be least capable of bearing a part in its defence. Riches are frequently the main temptation to war. Where a people are all poor, there is little danger of their being invaded: So that there being men of affluence among a people, is often the cause of their being obliged to defend themselves by the sword. It is therefore especially their duty, as well as interest, to do what they can to put the people into a capacity of defence. When they spend their time in idleness, effeminating pleasures, or even in accumulating riches, to the total neglect of the art of war, and every measure to promote it, they act unbecoming good members of society, and set an example highly prejudicial to the community.

Whereas when gentlemen of fortune, notwithstanding the allurements Edition: current; Page: [[207]] of pleasure on the one hand, and the fatiguing exercise of a soldier on the other, exert themselves to acquire and promote the military art, they are an honor to their circumstances, and a blessing to the public: Edition: 1983; Page: [41] Their example will have great influence upon others; and, other things being equal, such men will be most likely to fight valiantly in defence of their liberty, whenever it shall be necessary. By such a conduct, they shew their regard to their country, in a way that will probably be much more beneficial to it, than merely talking, writing, or preaching in favor of liberty. And it ought to be esteemed as no inconsiderable evidence, among many others, of a public, truly patriotic spirit in the honorable gentleman,* who leads his Excellency’s company of Cadets, that he has so chearfully endured the fatigue of qualifying himself to be a good officer, and, by his generous exertions in conjunction with their own, rendered his company an honour to the town, to their commanders and themselves. This company in general, is indeed an example of what I was urging; of gentlemen of easy circumstances giving proper attention to the art of war, and is on that account the more respectable and important.

But we have other laudable examples of attention to arms. The Train of Artillery has for a number of years past been honorably distinguished, by their military address. And the respectable appearance which the whole militia of the town made a few days ago, when called together in honor of his Majesty’s birth-day, and the dexterity with which they went through their exercises, must convince all who had the Edition: 1983; Page: [42] satisfaction of seeing them, that they are no strangers to a military spirit, and lead us to hope that by perseverance, the whole body will soon equal those, who at present excel most. May this spirit still revive and prevail through the province, till this whole people become as considerable for their skill in arms, as they are for their natural strength and courage.

The gentlemen who are engaged in acquiring this art will remember that the true end of it is only defence; that it is to be employed, not to destroy, but to protect and secure the liberty and happiness of mankind; not to infringe the rights of others, but to defend their own. While, therefore, they endeavor to resemble such men as Alexander and Caesar in military skill and valour, they will Edition: current; Page: [[208]] detest the principles from which they acted, in invading and distressing inoffensive people. For though they have been honored with the name of heroes, they were, in reality, public robbers and murderers.

They will also remember that the most desirable liberty, and which we should be ready to defend, is that of a well governed society, which is as essentially different from the licentiousness, which is without law or government, as it is from an absolute subjection to the arbitrary will of another. This is the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free; to which he has given us a right. While, therefore, these gentlemen will be always ready to stand forth in defence of true civil liberty, whenever they shall see her assaulted and be properly called upon; they will never on any consideration be prevailed Edition: 1983; Page: [43] with, to employ their arms for the destruction of good government by aiding either tyranny on the one hand, or licentiousness on the other.

But above all they will remember, that religion is the main concern of man, and a necessary qualification for a good soldier. This, beyond any thing else, inspires with the love of liberty, with fortitude and magnanimity; and this alone can enable them to meet death with a rational composure and tranquility of mind, which is an enemy before which the bravest soldier must fall at last.

To conclude: This whole assembly will bear in mind, that there is another and more valuable kind of liberty, than that to which the foregoing discourse more immediately relates, and which, at this day, so generally employs our attention and conversation; a liberty, which consists in being free from the power and dominion of sin, through the assistance of the divine spirit, concurring with our own pious, rational and persevering endeavours. Whatever our outward circumstances may be, if we are destitute of this spiritual liberty, we are in reality slaves, how much soever we may hate the name; if we possess it we are free indeed: And our being free in this sense, will give us the best grounds to hope for temporal freedom, through the favour of heaven; and, at length, gain us admission into the regions of perfect and uninterrupted liberty, peace and happiness.

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[18]: Massachusettensis
[DANIEL LEONARD 1740-1820]

To All Nations of Men

The several newspaper essays signed “Massachusettensis” are attributed without dispute to Daniel Leonard, a prominent Massachusetts lawyer who divided his time between the county of his birth (Bristol, adjoining Rhode Island) and Boston. Leonard was the son of well-to-do parents, attended Harvard College, and, after the customary period of reading law with a prominent attorney, set up practice in his hometown of Norton. From the beginning he exploited his political connections and before the age of thirty had been elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and was serving as the King’s Attorney for his county. At this stage of his life he stood with the Whigs in opposition to London’s policies and the governor who attempted to enforce them. As late as 1773 Leonard was serving on the Boston Committee of Correspondence, waging a campaign to alert the several colonies to British oppression and ready them for common action if grievances turned into intolerable offenses. By August of 1774 it was clear that he had been converted; he was now a staunch supporter of the newly appointed governor and no longer disposed to join in the clamor about British invasions of American rights. During the fall and winter of 1773-1774, the Massachusettensis letters appeared, and Daniel Leonard found himself irrevocably classified as a Tory. The day after the battle of Concord Bridge he signed up in the British Army, and a month after the Declaration of Independence he was in exile, an American Tory-Loyalist emigré in London. Although unusual in its discussion of Tories, this piece is typical of a large number of newspaper articles in the 1770s drawing upon Locke, Vatel, Burlamaqui, and other Whig theorists, although the notions of a state of nature, etc., were often subtly altered to bring them in line with American political principles. This essay appeared in the November 18, 1773 edition of the Massachusetts Spy, published in Boston.

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To all Nations of Men, dwelling upon the face of the whole Earth, especially those of GREAT-BRITAIN and Ireland, more especially the Inhabitants of British North-America, and particularly those of the Massachusetts-Bay in New England.


It is indispensable to the well-being of civil society that every member thereof should have a sure and righteous rule of action in every occurence of life; and also that upon the observance of this rule he should be happy and secure from the molestation and disturbance of all men; municipal law, which is no more than the law of nature applied to man in society, having for its principal objects, the freedom of the person, conscience, and security of the subject in his property. And men enter into society for no other end than to place the execution of those laws in the hands of such as they esteem worthy to be entrusted with them; and to defend themselves, their laws and properties against foreign invasions. They do this in the first place to prevent that confusion and bloodshed which would inevitably take place were each individual left to judge in his own case and take by the strong hand what should appear to him satisfactory. Civil society then (to use the words of a celebrated author*) is nothing more than the union of a multitude of people who agree to live in subjection to a sovereign (i.e. any power having legislative authority) in order to find through his protection and care that happiness to which they Naturally Aspire. This is equally true whatever self governing community it is applied to, whether to the smallest principality in Germany, the weakest colony in America or the Kingdom of Great-Britain, France or Muscovy. Thus we see what forms a state and can easily perceive what are the duties both of rulers and people; viz. rulers must afford them that protection whereby they may surely attain that felicity they naturally aspire to—The people then should take care not to transgress the laws of society, which being formed by the wisest and best of their own body, must undoubtedly be intended at least, for the promotion and security of the public happiness.

Separate states (all self-governing communities) stand in the same relation to one another as individuals do when out of society; or to use the more common phrase, in a state of nature. And it is necessary Edition: current; Page: [[211]] says the same learned author that there should be some law among nations to serve as a rule of mutual commerce. This law can be no other than the law of nature, which is distinguished by the name of the law of nations. Mr. Hobbes says “natural law is divided into natural law of man, and natural law of states.” The latter is what we call the law of nations. The laws both of nature and nations, as well as those of every free state, indeed of every lawful government under heaven are extremely watchful in ascertaining and protecting the right of private property. So great is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it, unless applied to the detriment of the Society.—That men have a natural right to retain their justly acquired property, or dispose of it as they please without injuring others, is a proposition that has never been controverted to my knowledge: That they should lose this right by entering society is repugnant to common sense and the united voice of every writer of reputation upon the subject. All agree that no man can be justly deprived of his property without his consent in person or by his representative, unless he has forfeited it by the breach of the laws of his country to the enaction of which he consented.

All demands upon our purse, on other terms, are illegal; and put into execution robbery; if the demand be made sword in hand, the crime is till more attrocious; “it is robbery with murderous intention!” Can any one dispute the justice of one sentence of the above propositions? or admitting them, can they excuse the British parliament, from the violation of these most sacred bonds of human society? Have they not actually invaded the freedom of our persons pretending to bind us by laws to which our consent was never so much as asked? Have they not demanded our money at the point of the bayonet and mouth of the cannon? Have they not utterly subverted the free constitution of our state by making our extreme magistrate a mere dependent on the minister of Great Britain, and thus destroyed all confidence of the body politic in the head? Have they not further interfered with our civil policy and intruded a set of officers upon us, entirely independent of the supreme power of the province constituting that most dangerous and intolerable evil that ever was felt by a people; that source of civil discord, treasons and murders an imperium in imperio, which constitutes the house whose fate the breath of conscience has pronounced, viz. “it cannot stand!” Have they not further, to defeat all prospect of our relieving ourselves by the free course of the laws of the land, held out Edition: current; Page: [[212]] a bribe to our supreme executive, and doubly corrupted the council, whose duty it is to see the commonwealth suffer no injury? Are we not by these several most intolerable encroachments, these injurious interferences into the civil polity of our state, cut off from all hopes of relief from courts of law, and even from our high court of parliament, which the aforesaid omnipotent parliament of Great-Britain have by a late resolve, rendered, or endeavored to render as useless as a King of the Romans? For if one supreme legislative body, in which the whole continent of America have not a single voice, have power to make laws which shall be binding upon us in all cases whatsoever, rights, liberties, legislative powers, under such absolute suspending, dispensing, establishing annihilating power as this, are meer shadows, Jack o’lanterns serving only to mislead and engulph us.

There can be no doubt but it is fit, and perfectly consistent with the principle of all laws human and divine, to resist robbers, murderers and subverters of the government of free states, whether these crimes are committed by individuals or nations, or more properly a despotism endeavouring to establish itself over the most free and happy nation on the globe. The only question is, whether it be prudent to risque resistance.

To this I answer we must be sure that we have a good cause; and I think of this we are certain. We may then safely venture it with that God who loves righteousness and hates oppression; who has made it our indispensable duty to preserve our own lives and the lives of others, more especially our brethren of the same community. Under his protection we shall be safe while we walk in his commandments, and by his all powerful assistance one may chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.

It is highly probable our oppressors will withdraw their hand when they find our resolution, and consider how fatal it must be to themselves to drive things to extremity. Great-Britain at war with her colonies would be in the condition of a trunk deprived of its members. Besides the foundation of the dispute being an effort of her ministers to diminish the sovereignty of so great a number of free self governing states, and erect an absolute despotism over them, must give umbrage to every other power in Europe, this being an open violation of the law of nations, and punishable by all as Vatel B II. C. IV. [section] 53 declares in these words, “If then there is any where a nation of a restless and mischievous disposition always ready to injure others, to Edition: current; Page: [[213]] traverse their designs, and to raise domestic troubles; it is not to be doubted but all have a right to join in order to repress, chastise, and put it ever after out of its power to injure them.” And in the next paragraph the interference with their government and dimunition of their sovereignty is declared to be capital injuries. Their schemes of oppression have heretofore been frustrated, and even now they are drove to stratagem. Their efforts to delude this people to their destruction are visible to us, and we perceive plainly the necessity to guard, not only against their brutal force, attempting to enslave us, but also against their artifice. They know we are a religious and conscientious people, but think we are ignorant of the true spirit of the laws respecting meum and tuum; therefore apprehend themselves safe in sending their property to America, notwithstanding that property is now constituted the medium of our political destruction—but they are mistaken in their men. We all know, that when even men themselves become dangerous to society, the public preservation warrant their extirpation, much less can they expect their property will be spared when in the same predicament. Men combined to subvert our civil government, to plunder and murder us, can have no right to protection in their persons or properties among us; they have by their attempts upon our liberty, put themselves in a state of war with us, as Mr. Locke observes, and being the agressors, if they perish, the fault is their own. “If any person in the best condition of the state, demands your purse at the muzzle of his pistol, you have no need to recur to law, you cannot give, i.e. immediate security against your adversary; and for that reason, viz. because the law cannot be applied to your relief, you make your own defence on the principles of natural law, which is now your only rule, and his life is forfeited into your hands, and you indemnified if you take it, because he is the first and a dangerous agressor.” This rule applies itself to states, and to those employed by them to distress, rob or enslave other states; and shall property be secure where even life is forfeited? All wise nations think otherwise, and by every means in their power endeavour to take the forfeiture. There are many influences, wherein men lose the protection of law in their property, some, as was said before, even of their lives. I will instance a few. A ship with the plague on board, destined to any port, be she never so richly laden, or never so full of souls, may be sunk, and thereby both lives and property be lost to individuals, so the ships of a nation at peace with us, if laded with warlike stores Edition: current; Page: [[214]] or provisions to supply our enemies is forfeited into our hands, and in case of resistance may be sunk to the bottom.

Upon the same principle it is said a number of pole axes and scalping knives were seized by this government, (shipped by a man whose conduct has betrayed no signs of change in political sentiment since that time) when found on board a flag-of-truce bound from Boston to Louisbourgh in time of war; But of this treasonable action we have no account in Mr. Hutchinson’s history of the Massachusetts Bay.

When we are reduced to the sad dilemma that we must destroy the lives of a few of our fellow men and their property or have the community destroyed by them we are not allowed to hesitate a moment; The rule here is that which is chosen by all wise men, and vindicated by the law of nature, viz. of two evils chuse the least, and rid society of such dangerous inmates.

These usurpers, or foreign emissaries, being screened from the power of the laws, by a corruption of both legislative and executive courts, have returned to a state of nature again with respect to this people, and may as justly be slain as wolves, tygers, or the private robbers and murderers above considered; and Jurors on their oaths are as much obliged to acquit the slayers in the one case as in the other. Slaying a man with a wicked intention is certainly highly criminal, but slaying him to prevent his destroying either our own lives or the constitution of the state to which we bear the most indissoluble allegiance is an act of heroism which entitled even a cobler of Messina to the just applauses of every good man who has read his story.

In former times a person outlawed was called Wolfshead and might be put to death by any man who met him, as that ravenous beast might, being as dangerous to society; this is to be understood of persons outlawed by due process, which might have obtained for misdemeanors much inferior to endeavours for the subversion of the state; but those who by this means break off from the society which from infancy afforded them protection, that plunder and devour their fellow men, even their best benefactors, are more execrable brutes, and may be said to be most fully ripe for exemplary destruction.

In recapitulation of the foregoing, please to attend to the few plain Propositions following, viz.

I. That men naturally have a right to life, liberty, and the Edition: current; Page: [[215]] possession and disposal of their property, in such wise as to injure none other.

II. That the same is true in society, with this difference that whereas in a state of nature each judged for himself, what was just or injurious, in society he submits to indifferent arbiters.

III. That all demands upon us for any part of our substance not warranted by our own consent or the judgment of our peers are robbery with murderous intention.

IV. That on these principles, the administration of Great-Britain are justly chargeable with this complicated crime.

V. That it is fit, and perfectly consistent with the principle of all laws human and divine, to resist robbers, murderers, and subverters of the constitution of our country.

VI. That both legislative and executive powers in this province being corrupted, the partizans of our oppressive plunderers and murderers are screened from public justice.

VII. That this corruption of public justice with regard to these internal enemies, and the deprivation of the people from the application of it for their own safety, naturally throws us back into a state of nature, with respect to them, whereby our natural right of self defence, and revenge returns.

VIII. That life, personal liberty, and private property, when employed to the detriment or destruction of society, where constitutional provisions cannot be applied, are forfeited into the hands of any, who have public spirit enough to take them.

IX. That Jurors who are the sole and only judges of fact and law; and at present our only security against tyranny are bound by the true interest of all law, the public security to acquit any persons who may be brought before them, for cutting off or destroying the life and property of the invaders of our liberties, from this alone consideration, viz. That the law of the land cannot be applied to our relief.

These are matters of the last importance, and demand the serious consideration of every man who values his freedom or his life, (the latter being but of very precarious tenure when the former is ravished) and if the foregoing propositions are founded in truth on the principles of natural justice and the security of human welfare, adopt them, and act in conformity to them; if not reject them, and substitute something better in their stead. Demonstrate that the domination of law, according Edition: current; Page: [[216]] to the caprice of their own arbitrary will, to the destruction of all laws, constitutions and injunctions, human and divine, is lawful government; and that the subject though certain to be stripped of liberty and property at pleasure; thrown into a bastile to weep out a life of anguish and distress; exposed to all the miseries of cold, hunger and confinement, may be happier than were our noble, free and generous ancestors, and none will be a more zealous and determined tory, than MASSACHUSETTENSIS.

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[19]: A Pennsylvanian
[BENJAMIN RUSH 1745-1813]

An Address to the Inhabitants of the British Settlements in America Upon Slave-Keeping

Rush was born on a farm in Pennsylvania, orphaned at age five, but supplied with a good education, including graduation from the college that later became Princeton University. He chose medicine as a career and after doing his apprenticeship in Philadelphia was able to study for three years in Edinburgh, London, and Paris. An enduring reputation as America’s leading physician in the prime of his life was his reward for this commitment. But enchantment with public events and inability to resist dabbling in public affairs were competing interests that ran second to medicine and healing by no large margin. As a member of the Second Continental Congress he signed the Declaration of Independence, and as a member of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1790, he was influential in replacing the radically democratic constitution of 1776 with a new one that comported much better with current notions of republican government. He wrote pamphlets on almost everything—slavery, capital punishment, oaths, separation of Church and State, public education, the education of women, bicameral versus unicameral legislatures, etc. This essay is typical of his work in that it blends religious commitment with a practical, political eye.

AN ADDRESS, &c. Edition: 1983; Page: [1]

So much hath been said upon the subject of Slave-Keeping, that an Apology may be required for this Address. The only one I shall offer is, that the Evil still continues. This may in part be owing to the Edition: current; Page: [[218]] great attachment we have to our own Interest, and in part, to the subject not being fully exhausted. The design of the following address is to sum up the leading arguments against it, several of which have not been urged by any of those Authors who have written upon it.

Without entering into the History of the facts which relate to the Slave Trade, I shall proceed to combat the principal arguments which are used to support it.

I need hardly say any thing in favour of the Intellects of the Negroes, or of their capacities for virtue and happiness, although these have been supposed, by some, to be inferior to Edition: 1983; Page: [2] those of the inhabitants of Europe. The accounts which travellers give us of their ingenuity, humanity, and strong attachment to their parents, relations, friends and country, show us that they are equal to the Europeans, when we allow for the diversity of temper and genius which is occasioned by climate. We have many well-attested anecdotes of as sublime and disinterested virtue among them as ever adorned a Roman or a Christian character. But we are to distinguish between an African in his own country, and an African in a state of slavery in America. Slavery is so foreign to the human mind, that the moral faculties, as well as those of the understanding are debased, and rendered torpid by it. All the vices which are charged upon the Negroes in the southern colonies and the West-Indies, such as Idleness, Treachery, Theft, and the like, are the genuine offspring of slavery, and serve as an argument to prove that they were not intended for it.

Nor let it be said, in the present Age, that their black color (as it is commonly called) either Edition: 1983; Page: [3] subjects them to, or qualifies them for slavery. The vulgar notion of their being descended from Cain, who was supposed to have been marked with this color, is too absurd Edition: current; Page: [[219]] to need a refutation.—Without enquiring into the Cause of this blackness, I shall only add upon this subject, that so far from being a curse, it subjects the Negroes to no inconveniences, Edition: 1983; Page: [4] but on the contrary qualifies them for that part of the Globe in which providence has placed them. The ravages of heat, diseases and time, appear less in their faces than in a white one; and when we exclude variety of color from our ideas of Beauty, they may be said to possess every thing necessary to constitute it in common with the white people.

It has been urged by the inhabitants of the Sugar Islands and South Carolina, that it would be impossible to carry on the manufactories of Sugar, Rice, and Indigo, without negro slaves. No manufactory can ever be of consequence enough to society to admit the least violation of the Laws of justice or humanity. But I am far from thinking the arguments used in favour of employing Negroes for the cultivation of these articles, should have any Weight.—M. Le Poivre, late envoy from the king of France, to Edition: 1983; Page: [5] the king of Cochin-China, and now intendant of the isles of Bourbon and Mauritius, in his observations upon the manners and arts of the various nations in Africa and Asia, speaking of the culture of sugar in Cochin-China, has the following remarks.—“It is worthy observation too, that the sugar cane is there cultivated by freemen, and all the process of preparation and refining, the work of free hands. Compare then the price of the Cochin-Chinese production with the same commodity which is cultivated and prepared by the wretched slaves of our European colonies, and judge if, to procure sugar from our colonies, it was necessary to authorize by law the slavery of the unhappy Africans transported to America.§ From what I have observed at Cochin-China, I cannot entertain a doubt, but that our West-India colonies, had they been distributed, without reservation amongst a free people, would Edition: 1983; Page: [6] have produced Edition: current; Page: [[220]] double the quantity that is now procured from the labour of the unfortunate negroes.”

“What advantage, then, has accrued to Europe, civilized as it is, and thoroughly versed in the laws of nature, and the rights of mankind, by legally authorizing in our colonies, the daily outrages against human nature, permitting them to debase man almost below the level of the beasts of the field? These slavish laws have proved as opposite to its interest, as they are to its honour, and to the laws of humanity. This remark I have often made.”

“Liberty and property form the basis of abundance, and good agriculture: I never observed it to flourish where those rights of mankind were not firmly established. The earth, which multiplies her productions with a kind of profusion, under the hands of the free-born labourer, seems to shrink into barrenness under the sweat of the slave. Such is the will of the great Author of our Nature, who has created man free, and assigned to him the earth, that he might cultivate his possession with the Edition: 1983; Page: [7] sweat of his brow; but still should enjoy his Liberty.” Now if the plantations in the islands and the southern colonies were more limited, and freemen only employed in working them, the general product would be greater, although the profits to individuals would be less, —a circumstance this, which by diminishing opulence in a few, would suppress Luxury and Vice, and promote that equal distribution of property, which appears best calculated to promote the welfare of Society.—* I know it has been said by some, that none but the natives of warm climates could undergo the Edition: 1983; Page: [8] excessive heat and labor of the West-India islands. But this argument is founded upon an error; for the reverse of this is true. I have been informed by good authority, that one European who escapes the first or second year, will do twice the work, and live twice the number of years that an ordinary Negro man will do: nor need Edition: current; Page: [[221]] we be surpriz’d at this, when we hear that such is the natural fertility of soil, and so numerous the spontaneous fruits of the earth in the interior parts of Africa, that the natives live in plenty at the expence of little or no labor, which, in warm climates, has ever been found to be incompatible with long life and happiness. Future ages, therefore, when they read the accounts of the Slave Trade (—if they do not regard them as fabulous)—will be at a loss which to condemn most, our folly or our Guilt, in abetting this direct violation of the Laws of nature and Religion.

But there are some who have gone so far as to say that Slavery is not repugnant to the Genius of Christianity, and that it is not forbidden in any part of the Scripture. Natural Edition: 1983; Page: [9] and Revealed Religion always speak the same things, although the latter delivers its precepts with a louder and more distinct voice than the former. If it could be proved that no testimony was to be found in the Bible against a practice so pregnant with evils of the most destructive tendency to society, it would be sufficient to overthrow its divine Original. We read it is true of Abraham’s having slaves born in his house; and we have reason to believe, that part of the riches of the patriarchs consisted in them; but we can no more infer the lawfulness of the practice, from the short account which the Jewish historian gives us of these facts, than we can vindicate telling a lie, because Rahab is not condemned for it in the account which is given of her deceiving the king of Jericho. We read that some of the same men indulged themselves in a plurality of wives, without any strictures being made upon their conduct for it; and yet no one will pretend to say, that this is not forbidden in many parts of the Edition: 1983; Page: [10] Old Testament*. But we are told the Jews kept the Heathens in perpetual bondage. The Design of providence in permitting this evil, was probably to prevent the Jews from marrying amongst strangers, to which their intercourse with them upon any other footing than that of slaves, would naturally have inclined them. Had this taken place—their national religion would have been corrupted—they would have contracted Edition: current; Page: [[222]] all their vices, and the intention of Providence in keeping them a distant people, in order to accomplish the promise made to Abraham, that “in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed,” would have been Edition: 1983; Page: [11] defeated; so that the descent of the Messiah from Abraham, could not have been traced, and the divine commission of the Son of God, would have wanted one of its most powerful arguments to support it. But with regard to their own countrymen, it is plain, perpetual slavery was not tolerated. Hence, at the end of seven years or in the year of the jubilee, all the Hebrew slaves were set at liberty*, and it was held unlawful to detain them in servitude longer than that time, except by their own Consent. But if, in the partial Revelation which God Edition: 1983; Page: [12] made, of his will to the Jews, we find such testimonies against slavery, what may we not expect from the Gospel, the Design of which was to abolish all distinctions of name and country. While the Jews thought they complied with the precepts of the law, in confining the love of their neighbour “to the children of their own people,” Christ commands us to look upon all mankind even our Enemies§ as our neighbours and brethren, and “in all things, to do unto them whatever we would wish they should do unto us.” He tells us further that his “Kingdom is not of this World,” and therefore constantly avoids saying any thing that might interfere directly with the Roman or Jewish Governments: and although he does not call upon masters to emancipate their slaves, Edition: current; Page: [[223]] or slaves to assert that Liberty wherewith God and Nature had made them free, yet there is scarcely a parable or a sermon in the whole history of his life, but what contains the strongest arguments against Slavery. Every prohibition Edition: 1983; Page: [13] of Covetousness—Intemperance—Pride—Uncleanness—Theft—and Murder, which he delivered,—every lesson of meekness, humility, forbearance, Charity, Self-denial, and brotherly-love, which he taught, are levelled against this evil;—for Slavery, while it includes all the former Vices, necessarily excludes the practice of all the latter Virtues, both from the Master and the Slave.—Let such, therefore, who vindicate the traffic of buying and selling Souls, seek some modern System of Religion to support it, and not presume to sanctify their crimes by attempting to reconcile it to the sublime and perfect Religion of the Great Author of Christianity.*

Edition: 1983; Page: [14] There are some amongst us who cannot help allowing the force of our last argument, but plead as a motive for importing and Edition: current; Page: [[224]] keeping slaves, that they become acquainted with the principles of the religion of our country.—This is like justifying a highway robbery because part Edition: 1983; Page: [15] of the money acquired in this manner was appropriated to some religious use.—Christianity will never be propagated by any other methods than those employed by Christ and his Apostles. Slavery is an engine as little fitted for that purpose as Fire or the Sword. A Christian Slave is a contradiction in terms.§ But if we enquire into the methods employed for converting the Negroes to Christianity, we shall find the means suited to the end proposed. In many places Sunday is appropriated to work for themselves, reading and writing are discouraged among them. A belief is even inculcated amongst some, that they have no Souls. In a word,—Every attempt to instruct or convert them, has Edition: 1983; Page: [16] been constantly opposed by their masters. Nor has the example of their christian masters any tendency to prejudice them in favor of our religion. How often do they betray, in their sudden transports of anger and resentment, (against which there is no restraint provided towards their Negroes) the most violent degrees of passion and fury!—What luxury—what ingratitude to the supreme being—what impiety in their ordinary conversation do some of them discover in the presence of their slaves! I say nothing of the dissolution of marriage vows, or the entire abolition of matrimony, which the frequent sale of them introduces, and which are directly contrary to the laws of nature and the principles of christianity. Would to Heaven I could here conceal the shocking violations of chastity, which some of them are obliged to undergo without daring to complain. Husbands have been forced to prostitute their wives, and mothers their daughters to gratify the brutal lust of a master. This—all—this is practised—Blush—ye impure and hardened wretches, while I repeat it—by men who call themselves christians!

Edition: 1983; Page: [17] But further—It has been said that we do a kindness to the Edition: current; Page: [[225]] Negroes by bringing them to America, as we thereby save their lives, which had been forfeited by their being conquered in war*. Let such as prefer or inflict slavery rather than Death, disown their being descended from or connected with our mother countries.—But it will be found upon enquiry, that many are stolen or seduced from their friends who have never been conquered; and it is plain, from the testimony of historians and travellers, Edition: 1983; Page: [18] that wars were uncommon among them, until the christians who began the slave trade, stirred up the different nations to fight against each other. Sooner let them imbrue their hands in each others blood, or condemn one another to perpetual slavery, than the name of one christian, or one American, be stained by the perpetration of such enormous crimes.

Nor let it be urged that by treating slaves well, we render their situation happier in this Country, than it was in their own.—Slavery and Vice are connected together, and the latter is always a source of misery. Besides, by the greatest humanity we can show them, we only lessen, but do not remove the crime, for the injustice of it continues the same. The laws of retribution are so strongly inculcated by the moral governor of the world, that even the ox is entitled to his reward for “treading the Corn.” How great then must be the amount of that injustice, which deprives so many of our fellow creatures of the Just reward of their labor.

But it will be asked here, What steps shall we take to remedy this Evil, and what shall Edition: 1983; Page: [19] we do with those Slaves we have already Edition: current; Page: [[226]] in this Country? This is indeed a most difficult question. But let every man contrive to answer it for himself.—

The first thing I would recommend to put a stop to slavery in this country, is to leave off importing slaves. For this purpose let our assemblies unite in petitioning the king and parliament to dissolve the African committee of merchants: It is by them that the trade is chiefly carried on to America. We have the more reason to expect relief from an application at this juncture, as by a late decision in favor of a Virginia slave in Westminster-Hall, the Clamors of the whole nation are raised against them. Let such of our countrymen as engage in the slave trade, be shunned as the greatest enemies to our country, and let the vessels which bring the slaves to us, be avoided as if they bore in them the Seeds of that forbidden fruit, whose baneful taste destroyed both the natural and moral world.—As for the Negroes among us, who, from having acquired all the low vices of slavery, or who from age or Edition: 1983; Page: [20] infirmities are unfit to be set at liberty, I would propose, for the good of society, that they should continue the property of those with whom they grew old, or from whom they contracted those vices and infirmities. But let the young Negroes be educated in the principles of virtue and religion—let them be taught to read, and write—and afterwards instructed in some business, whereby they may be able to maintain themselves. Let laws be made to limit the time of their servitude, and to entitle them to all the privileges of free-born British subjects. At any rate let Retribution be done to God and to Society.*

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Edition: 1983; Page: [21] And now my countrymen, What shall I add more to rouse up your Indignation against Slave-keeping. Consider the many complicated crimes it involves in it. Think of the bloody Wars which are fomented by it, among the African nations, or if these are too common to affect you, Edition: 1983; Page: [22] think of the pangs which attend the dissolution of the ties of nature in those who are stolen from their relations. Think of the many thousands who perish by sickness, melancholy, and suicide, in their voyages to America. Pursue the poor devoted victims to one of the West India islands, and see them exposed there to public sale. Hear their cries, and see their looks of tenderness at each other, upon being seperated.—Mothers are torn from their Daughters, and Brothers from Brothers, without the liberty of a parting embrace. Their master’s name is now marked upon their breasts with a red hot iron. But let us pursue them into a Sugar Field: and behold a scene still more affecting than this—See! the poor wretches with what reluctance they take their instruments of labor into their hands,—Some of them, overcome with heat and sickness, seek to refresh themselves by a little rest.—But, behold an Overseer approaches them—In vain they sue for pity.—He lifts up his Whip, while streams of Blood follow every stroke. Neither age nor sex are spared.—Methinks one of them is woman far advanced in her pregnancy.—At a little distance from these Edition: 1983; Page: [23] behold a man, who from his countenance and deportment appears as if he was descended from illustrious ancestors.—Yes.—He is the son of a Prince, and was torn by a stratagem, from an amiable wife and two young children.—Mark his sullen looks!—now he bids defiance to the tyranny of his Master, and in an instant—plunges a Knife into his Heart.—But let us return from this Scene, and see the various modes of arbitrary punishments Edition: current; Page: [[228]] inflicted upon them by their masters. Behold one covered with stripes, into which melted wax is poured—another tied down to a block or a stake—a third suspended in the air by his thumbs—a fourth—I cannot relate it.—Where now is Law or Justice?—Let us fly to them to step in for their relief.—Alas!—The one is silent, and the other denounces more terrible punishment upon them. Let us attend the place appointed for inflicting the penalties of the law. See here one without a limb, whose only crime was an attempt to regain his Liberty,—another led to a Gallows for stealing a morsel of Bread, to which his labor gave him a better Edition: 1983; Page: [24] title than his master—a third famishing on a gibbet—a fourth, in a flame of Fire! his shrieks pierce the very heavens.—O! God! where is thy Vengeance!—O! Humanity—Justice—Liberty—Religion!—Where,—where are ye fled.—

This is no exaggerated Picture. It is taken from real Life.—Before I conclude I shall take the liberty of addressing several Classes of my countrymen in behalf of our Brethren (for by that name may we now call them) who are in a state of Slavery amongst us.

In the first place let Magistrates both supreme and inferior, exert the authority they are invested with, in suppressing this evil. Let them discountenance it by their example, and show a readiness to concur in every measure proposed to remedy it.

Let Legislators, reflect upon the trust reposed in them. Let their laws be made after the Spirit of Religion—Liberty—and our most excellent English Constitution. You cannot show your attachment to your King, or your love to your country better, than by suppressing an evil which endangers the dominions of the Edition: 1983; Page: [25] former, and will in Time destroy the liberty of the latter.* Population, and the accession of strangers, in which the Riches of all countries consist, can only flourish in proportion as slavery is discouraged. Extend the privileges we enjoy, to every human creature born amongst us, and let not the Edition: current; Page: [[229]] Journals of our Assemblies be disgraced with the records of laws, which allow exclusive privileges to men of one color in preference to another.

Ye men of Sense and Virtue—Ye Advocates Edition: 1983; Page: [26] for American Liberty, rouse up and espouse the cause of Humanity and general Liberty. Bear a testimony against a vice which degrades human nature, and dissolves that universal tie of benevolence which should connect all the children of men together in one great Family.—The plant of liberty is of so tender a Nature, that it cannot thrive long in the nieghbourhood of slavery. Remember the eyes of all Europe are fixed upon you, to preserve an asylum for freedom in this country, after the last pillars of it are fallen in every other quarter of the Globe.

But chiefly—ye Ministers of the Gospel, whose dominion over the principles and actions of men is so universally acknowledged and felt,—Ye who estimate the worth of your fellow creatures by their Immortality, and therefore must look upon all mankind as equal,—let your zeal keep pace with your opportunities to put a stop to slavery. While you enforce the duties of “tithe and cummin,” neglect not the weightier laws of justice and humanity. Slavery is an Hydra sin, and includes in it every violation of the precepts of the Law and the Edition: 1983; Page: [27] Gospel. In vain will you command your flocks to offer up the incence of Faith and Charity, while they continue to mingle the Sweat and blood of Negro slaves with their sacrifices.—If the Blood of Able cried aloud for vengeance;—If, under the Jewish dispensation, Cities of refuge could not screen the deliberate murderer—if even manslaughter required sacrifices to expiate it,—and if a single murder so seldom escapes with impunity in any civilized country, what may you not say against that trade, or those manufactures—or Laws,§ which destroy the lives of so many thousands of our fellow creatures every year?—If Edition: current; Page: [[230]] in the Old Testament “God swears by his holiness, and by the excellency of Jacob, that the Earth shall tremble and every one mourn that dwelleth therein Edition: 1983; Page: [28] for the iniquity of those who oppress the poor and crush the needy, who buy the poor with silver, and the needy with a pair of shoes,” what judgments may you not denounce upon those who continue to perpetrate these crimes, after the more full discovery which God has made of the law of Equity in the New-Testament. Put them in mind of the Rod which was held over them a few years ago in the Stamp, and Revenue Acts. Remember that national crimes require national punishments, and without declaring what punishment awaits this evil, you may venture to assure them, that it cannot pass with impunity, unless God shall cease to be just or merciful.

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[20]: Continental Congress

Appeal to the Inhabitants of Quebec

As relations between Britain and her American colonies began to deteriorate, the Continental Congress assembled to represent and coordinate the efforts of the Americans, who hoped to forge in North America a solid opposition to the mother country. This appeal, written on October 26, 1774, failed to interest the Canadians, but it does provide an open window into common assumptions and principles held at the time. The text is taken from Journals of the Continental Congress, volume 1, pages 105-113.

Friends and fellow-subjects,

We, the Delegates of the Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of Newcastle Kent and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina and South-Carolina, deputed by the inhabitants of the said Colonies, to represent them in a General Congress at Philadelphia, in the province of Pennsylvania, to consult together concerning the best methods to obtain redress of our afflicting grievances, having accordingly assembled and taken into our most serious consideration the state of public affairs on this continent, have thought proper to address your province as a member therein deeply interested.

When the fortune of war, after a gallant and glorious resistance, had incorporated you with the body of English subjects, we rejoiced in the truly valuable addition, both on our own and your account; Edition: current; Page: [[232]] expecting, as courage and generosity are naturally united, our brave enemies would become our hearty friends, and that the Divine Being would bless to you the dispensations of his over-ruling providence, by securing to you and your latest posterity the inestimable advantages of a free English constitution of government, which it is the privilege of all English subjects to enjoy.

These hopes were confirmed by the King’s proclamation, issued in the year 1763, plighting the public faith for your full enjoyment of those advantages.

Little did we imagine that any succeeding Ministers would so audaciously and cruelly abuse the royal authority, as to with-hold from you the fruition of the irrevocable rights to which you were thus justly entitled.

But since we have lived to see the unexpected time when Ministers of this flagitious temper have dared to violate the most sacred compacts and obligations, and as you, educated under another form of government, have artfully been kept from discovering the unspeakable worth of that form you are now undoubtedly entitled to, we esteem it our duty, for the weighty reasons herein after mentioned, to explain to you some of its most important branches.

“In every human society,” says the celebrated Marquis Beccaria, “there is an effort, continually tending to confer on one part the heighth of power and happiness, and to reduce the other to the extreme of weakness and misery. The intent of good laws is to oppose this effort, and to diffuse their influence universally and equally.

Rulers stimulated by this pernicious “effort,” and subjects animated by the just “intent of opposing good laws against it,” have occasioned that vast variety of events that fill the histories of so many nations. All these histories demonstrate the truth of this simple position, that to live by the will of one man, or set of men, is the production of misery to all men.

On the solid foundation of this principle, Englishmen reared up the fabrick of their constitution with such a strength as for ages to defy time, tyranny, treachery, internal and foreign wars: And, as an illustrious author of your nation, hereafter mentioned [Montesquieu] observes,—“They gave the people of their Colonies, the form of their own government, and this government carrying prosperity along with it, they have grown great nations in the forests they were sent to inhabit.”

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In this form, the first grand right is that of the people having a share in their own government by their representatives chosen by themselves, and, in consequence of being ruled by laws which they themselves approve, not by edicts of men over whom they have no controul. This is a bulwark surrounding and defending their property, which by their honest cares and labours they have acquired so that no portions of it can legally be taken from them, but with their own full and free consent, when they in their judgment deem it just and necessary to give them for public service, and precisely direct the easiest, cheapest, and most equal methods, in which they shall be collected.

The influence of this right extends still farther. If money is wanted by Rulers who have in any manner oppressed the people, they may retain it until their grievances are redressed; and thus peaceably procure relief, without trusting to despised petitions or disturbing the public tranquility.

The next great right is that of trial by jury. This provides that neither life, liberty nor property can be taken from the possessor until twelve of his unexceptionable countrymen and peers of his vicinage, who from that neighbourhood may reasonably be supposed to be acquainted with his character and the characters of the witnesses, upon a fair trial, and full enquiry, face to face in open Court before as many people as chuse to attend, shall pass their sentence upon oath against him; a sentence that cannot injure him without injuring their own reputation and probably their interest also, as the question may turn on points that in some degree concern the general welfare; and if it does not, their verdict may form a precedent that on a similar trial of their own may militate against themselves.

Another right relates merely to the liberty of the person. If a subject is seized and imprisoned, tho’ by order of Government, he may by virtue of this right immediately obtain a writ termed a Habeas Corpus, from a Judge whose sworn duty it is to grant it, and thereupon procure any illegal restraint to be quickly enquired into and redressed.

A fourth right is that of holding lands by the tenure of easy rents and not by rigorous and oppressive services, frequently forcing the possessors from their families and their business to perform what ought to be done in all well regulated states by men hired for the purpose.

The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, Edition: current; Page: [[234]] science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honourable and just modes of conducting affairs.

These are the invaluable rights that form a considerable part of our mild system of government; that, sending its equitable energy through all ranks and classes of men, defends the poor from the rich, the weak from the powerful, the industrious from the rapacious, the peaceable from the violent, the tenants from the lords, and all from their superiors.

These are the rights without which a people cannot be free and happy, and under the protecting and encouraging influence of which these colonies have hitherto so amazingly flourished and increased. These are the rights a profligate Ministry are now striving by force of arms to ravish from us, and which we are with one mind resolved never to resign but with our lives.

These are the rights you are entitled to and ought at this moment in perfection to exercise. And what is offered to you by the late Act of Parliament in their place? Liberty of conscience in your religion? No. God gave it to you; and the temporal powers with which you have been and are connected, firmly stipulated for your enjoyment of it. If laws, divine and human, could secure it against the despotic caprices of wicked men, it was secured before. Are the French laws in civil cases restored? It seems so. But observe the cautious kindness of the Ministers, who pretend to be your benefactors. The words of the statute are—that those “laws shall be the rule, until they shall be varied or altered by any ordinances of the Governor and Council.” Is the “certainty and lenity of the criminal law of England, and its benefits and advantages,” commended in the said statute, and said to “have been sensibly felt by you,” secured to you and your descendants? No. They too are subjected to arbitrary “alterations” by the Governor and Council; and a power is expressly reserved of appointing “such courts of criminal, civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as shall be thought proper.” Such is the precarious tenure of mere will by which you hold your lives and religion. The Crown and its Ministers are impowered, as far as they could be by Parliament, to establish even the Inquisition itself among you. Have you an Assembly composed of worthy men, elected by yourselves and in whom you can confide, to make laws for Edition: current; Page: [[235]] you, to watch over your welfare, and to direct in what quantity and in what manner your money shall be taken from you? No. The Power of making laws for you is lodged in the governor and council, all of them dependent upon and removeable at the pleasure of a Minister. Besides, another late statute, made without your consent, has subjected you to the impositions of Excise, the horror of all free states, thus wresting your property from you by the most odious of taxes and laying open to insolent tax-gatherers, houses, the scenes of domestic peace and comfort and called the castles of English subjects in the books of their law. And in the very act for altering your government, and intended to flatter you, you are not authorized to “assess levy, or apply any rates and taxes, but for the inferior purposes of making roads, and erecting and repairing public buildings, or for other local conveniences, within your respective towns and districts.” Why this degrading distinction? Ought not the property, honestly acquired by Canadians, to be held as sacred as that of Englishmen? Have not Canadians sense enough to attend to any other public affairs than gathering stones from one place and piling them up in another? Unhappy people! who are not only injured, but insulted. Nay more! With such a superlative contempt of your understanding and spirit has an insolent Ministry presumed to think of you, our respectable fellow-subjects, according to the information we have received, as firmly to persuade themselves that your gratitude for the injuries and insults they have recently offered to you will engage you to take up arms and render yourselves the ridicule and detestation of the world, by becoming tools in their hands, to assist them in taking that freedom from us which they have treacherously denied to you; the unavoidable consequence of which attempt, if successful, would be the extinction of all hopes of you or your posterity being ever restored to freedom. For idiocy itself cannot believe that, when their drudgery is performed, they will treat you with less cruelty than they have us who are of the same blood with themselves.

What would your countryman, the immortal Montesquieu, have said to such a plan of domination as has been framed for you? Hear his words, with an intenseness of thought suited to the importance of the subject.—“In a free state, every man, who is supposed a free agent, ought to be concerned in his own government: Therefore the legislative should reside in the whole body of the people, or their representatives.”—“The political liberty of the subject is a tranquillity of mind, arising Edition: current; Page: [[236]] from the opinion each person has of his safety. In order to have this liberty, it is requisite the government be so constituted, as that one man need not be afraid of another. When the power of making laws, and the power of executing them, are united in the same person, or in the same body of Magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same Monarch or Senate, should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.”

“The power of judging should be exercised by persons taken from the body of the people, at certain times of the year, and pursuant to a form and manner prescribed by law. There is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers.”

“Military men belong to a profession, which may be useful, but is often dangerous.”—“The enjoyment of liberty, and even its support and preservation, consists in every man’s being allowed to speak his thoughts, and lay open his sentiments.”

Apply these decisive maxims, sanctified by the authority of a name which all Europe reveres, to your own state. You have a Governor, it may be urged, vested with the executive powers or the powers of administration. In him and in your Council is lodged the power of making laws. You have Judges who are to decide every cause affecting your lives, liberty or property. Here is, indeed, an appearance of the several powers being separated and distributed into different hands for checks one upon another, the only effectual mode ever invented by the wit of men to promote their freedom and prosperity. But scorning to be illuded by a tinsel’d outside, and exerting the natural sagacity of Frenchmen, examine the specious device and you will find it, to use an expression of holy writ, “a whited sepulchre” for burying your lives, liberty and property.

Your Judges and your Legislative Council, as it is called, are dependant on your Governor, and he is dependant on the servant of the Crown in Great-Britain. The legislative, executive and judging powers are all moved by the nods of a Minister. Privileges and immunities last no longer than his smiles. When he frowns, their feeble forms dissolve. Such a treacherous ingenuity has been exerted in drawing up the code lately offered you, that every sentence, beginning with a benevolent pretension, concludes with a destructive power; and the substance of the whole, divested of its smooth words, is—that the Crown and its Ministers shall be as absolute throughout your extended province as the despots of Asia or Africa. What can protect your property from Edition: current; Page: [[237]] taxing edicts and the rapacity of necessitous and cruel masters, your persons from Letters de Cachet, goals, dungeons, and oppressive services, your lives and general liberty from arbitrary and unfeeling rulers? We defy you, casting your view upon every side, to discover a single circumstance promising from any quarter the faintest hope of liberty to you or your posterity, but from an entire adoption into the union of these Colonies.

What advice would the truly great man before-mentioned, that advocate of freedom and humanity, give you, was he now living and knew that we, your numerous and powerful neighbours, animated by a just love of our invaded rights and united by the indissoluble bands of affection and interest, called upon you by every obligation of regard for yourselves and your children, as we now do, to join us in our righteous contest, to make common cause with us therein and take a noble chance for emerging from a humiliating subjection under Governors, Intendants, and Military Tyrants, into the firm rank and condition of English freemen, whose custom it is, derived from their ancestors, to make those tremble who dare to think of making them miserable?

Would not this be the purport of his address? “Seize the opportunity presented to you by Providence itself. You have been conquered into liberty, if you act as you ought. This work is not of man. You are a small people, compared to those who with open arms invite you into a fellowship. A moment’s reflection should convince you which will be most for your interest and happiness, to have all the rest of North-America your unalterable friends, or your inveterate enemies. The injuries of Boston have roused and associated every colony, from Nova-Scotia to Georgia. Your province is the only link wanting, to compleat the bright and strong chain of union. Nature has joined your country to theirs. Do you join your political interests? For their own sakes, they never will desert or betray you. Be assured, that the happiness of a people inevitably depends on their liberty, and their spirit to assert it. The value and extent of the advantages tendered to you are immense. Heaven grant you may not discover them to be blessings after they have bid you an eternal adieu.”

We are too well acquainted with the liberality of sentiment distinguishing your nation to imagine, that difference of religion will prejudice you against a hearty amity with us. You know that the transcendant nature of freedom elevates those who unite in her cause Edition: current; Page: [[238]] above all such low-minded infirmities. The Swiss Cantons furnish a memorable proof of this truth. Their union is composed of Roman Catholic and Protestant States, living in the utmost concord and peace with one another and thereby enabled, ever since they bravely vindicated their freedom, to defy and defeat every tyrant that has invaded them.

Should there be any among you, as there generally are in all societies, who prefer the favours of Ministers and their own private interests to the welfare of their country, the temper of such selfish persons will render them incredibly active in opposing all public-spirited measures from an expectation of being well rewarded for their sordid industry, by their superiors; but we doubt not you will be upon your guard against such men, and not sacrifice the liberty and happiness of the whole Canadian people and their posterity to gratify the avarice and ambition of individuals.

We do not ask you, by this address, to commence acts of hostility against the government of our common Sovereign. We only invite you to consult your own glory and welfare, and not to suffer yourselves to be inveigled or intimidated by infamous ministers so far as to become the instruments of their cruelty and despotism, but to unite with us in one social compact, formed on the generous principles of equal liberty and cemented by such an exchange of beneficial and endearing offices as to render it perpetual. In order to complete this highly desirable union, we submit it to your consideration whether it may not be expedient for you to meet together in your several towns and districts and elect Deputies, who afterwards meeting in a provincial Congress, may chuse Delegates to represent your province in the continental Congress to be held at Philadelphia on the tenth day of May, 1775.

In this present Congress, beginning on the fifth of the last month and continued to this day, it has been with universal pleasure and an unanimous vote resolved: That we should consider the violation of your rights, by the act for altering the government of your province, as a violation of our own, and that you should be invited to accede to our confederation, which has no other objects than the perfect security of the natural and civil rights of all the constituent members according to their respective circumstances, and the preservation of a happy and lasting connection with Great-Britain on the salutary and constitutional principles herein before mentioned. For effecting these purposes, we have addressed an humble and loyal petition to his Majesty praying Edition: current; Page: [[239]] relief of our and your grievances; and have associated to stop all importations from Great-Britain and Ireland, after the first day of December, and all exportations to those Kingdoms and the West-Indies after the tenth day of next September, unless the said grievances are redressed.

That Almighty God may incline your minds to approve our equitable and necessary measures, to add yourselves to us, to put your fate whenever you suffer injuries which you are determined to oppose not on the small influence of your single province but on the consolidated powers of North-America, and may grant to our joint exertions an event as happy as our cause is just, is the fervent prayer of us, your sincere and affectionate friends and fellow-subjects.

By order of the Congress,

Henry Middleton, President.
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[21]: Thomas Bradbury

The Ass: or, the Serpent, A Comparison Between the Tribes of Issachar and Dan, in Their Regard for Civil Liberty

Originally published in London in 1712 and based on a sermon given by the Reverend Bradbury on November 5 of that year, this essay was republished in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1774 as being especially appropriate to the troubles then facing the colonies. Thomas Bradbury wrote a number of essays celebrating liberty and the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and his work is typical in that a close textual analysis of a biblical passage is used to illustrate a political principle or defend a political position. Readers of this pamphlet will understand the genesis of the common revolutionary flag bearing a serpent and the words “Don’t Tread On Me.” Dividing the serpent into thirteen sections to represent the thirteen colonies completed the efficient iconography representing thirteen republics. This reprinting is based upon the 1774 reprinting, which in turn was based upon a 1767 reproduction of the 1712 text. The intermediate printing of 1767 included additional editing of the original, so the version reproduced here is not precisely as Bradbury wrote it.

Gen. XLIX. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Issachar is a strong Ass couching down between two Burdens;

And he saw that Rest was good, and the Land that it was pleasant; and bowed his Shoulder to bear, and became a Servant unto Tribute.

Dan shall judge his People as one of the Tribes of Israel.

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Dan shall be a Serpent in the Way, an Adder in the Path; that biteth the Horse-heels, so that the Rider shall fall backward.

I have waited for thy Salvation, O Lord.

These Words are Part of the Prophecy that Jacob dealt among his Sons when the Days drew near that he must die;Ch. xlvii. 29 and they let us see with what Variety of Temper those People acted, who all grew from the same Father: A full Argument how well the Distinction is form’d, That all are not Israel, who are of Israel:Rom. ix. 6, 7. Neither because they are the Seed of Abraham, are they all Children: He here opens out what shall befal ’em in the latter Days, and how they would carry it when they came into the promis’d Land; and, because some of ’em should have little or no Taste of Liberty,Ch. I.lix. 1. and others would pursue it through all the Expence and Danger that lay in their way, he places these Two together, that every one who reads may do Justice upon the plain Opposition there is between ’em.

I shall consider the Words, First, As they describe a People that are Sluggish and Cowardly, who will venture nothing to have All, Edition: 1983; Page: [2] whose Souls are beneath knowing the Distinction of Bondage and Freedom: And on the other hand, as they give us the Character of those who admire their Liberties and will dare to seek and fetch ’em where ever they are carried; who reckon this a Property that should not be lost as long as it can be kept, and will scarce submit to an Existence under Tyranny.

In these two Branches you have the Division of the Text; Here’s a Tribe of Israel that gives us an Example of each Temper: Issachar is remembred for his neglect of that which Dan was resolv’d upon no Terms to part with: And by observing what good old Jacob saith of these Two that were so unlike any another, we may fix the Characters that are due those who either despise or value the Deliverance of this Day.

I. I shall begin with the Account that you have of Issachar, whose Passive Obedience (if you’ll call it so) is condemn’d to Memory by these Words; Issachar is a strong Ass couching down between two Burdens: And he saw the Rest was good, and the Land, that it was pleasant, and bowed his Shoulder to bear, and became a Servant to Tribute: Where you have three Things:

  • 1. The general Temper of this People.Edition: current; Page: [[242]]
  • 2. The Subjection and Bondage they fell into. And,
  • 3. The Reason they gave for this Stupidity.

(1) You may observe, that many of the Tribes have their History couch’d in a Resemblance that’s given of ’em: They are compar’d to some Creature of that very Disposition that should obtain among ’em: Thus Judah is a Lyons Whelp; Naphtali a Hind let loose;Ver. 9, 21. 22, 27. Joseph a fruitful Bough; and Benjamin a ravening Wolf. Now these Allusions would convey to us such thoughts of the People as bear up to the Account we have of ’em afterwards: They are most of ’em to be understood as a Reputation; but what is said of Issachar, is as full of Contempt as a Metaphor can be: We are to know him by his Likeness to the Edition: 1983; Page: [3] most heavy and stupid Animal in the Creation. Instead of having his Name from something vigorous and beautiful, his Father leaves this upon him, That he’s a strong Ass couching down between two Burdens. The Ground of the Similitude you see is the little Relish they should have for their Liberties, the sorry and dull Surrender they would make of themselves to Tyranny; which is a Temper expos’d in this Comparison two ways.

1. It’s imputed to nothing else but the Stupidity of them that submit to it; the Tribe that sinks into those Measures is resembled by an Ass.

2. It’s condemn’d by the Insinuation that it was in their Power to have it otherways; Issachar is a strong ass: That very Strength that makes him couch under a Load, would be sufficient to throw it off.

1. What the Comparison leads me first to tell you, is that the Foundation of all Passive Obedience is laid in Stupidity. They that couch down between two Burdens, who bow their Shoulders to bear, and become Servants to Tribute, may here see what Herd they belong to.

Tho’ an Ass was more us’d in those Eastern Countries than it is with us, yet the Old Testament hath accounted of it as so mean a Creature, that the Comparison is very just: It seems to be made for no higher a Design than Drudgery, bearing of Burdens no way remarkable either for its Head or its Heels, so little capable of being taught, that the Folly of our Nature is signified by it, that Man is born as a wild Ass’s Colt: And tho’ it’s true in those Parts, we find the greatest Men riding on them, yet it’s a Creature that the Ceremonial Law hath branded in a very peculiar way: It must, upon no Terms whatsoever, be thrown among the Offerings of the Lord: The Command Edition: current; Page: [[243]] was very general, Thou shalt set apart unto the Lord all that opens the Matrix, and every Firstling that comes of the Beast which thou hast,Exo. I xiii 12.19. the Males shall be the Lords. This Law was laid out in that compass to put ’em often in mind of the Messiah, which should be the First born of every Creature; yet to this Edition: 1983; Page: [4] there’s one Exception, and the only Animal left out is, every Firstling of an Ass thou shalt redeem with a Lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, thou shalt break its Neck.

So that when Jacob speaks of Issachar under This Comparison, ’tis a viler Name than he could possibly leave him by Another; and it may intimate to us, not only the Stupidity of their Nature that run into this Crime, but a particular Unfitness for the Service of God. They seem to be the Outcast of both Worlds; they give up all that’s dear to ’em in this, and shew a Dulness that can have no room in the other. The way of serving God is without Fear,Luk. i.74, 75. being delivered from the Wrath of Enemies, in Holiness and Righteousness all our days. The fearful and unbelieving are in the front of those Sinners who fill the Lake of Fire and Brimstone. You may always observe it that an indifference to Civil Liberties goes along with a neglect of that which is Religious:Rev. xxi.8. A Man that throws away the Blessing of Providence, cannot have a due relish to those of Grace.

Tho, submitting to the impious Will of a Monarch hath been exalted as if it was the one thing needful, yet it’s easy to prove, both by the Rule of Scripture, and the Historys of Men, this is so far from containing the Whole of Religion, that it really possesseth no one Part of it: There can be no Faith in it,Heb. xi.27 for that would both Purifie the Heart and conquer the World. It was this that made Moses forsake Egypt, not fearing the Wrath of the King. And there can be no Love, I mean to God or his People, for that would teach us to value what the One gives and the Other enjoys: And tho’ this may be call’d Patience, yet it’s a prostitution of the Name to a Temper which hath none of the Thing; for this Grace shews it self in Bearing a Burden, not in Laying it on. The overruling Hand of God we must submit to, but this will consist with all the Zeal we can use against the Tools he employs. The distinction is a good one, and as old as David, who knew how different his Behavior ought to be: If the Lord hath stirred thee up against me, saith he to Saul, let him accept Edition: 1983; Page: [5] an offering, I have deserved it from him, and cannot answer him one of a thousand;I Sam. xxvi.19. but if they be the Children of Men, cursed be they before the Lord.

’Tis plain that People lose their Christianity with their Liberties; Edition: current; Page: [[244]] and when once an encroaching Power hath made ’em Slaves, there needs little more to make ’em Heathens. The Ministers that preach up This Doctrine, will soon understand no other: It shall drive Faith, Repentance and Holiness out of the Pulpit, and instead of feeding the Children with Bread, they’ll give ’em a Stone: In a little while we shall hear of nothing else, but Obedience to the Lust of Men, as if Christ had no other Errand in laying down His Life, than to make the Kings of the Earth a compliment of Ours; that as he was a Servant of Rulers, we must be so too; as if no Sin could be dangerous but what they call Rebellion, and the Terms of procuring to our selves Damnation were never to be used but in one case, which is resisting of a Civil Power. We shall seldom hear a better Application of that awful Argument; tis not so warmly pleaded to make us flee from the Wrath to come, that being warned of God concerning things not seen as yet, we may be moved with Fear: They’ll but seldom trouble their Heads about the Danger of Debauchery, that Whoremongers and Adulterers God will judge: They’ll tell us but little of the Hazard such are in, who are lovers of Pleasure more than lovers of God, who blaspheme the whole Scheme of Religion, and use that Book to make them laugh, which makes the Devils tremble: who rush into the Retirements of our Worship, the Ordinances that ought to be kept clean and holy; I say, we hear little of their Danger, tho the Scripture hath given us the same dreadful Word in that case which agrees so well with them in the other:I Cor. xi.29 They that eat and drink unworthily, eat and drink to themselves Damnation. These are the Encroachments that Slavery will make upon our Religion.

But we have not so learned Christ. The Apostles that went about with the Gospel, were often claiming the Privileges of the Law. For this did Paul argue Edition: 1983; Page: [6] with the Centurion on the Stairs of the Castle, and would not let the Christian run away with the Roman; For this did he threaten to shake the Government of Philippi, and refuse to take his Liberty at that easy rate, of going out of the Prison; No, he was resolved to let those Magistrates know, that as the Laws of the Empire had given him a Protection so he would never lose it for want of Zeal; and tho the Jaylor, who was but converted the Night before, brought him the Message, they have sent to let you go, now then depart in peace;Act. xvi. 36, 37. yet he useth the Advantage that Innocence gave him over Tyranny, they have beaten us openly, and uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into Prison, and now do they thrust us out privily, nay verily but let ’em come themselves and fetch us out. So tender was he of his Edition: current; Page: [[245]] Privileges, that tho’ he knew as much as any Man how to despise the Pomp of the World, yet in this case he’ll insist upon a Ceremony that perhaps was never demanded before; that the Magistrates of the Town should come to the Prison-door and beg Pardon, and bring them Out whom through a Mistake they had put In, and desire them to departe from their City. For this did he refuse to answer the Summons of Festus, who would have betray’d him to his Enemies, but appeal’d to Casar; and from this Principle did he deal so roundly with Ananias,Ch. xxiii.3. God shall smite thee thou whited Wall, for sittest thou there to judge me according to the Law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the Law.

This is the Spirit of our Religion, it allows none of the Stupidity that Issachar was run down into; for an Ass can no more be a Pattern under the Gospel, than it could be a Sacrifice under the Law. But it’s enough we are told what sort of Creatures they are, by the Metaphor in my Text; despicable to Men, and rejected by God; made for Service and Contempt. The Comparison gives us the lowest Opinion of those to whom it belongs. They are by this represented as a stupid servile People, for the Word fits their Heads as well as their Shoulders.

Edition: 1983; Page: [7] 2. The Crime of their becoming Servants to Tribute, is hinted at by the further Account we have of ’em, that they lay under no necessity of doing it: They had it in their power to do otherwise, and might have compell’d a better Lot for themselves and their Posterity. Had they been drain’d, and weaken’d and sunk down to an Inability, that which was now both their Sin and Punishment, had been only the latter. But Issachar was a strong Ass, able to Refuse a Load as well as to Bear it.

Several Annotators give us this Note from the Hebrew Word, that he was an Ass of Bone; which perhaps is a further Contempt of him, to tell us his want of Spirit, as if he was only Outside, a meer Shell and Frame of Nature: And indeed they who so tamely give up all that can be dear, show but little Soul in that Surrender. But I shall take the Words in the first Sense I gave you of ’em, that he is call’d a strong Ass; to signifie, that he had Capacity to have done otherways, only he wanted Heart and Courage to use it. He that couch’d down between two Burdens, might easily have protected against One; he that bowed his Shoulder to bear, could have cloath’d it with Armour; And the Wealth with which he paid his Tribute as a Servant, might have led him into the Field as a Rival.

All the instances that we have in Scripture of Submission to an Edition: current; Page: [[246]] unrighteous Power, represent the People as not able to do otherways. We never once find a good Man neglecting to resist an Injustice when he could reject it.Exod. ii 11, 12. Moses indeed fled from Pharoah because he had to do only with a single Egyptian, who was smiting one of his Brethren, he’s no longer about it than whilst he looks this way and that way, and then he kills him, and hideth him in the Sands: And this is so far from having the Censure, that a Slave would give it, that upon That Action he was in hopes to have raised his Publick Character, and by this Justice upon the Officer, thought to have led on that of the People upon the King,Act. vii. 24, 25. as the Martyr Stephen tells us; for he brings in this as the Reason why seeing one of Edition: 1983; Page: [8] the Jews suffer wrong, he avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian, because he supposed his Brethren would have understood, how that by his hand God would have delivered them, but they understood not. If their Zeal would have come on as fast as his would have led it, they might have been saved then; but they lost 40 Years by their unbelief. David run away from Saul, when he had no Friend to stand by him, but he put himself at the Head of a little Army as soon as he could; and the only Reason why he did not give him battle was, because he had not Force enough: But when those great Numbers came to him every day, he makes no scruple to go out into the Field,I Chron. xii.19. for there fell some of Manesseh to David when he came with the Philistines against Saul to Battle.

A just and holy God may indeed deliver us over to the Will of evil Men; but to say,Ps. xciv. 20. that he would have us deliver up ourselves, is to blaspheme his Empire; for he hath no Fellowship with the Thrones of Iniquity, who frame Mischief by a Law. That which held Zion in Captivity,Iam. 1.14. was God’s making her Strength to fail; He had delivered her into their Hands against whom she was not able to rise up: But when she had more strength, there’s a new Exhortation to use it; Shake thy self from the Dust, O Jerusalem; loose thy self from the Bands of thy Neck,Isa. lii.I. O thou captive Daughter of Zion.

In these two things you have the woful Temper of this People; They were stupid, and not to be imprest by a generous Argument; and tho’ it’s true, they had Strength and Capacity, yet it was all thrown away upon a lazy Nature, that would not use it. Issachar is a strong Ass couching down between two Burdens.

(2) We have the folly of their Behaviour, and are told, how soon they part with their Liberties. And here you meet with bondage in every Form and Shape. Here’s Oppression in all its Weight, he falls Edition: current; Page: [[247]] between two Burdens. Here’s a Slavery to his Person, his Shoulder is brought to bear what they lay upon Edition: 1983; Page: [9] him. Here’s Poverty in his Concerns, he becomes a Servant to Tribute; and here’s a Necessity for him to be Active in all this. Opression stupifies the Faculties, he couches down beneath his Burdens, he bows his Shoulder, he consents to be a Servant: What a Gulph of Perdition was this People sunk into? Whither will Tyranny lead those who have the Heart to follow it? Can we ever begin to stop too soon, when it will be so dreadful to have it too late?

1. You observe here what weight this Opression was laid on with: ’Twas not what Rehoboam threatned, the Heavines of a little Finger; but he couches down between two Burdens.

Some translate this between two Hills; and understand it of the Situation that Issachar had in the Land of Canaan: Others suppose that it referes to the Quarrels they might have with those Two Tribes that lay on each side of ’em; but the Words seem to tell us what a Load of Misery they had brought themselves under.

Tyrants, who know no Justice, will allow no Mercy; they never think their Grandeur advanc’d high enough; they’ll set no bounds to Lust of Empire, but let it rove in all the License of their own Fancy. Do not imagine that there’s any dealing with an Arbitrary Government. Laws are only shackles upon you, but no Rule to ’em.Jeb xxiv. 2, 3, Some remove Land Marks, they violently take away Flocks and Feed thereon, they turn the Needy out of the way, the Poor of the Earth hide themselves together: Behold as the wild Asses of the Desert they go forth to Work, rising betimes for a Prey, and it’s the tame Asses of the Villages that fall into their Hands: They cause the Naked to go without clothing, he hath no covering in the Cold; they pluck the Fatherless from the Breast and take a Pledge of the Poor; they take away the Sheaf from the Hungry: Men groan out of the City, and the Soul of the Wounded cries out.

Edition: 1983; Page: [10] If you would not couch down between Two Burdens, you must enter an effectual Protest against One:Isa. xlvi. 1, 2. For they that submit, will, in a little Time, be brought to that pass; Her Carriages were heavy loaden, they are a Burden to the weary Beast, they stoop, they bow down together, they could not deliver their Burden, but themselves are gone into Captivity. Thus did the Ammonites with the Men of Jabeth Gilead; tho’ the poor People would have submitted themselves unto ’em, yet they will allow of no easier Terms than thrusting out the right Eye,I Sam. xi. 2. and laying it as a Reproach upon all Israel. So unlimited did Benhadad take himself, in the Court of a Man, who had gone too far, in saying, My Lord, O Edition: current; Page: [[248]] King, I am thine, and all that I have: He does not only claim his Silver and Gold, but his Wives and Children; and would send his Servants the next Day to take out what was pleasant in their Eyes.

This made David rather chuse to fall into the Hands of God, than into those of Man: Not but that the former could have destroy’d him with more Expedition than the latter; but with the Lord there was Mercy, with Men there is none. And indeed the Process hath been very short; When once a Tyrant hath said your Laws were his, He hath soon come to affirm your Lives were so too. And therefore it’s the same thing being his Vassals,Hab. i. ult. and being his Cattle. All that you have pertaining to Life and Godliness, is thrown in as a Morsel to Casar: They take up all of them with the Angle, they catch them with their Net, and gather them in their Drag, therefore they rejoice and are glad; They will empty continually, and not spare to slay the Nations. And how unhappy must the Case of a People be who never know when they have done Suffering? Such a Government upon Earth resembles one of the worst Ideas that we have of Hell: where there is no Sacrifice for Sin, but a certain Edition: 1983; Page: [11] fearful looking for of more Judgment and new Indignation.

2. Their Persons were made vile and contemptible, they bow their Shoulders to bear. There are some Usages which God always reckon’d an Indignity to Human Nature. ’Tis for this reason that he limited the Number of Stripes that were to be given to the Malefactor, lest thy Brother seem vile to thee: And the Statute of Murder is laid out upon this ground, That in the Image of God made he Man. Such an Oppression did the Jews live under in Egypt; their Burdens were very grievous in the Brickilns, the Task-masters oblig’d them to their whole Quantity of Work tho’ they denied them Straw, and then punisht ’em for not doing what they knew to be impossible.

When this comes to be the Lot of such as give up their Liberties, the Justice of God calls for our Adoration; they that have lived in Pleasure and Vanity, are most likely to make a Sale of all that they have; they have eaten the Bread of Idleness, and, How righteous is it with Heaven to give ’em that of Sorrow? That they who are brought up in Scarlet, should embrace Dunghills? This is one Consequence of Slavery; and it fell heavily upon the Priests at Jerusalem, who might remember their Sin in their Punishment: They that us’d to lead the Blind,Lam. iv. 14. came to wander as blind Men in the Streets, and so polluted with Blood, that Men could not touch their Garments: The Anger of the Lord divided ’em, and he would no more regard ’em. An Absolute Government Edition: current; Page: [[249]] Swallows as fast as you can Give, and, What will this come to in time? But the hanging up of Princes by the Hand,Ch. v. 12, 13 not honouring the Faces of the Elders, taking the young Men to Grind, and making the Children fall under the Wood.

Edition: 1983; Page: [12] 3. It runs out into Poverty. This paying of Tribute, must be understood of excessive Taxes; Impositions that are enough to drain a Country: Not what a People consent to for their own Defence, but what are extorted from them. And then what signifies the Goodness of the Land, when the Profits are offer’d up as a Sacrifice to the Luxury of a Stranger. Thus hath a fruitful Land been brought into Barrenness. The Houses of the People were made a Dunghill; and they that have liv’d in the midst of Plenty, sought their Bread to relieve their Souls. They consent to the lowest Terms meerly to enjoy what Nature had made their own: We have given the Hand to the Assyrian to be satisfied with Bread; and, better are they that perish by the Sword,Lam. v. 6. than such as are stricken through for want of the Fruits of the Field: It was a dreadful Article in their Judgment, thine Enemy shall distress thee in all thy Gates.Deut. xxviii

4. That which makes the case deporable to the last degree is, that the People themselves concur in it, either through a Necessity, or the Habit of Bondage. They bow their own Shoulder to bear; and, by an unaccountable mixture of Choice and Force, become Servants to Tribute. When a Nation hath given up their Liberties, they do not only lose the Thing, but all the Taste they us’d to have of it.

And this may be consider’d both as a growing Vice, and a Stupidity that the righteous God hath sealed ’em up under. The Misery of such a Case hath this in it, that the People are never likely to remember from whence they are fallen or do their first Works; they sleep a perpetual sleep, and do not awake. ’Tis not a Damage that sets them a Thinking, or warms a powerful Zeal to recover what they have lost; but by a long Course of Subjection it becomes their own Act.

Edition: 1983; Page: [13] (3.) I’ll enquire into the Reasons they give for this neglect of ’emselves, or what it is they get in exchange for their Liberties; and you find there are two things that leave ’em under the power of this Infatuation.

1. What they reckon the Favour of the Enemy, They saw that Rest was good.

2. The natural Advantages of their Country, The Land it was pleasant.

1. They see that Rest is good; which shews us how their judgment Edition: current; Page: [[250]] is perverted, to suppose that there can be any such thing as Rest, while the Yoke of Tyranny hangs upon their Shoulders. Now, this Opinion hath its only Root in Cowardise and Laziness. They dread the noble Toil of War, tho’ the Hazards People run that way, are far from being equal to those of a slavish Temper, you can scarce lose so much by venturing, as you give away by submitting. Whilst the Jews resisted Sennacherib, they had what we call a Chance for it; but he tells them roundly, If they made an Agreement with him by Presents, it must end in his taking ’em away from their own Land. And is this the Rest wherewith they would cause the weary to lie down?Mic. ii. 10. Is this all that a People get by throwing themselves upon the Mercy of a Tyrant? We may well say, Arise and depart, this is not your Rest, because it’s polluted.

2. The Benefits of their Country was another thing that soften’d ’em into this Compliance, They saw that the Land was pleasant. They’d no mind to be carried off, because here was enough for their own Necessity, and for the Humour of him to whom they paid Tribute. But what a poor Argument is this? If the Place was so good, it deserved to be fought for;Neh. ix. 36, 37 If the Produce of Nature there was so great, ’tis pity that they should have All of the Profit who had None of the Pains. Thus they pleaded upon their Return out of Captivity, the Land that thou hast given to our Fathers, Edition: 1983; Page: [14] to eat the Fruit thereof, and the Good thereof, behold we are Servants in it; and it yields much Increase to the Kings whom thou hast set over us because of our Sins; also they have dominion over our Bodies, and over our Cattle at their pleasure, and we are in great Distress.

Thus have I laid out to you the former of these Characters, and shown you how poor a Figure Issachar made in the World. But,

II. We have an Account of better things in the Blessing that he pronounceth upon another Tribe. Dan shall judge his People like one of the Tribes of Israel; Dan shall be a Serpent by the Way, and an Adder in the Path, that bites his Horse’s Heels, so that his Rider falls backward; I have waited for thy Salvation, O Lord.

What is said of this brave People, is so plain a Reverse to the Meanness of the other, that a very little Enlargement will serve here.

1. He begins with a new sort of Language to give us the Description of these. What they did would be worthy the Name they derived from their Father; Dan shall judge his People like one of the Tribes of Israel.

2. We have the Measures that he will take in order to it; and that is, the Use both of his Policy and Courage: He is like a Serpent by Edition: current; Page: [[251]] the Way, and an Adder in the Path, and, rather than not be trampled on, he’ll bite the Horses Heels; he’ll undermine the Foundations of Tyranny, so that the Rider will fall backwards.

3. These noble Designs are what Jacob recommends to the Blessing of God, in that Prophetick Rapture, I have waited for thy Salvation, O Lord!

(1.) We have a general Honour put upon them. Dan shall judge his People like one of the Tribes of Israel. What judging of his People means I Edition: 1983; Page: [15] had occasion to show you the last Year; That it includes an Execution of their Laws, and a Defending of their Liberties from any that would oppress them. And this we find that Sampson did, who was of That Tribe, and paid less regard to an Enemy, in whose Country he lived, than any of the Judges. Now, do but consider how this is plac’d in a full Opposition to what was said of Issachar; and from thence you may collect, That those Rulers do not judge their People, who perswade ’em to bow down under Two Burdens: These are inconsistent with one another.

But what I would observe to you, is, the honourable Turn he gives this, That it’s doing like One of the Tribes of Israel: As if they that Neglect it were sunk below the Name. But Dan kept up the Dignity of his Family, and show’d that his Descent from so many Patriarchs was not in vain. Those antient Worthies, whom God had call’d out from the rest of the World, led him the way to it. One of the most remarkable Things that Abraham did in a publick Manner,Gen. xiii. was the taking of Five Kings Captive; tho’ the People, in whose Quarrel he mingled himself, are the first Rebels we read of: He had Armour ready for three hundred and eighteen Men, train’d up in his House. Upon his return from this Slaughter, Melchisedek, the Priest of the most high God, meets him, and gives him a solemn Blessing in His Name, who is the Possessor of Heaven and Earth. And tho’ it’s true, he refused to be made rich by the Spoils, yet the Right that he had to bring down and plunder so many Tyrants, appears from his paying Tythes to Melchisedek; for we cannot think that he would have brought Robbery for a Burnt Offering. Jacob recover’d a Part of the Land with his Sword, and his Bow out of the Hand of the Amorites; nay he had the Name of Israel given him in the Field of Battle, because by his Strength he laid hold of the Angel, Edition: 1983; Page: [16] and had Power both with God and Man, and prevailed: So that Cowardice, in any of his Posterity, was a departure from that noble Spirit their Fathers had been Eminent for.

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And especially, if you’ll consider ’em as a People set apart to the Worship of God, they were bound to run all Hazards in defending what he gave ’em. When they were frighted with the Anakims, faint-hearted, and durst not go on, it was acting so far below themselves, that he will scarce own ’em to be his People; but says, That it’s a Generation that do err in their Hearts, they knew not his Ways. Their Spirits had a wrong Turn, and he swore, That they shall never enter into his rest; And if they should allow an Enemy to break in upon the Land of their Possession, it was dishonourable to their Name: But Dan bears up the old Figure, and in judging of his People, is like one of the Tribes of Israel.

(2) Here are the Ways that he takes to do it. Where you may observe,

1. The Policy and Wisdom of this People: They are compar’d to Serpents and Adders.

2. Their Courage, or the Hazard they run: They’ll throw themselves into the Path, venture being crush’ed, rather than lose their End.

3. Their Resolution to have the Blessing whatever it cost ’em: If they can’t dismount a Tyrant by mere Force, they’ll bite his Horse’s Heels, so that the Rider shall fall backward.

1. They are represented as a wise and well-instructed People; a Serpent in the Way, an Adder in the Path. Doubtless Issachar thought it a good Prudential to humble themselves, and hold their Lives upon no other Tenure than the Will of a Prince; but this their Way was their Folly. Dan takes his Maxims as they rise from the plain Welfare of the Community: He’ll neither Edition: 1983; Page: [17] be hector’d nor wheedled out of his Privileges; he’ll lose ’em neither by War nor Treaty: As he’s Serpent enough to understand what’s best for him; so, like the Adder, he stops his Ears against the Voice of the Charmer, charming never so wisely.

Job xvii. 41. The want of such a Spirit, is the Presage of Ruin. Thou hast hid their Hearts from Understanding, therefore thou shalt not exalt them. Christ himself hath bid his People take to ’em the Wisdom of the Serpent; tho’ here I would not have you mistake this for the mere Wrigling of that Creature. Fraud and Artifice, lurking Ways, and lying Words, are as much below the Wisdom that will save a Nation, as they are against the Honesty that must save a Soul. Those Men that came to David, and had understanding of the Times, and knew what Israel ought Edition: current; Page: [[253]] to do, found that the Wisdom of the Serpent was consistent with the Innocence of the Dove.

2. Besides a Capacity to contrive what is best,Deut. xxxiii. 22. here’s a Courage to execute it. This is a Tribe that Moses speaks well of in the Blessing that he gave ’em. Dan is a Lyon’s Whelp, and he shall leap from Bashan. And we may observe a Character of that sort in the Verse before us, That he’ll venture himself as a Serpent in the Way, as an Adder in the Path; he’ll run the Hazard of being trampled under foot, rather than take up with the poor and scanty Terms that an Enemy gives him. ’Tis better being crush’d at once, than condemn’d to a miserable Existence: And these are things that will deliver a People over the Voice of Fame: The good Esteem and hearty Wishes of the World will be to such as offer themselves willingly, and jeopard their Lives in the high Places of the Field.

3. They are determin’d to have the Blessing at any Expence: Nor will they lose Things for Edition: 1983; Page: [18] want of meer Names and Forms; they’ll endeavour to bring down a Tyrant by his own Methods, if all the rest shall fail: And, when he designs to ride over Liberty and Religion, if they cannot stop his Career, they’ll break his Neck; the very Horse’s Heels, which should have ruin’d Them, shall receive the Wound that will prove fatal to Him. And indeed when a People are thus inclin’d to loose the Bands of their Capacity, it’s no very hard matter to humble the Wicked by the Measures they have taken. Violence and Iniquity do not so easily carry their Load, but, in a little time, their Rider may fall backward.

(3.) When Jacob hath thus describ’d his Son by the brave Measures that he’ll take, he commends the whole Design to the Blessing of God; I have waited for thy Salvation, O Lord.

Some imagine that the good old Patriarch was, at this time, almost spent upon his Deathbed with going so far as he had done; and in these Words he takes breath again: Others think there’s in them the Horror of that Idolatry that he saw the Tribe of Dan would run into. But if you’ll take ’em for a Pause, it’s a Sign, that what he had said of a people getting back their Liberties, was of so much Value with him, that his Soul can rest a while upon it, before he proceeds to the other Blessings.

Or, you may understand it, as several would do, for a personal Wish, Q. D. “Let me turn aside for a Moment from telling what will happen to you, and spend one Thought upon my self. You hear what Edition: current; Page: [[254]] Issachar will give up, and Dan retrieve; but these things belong to a World I am going from. There’s something nearer me than your prosperity; I have waited for thy Salvation, O Lord.” If Edition: 1983; Page: [19] you take it thus, it tells us,I Kings. 1, 2 That for good Men to know that they who come after ’em will be zealous for God, and truly concern’d for the Publick Interest, is One Cordial in a dying Hour; as David saith to Solomon, I go the way of all the Earth; but be thou strong, and show thy self a Man.

But I see no reason why the Salvation that he waited for, may not be connected to the ways that Dan would take in judging his People. And then it includes in it these three things.

1. His hearty Wishes to so good a cause, Q. D. “This will be thy Temper, and my Blessing go along with it. It’s what I think of with Pleasure, and in some of my last Breath commit thee to the Favour of Heaven: The God before whom my Fathers walkt, the Angel that redeem’d me from all Evil, establish the Work of thine Hand.”

And this we have had many Examples of; tho’ good People were just at the Gates of Glory, yet they could not take leave of those that stay’d behind, without a Testimony for the Cause they had been engag’d in: Which ought to be of the greatest Value with us, that such a Number of excellent Persons have died Praying for the Peace of our Jerusalem. They have spoke well of the Liberties of Mankind, when themselves were leaving all Things of that sort; and we cannot think that God would let ’em go out of the World, either with a Lye in their Mouths, or a Trifle in their Hearts.

2. When he adds, I have waited for thy Salvation; it may be understood as a Direction to those brave People, to tell ’em, they must hope for Success in a religious Way. Second Causes are employ’d; but the good old Man would let ’em know, That their Salvation is of the Edition: 1983; Page: [20] Lord: And if they will conquer in earnest, they must be a People that wait for it.

This comprehends the Duty that they owe to him, their Dependance upon his Care, their Jealousy for his Honour. The Profane, the Unclean, the Evil-doers do not come into the Number. If they have any hopes of being deliver’d, ’tis from something else, for God is not in all their Thoughts. They that use his Name without Reverance, and his People without Pity,Is. cxlix. 6. can’t think that he hath any Pleasure in their Ways. But Jacob would have them give all their Counsels and Attempts a serious Tincture, for when the high Praises of God are in their Mouths, it will add a Weight to the two edged Sword that is in their Hands.

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3. This seems to be an Act of his Faith in the Great Messiah;Luk. ii. 29, 30. for it’s under this Name that another good old Man receiv’d him: Lord, now lettest thou thy Servant depart in peace, for mine Eyes have seen thy Salvation. Nor could this be thought improper to mingle with the Zeal they had for Civil Liberties: It was by a Faith in him that the Elders obtained a good Report, in Subduing Kingdoms,Heb. xi. 33, 34. working Righteousness, stopping the Mouths of Lions, waxing valiant in Fight, and turning to fight the Enemies of the Aliens. The Believer hath in him the truest Courage. There’s nothing in any one Doctrine of Christianity that will tye up the Hands of an injur’d People. One that hath tasted that the Lord is gracious, must have Pity to the Desolations of Mankind. He can’t endure to see that Nature ruin’d by a Tyrant, that hath been honour’d by a Saviour.

And then, besides, as the Kingdom of a Messiah extends it self, it will proclaim Liberty to the Captives.Rev. xi. 18. It’s an Institution, as well as a Prophecy, that there shall be no hurting nor destroying in all his holy Mountain; and he is then said to take to himself his great Power and Reign, when he destroys them that destroy the Earth.

Edition: 1983; Page: [21] And, again, One that hath Faith in Jesus, is waiting for that time, when Kings shall shut their Mouths at him; Princes shall see and arise, and he’ll strike through Monarchs in the Day of his Wrath, and wrinch his Glory out of their Hands, who have taken it from him.

Again, waiting for this Salvation, prepares a Man for the Day of Battle. A Christian does not fight upon those Hazards that others do, who lose two Lives at once, that which drops in the Field, and that which is eternal. The believer in these Dangers takes himself to be fighting the good Fight, and keeping the Faith; and if his Course is at an end in this Attempt, it will be finish’d with Joy.

And thus have I set before you the two Tempers that distinguished these Tribes. Here’s Death, and Life, and Cursing, and Blessing: The Choice must now be your own Act. My Time hath suffer’d me to do little more than take the Words to pieces, and consider the Parts of ’em asunder; you’ll easily apply what you have heard these two ways.

1. Into a full Resentment of those Doctrines that would perswade you out of your Liberties upon the same Terms that Issachar parted with Theirs. ’Tis pity that humane Nature it self should be so far debased; but ’tis with an Aggravation that we see the Holy Name of Christ hath been blasphem’d; that those Mysteries must be our Choice, which was the Romans Abhorrence; as the Apostle saith in another Edition: current; Page: [[256]] case, it’s a Fornication not so much as nam’d among the Gentiles. Do not take it for a small matter, for at this Gap do they throw in all the Superstitions of Worship, their damnable Doctrines, as well as their cruel Measures. ’Tis by this means they’ll steal away your Religion, and fill the Nation with Darkness, and Blood.

2. This calls us up to the Praises of God, who deliver’d us from the Stupidity of Issachar, and inspir’d Edition: 1983; Page: [22] us with the Temper of Dan, at our Revolution.

I’m sensible, this Mercy hath had all the Regards that the Children of Israel gave to the Manna which fell from Heaven. At first we gather’d it, we tasted it, liv’d upon it, and reckon’d it Angels Food; now ’tis but light Bread, and we want Flesh to eat; nay, as it is said of Sodom, we are going out after strange Flesh: And I doubt not but the Parallel would hold further, that it must come as soon out of Our Nostrils, as it did out of Theirs. What they desir’d in their Lust, they enjoy’d with a Plague, for e’re it was chew’d, while it was yet between their Teeth, the Wrath of God fell upon ’em.

But I would recommend the great Things that He hath done for us, to your Value and Care; and this can be expressed in no better way, than by walking in the Light, while we have the Light; a Conversation that becomes the Gospel; an Aborrence of any thing that would mingle with your Religion, or defile your Practice; a Pity to the poor Protestants in France, upon whom the Clouds have return’d after the Rain; a having no Fellowship with the unfruitful Works of Darkness. And, whoever they are that have no Compassion for Blood, no Reverence for Leagues, O my Soul! come not thou into their Secret, unto their Assembly, mine Honour be not thou united; for in their Anger they slew a Man, and in their Self-will they dig down a Wall: Let such Counsel of the Wicked be far from me, I have waited for thy Salvation, O Lord.

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[22]: Nathaniel Niles 1741-1821

Two Discourses on Liberty

Niles was something of a universal man in the pattern of Benjamin Franklin but without matching Franklin’s productivity or acquiring his fame. Achieving little success with several inventions in his father-in-law’s Connecticut factory, he headed a party that settled new land along the Connecticut River, halfway to the north end of Vermont. From that base he preached and practiced a little medicine (though licensed to do neither), served eight terms in the Vermont legislature (augmenting three terms down at Hartford before he left Connecticut), occupied a succession of other offices, including three years as a Vermont Supreme Court judge, and made money from his farm. Niles delivered this sermon at the North Church in Newburyport on June 5, 1774, only a few weeks after the British closed the port of Boston. The people of Massachusetts were not sure how much support they would receive from elsewhere in the colonies, but they knew the reprisal for radical activity would cause hardship for the people of Boston—the center of revolutionary activity. In this setting Niles begins with a careful, insightful, and dispassionate analysis of liberty. He calls upon the traditional American values of frugality and simplicity to see them through hardship. Then, in the last seven pages, Niles builds a rhetorical masterpiece that has to be one of the best examples available for conveying a sense of that time in our history. Even today it is difficult not to feel the power of the words. For both analysis and rhetorical power this sermon is at least equal to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Only the first of the two discourses is reproduced here.

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As what was said in public on the following subjects, was delivered, almost entirely extempore, the author finds it impossible to give an exact copy. Those things however, on account of which, he apprehends, a copy was desired, have been carefully preserved. The particular expressions could not be recollected, but the ideas are not lost. Several new thoughts on the subject are interspersed.

The author’s general design is to awaken in his countrymen, proper sentiments and emotions, respecting both civil and spiritual liberty. The former, without the latter, is but a body without a soul.—As the copy is so suddenly called for, the first, rough draught, goes to the press; and the author doubts not, but many imperfections will be observed in the stile and manner; which however he trusts are less evils, than a delay at a time when every means, however imperfect, is needful, that may inspire a genuine spirit of true liberty. He feels that he wants those advantages which many others enjoy, for becoming entirely acquainted with the various branches of civil liberty.—The main ideas alone are attended to. The inquisitive mind will be able to draw a number of important consequences.

Edition: 1983; Page: [5] SERMONI.

I. Corrinth. Chap. VII. ver. 21.

Art thou called being a servant? Care not for it; but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

At first glance, it is certain, this text refers to a state of personal servitude, and extends to every instance of the same kind. It is also as clear that the Apostle exhorts the servant to prefer liberty. This proves that the inspired writer himself, prefered liberty to a state of servitude; for he would not exhort another to prefer what was not preferable in his own esteem. Now, if Paul esteemed personal liberty a valuable inheritance, he certainly esteemed the liberty of a community a far richer inheritance; for if one man’s enjoyment of it was a good, the enjoyment of two must be a greater good, and so on through the whole community. From the same manner of reasoning, the slavery of a community Edition: 1983; Page: [6] appears to be a proportionably greater evil than the slavery of an individual. Hence, we may observe from the text, that Civil Liberty is a great good.

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This is the proposition to which I ask your present hour’s attention, and if it should appear in the sequel to contain an important truth, you will not esteem it below the gospel preacher’s duty to explain and support it in public, especially at such a time as this, a time, at the very prospect of which, our generous fore-fathers would have wept in bitterness of soul. If civil liberty is a great good, it ought to be deemed one of the blessings of Heaven; these it is the preacher’s duty to illustrate, that we may feel the obligations they bring us under—that we may enquire whether we have improved them for the glory of the giver, and that we may know how to conduct toward them for the future. Be pleased then to give your candid, close, and serious attention, while I endeavour to explain the nature of civil liberty, and prove that it is a great good.

As it is much less difficult to point out the nature of true coin in general, than to determine whether any particular piece is genuine, or how far it differs from the perfect standard: So it is much easier to point out the general nature of civil liberty, than to say what degree of it enters into any particular civil constitution. Edition: 1983; Page: [7] It is therefore most natural to enquire, in the first place, concerning the general nature of liberty; and indeed it is as necessary as natural. For until we determine this question we have no rule by which we may estimate the quantity of liberty in any particular constitution: But when once we have found the standard, we shall be prepared to examine our own constitution, or any other, at pleasure, and to determine what part of the constitution should be supported, and what may be given up with safety. An enquiry into the nature of liberty in general, is also needful on another account. Without it we cannot see the force of any evidence that may be brought to evince the value of liberty itself.

That the subject may be fairly elucidated, I will endeavour to remove some mistakes by which it has been obscured. In doing this, I observe, that liberty does not consist in persons thinking themselves free. The Jews could say we were never in bondage to any man though they wore the Roman yoke at the very same time. Again, though a certain constitution should be contended for and supported by a majority of voices; yet this would be no sure evidence that it is free: Because an hundred may as truly tyrannize over one, as one over an hundred; or otherwise, the majority may be in favour of licentiousness. What but a love of licentiousness or tyranny, or both, Edition: 1983; Page: [8] can induce the heathen nations to approve of their several systems of government? Edition: current; Page: [[260]] What but these, could induce Saul and the men of Israel to persecute David and his handful? What but one or both of these drew down the fury of Sodom on Lot—of the Jews on the prophets—on Jesus Christ—on his Apostles and their followers. What but these ever raised any one of the many terrible persecutions under which the peaceable disciples of Jesus Christ have fallen from time to time? In all these instances the majority have been unfriendly to liberty.

Civil Liberty consists, not in any inclinations of the members of a community; but in the being and due administration of such a system of laws, as effectually tends to the greatest felicity of a state. Herein consists civil liberty, and to live under such a constitution, so administered, is to be the member of a free state; and he who is free from the censure of those laws, may fully enjoy all the pleasures of civil liberty, unless he is prevented by some defect, not in the constitution, but in himself.

If liberty consists in the being and administration of a civil constitution, different from such an one as has been mentioned, I must confess, my inference from the Apostle’s exhortation is not just. For certain it is, that Edition: 1983; Page: [9] so far as a constitution doth not tend, in the highest degree, to the greatest felicity of the state, collectively considered; it is a comparitive evil and not a good.

Where there is no system of laws, not liberty, but anarchy, takes place. Some degree of liberty may, indeed, exist where neither the constitution nor the administration of it is perfect. But in order to perfect freedom, the law must extend to every member of the community alike, both in its requisitions and prohibitions. Every one must be required to do all he can that tends to the highest good of the state: For the whole of this is due to the state, from the individuals of which it is composed. Every thing, however trifling, that tends, even in the lowest degree, to disserve the interest of the state must also be forbidden.

Originally, there were no private interests.* The world and all Edition: current; Page: [[261]] things in it, were the Edition: 1983; Page: [10] common interests of all the inhabitants, under God the great owner. Nothing is to be esteemed Edition: 1983; Page: [11] an interest any farther than it tends to good or is capable of being turned to the benefit of the possessor. But whatever has this Edition: 1983; Page: [12] tendency, or may be thus used, is properly termed an interest. According to this estimate, the term interest includes all those various offices Edition: 1983; Page: [13] and employments that are capable of being improved for the good of the community. There interests, being such as cannot be managed Edition: 1983; Page: [14] by the whole body collectively, are distributed among the individuals according as they appear in the eyes of the body politic, to Edition: 1983; Page: [15] be qualified to use them for the good of the whole. In this way every member becomes a servant to the state, and is a good or bad servant according to the manner in which he discharges the trust reposed in him. This is equally true of the King on the throne and the peasant in the field. The laws of a free state require each individual to use the public Edition: current; Page: [[262]] interests deposited in his hands, in every instance Edition: 1983; Page: [16] in that very manner that shall contribute more to the good of the community, without any particular reference to Governor or subject, rich or poor, high or low. While the laws require such a continual course of conduct in every member of the community, they as critically forbid every one to take from another that part of the public property which is committed to him; or to impede him in making the best use of it for the public, unless when the community see it best to deprive an individual of his place, and authorise another to do it in their name. In this manner the laws of a free state provide security for the particular properties of each individual member, or rather for the public interest deposited in the hands of individuals, by denouncing such penalties on every offender as are exactly adequate to his offence. There must be an exact proportion between the offence and the penalty. Where there is no such proportion, or equality, liberty is infringed, because Edition: current; Page: [[263]] the law is partial, as it will injure, either the public, by not giving it its due, or the offender, by inflicting a greater evil than he deserves. In this case there must be no distinctions, made by the law, between persons of different characters and stations, only as those different characters and stations may give the same criminal action different degrees of aggravation. A criminal action is more criminal in a person who fills an elevated place, than in one Edition: 1983; Page: [17] of a more humble condition; because it has a more detrimental aspect on the state. For this reason, the offences of the great should be punished with greater indignity and severity, than the crimes of persons in low life. In a perfectly free state, friendship to the community will be as carefully noticed as an offence. Punishment will not be more exactly alloted to the transgressor, than adequate rewards to the faithful subject. The farmer, the seaman, the mechanic, the merchant, and the practitioner of such of the learned professions as belong to the state, are directed Edition: current; Page: [[264]] by the community, in effect, to reward each other by an exchange of labour, or commodities. While those servants of the state, who are employed in managing the reins of government, are rewarded by a collection from the whole, an equality to which, is returned in the happy effects of legislation and executive justice. At the same time that the laws make due provision for an equal distribution of rewards among the faithful servants of the state, both of higher and lower rank, they make as full provision for the infliction of penalties on every class alike. They render it as easy to bring a royal offender to trial,—to procure an impartial sentence against him, and to inflict deserved punishment, as in the case of the meanest subject.

In such a state, the laws extend to all the members of the society alike, by making an Edition: 1983; Page: [18] impartial estimate of every offence, but as it is best in all communities, that some offenders should be pardoned, for special reasons, and that others should be punished; those same laws will lodge a power of determining the alternative with some one, whose capacity and integrity are equal to such a trust, so that the community may suffer no harm.

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A good foundation for liberty is laid in such a constitution, but its whole worth lies in due administration. Perfect liberty takes place where such a constitution is fully administered: But where the administration is imperfect, liberty is likewise imperfect. In a perfectly free state, both the constitution, and the administration of it, are full of propriety, equality, and equilibrium.

These I take to be the out-lines of genuine liberty, which, by a proper application, may assist us in our enquiries after the degree of liberty enjoyed by any particular state.

Indeed, the circumstances and occurrences, that attend human states are so numerous, extensive, and uncertain, that no one man, or body of men, can foresee and improve them all to the greatest advantage. Hence, it frequently happens, that we cannot ascertain the degree of liberty enjoyed by a community, by comparing the particular parts of a constitution, or the administration of it, with the abstract notion of liberty; Edition: 1983; Page: [19] for we see but a small part of the whole system. Our views are very partial. This is the case not only of individual subjects, but the body of government, itself, cannot, compleatly, comprehend the whole. Some degree of partial oppression is, therefore, to be expected in every human state, even, under the wisest administration. We may, however, determine, in some instances, whether liberty is unnecessarily infringed or not. When we see the body of a community plundered for the sake of indulging individuals in pride, luxury, idleness and debauchery,—when we see thousands rewarded with pensions, for having either devised, or attempted to execute some scheme for plundering a nation, and establishing despotism, we cannot be in doubt whether some horrid attack is not made on liberty.

We may reason thus in a few particular instances; but, in general, we must form our judgments by considering the various dispositions of mankind, and by noticing their various operations and effects, in various circumstances. We must turn our attention to the facts that have already taken place; and may reasonably conclude, that the same causes will always produce the same effects, unless something special prevents. One general inference from the whole will be, that liberty is much rather to be expected in a state where a majority, first, institutes, and then varies the constitution Edition: 1983; Page: [20] according as they apprehend circumstances require, than in any other.

Other things being equal, a majority has a more general and distinct knowledge of the circumstances, and exigencies of a state than Edition: current; Page: [[266]] a minority; and, of consequence, is more able to judge of what is best to be done. Add to this, that private interest is the great idol of the human mind; and, therefore, when a majority unite in any measures, it is to be supposed, they are such measures as are best calculated to secure the particular interests of the members of that majority; and, consequently, the general interests of the body are more effectually provided for, in this way, than by the security of the private interests of any minority whatever. And if the maxims adopted by the majority are general, both in their nature and extent, it is to be supposed, they will prove as salutary to the members of the minority as to those of the majority, and, consequently, to the whole body. Hence, though liberty is not necessarily, nor invariably connected with the voice of a majority; yet, it is much more likely to be found in connection with such a voice, than with that of a minority. Indeed, there is in general, no reason to expect liberty where a majority is counteracted, and, on the contrary, we may hope for some good degree of it, where a majority governs.

It is only on these maxims, that the present Edition: 1983; Page: [21] British monarch can be exculpated from the several charges of rebellion, treachery, and usurpation, and on these, the glorious revolution in favour of the house of Hanover is perfectly justifiable.

Let us now attend a little, to a few particulars that may serve to excite in us some more adequate ideas of the worth of civil liberty. Indeed, none but an omniscient mind can fully comprehend, and exactly estimate the true worth of this blessing, in its various consequences, effects, and inseparable concomitants, as they take place on various occasions. Our views of this subject may, however, be greatly enlarged and rendered much more distinct than they generally are.

That civil liberty is of great worth, may be infered from the conduct of God towards the Jewish nation. He promised them freedom from the oppression of their enemies as a testimony of his favour in case of their obedience; and as a chastisement for their disobedience, he threatned them with a state of servitude. From this it is certain that the omniscient God himself, esteems liberty a great blessing. The Israelites were taught by him to set their hearts much on liberty, and to avoid slavery with great caution, constancy and vigour.

It was observed that liberty has its rise in Edition: 1983; Page: [22] such a constitution as tends to the highest good of a community, and that the due Edition: current; Page: [[267]] administration of such a constitution affords a state of freedom. Hence, the bare idea of liberty discovers it to be an inestimable good, for whatever tends to the highest good of great numbers, must, undoubtedly, be an invaluable treasure. In this view liberty is an inexhaustable fountain, which, under God, sends forth an endless variety of such streams, as are both pleasant and salutary. I will instance in a few particulars. When we enjoy liberty, and are sure of its continuance, we feel that our persons and properties are safely guarded by her watchful eye, her impartial disposition and her powerful arm. This excites to industry, which tends to a competency of wealth. The vassal, on the other hand, having no security of his present possessions, or for those he might obtain, concludes so uncertain a prize is not worth the seeking, and therefore will do no more than barely serves to silence the clamours of necessity from day to day.

In such a situation, every bias of the human mind tends to idleness and poverty. Even generosity itself will sink into inactivity and indolence; because it loaths a connection between tyranny and wealth, and therefore refuses, will do nothing that might establish such a connection, by strengthening a tyrannical state. Liberty not only removes every obstruction Edition: 1983; Page: [23] out of the way of industry, frugality and wealth, but rouses even indolence to action, and gives honest, laborious industry a social, sprightly, cheerful air; but in a state of slavery, sloth hangs heavily on the heels of dumb, sullen, moross melancholy. Industry and frugality spring from the same source, and are spontaneously productive of temperance. The former moderates the appetites, while the latter forbids unnecessary expence. This triple alliance is the natural parent of decent conversation and courteous behaviour. They calm the passions and urge even pride and avarice to mimic humanity, and every generous sentiment. By these and such means, they, both enable and dispose us to fulfill our contracts* with exactness, and to give us credit with our neighbours, Edition: current; Page: [[268]] and lay a foundation Edition: 1983; Page: [24] for public confidence. In this manner liberty renders political virtue fashionable, and tends to diffuse public spirit. It discountenances disorder, and every narrow disposition. Thus the mind is fortified on all sides, and rendered calm, resolute, and stable. Industry and temperance give health to the body, and render it fit for the residence and operations Edition: 1983; Page: [25] of such a soul. In a nation raised to such a pitch of vigor, firmness, health and opulence, all the natural means of defence are collected, and to such the arts of war will be an easy acquisition. These united, will prove a bulwark against every assault of lawless power, whether foreign or domestic. In such a state, a free people will enjoy composure of soul and their taste will become refined. The study of the fine arts will follow of consequence, and, after these, a long train of science. Industry, frugality, and a curious turn naturally invent and perfect the useful arts. What is more than all, liberty secures the rights of conscience, by protecting every member of the state in the free exercise of his religion, unless it be such a religion as is inconsistent with the good of the state. The first effects of liberty, on the human mind, are calmness, serenity and pleasing hope, and all the various fruits of liberty produce the same happy effects. Thus liberty, first divides itself, as it were, into various streams; which, at length, all meet together again in soothing sensations and sweet emotion of soul. The pleasure that springs from liberty is the life of every other enjoyment, and the importance of it in a single Edition: current; Page: [[269]] instance is vastly great, too great to be conceived of, unless on a sudden transition from a state of refined freedom, to that of the most abject slavery. How great then must be the collective happiness that a community derives from Edition: 1983; Page: [26] a state of perfect freedom? I confess liberty never has been enjoyed in perfection by any of the nations of the earth; but this by no means affects the foregoing estimate. For, from the small degree of liberty, with which we are acquainted, the consequences of perfect liberty may be justly inferred. Nor is the imperfection of liberty, as it hath taken place in the world, any discouragment to the pursuit of it. The more we can obtain, the greater will be our enjoyment. Each degree of liberty is a precious pearl.

When we would learn how much any thing tends to happiness, we must view it with reference to the taste of the person in whom the happiness is supposed to take place. So, the happy tendency of liberty cannot be seen, unless it be viewed as terminating on some particular disposition in him by whom it is enjoyed. Liberty is so illy calculated to give pleasure to either a tyrannical, or, licentious spirit, that it proves a galling curb to both. A free spirit,—a spirit that is consonant to a free constitution;—a spirit that seeks the highest good of a community, in its proper place,—this, and this only, can extract and taste all the sweets of liberty. If we would learn how great a tendency liberty has to produce happiness, we must consider it in such circumstances as give it an opportunity to do good.

Let us then, for once, imagine a state whose Edition: 1983; Page: [27] members are all of a free spirit; and then attend to the glory and pleasures of liberty. The individuals are all of one mind. They unite in the same grand pursuit, the highest good of the whole. Only suppose all the members of such a state to be acquainted with the best means of promoting their general end; and we shall see them all moving in perfect concert. The good of the body will be their first aim. And in subserviency to this, they will impartially regard the particular interests of individuals. You and I shall perfectly unite in our regard for your interest and for mine. Your interest will not be the more dear to you, nor the less so to me, because it is yours. In these circumstances, there would be no room for the emotions of any of the angry painful passions; but, on the contrary, every soft and pleasing affection of every soul, would be called forth into vigorous and harmonious exercise. Every individual would choose to move in his proper sphere, Edition: current; Page: [[270]] and that all others should move in theirs. This would at once constitute pure felicity, and exalted beauty. How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity: Such a state of things, in the little community of a single family, must be productive of great good. But should it take place throughout a nation, each family would enjoy the same good from its own domestic circumstances, beside the far greater pleasure which would accrue to each individual from a consideration of the same happy condition of the whole.

Edition: 1983; Page: [28] Should it be said, that such a scheme as has been mentioned is merely chimerical and romantic; because there never has been, nor ever will be such a general state of mind on earth; I would say, the same objection is equally strong against the worth of a state of perfect holiness. Such a state has never taken place, in perfection, in this world, nor will it hereafter; but must we therefore suppose that holiness is of no worth? The reason why we do not experience all the pleasures of liberty, that have been mentioned, is, not any defect in liberty, but the perverseness of our selfish hearts, which prevents our pursuit and enjoyments of the delights of perfect liberty. Liberty still remains a blessing too great to be compared with any other earthly good.

The thoughts that have been suggested in this discourse, open to us the nature of good government in its several branches. A legislature is denominated good, from the goodness of its laws, or, from the tendency of the laws made by it to produce the highest good of the community. In exact proportion to this tendency of the laws, is the legislature to be esteemed good:—The goodness of executive government, consists in its due administration of the laws already made. It is for the good of the community alone, that laws are either to be made or executed. So that,

Good government is not inconsistent with Edition: 1983; Page: [29] liberty. Perfect liberty and perfect government are perfectly harmonious, while tyranny and licentiousness are inconsistent with both. Yea farther,

Good government is essential to the very being of liberty. Remove good government and you remove liberty. Abridge the former and you abridge the latter. Let good government encrease and you encrease liberty. These can never be separated in any degree. Their rise and fall is exactly uniform. Hence,

The impropriety of saying of a person, that he is a friend to government, but not to liberty; and of another, that he is a friend to Edition: current; Page: [[271]] liberty, but not to government, appears to be very gross. Indeed one man may be a friend to tyranny and not to liberty, but then he is as truly an enemy to government. Another may be a friend to licentiousness and not to government; but then he is as truly an enemy to liberty; and both, for this plain reason, that good government in a state, and the liberty of that state, are one and the same thing. This suggests another idea, which is, that

He who infringes on liberty rebels against good government, and ought to be treated as a rebel. It matters not what station he fills; he is a traitor; his treachery is, however, more or less aggravated in proportion to his state and condition. He that fills an elevated station Edition: 1983; Page: [30] is proportionably more criminal in the same rebellion, than those in a lower state; and where a man proves false to confidence reposed in him, his treachery is still more base and detestable. Because his exaltation puts it into his power to do greater injury to the state than could possibly be done by an inferior.

It is equally true, that every kind and degree of opposition made against good government is an ebullition of licentiousness.* The man that rises up against good government is an enemy to liberty, a tyrant in heart, and they who are discontented and fretful under it are of the same cast.

If liberty is such a thing, and so great a blessing as it has been represented, it is, certainly, a rich tallent that Heaven has been pleased to entrust with every man, and it undoubtedly becomes all to be constantly, and thoroughly awake to a sense of their duty respecting it. We are too ready to fancy, that when once we have appointed legislators, and Edition: 1983; Page: [31] given them charge of this inestimable treasure, we need give ourselves no farther concern about it. But this is not our whole duty. We are all stewards, to whom the God of nature has committed this talent. The design of appointing a few individuals to government, is not to free the rest from their obligations but to assist them in the discharge of their duty, in the same manner that ministers of the gospel are to assist their hearers in those duties that respect the Edition: current; Page: [[272]] care of their souls. Communities ought therefore to keep an impartial and watchful eye on government. They are urged to do so, by a consideration of the avaricious, and aspiring dispositions of mankind in general, and the peculiar opportunities and temptations that Governors have to indulge them. In these latter ages of the world, after it has been found by several thousands years experience, that such as have been made the guardians of liberty, have in almost every instance, where it was thought practicable, endeavoured to make themselves masters, instead of continuing stewards of the community; in these days, I say, we are more distinctly, sensible, and frequently called on to watch the conduct of government. Liberty is not an absolute right of our own, if it were, we might support, and guard, or neglect it at pleasure. It is a loan of heaven, for which we must account with the great God. It is therefore, as unreasonable for us to place an unlimited Edition: 1983; Page: [32] confidence in any earthly ruler, as to place such a confidence in our spiritual ministers and depend wholly on them to settle our final account with the holy judge of the universe.

I do not mean that we should, as individuals, undertake to dictate to our rulers, or oppose them by force whenever we judge they act a wrong part. This would be utterly unreasonable, for surely we have at best, no better right to usurpation than they. What I mean is, that we should all endeavour to turn the attention of our fellow members of the community on the conduct of our rulers. We should notice and compare it with the standard of right and wrong ourselves; and excite others to do so likewise. We should endeavour on every alarming occasion, to collect the sentiments of the body, and vigorously pursue those measures that are thought the most salutary for the whole.

It becomes us, with united hearts, to make a firm stand against every attempt to wrest the jewel from us, either by force or fraud:—The present state of things is very alarming. In the view of the most simple common sense, we are now called on—men, women and children are called on to struggle for the preservation of those rights of mankind which are inexpressibly dear. Let us then rouse and exert ourselves to the utmost, on the present occasion. But you ask me. What shall we do? Edition: 1983; Page: [33] Shall we renounce the authority of our gracious sovereign? Shall we take up arms against his troops? What shall we do?

I answer, By no means. Do not suffer the thought of renouncing Edition: current; Page: [[273]] our king’s authority, so much as to turn in your mind; rather, be ready to shed your blood in defence of your rightful sovereign and his high office. Never let us think of entering on a civil war, unless the Pretender, or some other usurper should attempt to dethrone the British parent of his people. But should this be the case, then let the world see that their king is dearer to the Americans than their blood.

Though the time has been when our countrymen, but an handful, were obliged to defend themselves against thousands of the native savages; by dint of arms; yet, notwithstanding, a cloud, in some respects, much heavier than that, lowers over us at present; such is the kindness of our God, that, humanly speaking, it is in the power of America to save both herself and Great-Britain from total destruction, and that without a single hostile stroke. Nothing more than piety and oeconomy are necessary, and in these, every age and character may unite. The pious supplications of the stammering child will as effectually reach the ear of our God, and be as acceptable to him, as the most elegant address. A thousand things may intercept our petitions on their way to an earthly monarch; Edition: 1983; Page: [34] but a combination of all our enemies in earth and hell cannot prevent a pious wish in its flight to Heaven; and let us remember, that the effectual fervent prayers of the righteous avail much. We have sought in vain for relief from our parent state—from our King. And if salvation has not come from our gracious sovereign King George, we cannot expect it from the hills. We must look still higher. Instead of railing against man let us notice and imitate the example of Michael who railed not against the devil himself. David, said, of Shimei, let him curse for the Lord hath bidden him. He saw, he had deserved so illy at God’s hand, that it was no wonder, he had brought such a punishment on him. He, therefore, accepted it willingly at the hand of God; while he was not insensible to the wickedness of Shimel. It becomes us, likewise, to notice the hand of God, and settle it in our minds, that evil springs not out of the ground,—that there’s no evil in the city which the Lord hath not done. Under such views, let us all, like Daniel of old, piously pour out our hearts before God, acknowledging our own sins, and those of our people. Meanwhile, let us encourage no practice, in ourselves or others, that tends to enslave our country. Let us learn to live in the plain manner of our fore-fathers. It is high time for us to reform. We have had a rich inheritance and wasted it in riotous living. Let us soon return to our father’s house, least we be reduced to the Edition: current; Page: [[274]] want, even of husks to eat. These are the Edition: 1983; Page: [35] only expedients that seem needful at present, But if we will risque our country for the sake of a few superfluities, posterity may curse our pride and luxury, and the present generation may find that death and carnage will terminate their folly. And should this be the case we must charge the horrid scene to our own misconduct.—If any should say, it is in vain for them as individuals to be vigilant, zealous and firm in pursuing any measures for the security of our rights, unless all would unite: I would reply.

Ages are composed of seconds, the earth of sands, and the sea of drops, too small to be seen by the naked eye. The smallest particles have their influence. Such is our state, that each individual has a proportion of influence on some neighbour at least; he, on another, and so on; as in a river, the following drop urges that which is before, and every one through the whole length of the stream has the like influence. We know not, what individuals may do. We are not at liberty to lie dormant until we can, at once, influence the whole. We must begin with the weight we have. Should the little springs neglect to flow till a general agreement should take place, the torrent that now bears down all before it, would never be formed. These mighty floods have their rise in single drops from the rocks, which, uniting, creep along till they meet with another combination so small that it might be absorbed by the travellers foot. Edition: 1983; Page: [36] These unite, proceed, enlarge, till mountains tremble at their sound. Let us receive instruction from the streams, and, without discouragment, pursue a laudable plan. But,

Is it not to be feared, that an appetite for the leeks and onions, is the source of our difficulty? The ungenerous language of the objector seems to be, “I could wish to see my country happy, but if the fates have determined its destruction I will not forgo my share of the booty.”

It is great, it is glorious, to espouse a good cause, and it is still more great and glorious in such a cause to stand alone. It is great and glorious to outbrave the reproach of the base. Should all our countrymen forsake us, perseverance would be an honour, and the honour will rise as the number of our adherents is diminished.

Let us therefore, vigorously pursue prudent measures in the present alarming state of things. Then, should it please the righteous disposer of all, to reduce us to the most abject slavery, we shall at Edition: current; Page: [[275]] least, have the consolation to think, that we are in no part chargeable with having riveted chains on our country, and the blessing of a clear conscience is incomparably better than the greatest temporal interest and worldly applause.

This has been a land of liberty. We have enjoyed that blessing in a great degree for a long time. It becomes us now to reflect on Edition: 1983; Page: [37] our ingratitude to the giver. When he has wrought salvation for us, on one occasion and another, how have we expressed our thankfulness? By bonfires, illuminations, revellings, gluttony and drunkenness. Would not a stranger have thought us worshipers of the whole race of the heathen deities, rather than of that God, who is a spirit, and who seeketh such to worship him, as do it in spirit and in truth?

We have boasted of our liberty, and free spirit. A free spirit is no more inclined to enslave others than ourselves. If then it should be found upon examination that we have been of a tyrannical spirit in a free country, how base must our character appear! And how many thousands of thousands have been plunged into death and slavery by our means?

When the servant had nothing to pay, and his master had frankly forgiven him all, and he had gone and cast his fellow servant into prison, there to remain till he should pay the last farthing; the master justly punished his ingratitude and severity with the like imprisonment. Hath not our conduct very nearly resembled the conduct of that servant? God gave us liberty, and we have enslaved our fellow-men. May we not fear that the law of retaliation is about to be executed on us? What can we object against it? What excuse can we make for our conduct? What reason can we urge why our oppression shall not be repaid in Edition: 1983; Page: [38] kind? Should the Africans see God Almighty subjecting us to all the evils we have brought on them, and should they cry to us, O daughter of America who art to be destroyed, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us; happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones; how could we object? How could we resent it? Would we enjoy liberty? Then we must grant it to others. For shame, let us either cease to enslave our fellow-men, or else let us cease to complain of those that would enslave us. Let us either wash our hands from blood, or never hope to escape the avenger.

To conclude, unless we adopt some prudent decisive measures in humble dependance on God; we have reason to fear some almost Edition: current; Page: [[276]] unparallelled calamity. If we do not exert ourselves: It would not be strange, should a military government be established, and popery triumph in our land. Then, perhaps those, who want fortitude to deny themselves some of the superfluities of life, may see their husbands and sons slain in battle, their daughters ravished, their wives ript up, their children dashed against the wall, and their pious parents put to the rack for the religion of Jesus. Now is the decisive moment. God sets before us life and death, good and evil, blessing and cursing, and bids us choose. Let us therefore choose the good and refuse the evil, that we may live and not die.

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[23]: Monitor

To the New Appointed Councellors, of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay

During the colonial era there had been a struggle between the crown-appointed governors and the popularly elected legislatures in the colonies. Gradually the elected representatives had won the upper hand, but the governors continued to fight back. One tool they had was to appoint prominent colonists to a privy council or quasi-legislative body that functioned almost as an upper house. In 1774 the crown moved to make this creature of the governor function more like the House of Lords, a true second legislative body. This piece in the Massachusetts Spy of August 18, 1774, is typical of the response.


As most of you are new men in state affairs, and are, notwithstanding, men whom a British administration have selected to fill an important department in the government of this Province, which without ever consulting the people they have presumed to new model. in order, as they say, to give it a greater conformity to the constitution and government of Great-Britain, I hope to be indulged in laying down principles whose notoriety might be supposed to render their repetition disgustful; but principles which, it seems have had little weight with you in the present awful transaction wherein you have had but too great a share for your present honor or future quiet. And as I cannot presume that each individual of you either have taken, or will take the pains to revolve a great many books I shall chiefly refer you to the learned author of the commentaries on the Laws of England* for the Edition: current; Page: [[278]] fundamentals I propose to offer for your consideration; the authority of whom I presume you will hardly be disposed to dispute.

This celebrated jurist tells you [in] vol. I p. 52. that “a state is a collective body, composed of a multitude of individuals united for their safety and convenience, and intending to act together as one man. If it is therefore to act as one man, it ought to act by one uniform will;” and this will once determined and declared is “understood by law.” The form of the agreement of this multitude of individuals, wherein their particular wills are joined together in order to produce that one uniform will which is understood to be law, is commonly called the civil constitution, of the States. In the Island of Great-Britain, there have for many ages been ranks of men very different from each other in point of fortune, education, etc. which however settled down into the general divisions of Lords and Commons. The Lords having commonly a great share of property and many persons subject to their command and directions, whether as vassals, tenants, etc. and also being persons of leisure and opportunity to acquaint themselves with the relations, rights and interests of men in society; and further being but moderately numerous, and capable of sustaining the expence of attending to the conventions needful for that purpose, have chosen to retain the privilege of declaring their sense of any measure proposed to regulate the conduct of society, and have from time immemorial, had such weight in the state that their joint opposition to any such proposed measure was sufficient to prevent its passing into a law. In this body resides the aristocracy of Great Britain, wherein the superior wisdom, power and independency of the state was for many ages gloriously conspicuous. “The commons, says the same great lawyer, consist of all such men of any property in the kingdom, as have not seats in the House of Lords; every one of which has a voice in parliament, either personally or by his representatives.” For justly, observes he, “In a free state, every man, who is supposed a free agent, ought to be, in some measure his own governor; and therefore a branch at least of the legislative power should reside in the whole body of the people.” And here is the democracy or legal power of the people of Great-Britain.

The happy Agrarian constitution of New-England, having prevented any such distinction as Lords and Commons, the cultivators Edition: current; Page: [[279]] being in general the Lords of the soil, the whole power of the state, besides what is stipulated to reside in the Governor, must reside in the freemen of the province.

This, gentlemen, you will find fully warranted by our charter, which entitles the grantees to all the liberties and immunities of free and natural subjects of the crown of Great-Britain to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever. If you say the late act of parliament has annulled this clause of the charter, I acknowledge Lord North intended it should; but if every individual freeman ought to be so much his own governor, as that the smallest regulations of his conduct shall not pass into a law without his consent, surely a law that overthrows the whole civil constitution of his country cannot on this principle be supposed to pass into a law capable of binding him. The most ignorant among you must know that this is an absurdity of so glaring a nature, and so fatal in its consequences, that a submission to it at once gives up all that weight which the wisdom, the valour, the property, the probity of the subject in possession of his constitutional negative power has to secure him against any innovation imposed on him by the crown. And what says the great author, before quoted, of the state of a people where the equipoise of their legislative power, or sovereignty is lost? “If the supreme power were lodged in any one of the three branches separately, we must then be exposed to all the inconveniences of absolute monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy; and so want two of the three principal ingredients of good polity, either virtue, wisdom or power. If it were lodged in any two branches; for instance in the King and House of Lords, our laws might be providently made, and well executed, but might not always have the good of the people in view.” Now, gentlemen, please but to follow our authority to the bottom of the page quoted, and he tells you, “for if ever it should happen that the independence of any one of the three should be lost, or that it should become subservient to the views of the other two, there would soon be an end of our constitution. The legislature would be changed from that which was originally set up by the general consent and fundamental act of society”: And such a change however effected, is according to Mr. Locke (he might have added Vatell and many others) at once an entire dissolution of the bonds of government; and the people are thereby reduced to a state of anarchy, with liberty Edition: current; Page: [[280]] to constitute to themselves a new legislative power, Can you pretend that even a shadow of independence pertains to an aristocracy creable and extinguishable at mere pleasure? If abeting the dissolution of the bonds of government in the subversion of the civil constitution of your country be an evidence of piety, you have certainly a solid claim to the character. If hardly one in ten of you can boast a descent from persons above the rank of shopkeepers and mechanics, where is the lordly, the noble blood which should distinguish you from the common mass of the common people? If you can expose yourselves to the resentment of millions, as the authors of their ruin and misery, and the intailment of slavery on their innocent and numberless posterity, barely for the title of honourable, even admitting the addition of a trifling salary, your claim to any considerable portion of wisdom, will be disputed by some persons, if not the bulk of mankind. Your valour may indeed be put to trial, but remember, it will not be on the side the valour of those nobles was exerted, who forced from a worthless tyrant the acknowledgment of the unalienable rights of Englishmen. Your property, and I may add your personal security, will soon stand on a firm foundation, when like Agrippa the favourite general of Augustus, you have established a power which determines all questions of property, and even life itself, by a sic volo! Were none but you and your families concerned in the event, I would pity the latter, but with little regret behold such abettors of despotism, wringing out the dregs of the cup they had traitorously combined to mingle for their betters. Read but the history of that unfortunate man and tremble at the fate of, not only him, but thousands and tens of thousands, whom avarice and ambition have plunged them in merited and exemplary ruin; always remembering that hostis patria est felo de se.

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[24]: Gad Hitchcock 1718-1803

An Election Sermon

Born in western Massachusetts and educated for the ministry at Harvard, Gad Hitchcock must have been near-perfectly designed for the course in life that he pursued. Called to serve as the first pastor of a newly organized Congregational church in Pembroke, on the outskirts of Boston, Hitchcock rejected all appeals to move to larger and wealthier congregations as his fame spread throughout New England. Acclaimed for his knowledge of the Bible, history, and theological literature; for the vigor and eloquence of his sermons; for the charity inherent in the gospel he preached; for courage repeatedly displayed and a natural wit that he could not suppress—publicized among clergy and laity for these and other natural gifts and cultivated qualities,—Gad Hitchcock might have come out first in any polling to name the most loved and admired pastor of his place and his time. When the invitation came to deliver the annual election sermon selected for printing here, Hitchcock did not know that he would be addressing General Thomas Gage, newly appointed governor of Massachusetts, accompanied by shiploads of British troops and instructed to straighten out the rebellious colonials. It is doubtful that Hitchcock flinched when he got this bit of news; it is certain that he laid it on the line when the hour came to speak his mind. “The people,” he declared, “are the only source of civil authority on earth.” The axiom, announced early in his sermon, was elaborated with reiteration, expansion, and justification; how convincingly enunciated can be determined by a reading. The new governor and commander of the watchdog forces heard him through, but a notable number (perhaps an unprecedented number) of the audience not charged with public duties walked out. Referring later to the unexpected exodus, Hitchcock remarked that it appeared to have been a moving sermon.

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An Election-Sermon

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

This is the observation of a wise ruler, relative to civil government; and the different effects of administration, according as it is placed in good or bad hands—and it having been preserved in the sacred oracles, not without providential direction, equally for the advantage Edition: 1983; Page: [6] of succeeding rulers, and other men of every class in society; it will not be thought improper by any, who have a veneration for revelation, and the instruction of princes, to make it the subject of our present consideration—Especially as our civil rulers, in acknowledgment of a superintending Providence, have invited us into the temple this morning, to ask counsel of God in respect to the great affairs of this anniversary, and the general conduct of government.

Accordingly, I shall take occasion from it—to make a few general remarks on the nature and end of civil government—point out some of the qualifications of rulers—and then apply the subject to the design of our assembling at this time.

First, I shall make a few remarks on the nature and end of civil government.

The people mentioned are a body politic—but whether the speaker had the Jewish state more especially in view; or, as is most probable, any civil society or kingdom on earth, is a point we need not precisely determine.—On either supposition, civil government is represented as being Edition: 1983; Page: [7] already established among them—rules framed, and consented to, for the conduct of it—proper officers appointed, and vested with authority, on this constitutional basis, to make and execute such laws, in future, as should be found necessary; the public security and welfare being their grand object.—This, at least, appears to be the most just and rational idea of government that is founded in compact; as, I suppose, all governments, notwithstanding later usurpations, originally were; and if the compact, in early ages, hath not always been expressed; yet it has been necessarily implied, and understood, both by governors, and the governed, on their entering into society.

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To this rise of government, the Hebrew polity, so far as it related only to civil matters, is not to be considered as an exception.—For although God, a most perfect Governor, for wise reasons, and as a distinguished favor, condescended to become the political head of the Jewish state; yet he did not think proper to exercise his absolute right of government over them, without the consent of the people.

Edition: 1983; Page: [8] And when they had foolishly and wickedly determined to give up this form of government, which was so wisely calculated for the public advantage, and substitute another in its room; their alwise and beneficent Governor did not see fit to exert his omnipotence to prevent it: Nor did he, as he justly might, abandon them for their impiety and ingratitude.

But analagous to the methods of his moral government, he went into a mode of conduct with them, adapted to their rational nature.—He treated them as free agents.—He solemnly protested against the change they were about to make in government; and, in order to disswade them from the rash attempt, he shewed them the manner of the king which should reign over them. But such paternal remonstrances proving ineffectual, and the people still persisting in their design, He not only permitted them to pursue it, but actually afforded them special aid and direction in the choice of their new king—that they might have one who should save them from their enemies—because their cry had come unto him.

Edition: 1983; Page: [9] This instance of the uneasiness of the nation of the Jews, under the most perfect form of government, may, perhaps, be alledged by some, as an argument of the utter incapacity of a people to judge of the rectitude of administration, or of their unreasonable peevishness and discontent, when they are governed well. It ought, however, to be considered, that though God was pleased to put himself at the head of the Jewish polity, yet officers, or rulers taken from among men, were appointed to act under Him; and these might not, and in fact did not always keep the great end of their investitute in view.

This was remarkably the case in the instance before us.—The sons of Samuel, who had been appointed judges over Israel, walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment; and the evil effects of their venality, and consequent perversion of public justice being known, and felt by the people, were the immediate occasion of their general uneasiness and complaint.

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In this situation of their affairs, the way, indeed, was open before them. It was Edition: 1983; Page: [10] their indispensable duty, instead of withdrawing their allegiance, to have made their application to God their king, in a way of humble ardent prayer, for a redress of such enormities; and undoubtedly, He would have heard their petition, and returned an answer of peace, as He had before, in times of other dangers and distresses, often done.—Their sin and folly consisted in this neglect, and not in groundless suspicions, and unnecessary complaints: they had manifest cause of uneasiness—they were greatly injured, and oppressed by some of their executive officers: Bribery, which ought to be the abhorrence of all ranks, had corrupted the seats of judgment, and rendered their persons and property insecure, and without the protection of law. Of this they complained, and made it the ground of their request for a king to judge them like all the nations—And however the Israelites might be guilty of great weakness and folly, as they certainly were, in desiring, on this account, to depart from a form of government, in which God himself presided, and wherein they might have had all their grievances redressed; and to adopt one similar to that of other nations;—and how far soever God might grant Edition: 1983; Page: [11] their desire, as a punishment of their ingratitude, yet, as it appears from Jacob’s blessing on the tribe of Judah, not to mention other things, it was in the divine plan, or permission at least, that the Jews, in future time, should come under the governance of earthly kings, it is no improbable conjecture, that prevailing wickedness, and corruption among some in high station at this period, was the occasion of God’s so readily complying with this request.

The passage, however, which stands at the head of our discourse, supposes the people to be judges of the good or ill effects of administration;—and as the wise king of Israel is the author, it may, perhaps, have the more weight.—“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.”—They are sensible of their own happiness in having men of uprightness, honor and humanity to rule over them—Men, who make a proper use of their authority—who seek the peace and welfare of the whole community, and govern according to law and equity, or the original rules of their constitution.—“But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn”—they are dissatisfied and grieved when Edition: 1983; Page: [12] contrary to reasonable expectation, and the design they had in forming into civil society, it turns out, as the history of states and kingdoms authorises us to say it often does, that their rulers Edition: current; Page: [[285]] possess opposite qualities—are inhuman, tyrannical and wicked; and instead of guarding, violate their rights and liberties.

The great end of a ruler’s exaltation is the happiness of the people over whom he presides; and his promoting it, the sole ground of their submission to him. In this rational point of view, St. Paul, that great patron of liberty, speaking of the design of magistracy, hath thought fit to place it—“he is the minister of God to thee for good”—But God’s minister he cannot be, as a ruler, however he may be in another capacity, nor is subjection required, on any other principle—his making the prosperity of the state the great object of his laws, and other measures of government, is his only claim to submission: Nor will any one deny that his doing so, and attending diligently to this very thing, binds the conscience of subjects, and makes obedience their indispensible duty. But obedience on the contrary supposition, is so far Edition: 1983; Page: [13] from being enjoined on them, that it argues meanness of spirit, and criminal servility, unless their circumstances are such as to make subjection a duty, on the foot of prudence, when it is not so in any other view.

The measures which rulers pursue, are generally good or bad, promotive of the public happiness, or the contrary, as are their moral characters. The observation of our text is grounded on the truth of this assertion, though it ought to be acknowledged, that there have been wicked rulers, such as Nero, and others of later date, who, for a while, have governed well.

Whether righteousness is to be restricted meerly to the virtue of justice, or considered as comprehensive of the entire character of piety and religion, where it is said, as in the place before us; “when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice”; it may justly be affirmed that men of such a character are by far the fittest, other accomplishments being equal, to be entrusted with the civil interest of a community; and the people are the most likely to feel the salutary effects of government, and be happy in their administration.

Edition: 1983; Page: [14] Religious rulers are, in every view, blessings to society; their laws are just and good—their measures mild and humane—and their example morally engaging.

Veneration for the authority of the supreme ruler of the world, prevailing in their hearts, is the most effectual security of affection to the public, which is a qualification absolutely indispensible—it inspires them with principles of equity and humanity; it begets the deepest Edition: current; Page: [[286]] concern in all their acts of government, to answer the great intention both of God and man, in their institution, and renders them truly benefactors to mankind.

It is, however, natural to suppose, every quality necessary to the constituting a good ruler, is comprehended in the term—righteous—the observation would not, otherwise, be without exception.—The interest of a people is not always so well served by a ruler meerly of a religious character, as it would be by the addition of other qualities.—Religion, indeed, ought ever to be esteemed as an indispensable recommendation to public trust; but other qualifications are also requisite, and must be Edition: 1983; Page: [15] joined, to afford reasonable expectation of happiness to a community, from the exercise of authority.

There does not appear to be a like reason for supposing the want of every other qualification, as that of righteousness, in the wicked ruler, to make him incapable of governing well.—He may have many and great endowments in other respects—capacity, and address—but if he has no religion—if he is immoral and vicious, unawed by him whose kingdom ruleth over all; he is commonly unfit to have the care and direction of the public interest,—If there have been instances of good government under the conduct of rulers of vicious characters, there have been also too many of a contrary sort to make it eligible or safe, to put confidence in such. To whatever lengths natural benevolence, desire of fame, education, love of power, and the emoluments of place, may be supposed sometimes to carry men, in acting for the public advantage, it is certain, and in several, it has been sadly verified, that these are feeble motives—principles, that can give no security of lasting happiness to a people, where the superior invigorating aids of religion are wanting.

Edition: 1983; Page: [16] The vices of a ruler pervert the due exercise of his authority, to the disadvantage of the community; and mark his public conduct with oppression and ruin. And we are not to think it strange, if the people fall into perplexity and mourning in consequence.

It is the character of one who is exalted from among his brethren, to rule over men, drawn by God himself, the Almighty guardian of the Rights of mankind—that he “must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”

The safety of society greatly depends on the good disposition of rulers, and the regard they have to equity in their measures of Edition: current; Page: [[287]] government. If they rule in the fear of God, they will make his laws their pattern in framing and executing their own.

Administration in every mode of government, is a point of the most weighty importance to subjects.—Absolute monarchies, or such forms of government as have the powers of the state lodged in the hands of a single person, tho’ generally dangerous to the Rights and Liberties of Edition: 1983; Page: [17] mankind, and too often have proved so to recommend them to the choice of a wise people, have, notwithstanding, when the reigning Prince has supported the character of religion, been the source of great peace and security to the public.

But the effects have been different—distress and misery introduced into society, under the administration of one whose moral qualities have been of another complexion.

The same is true as to consequences, in those governments, where the whole power legislative and executive, is deposited with a few.—Good or evil ensues to the community, according as the exercise of their authority coincides with the eternal rules and laws of reason and equity, or the contrary.

In a mixed government, such as the British, public virtue and religion, in the several branches, though they may not be exactly of a mind in every measure, will be the security of order and tranquility—Corruption and venality, the certain source of confusion and misery to the state.

Edition: 1983; Page: [18] This form of government, in the opinion of subjects and strangers, is happily calculated for the preservation of the Rights and Liberties of mankind.—Much, however, depends on union; and the concern of every part to pursue the great ends of government.

When each department centre their views in the same point, and act in their proper direction and character, as the ministers of providence, for the promotion of human happiness, things go well—the Rights of the people are secured, and they are contented—gladness fills their heart, and sparkles in their countenance!

But there may be a failure in some one or more of the governing parts, in respect to public measures, and the art of governing.—And when this happens, though it be but in one, since each part is strictly necessary to constitute the legislative body—it greatly wounds the state—embarrasses affairs—and is productive of general uneasiness and discontent.—The people soon feel inconveniences rising from jarrs and interference among their rulers—and as they have an indubitable right, Edition: current; Page: [[288]] they take Edition: 1983; Page: [19] it upon them, to judge what, and how far any thing is so, and where to fix the blame.

In such a government, rulers have their distinct powers assigned them by the people, who are the only source of civil authority on earth, with the view of having them exercised for the public advantage; and in proportion as this worthy end of their investiture is kept in sight, and prosecuted, the bands of society are strengthened, and its interests promoted: But if it be overlooked, and disregarded, and another set up as the object of their pursuit; we will suppose it should be, but by one of the supreme branches, or, indeed, by a single member of any, who happens to be of leading influence and great abilities, it will go far in making a schism in the body.—Calamity and distress may be expected, in a measure, to ensue—We need not pass the limits of our own nation for sad instances of this.—Whether, or how far, it has also been exemplified in any of the American colonies, whose governments, in general, are nearly copies of the happy British original, by the operation of ministerial unconstitutional measures, or the public conduct of some among ourselves, is not for Edition: 1983; Page: [20] me to determine: It is, however, certain, that the people mourn!—May God turn their mourning into joy! and comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow!—

Rulers are under the most sacred ties to consult the good of society. ’Tis the only grand design of their appointment. For the promotion of this valuable end, they are ordained of God, and cloathed with authority by men.

In a state of nature men are equal, exactly on a par in regard to authority; each one is a law to himself, having the law of God, the sole rule of conduct, written on his heart.

No individual has any authority, or right to attempt to exercise any, over the rest of the human species, however he may be supposed to surpass them in wisdom and sagacity. The idea of superior wisdom giving a right to rule, can answer the purpose of power but to one; for on this plan the Wisest of all is Lord of all. Mental endowments, though excellent qualifications for rule, when men have entered into combination Edition: 1983; Page: [21] and erected government, and previous to government, bring the possessors under moral obligation, by advice, perswasion and argument, to do good proportionate to the degrees of them; yet do not give any antecedent right to the exercise of authority. Civil authority is the production of combined society—not born with, but Edition: current; Page: [[289]] delegated to certain individuals for the advancement of the common benefit.

And as its origin is from the people, who have not only a right, but are bound in duty, for the preservation of the property and liberty of the whole society, to lodge it in such hands as they judge best qualified to answer its intention; so when it is misapplied to other purposes, and the public, as it always will, receives damage from the abuse, they have the same original right, grounded on the same fundamental reasons, and are equally bound in duty to resume it, and transfer it to others.—These are principles which will not be denied by any good and loyal subject of his present Majesty King George, either in Great-Britain or America—The royal right to the throne absolutely depends on the truth of them,—and the revolution, an Edition: 1983; Page: [22] event seasonable and happy both to the mother country and these colonies, evidently supports them, and is supported by them.

But it has been objected, that the doctrine which teaches that the people are the source of civil authority, and that they may lawfully oppose those rulers, who make an ill use of it, is likely to be attended with the worst of consequences—occasion disturbance and revolutions in the state, and render the situation of rulers perpetually unsafe and dangerous.

If the rulers are of the latter character mentioned in our text, the safety of the community forbids any attempt or disposition to make their situation easy; and I trust the objection is without force in regard to those of the former.—It is altogether unreasonable to suppose a number of persons by a free and voluntary contract, should give up themselves, their families and estates so absolutely into the hands of any rulers, as not to make a reserve of the right of saving themselves from ruin—and if they should, the bargain would be void, as counteracting the will of heaven, and the Edition: 1983; Page: [23] powerful law of self-preservation. It must be granted that the people have a right in some circumstances, or that they have not a right in any, to oppose their rulers—there is no medium—A sober and rational inquiry into the consequences of each supposition, is the best method to determine on which side the truth lies—In doing this, I shall take the liberty to adopt the sentiments and nearly the words of a writer of the first class on Government.*

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If it be true that no rulers can be safe, where the doctrine of resistance is taught; it must be true that no nation can be safe where the contrary is taught: If it be true that this disposeth men of turbulent spirits to oppose the best rulers; it is as true that the other disposeth princes of evil minds, to enslave and ruin the best and most submissive subjects: If it be true that this encourageth all public disturbance, and all revolutions whatsoever; it is as true that the other encourageth all tyranny, and all the most intolerable persecutions and oppressions imaginable. And on which side then will the advantage lie?—And which of the two shall we chuse, for the sake of the happy effects and consequences of it?

Edition: 1983; Page: [24] Supposing it to be universally admitted, that if rulers contrive and attempt the ruin of the publick, it is the duty of the people to consult the common happiness, and oppose them in such a design; it must follow, I think, that the grounds of publick unhappiness would be removed, and those inconveniences, which by mistake are represented as the consequence of this doctrine, prevented; for, on this supposition, the worst of Princes would learn to do that out of interest, which the best constantly do out of a good principle and true love to their subjects—No Prince would have any persons about him, to advise and incite him to illegal or unjust actions—and if he had at any time been guilty, he would, upon the first representation, and without being forced to it, readily acknowledge his error, and set all things right again. And let who will say it, the dispositions of subjects are not so bad, nor their love to public disturbance so great, but that a Prince of such conduct may be sure of reigning in their affections, and of being obeyed out of love and gratitude; which is the securest foundation any throne can possibly be fixed on.—So far is it from being true, that the universal Edition: 1983; Page: [25] reception of the doctrine of resistance would be the ground of public confusion and misery, that it would prevent the beginning of evil, and take away the first occasion of discontent.

It must be acknowledged, it is because this doctrine, whatever is pretended, hath not been received, that any rulers have been misled, and encouraged to take such measures, as in the end, have proved fatal to themselves. With respect therefore to rulers of evil dispositions, nothing is more necessary than that they should believe resistance, in some cases to be lawful. I intend not for a few discontented individuals who may happen to take it into their heads to resist, but for the Edition: current; Page: [[291]] majority of a community, either by themselves or representatives. Such rulers, indeed, cannot bear the propagation of this doctrine; but the reason why they cannot, viz. its being preventive of their pernicious designs, is an undeniable argument of its being the more necessary.

As for good rulers, they are not affected by the propagation of it, but may promote it themselves consistently with their Edition: 1983; Page: [26] own particular interest; for it is the chief interest of princes to reign in the affections of their subjects, free from all suspicion and jealousy of evil design. Nothing can give a nation greater satisfaction that their supreme magistrate sincerely endeavors to promote their interest, or gain him more hearty love and esteem, than the admission of this doctrine; it looks open, and removed from base and unworthy purposes; but a zeal for the opposite doctrine, tends, in its nature, and has been seen, in experience, to create jealousies in the minds of subjects, to take off their affections from a prince, and to lay the foundation of their withdrawing their allegiance from him.

But supposing it to be universally received, that it is the duty of the people patiently to submit, and not oppose their rulers, tho’ manifestly carrying forward the ruin of the public, nothing can be imagined to follow, but what is of the worst consequence to human society, unless we suppose rulers as angels of God, or rather, as God himself, incapable of being mistaken themselves, or misled by others. This supposition leaves no restraint on such rulers as have designs of their own, distinct from Edition: 1983; Page: [27] the public good: Public misery and slavery will therefore ensue; and this is a state of things infinitely worse than that of public disturbance, supposing such sometimes to take place in consequence of resistance. The inconvenience of the latter will soon be felt and rectified by the people themselves; but the former, on the principle of non-resistance, is absolutely without a remedy.

When people feel the influence and blessing of a good administration, they are not, in general, disposed to complain and find fault with their rulers; it is inconsistent with their own interest, and that of their families to do so. If we will be determined on a point of such delicacy by a ruler himself, who, as absolute as he was, had wisdom and public virtue to give judgment conformable to the nature and truth of things, we shall see that it is under the influence of an evil administration the people are discontented and mourn; and that under the influence of a good, one they rejoice.

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All lawful rulers are the servants of the public, exalted above their brethren not Edition: 1983; Page: [28] for their own sakes, but the benefit of the people; and submission is yielded, not on the account of their persons considered exclusively of the authority they are clothed with, but of those laws, which in the exercise of this authority are made by them, conformably to the laws of nature and equity.

This position is so far from being unacceptable to good rulers, or thought to be derogatory of their dignity, that they esteem it as implying the highest human character, and an official resemblance of the great Saviour of mankind, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister; and accordingly went about doing good.

The assertion that rulers are constituted by the people for the common happiness, is no denial of St. Paul’s doctrine, who, speaking of magistracy, hath said—There is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God:—any more than it is a denial of the blessings of husbandry, merchandize, and the mechanic arts, or, indeed any thing beneficial to society, being from God, to say, that men have invented them—They are all from God, from Edition: 1983; Page: [29] whom cometh down every good and perfect gift; and much in the same sense, as it is his will that men should be employed in them for their own advantage: But men by their reason, which is also the gift of God, are the immediate discoverers of their utility. It is, however, necessary to observe, that as civil government holds a distinguished place among the gifts of God; and, considering the human make, the blessings of it are productive of a greater aggregate of happiness, both in a natural and moral view, than most others: Much has been said in revelation about it—the divine approbation manifested—and the qualification of rulers exactly stated.

Although government is not explicitly instituted by God, it is, nevertheless, from him; as, by the human constitution, and the circumstances men are placed in, He has signified it to be his will, that, as a security of property and liberty, and as necessary to greater improvements in virtue and happiness than could be attained in a state of nature, there should be government among them. But it is from man, as for the same end—the procuring a greater good to each individual, on the whole, than could Edition: 1983; Page: [30] be had without it; they have, in conformity to their make and circumstances, and the dictates of reason, voluntarily instituted it. And thus government is the ordinance both of God and man. And so the new-testament writers Edition: current; Page: [[293]] consider it, and speak of its design as being the same in both, viz. The public happiness.

This is a striking indication to rulers, not only as to their aims in accepting any public office in a community, but as to the obligations they are under to discharge the duties of it with fidelity. They are the trustees of God, vested with authority by him, in the benevolent designs of his providence, to be employed in guarding and defending the just Rights and Liberties of mankind; and as far as they can, advancing the common welfare.

And as they are responsible to him who is no respecter of persons; they are not to expect their public conduct is to be exempted from his most strict and impartial scrutiny.

They are also the trustees of society, as their authority, under God, is derived Edition: 1983; Page: [31] from the people, delegated to them with design it should be exercised for, and to no other purpose than, the common benefit; and this renders them justly accountable to their human constituents, whose tribunal, however some have affected to despise it, is full of dignity and majesty—Kings and emperors have trembled before it!

While meerly to possess places of dignity and eminence is sufficiently gratifying to some minds, the chief joy of rulers, mindful of the importance of their station, arises from a consciousness of such behaviour, in their public capacity, as will be approved of God, and accepted of men. For this great and valuable purpose, they will be careful to deserve the character first mentioned in the text—be just and impartial in every part of administration; and with their integrity, endeavour to join those other accomplishments which are requisite to the honorable discharge of their respective trusts.

But this brings us in the second place to point out some of the qualifications of rulers.

Edition: 1983; Page: [32] And superior knowledge may be mentioned as one, that greatly exalts and adorns their character.

They should, therefore, be ambitious to become possessed of it, that they may be at no loss how to conduct, or which way to turn themselves in any difficult and embarrassed state of affairs; but may know what the people ought to do, and be able and ready to lead and advise them in the more boisterous and alarming, as well as in calm and temperate seasons.

Distinguished abilities and knowledge, tho’ happily placed in Edition: current; Page: [[294]] rulers, are not indeed so absolutely necessary, in order to understand the constitution, or the general rules of any particular mode of government a people have chosen to put themselves under, as for other important matters in administration.

All fundamental laws and rules of government are, in their nature and design, and ever ought to be, plain and intelligible—such as common capacities are able to comprehend, and determine when, and how far they are, at any time, departed Edition: 1983; Page: [33] from. Were not this the case, people’s entering into society, and erecting government, could not be justified on the principle of reason, or prudence; as government instead of protecting them in the peaceable and quiet enjoyment of Liberty and property, might be made an engine of their destruction, and put it in the power of rulers of evil dispositions, under the specious pretext of pursuing constitutional measures, to introduce general misery and slavery among them.

The knowledge which the people have of the constitution, or original fundamental laws of government, whereof the plain law of self-preservation is necessarily the chief, in all forms of government, is the only adequate check on such ruinous conduct.

The people being judges of their own constitution of government, is the principle from which the British nation acted, and on the truth of which they are to be justified, when they determined, their constitution was invaded by their sovereign, and that he was carrying on designs, which if pursued, must issue in the destruction of it.

Edition: 1983; Page: [34] But if they were no judges of such matters, if they meddled with that which did not belong to them—the revolution, and succession of an illustrious house, may have taken place without right, against law and reason, being founded in misconception and error; and the heirs of an abjured popish prince, still remain the only just, and lawful claimants to the British throne; a doctrine, which, I am sure, no American, and I hope, but few in great Britain, will ever admit. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?

But high degrees of knowledge are requisite in rulers for other great and weighty purposes in government. If they would act with dignity and advantage in their public capacity, they should be well acquainted with human nature, and the natural rights of mankind; which are the same under every form of government: They should also be acquainted with the general rules of equity and reason, and the right application of them, as circumstances vary; with the laws of Edition: current; Page: [[295]] nations, their strength, manners, and views; but especially with the genius, temper, customs and religion of the people they are called Edition: 1983; Page: [35] to govern: This will enable them to accommodate public measures to public advantage, and to frame such laws and annex such sanctions, from time to time, as may be best calculated to encourage piety and virtue, industry and frugality, and prevent immorality and vice, and every species of oppression and misery—They should moreover know, in what instances natural equity and a regard to the good of the whole require former laws to be repealed, or varied—new ones enacted, and other penalties applied, and in what way government may be the most effectually, honorably and easily supported.

Legislators, whom I have chiefly had in view, should know how to give force, and operation to their laws, that every member of the community may feel their effects, and be treated in a just and reasonable manner; and as far as may be, according to his personal circumstances and merits. This, indeed, is to be done by means of the executive part, but the executive power is strictly no other than the legislative carried forward, and of course, controulable by it.—These, and others that might be adduced, are points requiring Edition: 1983; Page: [36] capacity and knowledge in rulers: And among other means for the attaining them, it is their indispensible duty, in imitation of a wise king, to pray for an understanding heart, that in all their acts of government, they may discern between good and bad, and lead the people in the paths of righteousness and peace.

Another qualification of rulers, is a public spirit, and a compassionate regard to mankind.

When we take into consideration the great design of civil government, no one can be thought a proper person to rule over men, who has not a prevailing regard to their interest, and a fixed determination to pursue it.

This, certainly is the great object which magistrates, as such, are under obligation to keep in their eye—as men, they have, like other men, private interest, and private views, and may as lawfully pursue them; but in their public capacity, they can, of right, have no other end, than the public advantage.

Edition: 1983; Page: [37] And if they make use of their authority, or the influence of their rank for any different purposes—if it be their chief aim to aggrandize themselves, their posterity or friends by means thereof; if the selfish passions predominate and guide and determine their public Edition: current; Page: [[296]] conduct; if they are slaves to covetousness, ambition or effeminacy; if, led by flattering prospects, they are devoted to the meer will, and arbitrary mandates of others greater and higher than themselves; if there be any thing they are more solicitous to obtain or promote than the good of the society they are connected with, and are bound to serve,—they ignominiously prostitute their trust, and basely counteract the main design of their institution.

But rulers of a patriotic spirit are actuated by better and more noble principles; they have a sincere regard to the public; their time and abilities are cheerfully employed in the promotion of its interest; this they set up as the object of their measures, and esteem it as their own good, they seek the prosperity of the people, and in the peace thereof they shall have peace—The honors and emoluments Edition: 1983; Page: [38] of their station, though justly due and freely rendered by a sensible, obliged and grateful people, are but inferior motives with them—happy such rulers in the applauses of the multitude, happy in the approbation of their own minds!

But that which compleats the character of rulers and adds lustre to their other accomplishments, is religion.

This is the best foundation of the confidence of the people; if they fear God, it may be expected they will regard man. Vice narrows the mind and bars the exertions of a public spirit; but religion dilates and strengthens the former, and gives free course to the operations of the latter.

By religion I would be understood to intend more than a bare belief of the divine existence and perfections—The heathen world by a proper use of their reason may attain to this, because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath shewed it unto them.

But what I intend by religion is, a belief of the truth as it is in Jesus, and a temper and conduct conformable to it.

Edition: 1983; Page: [39] It is the wisdom of christian states, to have christian magistrates, and as far as may be, such as have imbibed the spirit of the gospel, and are actuated in their high station, by the principles it inspires. If it be allowed, as to be sure it ought, that magistrates of deistick principles, may have a regard to the civil interest of mankind, and do many worthy deeds for society; it must also be allowed that they are not so likely, as those of christian principles, to be nursing fathers to the church of Christ, which, agreeable to ancient Edition: current; Page: [[297]] prophecy, magistrates, under the present dispensation of the divine grace, are obliged to be.

Nor will they be so much concerned to learn from the sacred oracles, for the guidance of public measures, what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.

When a people have rulers set over them, of a religious character on the gospel plan—who own and submit to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, who are sanctified by the divine spirit and grace, and, in a good measure, purified from those corrupt principles which too often work Edition: 1983; Page: [40] in the human heart, they have reason to expect the presence and blessing of God will be with them, and that things will go well in the state.

And on reflection, we cannot forbear the acclamation of the psalmist—happy is that people, that is in such a case!—yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord!

The religion of rulers is a guide to their other accomplishments—it has a salutary active influence into all their measures of government, and leads them to the noblest exertions for the advancement of the common weal.

The minds of the governed are satisfied with their conduct, rejoice in their administration, and rest assured that no harm will ever happen to them, by their means, unless it be by mistake, to which all men are liable. By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.

Edition: 1983; Page: [41] We come now—thirdly—to apply the subject to ourselves, and the occasion of our present assembling.

It would be as much beyond my expectation, as, I am sure it is short of my design, to be charged with the meanness of adulation, in any thing delivered in this discourse.

But I could not obtain forgiveness of my own mind nor of the public, if I should forbear explicitly to affirm, that the two honorable branches of the legislature, we before have had, which derived their political existence more immediately from the people, have been in their general conduct and measures, but especially in the late months and years of our distress and controversy, accepted of the multitude of their brethren.

It is our ardent wish and confidence, the same vigilance, circumspection and public spirit, may distinguish the proceedings of the two houses of assembly for the current year—that which is now Edition: current; Page: [[298]] returned, with marks of approbation and honor, from their constituents, and the other, Edition: 1983; Page: [42] which according to royal charter, is this day to be chosen.

This anniversary, which is so auspicious to the civil liberties of this province, fills every honest heart with joy and gladness, and I trust with the sincerest gratitude to almighty God, the great patron of liberty, and benefactor of the world.

The choice of persons from among ourselves, to sit at council board, both in a legislative capacity, and as his majesty’s council to give their advice to his representative here, on all matters of government, as circumstances may require, we esteem a great security of our natural rights; and one of our most invaluable privileges—a privilege, which we never have forfeited, and we are resolved we never will, or voluntarily resign it into the hands of any of our fellowmen—though it must be acknowledged, I speak it with shame and blushing, that for the many crying sins, and enormities committed in our land, it would be righteous in the divine government, if we were deprived of this and all our mercies.

Edition: 1983; Page: [43] The appointment of one to fill the chair, is, by royal charter, reserved to the crown. Of this we have not been much disposed to complain; for though we remember our first charter with affection, and the arbitrary despotic manner of its dissolution with abhorrence, yet we have been used to put great confidence in the paternal goodness of our gracious sovereigns; and to expect such governors to be appointed over us, as would seek the peace and welfare of this people; and however it might be thought possible for them, in any future time to receive such orders from the higher servants of the crown, as would be inconsistent with our rights and privileges, we have supposed, notwithstanding they would consider themselves as being under prior obligations to the king of kings, and obey God, rather than men.

We have been used to think they would esteem the service of his majesty within this province, and the good of the province, as being the same, and that it is as impossible for his majesty to have any good in America, separate from the good of his American subjects, as it is to have any good in Great-Britain separate from the good of his British subjects.

Edition: 1983; Page: [44] The end of government, certainly, requires men of such dispositions and sentiments to rule over this people. Prerogative itself is not a power to do any thing it pleases, but a power to do some Edition: current; Page: [[299]] things for the good of the community, in such cases as promulgated laws are not able to provide for it.

On these principles it is reasonable to expect that his Excellency who is lately appointed to the government of this province, and of whose candor and moderation we have heard with pleasure, will enter on the duties of his high station, with honor to himself and advantage to the publick, and make the happiness of this people the great object of his administration which is the surest way to conciliate their affections, and establish his own authority. We wish his Excellency much of the divine presence and guidance—the supports of religion—and the plaudit of his final Judge.

The honorable Gentlemen, who are, this day, to be concerned in the exercise of an important charter privilege, the election of his Majesty’s Council; will not, Edition: 1983; Page: [45] ’tis presumed, be unmindful of the very interesting nature of this publick transaction, nor how far its influence may extend.

Much lies at stake, honored Fathers—much depends, and will probably turn on the choice you make of Councellors, not to this province only, but to the rest of the colonies. In the present scenes of calamity and perplexity, when the contest in regard to the rights of the colonists, rises high, every colony is deeply interested in the public conduct of every other.

The happy union and similarity of sentiment and measures which take place thro’ the continent in regard to our common sufferings, and which have added weight to the American cause, must be cherished by every prudent and constitutional method, and will, we trust, meet with your countenance and cultivation.

The acknowledged weight of the Council Board, in the government of this province, and its influence into the well-being of our churches, from its connection with, and inspection over a very respectable Edition: 1983; Page: [46] seminary of learning, are not your only motives. But the united voice of America, with the solemnity of thunder and with accents piercing as the lightning awakes your attention, and demands fidelity.

The ancient advice dictated to Moses, by the priest of Midian, and approved of God, is admirably calculated, civil Fathers, for your direction on this occasion—Tis a significant compendium of the qualifications of the persons whom you ought to favor with your suffrages.—Thou shalt provide out of all the people, able men—such Edition: current; Page: [[300]] as fear God, men of truth, and hating covetousness, and place such over them.

The present situation of our public affairs requires good degrees of knowledge, firmness of spirit, patriotism, and the fear of God, in those who stand at helm and guide the state—they should be men able to investigate the source of our evils, point out adequate remedies, and that have resolution and public spirit to apply them.

Our danger is not visionary, but real—Our contention is not about trifles, but Edition: 1983; Page: [47] about liberty and property; and not ours only, but those of posterity, to the latest generations. And every lover of mankind will allow that these are important objects, too inestimably precious and valuable enjoyments to be treated with neglect, and tamely surrendered:—For however some few, I speak it with regret and astonishment, even from among ourselves, appear sufficiently disposed to ridicule the rights of America, and the liberties of subjects; ’tis plain St. Paul, who was a good judge, had a very different sense of them—“He was on all occasions for standing fast, not only in the liberties with which Christ had made him free, from the Jewish law of ceremonies, but also in that liberty, with which the laws of nature, and the Roman state, had made him free from oppression and tyranny.”

If I am mistaken in supposing plans are formed, and executing, subversive of our natural, and charter rights, and privileges, and incompatible with every idea of liberty, all America is mistaken with me.

Our continued complaints—Our repeated, humble, but fruitless, unregarded Edition: 1983; Page: [48] petitions and remonstrances—and if I may be allowed the sacred allusion, our groanings, which cannot be uttered, are at once indications of our sufferings, and the feeling sense we have of them.

We think we are injured—We believe we are denied some of those privileges, enjoyed by our fellow subjects in Great-Britain, which have not only been insured to us by Royal Charter, but which we have a natural independent right to.

And it bears the harder on our spirits, when we recollect the deep inwrought affection we have always had for the parent state—our well known loyalty to our Sovereign, and our unremitting attachment to his illustrious house, as well as the ineffable toils, hardships and dangers which our Fathers endured, unassisted, but by Edition: current; Page: [[301]] Heaven, in planting this American wilderness, and turning it into a fruitful field!

But in such circumstances, we place great confidence in the wisdom and patriotism of our civil rulers—Our eyes are fixed on them, and under the smiles of Heaven we expect a redress of our grievances Edition: 1983; Page: [49] by their instrumentality. Or, at least, that they will not be wanting, in any thing in their power, consistent with the duties of their station, to effect it.

We sincerely hope, and trust, the elections of this day will turn on men, who shall be disposed in their proper department to restore and establish our rights—Men acquainted with the several powers vested in the honorable board, and determined, with persevering spirit, to assert and uphold them—Men, in every view, friendly to the constitution of government in this province, and resolved to maintain it, undiminished, and entire.

You will please to remember, Gentlemen, that in this weighty affair, you do not act meerly for yourselves—you act for the whole community—every member has an interest in the transaction.

But above all, suffer me to remind you, that you act for God, and under his inspection, by whose providence, this trust is committed to you—and that you must one day give an account to Him whose eyes are as a flame of fire, of the motives of your conduct.

Edition: 1983; Page: [50] When the business of the day is finished,—the legislative body will enquire into the interior state of the province, and enter upon public concerns relative to the well ordering, and directing its affairs.

But whether circumstances require any new laws to be enacted, or new regulations, in any respect, made, we willingly refer to the superior wisdom and conduct of the guardians of our common interest—I would, however, take the liberty to say, that the public good, the peace, and prosperity of this province, ought ever to lie near your hearts, and be kept in view, as the pole star, by which all your debates, and governmental acts, are to be directed.

And if you can do any thing more effectual, than has yet been done, to prevent the too general prevalence of vice, and immortality, and promote the knowledge and practice of religion and godliness among us, you will perform great good service for the public—you will, hereby, give us the highest reason to hope, and believe, that our infinitely good and gracious God, the tenor of whose providence, hath Edition: current; Page: [[302]] always, from the beginning, and Edition: 1983; Page: [51] remarkably in the days of our New-England progenitors, been favorable to his people, in times of calamity and darkness, will make bare his arm, and deliver us from our public embarrassments—Righteousness exalteth a nation—but sin is the reproach, and if continued, will be the ruin of any people.

But if you can do no more for so excellent a purpose; let us, notwithstanding, for your own sakes, and for ours, be assured of the benefit of your example.

We are easily led by the example of our superiors, whom we respect and revere, and when it is turned on the side of religion and virtue, it cannot fail of happy influence into the religion of our minds, and the morality of our lives.

Did men of exalted stations and characters, consider how much it is in their power to reform or corrupt the age,—the lower ranks and classes of mankind, we might expect a conduct from them, that would teach us to connect the ideas of greatness and religion,—at least, more nearly than we too generally have done.

Edition: 1983; Page: [52] We are therefore, willing to think, as we sincerely wish, that from a proper zeal for the divine glory, and a generous regard to their fellow men, our civil fathers will go before us in the uniform practice of pure religion, and undefiled, before God and the Father.

Under the administration of rulers of such a character, we shall not rejoice meerly in a civil view, but in the prosperity of our souls shall we be glad; and rejoice before God, exceedingly.

Before I close, I may not omit putting the whole body of this people in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, and to obey magistrates.

This is the direction given to Titus by the same Apostle, who in another Epistle has limited the obedience of subjects, to such rulers as answer the end of their appointment; the like limitation is therefore to be understood here—To such magistrates as rule well, who are a terror, not to good works, but to the evil, which is the reason St. Paul has assigned why subjects are obliged, in point of conscience, to submit to them—to such magistrates, I say, the most Edition: 1983; Page: [53] chearful obedience is due from the people as being the greatest blessings society can enjoy—and to withhold obedience from such, is the greatest of crimes, as it directly tends to public confusion and ruin.

As a people we have ever been remarkably tender both of our civil and religious liberties; and ’tis hoped, the fervor of our regard Edition: current; Page: [[303]] for them, will not cool, till the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.

But justice to ourselves requires us to say, that we have been as remarkable for our steady, uniform submission to those who have had the rule over us.

If it should be affirmed that no instance of general complaint and uneasiness has been known among us from the settlement of our Fathers in America, but when our liberties have been evidently struck at, I believe, impartial history would support the sentiment.

If we have complained, we have had too manifest occasion for it; and all writers on government but those of a rank, arbitrary, popish complexion, allow of complaints, and remonstrances, and even Edition: 1983; Page: [54] opposition to measures, in free governments, which the people know to be wrong; and indeed were not this the case, there would soon be no such governments on the earth.

The people in this province, and in the other colonies, love and revere civil government—they love peace and order but they are not willing to part with any of those rights and privileges, for which they have, in many respects, paid very dear.

The soil we tread on is our own, the heritage of our Fathers, who purchased it by fair bargain of the natives, unless I must except a part, which they afterwards in their own just defence, obtained by conquest—We have therefore an exclusive right to it.

For, how far soever discovery may operate, in acquiring a right in wild uninhabited countries; every one must allow it could acquire none in this inhabited, as it was, who is not willing to grant, that the natives of America would have acquired as good a right to Great-Britain or any part of Europe, if their navigation had been able, at the same time, to have wafted them in sight of it.

Edition: 1983; Page: [55] But while we are disposed to assert our rights, and hold our liberties sacred, let us not decline from our former temper, and despise government; but may we always be ready to esteem and support it, in its truest dignity and majesty. Let us respect and honor our civil rulers, and as much as possible lighten their burdens by a cheerful obedience to their laws, without which the great end of government, the public safety and happiness, cannot be promoted.

Under the pressing, growing weight of our public troubles and difficulties our hearts, tho’ perplexed, have not fainted—We wait for the salvation of God—It is better to trust in the Lord than to put Edition: current; Page: [[304]] confidence in princes—Let us go on to trust in him, ’till God himself shall rise to save us—Let us not divide and crumble into parties, on little irregularities, which, however aggravated by some, are, in our circumstances, almost unavoidable. But may we have that wisdom which is profitable to direct, and distinguish between what has, and what has not, a tendency to remove our burdens and prolong our just rights and liberties; especially, let us be on our guard against a spirit of licentiousness, Edition: 1983; Page: [56] which is the reproach of true liberty, and has been the overthrow of free governments.

And by whatever titles and characters we may be distinguished, in the limited governments of this world, let us bear it on our hearts, that we are all subjects of the divine, universal government, which is administered in righteousness; and must shortly render an account of our conduct under it to God, the judge of all.

If this important consideration was duly impressed on the minds of all ranks and orders of men, it would lead us to acquire and cultivate the spirit of the gospel, which is a spirit of love and benevolence, and beget a conduct, which while it ripens us thro’ grace for immortality and glory, would be greatly promotive of the present benefit of human society.—

And when, by the efficacious influence of the blessed spirit, our rational and immortal part is established in its just supremacy—when our appetites and passions are subject to its authority, and our desires regular, modest & just—Then shall our righteousness go forth as brightness, and our salvation as a lamp that burneth,

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[25]: Levi Hart 1738-1808

Liberty Described and Recommended: in a Sermon Preached to the Corporation of Freemen in Farmington

Levi Hart occupied the pulpit of a Congregational church in Preston, Connecticut, for forty-six years. He appears to have commanded a high regard for eloquence and good judgment, for an unusual number of his sermons were printed for wider distribution by the members of his congregation; however, few of them dealt with political subjects. In this one, Hart echoes the preoccupation of the time—the concept of liberty. Written to raise one more voice against slavery, Hart places his recommendation in a theoretical context that carefully refines the various definitions in use for the term at that time, and nicely summarizes the basic assumptions of American political theory that underlay not only the Revolution but also the state constitutions that were shortly to be written.

Though the author of the following discourse might avail himself of the common apology for publishing Sermons, viz The importunity of friends; yet he should have been averse to this publication had it not been that the subject and occasion gave him opportunity to cast in his mite for the relief of the opressed and injured Africans, whose cause he thought himself bound to plead, and to bear his testimony against the cruel and barbarous Slave Trade. He is sensible the arguments on that subject might be treated, more at large, and to better advantage; he designed to treat the subject only in a moral and religious view, and he could only hint a few thoughts on that branch Edition: current; Page: [[306]] of the argument, in a short discourse in which several other things were considered.

The author pretends not to pronounce on the impropriety of the Slave Trade in a political view—this would be out of his province: but he would submit to the gentleness of the law, whether the admission of slavery in a government so democratical as that of the colony of Connecticut, doth not tend to the subversion of its happy constitution. Be this as it may, if the Slave Trade is contrary to the law of nature, which is the law of God, it is more than time it was effectually prohibited, and until that is done we are accountable to God for all the sufferings which we bring upon the unhappy Negroes; for whatever difficulties there may be in the way of freeing the slaves already among us (as there are confessedly some) these cannot be reasonably advanced, against prohibiting the importation of more. Should it be objected [vi] that preaching and printing against the slave trade will tend to encourage servants in disobedience to their masters and support them in disorder and rebellion, the author can only reply, that though he is fully convinced that there is no more reason or justice in our enslaving the Africans than there would be in their enslaving us, yet he thinks the Negro slaves among us are bound by motives of duty and interest to “be obedient to their own masters,” and to “shew all good fidelity” in their service, agreeable to apostolic direction, and as the most probable method to make their yoke less, and pave the way for obtaining their freedom, or, if not their own, that of their posterity.

He would be sorry to be, even the innocent, occasion of disorders in families, but should this be the case it is no sufficient objection against asserting the truth on this subject: there is, perhaps, scarce any doctrine of christianity but what hath been made the occasion of sin, through the perversness of wicked men, especially hath this been true of the doctrine of grace. Must the doctrines of grace therefore not be preached?

Edition: 1983; Page: [7] II. Peter ii, 19.

While they promise them Liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into Bondage.

To assert and maintain the cause of Liberty, is far from being peculiar to the British colonies in North-America, at the present day: our Edition: current; Page: [[307]] venerable Ancestors fought and found it in this western world, and at no small expense of their treasure and blood, purchased it for, and conveyed it down to us. The most distinguished and worthy characters in Great-Britain have patronized, spoke and written, and some of them even died, in defence of the sacred rights of Liberty. Edition: 1983; Page: [8] Those ancient, renowned States of Greece and Rome, in their most flourishing condition, received their greatest stature from a set of public spirited, patriotic men whose hearts glowed with the love of liberty, who were her defenders and supporters, and whose names and writings are venerable to distant ages and nations of men, even long after those mighty empires are gone to decay, and perished through neglecting to follow the maxims of those wise men, the patrons of liberty, who pointed out the path to lasting empire and glory.

Indeed, the sacred cause of liberty ever hath been, and ever will be venerable in every part of the world where knowledge and learning flourish, and men are suffered to think and speak for themselves. Yet, it must be added, that Heaven hath appeared in the cause of liberty, and that in the most open and decisive manner. For this, the Son of God was manifest in the flesh, that he might destroy the tyranny of sin and satan, assert and maintain the equal government of his Father, redeem the guilty slaves from their more than Egyptian bondage, and cause the oppressed to go free.

The whole plan of Redemption, which is by far the greatest and most noble of all the works of God made known to us, to which they all tend and in which they cease, is comprised in procuring, preaching and bestowing liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to the bound. And the gospel of our salvation is principally taken up in defending that glorious liberty which is prefaced forever by the Son of God—the bondage from which he redeems us—the ransom which he paid Edition: 1983; Page: [9] for our redemption—the way to obtain and enjoy this Liberty, and in stating and urging the most cogent and endearing arguments, and motives, to persuade us to come out of our bondage, and accept of the Liberty wherewith Christ maketh his people free. It is on this account nominated Gospel of Good News; and is to the sinner, like the jubilee trumpet to the enslaved Israelite.

But it must be remembered, that in proportion as Liberty is excellent, and to be desired on the one hand, so slavery or bondage is terrible and to be avoided on the other. These are justly esteemed the two extremes of happiness and misery in Society. It will not therefore be thought foreign to our subject, or an unsuitable attempt upon the Edition: current; Page: [[308]] present occasion, to enquire into the various significations of these two opposite terms, as they are used in the several kinds of society with which we are concerned, especially as they are introduced in our text as opposed to each other, and it is intimated that the most fond assertors of liberty may after all, be themselves in a state of the most abject slavery and bondage.

Liberty may be defined in general, a power of action, or a certain suitableness or preparedness for exertion, and a freedom from force, or hindrance from any external cause. Liberty when predicated of man as a moral agent, and accountable creature, is that suitableness or preparedness to be the subject of volitions, or exercises of will, with reference to moral objects; by the influence of motives, which we find belongeth to all men of common capacity, and who are come to the years of understanding.

Edition: 1983; Page: [10] This Liberty is opposed to that want of capacity, by which there is a total ignorance of all moral objects, and so, a natural incapacity of choosing with regard to them. Again, the term Liberty is frequently used to denote a power of doing as we please, or of executing our acts of choice; this refers principally to external action, or bodily motion; and is opposed to force or opposition:—thus the prisoner who is bound in fetters, and secured with bolts and bars in a prison, is not at liberty to go out, he is deprived of this kind of liberty, and is in bondage.

Again, Liberty may be considered and defined with reference to society:—Mankind in a state of nature, or considered as individuals, antecedent to the supposition of all social connections, are not the subjects of this freedom, but it is absolutely necessary to the well being of society.

Human society is founded originally in compact, or mutual agreement. All the larger circles of society originate from family connection or mutual compact between husband and wife, and mutual compact necessarily implieth certain rules and obligations which neither of the parties may violate with impunity.

In the early ages of the world, before vice and wickedness had corrupted and destroyed the original natural form of civil government, as a fine writer of our own nation expresseth it,—“each patriarch sat king, priest and prophet of his growing state”* But when the wickedness of man was become exceeding Edition: 1983; Page: [11] great, and every Edition: current; Page: [[309]] imagination of his heart evil, the earth was filled with violence: by the daring efforts of wicked men to subvert the original excellent form of society, and introduce despotic rule where the lives and happiness of many, even whole kingdoms should depend on the will, and be subservient to the pleasure of one man.** But as a society evidently originates from mutual compact or agreement, so it is equally evident, that the members who compose it, unite in one common interest; each individual gives up all private interest that is not consistent with the general good, and interest of the whole body: And, considered as a member of society, he hath no other interest but that of the whole body, of which he is a member: The case is similar to that of a trading company, possessed of a common stock, into which every one hath given his proportion, the interest of this common stock is now the property of the whole body, and each individual is benefited in proportion to the good of the whole, and is a good or bad member in proportion as he uniteth to, or counteracteth the interest of the body. And thus it is in the present case: civil society is formed for the good of the whole body of which it is composed. Hence the welfare and prosperity of the society is the common good, and every individual is to seek and find his happiness in the welfare of the whole, and every thing to be transacted in society, is to be regulated by this standard.—In particular, all the laws and rules formed in such society must tend to promote the general welfare, this is the test by which they must be tried, and by which they must stand or fall; all regulations in the body, and all rewards and punishments Edition: 1983; Page: [12] to individuals, must be determined agreeable to this.—Those who seek and promote the public interest, are to be esteemed and rewarded; and those who counteract and oppose it, must be punished in proportion to the injury aimed or committed against the public welfare.

We may add, that as the good of the public is the end and design of all good laws and rules, established in a well regulated society, so they must be enacted by the public, i.e. by the wisest and best men in the society, appointed by the body for this purpose.—Men who best understand the public good, and have a common interest with the body, and who are above the narrow pursuits of private interest.—If Laws and rules in society are established by any man, or body of Edition: current; Page: [[310]] men, who have not a common interest with the whole body of the members, but the contrary, it is evident at first view, they will be exposed to act in opposition to the general good.—None therefore but the representatives of the whole body, in whom as far as possible, the interest of all ranks is contained, are proper to make laws for the regulation of society. For the same reason, those who are to execute the laws, should be appointed in such a manner, and by such authority, as in the best possible way secures their attachment to the general good: And, the members of civil community who are disobedient to such laws and oppose the administration of such authority agreeable to them, deserve punishment according to the degree of their opposition, and their opportunity to promote, or counteract the general good. The crime of every private member in opposing the interest of society, is greater Edition: 1983; Page: [13] than that of opposition to the interest of an individual, as much (other things being equal) as the interest of the society is greater and of more worth than that of an individual.

In this view of our subject, we may form some conception of the crime of a civil ruler, who sacrificeth the public interest committed to his trust by society, for the sake of his own private gain;—who betrayeth that sacred deposit, to gratify his narrow, sordid thirst of wealth or honour:—We may form some conceptions of his crime, but we want words to paint the horror of it.—If a private man is without excuse, and is justly doomed to die as a traitor and rebel, when he deserts his country’s cause, or basely betrays it, though to save his life, what epithets of lasting infamy are black enough to draw the picture of the inhuman paricide, who basks in the glare of riches and grandeur, at the expence of the public welfare: Yea, may we not depend that heaven itself will assert the cause of liberty, defend the injured innocent, and discharge its thunderbolts on the guilty head of the oppressor, red with uncommon wrath, to blast the man that owes his greatness to his country’s ruin?

From this general view of society, we are led to observe, that civil liberty doth not consist in a freedom from all law and government,—but in a freedom from unjust law and tyrannical government:—In freedom, to act for the general good, without incurring the displeasure of the ruler or censure of the law:—And civil slavery or bondage consisteth in being obliged either by a bad set of laws, or bad and tyrannical rulers, to act in opposition to the good Edition: 1983; Page: [14] of the Edition: current; Page: [[311]] whole, or suffer punishment for our steady attachment to the general good.

Religious liberty is the opportunity of professing and practising that religion which is agreeable to our judgment and consciences, without interruption or punishment from the civil magistrate. And religious bondage or slavery, is when we may not do this without incurring the penalty of laws, and being exposed to suffer in our persons or property.—

Ecclesiastical liberty, is such a state of order and regularity in christian society, as gives every member opportunity to fill up his place in acting for the general good of that great and holy society to which the true church of Christ belongs, and of which they are a part. And ecclesiastical slavery, is such a state as subjects some branches of this society to the will of others, (not to the good of the whole glorious kingdom) and punisheth them with the loss of some, or all of the priviledges of ecclesiastical society, if they disobey such tyrannical will, however they may act for the good of the whole, and so, agreeable to the law of Christ.

Finally, there is another kind of liberty and bondage, which deserve particular attention in this place, only as they are especially pointed to in our text, but as being of principle concern to men, they may be denominated spiritual liberty and bondage:—This liberty is spoken of by our Lord, John viii, 32, 36. Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,—if the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed. And, by the Apostle, Rom. vi, 18. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. Gallat. v. 1. Stand fast in Edition: 1983; Page: [15] the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 2. Gen. iii, 18. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

Spiritual liberty then, is freedom or readiness and engagedness of soul in the love and service of God and Christ, and discharge of the various branches of christian duty.

Spiritual bondage, takes place in the dominion of sin and satan in the soul, or that state of allienation from God and Christ, to which all impenitent sinners are subject.

This brief view of the various significations of the terms liberty and slavery, might be usefully improved in many inferences and remarks. I will detain you only with those which follow. Inference first.

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If civil liberty consisteth in acting freely, and without constraint, or fear of punishment, for the public good, and tyranny and slavery are the reverse of this,—it followeth, that every one who acts for the general good of society, is entitled to the approbation and assistance of the body. None can justly fall under the frowns of society, but those who prefer some private benefit to the public welfare: And every society which suffers, or even connives at the practice, in any of its members, of taking away the liberty or property of those who have done nothing against the public interest, connives at injustice, and is so far guilty of tyranny and oppression.

Edition: 1983; Page: [16] Of all the enjoyments of the present life that of liberty is the most precious and valuable, and a state of slavery the most gloomy to the generous mind—to enslave men, therefore, who have not forfeited their liberty, is a most attrocious violation of one of the first laws of nature, it is utterly inconsistent with the fundamental principle and chief bond of union by which society originally was, and all free societies ever ought to be formed. I mean that of a general union for the common good, by which every individual is secure of public approbation so long as he acts for the public welfare.

Could it be thought then that such a palpable violation of the law of nature, and of the fundamental principles of society, would be practised by individuals and connived at, and tolerated by the public in British America! this land of liberty where the spirit of freedom glows with such ardour.—Did not obstinate incontestible facts compel me, I could never believe that British Americans would be guilty of such a crime.—I mean that of the horrible slave trade, carried on by numbers and tolerated by authority in this country. It is not my design to enter largely into the arguments on this subject; all who agree to the general principles already laid down, will join in pronouncing the African slave trade a flagrant violation of the law of nature, of the natural rights of mankind. What have the unhappy Africans committed against the inhabitants of the British colonies and islands in the West Indies, to authorize us to seize them, or bribe them to seize one another, and transport them a thousand leagues into a strange land, and enslave them for life? For life did I say. From generation to generation to the end of time! However the cruel bondage is somewhat lightened Edition: 1983; Page: [17] in these northern colonies, through the kindness and lenity of the masters—kindness and lenity, I mean as far as these terms are applicable in the present case; I say, however the cruel Edition: current; Page: [[313]] bondage of the poor Africans is somewhat lightened among us, if we would [ask] for a just estimate of the nature of the slave trade we must be acquainted with the method of procuring the slaves—transporting them, and their treatment in the West Indies, to which, and the southern colonies a great part of them are transported, and where the nature of the slave trade is consistently displayed.

When the Guinea traders arrive on that coast if the trading natives are not already supplied with a proper number of slaves, they go into the back settlements and either by secret ambush, or open force, seize a sufficient number for their purpose, in accomplishing which great numbers, many times are slain, and whole towns laid in ashes. When taken they are driven like cattle to the slaughter, to the sea shore, and sold to our Guinea traders, often for a small quantity of that soul and body destroying liquor, rum, qualified however with a large proportion of water, by which the ignorant natives are imposed upon, cheated, and disappointed.—The poor slaves are bound and thrust into the filthy holds of the ship—men, women, fathers, daughters, mothers, sons, without distinction; where they are obliged to rot together thro’ a long sea passage, which happily relieves numbers from more intolerable sufferings on the shore.—

When they are arrived at the West Indies they are again exposed in the markets, and sold like beasts of burden to the inhuman planters, by whose cruelty many more of them perish. It is supposed that out Edition: 1983; Page: [18] of near an hundred thousand which are computed to be transported from Africa annually, almost one third perish on the passage and in seasoning; and those unhappy numbers whose hard lot it is to be doomed to longer slavery, wear out their wretched lives in misery which wants a name. The Egyptian bondage was a state of liberty and ease compared with the condition of these unhappy sufferers; and for a trifling offence their barbarous masters will seize and butcher them, with as little, and in many instances, perhaps less ceremony or regret than you would take away the life of one of your domestic animals. It would be an affront to your understandings to enter on a long course of reasoning to prove the injustice and cruelty of such a trade as this. Let us for once put ourselves in the place of the unhappy Negroes. Suppose a number of ships arrived from Africa at a neighbouring sea port to purchase slaves, and transport them to that distant and to us inhospitable climate and those burning sands—put the case that a prevailing party in the neighbouring towns were so Edition: current; Page: [[314]] lost to all sense of public welfare and to the feelings of humanity as to accept their bribes and join with them to effect the ruin of their fellow men. Let this be the devoted town—and even now while you are met to assert and exercise that invaluable liberty which is the distinguished glory of Englishmen, the honour and safety of Connecticut; in this destined hour while your hearts glow with the love of liberty and exult in her possession, behold this house surrounded, whole armies from the neighbouring towns rush on you, those who resist are at once overpowered by numbers and butchered, the survivors, husbands, wives, parents, children, brethren, sisters, and ardent lover and his darling fair one, all seized, bound and driven away to the neighbouring Edition: 1983; Page: [19] sea port, where all ranged on the shore promiscuously, in a manner that pity and modesty relent to name; you are sold for a trifling sum, and see your inhuman purchasers rejoicing in their success. But the time is come for a last farewell, you are destined to different ships bound to different and far distant coasts, go husbands and wives, give and receive the last embrace; parents bid a lasting adieu to your tender offspring. What can you say? What do to comfort or advise them? Their case and yours admit not of consolation—go, mothers, weep out your sorrows on the necks of your beloved daughters whom you have nursed with so much care, and educated with such delicacy; now they must go to a distant clime, to attend the nod of an imperious mistress, covered with rags and filth (if coverd at all) they must descend to the most servile and intolerable drudgery, and every the least symptom of uneasiness at their hard usage, meet the frowns and suffer the merciless lash of a cruel master.—But why ruminate on this; behold the inhuman monsters tear you from your last embrace, bound in chains you are hurried to different vessels, crouded in their holds and transported away forever from the sight of all you love, to distant cruel lands, to live and die in slavery and bondage, without the smallest hope of ever enjoying the sweets of liberty, or revisiting your dear native country, with this only consolation, that your sons and daughters are suffering the same cruel bondage, and that from you a race of abject slaves will, probably be propagated down for hundreds of years! Such are the sweets of this beloved slave trade! It is the same to the unhappy sufferers now, that it would be to us if it was our own case, and the reasons against it are as strong and powerful as they would be then—in short the man that can deliberately Edition: 1983; Page: [20] attend to this subject and not feel the emotions of Edition: current; Page: [[315]] pity, or indignation, or both, appears to be sunk quite below the feelings of humanity. Is it not high time for this colony to wake up and put an effectual stop to the cruel business of stealing and selling our fellow men, so far as it can be stopped by one province?

With what a very ill grace can we plead for slavery when we are the tyrants, when we are engaged in one united struggle for the enjoyment of liberty; what inconsistence and self contradiction is this! Who can count us the true friends of liberty as long as we defend, or publicly connive at slavery.—

The general assembly of the neighbouring colony have prohibited the importation of Negro slaves under a large penalty, and have enacted that such slaves shall be free as soon as they set foot on the shore within the colony. Can this Colony want motives from reason, justice, religion, or public spirit, to follow the example? When, O when shall the happy day come, that Americans shall be consistently engaged in the cause of liberty, and a final end be put to the awful slavery of our fellow men? Then may we not expect that our liberties will be established on a lasting foundation and that British America and English liberty will flourish to the latest posterity!

Inference 2. If civil liberty consisteth in acting freely and without constraint or fear of punishment for the public good, and so, agreeable to the laws formed to promote and secure it, and civil bondage or slavery is the reverse of this. We learn the importance of intrusting those, and none but those, with Edition: 1983; Page: [21] the guardianship of our civil liberties who are themselves free, who are not under the dominion of this sordid selfishness and narrowness of soul by which they will betray their country, our dear Colony for a little private profit or honor to themselves.

Men who know the worth of public liberty, and are able and willing defenders of it, be the consequences what they may to their private interest, are the only proper persons to be rulers or representatives of this free and happy colony. In such the votes of the freemen should unite, without the least regard to party, interest, or any private views, agreeable to the nature and solemnity of their oath, and as they value their inestimable liberties, and would dread to fall a helpless prey to tyranny and oppression.

Inference 3. If it is of such importance that we enjoy and secure civil liberty, which respects only a comparatively small circle of society which must disband, at the latest, with the close of fleeting time, at Edition: current; Page: [[316]] what moment is it to us all, that we are the subjects of that spiritual liberty, which unites us to, and interests us in the good of the whole kingdom of God our Saviour, and which shall last forever.

It is a just way of reasoning in the present case, from the less to the greater, let me say then, with what astonishment and abhorrence should we look on a person who chuses slavery and bondage under the most cruel tyrant, with the certain prospect of a shameful, painful death, by the hand of the executioner, rather than all the sweets of English liberty!

But with what an unspeakable greater madness is he chargable who prefers the guilty slavery of sin and Edition: 1983; Page: [22] satan, to the glorious, perfect liberty of the children of God! Yet how many make this fatal choice! How many too, who are at great expence and trouble in the cause of civil liberty and zealous assertors of it! What self-contradiction and inconsistence is here! Is not this to strain out a gnat and swallow a cammel? What is English liberty? What is American freedom? When compared with the glorious liberty of the sons of God? And what is slavery under the gauling yoke of oppression, to the hard bondage of sin and satan! Let the hitherto, willing slaves of sin and satan then rouse up, there is now an opportunity to escape from bondage; there is one come to preach deliverance to the captives, and the opening the prison to them who are bound. Jesus Christ the mighty king and Saviour, the scourge of tyrants, and destroyer of sin and satan, the assertor, the giver and supporter of original, perfect freedom; he sets open your prison doors, knocks off your chains, and calls you to come forth. Oh! What a prisoner who will not leap for joy at the sound of this jubilee trumpet, accept the offered pardon, embrace the given freedom,—bid adieu to slavery and bondage, and stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ makes his subjects free. Here the most perfect liberty may be enjoyed. The exalted king seeks and secures the public interest, to this all the branches of his good government and wise administration tend, and in this they center, for this joy which was set before him, he came into our nature and world, and even endured the cross and dispised the shame.—All the subjects in this happy kingdom are united in the same honourable cause, to them there is neither Barbarian, Scythian, Greek, or Jew, bond or free, they are all one, in one cause, and pursue it animated by one spirit; they feel how good Edition: 1983; Page: [23] and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.—In vain shall the tyrant satan vent his impotent rage against these Edition: current; Page: [[317]] happy sons of liberty: be wise in reason then, bid adieu to the kingdom of darkness, the cause of tyranny and oppression, inlist under the Captain of the Lords host, fight under his banner, you may be sure of victory, and liberty shall be your lasting reward, for whom the son maketh free shall be free indeed.

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An English Patriot’s Creed, Anno Domini, 1775

Newspapers contained almost every literary form imaginable, and in this instance a legalistic political statement is put in a form similar to the Apostles’ Creed. It appeared in the Massachusetts Spy on January 19, 1776. Written the previous year when many colonists were still taking pains to show their continued loyalty as Englishmen, it enunciates a radical English Whig position that contains within the argument justification for what is to come in America.

I believe the English Government, such as it appears to have been, from the most unquestioned annals of our country, to be a free constitution of a mixed and limited form; and that its origin is to be sought for, and lies, in the consent of the people.

I believe a King of England has not a claim to absolute, uncontrouled dominion; that if the English government, in its administration, has, at some seasons, been despotic, yet its genius hath at times been free; and that the liberty of the subject, founded upon established laws, was essential to every form under which it appeared.

I believe all political power to be derived originally from, and invested in the people; which power, I believe, they may dispose of, for their own use, in what hands, and under what conditions they please.

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I believe a current of liberty has been gradually widening, as well as purifying, in proportion to the distance from its source, a feudal institution; that charters and laws have removed every scruple that might now arise about the reciprocal rights and privileges of the King and his subjects.

I believe the feudal system and absolute dominion, two things perfectly incompatible.

I believe the claim of the Norman Invader to the crown was not conquest but testamentary succession; that he renounced his conquest by a coronation oath; and before he commenced tyrant, confirmed the use of the Saxon laws.

I believe regal power to have no divine right, but to be of human or popular institution; and that the present reigning family’s title to the crown, is derived only from parliamentary resolutions, to which revolutional principles alone gave birth.

I believe passive obedience was not demanded even by Elizabeth or James; nor even acknowledged, by the people, as a matter of right.

I believe legal resistance and rebellion essentially different, and that they originate from quite opposite principles. By the law of nature, every man has a right to defend himself against the abuse of power, and by the singular constitution of this kingdom, when Kings and Ministers, break through the bounds prescribed by the laws, the people’s right of resistance is unquestionable.

I believe what is called the English constitution to be that system of government which was first declared by the great charter of England; and after many struggles between the crown and its subjects, was established at the glorious revolution.

I believe I am bound to maintain the Protestant succession as established by law, in the present reigning family, and also to support the Catholic Church of England, so long as it continues united with the state; and therefore I will use my utmost endeavors to oppose the designs of Papists, and every pretender to the throne, as inveterate enemies to both.

I believe a Parliament to be a legislative body, instituted by the people at large with delegated power, intended as a balance between them and the Sovereign; and elected for the sole purposes of preserving their liberties, or defending their lives and estates.

I believe it is my duty to yield an implicit obedience to the laws of my country; that these are a standard of right for both Prince and Edition: current; Page: [[320]] subject; and that no Englishman ought to suffer in person or property, unless by the uncontrouled judgment of his Peers.

I believe I am under an indispensable obligation to have an eye, in all my pursuits and actions, to peace, safety, and good government; I will, therefore, under God, endeavor to maintain, at all times, true loyalty to my King, and an unfeigned affection to the Magistrate; proportioned to the wisdom and integrity, with which they guard public freedom, and promote national prosperity.

I believe I ought not, on any pretence, to surrender that invaluable liberty, which has been solemnly confirmed to me, by the great transactions of former days; nor to renounce that pure religion which my ancestors sealed with their blood; I will therefore be ready, at any moment, to risque my life in their defence; and so long as I intend fairly and honestly, I trust Almighty God will bless my public and private efforts to advance his glory and my nation’s welfare.

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The Alarm: or, an Address to the People of Pennsylvania on the Late Resolve of Congress

The Americans of the founding era were a highly politicized people. Even in the midst of their most serious crisis, every action was subject to debate. The Continental Congress had passed a resolution for the separate colonies to write new constitutions commensurate with their independent statehood. It had called upon the respective state legislatures to draft the constitutions, and in this essay the author argues that constitutions should not be written by legislatures but by special conventions elected for that purpose. While that has become common practice in the United States, few of the more than two dozen state constitutions adopted by 1800 were written by special conventions. The legislature tended also to adopt the new constitutions, and only twice before 1800 did a state both elect a special convention and submit the document to the people for adoption, the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 being the first.

The long continued injuries and insults, which the Continent of America hath sustained from the cruel power of the British Court, and the disadvantages, which the several provinces in the mean time labour under from the want of a permanent form of government, by which they might in a proper constitutional manner of their own, afford protection to themselves, have at length risen to such an height, as to make it appear necessary to the Honourable Continental Congress to issue a Resolve, recommending it to the several Colonies to take up and establish new governments “on the authority of the people,” in Edition: current; Page: [[322]] lieu of those old ones which were established on the authority of the Crown.

This, Fellow Countrymen, is the situation we now stand in, and the matter for your immediate consideration, is simply this: Who are, or who are not, the proper persons to be entrusted with carrying the said Resolve into execution, in what is the most eligible mode of authorizing such persons? for unless they have the full authority of the people for the especial purpose, any government modelled by them will not stand.

Men of interested view and dangerous designs may tell you, The House of Assembly: But be not deceived by the tinkling of a name, for either such an House does not now exist, or if it does exist, it is by an unconstitutional power, for as the people have not yet, by any public act of theirs, transferred to them any new authority necessary to qualify them agreeable to the sense and expression of Congress, which says, “on the Authority of the People,” they consequently have none other than what is either immediately derived from, or conveyed to them in consequence of, the royal charter of our enemy, and this, saith the Honourable Congress, “should be totally suppressed”. Wherefore, in compliance with this advice and recommendation of Congress, it is proposed to enter a public protest, in order to suppress it, for legislative bodies of men have no more the power of suppressing the authority they sit by, than they have of creating it, otherwise every legislative body would have the power of suppressing a constitution at will; it is an act which can only be done to them, but cannot be done by them. Were the present House of Assembly to be suffered by their own act to suppress the old authority derived from the Crown, they might afterwards suppress the new authority received from the people, and thus by continually making and unmaking themselves at pleasure, leave the people at last no right at all. The power from which the new authority is to be derived, is the only power which can properly suppress the old one. Thus, Fellow Countrymen, you are called upon by the standing law of nature and reason, and by the sense of the Honourable Congress, to assert your natural rights, by entering your protest against the authority of the present House of Assembly, in order that a new government, founded “on the authority of the people,” may be established.

Until the authority of the Crown, by which the present House of Assembly sits, be suppressed, the House is not qualified to carry Edition: current; Page: [[323]] the Resolve of Congress, respecting a new government, into execution, and after the House is suppressed, it will be again disqualified, for the want of new authority, for in that case it will be no House at all: Wherefore, both before and after suppression, the present House of Assembly cannot be adequate to the purpose of establishing a new government.

Edition: 1983; Page: [2] Besides, if a review of the past conduct of the House of Assembly be attended to, it will appear that they are a third time disqualified, in consequence of their own resolve. The unwise and impolitic instructions which they have arbitrarily imposed on the Delegates for this province, and confirmed at their last sitting, forbidding them in the strongest and most positive terms to consent to any change of government, should such be moved for in Congress, amount to a protest against the matter itself contained in the aforesaid resolve of Congress, and have even a reasonable tendency towards disolving the happy union of the colonies, for the Delegates, conceiving themselves bound by those instructions, sat as cyphers in Congress when the loud resolve was passed, declaring that they could not vote thereon, on which ground the term “Assemblies,” mentioned in the said resolve of Congress, cannot be applied, as to the purpose of forming new governments, to the Pennsylvania House of Assembly, because it withdrew from the resolve by the neutrality of its Delegates, yet, altho’ the Assembly is not included within the resolve itself, as to the exercise of new powers, it is included within the Preamble to the resolve, which, without regard to any distinct bodies of men, recommends generally that all the old powers of government be totally suppressed, and that new ones be erected on the “authority of the people.” And thus far, and no farther, is the Pennsylvania House of Assembly within the sense both of the preamble and the resolve of Congress.

In this situation, what is to be done? The union of the Colonies is not only our glory, but our protection, and altho’ the House of Assembly hath outwitted itself, it is no reason that the Province should: Wherefore, in order to restore ourselves to our former Continental rank, which we lost in Congress by not being represented in that resolve; and in order, likewise, that the people of this province may be put into a proper capacity of carrying the said resolve of Congress into execution, we must refer to the second term mentioned therein, viz. Conventions, for, even admitting that the present House Edition: current; Page: [[324]] of Assembly was a proper body, yet, the people may choose which they please, for both are mentioned.

The House of Assembly is a fourth time disqualified by not being sufficiently wise for such an important trust. If the aforesaid instructions to the Delegates be examined on the principles of sound reason and policy, they give a very indifferent character of the judgment and wisdom of the House, for, experience hath now taught us, and men of discernment did, at the time of first passing them, foresee that they were unsound in their policy, and would be hurtful in their effects. They are marked with the strongest characters of mischief and ignorance. Yet, they became a precedent to such other provinces as might be induced to believe that the Pennsylvania Assembly, by its central situation for intelligence, was possessed of some secret, which afforded grounds to expect a reconciliation, and under that delusion they likewise issued instructions to the same purpose; and thus, by circulating a false hope, the hands of power were relaxed, and a poisonous prudence was produced in our councils, at a time when a direct contrary spirit ought to have taken place, for if, instead of those instructions, a motion had been made for disclaiming all allegiance to the crown of Britain; and, had proper persons been immediately dispatched to Europe, to have cleared up the character of America from the aspersions which the British court would throw on her, as a pretence for obtaining foreign assistance, and had those persons been properly authorised to have negociated and ratified a treaty of friendship and commerce therewith, there is every reason to believe that we should not only have prevented Britain from obtaining foreign mercenaries, but that we should by this time have had the goods and manufactures of such countries in our stores, and thereby relieved this country from the present scarcity, and saved the poor from the enormous expence of purchasing goods at these present high prices. Thus hath a whole winter, when no molestation could happen to us, been lost and sacrificed thro’ the ill policy and ill precedent of the present House of Assembly—Therefore it is no longer worthy of our confidence.

Fifthly—The obligation which the said House of Assembly is under by oaths of allegiance to our enemy again disqualifies them fully and effectually from framing a new government. The members of the said House took those oaths, not as members of the community at large, but as members of the House particularly: Therefore they can Edition: current; Page: [[325]] only be properly discharged therefrom by ceasing to act in this official character in which, and for which, they took those oaths, besides which, as the new elected members will not now Edition: 1983; Page: [3] take the oaths, they cannot sit in Assembly with those who have; and those who have, cannot sit as a Convention with those who have not—Therefore the present House, in its present state, has not, nor can have, either the authority of an Assembly or Convention.

Sixthly—The undue influence and partial connextions which many members of the said House are biassed by, render them unfit persons to be trusted with powers to carry the late resolve of Congress into execution; and we have very alarming apprehensions, that a government, modelled by such persons, would be calculated to transfer the good people of this province, like live stock upon a farm, to the proprietaries of the soil. Lord and landlord were never yet united since the world began, and such a government would soon reduce us and our posterity to a state even of animal slavery. The most absolute monarch is supported by revenue only and not by revenue and rental both.

Fellow countrymen, it must occur with the fullest force of conviction to every honest, thinking man, that the persons delegated with proper powers to form a plan of government, ought to possess the entire confidence of the people. They should be men having no false bias from old prejudices, no interest distinct or separate from the body of the people; in short, they should be a very different sort of men to what many of the present House of Assembly are. They should be men, likewise, invested with powers to form a plan of government only, and not to execute it after it is framed; for nothing can be a greater violation of reason and natural rights, than for men to give authority to themselves: And on this ground, likewise, the House of Assembly is again disqualified.

We have, my Fellow Countrymen, been making shift long enough. It is now high time to come to some settled point, that we may call ourselves a people; for in the present unsettled state of things we are only a decent multitude. Yet, to the honour of this province, to the honour of all America, be it told, so long as the name of America remains, that by the common consent of Citizens, the public peace was preserved inviolate, for nearly three years, without law. Perhaps the only instance since the world began.

We are now arrived at a period from which we are to look forward Edition: current; Page: [[326]] as a legal people. The Resolve of Congress, grounded on the justest foundation, hath recommended it to us, to establish a regular plan of legal government, and the means which they have recommended for that purpose, are, either by Assemblies or Conventions. Conventions, my Fellow Countrymen, are the only proper bodies to form a Constitution, and Assemblies are the proper bodies to make Laws agreeable to that constitution.—This is a just distinction. Let us begin right, and there is no [fear] but, under the providence of God, we shall end well. When the tyrant James the Second, king of Britain, abdicated the government, that is, ran away therefrom, or rather, was driven away by the just indignation of the people, the situation of England was like what America is now; and in that state a Convention was chosen, to settle the new or reformed plan of government, before any Parliament could presume to sit; and this is what is distinguished in history by the name of the Revolution.—Here, my Countrymen, is our precedent: A precedent which is worthy of imitation. We need no other—we can have no better. And this precedent is more particularly striking in our situation, because it was concerted between our virtuous ancestors, and the ancestors of those German inhabitants of this and other provinces, who are now incorporated with us in one common stock. Having then a noble precedent before us, let it be our wish to imitate it. The persons who recommend this, are Fellow Citizens with yourselves. They have no private views, no interest to establish for themselves. This aim, end and wish is the happiness of the Community. He who dares say otherwise, let him step forth, and prove it, for, conscious of the purity of our intentions, we challenge the world.

Our present condition may, to many persons, seem more embarrassing than it really is; while, to those who have truly reflected thereon, it appears, that the necessary steps to be taken, in order to extricate ourselves therefrom, and to arrive at a state of legal order, are simple, easy and regular: For the purpose of which, it is proposed, that the Committees of Inspection throughout the several Counties, agreeable to the power they are already invested with, do immediately call a Convention to take charge of the affairs of the province, for we cannot conceive how the House of Assembly can any longer presume to sit, without either breaking through the resolve of Congress, or assuming to themselves arbitrary power. And we do Edition: 1983; Page: [4] farther propose, that this Convention, when met, so issue out summonses for electing by ballot (of all the freemen throughout the province, including those Edition: current; Page: [[327]] Germans, or others, who were before disqualified for not having taken oaths of allegiance to our enemy, but are now restored to their natural rights by the late resolve of Congress for suppressing the taking those oaths) a Grand Provincial Convention, consisting at least of One Hundred members, of known and established reputation, for wisdom, virtue and impartiality, without regard to country or profession of religion; whose sole business, when met, shall be to agree upon, and settle a plan of government for this province, which shall secure to every separate inhabitant thereof perfect liberty of conscience, with every civil and legal right and privilege, so that all men, rich and poor, shall be protected in the possession of their peace, property and principles.—And what more can honest men say? We mean well, and under that conscious sanction we implore God and man to help us. The die of this day will cast the fate of posterity in this province. We can no longer confide in the House of Assembly; they have, by a feeble and intimidating prudence held us up as sacrifices to a bloody-minded enemy, they have thrown cold water on the necessary military proceedings of this province and continent, and have been abettors, together with their collegues, in procrastinating the expedition to Canada, which, by that delay only, may probably not now succeed.

It is time, and high time, to break off from such men, and to awaken from such unmanly drowsiness: And we have no fear, that as our cause is just, our God will support us against barbarous tyrants, foreign mercenaries, and American traitors.

Having thus clearly stated the case for your consideration, we leave you to the exercise of your own reason, to determine whether the present House of Assembly, under all the disqualification, inconsistencies, prejudices and private interests herein mentioned, is a proper body to be entrusted with the extensive powers necessary for forming or reforming a government agreeable to the Resolve and Recommendation of Congress. Or whether a Convention, chosen fairly and openly for that express purpose, consisting, as has been before mentioned, of at least One Hundred members, of known reputation for wisdom, virtue and impartiality, is not a far more probable, nay the only possible, method for securing the just Rights of the people, and posterity.

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[28]: A Native of This Colony
[CARTER BRAXTON 1736-1797]

An Address to the Convention of the Colony and Ancient Dominion of Virginia on the Subject of Government in General, and Recommending a Particular Form to Their Attention

Braxton was born in Virginia and attended the College of William and Mary. His father was a well-to-do planter and sometime member of the House of Burgesses. Carter Braxton himself served in the House of Burgesses from 1761 to 1775 where he was a leader of the conservative tidewater faction. Along with George Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and Peyton Randolph, he signed the Resolutions of 1769 which argued that the right to tax Virginians lay solely in Virginia. Braxton served in the revolutionary conventions of 1774, 1775, and 1776, signed the Declaration of Independence, served in the Continental Congress and then in the Virginia Assembly from 1776 until 1785. The title of this piece by Braxton accurately sums up its contents. Virginia was in the process of writing a state constitution to replace its colonial charter. Braxton rehearses the general principles of government that should underlie a constitution suitable for his state and then outlines specific institutions based upon those principles that he feels should be included in the document proper. While only one of a number of essays written in Virginia at the time, Braxton’s is noteworthy for capturing the essential Virginia perspective in relatively few pages. The essay appeared in two parts, one each in the June 8 and June 15 editions of the Virginia Gazette.

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When depotism had displayed her banners, and with unremitting ardour and fury scattered her engines of oppression through this wide extended continent, the virtuous opposition of the people to its progress relaxed the tone of government in almost every colony, and occasioned in many instances a total suspension of law. These inconveniencies, however, were natural, and the mode readily submitted to, as there was then reason to hope that justice would be done to our injured country; the same laws, executed under the same authority, soon regain their former use and lustre; and peace, raised on a permanent foundation, bless this our native land.

But since these hopes have hitherto proved delusive, and time, instead of bringing us relief, daily brings forth new proofs of British tyranny, and thereby separates us further from that reconciliation we so ardently wished; does it not become the duty of your, and every other Convention, to assume the reins of government, and no longer suffer the people to live without the benefit of law, and order the protection it affords? Anarchy and riot will follow a continuance of its suspension, and render the enjoyment of our liberties and future quiet at least very precarious.

Presuming that this object will, ere long, engage your attention, and fully persuaded that when it does it will be considered with all the candour and deliberation due to its importance, I have ventured to collect my sentiments on the subject, and in a friendly manner offer them to your consideration. Should they suggest any hints that may tend to improve or embellish the fabric you are about to erect, I shall deem myself happy in having contributed my might to the benefit of a people I esteem, and a country to which I owe every obligation.

Taking for granted, therefore, the necessity of instituting a government capable of affording all the blessings of which the most cruel attempts have been made to deprive us, the first inquiry will be, which of the various forms is best adapted to our situation, and will in every respect most probably answer our purpose.

Various are the opinions of men on this subject, and different are the plans proposed for your adoption. Prudence will direct you to examine them with a jealous eye, and weigh the pretensions of each with care, as well as impartiality. Your, and your children’s welfare depends upon the choice. Let it therefore neither be marked by a blind Edition: current; Page: [[330]] attachment to ancient prejudices on the one hand, or a restless spirit of innovation on the other.

Although all writers agree in the object of government, and admit that it was designed to promote and secure the happiness of every member of society, yet their opinions, as to the systems most productive of this general benefit, have been extremely contradictory. As all these systems are said to move on separate and distinct principles, it may not be improper to analyse them, and by that means shew the manner of their operations.

Government is generally divided into two parts, its mode or form of constitution, and the principle intended to direct it.

The simple forms of government are despotism, monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Out of these an infinite variety of combinations may be deduced. The absolute unlimited controul of one man describes despotism, whereas monarchy compels the Sovereign to rule agreeable to certain fundamental laws. Aristocracy vests the sovereignty of a state in a few nobles, and democracy allows it to reside in the body of the people, and is thence called a popular government.

Each of these forms are actuated by different principles. The subjects of an unlimited despotic Prince, whose will is their only rule of conduct, are influenced by the principle of fear. In a monarchy limited by laws the people are insensibly led to the pursuit of honour, they feel an interest in the greatness of their Princes, and, inspired by a desire of glory, rank, and promotion, unite in giving strength and energy to the whole machine. Aristocracy and democracy claim for their principle public virtue, or a regard for the public good independent of private interest.

Let us inquire from which of these several [] we should take a cion to ingraft on our wild one, see which is most congenial to our soil, and by the extent and strength of its branches best calculated to shelter the people from the rage of those tempests which often darken the political hemisphere. I will not deny, whatever others may do, that individuals have enjoyed a certain degree of happiness under all these forms. Content, and consequently happiness, depend more on the state of our minds than external circumstances, and some men are satisfied with fewer enjoyments than others. Upon these occasions the inclinations of men, which are often regulated by what they have seen and experienced, ought to be consulted. It cannot be wise to draw them further from their former institutions than obvious reasons and Edition: current; Page: [[331]] necessity will justify. Should a form of government directly opposite to the ancient one, under which they have been happy, be introduced and established, will they not, on the least disgust, repine at the change, and be disposed even to acts of violence in order to regain their former condition. Many examples in the history of almost every country prove the truth of this remark.

What has been the government of Virginia, and in a revolution how is its spirit to be preserved, are important questions. The better to discuss these points, we should take a view of the constitution of England, because by that model our’s was constructed, and under it we have enjoyed tranquillity and security. Our ancestors, the English, after contemplating the various forms of government, and experiencing, as well as perceiving, the defects of each, wisely refused to resign their liberties either to the single man, the few, or the many. They determine to make a compound of each the foundation of their government, and of the most valuable parts of them all to build a superstructure that should surpass all others, and bid defiance to time to injure, or any thing, except national degeneracy and corruption, to demolish.

In rearing this fabric, and connecting its parts, much time, blood, and treasure were expended. By the vigilance, perseverance, and activity of innumerable martyrs, the happy edifice was at length completed under the auspices of the renowned King William in the year 1688. They wisely united the hereditary succession of the Crown with the good behaviour of the Prince; they gave respect and stability to the legislature, by the independence of the Lords, and security, as well as importance to the people, by being parties with their Sovereign in every act of legislation. Here then our ancestors rested from their long and laborious pursuit, and saw many good days in the peaceable enjoyment of the fruit of their labours. Content with having provided against the ills which had befallen them, they seemed to have forgot, that although the seeds of destruction might be excluded from their constitution, they were, nevertheless, to be found in those by whom their affairs were administered.

Time, the improver, as well as destroyer, of all things, discovered to them, that the very man who had wrought their deliverance was capable of pursuing measures leading to their destruction. Much is it to be lamented, that this magnanimous Prince, ascending a throne beset with uncertainty and war, was induced, by the force of both, to invent and practise the art of funding to supply his wants, and create Edition: current; Page: [[332]] an interest that might support him in possession of his Crown. He succeeded to his wish, and thereby established a monied interest, which was followed by levying of taxes, by a host of tax-gatherers, and a long train of dependents on the Crown. The practice grew into system, till at length the Crown found means to break down those barriers which the constitution had assigned to each branch of the legislature, and effectively destroyed the independence of both Lords and Commons. These breaches, instead of being repaired as soon as discovered, were, by the supineness of the nation permitted to widen by daily practice, till, finally, the influence of the Crown pervaded and overwhelmed the whole people, and gave birth to the many calamities which we now bewail, and for the removal of which the united efforts of America are at this time exerted.

Men are prone to condemn the whole, because a part is objectionable; but certainly it would, in the present case, be more wise to consider, whether, if the constitution was brought back to its original state, and its present imperfections remedied, it would not afford more happiness than any other. If the independence of the Commons could be secured, and the dignity of the Lords preserved, how can a government be better formed for the preservation of freedom? And is there any thing more easy than this? If placemen and pensioners were excluded a seat in either House, and elections made triennial, what danger could be apprehended for prerogative? I have the best authority for asserting, that with these improvements, added to the suppression of boroughs, and giving the people an equal and adequate representation, England would have remained a land of liberty to the latest ages.

Judge of the principle of this constitution by the great effects it has produced. Their code of laws, the boast of Englishmen and of freedom; the rapid progress they have made in trade, in arts and sciences; the respect they commanded from their neighbours, then gaining the empire of the sea; are all powerful arguments of the wisdom of that constitution and government, which raised the people of that island to their late degree of greatness. But though I admire their perfections, I must mourn their faults; and though I would guard against, and cast off their oppression, yet would I retain all their wise maxims, and derive advantage from their mistakes and misfortunes. The testimony of the learned Montesquieu in favour of the English constitution is very respectable. “There is (says he) one nation in the Edition: current; Page: [[333]] world that has for the direct end of its constitution political liberty.” Again he says, “It is not my business to examine whether the English actually enjoy this liberty or not; sufficient it is for my purpose to observe, that it is established by their laws, and I inquire no further.”

This constitution, and these laws, have also been those of Virginia, and let it be remembered, that under them she flourished and was happy. The same principles which led the English to greatness animates us. To that principle our laws, our customs, and our manners, are adapted, and it would be perverting all order to oblige us, by a novel government, to give up our laws, our customs, and our manners.

However necessary it may be to shake off the authority of arbitrary British dictators, we ought, nevertheless, to adopt and perfect that system, which England has suffered to be grossly abused, and the experience of ages has taught us to venerate. This, like almost every thing else, is perhaps liable to objections, and probably the difficulty of adopting a limited monarchy will be largely insisted on. Admit this objection to have weight, and that we cannot in every instance assimulate a government to that, yet no good reason can be assigned why the same principle, or spirit, may not in a great measure be preserved. But, honourable as this spirit is, we daily see it calumniated by advocates for popular governments, and rendered obnoxious to all whom their artifices can influence or delude. The systems recommended to the colonies seem to accord with the temper of the times, and are fraught with all the tumult and riot incident to simple democracy; systems which many think it their interest to support, and without doubt will be industriously propagated among you. The best of these systems exist only in theory, and were never confirmed by the experience, even of those who recommend them. I fla