Page:American Archives, Series 4, Volume 2.djvu/1028

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1899
1900
CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, JULY 31, 1775

The several Assemblies of New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, having referred to the Congress a Resolution of the House of Commons of Great Britain, which Resolution is in these words:

"Lunæ, 20o Die Feb. 1775.

"The House in a Committee on the American Papers. Motion made, and question proposed:

"That it is the opinion of this Committee, that when the General Council and Assembly, or General Court of any of his Majesty's Provinces or Colonies in America, shall propose to make provision according to the condition, circumstance, or situation of such Province or Colony, for contributing their proportion to the common defence, (such proportion to be raised under the authority of the General Court, or General Assembly of such Province or Colony, and disposable by Parliament,) and shall engage[1900] to make provision also for the support of the civil Government, and the administration of justice in such Province or Colony, it will be proper, if such proposal shall be approved by His Majesty and the two Houses of Parliament, and for so long as such provision shall be made accordingly, to forbear in respect of such Province or Colony, to levy any duty, tax, or assessment, or to impose any farther duty, tax, or assessment, except only such duties as it may be expedient to continue to levy or to impose for the regulation of Commerce; the nett produce of the duties last mentioned, to be carried to the account of such Province or Colony respectively."

The Congress took the said Resolution into consideration, and are thereupon of opinion:

That the Colonies of America are entitled to the sole and exclusive privilege of giving and granting their own money; that this involves a right of deliberating whether they will make any gift, for what purposes it shall be made, and what shall be its amount; and that it is a high breach of this privilege for any body of men, extraneous to their constitutions, to prescribe the purposes for which money shall be levied on them, to take to themselves the authority of judging of their conditions, circumstances, and situations, and of determining the amount of the contribution to be levied.

That as the Colonies possess a right of appropriating their gifts, so are they entitled at all times to inquire into their application, to see that they be not wasted among the venal and corrupt for the purpose of undermining the civil rights of the givers, nor yet be diverted to the support of standing armies, inconsistent with their freedom and subversive of their quiet. To propose, therefore, as this Resolution does, that the monies given by the Colonies shall be subject to the disposal of Parliament alone, is to propose that they shall relinquish this right of inquiry, and put it in the power of others to render their gifts ruinous, in proportion as they are liberal.

That this privilege of giving or of withholding our monies, is an important barrier against the undue exertion of prerogative, which, if left altogether without control, may be exercised to our great oppression; and all history shows how efficacious is its intercessions for redress of grievances and re-establishment of rights, and how improvident it would be to part with so powerful a mediator.

We are of opinion that the proposition contained in this Resolution is unreasonable and insidious: unreasonable, because, if we declare we accede to it, we declare, without reservation, we will purchase the favour of Parliament, not knowing at the same time at what price they will please to estimate their favour. It is insidious, because, individual Colonies, having bid and bidden again, till they find the avidity of the seller too great for all their powers to satisfy; are then to return into opposition, divided from their sister Colonies whom the Minister will have previously detached by a grant of easier terms, or by an artful procrastination of a definitive answer.

That the suspension of the exercise of their pretended power of taxation, being expressly made commensurate with the continuance of our gifts, these must be perpetual to make that so. Whereas, no experience has shown that a gift of perpetual revenue secures a perpetual return of duty or of kind disposition. On the contrary, the Parliament itself, wisely attentive to this observation, are in the established practice of granting their supplies from year to year only.

Desirous and determined as we are, to consider in the most dispassionate view every seeming advance towards a reconciliation made by the British Parliament, let our brethren of Britain reflect what would have been the sacrifice to men of free spirits, had even fair terms been proffered, as these insidious proposals were, with circumstances of insult and defiance. A proposition to give our money, accompanied with large fleets and armies, seems addressed to our fears rather than to our freedom. With what patience would Britons have received articles of treaty from any power on earth when borne on the point of the bayonet by military plenipotentiaries?

We think the attempt unnecessary to raise upon us by force or by threats our proportional contributions to the common defence, when all know, and themselves acknow-