Considerations on Behalf of the Colonists
|Considerations on Behalf of the Colonists
On Behalf of the
Printed for J. ALMON, opposite Burlington House, in Piccadilly.
[Price One Shilling.]
The following Pamphlet was sent to the Publisher, by an unknown Person, from Boston, in New England; with a Request to print it as soon as possible: finding, after a careful Reading, it not to contain any Thing apparently, or particularly offensive to any Party, or Body of Men, he should have thought himself inexcusable, if he had been the Means of witholding it from the Public.
I HAVE read the Opusculum of the celebrated Mr. J-----s, called "Objections to the taxation of the colonies by the legislature of Great-Britain, briefly considered." In obedience to your lordships commands, I have thrown a few thoughts on paper, all indeed that I have patience on this melancholy occasion to collect. THe gentleman thinks it "absurd and insolent" to question the expediency and utility of a public measure. He seems to be an utter enemy to the freedom of enquiry after truth, justice and equity. He is not only a zealous advocate for pusilanimous and passive obedience, but for the most implicit faith in the dictatorial mandates of power. The "several favorite words liberty, property, Englishmen, &c." are in his opinion of no use but to "make strong impressions on the more numberous part of mankind who have ears but no understanding." The times have been when the favorite terms places, pensions, French louis d'ors and English guineas, have made very undue impressions on those who have had votes and voices, but neither honor nor conscience *mdash; who have deserved of their country an ax, a gibbet, or a halter, much better than a star or garter. The grand aphorism of the British constitution, that "no Englishman is or can be taxed but by his own consent in person or by his deputy" is absurdly denied. In a vain and most insolent attempt to disporve this fundamental principle he exhibits a curious specimen of his talent at chicanery and quibbling. He says that "no man that he knows of is taxed by his own consent." It is a maxim at this day, that the crown by royal perogative alone can levy no taxes on the subject. One who had any "understanding as well as ears" would from thence be led to conclude that some men must consent to their taxes before they can be imposed.
It has been commonly understood, at least since the glorious revolution, that the consent of the British Lords and Commons, i.e. of all men within the realm, must be obtained to make a tax legal there. The consent of the lords and commons of his majesty's ancient and very respectable kingdom of Ireland, has also been deemed necessary to a taxation of the subjects there. The consent of the two houses of assembly in the colonies has till lately been also thought requisite for the taxation of his majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the colonists. Sed tempora mutantur.
I would ask Mr. J----s, if when a knight of a shire, or a burgess of a borough, civil military, or errant possessed of a real estate, votes for a land tax, he does not tax himself and consent to such tax? And does he not by thus voting, tax himself as an identic individual, as well as some of his silly neighbors, who "may have ears but no understanding", and be therefore in great danger at a future election of chusing an empty individuum vagum to manage their highest concerns. Tis much to be lamented that these people with "ears but without understanding" by certain vulgar low arts, may be as easily led to elect a state auctioneer or a vote seller as the wisest and most upright man in the three kingdoms. We have known some of them cry Hosanna to the man who under God and his King had been their savior, and the next day appear ready to crucify him. However, when a man in Europe or America, votes a tax on his constituents, if he has any estate, he is at the same time taxing himself, and that by his own consent; and of all this he must be conscious, unless we suppose him to be void of common sense.
No one ever contended that "the consent of the very person he chuses to represent him," nor that "the consent of the majority of those who are chosen by himself, and others of his fellow subjects to represent them," should be obtained before a tax can be rightfully levied. The pitiful chicanery here, consists wholly in substituting and for or. If for and, we read or, as the great Mr. J----s himself inadvertantly reads it a little afterwards, the same proposition will be as strictly true, as any political aphorism or other general maxim whatever, the theorems of Euclid not excepted; namely, "that no Englishman, nor indeed any other freeman, is or can be rightfully taxed, but by his own actual consent in person, or by the majority of those who are chosen by himself or others his fellow subjects to represent the whole people."
Right Reason and the spirit of a free constitution require that the representation of the whole people should be as equal as possible. A perfect equality of representation has been thought impracticable; perhaps the nature of human affairs will not admit of it. But it most certainly might and ought to be more equal than it is at present in any state. The difficulties in the way of a perfectly equal representation are such that in most countries the poor people can obtain none. The lust of power and unreasonable domination are, have been, and I fear ever will be not only impatient of, but above, controul. The Great love pillows of down for their own heads, and chains for those below them. Hence 'tis pretty easy to see how it has been brought about, that in all ages despotism has been the general tho' not quite universal government of the world. No good reason however can be given in any country why every man of a sound mind should not have his vote in the election of a representative. If a man has but little property to protect and defend, yet his life and liberty are things of some importance. Mr J----s argues only from the vile abuses of power to the continuance and increase of such abuses. This it must be confessed is the common logic of modern politicians and vote sellers. To what purpose is it to ring everlasting changes to the colonists on the cases of Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield, who return no members? If those now so considerable places are not represented, they ought to be. Besides the counties in which those respectable abodes of tinkers, tinmen, and pedlars lie, return members, so do all the neighbouring cities and boroughs. In the choice of the former, if they have no vote, they must naturally and necessarily have a great influence. I believe every gentleman of a landed estate, near a flourishing manufactory, will be careful enough of its interests. Tho the great India company, as such, returns no members, yet many of the company are returned, and their interests have been ever very carefully attended to.
Mr J----s says, "by far the major part of the inhabitants of Great Britain are non electors." The more is the pity. "Every Englishman, he tells us, is taxed, and yet not one in twenty is represented." To be consistent, he must here mean that not one in twenty, votes for a representative. So a small minority rules and governs the majority. This may for those in the saddle be clever enough, but can never be right in theory. What ab initio could give an absolute unlimitted right to one twentieth of a community, to govern the other nineteen by their sovereign will and pleasure? Let him, if his intellects will admit of the research, discover how in any age or country this came to be the fact. Some favourite modern systems must be given up or maintained by a clear open avowal of these Hobbeian maxims, vi. That dominion is rightfully founded on force and fraud. --- That power universally confers right. -- That war, bloody war, is the real and natural state of man --- and that he who can find means to buy, sell, enslave, or destroy, the greatest number of his own species, is right worthy to be dubbed a modern politician and an hero. Mr. J----s has a little contimptible flirt at the sacred names of Selden, Locke, and Sidney. But their ideas will not quadrate with the half-born sentiments of a courtier. Their views will never center in the paricranium of a modern politician. The characters of their writings cannot be affected by the crudities of a ministerial mercenary pamphleteer. He next proceeds to give us a specimen of his agility in leaping hedge and ditch, and of paddling through thick and thin. He has proved himself greatly skilled in the ancient and honourable sciences of horse-racing, bruising, boxing, and cock-fighting. He offers to "risk the merits of the whole cause on a single question." For this one question he proposes a string of five or six. ---To all which I say he may be a very great statesman, but must be a very indifferent lawyer. A good laywer might risque the merit of a cause on answers, but never would rest it on mere interrogatories. A multiplicity of questions, especially such as most of Mr. J----s's, only prove the folly and impertinence of the querist. Answers may be evidence, but none results from questions only. Further, to all his queries, let him take it for a full answer, that his way of reasoning would as well prove that the British house of commons, in fact, represent all the people on the globe,, as those in America. True it is, that from the nature of the British constitution, and also from the idea and nature of a supreme legislature, the parliament represents the whole community or empire, and have an undoubted power, authority, and jurisdiction, over the whole; and to their final decisions the whole must and ought peacably to submit. They have an undoubted right also to unite to all intents and purposes, for benefits and burthens, a dominion, or subordinate jurisdiction to the mother state, if the good of the whole requires it. But grat tenderness has been shown to the customs of particular cities and boroughs, and surely as much indulgence might be reasonably expected towards large provinces, the inhabintants of which have been born and grown up under the modes and customs of a subordinate jurisdiction. But in a case of necessity, the good of the whole requires, that not only private interests, but private passions, should give way to the public. But all this will not convince me of the reasonableness of imposing heavy taxes on teh colonists, while their trade and commerce are every day more than ever restricted. Much less will it follow, that the colonists are, in fact, represented in the house of commons. Should the British empire one day be extended round the whole world, would it be reasonable that all mankind should have their concerns managed by the electors of old Sarum, and the "occupants of the Cornish barns and ale-houses," we sometimes read of? We who are in the colonies, are by common law, and by act of parliament, declared entitled to all the privileges of the subjects within the realm. Yet we are heavily taxed, without being, in fact, represented. --- In all trials here relating to the revenue, the admiralty courts have jurisdiction given them, and the subject may, at the pleasure of the informer, be deprived of a trial by his peers. To do as one would be done by, is a divine rule. Remember Britons, when you shall be taxed without your consent, and tried without a jury, and have an army quartered in private families, you will have little to hope or to fear! But I must not lose sight of my man, who sagaciously asks "if the colonists are English when they solicit protection, but not Englishmen when taxes are required to enable this country to protect them?" I ask in my turn, when did the colonies solicit for protection? They have had no occasion to solicit for protection since the happy accession of our gracious Sovereign's illustrious family to the British diadem. His Majesty, the father of all his people, protects all his loyal subjects of every complexion and language, without any particular solicitation. But before the every memorable revolution, the Northern Colonists were so far from receiving protection from Britain, that every thing was done from the throne to the footstool, to cramp, betray, and ruin them: yet against the combined power of France, Indian savages, and the corrupt administration of those times, they carried on their settlements,