Page:American Archives, Series 4, Volume 2.djvu/1029

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1901
1902
CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, AUGUST 1, 1775

ledge, we have fully contributed whenever called upon to do so in the character of freemen.

We are of opinion it is not just that the Colonies should be required to oblige themselves to other contributions, while Great Britain possesses a monopoly of their trade. This of itself lays them under heavy contribution. To demand, therefore, additional aids in the form of a tax, is to demand the double of their equal proportion; if we are to contribute equally with the other parts of the Empire, let us equally with them enjoy free commerce with the whole world. But while the restrictions on our trade shut to us the resources of wealth, is it just we should bear all other burdens equally with those to whom every resource is open?

We conceive that the British Parliament has no right to intermeddle with our provisions for the support of civil Government or administration of justice. The provisions we have made are such as please ourselves, and are agreeable to our own circumstances; they answer the substantial purposes of Government and of justice, and other purposes than these should not be answered. We do not mean that our people shall be burdened with oppressive taxes, to provide sinecures for the idle or the wicked under colour of providing for a civil list. While Parliament pursue their plan of civil Government within their own jurisdiction, we also hope to pursue ours without molestation.

We are of opinion the proposition is altogether unsatisfactory, because it imports only a suspension of the mode, not a renunciation of the pretended right to tax us. Because, too, it does not propose to repeal the several acts of Parliament passed for the purposes of restraining the Trade, and altering the form of Government of one of our Colonies; extending the boundaries and changing the Government of Quebeck; enlarging the jurisdiction of the Courts of Admiralty and Vice-Admiralty; taking from us the right of trial by a jury of the vicinage, in cases affecting both life and property; transporting us into other countries to be tried for criminal offences; exempting, by mock trial, the murderers of Colonists from punishment; and quartering soldiers on us in times of profound peace. Nor do they renounce the power of suspending our own Legislatures, and for legislating for us themselves in all cases whatsoever. On the contrary, to show they mean no discontinuance of injury, they pass acts at the very time of holding out this proposition, for restraining the Commerce and Fisheries of the Provinces of New-England, and for interdicting the trade of other Colonies with all foreign Nations and with each other. This proves, unequivocally, they mean not to relinquish the exercise of indiscriminate legislation over us.

Upon the whole, this proposition seems to have been held up to the world, to deceive it into a belief that there was nothing in dispute between us but the mode of levying taxes; and that the Parliament having now been so good as to give up this, the Colonies are unreasonable if not perfectly satisfied: Whereas, in truth, our adversaries still claim a right of demanding ad libitum, and of taxing us themselves to the full amount of their demand if we do comply with it. This leaves us without any thing we can call property. But what is of more importance, and what in this proposal they keep out of sight as if no such point was now in contest between us, they claim a right to alter our Charters and establish laws, and leave us without any security for our lives and liberties. The proposition seems also to have been calculated more particularly to lull into fatal security our well-affected fellow-subjects on the other side the water, till time should be given for the operation of those arms which a British minister pronounced would instantaneously reduce the "cowardly" sons of America to unreserved submission. But when the world reflects how inadequate to justice are these vaunted terms; when it attends to the rapid and bold succession of injuries, which, during the course of eleven years, have been aimed at these Colonies; when it reviews the pacifick and respectful expostulations, which, during that whole time, were the sole arms we opposed to them; when it observes that our complaints were either not heard at all, or were answered with new and accumulated injuries; when it recollects that the Minister himself, on an early occasion, declared, "that he [1902]would never treat with America, till he had brought her to his feet;" and that an avowed partisan of Ministry has more lately denounced against us the dreadful sentence, "delenda est Carthago;" that this was done in presence of a British Senate, and being unreproved by them, must be taken to be their own sentiment, (especially as the purpose has already in part been carried into execution,) by their treatment of Boston and burning of Charlestown; when it considers the great armaments with which they have invaded us, and the circumstances of cruelty with which these have commenced and prosecuted hostilities; when these things, we say, are laid together and attentively considered, can the world be deceived into an opinion that we are unreasonable, or can it hesitate to believe with us that nothing but our own exertions may defeat the Ministerial sentence of death or abject submission.