Political Tracts (Johnson)/Taxation no Tyranny
Taxation no Tyranny;
RESOLUTIONS AND ADDRESS
[ 1775. ]
In all the parts of human knowledge, whether terminating in ſcience merely ſpeculative, or operating upon life private or civil, are admitted ſome fundamental principles, or common axioms, which being generally received are little doubted, and being little doubted have been rarely proved.
Of theſe gratuitous and acknowledged truths it is often the fate to become leſs evident by endeavours to explain them, however neceſſary ſuch endeavours may be made by the miſapprehenſions of abſurdity, or the ſophiſtries of intereſt. It is difficult to prove the principles of ſcience, becauſe notions cannot always be found more intelligible than thoſe which are queſtioned. It is difficult to prove the principles of practice, becauſe they have for the moſt part not been diſcovered by inveſtigation, but obtruded by experience, and the demonſtrator will find, after an operoſe deduction, that he has been trying to make that ſeen which can be only felt.
Of this kind is the poſition, that the ſupreme power of every community has the right of requiring from all its ſubjects ſuch contributions as are neceſſary to the public ſafety or public proſperity, which was conſidered by all mankind as compriſing the primary and eſſential condition of all political ſociety, till it became diſputed by thoſe zealots of anarchy, who have denied to the Parliament of Britain the right of taxing the American Colonies.
In favour of this exemption of the Americans from the authority of their lawful ſovereign, and the dominion of their mother-country, very loud clamours have been raiſed, and many wild aſſertions advanced, which by ſuch as borrow their opinions from the reigning faſhion have been admitted as arguments; and what is ſtrange, though their tendency is to leſſen Engliſh honour, and Engliſh power, have been heard by Engliſh-men with a wiſh to find them true. Paſſion has in its firſt violence controlled intereſt, as the eddy for a while runs againſt the ſtream.
To be prejudiced is always to be weak; yet there are prejudices ſo near to laudable, that they have been often praiſed, and are always pardoned. To love their country has been conſidered as virtue in men, whoſe love could not be otherwiſe than blind, becauſe their preference was made without a compariſon; but it has never been my fortune to find, either in ancient or modern writers, any honourable mention of thoſe, who have with equal blindneſs hated their country.
Theſe anti-patriotic prejudices are the abortions of Folly impregnated by Faction, which being produced againſt the ſtanding order of Nature, have not ſtrength ſufficient for long life. They are born only to ſcream and periſh, and leave thoſe to contempt or deteſtation, whoſe kindneſs was employed to nurſe them into miſchief.
To perplex the opinion of the Publick many artifices have been uſed, which, as uſually happens when falſehood is to be maintained by fraud, loſe their force by counteracting one another.
The nation is ſometimes to be mollified by a tender tale of men, who fled from tyranny to rocks and deſerts, and is perſuaded to loſe all claims of juſtice, and all ſenſe of dignity, in compaſſion for a leſs people, who having worked hard for bread in a wild country, and obtained by the ſlow progreſſion of manual induſtry the accommodations of life, are now invaded by unprecedented oppreſſion, and plundered of their properties by the harpies of taxation.
We are told how their induſtry is obſtructed by unnatural reſtraints, and their trade confined by rigorous prohibitions; how they are forbidden to enjoy the products of their own ſoil, to manufacture the materials which Nature ſpreads before them, or to carry their own goods to the neareſt market: and ſurely the generoſity of Engliſh virtue will never heap new weight upon thoſe that are already overladen, will never delight in that dominion, which cannot be exerciſed but by cruelty and outrage.
But while we are melting in ſilent ſorrow, and in the tranſports of delirious pity dropping both the ſword and balance from our hands, another friend of the Americans thinks it better to awaken another paſſion, and tries to alarm our intereſt, or excite our veneration, by accounts of their greatneſs and their opulence, of the fertility of their land, and the ſplendour of their towns. We then begin to conſider the queſtion with more evenneſs of mind, are ready to conclude that thoſe reſtrictions are not very oppreſſive which have been found conſiſtent with this ſpeedy growth of proſperity, and begin to think it reaſonable that they, who thus flouriſh under the protection of our government, ſhould contribute ſomething towards its expence.
But we are ſoon told that the Americans, however wealthy, cannot be taxed; that they are the deſcendants of men who left all for liberty, and that they have conſtantly preſerved the principles and ſtubbornneſs of their progenitors; that they are too obſtinate for perſuaſion, and too powerful for conſtraint; that they will laugh at argument, and defeat violence; that the continent of North America contains three millions, not of men merely, but of Whigs, of Whigs fierce for liberty, and diſdainful of dominion; that they multiply with the fecundity of their own rattle-ſnakes, ſo that every quarter of a century doubles their numbers.
Men accuſtomed to think themſelves matters do not love to be threatened. This talk is, I hope, commonly thrown away, or raiſes paſſions different from thoſe which it was intended to excite. Inſtead of terrifying the Engliſh hearer to tame acquieſcence, it diſpoſes him to haſten the experiment of bending obſtinacy before it is become yet more obdurate, and convinces him that it is neceſſary to attack a nation thus prolific while we may yet hope to prevail. When he is told through what extent of territory we muſt travel to ſubdue them, he recollects how far, a few years ago, we travelled in their defence. When it is urged that they will ſhoot up like the Hydra, he naturally conſiders how the Hydra was deſtroyed.
Nothing dejects a trader like the interruption of his profits. A commercial people, however magnanimous, ſhrinks at the thought of declining traffick, and an unfavourable balance. The effect of this terrour has been tried. We have been ſtunned with the importance of our American commerce, and heard of merchants with warehouſes that are never to be emptied, and of manufacturers ſtarving for want of work.
That our commerce with America is profitable, however leſs than oſtentatious or deceitful eſtimates have made it, and that it is our intereſt to preſerve it, has never been denied; but ſurely it will moſt effectually be preferred, by being kept always in our own power. Conceſſions may promote it for a moment, but ſuperiority only can enſure its continuance. There will always be a part, and always a very large part of every community that have no care but for themſelves, and whoſe care for themſelves reaches little farther than impatience of immediate pain, and eagerneſs for the neareſt good. The blind are ſaid to feel with peculiar nicety. They who look but little into futurity, have perhaps the quickeſt ſenſation of the preſent. A merchant’s deſire is not of glory, but of gain; not of publick wealth, but of private emolument; he is therefore rarely to be conſulted about war and peace, or any deſigns of wide extent and diſtant conſequence.
Yet this, like other general characters, will ſometimes fail. The traders of Birmingham have reſcued themſelves from all imputation of narrow ſelfiſhneſs by a manly recommendation to Parliament of the rights and dignity of their native country.
To theſe men I do not intend to aſcribe an abſurd and enthuſiaſtick contempt of intereſt, but to give them the rational and juſt praiſe of diſtinguiſhing real from ſeeming good, of being able to ſee through the cloud of interpoſing difficulties, to the laſting and ſolid happineſs of victory and ſettlement.
Leſt all theſe topicks of perſuaſion ſhould fail, the great actor of patriotiſm has tried another, in which terrour and pity are happily combined, not without a proper ſuperaddition of that admiration which latter ages have brought into the drama. The heroes of Boſton he tells us, if the ſtamp act had not been repealed, would have left their town, their port, and their trade, have reſigned the ſplendour of opulence, and quitted the delights of neighbourhood, to diſperſe themſelves over the country, where they would till the ground, and fiſh in the rivers, and range the mountains, and be free.
Theſe ſurely are brave words. If the mere ſound of freedom can operate thus powerfully, let no man hereafter doubt the ſtory of the Pied Piper. The removal of the people of Boſton into the country, ſeems even to the congreſs not only difficult in its execution, but important in its conſequences. The difficulty of execution is beſt known to the Boſtonians themſelves; the conſequence, alas! will only be, that they will leave good houſes to wiſer men.
Yet before they quit the comforts of a warm home for the ſounding ſomething which they think better, he cannot be thought their enemy who adviſes them to confider well whether they ſhall find it. By turning fiſhermen or hunters, woodmen or ſhepherds they may become wild, but it is not ſo eaſy to conceive them free; for who can be more a ſlave than he that is driven by force from the comforts of life, is compelled to leave his houſe to a caſual comer, and whatever he does, or wherever he wanders, finds every moment ſome new teſtimony of his own ſubjection? If choice of evil be freedom, the felon in the gallies has his option of labour or of ſtripes. The Boſtonian may quit his houſe to ſtarve in the fields; his dog may refuſe to ſet, and ſmart under the laſh, and they may then congratulate each other upon the ſmiles of liberty, profuſe of bliſs, and pregnant with delight.
To treat ſuch deſigns as ſerious, would be to think too contemptuouſly of Boſtonian underſtandings. The artifice indeed is not new; the bluſterer who threatened in vain to deſtroy his opponent, has ſometimes obtained his end, by making it believe that he would hang himſelf.
But terrours and pity are not the only means by which the taxation of the Americans is oppoſed. There are thoſe who profeſs to uſe them only as auxiliaries to reaſon and juſtice, who tell us, that to tax the Colonies is uſurpation and oppreſſion, an invaſion of natural and legal rights, and a violation of thoſe principles which ſupport the conſtitution of Engliſh government.
This queſtion is of great importance. That the Americans are able to bear taxation is indubitable; that their refuſal may be over-ruled is highly probable: but power is no ſufficient evidence of truth. Let us examine our own claim, and the objections of the recuſants, with caution proportioned to the event of the deciſion, which muſt convict one part of robbery, or the other of rebellion.
A tax is a payment exacted by authority from part of the community for the benefit of the whole. From whom, and in what proportion ſuch payment ſhall be required, and to what uſes it ſhall be applied, thoſe only are to judge to whom government is intruded. In the Britiſh dominion taxes are apportioned, levied, and appropriated by the ſtates aſſembled in parliament.
Of every empire all the ſubordinate communities are liable to taxation, becauſe they all ſhare the benefits of government, and therefore ought all to furniſh their proportion of the expence.
This the Americans have never openly denied. That it is their duty to pay the coſt of their own ſafety they ſeem to admit; nor do they refuſe their contribution to the exigencies, whatever they may be, of the Britiſh empire; but they make this participation of the public burden a duty of very uncertain extent, and imperfect obligation, a duty temporary, occaſional, and elective, of which they reſerve to themſelves the right of ſettling the degree, the time, and the duration, of judging when it may be required, and when it has been performed.
They allow to the ſupreme power nothing more than the liberty of notifying to them its demands or its neceſſities. Of this notification they profeſs to think for themſelves, how far it ſhall influence their counſels, and of the neceſſities alleged, how far they ſhall endeavour to relieve them. They aſſume the excluſive power of ſettling not only the mode, but the quantity of this payment. They are ready to co-operate with all the other dominions of the king; but they will co-operate by no means which they do not like, and at no greater charge than they are willing to bear.
This claim, wild as it may ſeem, this claim, which ſuppoſes dominion without authority, and ſubjects without ſubordination, has found among the libertines of policy many clamorous and hardy vindicators. The laws of Nature, the rights of humanity, the faith of charters, the danger of liberty, the encroachments of uſurpation, have been thundered in our ears, ſometimes by intereſted faction, and ſometimes by honeſt ſtupidity.
It is ſaid by Fontenelle, that if twenty philoſophers ſhall reſolutely deny that the preſence of the ſun makes the day, he will not deſpair but whole nations may adopt the opinion. So many political dogmatiſts have denied to the Mother-country the power of taxing the Colonies, and have enforced their denial with ſo much violence of outcry, that their ſect is already very numerous, and the publick voice ſuſpends its deciſion.
In moral and political queſtions the conteſt between intereſt and juſtice has been often tedious and often fierce, but perhaps it never happened before, that juſtice found much oppoſition with intereſt on her ſide.
For the ſatisfaction of this inquiry, it is neceſſary to confider how a Colony is conſtituted, what are the terms of migration as dictated by Nature, or ſettled by compact, and what ſocial or political rights the man loſes, or acquires, that leaves his country to eſtabliſh himſelf in a diſtant plantation.
Of two modes of migration the hiſtory of mankind informs us, and ſo far as I can yet diſcover, of two only.
In countries where life was yet unadjuſted, and policy unformed, it ſometimes happened that by the diſſenſions of heads of families, by the ambition of daring adventurers, by ſome accidental preſſure of diſtreſs, or by the mere diſcontent of idleneſs, one part of the community broke off from the reſt, and numbers, greater or ſmaller, forſook their habitations, put themſelves under the command of ſome favourite of fortune, and with or without the content of their countrymen or governours, went out to ſee what better regions they could occupy, and in what place, by conqueſt or by treaty, they could gain a habitation.
Sons of enterpriſe like theſe, who committed to their own ſwords their hopes and their lives, when they left their country, became another nation, with deſigns and proſpects, and intereſts, of their own. They looked back no more to their former home; they expected no help from thoſe whom they had left behind; if they conquered, they conquered for themſelves; if they were deſtroyed, they were not by any other power either lamented or revenged.
Of this kind ſeem to have been all the migrations of the early world, whether hiſtorical or fabulous, and of this kind were the eruptions of thoſe nations which from the North invaded the Roman empire, and filled Europe with new ſovereignties.
But when, by the gradual admiſſion of wiſer laws and gentler manners, ſociety became more compacted and better regulated, it was found that the power of every people conſiſted in union, produced by one common intereſt, and operating in joint efforts and conſiſtent councils.
From this time Independence perceptibly wafted away. No part of the nation was permitted to act for itſelf. All now had the ſame enemies and the ſame friends; the Government protected individuals, and individuals were required to refer their deſigns to the proſperity of the Government.
By this principle it is, that ſtates are formed and conſolidated. Every man is taught to confider his own happineſs as combined with the public proſperity, and to think himſelf great and powerful, in proportion to the greatneſs and power of his Governors.
Had the Weſtern continent been diſcovered between the fourth and tenth century, when all the Northern world was in motion; and had navigation been at that time diffidently advanced to make ſo long a paſſage eaſily practicable, there is little reaſon for doubting but the intumeſcence of nations would have found its vent, like all other expanſive violence, where there was leaſt reſiſtance; and that Huns and Vandals, inſtead of fighting their way to the South of Europe, would have gone by thouſands and by myriads under their ſeveral chiefs to take poſſeſſion of regions ſmiling with pleaſure and waving with fertility, from which the naked inhabitants were unable to repel them.
Every expedition would in thoſe days of laxity have produced a diſtinct and independent ſtate. The Scandinavian heroes might have divided the country among them, and have ſpread the feudal ſubdiviſion of regality from Hudſon’s Bay to the Pacific Ocean.
But Columbus came five or ſix hundred years too late for the candidates of ſovereignty. When he formed his project of diſcovery, the fluctuations of military turbulence had ſubſided, and Europe began to regain a ſettled form, by eſtabliſhed government and regular ſubordination. No man could any longer erect himſelf into a chieftain, and lead out his fellow-ſubjects by his own authority to plunder or to war. He that committed any act of hoſtility by land or ſea, without the commiſſion of ſome acknowledged ſovereign, was conſidered by all mankind as a robber or a pirate, names which were now of little credit, and of which therefore no man was ambitious.
Columbus in a remoter time would have found his way to ſome diſcontented Lord, or ſome younger brother of a petty Sovereign, who would have taken fire at his propoſal, and have quickly kindled with equal heat a troop of followers; they would have built ſhips, or have ſeized them, and have wandered with him at all adventures as far as they could keep hope in their company. But the age being now paſt of vagrant excurſion and fortuitous hoſtility, he was under the neceſſity of travelling from court to court, ſcorned and repulſed as a wild projector, an idle promiſer of kingdoms in the clouds: nor has any part of the world yet had reaſon to rejoice that he found at laſt reception and employment.
In the ſame year, in a year hitherto diſaſtrous to mankind, by the Portugueſe was diſcovered the paſſage of the Indies, and by the Spaniards the coaſt of America. The nations of Europe were fired with boundleſs expectation, and the diſcoverers purſuing their enterpriſe, made conqueſts in both hemiſpheres of wide extent. But the adventurers were contented with plunder; though they took gold and ſilver to themſelves, they ſeized iſlands and kingdoms in the name of their Sovereigns. When a new region was gained, a governour was appointed by that power which had given the commiſſion to the conqueror; nor have I met with any European but Stukeley of London, that formed a deſign of exalting himſelf in the newly found countries to independent dominion.
To ſecure a conqueſt, it was always neceſſary to plant a colony, and territories thus occupied and ſettled were rightly conſidered as mere extenſions or proceſſes of empire; as ramifications which by the circulation of one publick intereſt communicated with the original ſource of dominion, and which were kept flouriſhing and ſpreadrng by the radical vigour of the Mother-country.
The Colonies of England differ no otherwiſe from thoſe of other nations, than as the Engliſh conſtitution differs from theirs. All Government is ultimately and eſſentially abſolute, but ſubordinate ſocieties may have more immunities, or individuals greater liberty, as the operations of Government are differently conducted. An Engliſhman in the common courſe of life and action feels no reſtraint. An Engliſh Colony has very liberal powers of regulating its own manners and adjuſting its own affairs. But an Engliſh individual may by the ſupreme authority be deprived of liberty, and a Colony diveſted of its powers, for reaſons of which that authority is the only judge.
In ſovereignty there are no gradations. There may be limited royalty, there may be limited conſulſhip; but there can be no limited government. There muſt in every ſociety be ſome power or other from which there is no appeal, which admits no reſtrictions, which pervades the whole maſs of the community, regulates and adjuſts all ſubordination, enacts laws or repeals them, erects or annuls judicatures, extends or contracts privileges, exempt itſelf from queſtion or control, and bounded only by phyſical neceſſity.
By this power, wherever it ſubſiſts, all legiſlation and juriſdiction is animated and maintained. From this all legal rights are emanations, which, whether equitably or not, may be legally recalled. It is not infallible, for it may do wrong; but it is irreſiſtible, for it can be reſiſted only by rebellion, by an act which makes it queſtionable what ſhall be thenceforward the ſupreme power.
An Engliſh Colony is a number of perſons, to whom the King grants a Charter permitting them to ſettle in ſome diſtant country, and enabling them to conſtitute a Corporation, enjoying ſuch powers as the Charter grants, to be adminiſtered in ſuch forms as the Charter preſcribes. As a Corporation they make laws for themſelves, but as a Corporation ſubſiſting by a grant from higher authority, to the control of that authority they continue ſubject.
As men are placed at a greater diſtance from the Supreme Council of the kingdom, they muſt be intruded with ampler liberty of regulating their conduct by their own wiſdom. As they are more ſecluded from eaſy recourſe to national judicature, they muſt be more extenſively commiſſioned to paſs judgment on each other.
For this reaſon our more important and opulent Colonies ſee the appearance and feel the effect of a regular Legiſlature, which in ſome places has acted ſo long with unqueſtioned authority, that it has forgotten whence that authority was originally derived.
To their Charters the Colonies owe, like other corporations, their political exiſtence. The ſolemnities of legiſlation, the adminiſtration of juſtice, the ſecurity of property, are all beſtowed upon them by the royal grant. Without their Charter there would be no power among them, by which any law could be made, or duties enjoined, any debt recovered, or criminal puniſhed.
A Charter is a grant of certain powers or privileges given to a part of the community for the advantage of the whole, and is therefore liable by its nature to change or to revocation. Every act of Government aims at publick good. A Charter, which experience has ſhewn to be detrimental to the nation, is to be repealed; becauſe general proſperity muſt always be preferred to particular intereſt. If a Charter be uſed to evil purpoſes, it is forfeited, as the weapon is taken away which is injuriouſly employed.
The Charter therefore by which provincial governments are conſtituted, may be always legally, and where it is either inconvenient in its nature, or miſapplied in its uſe, may be equitably repealed; by ſuch repeal the whole fabrick of ſubordination is immediately destroyed, and the conſtitution ſunk at once into a chaos: the ſociety is diſſolved into a tumult of individuals, without authority to command, or obligation to obey; without any puniſhment of wrongs but by perſonal reſentment, or any protection of right but by the hand of the poſſeſſor.
A colony is to the Mother-country as a member to the body, deriving its action and its ſtrength from the general principle of vitality; receiving from the body, and communicating to it, all the benefits and evils of health and diſeaſe; liable in dangerous maladies to ſharp applications, of which the body however muſt partake the pain; and expoſed, if incurably tainted, to amputation, by which the body likewiſe will be mutilated.
The Mother-country always conſiders the Colonies thus connected, as parts of itſelf; the proſperity or unhappineſs of either is the proſperity or unhappineſs of both; not perhaps of both in the ſame degree, for the body may ſubſiſt, though leſs commodiouſly, without a limb, but the limb muſt periſh if it be parted from the body.
Our Colonies therefore, however diſtant, have been hitherto treated as conſtituent parts of the Britiſh Empire. The inhabitants incorporated by Engliſh Charters, are entitled to all the rights of Engliſhmen. They are governed by Engliſh laws, entitled to Engliſh dignities, regulated by Engliſh counſels, and protected by Engliſh arms; and it ſeems to follow by conſequence not eaſily avoided, that they are ſubject to Engliſh government, and chargeable by Engliſh taxation.
To him that conſiders the nature, the original, the progreſs, and the conſtitution of the Colonies, who remembers that the firſt diſcoverers had commiſſions from the Crown, that the firſt ſettlers owe to a Charter their civil forms and regular magiſtracy, and that all perſonal immunities and legal ſecurities, by which the condition of the ſubject has been from time to time improved, have been to the Coloniſts, it will not be doubted but the Parliament of England has a right to bind them by ſtatutes, and to bind them in all caſes whatſoever, and has therefore a natural and conſtitutional power of laying upon them any tax or impoſt, whether external or internal, upon the product of land, or the manufactures of induſtry, in the exigencies of war, or in the time of profound peace, for the defence of America, for the purpoſe of raiſing a revenue, or for any other end beneficial to the Empire.
There are ſome, and thoſe not inconſiderable for number, nor contemptible for knowledge, who except the power of taxation from the general dominion of Parliament, and hold, that whatever degrees of obedience may be exacted, or whatever authority may be exerciſed in other acts of Government, there is ſtill reverence to be paid to money, and that legiſlation paſſes its limits when it violates the purſe.
Of this exception, which by a head not fully impregnated with politicks is not eaſily comprehended, it is alleged as an unanſwerable reaſon, that the Colonies ſend no repreſentatives to the Houſe of Commons.
It is, ſay the American advocates, the natural diſtinction of a freeman, and the legal privilege of an Engliſhman, that he is able to call his poſſeſſions his own, that he can ſit ſecure in the enjoyment of inheritance or acquiſition, that his houſe is fortified by the law, and that nothing can be taken from him but by his own conſent. This conſent is given for every man by his repreſentative in parliament. The Americans unrepreſented cannot conſent to Engliſh taxations, as a corporation, and they not conſent as individuals.
Of this argument, it has been obſerved by more than one, that its force extends equally to all other laws, for a freeman is not to be expoſed to puniſhment, or be called to any onerous ſervice but by his own conſent. The Congreſs has extracted a poſition from the fanciful Monteſquieu, that in a free ſtate every man being a free agent ought to be concerned in his own government. Whatever is true of taxation is true of every other law, that he who is bound by it, without his conſent, is not free, for he is not concerned in his own government.
He that denies the Engliſh Parliament the right of taxation, denies it likewiſe the right of making any other laws civil or criminal, yet this power over the Colonies was never yet diſputed by themſelves. They have always admitted ſtatutes for the puniſhment of offences, and for the redreſs or prevention of inconveniencies, and the reception of any law draws after it by a chain which cannot be broken, the unwelcome neceſſity of ſubmitting to taxation.
That a free man is governed by himſelf, or by laws to which he has conſented, is a poſition of mighty ſound: but every man that utters it, with whatever confidence, and every man that hears it, with whatever acquieſcence, if conſent be ſuppoſed to imply the power of refuſal, feels it to be falſe. We virtually and implicitly allow the inſtitutions of any Government of which we enjoy the benefit, and ſolicit the protection. In wide extended dominions, though power has been diffuſed with the moſt even hand, yet a very ſmall part of the people are either primarily or ſecondarily conſulted in Legiſlation. The buſineſs of the Publick muſt be done by delegation. The choice of delegates is made by a ſelect number, and thoſe who are not electors ſtand idle and helpleſs ſpectators of the commonweal, wholly unconcerned in the government of themſelves.
Of Electors the hap is but little better. They are often far from unanimity in their choice, and where the numbers approach to equality, almoſt half muſt be governed not only without, but againſt their choice.
How any man can have conſented to inſtitutions eſtabliſhed in diſtant ages, it will be difficult to explain. In the moſt favourite reſidence of liberty, the conſent of individuals is merely paſſive, a tacit admiſſion in every community of the terms which that community grants and requires. As all are born the ſubjects of ſome ſtate of other, we may be ſaid to have been all born conſenting to ſome ſyſtem of Government. Other conſent than this, the condition of civil life does not allow. It is the unmeaning clamour of the pedants of policy, the delirious dream of republican fanaticiſm.
But hear, ye ſons and daughters of liberty, the ſounds which the winds are wafting from the Weſtern Continent. The Americans are telling one another, what, if we may judge from their noiſy triumph, they have but lately diſcovered, and what yet is a very important truth: That they are entitled to Life, Liberty, and Property, and that they have never ceded to any ſovereign power whatever a right to diſpoſe of either without their conſent.
While this retaliation ſtands alone, the Americans are free from ſingularity of opinion; their wit has not yet betrayed them to hereſy. While they ſpeak as the naked ſons of Nature, they claim but what is claimed by other men, and have withheld nothing but what all with-hold. They are here upon firm ground, behind entrenchments which never can be forced.
Humanity is very uniform. The Americans have this reſemblance to Europeans, that they do not always know when they are well. They ſoon quit the fortreſs that could neither have been mined by ſophiſtry, nor battered by declamation. Their next reſolution declares, that their anceſtors, who firſt ſettled the Colonies, were, at the time of their emigration from the Mother-country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural-born ſubjects within the realm of England.
This likewiſe is true; but when this is granted, their boaſt of original rights is at an end; they are no longer in a State of Nature. Theſe lords of themſelves, theſe kings of Me, theſe demigods of independence, ſink down to Coloniſts, governed by a Charter. If their anceſtors were ſubjects, they acknowledged a Sovereign; if they had a right to Engliſh privileges, they were accountable to Engliſh laws, and what muſt grieve the Lover of Liberty to diſcover, had ceded to the King and Parliament, whether the right or not, at lead the power of diſpoſing, without their conſent, of their lives, liberties, and properties. It therefore is required of them to prove, that the Parliament ever ceded to them a diſpenſation from that obedience, which they owe as natural-born ſubjects, or any degree of independence or immunity not enjoyed by other Engliſhmen.
They ſay, That by ſuch emigration they by no means forfeited, ſurrendered, or loſt any of thoſe rights; but that they were, and their deſcendants now are, entitled to the exerciſe and enjoyment of all ſuch of them as their local and other circumſtances enable them to exerciſe and enjoy.
That they who form a ſettlement by a lawful Charter having committed no crime forfeit no privileges, will be readily confeſſed; but what they do not forfeit by any judicial ſentence, they may loſe by natural effects. As man can be but in one place at once, he cannot have the advantages of multiplied reſidence. He that will enjoy the brightneſs of ſunſhine, muſt quit the coolneſs of the ſhade. He who goes voluntarily to America, cannot complain of loſing what he leaves in Europe. He perhaps had a right to vote for a knight or burgeſs; by croſſing the Atlantick he has not nullified his right; but he has made its exertion no longer poſſible. By his own choice he has left a country where he had a vote and little property, for another, where he has great property, but no vote. But as this preference was deliberate and unconſtrained, he is ſtill concerned in the government of himſelf; he has reduced himſelf from a voter to one of the innumerable multitude that have no vote. He has truly ceded his right, but he ſtill is governed by his own conſent; becauſe he has conſented to throw his atom of intereſt into the general maſs of the community. Of the conſequences of his own act he has no cauſe to complain; he has choſen, or intended to chuſe, the greater good; he is repreſented, as himſelf deſired, in the general repreſentation.
But the privileges of an American ſcorn the limits of place; they are part of himſelf, and cannot be loſt by departure from his country; they float in the air, or glide under the ocean.
Doris amara ſuam non intermiſceat undam.
A planter, wherever he ſettles, is not only a freeman, but a legiſlator, ubi imperator, ibi Roma. As the Engliſh Coloniſts are not repreſented in the Britiſh Parliament, they are entitled to a free and excluſive power of legiſlation in their ſeveral legiſlatures, in all caſes of Taxation and internal polity, ſubject only to the negative of the Sovereign, in ſuch manner as has been heretofore uſed and accuſtomed. We cheerfully conſent to the operation of ſuch acts of the Britiſh Parliament as are bona fide reſtrained to the regulation of our external commerce—excluding every idea of Taxation, internal or external, for raiſing a revenue on the ſubjects of America without their conſent.
Their reaſon for this claim is, that the foundation of Engliſh Liberty, and of all Government, is a right in the People to participate in their Legiſlative Council.
They inherit, they ſay, from their anceſtors, the right which their anceſtors poſſeſſed, of enjoying all the privileges of Engliſhmen. That they inherit the right of their anceſtors is allowed; but they can inherit no more. Their anceſtors left a country where the repreſentatives of the people were elected by men particularly qualified, and where thoſe who wanted qualifications, or who did not uſe them, were bound by the deciſions of men, whom they had not deputed.
The coloniſts are the deſcendants of men, who either had no vote in elections, or who voluntarily reſigned them for ſomething, in their opinion, of more eſtimation: they have therefore exactly what their anceſtors left them, not a vote in making laws, or in conſtituting legiſlators, but the happineſs of being protected by law, and the duty of obeying it.
What their anceſtors did not carry with them, neither they nor their deſcendants have ſince acquired. They have not, by abandoning their part in one legiſlature, obtained the power of conſtituting another, excluſive and independent, any more than the multitudes, who are now debarred from voting, have a right to erect a ſeparate Parliament for themſelves.
Men are wrong for want of ſenſe, but they are wrong by halves for want of ſpirit. Since the Americans have diſcovered that they can make a Parliament, whence comes it that they do not think themſelves equally empowered to make a King? If they are ſubjects, whoſe government is conſtituted by a Charter, they can form no body of independent legiſlature. If their rights are inherent and underived, they may by their own ſuffrages encircle with a diadem the brows of Mr. Cuſhing.
It is farther declared by the Congreſs of Philadelphia, that his Majeſty’s Colonies are entitled to all the privileges and immunities granted and confirmed to them by Royal Charters, or ſecured to them by their federal codes of provincial laws.
The firſt clauſe of this reſolution is eaſily underſtood, and will be readily admitted. To all the privileges which a Charter can convey, they are by a Royal Charter evidently entitled. The ſecond clauſe is of greater difficulty; for how can a provincial law ſecure privileges or immunities to a province? Provincial laws may grant to certain individuals of the province the enjoyment of gainful, or an immunity from onerous offices; they may operate upon the people to whom they relate; but no province can confer provincial privileges on itſelf. They may have a right to all which the King has given them; but it is a conceit of the other hemiſphere, that men have a right to all which they have given to themſelves.
A corporation is conſidered in law as an individual, and can no more extend its own immunities, than a man can by his own choice aſſume dignities or titles.
The Legiſlature of a Colony, let not the compariſon be too much diſdained, is only the veſtry of a larger pariſh, which may lay a ceſs on the inhabitants, and enforce the payment; but can extend no influence beyond its own diſtrict, muſt modify its particular regulations by the general law, and whatever may be its internal expences, is ſtill liable to Taxes laid by ſuperior authority.
The Charters given to different provinces are different, and no general right can be extracted from them. The Charter of Pennſylvania, where this Congreſs of anarchy has been impudently held, contains a clauſe admitting in expreſs terms Taxation by the Parliament. If in the other Charters no ſuch reſerve is made, it muſt have been omitted as not neceſſary, becauſe it is implied in the nature of ſubordinate government. They who are ſubject to laws, are liable to Taxes. If any ſuch immunity had been granted, it is ſtill revocable by the Legiſlature, and ought to be revoked, as contrary to the publick good, which is in every Charter ultimately intended.
Suppoſe it true, that any ſuch exemption is contained in the Charter of Maryland, it can be pleaded only by the Marylanders. It is of no uſe for any other province, and with regard even to them, muſt have been conſidered as one of the grants in which the King has been deceived, and annulled as miſchievous to the Publick, by ſacrificing to one little ſettlement the general intereſt of the Empire; as infringing the ſyſtem of dominion, and violating the compact of Government. But Dr. Tucker has ſhewn that even this Charter promiſes no exemption from Parliamentary Taxes.
In the controverſy agitated about the beginning of this century, whether the Engliſh laws could bind Ireland, Davenant, who defended againſt Molyneux the claims of England, conſidered it as neceſſary to prove nothing more, than that the preſent Iriſh muſt be deemed a Colony.
The neceſſary connexion of repreſentatives with Taxes, ſeems to have ſunk deep into many of thoſe minds, that admit ſounds without their meaning.
Our nation is repreſented in Parliament by an aſſembly as numerous as can well conſiſt with order and diſpatch, choſen by perſons ſo differently qualified in different places, that the mode of choice ſeems to be, for the moſt part, formed by chance, and ſettled by cuſtom. Of individuals far the greater part have no vote, and of the voters few have any perſonal knowledge of him to whom they intruſt their liberty and fortune.
Yet this repreſentation has the whole effect expected or deſired; that of ſpreading ſo wide the care of general intereſt, and the participation of publick counſels, that the advantage or corruption of particular men can ſeldom operate with much injury to the Publick.
For this reaſon many populous and opulent towns neither enjoy nor deſire particular repreſentatives: they are included in the general ſcheme of publick adminiſtration, and cannot ſuffer but with the reſt of the Empire.
It is urged that the Americans have not the ſame ſecurity, and that a Britiſh Legiſlator may wanton with their property; yet if it be true, that their wealth is our wealth, and that their ruin will be our ruin, the Parliament has the ſame intereſt in attending to them, as to any other part of the nation. The reaſon why we place any confidence in our repreſentatives is, that they muſt ſhare in the good or evil which their counſels ſhall produce. Their ſhare is indeed commonly conſequential and remote; but it is not often poſſible that any immediate advantage can be extended to fuch numbers as may prevail againſt it. We are therefore as ſecure againſt intentional depravations of Government as human wiſdom can make us, and upon this ſecurity the Americans may venture to repoſe.
It is ſaid by the Old Member who has written an Appeal againſt the Tax, that as the produce of American labour is ſpent in Britiſh manufactures, the balance of trade is greatly againſt them; whatever you take directly in Taxes, is in effect taken from your own commerce. If the miniſter ſeizes the money with which the American ſhould pay his debts and come to market, the merchant cannot expect him as a cuſtomer, nor can the debts already contracted be paid.—Suppoſe we obtain from America a million inſtead of one hundred thouſand pounds, it would be ſupplying one perſonal exigence by the future ruin of our commerce.
Part of this is true; but the Old Member ſeems not to perceive, that if his brethren of the Legiſlature know this as well as himſelf, the Americans are in no danger of oppreſſion, ſince by men commonly provident they muſt be ſo taxed, as that we may not loſe one way what we gain another.
The ſame Old Member has diſcovered, that the judges formerly thought it illegal to tax Ireland, and declares that no caſes can be more alike than thoſe of Ireland and America; yet the judges whom he quotes have mentioned a difference. Ireland, they ſay, hath a Parliament of its own. When any Colony has an independent Parliament acknowledged by the Parliament of Britain, the caſes will differ leſs. Yet by the 6 Geo. I. chap. 5. the Acts of the Britiſh Parliament bind Ireland.
It is urged that when Wales, Durham, and Cheſter were diveſted of their particular privileges or ancient government, and reduced to the ſtate of Engliſh counties, they had repreſentatives aſſigned them.
To thoſe from whom ſomething had been taken, ſomething in return might properly be given. To the Americans their Charters are left as they were, nor have they lofſt any thing except that of which their ſedition has deprived them. If they were to be repreſented in Parliament, ſomething would be granted, though nothing is withdrawn.
The inhabitants of Cheſter, Durham, and Wales, were invited to exchange their peculiar inſtitutions for the power of voting, which they wanted before. The Americans have voluntarily reſigned the power of voting, to live in diſtant and ſeparate governments, and what they have voluntarily quitted, they have no right to claim.
It muſt always be remembered that they are repreſented by the ſame virtual repreſentation as the greater part of Engliſhmen; and that if by change of place they have leſs ſhare in the Legiſlature than is proportionate to their opulence, they by their removal gained that opulence, and had originally and have now their choice of a vote at home, or riches at a diſtance.
We are told, what appears to the Old Member and to others a poſition that muſt drive us into inextricable abſurdity, that we have either no right, or the ſole right of taxing the Colonies. The meaning is, that if we can tax them, they cannot tax themſelves; and that if they can tax themſelves, we cannot tax them. We anſwer with very little heſitation, that for the general uſe of the Empire we have the ſole right of taxing them. If they have contributed any thing in their own aſſemblies, what they contributed was not paid, but given; it was not a tax or tribute, but a preſent. Yet they have the natural and legal power of levying money on themſelves for provincial purpoſes, of providing for their own expence, at their own diſcretion. Let not this be thought new or ſtrange; it is the ſtate of every pariſh in the kingdom.
The friends of the Americans are of different opinions. Some think that being unrepreſented they ought to tax themſelves, and others that they ought to have repreſentatives in the Britiſh Parliament.
If they are to tax themſelves, what power is to remain in the ſupreme Legiſlature? That they muſt ſettle their own mode of levying their money is ſuppoſed. May the Britiſh Parliament tell them how much they ſhall contribute? If the ſum may be preſcribed, they will return few thanks for the power of raiſing it; if they are at liberty to grant or to deny, they are no longer ſubjects.
If they are to be repreſented, what number of theſe weſtern orators are to be admitted? This I ſuppoſe the parliament muſt ſettle; yet if men have a natural and unalienable right to be repreſented, who ſhall determine the number of their delegates? Let us however ſuppoſe them to ſend twenty-three, half as many as the kingdom of Scotland, what will this repreſentation avail them? To pay taxes will be ſtill a grievance. The love of money will not be leſſened, nor the power of getting it increaſed.
Whither will this neceſſity of repreſentation drive us? Is every petty ſettlement to be out of the reach of government, till it has ſent a ſenator to Parliament; or may two of them or a greater number be forced to unite in a ſingle deputation? What at laſt is the difference between him that is taxed by compulſion without repreſentation, and him that is repreſented by compulſion in order to be taxed?
For many reigns the Houſe of Commons was in a ſtate of fluctuation: new burgeſſes were added from time to time, without any reaſon now to be diſcovered; but the number has been fixed for more than a century and a half, and the king’s power of increaſing it has been queſtioned. It will hardly be thought fit to new-model the conſtitution in favour of the planters, who, as they grow rich, may buy eſtates in England, and without any innovation, effectually repreſent their native colonies.
The friends of the Americans indeed aſk for them what they do not aſk for themſelves. This ineſtimable right of repreſentation they have never ſolicited. They mean not to exchange ſolid money for ſuch airy honour. They ſay, and ſay willingly, that they cannot conveniently be repreſented; becauſe their inference is, that they cannot be taxed. They are too remote to ſhare the general government, and therefore claim the privilege of governing themſelves.
Of the principles contained in the reſolutions of the Congreſs, however wild, indefinite, and obſcure, ſuch has been the influence upon American underſtanding, that from New-England to South-Carolina there is formed a general combination of all the Provinces againſt their Mother-country. The madneſs of independence has ſpread from Colony to Colony, till order is loſt and government deſpiſed, and all is filled with miſrule, uproar, violence, and confuſion. To be quiet is diſaffection, to be loyal is treaſon.
The Congreſs of Philadelphia, an aſſembly convened by its own authority, has promulgated a declaration, in compliance with which the communication between Britain and the greateſt part of North America is now ſuſpended. They ceaſed to admit the importation of Engliſh goods in December 1774, and determine to permit the exportation of their own no longer than to November 1775.
This might ſeem enough, but they have done more. They have declared, that they ſhall treat all as enemies who do not concur with them in diſaffection and perverſeneſs, and that they will trade with none that ſhall trade with Britain.
They threaten to ſtigmatize in their Gazette thoſe who ſhall conſume the products or merchandiſe of their Mother-country, and are now ſearching ſuſpected houſes for prohibited goods.
Theſe hoſtile declarations they profeſs themſelves ready to maintain by force. They have armed the militia of their provinces, and ſeized the publick ſtores of ammunition. They are therefore no longer ſubjects, ſince they refuſe the laws of their Sovereign, and in defence of that refuſal are making open preparations for war.
Being now in their own opinion free ſtates, they are not only raiſing armies, but forming alliances, not only haſtening to rebel themſelves, but ſeducing their neighbours to rebellion. They have publiſhed an addreſs to the inhabitants of Quebec, in which diſcontent and reſiſtance are openly incited, and with very reſpectful mention of the ſagacity of Frenchmen, invite them to ſend deputies to the Congreſs of Philadelphia, to that ſeat of Virtue and Veracity, whence the people of England are told, that to eſtabliſh popery, a religion fraught with ſanguinary and impious tenets, even in Quebec, a country of which the inhabitants are papiſts, is ſo contrary to the conſtitution that it cannot be lawfully done by the legiſlature itſelf; where it is made one of the articles of their aſſociation, to deprive the conquered French of their religious eſtabliſhment; and whence the French of Quebec are, at the ſame time, flattered into ſedition, by profeſſions of expecting from the liberality of ſentiment, diſtinguiſhing their nation, that difference of religion will not prejudice them againſt a hearty amity, becauſe the tranſcendent nature of freedom elevates all who unite in the cauſe above ſuch low-minded infirmities.
Quebec, however, is at a great diſtance. They have aimed a ſtroke from which they may hope for greater and more ſpeedy miſchief. They have tried to infect the people of England with the contagion of diſloyalty. Their credit is happily not ſuch as gives them influence proportionate to their malice. When they talk of their pretended immunities guarrantied by the plighted faith of Government, and the moſt ſolemn compacts with Engliſh Sovereigns, we think ourſelves at liberty to inquire when the faith was plighted and the compact made; and when we can only find that King James and King Charles the Firſt promiſed the ſettlers in Maſſachuſet’s Bay, now famous by the appellation of Boſtonians, exemption from taxes for ſeven years, we infer with Mr. Mauduit, that by ſolemn compact, they were, after expiration of the ſtipulated term, liable to taxation.
When they apply to our compaſſion, by telling us, that they are to be carried from their own country to be tried for certain offences, we are not ſo ready to pity them, as to adviſe them not to offend. While they are innocent they are ſafe.
When they tell of laws made expreſsly for their puniſhment, we anſwer, that tumults and ſedition were always puniſhable, and that the new law preſcribes only the mode of execution.
When it is ſaid that the whole town of Boſton is diſtreſſed for a miſdemeanour of a few, we wonder at their ſhamefulneſs; for we know that the town of Boſton, and all the aſſociated provinces, are now in rebellion to defend or juſtify the criminals.
If frauds in the impoſts of Boſton are tried by commiſſion without a jury, they are tried here in the ſame mode; and why ſhould the Boſtonians expert from us more tenderneſs for them than for ourſelves?
If they are condemned unheard, it is becauſe there is no need of a trial. The crime is manifeſt and notorious. All trial is the inveſtigation of ſomething doubtful. An Italian philoſopher obſerves, that no man deſires to hear what he has already ſeen.
If their aſſemblies have been ſuddenly diſſolved, what was the reaſon? Their deliberations were indecent, and their intentions ſeditious. The power of diſſolution is granted and reſerved for ſuch times of turbulence. Their beſt friends have been lately ſoliciting the King to diſſolve his Parliament, to do what they ſo loudly complain of ſuffering.
That the ſame vengeance involves the innocent and guilty is an evil to be lamented, but human caution cannot prevent it, nor human power always redreſs it. To bring miſery on thoſe who have not deſerved it, is part of the aggregated guilt of rebellion.
That governours have been ſometimes given them only that a great man might get eaſe from importunity, and that they have had judges not always of the deepeſt learning, or the pureſt integrity, we have no great reaſon to doubt, becauſe ſuch misfortunes happen to ourſelves. Whoever is governed will ſometimes be governed ill, even when he is moſt concerned in his own government.
That improper officers or magiſtrates are ſent, is the crime or folly of thoſe that ſent them. When incapacity is diſcovered, it ought to be removed; if corruption is detected, it ought to be puniſhed. No government could ſubſiſt for a day, if ſingle errors could juſtify defection.
One of their complaints is not ſuch as can claim much commiſeration from the ſofteſt boſom. They tell us, that we have changed our conduct, and that a tax is now laid by Parliament on thoſe which were never taxed by Parliament before. To this we think it may be eaſily anſwered, that the longer they have been ſpared, the better they can pay.
It is certainly not much their intereſt to repreſent innovation as criminal or invidious; for they have introduced into the hiſtory of mankind a new mode of diſaffection, and have given, I believe, the firſt example of a proſcription publiſhed by a Colony againſt the Mother-country.
To what is urged of new powers granted to the Courts of Admiralty, or the extenſion of authority conferred on the judges, it may be anſwered in a few words, that they have themſelves made ſuch regulations neceſſary; that they are eſtabliſhed for the prevention of greater evils; at the ſame time, it muſt be obſerved, that theſe powers have not been extended ſince the rebellion in America.
One mode of perſuaſion their ingenuity has ſuggeſted, which it may perhaps be leſs eaſy to reſiſt. That we may not look with indifference on the American conteſt, or imagine that the ſtruggle is for a claim, which, however decided, is of ſmall importance and remote conſequence, the Philadelphian Congreſs has taken care to inform us, that they are reſiſting the demands of Parliament, as well for our ſakes as their own.
Their keenneſs of perſpicacity has enabled them to purſue conſequences to a great diſtance; to ſee through clouds impervious to the dimneſs of European ſight; and to find, I know not how, that when they are taxed, we ſhall be enſlaved.
That ſlavery is a miſerable ſtate we have been often told, and doubtleſs many a Briton will tremble to find it ſo near as in America; but how it will be brought hither, the Congreſs muſt inform us. The queſtion might diſtreſs a common underſtanding; but the ſtateſmen of the other hemiſphere can eaſily reſolve it. Our miniſters, they ſay, are our enemies, and if they ſhould carry the point of taxation, may with the ſame army enſlave us. It may be ſaid, we will not pay them; but remember, ſay the weſtern ſages, the taxes from America, and we may add the men, and particularly the Roman Catholics of this vaſt continent will then be in the power of your enemies. Nor have you any reaſon to expect, that after making ſlaves of us, many of us will refuſe to aſſiſt in reducing you to the ſame abject ſtate.
Theſe are dreadful menaces; but ſuſpecting that they have not much the ſound of probability, the Congreſs proceeds: Do not treat this as chimerical. Know that in leſt than half a century the quit-rents reſerved to the crown from the numberleſs grants of this vaſt continent will pour large ſtreams of wealth into the royal coffers. If to this be added the power of taxing America at pleaſure, the crown will poſſeſs more treaſure than may be neceſſary to purchaſe the remains of liberty in your iſland.
All this is very dreadful; but amidſt the terror that ſhakes my frame, I cannot forbear to wiſh that ſome ſluice were opened for theſe ſtreams of treaſure. I ſhould gladly ſee America return half of what England has expended in her defence; and of the ſtream that will flow ſo largely in leſs than half a century. I hope a ſmall rill at leaſt may be found to quench the thirſt of the preſent generation, which ſeems to think itſelf in more danger of wanting money than of loſing liberty.
It is difficult to judge with what intention ſuch airy burſts of malevolence are vented: if ſuch writers hope to deceive, let us rather repel them with ſcorn, than refute them by diſputation.
In this laſt terrifick paragraph are two poſitions that, if our fears do not overpower our reflection, may enable us to ſupport life a little longer. We are told by theſe croakers of calamity, not only that our preſent miniſters deſign to enſlave us, but that the ſame malignity of purpoſe is to deſcend through all their ſucceſſors, and that the wealth to be poured into England by the Pactolus of America will, whenever it comes, be employed to purchaſe the remains of liberty.
Of thoſe who now conduct the national affairs we may, without much arrogance, preſume to know more than themſelves, and of thoſe who ſhall ſucceed them, whether miniſter or king, not to know leſs.
The other petition is, that the Crown, if this laudable oppoſition ſhould not be ſucceſsful, will have the power of taxing America at pleaſure. Surely they think rather too meanly of our apprehenſions, when they ſuppoſe us not to know what they well know themſelves, that they are taxed, like all other Britiſh ſubjects, by Parliament; and that the Crown has not by the new impoſts, whether right or wrong, obtained any additional power over their poſſeſſions.
It were a curious, but an idle ſpeculation to inquire, what effect theſe dictators of ſedition expect from the diſperſion of their letter among us. If they believe their own complaints of hardſhip, and really dread the danger which they deſcribe, they will naturally hope to communicate the ſame perceptions to their fellow-ſubjects. But probably in America, as in other places, the chiefs are incendiaries, that hope to rob in the tumults of a conflagration, and toſs brands among a rabble paſſively combuſtible. Thoſe who wrote the Addreſs, though they have ſhown no great extent or profundity of mind, are yet probably wiſer than to believe it: but they have been taught by ſome maſter of miſchief, how to put in motion the engine of political electricity; to attract by the ſounds of Liberty and Property, to repel by thoſe of Popery and Slavery; and to give the great ſtroke by the name of Boſton.
When ſubordinate communities oppoſe the decrees of the general legiſlature with defiance thus audacious, and malignity thus acrimonious, nothing remains but to conquer or to yield; to allow their claim of independence, or to reduce them by force to ſubmiſſion and allegiance.
It might be hoped, that no Engliſhman could be found, whom the menaces of our own Coloniſts, juſt reſcued from the French, would not move to indignation, like that of the Scythians, who, returning from war, found themſelves excluded from their own houſes by their ſlaves.
That corporations conſtituted by favour, and exiſting by ſufferance, ſhould dare to prohibit commerce with their native country, and threaten individuals by infamy, and ſocieties with at leaſt ſuſpenſion of amity, for daring to be more obedient to government than themſelves, is a degree of inſolence, which not only deſerves to be puniſhed, but of which the puniſhment is loudly demanded by the order of life, and the peace of nations.
Yet there have riſen up, in the face of the publick, men who, by whatever corruptions or whatever infatuation, have undertaken to defend the Americans, endeavour to ſhelter them from reſentment, and propoſe reconciliation without ſubmiſſion.
As political diſeaſes are naturally contagious, let it be ſuppoſed for a moment that Cornwall, ſeized with the Philadelphian frenzy, may reſolve to ſeparate itſelf from the general ſyſtem of the Engliſh conſtitution, and judge of its own rights in its own parliament. A Congreſs might then meet at Truro, and addreſs the other counties in a ſtyle not unlike the language of the American patriots.
- “Friends and Fellow-ſubjects,
“We the delegates of the ſeveral towns and pariſhes of Cornwall, aſſembled to deliberate upon our own ſtate and that of our conſtituents, having, after ſerious debate and calm conſideration, ſettled the ſcheme of our future conduct, hold it neceſſary to declare the reſolutions which we think ourſelves entitled to form by the unalienable rights of reaſonable Beings, and into which we have been compelled by grievances and oppreſſions, long endured by us in patient ſilence, not becauſe we did not feel, or could not remove them, but becauſe we were unwilling to give diſturbance to a ſettled government, and hoped that others would in time find like ourſelves their true intereſt and their original powers, and all co-operate to univerſal happineſs.
“But ſince having long indulged the pleaſing expectation, we find general diſcontent not likely to increaſe, or not likely to end in general defection, we reſolve to erect alone the ſtandard of liberty.
“Know then, that you are no longer to confider Cornwall as an Engliſh county, viſited by Engliſh judges, receiving law from an Engliſh Parliament, or included in any general taxation of the kingdom; but as a ſtate diſtinct, and independent, governed by its own inſtitutions, adminiſtered by its own magiſtrates, and exempt from any tax or tribute but ſuch as we ſhall impoſe upon ourſelves.
“We are the acknowledged deſcendants of the earlieſt inhabitants of Britain, of men, who before the time of hiſtory took poſſeſſion of the iſland deſolate and waſte, and therefore open to the firſt occupants. Of this deſcent, our language is a ſufficient proof, which, not quite a century ago, was different from yours.
“Such are the Corniſhmen; but who are you? who but the unauthoriſed and lawleſs children of intruders, invaders, and oppreſſors? who but the tranſmitters of wrong, the inheritors of robbery? In claiming independence we claim but little. We might require you to depart from a land which you poſſeſs by uſurpation, and to reſtore all that you have taken from us.
“Independence is the gift of Nature. No man is born the maſter of another. Every Corniſhman is a freeman, for we have never reſigned the rights of humanity; and he only can be thought free, who is not governed but by his own conſent.
“You may urge that the preſent ſyſtem of government has deſcended through many ages, and that we have a larger part in the repreſentation of the kingdom, than any other county.
“All this is true, but it is neither cogent nor perſuaſive. We look to the original of things. Our union with the Engliſh counties was either compelled by force, or ſettled by compact.
“That which was made by violence, may by violence be broken. If we were treated as a conquered people, our rights might be obſcured, but could never be extinguiſhed. The ſword can give nothing but power, which a ſharper ſword can take away.
“If our union was by compact, whom could the compact bind but thoſe that concurred in the ſtipulations? We gave our anceſtors no commiſſion to ſettle the terms of future exiſtence. They might be cowards that were frighted, or blockheads that were cheated; but whatever they were, they could contract only for themſelves. What they could eſtabliſh, we can annul.
“Againſt our preſent form of government it ſhall ſtand in the place of all argument, that we do not like it. While we are governed as we do not like, where is our liberty? We do not like taxes, we will therefore not be taxed, we do not like your laws, and will not; obey them.
“The taxes laid by our repreſentatives are laid, you tell us, by our own conſent: but we will no longer conſent to be repreſented. Our number of legiſlators was originally a burden, and ought to have been refuſed: it is now conſidered as a diſproportionate advantage; who then will complain we reſign it?
“We ſhall form a Senate of our own, under a Preſident whom the King ſhall nominate, but whoſe authority we will limit, by adjuſting his ſalary to his merit. We will not with-hold a proper ſhare of contribution to the neceſſary expence of lawful government, but we will decide for ourſelves what ſhare is proper, what expence is neceſſary, and what government is lawful.
“Till our counſel is proclaimed independent and unaccountable, we will, after the tenth day of September, keep our Tin in our own hands: you can be ſupplied from no other place, and muſt therefore comply or be poiſoned with the copper of your own kitchens.
“If any Corniſhman ſhall refuſe his name to this juſt and laudable aſſociation, he ſhall be tumbled from St. Michael’s Mount, or buried alive in a tin-mine; and if any emiſſary ſhall be found ſeducing Corniſhmen to their former ſtate, he ſhall be ſmeared with tar, and rolled in feathers, and chaſed with dogs out of our dominions.
- “From the Corniſh Congreſs at Truro.”
Of this memorial what could be ſaid but that it was written in jeſt, or written by a madman? Yet I know not whether the warmeſt admirers of Pennſylvanian eloquence can find any argument in the Addreſſes of the Congreſs, that is not with greater ſtrength urged by the Corniſhman.
The argument of the irregular troops of controverſy, ſtripped of its colours, and turned out naked to the view, is no more than this. Liberty is the birthright of man, and where obedience is compelled, there is no Liberty. The anſwer is equally ſimple. Government is neceſſary to man, and where obedience is not compelled, there is no government.
If the ſubject refuſes to obey, it is the duty of authority to uſe compulſion. Society cannot ſubſiſt but by the power, firſt of making laws, and then of enforcing them.
To one of the threats hiſſed out by the Congreſs, I have put nothing ſimilar into the Corniſh proclamation; becauſe it is too wild for folly and too fooliſh for madneſs. If we do not withhold our King and his Parliament from taxing them, they will croſs the Atlantick and enſlave us.
How they will come they have not told us; perhaps they will take wing, and light upon our coaſts. When the cranes thus begin to flutter, it is time for pygmies to keep their eyes about them. The Great Orator obſerves, that they will be very fit, after they have been taxed, to impoſe chains upon us. If they are ſo fit as their friend deſcribes them, and ſo willing as they deſcribe themſelves, let us increaſe our army, and double our militia.
It has been of late a very general practice to talk of ſlavery among thoſe who are ſetting at defiance every power that keeps the world in order. If the learned author of the Reflections on Learning has rightly obſerved, that no man ever could give law to language, it will be vain to prohibit the uſe of the word ſlavery; but I could wiſh it more diſcreetly uttered; it is driven at one time too hard into our ears by the loud hurricane of Pennſylvanian eloquence, and at another glides too cold into our hearts by the ſoft conveyance of a female patriot bewailing the miſeries of her friends and fellow-citizens.
Such has been the progreſs of ſedition, that thoſe who a few years ago diſputed only our right of laying taxes, now queſtion the validity of every act of legiſlation. They conſider themſelves as emancipated from obedience, and as being no longer the ſubjects of the Britiſh Crown. They leave us no choice but of yielding or conquering, of reſigning our dominion, or maintaining it by force.
From force many endeavours have been uſed, either to diſſuade, or to deter us. Sometimes the merit of the Americans is exalted, and ſometimes their ſufferings are aggravated. We are told of their contributions to the laſt war, a war incited by their outcries, and continued for their protection, a war by which none but themſelves were gainers. All that they can boaſt is, that they did ſomething for themſelves, and did not wholly ſtand inactive, while the ſons of Britain were fighting in their cauſe.
If we cannot admire, we are called to pity them; to pity thoſe that ſhew no regard to their mother-country; have obeyed no law which they could violate; have imparted no good which they could with-hold; have entered into aſſociations of fraud to rob their creditors; and into combinations to diſtreſs all who depended on their commerce. We are reproached with the cruelty of ſhutting one port, where every port is ſhut againſt us. We are cenſured as tyrannical for hindering thoſe from fiſhing, who have condemned our merchants to bankruptcy and our manufacturers to hunger.
Others perſuade us to give them more liberty, to take off reſtraints, and relax authority; and tell us what happy conſequences will ariſe from forbearance: How their affections will be conciliated, and into what diffuſions of beneficence their gratitude will luxuriate. They will love their friends. They will reverence their protectors. They will throw themſelves into our arms, and lay their property at our feet. They will buy from no other what we can ſell them; they will fell to no other what we wiſh to buy.
That any obligations ſhould overpower their attention to profit, we have known them long enough not to expect. It is not to be expected from a more liberal people. With what kindneſs they repay benefits, they are now ſhewing us, who, as ſoon as we have delivered them from France, are defying and proſcribing us.
But if we will permit them to tax themſelves, they will give us more than we require. If we proclaim them independent, they will during pleaſure pay us a ſubſidy. The conteſt is not now for money, but for power. The queſtion is not how much we ſhall collect, but by what authority the collection ſhall be made.
Thoſe who find that the Americans cannot be ſhewn in any form that may raiſe love or pity, dreſs them in habiliments of terrour, and try to make us think them formidable. The Boſtonians can call into the field ninety thouſand men. While we conquer all before us, new enemies will riſe up behind, and our work will be always to begin. If we take poſſeſſion of the towns, the Coloniſts will retire into the inland regions, and the gain of victory will be only empty houſes and a wide extent of waſte and deſolation. If we ſubdue them for the preſent, they will univerſally revolt in the next war, and reſign us without pity to ſubjection and deſtruction.
To all this it may be anſwered, that between loſing America and reſigning it, there is no great difference; that it is not very reaſonable to jump into the ſea, becauſe the ſhip is leaky. All thoſe evils may befal us, but we need not haſten them.
The Dean of Glouceſter has propoſed, and ſeems to propoſe it ſeriouſly, that we ſhould at once releaſe our claims, declare them maſters of themſelves, and whittle them down the wind. His opinion is, that our gain from them will be the ſame, and our expence leſs. What they can have moſt cheaply from Britain, they will ſtill buy, what they can fell to us at the higheſt price they will ſtill ſell.
It is, however, a little hard, that having ſo lately fought and conquered for their ſafety, we ſhould govern them no longer. By letting them looſe before the war, how many millions might have been ſaved. One wild propoſal is beſt anſwered by another. Let us reſtore to the French what we have taken from them. We ſhall ſee our Coloniſts at our feet, when they have an enemy ſo near them. Let us give the Indians arms, and teach them diſcipline, and encourage them now and then to plunder a Plantation. Security and leiſure are the parents of ſedition.
While theſe different opinions are agitated, it ſeems to be determined by the Legiſlature, that force ſhall be tried. Men of the pen have ſeldom any great ſkill in conquering kingdoms, but they have ſtrong inclination to give advice. I cannot forbear to wiſh, that this commotion may end without bloodſhed, and that the rebels may be ſubdued by terrour rather than by violence; and therefore recommend ſuch a force as may take away, not only the power, but the hope of reſiſtance, and by conquering without a battle, fave many from the ſword.
If their obſtinacy continues without actual hoſtilities, it may perhaps be mollified by turning out the ſoldiers to free quarters, forbidding any perſonal cruelty or hurt. It has been propoſed, that the ſlaves ſhould be ſet free, an act which ſurely the lovers of liberty cannot but commend. If they are furniſhed with firearms for defence, and utenſils for huſbandry, and ſettled in ſome ſimple form of government within the country, they may be more grateful and honeſt than their maſters.
Far be it from any Engliſhman to thirſt for the blood of his fellow-ſubjects. Thoſe who moſt deſerve our reſentment are unhappily at leſs diſtance. The Americans, when the Stamp Act was firſt propoſed, undoubtedly diſliked it, as every nation diſlikes an impoſt; but they had no thought of refitting it, till they were encouraged and incited by European intelligence from men whom they thought their friends, but who were friends only to themſelves.
On the original contrivers of miſchief let an inſulted nation pour out its vengeance. With whatever deſign they have inflamed this pernicious conteſt, they are themſelves equally deteſtable: If they wiſh ſucceſs to the Colonies, they are traitors to this country, if they wiſh their defeat, they are traitors at once to America and England. To them and them only muſt be imputed the interruption of commerce, and the miſeries of war, the ſorrow of thoſe that ſhall be ruined, and the blood of thoſe that ſhall fall.
Since the Americans have made it neceſſary to ſubdue them, may they be ſubdued with the leaſt injury poſſible to their perſons and their poſſeſſions. When they are reduced to obedience, may that obedience be ſecured by ſtricter laws and ſtronger obligations.
Nothing can be more noxious to ſociety, than that erroneous clemency, which, when a rebellion is ſuppreſſed, exacts no forfeiture and eſtabliſhes no ſecurities, but leaves the rebels in their former ſtate. Who would not try the experiment which promiſes advantage without expence? If rebels once obtain a victory, their wiſhes are accompliſhed; if they are defeated, they ſuffer little, perhaps leſs than their conquerors; however often they play the game, the chance is always in their favour. In the mean time, they are growing rich by victualing the troops that we have ſent againſt them, and perhaps gain more by the reſidence of the army than they loſe by the obſtruction of their port.
Their charters being now, I ſuppoſe, legally forfeited, may be modelled as ſhall appear moſt commodious to the Mother-country. Thus the privileges, which are found by experience liable to miſuſe, will be taken away, and thoſe who now bellow as patriots, bluſter as ſoldiers, and domineer as legiſlators, will ſink into ſober merchants and ſilent planters, peaceably diligent, and ſecurely rich.
But there is one writer, and perhaps many who do not write, to whom the contraction of theſe pernicious privileges appears very dangerous, and who ſtartle at the thoughts of England free and America in chains. Children fly from their own ſhadow, and rhetoricians are frighted by their own voices. Chains is undoubtedly a dreadful word; but perhaps the maſters of civil wiſdom may diſcover ſome gradations between chains and anarchy. Chains need not be put upon thoſe who will be reſtrained without them. This conteſt may end in the ſofter phraſe of Engliſh Superiority and American Obedience.
We are told, that the ſubjection of Americans may tend to the diminution of our own liberties: an event, which none but very perſpicacious politicians are able to foreſee. If ſlavery be thus fatally contagious, how is it that we hear the loudeſt yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?
But let us interrupt a while this dream of conqueſt, ſettlement, and ſupremacy. Let us remember that being to contend, according to one orator, with three millions of Whigs, and according to another, with ninety thouſand patriots of Maſſachuſet’s Bay, we may poſſibly be checked in our career of reduction. We may be reduced to peace upon equal terms, or driven from the weſtern continent, and forbidden to violate a ſecond time the happy borders of the land of liberty. The time is now perhaps at hand, which Sir Thomas Brown predicted between jeſt and earneſt,
When America ſhall no more ſend out her treaſure,
But ſpend it at home In American pleaſure.
If we are allowed upon our defeat to ſtipulate conditions, I hope the treaty of Boſton will permit us to import into the confederated Cantons ſuch products as they do not raiſe, and ſuch manufactures as they do not make, and cannot buy cheaper from other nations, paying like others the appointed cuſtoms; that if an Engliſh ſhip ſalutes a fort with four guns, it ſhall be anſwered at leaſt with two; and that if an Engliſhman be inclined to hold a plantation, he ſhall only take an oath of allegiance to the reigning powers, and be ſuffered, while he lives inoffenſively, to retain his own opinion of Engliſh rights, unmoleſted in his conſcience by an oath of abjuration.
- Of this reaſoning, I owe part to a converſation with Sir John Hawkins.