Archive for the ‘Category – Founders Writings’ Category

Thomas Paine because famous as the author of Common Sense, Crisis and The Age of Reason. Due to Paine’s arguments in The Age of Reason against Christianity, as he understood it, he has become one of the poster boys for Atheists and Deists. Atheists and Deists claim Paine is the real example of what the founding fathers believed to disavow the historical fact that America’s political system was based upon the moral system of the Bible.

Atheists and Deists also falsely claim that none of the founding fathers or those close to them ever disagreed with or tried to refute Paine’s arguments in The Age of Reason. The vast majority of the founding fathers openly rejected Paine’s The Age of Reason. Elias Boundinot took it one step further and actually wrote a rebuttal called The Age of Revelation in which he demolishes Paine’s arguments. This is a great read.

Title Page



Age Of Revelation

The Virgin Mary

The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ

The Christian Theory Misrepresented, &c.

Particular Notes On This Subject

The Character of Christ

Resurrection and Ascension of Christ

The Authenticity of the Books of the New Testament

The Objections To the Old Testament, Considered

Person To Whom Made The Subject Matter of Revelation – And the Attestations Attending it in Confirmation of the Truth

Letter 01

Letter 02

Letter 03

Letter 04

Letter 05

Letter 06

Letter 07

Letter 08

Letter 09

Letter 10

Letter 11

Letter 12

Common Sense was literally the pivotal writing which lead America to take up arms against the British. Thomas Paine was still a British citizen when he wrote the pamphlet and the pamphlet went viral. This is a must read for anyone who wants to understand our past.

Introduction To the Third Edition

Of the Origin and Design

Monarchy and Hereditary

Present State of American Affairs

Ability of America

Appendix To Third Edition

letter ix

My dear Countrymen,

I have made some observations on the PURPOSES for which money is to be levied upon us by the late act of parliament. I shall now offer to your consideration some further reflections on that subject: And, unless I am greatly mistaken, if these purposes are accomplished according to the expressed intention of the act, they will be found effectually to supersede that authority in our respective assemblies, which is essential to liberty. The question is not, whether some branches shall be lopped off—The axe is laid to the root of the tree; and the whole body must infallibly perish, if we remain idle spectators of the work.

No free people ever existed, or can ever exist, without keeping, to use a common, but strong expression, “the purse strings,” in their own hands. Where this is the case, they have a constitutional check upon the administration, which may thereby be brought into order without violence: But where such a power is not lodged in the people, oppression proceeds uncontrolled in its career, till the governed, transported into rage, seek redress in the midst of blood and confusion.

The elegant and ingenious Mr. Hume, speaking of the Anglo-Norman government, says—“Princes and Ministers were too ignorant, to be themselves sensible of the advantage attending an equitable administration, and there was no established council or assembly, WHICH COULD PROTECT THE PEOPLE, and BY WITHDRAWING SUPPLIES, regularly and PEACEABLY admonish the king of his duty, and ENSURE THE EXECUTION OF THE LAWS.”

Thus this great man, whose political reflections are so much admired, makes this power one of the foundations of liberty.

The English history abounds with instances, proving that this is the proper and successful way to obtain redress to grievances. How often have kings and ministers endeavored to throw off this legal curb upon them, by attempting to raise money by a variety of inventions, under pretense of law, without having recourse to parliament? And how often have they been brought to reason, and peaceably obliged to do justice, by the exertion of this constitutional authority of the people, vested in their representatives?

The inhabitants of these colonies have, on numberless occasions, reaped the benefit of this authority lodged in their assemblies.

It has been for a long time, and now is, a constant instruction to all governors, to obtain a PERMANENT support for the offices of government. But as the author of “the administration of the colonies” says, “this order of the crown is generally, if not universally, rejected by the legislatures of the colonies.”

They perfectly know how much their grievances would be regarded, if they had no other method of engaging attention, than by complaining. Those who rule, are extremely apt to think well of the constructions made by themselves in support of their own power. These are frequently erroneous, and pernicious to those they govern. Dry remonstrances, to show that such constructions are wrong and oppressive, carry very little weight with them, in the opinion of persons who gratify their own inclinations in making these constructions. They CANNOT understand the reasoning that opposes their power and desires. But let it be made their interest to understand such reasoning—and a wonderful light is instantly thrown upon the matter; and then, rejected remonstrances become as clear as “proofs of holy writ.”*

The three most important articles that our assemblies, or any legislatures can provide for, are, First—the defense of the society: Secondly—the administration of justice: And thirdly—the support of civil government.

Nothing can properly regulate the expense of making provision for these occasions, but the necessities of the society; its abilities; the conveniency of the modes of levying money in it; the manner in which the laws have been executed; and the conduct of the officers of government: All which are circumstances, that cannot possibly be properly known, but by the society itself; or if they should be known, will not probably be properly considered but by that society.

If money be raised upon us by others, without our consent, for our “defense,” those who are the judges in levying it, must also be the judges in applying it. Of consequence the money said to be taken from us for our defense, may be employed to our injury. We may be chained in by a line of fortifications—obliged to pay for the building and maintaining them—and be told, that they are for our defense. With what face can we dispute the fact, after having granted that those who apply the money, had a right to levy it? For surely, it is much easier for their wisdom to understand how to apply it in the best manner, than how to levy it in the best manner. Besides, the right of levying is of infinitely more consequence than that of applying. The people of England, who would burst out into a fury, if the crown should attempt to levy money by its own authority, have always assigned to the crown the application of money.

As to “the administration of justice”—the judges ought, in a well regulated state, to be equally independent of the executive and legislative powers. Thus in England, judges hold their commissions from the crown “during good behavior,” and have salaries, suitable to their dignity, settled on them by parliament. The purity of the courts of law since this establishment, is a proof of the wisdom with which it was made.

But in these colonies, how fruitless has been every attempt to have the judges appointed “during good behavior”? Yet whoever considers the matter will soon perceive, that such commissions are beyond all comparison more necessary in these colonies, than they were in England.

The chief danger to the subject there, arose from the arbitrary designs of the crown; but here, the time may come, when we may have to contend with the designs of the crown, and of a mighty kingdom. What then must be our chance, when the laws of life and death are to be spoken by judges totally dependent on that crown, and that kingdom—sent over perhaps from thence—filled with British prejudices—and backed by a STANDING army—supported out of OUR OWN pockets, to “assert and maintain” OUR OWN “dependence and obedience”?

But supposing that through the extreme lenity that will prevail in the government through all future ages, these colonies will never behold any thing like the campaign of chief justice Jeffereys, yet what innumerable acts of injustice may be committed, and how fatally may the principles of liberty be sapped, by a succession of judges utterly independent of the people? Before such judges, the supple wretches, who cheerfully join in avowing sentiments inconsistent with freedom, will always meet with smiles; while the honest and brave men, who disdain to sacrifice their native land to their own advantage, but on every occasion boldly vindicate her cause, will constantly be regarded with frowns.

There are two other considerations relating to this head, that deserve the most serious attention.

By the late act, the officers of the customs are “impowered to enter into any HOUSE, warehouse, shop, cellar, or other place, in the British colonies or plantations in America, to search for or seize prohibited or unaccustomed goods,” etc. on “writs granted by the superior or supreme court of justice, having jurisdiction within such colony or plantation respectively.”

If we only reflect, that the judges of these courts are to be during pleasure—that they are to have “adequate provision” made for them, which is to continue during their complaisant behavior—that they may be strangers to these colonies—what an engine of oppression may this authority be in such hands?

I am well aware, that writs of this kind may be granted at home, under the seal of the court of exchequer: But I know also, that the greatest asserters of the rights of Englishmen have always strenuously contended, that such a power was dangerous to freedom, and expressly contrary to the common law, which ever regarded a man’s house as his castle, or a place of perfect security.

If such power was in the least degree dangerous there, it must be utterly destructive to liberty here. For the people there have two securities against the undue exercise of this power by the crown, which are wanting with us, if the late act takes place. In the first place, if any injustice is done there, the person injured may bring his action against the offender, and have it tried before INDEPENDENT JUDGES, who are NO PARTIES IN COMMITTING THE INJURY. Here he must have it tried before DEPENDENT JUDGES, being the men WHO GRANTED THE WRIT.*

To say, that the cause is to be tried by a jury, can never reconcile men who have any idea of freedom, to such a power. For we know that sheriffs in almost every colony on this continent, are totally dependent on the crown; and packing of juries has been frequently practised even in the capital of the British empire. Even if juries are well inclined, we have too many instances of the influence of over-bearing unjust judges upon them. The brave and wise men who accomplished the revolution, thought the independency of judges essential to freedom.

The other security which the people have at home, but which we shall want here, is this.

If this power is abused there, the parliament, the grand resource of the oppressed people, is ready to afford relief. Redress of grievances must precede grants of money. But what regard can we expect to have paid to our assemblies, when they will not hold even the puny privilege of French parliaments—that of registering, before they are put in execution, the edicts that take away our money.

The second consideration above hinted at, is this. There is a confusion in our laws, that is quite unknown in Great Britain. As this cannot be described in a more clear or exact manner, than has been done by the ingenious author of the history of New York, I beg leave to use his words. “The state of our laws opens a door to much controversy. The uncertainty, with respect to them, RENDERS PROPERTY PRECARIOUS, and GREATLY EXPOSES US TO THE ARBITRARY DECISION OF BAD JUDGES. The common law of England is generally received, together with such statutes as were enacted before we had a legislature of our own; but our COURTS EXERCISE A SOVEREIGN AUTHORITY, in determining what parts of the common and statute law ought to be extended: For it must be admitted, that the difference of circumstances necessarily requires us, in some cases, to REJECT the determination of both. In many instances, they have also extended even acts of parliament, passed since we had a distinct legislature, which is greatly adding to our confusion. The practice of our courts is no less uncertain than the law. Some of the English rules are adopted, others rejected. Two things therefore seem to be ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for the PUBLIC SECURITY. First, the passing an act for settling the extent of the English laws. Secondly, that the courts ordain a general set of rules for the regulation of the practice.”

How easy it will be, under this “state of our laws,” for an artful judge, to act in the most arbitrary manner, and yet cover his conduct under specious pretences; and how difficult it will be for the injured people to obtain relief, may be readily perceived. We may take a voyage of 3000 miles to complain; and after the trouble and hazard we have undergone, we may be told, that the collection of the revenue, and maintenance of the prerogative, must not be discouraged—and if the misbehavior is so gross as to admit of no justification, it may be said, that it was an error in judgment only, arising from the confusion of our laws, and the zeal of the King’s servants to do their duty.

If the commissions of judges are during the pleasure of the crown, yet if their salaries are during the pleasure of the people, there will be some check upon their conduct. Few men will consent to draw on themselves the hatred and contempt of those among whom they live, for the empty honor of being judges. It is the sordid love of gain, that tempts men to turn their backs on virtue, and pay their homage where they ought not.

As to the third particular, “the support of civil government”—few words will be sufficient. Every man of the least understanding must know, that the executive power may be exercised in a manner so disagreeable and harassing to the people, that it is absolutely requisite, that they should be enabled by the gentlest method which human policy has yet been ingenious enough to invent, that is, by shutting their hands, to “ADMONISH” (as Mr. Hume says) certain persons “OF THEIR DUTY.”

What shall we now think when, upon looking into the late act, we find the assemblies of these provinces thereby stripped of their authority on these several heads? The declared intention of the act is, “that a revenue should be raised IN HIS MAJESTY’S DOMINIONS IN AMERICA, for making a more certain and adequate provision for defraying the charge of THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE, and the support of CIVIL GOVERNMENT in such provinces where it shall be found necessary, and toward further defraying the expenses of DEFENDING, PROTECTING AND SECURING THE SAID DOMINIONS.”

Let the reader pause here one moment—and reflect—whether the colony in which he lives, has not made such “certain and adequate provision” for these purposes, as is by the colony judged suitable to its abilities, and all other circumstances. Then let him reflect—whether if this act takes place, money is not to be raised on that colony without its consent, to make “provision” for these purposes, which it does not judge to be suitable to its abilities, and all other circumstances. Lastly, let him reflect—whether the people of that country are not in a state of the most abject slavery, whose property may be taken from them under the notion of right, when they have refused to give it.

For my part, I think I have good reason for vindicating the honor of the assemblies on this continent, by publicly asserting, that THEY have made as “certain and adequate provision” for the purposes above mentioned, as they ought to have made, and that it should not be presumed, that they will not do it hereafter. Why then should these most important trusts be wrested out of their hands? Why should they not now be permitted to enjoy that authority, which they have exercised from the first settlement of these colonies? Why should they be scandalized by this innovation, when their respective provinces are now, and will be, for several years, laboring under loads of debt, imposed on them for the very purpose now spoken of? Why should all the inhabitants of these colonies be, with the utmost indignity, treated as a herd of despicable stupid wretches, so utterly void of common sense, that they will not even make “adequate provision” for the “administration of justice, and the support of civil government” among them, or for their own “defense”—though without such “provision” every people must inevitably be overwhelmed with anarchy and destruction? Is it possible to form an idea of a slavery more complete, more miserable, more disgraceful, than that of a people, where justice is administered, government exercised, and a standing army maintained, AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PEOPLE, and yet WITHOUT THE LEAST DEPENDENCE UPON THEM? If we can find no relief from this infamous situation, it will be fortunate for us, if Mr. Greenville, setting his fertile fancy again at work, can, as by one exertion of it he has stripped us of our property and liberty, by another deprive us of so much of our understanding; that, unconscious of what we have been or are, and ungoaded by tormenting reflections, we may bow down our necks, with all the stupid serenity of servitude, to any drudgery, which our lords and masters shall please to command.

When the charges of the “administration of justice,” the “support of civil government,” and the “expenses of defending, protecting and securing” us, are provided for, I should be glad to know, upon what occasions the crown will ever call our assemblies together? Some few of them may meet of their own accord, by virtue of their charters. But what will they have to do, when they are met? To what shadows will they be reduced? The men, whose deliberations heretofore had an influence on every matter relating to the liberty and happiness of themselves and their constituents, and whose authority in domestic affairs at least, might well be compared to that of Roman senators, will now find their deliberations of no more consequence, than those of constables. They may perhaps be allowed to make laws for the yoking of hogs, or pounding of stray cattle. Their influence will hardly be permitted to extend so high, as the keeping roads in repair, as that business may more properly be executed by those who receive the public cash.

One most memorable example in history is so applicable to the point now insisted on, that it will form a just conclusion of the observations that have been made.

Spain was once free. Their cortes resembled our parliaments. No money could be raised on the subject, without their consent. One of their Kings having received a grant from them, to maintain a war against the Moors, desired, that if the sum which they had given, should not be sufficient, he might be allowed, for that emergency only, to raise more money without assembling the Cortes. The request was violently opposed by the best and wisest men in the assembly. It was, however, complied with by the votes of a majority; and this single concession was a PRECEDENT for other concessions of the like kind, until at last the crown obtained a general power of raising money, in cases of necessity. From that period the Cortes ceased to be useful—the people ceased to be free.

  • Venienti occurrite morbo.
  • Oppose a disease at its beginning.

A Farmer

letter xii

My dear Countrymen,

Some states have lost their liberty by particular accidents: But this calamity is generally owing to the decay of virtue. A people is travelling fast to destruction, when individuals consider their interests as distinct from those of the public. Such notions are fatal to their country, and to themselves. Yet how many are there, so weak and sordid as to think they perform all the offices of life, if they earnestly endeavor to increase their own wealth, power, and credit, without the least regard for the society, under the protection of which they live; who, if they can make an immediate profit to themselves, by lending their assistance to those, whose projects plainly tend to the injury of their country, rejoice in their dexterity, and believe themselves entitled to the character of able politicians. Miserable men! Of whom it is hard to say, whether they ought to be most the objects of pity or contempt: But whose opinions are certainly as detestable, as their practices are destructive.

Though I always reflect, with a high pleasure, on the integrity and understanding of my countrymen, which, joined with a pure and humble devotion to the great and gracious author of every blessing they enjoy, will, I hope, ensure to them, and their posterity, all temporal and eternal happiness; yet when I consider, that in every age and country there have been bad men, my heart, at this threatening period, is so full of apprehension, as not to permit me to believe, but that there may be some on this continent, against whom you ought to be upon your guard—Men,* who either hold, or expect to hold certain advantages, by setting examples of servility to their countrymen. Men, who trained to the employment, or self taught by a natural versatility of genius, serve as decoys for drawing the innocent and unwary into snares. It is not to be doubted but that such men will diligently bestir themselves on this and every like occasion, to spread the infection of their meanness as far as they can. On the plans they have adopted, this is their course. This is the method to recommend themselves to their patrons.

From them we shall learn, how pleasant and profitable a thing it is, to be for our SUBMISSIVE behavior well spoken of at St. James’s, or St. Stephen’s; at Guildhall, or the Royal Exchange. Specious fallacies will be dressed up with all the arts of delusion, to persuade one colony to distinguish herself from another, by unbecoming condescensions, which will serve the ambitious purposes of great men at home, and therefore will be thought by them to entitle their assistants in obtaining them to considerable rewards.

Our fears will be excited. Our homes will be awakened. It will be insinuated to us, with a plausible affectation of wisdom and concern, how prudent it is to please the powerful—how dangerous to provoke them—and then comes in the perpetual incantation that freezes up every generous purpose of the soul in cold, inactive expectation—“that if there is any request to be made, compliance will obtain a favorable attention.”

Our vigilance and our union are success and safety. Our negligence and our division are distress and death. They are worse—They are shame and slavery. Let us equally shun the benumbing stillness of overweening sloth, and the feverish activity of that ill informed zeal, which busies itself in maintaining little, mean and narrow opinions. Let us, with a truly wise generosity and charity, banish and discourage all illiberal distinctions, which may arise from differences in situation, forms of government, or modes of religion. Let us consider ourselves as MEN—FREEMEN—CHRISTIAN FREEMEN—separated from the rest of the world, and firmly bound together by the same rights, interests and dangers. Let these keep our attention inflexibly fixed on the GREAT OBJECTS, which we must CONTINUALLY REGARD, in order to preserve those rights, to promote those interests, and to avert those dangers.

Let these truths be indelibly impressed on our minds—that we cannot be HAPPY, without being FREE—that we cannot be free, without being secure in our property—that we cannot be secure in our property, if, without our consent, others may, as by right, take it away—that taxes imposed on us by parliament, do thus take it away—that duties laid for the sole purpose of raising money, are taxes—that attempts to lay such duties should be instantly and firmly opposed—that this opposition can never be effectual, unless it is the united effort of these provinces—that therefore BENEVOLENCE of temper towards each other, and UNANIMITY of counsels, are essential to the welfare of the whole—and lastly, that for this reason, every man among us, who in any manner would encourage either dissension, dissidence, or indifference, between these colonies, is an enemy to himself, and to his country.

The belief of these truths, I verily think, my countrymen, is indispensably necessary to your happiness. I beseech you, therefore, “teach them diligently unto your children, and talk of them when you sit in your houses, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.”*

What have these colonies to ask, while they continue free? Or what have they to dread, but insidious attempts to subvert their freedom? Their prosperity does not depend on ministerial favors doled out to particular provinces. They form one political body, of which each colony is a member. Their happiness is founded on their constitution; and is to be promoted, by preserving that constitution in unabated vigor, throughout every part. A spot, a speck of decay, however small the limb on which it appears, and however remote it may seem from the vitals, should be alarming. We have all the rights requisite for our prosperity. The legal authority of Great Britain may indeed lay hard restrictions upon us; but, like the spear of Telephus, it will cure as well as wound. Her unkindness will instruct and compel us, after some time, to discover, in our industry and frugality, surprising remedies—if our rights continue unviolated: For as long as the products of our labor, and the rewards of our care, can properly be called our own, so long it will be worth our while to be industrious and frugal. But if when we plow—sow—reap—gather—and thresh—we find, that we plow—sow—reap—gather—and thresh for others, whose PLEASURE is to be the SOLE LIMITATION how much they shall take, and how much they shall leave, WHY should we repeat the unprofitable toil? Horses and oxen are content with that portion of the fruits of their work, which their owners assign them, in order to keep them strong enough to raise successive crops; but even these beasts will not submit to draw for their masters, until they are subdued by whips and goads.

Let us take care of our rights, and we therein take care of our prosperity. “SLAVERY IS EVER PRECEDED BY SLEEP.”*Individuals may be dependent on ministers, if they please. STATES SHOULD SCORN IT—and if you are not wanting to yourselves, you will have a proper regard paid you by those, to whom if you are not respectable, you will be contemptible. But—if we have already forgot the reasons that urged us with unexampled unanimity, to exert ourselves two years ago—if our zeal for the public good is worn out before the homespun cloths, which it caused us to have made—if our resolutions are so faint, as by our present conduct to condemn our own late successful example—if we are not affected by any reverence for the memory of our ancestors, who transmitted to us that freedom in which they had been blessed—if we are not animated by any regard for posterity, to whom, by the most sacred obligations, we are bound to deliver down the invaluable inheritance—THEN, indeed, any minister—or any tool of a minister—or any creature of a tool of a minister—or any lower instrument* of administration, if lower there be, is a personage whom it may be dangerous to offend.

I shall be extremely sorry, if any man mistakes my meaning in any thing I have said. Officers employed by the crown, are, while according to the laws they conduct themselves, entitled to legal obedience, and sincere respect. These it is a duty to render them; and these no good or prudent person will withhold. But when these officers, through rashness or design, desire to enlarge their authority beyond its due limits, and expect improper concessions to be made to them, from regard for the employments they bear, their attempts should be considered as equal injuries to the crown and people, and should be courageously and constantly opposed. To suffer our ideas to be confounded by names on such occasions, would certainly be an inexcusable weakness, and probably an irremediable error.

We have reason to believe, that several of his Majesty’s present ministers are good men, and friends to our country; and it seems not unlikely, that by a particular concurrence of events, we have been treated a little more severely than they wished we should be. They might not think it prudent to stem a torrent. But what is the difference to us, whether arbitrary acts take their rise from ministers, or are permitted by them? Ought any point to be allowed to a good minister, that should be denied to a bad one?* The mortality of ministers, is a very frail mortality. A —— may succeed a Shelburne—A —— may succeed a Conway.

We find a new kind of minister lately spoken of at home—“THE MINISTER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.” The term seems to have peculiar propriety when referred to these colonies, with a different meaning annexed to it, from that in which it is taken there. By the word “minister” we may understand not only a servant of the crown, but a man of influence among the commons, who regard themselves as having a share in the sovereignty over us. The “minister of the house” may, in a point respecting the colonies, be so strong, that the minister of the crown in the house, if he is a distinct person, may not choose, even where his sentiments are favorable to us, to come to a pitched battle upon our account. For tho’ I have the highest opinion of the deference of the house for the King’s minister, yet he may be so good natured, as not to put it to the test, except it be for the mere and immediate profit of his master or himself.

But whatever kind of minister he is, that attempts to innovate a single iota in the privileges of these colonies, him I hope you will undauntedly oppose; and that you will never suffer yourselves to be either cheated or frightened into any unworthy obsequiousness. On such emergencies you may surely, without presumption, believe, that ALMIGHTY GOD himself will look down upon your righteous contest with gracious approbation. You will be a “band of brothers,” cemented by the dearest ties—and strengthened with inconceivable supplies of force and constancy, by that sympathetic ardor, which animates good men, confederated in a good cause. Your honor and welfare will be, as they now are, most intimately concerned; and besides—you are assigned by divine providence, in the appointed order of things, the protectors of unborn ages, whose fate depends upon your virtue. Whether they shall arise the generous and indisputable heirs of the noblest patrimonies, or the dastardly and hereditary drudges of imperious task-masters, YOU MUST DETERMINE.

To discharge this double duty to yourselves, and to your posterity, you have nothing to do, but to call forth into use the good sense and spirit of which you are possessed. You have nothing to do, but to conduct your affairs peaceably—prudently—firmly—jointly. By these means you will support the character of freemen, without losing that of faithful subjects—a good character in any government—one of the best under a British government. You will prove, that Americans have that true magnanimity of soul, that can resent injuries, without falling into rage; and that tho’ your devotion to Great Britain is the most affectionate, yet you can make PROPER DISTINCTIONS, and know what you owe to yourselves, as well as to her—You will, at the same time that you advance your interests, advance your reputation—You will convince the world of the justice of your demands, and the purity of your intentions. While all mankind must, with unceasing applauses, confess, that YOU indeed DESERVE liberty, who so well understand it, so passionately love it, so temperately enjoy it, and so wisely, bravely, and virtuously assert, maintain, and defend it.

“Certe ego libertatem, quae mihi a parente meo tradita est, experiar: Verum id frustra an ob rem faciam, in vestra manu situm est, quirites.”

For my part, I am resolved to contend for the liberty delivered down to me by my ancestors, but whether I shall do it effectually or not, depends on you, my countrymen. “How littlesoever one is able to write, yet when the liberties of one’s country are threatened, it is still more difficult to be silent.”

A Farmer

Is there not the strongest probability, that if the universal sense of these colonies is immediately expressed by RESOLVES of the assemblies, in support of their rights, by INSTRUCTIONS to their agents on the subject, and by PETITIONS to the crown and parliament for redress, these measures will have the same success now, that they had in the time of the STAMP ACT.


[*]See the act of suspension.

[*]The day of King william the Third’s landing.

[*]For the satisfaction of the reader, recitals from the former acts of parliament relating to these colonies are added. By comparing these with the modern acts, he will perceive their great difference in expression and intention.

The 12th Cha. Chap. 18, which forms the foundation of the laws relating to our trade, by enacting that certain productions of the colonies should be carried to England only, and that no goods shall be imported from the plantations but in ships belonging to England, Ireland, Wales, Berwick, or the Plantations, etc. begins thus: “For the increase of shipping, and encouragement of the navigation of this nation, wherein, under the good providence and protection of GOD, the wealth, safety, and strength of this Kingdom is so much concerned,” etc.

The 15th Cha. II. Chap. 7, enforcing the same regulation, assigns these reasons for it. “In regard his Majesty’s plantations, beyond the seas, are inhabited and peopled by his subjects of this his Kingdom of England; for the maintaining a greater correspondence and kindness between them, and keeping them in a firmer dependence upon it, and rendering them yet more beneficial and advantageous unto it, in the further employment and increase of English shipping and seamen, vent of English woollen, and other manufacturers and commodities, rendering the navigation to and from the same more safe and cheap, and making this Kingdom a staple, not only of the commodities of those plantations, but also of the commodities of other countries and places for the supplying of them; and it being the usage of other nations to keep their plantations’ trade to themselves,” etc.

The 25th Cha. II, Chap. 7, made expressly “for the better securing the plantation trade,” which imposes duties on certain commodities exported from one colony to another, mentions this cause for imposing them: “Whereas by one act, passed in the 12th year of your Majesty’s reign, intitled, An act for encouragement of shipping and navigation, and by several other laws, passed since that time, it is permitted to ship, etc. sugars, tobacco, etc. of the growth, etc. of any of your Majesty’s plantations in America, etc. from the places of their growth, etc. to any other of your Majesty’s plantations in those parts, etc. and that without paying custom for the same, either at the lading or unlading the said commodities, by means whereof the trade and navigation in those commodities, from one plantation to another, is greatly increased, and the inhabitants of divers of those colonies, not contenting themselves with being supplied with those commodities for their own use, free from all customs (while the subjects of this your kingdom of England have paid great customs and impositions for what of them hath been spent here) but, contrary to the express letter of the aforesaid laws, have brought into divers parts of Europe great quantities thereof, and do also vend great quantities thereof to the shipping of other nations, who bring them into divers parts of Europe, to the great hurt and diminution of your Majesty’s customs, and of the trade and navigation of this your kingdom; For the prevention thereof, etc.

The 7th and 8th Will. III. Chap. 22, intitled, “An act for preventing frauds, and regulating abuses in the plantation trade,” recites that, “notwithstanding divers acts, etc. great abuses are daily committed, to the prejudice of the English navigation, and the loss of a great part of the plantation trade to this kingdom, by the artifice and cunning of ill disposed persons; For remedy whereof, etc. And whereas in some of his Majesty’s American plantations, a doubt or misconstruction has arisen upon the before mentioned act, made in the 25th year of the reign of King Charles II, whereby certain duties are laid upon the commodities therein enumerated (which by law may be transported from one plantation to another, for the supply of each other’s wants) as if the same were, by the payment of those duties in one plantation, discharged from giving the securities intended by the aforesaid acts, made in the 12th, 22nd and 23rd years of the reign of King Charles II, and consequently be at liberty to go to any foreign market in Europe,” etc.

The 6th Anne, Chap. 37, reciting the advancement of trade, and encouragement of ships of war, etc. grants to the captors the property of all prizes carried into America, subject to such customs and duties, as if the same had been first imported into any part of Great Britain, and from thence exported, etc.

This was a gift to persons acting under commissions from the crown, and therefore it was reasonable that the terms prescribed in that gift, should be complied with—more especially as the payment of such duties was intended to give a preference to the productions of British colonies, over those of other colonies. However, being found inconvenient to the colonies, about four years afterwards, this act was, for that reason, so far repealed, that by another act “all prize goods, imported into any part of Great Britain, from any of the plantations, were made liable to such duties only in Great Britain, as in case they had been of the growth and product of the plantations.”

The 6th Geo. II Chap. 13, which imposes duties on foreign rum, sugar and molasses, imported into the colonies, shews the reasons thus—“Whereas the welfare and prosperity of your Majesty’s sugar colonies in America, are of the greatest consequence and importance to the trade, navigation, and strength of this kingdom; and whereas the planters of the said sugar colonies, have of late years fallen into such great discouragements, that they are unable to improve or carry on the sugar trade upon an equal footing with the foreign sugar colonies, without some advantage and relief be given to them from Great Britain: For remedy whereof, and for the good and welfare of your Majesty’s subjects,” etc.

The 29th Geo. II Chap. 26, and the 1st Geo. III Chap. 9, which continue the 6th Geo. II Chap. 13, declare, that the said act has, by experience, been found useful and beneficial, etc. These are all the most considerable statutes relating to the commerce of the colonies; and it is thought to be utterly unnecessary to add any observations to these extracts, to prove that they were all intended solely as regulations of trade.

[*]“It is worthy observation how quietly subsidies, granted in forms usual and accustomable (though heavy) are borne; such a power hath use and custom. On the other side, what discontentments and disturbances subsidies framed in a new mold do raise (such an inbred hatred novelty doth hatch) is evident by examples of former times.” Lord Coke’s 2nd Institute, p. 33.

[†]Some people think that Great Britain has the same right to impose duties on the exports to these colonies, as on the exports to Spain and Portugal, etc. Such persons attend so much to the idea of exportation, that they entirely drop that of the connection between the mother country and her colonies. If Great Britain had always claimed, and exercised an authority to compel Spain and Portugal to import manufactures from her only, the cases would be parallel: But as she never pretended to such a right, they are at liberty to get them where they please; and if they chuse to take them from her, rather than from other nations, they voluntarily consent to pay the duties imposed on them.

[*]Either the disuse of writing, or the payment of taxes imposed by others without our consent.

[*]The peasants of France wear wooden shoes; and the vassals of Poland are remarkable for matted hair which never can be combed.

[*]Galatians 5:1.

[*]Plutarch in the life of Lycurgus. Archbishop Potter’s “Archaeologia Graeca.

[*]Cleon was a popular firebrand of Athens, and Clodius of Rome; each of whom plunged his country into the deepest calamities.

[*]Proverbs 8:15.

[*]It is very worthy of remark, how watchful our wise ancestors were, lest their services should be increased beyond what the law allowed. No man was bound to go out of the realm to serve the King. Therefore, even in the conquering reign of Henry the Fifth, when the martial spirit of the nation was highly inflamed by the heroic courage of their Prince, and by his great success, they still carefully guarded against the establishment of illegal services. “When this point (says Lord Chief Justice Coke) concerning maintenance of wars out of England, came in question, the commons did make their continual claim of their ancient freedom and birthright, as in the first of Henry the Fifth, and in the seventh of Henry the Fifth, etc. the commons made a PROTEST, that they were not bound to the maintenance of war in Scotland, Ireland, Calice, France, Normandy, or other foreign parts, and caused their PROTESTS to be entered into the parliament rolls, where they yet remain; which, in effect, agrees with that which, upon like occasion, was made in the parliament of the 15th Edward I.” (2d Inst. p. 528)

[*]4th Inst. p. 28.

[†]Reges Angliae, nihil tale, nisi convocatis primis ordinibus, et assentiente populo suscipiunt. (Phil. Comines. 2d Inst)

These gifts entirely depending on the pleasure of the donors, were proportioned to the abilities of the several ranks of people who gave, and were regulated by their opinion of the public necessities. Thus Edward I had in his 11th year a thirtieth from the laity, a twentieth from the clergy; in his 22nd year a tenth from the laity, a sixth from London, and other corporate towns, half of their benefices from the clergy; in his 23d year an eleventh from the barons and others, a tenth from the clergy; a seventh from the burgesses, etc. (Hume’s Hist. of England)

The same difference in the grants of the several ranks is observable in other reigns.

In the famous statute de tallagio non concedendo, the king enumerates the several classes, without whose consent, he and his heirs never should set or levy any tax—“nullum tallagium, vel auxilium per nos, vel beredes nostros in regno nestro ponatur feu levetur, sine voluntate et assenfu archiepiscoporum, episcoporum, comitum, baronum, militum, burgensium, et aliorum liberorum com. de regno nostro.” (34th Edward I)

Lord Chief Justice Coke, in his comment on these words, says—“for the quieting of the commons, and for a perpetual and constant law for ever after, both in this and other like cases, this act was made.” These words are “plain,without any scruple, absolute,without any saving.” 2d Coke’s Inst. p. 532, 533. Little did the venerable judge imagine, that “otherlikecases” would happen, in which the spirit of this law would be despised by Englishmen, the posterity of those who made it.

[*]The Goddess of Empire, in the Heathen Mythology; according to an ancient fable, Ixion pursued her, but she escaped in a cloud.

[†]In this sense Montesquieu uses the word “tax,” in his 13th book of Spirit of Laws.

[‡]The rough draft of the resolves of the congress at New York are now in my hands, and from some notes on that draft, and other particular reasons, I am satisfied, that the congress understood the word “tax” in the sense here contended for.

[*]It seems to be evident, that Mr. Pitt, in his defense of America, during the debate concerning the repeal of the Stamp Act, by “internal taxes,” meant any duties “for the purpose of raising a revenue”; and by “external taxes,” meant duties imposed “for the regulation of trade.” His expressions are these—“If the gentleman does not understand the differences between internal and external taxes, I cannot help it; but there is a plain distinction between taxes levied for the purposes of raising a revenue, and duties imposed for the regulation of trade, for the accommodation of the subject; although, in the consequences, some revenue might incidentally arise from the latter.”

These words were in Mr. Pitt’s reply to Mr. Greenville, who said he could not understand the difference between external and internal taxes.

In every other part of his speeches on that occasion, his words confirm this construction of his expressions. The following extracts will show how positive and general were his assertions of our right.

“It is my opinion that this Kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies”—“The Americans are the sons, not the bastards of England.taxation is no part of the governing or legislative power”—“The taxes are a voluntary gift and grant of the commonsalone. In legislation the three estates of the realm are alike concerned, but the concurrence of the peers and the crown to a tax, is only necessary to close with the form of a law.

The gift and grant is of the commons alone”—“The distinction betweenlegislation and taxationis essentially necessary to liberty”—“The commons of America, represented in their several assemblies, have ever been in possession of the exercise of this their constitutional right, of giving and granting their own money. They would have beenslaves, if they had not enjoyed it.” “The idea of a virtual representation of America in this house, is the most contemptible idea that ever entered into the head of man—It does not deserve a serious refutation.”

He afterwards shows the unreasonableness of Great Britain taxing America, thus—“When I had the honor of serving his Majesty, I availed myself of the means of information, which I derived from my office, i speak therefore from knowledge. My materials were good. I was at pains to collect, to digest, to consider them; and I will be bold to affirm, that the profit to Great Britain from the trade of the colonies, through all its branches, is two millions a year. This is the fund that carried you triumphantly through the last war. The estates that were rented at two thousand pounds a year, threescore years ago, are three thousand pounds at present. Those estates sold then from fifteen to eighteen years purchase; the same may now be sold for thirty. you owe this to america. this is the price that america pays you for her protection”—“I dare not say how much higher these profits may be augmented”—“Upon the whole, I will beg leave to tell the house what is really my opinion; it is, that the Stamp Act be repealed absolutely, totally, and immediately. That the reason for the repeal be assigned, because it was founded on an erroneous principle.”

[*]“And that pig and bar iron, made in his Majesty’s colonies in America, may be further manufactured in this kingdom, be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after the twenty-fourth day of June, 1750, no mill, or other engine, for slitting or rolling of iron, or any plating forge, to work with a tilt hammer, or any furnace for making steel, shall be erected; or, after such erection, continued in any of his Majesty’s colonies in America.” 23d Geo. II. Chap. 29, Sect. 9.

[*]Though these particulars are mentioned as being absolutely necessary, yet perhaps they are not more so than glass in our severe winters, to keep out the cold from our houses; or than paper, without which such inexpressible confusions must ensue.

[*]“The power of taxing themselves, was the privilege of which the English were, with reason, particularly jealous.” (Hume’s Hist. of England)

[†]Mic. iv. 4.

[‡]It has been said in the House of Commons, when complaints have been made of the decay of trade to any part of Europe, “That such things were not worth regard, as Great Britain was possessed of colonies that could consume more of her manufactures than she was able to supply them with.” “As the case now stands, we shall show that the plantations are a spring of wealth to this nation, that they work for us, that their TREASURE CENTERS ALL HERE, and that the laws have tied them fast enough to us; so that it must be through our own fault and mismanagement, if they become independent of England.” (Davenant on the Plantation Trade)

“It is better that the islands should be supplied from the Northern Colonies than from England; for this reason, the provisions we might send to Barbados, Jamaica, etc. would be unimproved product of the earth, as grain of all kinds, or such product where there is little got by the improvement, as malt, salt beef and pork; indeed the exportation of salt first thither would be more advantageous, but the goods which we send to the Northern Colonies, are such, whose improvement may be justly said, one with another, to be near four fifths of the value of the whole commodity, as apparel, household furniture, and many other things.” (Idem)

New England is the most prejudicial plantation to the kingdom of England; and yet, to do right to that most industrious English colony, I must confess, that though we lose by their unlimited trade with other foreign plantations, yet we are very great gainers by their direct trade to and from Old England. Our yearly exportations of English manufactures, malt and other goods, from hence thither, amounting, in my opinion, to ten times the value of what is imported from there; which calculation I do not make at random, but upon mature consideration, and, peradventure, upon as much experience in this very trade, as any other person will pretend to; and therefore, whenever reformation of our correspondency in trade with that people shall be thought on, it will, in my poor judgment, require GREAT TENDERNESS, and VERY SERIOUS CIRCUMSPECTION.” (Sir Josiah Child’s Discourse on Trade)

“Our plantations spend mostly our English manufactures, and those of all sorts almost imaginable, in egregious quantities, and employ nearly two thirds of all our English shipping; so that we have more people in England, by reason of our plantations in America.” (Idem)

Sir Josiah Child says, in another part of his work, “That not more than fifty families are maintained in England by the refining of sugar.” From whence, and from what Davenant says, it is plain, that the advantages here said to be derived from the plantations by England, must be meant chiefly of the continental colonies.

“I shall sum up my whole remarks in our American colonies, with this observation, that as they are a certain annual revenue of SEVERAL MILLIONS STERLING to their mother country, they ought carefully to be protected, duly encouraged, and at every opportunity that presents itself, improved for their increment and advantage, as every one they can possibly reap, must at last return to us with interest.” (BEAWES’S Lex Merc. Red.)

“We may safely advance, that our trade and navigation are greatly increased by our colonies, and that they really are a source of treasure and naval power to this kingdom, since THEY WORK FOR US, AND THEIR TREASURE CENTERS HERE. Before their settlement, our manufactures were few, and those but indifferent; the number of English merchants very small, and the whole shipping of the nation much inferior to what now belongs to the Northern Colonies only. These are certain facts. But since their establishment, our condition has altered for the better, almost to a degree beyond credibility—Our MANUFACTURES are prodigiously increased, chiefly by the demand for them in the plantations, where they AT LEAST TAKE OFF ONE HALF, and supply us with many valuable commodities for exportation, which is as great an emolument to the mother kingdom, as to the plantations themselves.” (POSTLETHWAYT’s Univ. Dict. of Trade and Commerce)

“Most of the nations of Europe have interfered with us, more or less, in divers of our staple manufactures, within half a century, not only in our woolen, but in our lead and tin manufactures, as well as our fisheries.” (POSTLETHWAYT, ibid.)

“The inhabitants of our colonies, by carrying on a trade with their foreign neighbors, do not only occasion a greater quantity of the goods and merchandises of Europe being sent from hence to them, and a greater quantity of the product of America to be sent from them hither, which would otherwise be carried from, and brought to Europe by foreigners, but an increase of the seamen and navigation in those parts, which is of great strength and security, as well as of great advantage to our plantations in general. And though some of our colonies are not only for preventing the importations of all goods of the same species they produce, but suffer particular planters to keep great runs of land in their possession uncultivated, with design to prevent new settlements, whereby they imagine the prices of their commodities may be affected; yet if it be considered, that the markets of Great Britain depend on the markets of ALL Europe in general, and that the European markets in general depend on the proportion between the annual consumption and the whole quantity of each species annually produced by ALL nations; it must follow, that whether we or foreigners are the producers, carriers, importers and exporters of American produce, yet their respective prices in each colony (the difference of freight, customs and importations considered) will always bear proportion to the general consumption of the whole quantity of each sort, produced in all colonies, and in all parts, allowing only for the usual contingencies that trade and commerce, agriculture and manufacturers, are liable to in all countries.” (POSTLETHWAYT, ibid.)

“It is certain, that from the very time Sir Walter Raleigh, the father of our English colonies, and his associates, first projected these establishments, there have been persons who have found an interest, in misrepresenting, or lessening the value of them—The attempts were called chimerical and dangerous. Afterwards many malignant suggestions were made about sacrificing so many Englishmen to the obstinate desire of settling colonies in countries which then produced very little advantage. But as these difficulties were gradually surmounted, those complaints vanished. No sooner were these lamentations over, but others arose in their stead; when it could be no longer said, that the colonies were useless, it was alleged that they were not useful enough to their mother country; that while we were loaded with taxes, they were absolutely free; that the planters lived like princes, while the inhabitants of England labored hard for a tolerable subsistence.” (POSTLETHWAYT, ibid.)

“Before the settlement of these colonies,” says Postlethwayt, “our manufactures were few, and those but indifferent. In those days we had not only our naval stores, but our ships from our neighbors. Germany furnished us with all things of metal, even to nails. Wine, paper, linens, and a thousand other things, came from France. Portugal supplied us with sugar; all the products of America were poured into us from Spain; and the Venetians and Genoese retailed to us the commodities of the East Indies, at their own price.”

“If it be asked whether foreigners, for what goods they take of us, do not pay on that consumption a great portion of our taxes? It is admitted they do.” (POSTLETHWAYT’S Great Britain’s True System)

“If we are afraid that one day or other the colonies will revolt, and set up for themselves, as some seem to apprehend, let us not drive them to a necessity to feel themselves independent of us; as they will do, the moment they perceive that THEY CAN BE SUPPLIED WITH ALL THINGS FROM WITHIN THEMSELVES, and do not need our assistance. If we would keep them still dependent upon their mother country, and, in some respects, subservient to her views and welfare; let us make it their INTEREST always to be so.” (TUCKER on Trade)

“Our colonies, while they have English blood in their veins, and have relations in England, and WHILE THEY CAN GET BY TRADING WITH US, the stronger and greater they grow, the more this crown and kingdom will get by them; and nothing but such an arbitrary power as shall make them desperate, can bring them to rebel.” (DAVENANT on the Plantation Trade)

“The Northern colonies are not upon the same footing as those of the South; and having a worse soil to improve, they must find the recompense some other way, which only can be in property and dominion: Upon which score, any INNOVATIONS in the form of government there, should be cautiously examined, for fear of entering upon measures, by which the industry of the inhabitants be quite discouraged. ’Tis ALWAYS UNFORTUNATE for a people, either by CONSENT, or upon COMPULSION, to depart from their PRIMITIVE INSTITUTIONS, and THOSE FUNDAMENTALS, by which they were FIRST UNITED TOGETHER.” (Idem) The most effectual way of uniting the colonies, is to make it their common interest to oppose the designs and attempts of Great Britain.

“All wise states will well consider how to preserve the advantages arising from colonies, and avoid the evils. And I conceive that there can be but TWO ways in nature to hinder them from throwing off their dependence; one, to keep it out of their power, and the other, out of their will. The first must be by force; and the latter, by using them well, and keeping them employed in such productions, and making such manufactures, as will support themselves and their families comfortably, and procure them wealth too, and at least not prejudice their mother country.

Force can never be used effectually to answer the end, without destroying the colonies themselves. Liberty and encouragement are necessary to carry people thither, and to keep them together when they are there; and violence will hinder both. Any body of troops, considerable enough to awe them, and keep them in subjection, under the direction too of a needy governor, often sent thither to make his fortune, and at such a distance from any application for redress, will soon put an end to all planting, and leave the country to the soldiers alone, and if it did not, would eat up all the profit of the colony. For this reason, arbitrary countries have not been equally successful in planting colonies with free ones; and what they have done in that kind, has either been by force, at a vast expense, or by departing from the nature of their government, and giving such privileges to planters as were denied to their other subjects. And I dare say, that a few prudent laws, and a little prudent conduct, would soon give us far the greatest share of the riches of all America, perhaps drive many of the other nations out of it, or into our colonies for shelter.

“There are so many exigencies in all states, so many foreign wars, and domestic disturbances, that these colonies CAN NEVER WANT OPPORTUNITIES, if they watch for them, to do what they shall find their interest to do; and therefore we ought to take all the precautions in our power, that it shall never be their interest to act against that of their native country; an evil which can no other-wise be averted, than by keeping them fully employed in such trades as will increase their own as well as our wealth; for it is much to be feared, if we do not find employment for them, they may find it for us; the interest of the mother country, is always to keep them dependent, and so employed; and it requires all her addresses to do it; and it is certainly more easily and effectually done by gentle and insensible methods, than by power alone.” (CATO’s Letters)

[*]If any one should observe that no opposition has been made to the legality of the 4th Geo. III. Chap. 15, which is the FIRST act of parliament that ever imposed duties on the importations in America, for the expressed purpose of raising a revenue there; I answer—First, That tho’ the act expressly mentions the raising of a revenue in America, yet it seems that it had as much in view the “improving and securing the trade between the same and Great Britain,” which words are part of its title; And the preamble says, “Whereas it is expedient that new provisions and regulations should be established for improving the revenue of this kingdom, and for extending and securing the navigation and commerce between Great Britain and your Majesty’s dominions in America, which by the peace have been so happily extended and enlarged,” etc. Secondly, All the duties mentioned in that act are imposed solely on the productions and manufactures of foreign countries, and not a single duty laid on any production or manufacture of our mother country. Thirdly, The authority of the provincial assemblies is not therein so plainly attached as by the last act, which makes provision for defraying the charges of the “administration of justice,” and the intention of the 4th Geo. III. Chap. 15, was not as much to regulate trade, as to raise a revenue, the minds of the people here were wholly engrossed by the terror of the Stamp Act, then impending over them, about the intention of which there could be no doubt.

These reasons so far distinguish the 4th Geo. III. Chap. 15, from the last act, that it is not to be wondered at, that the first should have been submitted to, tho’ the last should excite the more universal and spirited opposition. For this will be found, on the strictest examination, to be, in the principle on which it is founded, and in the consequences that must attend it, if possible, more destructive than the Stamp Act. It is, to speak plainly, a prodigy in our laws; not having one British feature.


[†]II Corinthians 3:6.

[*]Many remarkable instances might be produced of the extraordinary inattention with which bills of great importance, concerning these colonies, have passed in parliament; which is owing, as it is supposed, to the bills being brought in by the persons who have points to carry, so artfully framed, that it is not easy for the members in general, in the haste of business, to discover their tendency.

The following instances show the truth of this remark. When Mr. Greenville, in the violence of reformation, formed the 4th Geo. III. Chap. 15th, for regulating the American trade, the word “Ireland” was dropped in the clause relating to our iron and lumber, so that we could send these articles to no part of Europe, but to Great Britain. This was so unreasonable a restriction, and so contrary to the sentiments of the legislature for many years before, that it is surprising it should not have been taken notice of in the house. However the bill passed into a law. But when the matter was explained, this restriction was taken off by a subsequent act. I cannot positively say how long after the taking off of this restriction, as I have not the act, but I think, in less than 18 months, another act of parliament passed, in which the word “Ireland” was left out, just as it had been before. The matter being a second time explained, was a second time regulated.

Now if it be considered, that the omission mentioned struck off with ONE word so VERY GREAT A PART OF OUR TRADE, it must appear remarkable; and equally so is the method, by which Rice became an enumerated commodity.

“The enumeration was obtained (says Mr. Gee) by one Cole, a Captain of a ship, employed by a company then trading to Carolina; for several ships going from England thither, and purchasing rice for Portugal, prevented the aforesaid Captain of a loading. Upon his coming home, he possessed one Mr. Lowndes, a member of parliament (who was very frequently employed to prepare bills) with an opinion, that carrying rice directly to Portugal, was a prejudice to the trade of England, and PRIVATELY got a clause into an act, to make it an enumerated commodity; by which means he secured a freight to himself. BUT THE CONSEQUENCE PROVED A VAST LOSS TO THE NATION.” I find that this clause, “PRIVATELY got into an act,” FOR THE BENEFIT OF CAPTAIN COLE, to the “VAST LOSS OF THE NATION,” is foisted into the 3d and 4th Anne, Chap. 5th, intitled, “An act for granting to her Majesty a further subsidy on wines and merchandises imported,” with which it has no more connection, than with 34th Edward I. the 34th and 35th of Henry VIII, and the 25th of Charles II. WHICH PROVIDE, THAT NO PERSON SHALL BE TAXED BUT BY HIMSELF OR HIS REPRESENTATIVE.

[*]Tacitus’s Ann. Book 13, § 13.

[*]Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws, Book 13, Chap. 8.

[*]Lord Cambden’s speech.

[†]“It is my opinion, that this kingdom has no right to lay A TAX upon the colonies”—“The Americans are the SONS, not the BASTARDS of England”—“The distinction between LEGISLATION and TAXATION is essentially necessary to liberty”—“The COMMONS of America, represented in their several assemblies, have ever been in possession of this their constitutional right, of GIVING AND GRANTING THEIR OWN MONEY. They would have been SLAVES, if they had not enjoyed it.” “The idea of a virtual representation of America in this house, is the most contemptible idea that ever entered into the head of man—It does not deserve a serious refutation.” (Mr. Pitt’s Speech on the Stamp-Act)

That great and excellent man Lord Cambden, maintains the same opinion. His speech in the house of peers, on the declaratory bill of the sovereignty of Great Britain over the colonies, has lately appeared in our papers. The following extracts so perfectly agree with, and confirm the sentiments avowed in these letters, that it is hoped the inserting them in this note will be excused.

“As the affair is of the utmost importance, and in its consequences may involve the fate of kingdoms, I took the strictest review of my arguments; I re-examined all my authorities; fully determined, if I found myself mistaken, publicly to own my mistake, and give up my opinion: But my searches have more and more convinced me, that the British parliament have NO RIGHT TO TAX the Americans”—“Nor is the doctrine new; it is as old as the constitution; it grew up with it; indeed it is its support”—“TAXATION and REPRESENTATION are inseparably united. GOD hath joined them: No British parliament can separate them: To endeavor to do it, is to stab our vitals.”

“My position is this—I repeat it—I will maintain it to my last hour—TAXATION and REPRESENTATION are inseparable—this position is founded on the laws of nature; it is more, it is itself AN ETERNAL LAW OF NATURE; for whatever is a man’s own, is absolutely his own; NO MAN HATH A RIGHT TO TAKE IT FROM HIM WITHOUT HIS CONSENT, either expressed by himself or representative; whoever attempts to do it, attempts an injury; WHOEVER DOES IT, COMMITS A ROBBERY; HE THROWS DOWN THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN LIBERTY AND SLAVERY.” “There is not a blade of grass, which, when taxed, was not taxed by the consent of the proprietor.” “The forefathers of the Americans did not leave their native country, and subject themselves to every danger and distress, TO BE REDUCED TO A STATE OF SLAVERY. They did not give up their rights: They looked for protection, and not for CHAINS, from their mother country. By her they expected to be defended in the possession of their property, and not to be deprived of it: For should the present power continue, THERE IS NOTHING WHICH THEY CAN CALL THEIR OWN; or, to use the words of Mr. Locke, “WHAT PROPERTY HAVE THEY IN THAT, WHICH ANOTHER MAY, BY RIGHT, TAKE, WHEN HE PLEASES, TO HIMSELF?”

It is impossible to read this speech, and Mr. Pitt’s, and not be charmed with the generous zeal for the rights of mankind that glows in every sentence. These great and good men, animated by the subject they speak upon, seem to rise above all the former glorious exertions of their abilities. A foreigner might be tempted to think they are Americans, asserting, with all the ardor of patriotism, and all the anxiety of apprehension, the cause of their native land—and not Britons, striving to stop their mistaken countrymen from oppressing others. Their reasoning is not only just—it is, as Mr. Hume says of the eloquence of Demosthenes, “vehement.” It is disdain, anger, boldness, freedom, involved in a continual stream of argument.

[*]“So credulous, as well as obstinate, are the people in believing everything, which flatters their prevailing passion.” (Hume’s Hist. of England)


[*]The writs for searching houses in England, are to be granted “under the seal of the court of exchequer,” according to the statute—and that seal is kept by the chancellor of the exchequer. 4th Inst. p. 104.

[*]“The gentleman must not wonder he was not contradicted, when, as minister, he asserted the right of parliament to tax America. I know not how it is, but there is a MODESTY in this house, which does not choose to contradict a minister. I wish gentlemen would get the better of this modesty. IF THEY DO NOT, PERHAPS THE COLLECTIVE BODY MAY BEGIN TO ABATE OF ITS RESPECT FOR THE REPRESENTATIVE.” (Mr. Pitt’s Speech)

[*]“Within this act (statute de tallagio non concedendo) are all new offices erected with new fees, or old offices with new fees, for that is a tallage put upon the subject, which cannot be done without common assent by act of parliament. And this does notably appear by a petition in parliament in anno 13 H. IV. where the commons complain, that an office was erected for measureage of cloths and canvas, with a new fee for the same, by color of the king’s letters patents, and pray that these letters patents may be revoked, for that the king could erect no offices with new fees to be taken of the people, who may not so be charged but by parliament.” (2d Inst. p. 533)

[†]An enquiry into the legality of pensions on the Irish establishment, by Alexander M’Aulay, Esq.; one of the King’s council, etc.

Mr. M’Aulay concludes his piece in the following beautiful manner. “If any pensions have been obtained on that establishment, to SERVE THE CORRUPT PURPOSES OF AMBITIOUS MEN—If his Majesty’s revenues of Ireland have been employed in pensions, TO DEBAUCH HIS MAJESTY’S SUBJECTS of both kingdoms—If the treasure of Ireland has been expended in pensions, FOR CORRUPTING MEN OF THAT KINGDOM TO BETRAY THEIR COUNTRY; and men of the neighboring kingdom, to betray both—If Irish pensions have been procured, TO SUPPORT GAMESTERS AND GAMING-HOUSES; promoting a vice which threatens national ruin—If pensions have been purloined out of the national treasure of Ireland, under the MASK OF SALARIES ANNEXED TO PUBLIC OFFICES, USELESS TO THE NATION; newly invented, FOR THE PURPOSES OF CORRUPTION—If Ireland, just beginning to recover from the devastations of massacre and rebellion, be obstructed in the progress of her cure, BY SWARMS OF PENSIONARY VULTURES PREYING ON HER VITALS—If, by squandering the national substance of Ireland, in a LICENTIOUS, UNBOUNDED PROFUSION OF PENSIONS, instead of employing it in nourishing and improving her infant agriculture, trade and manufactures, or in enlightening and reforming her poor, ignorant, deluded, miserable natives (by nature most amiable, most valuable, most worthy of public attention)—If, by such abuse of the national substance, sloth and nastiness, cold and hunger, nakedness and wretchedness, popery, depopulation and barbarism, still maintain their ground; still deform a country, abounding with all the riches of nature, yet hitherto destined to beggary—IF SUCH PENSIONS be found on the Irish establishment; let such be cut off: And let the perfidious advisers be branded with indelible characters of public infamy; adequate, if possible, to the dishonor of their crime.”

[*]In Charles the second’s time, the house of commons, influenced by some factious demagogues, were resolved to prohibit the importation of Irish cattle into England. Among other arguments in favor of Ireland it was insisted—“That by cutting off almost entirely the trade between the kingdoms, ALL THE NATURAL BANDS OF UNION WERE DISSOLVED, and nothing remained to keep the Irish in their duty, but force and violence.

“The king (says Mr. Hume, in his history of England) was so convinced of the justness of these reasons, that he used all his interest to oppose the bill, and he openly declared, that he could not give his assent to it with a safe conscience. But the commons were resolute in their purpose”—“And the spirit of TYRANNY, of which NATIONS are as susceptible as INDIVIDUALS, had animated the English extremely TO EXERT THEIR SUPERIORITY over their dependent state. No affair could be conducted with greater violence than this by the commons. They even went so far in the preamble of the bill, as to declare the importation of Irish cattle to be a NUISANCE. By this expression they gave scope to their passion, and at the same time barred the king’s prerogative, by which he might think himself entitled to dispense with a law, so FULL OF INJUSTICE AND BAD POLICY. The lords expunged the word, but as the king was sensible that no supply would be given by the commons, unless they were gratified in all their PREJUDICES, he was obliged both to empty his interest with the peers, to make the bill pass, and to give the royal assent to it. He could not, however, forbear expressing his displeasure at the jealousy entertained against him, and at the intention which the commons discovered, of retrenching his prerogative.


Perhaps the same reason occasioned the “barring the king’s prerogative” in the late act suspending the legislation of New York.

This we may be assured of, that WE ARE as dear to his Majesty, as the people of Great Britain are. We are his subjects as they, and as faithful subjects; and his Majesty has given too many, too constant proofs of his piety and virtue, for any man to think it possible, that such a prince can make any unjust distinction between such subjects. It makes no difference to his Majesty, whether supplies are raised in Great Britain, or America; but it makes some difference to the commons of that kingdom.

To speak plainly, as becomes an honest man on such important occasions, all our misfortunes are owing to a LUST OF POWER in men of abilities and influence. This prompts them to seek POPULARITY by expedients profitable to themselves, though ever so destructive to their country.

Such is the accursed nature of lawless ambition, and yet—What heart but melts at the thought!—Such false, detestable PATRIOTS, in every state, have led their blind, confiding country, shouting their applauses, into the jaws of shame and ruin. May the wisdom and goodness of the people of Great Britain, save them from the usual fate of nations.


[*]The last Irish parliament continued 33 years, during all the late King’s reign. The present parliament there has continued from the beginning of this reign, and probably will continue till this reign ends.

[†]I am informed, that within these few years, a petition was presented to the house of commons, setting forth, “that herrings were imported into Ireland from some foreign parts of the north so cheap, as to discourage the British herring fishery, and therefore praying that some remedy might be applied in that behalf by parliament.”

That upon this petition, the house came to a resolution, to impose a duty of Two Shillings sterling on every barrel of foreign herrings imported into Ireland; but afterwards dropt the affair, FOR FEAR OF ENGAGING IN A DISPUTE WITH IRELAND ABOUT THE RIGHT OF TAXING HER.

So much higher was the opinion, which the house entertained of the spirit of Ireland, than of that of these colonies.

I find, in the last English papers, that the resolution and firmness with which the people of Ireland have lately asserted their freedom, have been so alarming in Great Britain, that the Lord Lieutenant, in his speech on the 20th of last October, “recommended to that parliament, that such provision may be made for securing the judges in the enjoyment of their offices and appointments, DURING THEIR GOOD BEHAVIOR, as shall be thought most expedient.”

What an important concession is thus obtained, by making demands becoming freemen, with a courage and perseverance becoming Freemen!

[*]One of the reasons urged by that great and honest statesman, Sir William Temple, to Charles the Second, in his famous remonstrance, to dissuade him from aiming at arbitrary power, was that the King “had few offices to bestow.” (Hume’s Hist. of England)

“Tho’ the wings of prerogative have been clipped, the influence of the crown is greater than ever it was in any period of our history. For when we consider in how many boroughs the government has the votes at command; when we consider the vast body of persons employed in the collection of the revenue, in every part of the kingdom, the inconceivable number of placemen, and candidates for places in the customs, in the excise, in the post-office, in the dock-yards, in the ordnance, in the salt-office, in the stamps, in the navy and victualling offices, and in a variety of other departments; when we consider again the extensive influence of the money corporations, subscription jobbers and contractors, the endless dependencies created by the obligations conferred on the bulk of the gentlemen’s families throughout the kingdom, who have relations preferred in our navy and numerous standing army; when I say, we consider how wide, how binding a dependence on the crown is created by the above enumerated particulars, and the great, the enormous weight and influence which the crown derives from this extensive dependence upon its favor and power, any lord in waiting, any lord of the bed-chamber, any man may be appointed minister.” A doctrine to this effect is said to have been the advice of L——H——. (Late News Paper)

[*]Here may be observed, that when any ancient law or custom of parliament is broken, and the crown possessed of a precedent, how difficult a thing it is to restore the subject again to his FORMER FREEDOM and SAFETY.” (2d Coke’s Inst. p. 529)

“It is not almost credible to foresee, when any maxim or fundamental law of this realm is altered (as elsewhere hath been observed) what dangerous inconveniences do follow.” (4th Coke’s Inst. p. 41)

[*]Maryland and Pennsylvania have been engaged in the warmest disputes, in order to obtain an equal and just taxation of their Proprietors’ estates: But this late act of parliament does more for those Proprietors, than they themselves would venture to demand. It totally exempts them from taxation—tho’ their vast estates are to be “secured” by the taxes of other people.

[*]Machiavel’s DiscoursesBook 3. Chap. I.

[†]The author is sensible that this is putting the gentlest construction on Charles’s conduct; and that is one reason why he chooses it. Allowances ought to be made for the errors of those men, who are acknowledged to have been possessed of many virtues. The education of this unhappy prince, and his confidence in men not so good or wise as himself, had probably filled him with mistaken notions of his own authority, and of the consequences that would attend concessions of any kind to a people, who were represented to him, as aiming at too much power.

[*]“Opinion is of two kinds, viz., opinion of INTEREST, and opinion of RIGHT. By opinion of interest, I chiefly understand, the sense of the public advantage which is reaped from government; together with the persuasion, that the particular government which is established, is equally advantageous with any other, that could be easily settled.

Right is of two kinds, right to power, and right to property. What prevalence opinion of the first kind has over mankind, may easily be understood, by observing the attachment which all nations have to their ancient government, and even to those names which have had the sanction of antiquity. Antiquity always begets the opinion of right”—“It is sufficiently understood, that the opinion of right to property, is of the greatest moment in all matters of government.” (Hume’s Essays)

[*]Omnia mala exempla ex bonis initiis orta sunt. (SALLUST. Bell. Cat. S. 50)

[†]“The republic is always attacked with greater vigor, than it is defended: For the audacious and profligate, prompted by their natural enmity to it, are easily impelled to act by the least nod of their leaders: Whereas the HONEST, I know not why, are generally slow and unwilling to stir; and neglecting always the BEGINNINGS of things, are never roused to exert themselves, but by the last necessity: So that through IRRESOLUTION and DELAY, when they would be glad to compound at last for the QUIET, at the expense even of their HONOR, they commonly lose them BOTH.” (CICERO’S Orat. for SEXTIUS)

Such were the sentiments of this great and excellent man, whose vast abilities, and the calamities of his country during this time enabled him, by mournful experience, to form a just judgment on the conduct of the friends and enemies of liberty.

[*]Rapin’s History of England.

[†]Char. II. Chap. 23 and 24.

[*]I James II. Chap. 1 and 4.

[†]In the year of the city 428, “Duo singularia haec ei viro primum contigere; prorogatio imperii non ante in ullo facta, et acto honore triumphus.” (Liv. B.S.Chap. 23. 26)

“Had the rest of the Roman citizens imitated the example of L. Quintius, who refused to have his consulship continued to him, they have never admitted that custom of proroguing of magistrates, and then the prolongation of their commands in the army had never been introduced, which very thing was at length the ruin of that commonwealth.” (Machiavel’s Discourses, B. 3. Chap. 24)

[‡]I don’t know but it may be said, with a good deal of reason, that a quick rotation of ministers is very desirable in Great Britain. A minister there has a vast store of materials to work with. Long administrations are rather favorable to the reputation of a people abroad, than to their liberty.

[*]Demosthenes’s 2d Philippic.

[*]The expense of this board, I am informed, is between Four and Five thousand Pounds Sterling a year. The establishment of officers, for collecting the revenue in America, amounted before to Seven Thousand Six Hundred Pounds per annum; and yet, says the author of “The regulation of the colonies,” “the whole remittance from all the taxes in the colonies, at an average of thirty years, has not amounted to One Thousand Nine Hundred Pounds a year, and in that sum Seven or Eight Hundred Pounds per annum only, have been remitted from North America.

The smallness of the revenue arising from the duties in America, demonstrates that they were intended only as REGULATIONS OF TRADE: And can any person be so blind to truth, so dull of apprehension in a matter of unspeakable importance to his country, as to imagine, that the board of commissioners lately established at such a charge, is instituted to assist in collecting One Thousand Nine Hundred Pounds a year, or the trifling duties imposed by the late act? Surely every man on this continent must perceive, that they are established for the care of a NEW SYSTEM OF REVENUE, which is but now begun.

[*]“Dira caelaeno,” etc. Virgil, Aeneid 3.

[*]It is not intended, by these words, to throw any reflection upon gentlemen, because they are possessed of offices: For many of them are certainly men of virtue, and lovers of their country. But supposed obligations of gratitude, and honor, may induce them to be silent. Whether these obligations ought to be regarded or not, is not so much to be considered by others, in the judgment they form of these gentlemen, as whether they think they ought to be regarded. Perhaps, therefore, we shall act in the properest manner towards them, if we neither reproach nor imitate them. The persons meant in this letter, are the base spirited wretches, who may endeavor to distinguish themselves, by their sordid zeal in defending and promoting measures, which they know, beyond all question, to be destructive to the just rights and true interests of their country. It is scarcely possible to speak of these men with any degree of patience—It is scarcely possible to speak of them with any degree of propriety—For no words can truly describe their guilt and meanness—But every honest bosom, on their being mentioned, will feel what cannot be expressed.

If their wickedness did not blind them, they might perceive along the coast of these colonies, many men, remarkable instances of wrecked ambition, who, after distinguishing themselves in the support of the Stamp Act, by a courageous contempt of their country, and of justice, have been left to linger out their miserable existence, without a government, collectorship, secretaryship, or any other commission, to console them as well as it could, for loss of virtue and reputation—while numberless offices have been bestowed in these colonies on people from Great Britain, and new ones are continually invented, to be thus bestowed. As a few great prizes are put into a lottery to TEMPT multitudes to lose, so here and there an American has been raised to a good post.

  • Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto.

Mr. Greenville, indeed, in order to recommend the Stamp Act, had the unequalled generosity, to pour down a golden shower of offices upon Americans; and yet these ungrateful colonies did not thank Mr. Greenville for showing his kindness to their countrymen, nor them for accepting it. How must that great statesman have been surprised, to find, that the unpolished colonies could not be reconciled to infamy, to treachery? Such a bountiful disposition towards us never appeared in any minister before him, and probably never will appear again: For it is evident, that such a system of policy is to be established on this continent, as, in a short time, is to render it utterly unnecessary to use the least art in order to conciliate our approbation of any measures. Some of our countrymen may be employed to fix chains upon us, but they will never be permitted to hold them afterwards. So that the utmost, that any of them can expect, is only a temporary provision, that may expire in their own time; but which, they may be assured, will preclude their children from having any consideration paid to them. NATIVES of America must sink into total NEGLECT and CONTEMPT, the moment that THEIR COUNTRY loses the constitutional powers she now possesses.

[*]Deuteronomy 6:7.

[*]Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws, Book 14, Chap. 13.

[*]“Instrumenta regni.” Tacitus’s Ann. Book 12. st 66.

[†]If any person shall imagine that he discovers, in these letters, the least dislike of the dependence of these colonies on Great Britain, I beg that such person will not form any judgment on particular expressions, but will consider the tenor of all the letters taken together. In that case, I flatter myself, that every unprejudiced reader will be convinced, that the true interests of Great Britain are as dear to me, as they ought to be to every good subject.

If I am an Enthusiast in any thing, it is in my zeal for the perpetual dependence of these colonies on their mother country—A dependence founded on mutual benefits, the continuance of which can be secured only by mutual affections. Therefore it is, that with extreme apprehension I view the smallest seeds of discontent, which are unwarily scattered abroad. Fifty or Sixty years will make astonishing alterations in these colonies; and this consideration should render it the business of Great Britain more and more to cultivate our good dispositions towards her: But the misfortune is, that those great men, who wrestling for power at home, think themselves very slightly interested in the prosperity of their country Fifty or Sixty years hence, but are deeply concerned in blowing up a popular clamor for supposed immediate advantages.

For my part, I regret Great Britain as a Bulwark, happily fixed between these colonies and the powerful nations of Europe. That kingdom remaining safe, we, under its protection, enjoying peace, may diffuse the blessings of religion, science, and liberty, through remote wilderness. It is therefore incontestably our duty, and our interest, to support the strength of Great Britain. When confiding in that strength, she begins to forget from whence it arose, it will be an easy thing to show the source. She may readily be reminded of the loud alarm spread among her merchants and tradesmen, by the universal association of these colonies, at the time of the Stamp Act, not to import any of her MANUFACTURES.

In the year 1718, the Russians and Swedes entered into an agreement, not to suffer Great Britain to export ANY NAVAL STORES from their dominions but in Russian or Swedish ships, and at their own prices. Great Britain was distressed. Pitch and tar rose to Three Pounds a barrel. At length she thought of getting these articles from the colonies; and the attempt succeeding, they fell down to Fifteen Shillings. In the year 1756, Great Britain was threatened with an invasion. An easterly wind blowing for six weeks, she could not MAN her fleet, and the whole nation was thrown into the utmost consternation. The wind changed. The American ships arrived. The fleet sailed in ten or fifteen days. There are some other reflections on this subject, worthy of the most deliberate attention of the British parliament; but they are of such a nature, that I do not choose to mention them publicly. I thought it my duty, in the year 1765, while the Stamp Act was in suspense, to write my sentiments to a gentleman of great influence at home, who afterwards distinguished himself, by espousing our cause, in the debates concerning the repeal of that act.

[*]Ubi imperium ad ignaros aut minus bonos pervenit; novum illud exemplum, ab dignis & idoneis, ad indignos & non idoneos transfeltur. (Sall. Bell. Cat st 50)

letter xi

My dear Countrymen,

I have several times, in the course of these letters, mentioned the late act of parliament, as being the foundation of future measures injurious to these colonies; and the belief of this truth I wish to prevail, because I think it necessary to our safety.

A perpetual jealousy, respecting liberty, is absolutely requisite in all free states. The very texture of their constitution, in mixed governments, demands it. For the cautions with which power is distributed among the several orders, imply, that each has that share which is proper for the general welfare, and therefore that any further acquisition must be pernicious. Machiavel employs a whole chapter in his discourses,* to prove that a state, to be long lived, must be frequently corrected, and reduced to its first principles. But of all states that have existed, there never was any, in which this jealousy could be more proper than in these colonies. For the government here is not only mixed, but dependent, which circumstance occasions a peculiarity in its form, of a very delicate nature.

Two reasons induce me to desire, that this spirit of apprehension may be always kept up among us, in its utmost vigilance. The first is this—that as the happiness of these provinces indubitably consists in their connection with Great Britain, any separation between them is less likely to be occasioned by civil discords, if every disgusting measure is opposed singly, and while it is new: For in this manner of proceeding, every such measure is most likely to be rectified. On the other hand, oppressions and dissatisfactions being permitted to accumulate—if ever the governed throw off the load, they will do more. A people does not reform with moderation. The rights of the subject therefore cannot be too often considered, explained or asserted: And whoever attempts to do this, shows himself, whatever may be the rash and peevish reflections of pretended wisdom, and pretended duty, a friend to those who injudiciously exercise their power, as well as to them, over whom it is so exercised.

Had all the points of prerogative claimed by Charles the First, been separately contested and settled in preceding reigns, his fate would in all probability have been very different; and the people would have been content with that liberty which is compatible with regal authority. But he thought, it would be as dangerous for him to give up the powers which at any time had been by usurpation exercised by the crown, as those that were legally vested in it. This produced an equal excess on the part of the people. For when their passions were excited by multiplied grievances, they thought it would be as dangerous for them to allow the powers that were legally vested in the crown, as those which at any time had been by usurpation exercised by it. Acts, that might by themselves have been upon many considerations excused or extenuated, derived a contagious malignancy and odium from other acts, with which they were connected. They were not regarded according to the simple force of each, but as parts of a system of oppression. Every one therefore, however small in itself, became alarming, as an additional evidence of tyrannical designs. It was in vain for prudent and moderate men to insist, that there was no necessity to abolish royalty. Nothing less than the utter destruction of monarchy, could satisfy those who had suffered, and thought they had reason to believe, they always should suffer under it.

The consequences of these mutual distrusts are well known: But there is no other people mentioned in history, that I recollect, who have been so constantly watchful of their liberty, and so successful in their struggles for it, as the English. This consideration leads me to the second reason, why I “desire that the spirit of apprehension may be always kept among us in its utmost vigilance.”

The first principles of government are to be looked for in human nature. Some of the best writers have asserted, and it seems with good reason, that “government is founded on opinion.*

Custom undoubtedly has a mighty force in producing opinion, and reigns in nothing more arbitrarily than in public affairs. It gradually reconciles us to objects even of dread and detestation; and I cannot but think these lines of Mr. Pope as applicable to vice in politics, as to vice in ethics

  • Vice is a monster of so horrid mien,
  • As to be hated, needs but to be seen;
  • Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
  • We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

When an act injurious to freedom has been once done, and the people bear it, the repetition of it is most likely to meet with submission. For as the mischief of the one was found to be tolerable, they will hope that of the second will prove so too; and they will not regard the infamy of the last, because they are stained with that of the first.

Indeed nations, in general, are not apt to think until they feel; and therefore nations in general have lost their liberty: For as violations of the rights of the governed, are commonly not only specious,* but small at the beginning, they spread over the multitude in such a manner, as to touch individuals but slightly. Thus they are disregarded. The power or profit that arises from these violations, centering in few persons, is to them considerable. For this reason the governors having in view their particular purposes, successfully preserve a uniformity of conduct for attaining them. They regularly increase the first injuries, till at length the inattentive people are compelled to perceive the heaviness of their burdens—They begin to complain and inquire—but too late. They find their oppressors so strengthened by success, and themselves so entangled in examples of express authority on the part of their rulers, and of tacit recognition on their own part, that they are quite confounded: For millions entertain no other idea of the legality of power, than that it is founded on the exercise of power. They voluntarily fasten their chains, by adopting a pusillanimous opinion, “that there will be too much danger in attempting a remedy”—or another opinion no less fatal—“that the government has a right to treat them as it does.” They then seek a wretched relief for their minds, by persuading themselves, that to yield their obedience, is to discharge their duty. The deplorable poverty of spirit, that prostrates all the dignity bestowed by divine providence on our nature—of course succeeds.

From these reflections I conclude, that every free state should incessantly watch, and instantly take alarm on any addition being made to the power exercised over them. Innumerable instances might be produced to show, from what slight beginnings the most extensive consequences have flowed: But I shall select two only from the history of England.

Henry the Seventh was the first monarch of that kingdom, who established a STANDING BODY OF ARMED MEN. This was a band of fifty archers, called yeomen of the guard: And this institution, notwithstanding the smallness of the number, was, to prevent discontent, “disguised under pretence of majesty and grandeur.”* In 1684 the standing forces were so much augmented, that Rapin says—“The king, in order to make his people fully sensible of their new slavery, affected to muster his troops, which amounted to 4000 well armed and disciplined men.” I think our army, at this time, consists of more than seventy regiments.

The method of taxing by EXCISE was first introduced amid the convulsions of the civil wars. Extreme necessity was pretended for it, and its short continuance promised. After the restoration, an excise upon beer, ale and other liquors, was granted to the king, one half in fee, the other for life, as an equivalent for the court of wards. Upon James the Second’s accession, the parliament gave him the first excise, with an additional duty on wine, tobacco, and some other things.* Since the revolution it has been extended to salt, candles, leather, hides, hops, soap, paper, pasteboards, mill-boards, scale-boards, vellum, parchment, starch, silks, calicos, linens, stuffs, printed, stained, etc. wire, wrought plate, coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.

Thus a standing army and excise have, from their first slender origins, tho’ always hated, always feared, always opposed, at length swelled up to their vast present bulk.

These facts are sufficient to support what I have said. It is true, that all the mischiefs apprehended by our ancestors from a standing army and excise, have not yet happened: But it does not follow from this, that they will not happen. The inside of a house may catch fire, and the most valuable apartments be ruined, before the flames burst out. The question in these cases is not, what evil has actually attended particular measures—but, what evil, in the nature of things, is likely to attend them. Certain circumstances may for some time delay effects, that were reasonably expected, and that must ensue. There was a long period, after the Romans had prorogued his command to Q. Publilius Philo, before that example destroyed their liberty. All our kings, from the revolution to the present reign, have been foreigners. Their ministers generally continued but a short time in authority and they themselves were mild and virtuous princes.

A bold, ambitious prince, possessed of great abilities, firmly fixed in his throne by descent, served by ministers like himself, and rendered either venerable or terrible by the glory of his successes, may execute what his predecessors did not dare to attempt. Henry the Fourth tottered in his seat during his whole reign. Henry the Fifth drew the strength of that kingdom into France, to carry on his wars there, and left the commons at home, protesting, “that the people were not bound to serve out of the realm.”

It is true, that a strong spirit of liberty subsists at present in Great Britain, but what reliance is to be placed in the temper of a people, when the prince is possessed of an unconstitutional power, our own history can sufficiently inform us. When Charles the Second had strengthened himself by the return of the garrison of Tangier,England (says Rapin) saw on a sudden an amazing revolution; saw herself stripped of all her rights and privileges, excepting such as the king should vouchsafe to grant her: And what is more astonishing, the English themselves delivered up these very rights and privileges to Charles the Second, which they had so passionately, and, if I may say it, furiously defended against the designs of Charles the First.” This happened only thirty-six years after this last prince had been beheaded.

Some persons are of opinion, that liberty is not violated, but by such open acts of force; but they seem to be greatly mistaken. I could mention a period within these forty years, when almost as great a change of disposition was produced by the SECRET measures of a long administration, as by Charles’s violence. Liberty, perhaps, is never exposed to so much danger, as when the people believe there is the least; for it may be subverted, and yet they not think so.

Public disgusting acts are seldom practised by the ambitious, at the beginning of their designs. Such conduct silences and discourages the weak, and the wicked, who would otherwise have been their advocates or accomplices. It is of great consequence, to allow those who, upon any account, are inclined to favor them, something specious to say in their defense. Their power may be fully established, tho’ it would not be safe for them to do whatever they please. For there are things, which, at some times, even slaves will not bear. Julius Caesar, and Oliver Cromwell, did not dare to assume the title of king. The Grand Seignor dares not lay a new tax. The king of France dares not be a protestant. Certain popular points may be left untouched, and yet freedom be extinguished. The commonalty of Venice imagine themselves free, because they are permitted to do what they ought not. But I quit a subject, that would lead me too far from my purpose.

By the late act of parliament, taxes are to be levied upon us, for “defraying the charge of the administration of justice—the support of civil government—and the expenses of defending his Majesty’s dominions in America.

If any man doubts what ought to be the conduct of these colonies on this occasion, I would ask him these questions.

Has not the parliament expressly AVOWED their INTENTION of raising money from US FOR CERTAIN PURPOSES? Is not this scheme popular in Great Britain? Will the taxes, imposed by the late act, answer those purposes? If it will, must it not take an immense sum from us? If it will not, is it to be expected, that the parliament will not fully execute their INTENTION when it is pleasing at home, and not opposed here? Must not this be done by imposing NEW taxes? Will not every addition, thus made to our taxes, be an addition to the power of the British legislature, by increasing the number of officers employed in the collection? Will not every additional tax therefore render it more difficult to abrogate any of them? When a branch of revenue is once established, does it not appear to many people invidious and undutiful, to attempt to abolish it? If taxes, sufficient to accomplish the INTENTION of the parliament, are imposed by the parliament, what taxes will remain to be imposed by our assemblies? If no material taxes remain to be imposed by them, what must become of them, and the people they represent?

“If any person considers these things, and yet thinks our liberties are in no danger, I wonder at that person’s security.”*

One other argument is to be added, which, by itself, I hope, will be sufficient to convince the most incredulous man on this continent, that the late act of parliament is only designed to be a PRECEDENT, whereon the future vassalage of these colonies may be established.

Every duty thereby laid on articles of British manufacture, is laid on some commodity, upon the exportation of which from Great Britain, a drawback is payable. Those drawbacks, in most of the articles, are exactly double to the duties given by the late act. The parliament therefore might, in half a dozen lines, have raised MUCH MORE MONEY, only by stopping the drawbacks in the hands of the officers at home, on exportation to these colonies, than by this solemn imposition of taxes upon us, to be collected here. Probably, the artful contrivers of this act formed it in this manner, in order to reserve to themselves, in case of any objections being made to it, this specious pretence—“that the drawbacks are gifts to the colonies, and that the late act only lessens those gifts.” But the truth is, that the drawbacks are intended for the encouragement and promotion of British manufactures and commerce, and are allowed on exportation to any foreign parts, as well as on exportation to these provinces. Besides, care has been taken to slide into the act, some articles on which there are no drawbacks. However, the whole duties laid by the late act on all the articles therein specified are so small, that they will not amount to as much as the drawbacks which are allowed on part of them only. If therefore, the sum to be obtained by the late act, had been the sole object in forming it, there would not have been any occasion for “the COMMONS of Great Britain, to GIVE and GRANT to his Majesty RATES and DUTIES for raising a revenue IN his Majesty’s dominions in America, for making a more certain and adequate provision for defraying the charges of the administration of justice, the support of civil government, and the expense of defending the said dominions”; nor would there have been any occasion for an expensive board of commissioners,* and all the other new charges to which we are made liable.

Upon the whole, for my part, I regard the late act as an experiment made of our disposition. It is a bird sent out over the waters, to discover, whether the waves, that lately agitated this part of the world with such violence, have yet subsided. If this adventurer gets footing here, we shall quickly find it to be of the kind described by the poet.*

  • “Infelix vates.”
  • A direful foreteller of future calamities.

A Farmer

letter x

My dear Countrymen,

The consequences, mentioned in the last letter, will not be the utmost limits of our misery and infamy, if the late act is acknowledged to be binding upon us. We feel too sensibly, that any ministerial measures* relating to these colonies, are soon carried successfully through the parliament. Certain prejudices operate there so strongly against us, that it may be justly questioned, whether all the provinces united, will ever be able effectually to call to an account before the parliament, any minister who shall abuse the power by the late act given to the crown in America. He may divide the spoils torn from us in what manner he pleases, and we shall have no way of making him responsible. If he should order, that every governor shall have a yearly salary of 5,000bp sterling; every chief justice of 3,000bp; every inferior officer in proportion; and should then reward the most profligate, ignorant, or needy dependents on himself or his friends, with places of the greatest trust, because they were of the greatest profit, this would be called an arrangement in consequence of the “adequate provision for defraying the charge of the administration of justice, and the support of the civil government”: And if the taxes should prove at any time insufficient to answer all the expenses of the numberless offices, which ministers may please to create, surely the members of the house of commons will be so “modest,” as not to “contradict a minister” who shall tell them, it is become necessary to lay a new tax upon the colonies, for the laudable purposes of defraying the charges of the “administration of justice, and support of civil government” among them. Thus, in fact, we shall be taxed by ministers.* In short, it will be in their power to settle upon us any CIVIL, ECCLESIASTICAL, or MILITARY establishment, which they choose.

We may perceive, by the example of Ireland, how eager ministers are to seize upon any settled revenue, and apply it in supporting their own power. Happy are the men, and happy the people who grow wise by the misfortunes of others. Earnestly, my dear countrymen, do I beseech the author of all good gifts, that you may grow wise in this manner; and if I may be allowed to take such a liberty, I beg leave to recommend to you in general, as the best method of attaining this wisdom, diligently to study the histories of other countries. You will there find all the arts, that can possibly be practiced by cunning rulers, or false patriots among yourselves, so fully delineated, that, changing names, the account would serve for your own times.

It is pretty well known on this continent, that Ireland has, with a regular consistency of injustice, been cruelly treated by ministers in the article of pensions; but there are some alarming circumstances relating to that subject, which I wish to have better known among us.

† The revenue of the crown there arises principally from the Excise granted “for pay of the army, and defraying other PUBLIC charges, in defense and preservation of the kingdom”—from the hearth money granted—as a “PUBLIC revenue, for PUBLIC charges and expenses.” There are some other branches of the revenue, concerning which there is not any express appropriation of them for PUBLIC service, but which were plainly so intended.

Of these branches of the revenue the crown is only trustee for the public. They are unalienable. They are inapplicable to any other purposes, but those for which they were established; and therefore are not legally chargeable with pensions.

There is another kind of revenue, which is a private revenue. This is not limited to any public uses; but the crown has the same property in it, that any person has in his estate. This does not amount, at the most to Fifteen Thousand Pounds a year, probably not to Seven, and is the only revenue, that can be legally charged with pensions.

If ministers were accustomed to regard the rights or happiness of the people, the pensions in Ireland would not exceed the sum just mentioned: But long since have they exceeded that limit; and in December 1765, a motion was made in the house of commons in that kingdom, to address his Majesty on the great increase of pensions on the Irish establishment, amounting to the sum of 158,685bp—in the last two years.

Attempts have been made to gloss over these gross encroachments, by this specious argument—“That expending a competent part of the PUBLIC REVENUE in pensions, from a principle of charity or generosity, adds to the dignity of the crown; and is therefore useful to the PUBLIC.” To give this argument any weight, it must appear, that the pensions proceed from “charity or generosity only”—and that it “adds to the dignity of the crown,” to act directly contrary to law.

From this conduct towards Ireland, in open violation of law, we may easily foresee what we may expect, when a minister will have the whole revenue of America in his own hands, to be disposed of at his own pleasure: For all the monies raised by the late act are to be “applied by virtue of warrants under the sign manual, counter-signed by the high treasurer, or any three of the commissioners of the treasury.” The “RESIDUE” indeed is to be “paid into the receipt of the exchequer, and to be disposed of by parliament.” So that a minister will have nothing to do, but to take care, that there shall be no “residue,” and he is superior to all control.

Besides the burden of pensions in Ireland, which have enormously increased within these few years, almost all the offices in that poor kingdom, have been, since the commencement of the present century, and now are bestowed upon strangers. For tho’ the merit of persons born there, justly raises them to places of high trust when they go abroad, as all Europe can witness, yet he is an uncommonly lucky Irishman, who can get a good post in his NATIVE country.

When I consider the manner* in which that island has been uniformly depressed for so many years past, with this pernicious particularity of their parliament continuing as long as the crown pleases,* I am astonished to observe such a love of liberty still animating that LOYAL and GENEROUS nation; and nothing can raise higher my idea of the INTEGRITY and PUBLIC SPIRIT† OF a people, who have preserved the sacred fire of freedom from being extinguished, tho’ the altar on which it burnt, has been overturned.

In the same manner shall we unquestionably be treated, as soon as the late taxes laid upon us, shall make posts in the “government,” and the “administration of justice” here, worth the attention of persons of influence in Great Britain. We know enough already to satisfy us of this truth. But this will not be the worst part of our case.

The principals, in all great offices, will reside in England, making some paltry allowance to deputies for doing the business here. Let any consider what an exhausting drain this must be upon us, when ministers are possessed of the power of creating what posts they please, and of affixing to such posts what salaries they please, and he must be convinced how destructive the late act will be. The injured kingdom lately mentioned, can tell us the mischiefs of ABSENTEES; and we may perceive already the same disposition taking place with us. The government of New York has been exercised by a deputy. That of Virginia is now held so; and we know of a number of secretaryships, collectorships, and other offices, held in the same manner.

True it is, that if the people of Great Britain were not too much blinded by the passions, that have been artfully excited in their breasts, against their dutiful children the colonists, these considerations would be nearly as alarming to them as to us. The influence of the crown was thought by wise men, many years ago, too great, by reason of the multitude of pensions and places bestowed by it. These have been vastly increased since,* and perhaps it would be no difficult matter to prove that the people have decreased.

Surely therefore, those who wish the welfare of their country, ought seriously to reflect, what may be the consequence of such a new creation of offices, in the disposal of the crown. The army, the administration of justice, and the civil government here, with such salaries as the crown shall please to annex, will extend ministerial influence as much beyond its former bounds, as the late war did the British dominions.

But whatever the people of Great Britain may think on this occasion, I hope the people of these colonies will unanimously join in this sentiment, that the late act of parliament is injurious to their liberty, and that this sentiment will unite them in a firm opposition to it, in the same manner as the dread of the Stamp Act did.

Some persons may imagine the sums to be raised by it, are but small, and therefore may be inclined to acquiesce under it. A conduct more dangerous to freedom, as before has been observed, can never be adopted. Nothing is wanted at home but a PRECEDENT,* the force of which shall be established, by the tacit submission of the colonies. With what zeal was the statute erecting the post office, and another relating to the recovery of debts in America, urged and tortured, as precedents in support of the Stamp Act, tho’ wholly inapplicable. If the parliament succeeds in this attempt, other statutes will impose other duties. Instead of taxing ourselves, as we have been accustomed to do, from the first settlement of these provinces, all our usual taxes will be converted into parliamentary taxes on our importations; and thus the parliament will levy upon us such sums of money as they choose to take, without any other LIMITATION, than their PLEASURE.

We know how much labor and care have been bestowed by these colonies, in laying taxes in such a manner, that they should be most easy to the people, by being laid on the proper articles; most equal, by being proportioned to every man’s circumstances; and cheapest, by the method directed for collecting them.

But parliamentary taxes will be laid on us, without any consideration, whether there is any easier mode. The only point regarded will be, the certainty of levying the taxes, and not the convenience of the people on whom they are to be levied; and therefore all statutes on this head will be such as will be most likely, according to the favorite phrase, “to execute themselves.

Taxes in every free state have been, and ought to be, as exactly proportioned as is possible to the abilities of those who are to pay them. They cannot otherwise be just. Even a Hottentot would comprehend the unreasonableness of making a poor man pay as much for “defending” the property of a rich man, as the rich man pays himself.

Let any person look into the late act of parliament, and he will immediately perceive, that the immense estates of Lord Fairfax, Lord Baltimore, and our Proprietaries,* which are among his Majesty’s other “DOMINIONS” to be “defended, protected and secured” by the act, will not pay a single farthing for the duties thereby imposed, except Lord Fairfax wants some of his windows glazed; Lord Baltimore and our Proprietaries are quite secure, as they live in England.

I mention these particular cases, as striking instances how far the late act is a deviation from that principle of justice, which has so constantly distinguished our own laws on this continent, and ought to be regarded in all laws.

The third consideration with our continental assemblies in laying taxes, has been the method of collecting them. This has been done by a few officers, with moderate allowances, under the inspection of the respective assemblies. No more was raised from the subject, than was used for the intended purposes. But by the late act, a minister may appoint as many officers as he pleases for collecting the taxes; may assign them what salaries he thinks “adequate”; and they are subject to no inspection but his own.

In short, if the late act of parliament takes effect, these colonies must dwindle down into “COMMON CORPORATIONS,” as their enemies, in the debates concerning the repeal of the Stamp Act, strenuously insisted they were; and it seems not improbable that some future historian may thus record our fall.

“The eighth year of this reign was distinguished by a very memorable event, the American colonies then submitting, for the FIRST time, to be taxed by the British parliament. An attempt of this kind had been made about two years before, but was defeated by the vigorous exertions of the several provinces, in defense of their liberties. Their behavior on that occasion rendered their name very celebrated for a short time all over Europe; all states being extremely attentive to the dispute between Great Britain, and so considerable a part of her dominions. For as she was thought to be grown too powerful, but the successful conclusion of the late war she had been engaged in, it was hoped by many, that as it had happened before to other kingdoms, civil discords would afford opportunities of revenging all the injuries supposed to be received from her. However, the cause of dissension was removed, by a repeal of the statute that had given offense. This affair rendered the SUBMISSIVE CONDUCT of the colonies so soon after, the more extraordinary; there being no difference between the mode of taxation which they opposed, and that to which they submitted, but this, that by the first, they were to be continually reminded that they were taxed, by certain marks stamped on every piece of paper or parchment they used. The authors of that statute triumphed greatly on this conduct of the colonies, and insisted, that if the people of Great Britain had persisted in enforcing it, the Americans would have been, in a few months, so fatigued with the efforts of patriotism, that they would have yielded obedience.

“Certain it is, that though they had before their eyes so many illustrious examples in their mother country, of the constant success attending firmness and perseverance, in opposition to dangerous encroachments on liberty, yet they quietly gave up a point of the LAST IMPORTANCE. From thence the decline of their freedom began, and its decay was extremely rapid; for as money was always raised upon them by the parliament, their assemblies grew immediately useless, and in a short time contemptible: And in less than one hundred years, the people sunk down into that tameness and supineness of spirit, by which they still continue to be distinguished.”

  • Et majores vestros & posteros cogitate.
  • Remember your ancestors and your posterity.

A Farmer

letter viii

My dear Countrymen,

In my opinion, a dangerous example is set in the last act relating to these colonies. The power of parliament to levy money upon us for raising a revenue, is therein avowed and exerted. Regarding the act on this single principle, I must again repeat, and I think it my duty to repeat, that to me it appears to be unconstitutional.

No man, who considers the conduct of the parliament since the repeal of the Stamp Act, and the disposition of many people at home, can doubt, that the chief object of attention there, is, to use Mr. Greenville’s expression, “providing that the DEPENDENCE and OBEDIENCE of the colonies be asserted and maintained.”

Under the influence of this notion, instantly on repealing the Stamp Act, an act passed, declaring the power of parliament to bind these colonies in all cases whatever. This however was only planting a barren tree, that cast a shade indeed over the colonies, but yielded no fruit. It being determined to enforce the authority on which the Stamp Act was founded, the parliament having never renounced the right, as Mr. Pitt advised them to do; and it being thought proper to disguise that authority in such a manner, as not again to alarm the colonies; some little time was required to find a method, by which both these points should be united. At last the ingenuity of Mr. Greenville and his party accomplished the matter, as it was thought, in “an act for granting certain duties in the British colonies and plantations in America, for allowing drawbacks,” etc. which is the title of the act laying duties on paper, etc.

The parliament having several times before imposed duties to be paid in America, IT WAS EXPECTED, NO DOUBT, THAT THE REPETITION OF SUCH A MEASURE WOULD BE PASSED OVER, AS A USUAL THING. But to have done this, without expressly “asserting and maintaining” the power of parliament to take our money without our consent, and to apply it as they please, would not have been, in Mr. Greenville’s opinion, sufficiently declarative of its supremacy, nor sufficiently depressive of American freedom.

THEREFORE it is, that in this memorable act we find it expressly “provided,” that money shall be levied upon us without our consent, for PURPOSES, that render it, if possible, more dreadful than the Stamp Act.

That act, alarming as it was, declared, the money thereby to be raised, should be applied “towards defraying the expenses of defending, protecting and securing the British colonies and plantations in America”: And it is evident from the whole act, that by the word “British,” were intended colonies and plantations settled by British people, and not generally, those subject to the British crown. That act therefore seemed to have something gentle and kind in its intention, and to aim only at our own welfare: But the act now objected to, imposes duties upon the British colonies, “to defray the expenses of defending, protecting and securing his Majesty’s DOMINIONS in America.”

What a change of words! What an incomputable addition to the expenses intended by the STAMP ACT! “His Majesty’s DOMINIONS” comprehend not only the British colonies, but also the conquered provinces of Canada and Florida, and the British garrisons of Nova-Scotia; for these do not deserve the name of colonies.

What justice is there in making us pay for “defending, protecting and securing” THESE PLACES? What benefit can WE, or have WE ever derived from them? None of them was conquered for US; nor will “be defended, protected or secured” for US.

In fact, however advantageous the subduing or keeping any of these countries may be to Great Britain, the acquisition is greatly injurious to these colonies. Our chief property consists in lands. These would have been of much greater value, if such prodigious additions had not been made to the British territories on this continent. The natural increase of our own people, if confined within the colonies, would have raised the value still higher and higher every fifteen or twenty years: Besides, we should have lived more compactly together, and have been therefore more able to resist any enemy. But now the inhabitants will be thinly scattered over an immense region, as those who want settlements, will choose to make new ones, rather than pay great prices for old ones.

These are the consequences to the colonies, of the hearty assistance they gave to Great Britain in the late war—a war undertaken solely for her own benefit. The objects of it were, the securing to herself of the rich tracts of land on the back of these colonies, with the Indian trade; and Nova-Scotia, with the fishery. These, and much more, has that kingdom gained; but the inferior animals, that hunted with the lion, have been amply rewarded for all the sweat and blood their loyalty cost them, by the honor of having sweated and bled in such company.

I will not go so far as to say, that Canada and Nova-Scotia are curbs on New England; the chain of forts through the back-woods, of the Middle Provinces; and Florida, on the rest: But I will venture to say, that if the products of Canada, Nova-Scotia, and Florida, deserve any consideration, the two first of them are only rivals of our Northern Colonies, and the other of our Southern.

It has been said, that without the conquest of these countries, the colonies could not have been “protected, defended and secured.” If that is true, it may with as much propriety be said, that Great Britain could not have been “defended, protected and secured,” without that conquest: For the colonies are parts of her empire, which it as much concerns her as them to keep out of the hands of any other power.

But these colonies, when they were much weaker, defended themselves, before this Conquest was made; and could again do it, against any that might properly be called their Enemies. If France and Spain indeed should attack them, as members of the British empire, perhaps they might be distressed; but it would be in a British quarrel.

The largest account I have seen of the number of people in Canada, does not make them exceed 90,000. Florida can hardly be said to have any inhabitants. It is computed that there are in our colonies 3,000,000.Our force therefore must increase with a disproportion to the growth of their strength, that would render us very safe.

This being the state of the case, I cannot think it just that these colonies, laboring under so many misfortunes, should be loaded with taxes, to maintain countries, not only not useful, but hurtful to them. The support of Canada and Florida cost yearly, it is said, half a million sterling. From hence, we may make some guess of the load that is to be laid upon US; for WE are not only to “defend, protect and secure” them, but also to make “an adequate provision for defraying the charge of the administration of justice, and the support of civil government, in such provinces where it shall be found necessary.”

Not one of the provinces of Canada, Nova-Scotia, or Florida, has ever defrayed these expenses within itself: And if the duties imposed by the last statute are collected, all of them together, according to the best information I can get, will not pay one quarter as much as Pennsylvania alone. So that the British colonies are to be drained of the rewards of their labor, to cherish the scorching sands of Florida, and the icy rocks of Canada and Nova-Scotia, which never will return to us one farthing that we send to them.

GREAT BRITAIN—I mean, the ministry in Great Britain, has cantoned Canada and Florida out into five or six governments, and may form as many more. There now are fourteen or fifteen regiments on this continent; and there soon may be as many more. To make “an adequate provision” FOR ALL THESE EXPENSES, is, no doubt, to be the inheritance of the colonies.

Can any man believe that the duties upon paper, etc. are the last that will be laid for these purposes? It is in vain to hope, that because it is imprudent to lay duties on the exportation of manufactures from a mother country to colonies, as it may promote manufactures among them, that this consideration will prevent such a measure.

Ambitious, artful men have made it popular, and whatever injustice or destruction will attend it in the opinion of the colonists, at home it will be thought just and salutary.*

The people of Great Britain will be told, and have been told, that they are sinking under an immense debt—that a great part of this debt has been contracted in defending the colonies—that these are so ungrateful and undutiful, that they will not contribute one mite to its payment—nor even to the support of the army now kept up for their “defense and security”—that they are rolling in wealth, and are of so bold and republican a spirit, that they are aiming at independence—that the only way to retain them in “obedience,” is to keep a strict watch over them, and to draw off part of their riches in taxes—and that every burden laid upon them, is taking off so much from Great Britain—These assertions will be generally believed, and the people will be persuaded that they cannot be too angry with their colonies, as that anger will be profitable to themselves.

In truth, Great Britain alone receives any benefit from Canada, Nova-Scotia and Florida; and therefore she alone ought to maintain them. The old maxim of the law is drawn from reason and justice, and never could be more properly applied, than in this case.

  • Qui sentit commodum, sentire debet et onus.
  • They who feel the benefit, ought to feel the burden.

A Farmer

letter vii

My dear Countrymen,

This letter is intended more particularly for such of you, whose employments in life may have prevented your attending to the consideration of some points that are of great and public importance: For many such persons there must be even in these colonies, where the inhabitants in general are more intelligent than any other people whatever, as has been remarked by strangers, and it seems with reason.

Some of you, perhaps, filled, as I know your breasts are, with loyalty to our most excellent Prince, and with love to our dear mother country, may feel yourselves inclined, by the affections of your hearts, to approve every action of those whom you so much venerate and esteem. A prejudice thus flowing from goodness of disposition, is amiable indeed. I wish it could be indulged without danger. Did I think this possible, the error should have been adopted, and not opposed by me. But in truth, all men are subject to the frailties of nature; and therefore whatever regard we entertain for the persons of those who govern us, we should always remember that their conduct, as rulers, may be influenced by human infirmities.

When any laws, injurious to these colonies, are passed, we cannot suppose, that any injury was intended us by his Majesty, or the Lords. For the assent of the crown and peers to laws, seems, as far as I am able to judge, to have been vested in them, more for their own security, than for any other purpose. On the other hand, it is the particular business of the people, to inquire and discover what regulations are useful for themselves, and to digest and present them in the form of bills, to the other orders, to have them enacted into laws. Where these laws are to bind themselves, it may be expected, that the house of commons will very carefully consider them: But when they are making laws that are not designed to bind themselves, we cannot imagine that their deliberations will be as cautious* and scrupulous, as in their own case.

I am told, that there is a wonderful address frequently used in carrying points in the house of commons, by persons experienced in these affairs—That opportunities are watched—and sometimes votes are passed, that if all the members had been present, would have been rejected by a great majority. Certain it is, that when a powerful and artful man has determined on any measure against these colonies, he has always succeeded in his attempt. Perhaps therefore it will be proper for us, whenever any oppressive act affecting us is passed, to attribute it to the inattention of the members of the house of commons, and to the malevolence or ambition of some factious great man, rather than to any other cause.

Now I do verily believe, that the late act of parliament, imposing duties on paper, etc. was formed by Mr. Greenville, and his party, because it is evidently a part of that plan, by which he endeavored to render himself POPULAR at home; and I do also believe, that not one half of the members of the house of commons, even of those who heard it read, did perceive how destructive it was to American freedom. For this reason, as it is usual in Great Britain, to consider the King’s speech as the speech of the ministry, it may be right here to consider this act as the act of a party—perhaps I should speak more properly, if I was to use another term.

There are two ways of laying taxes. One is, by imposing a certain sum on particular kinds of property, to be paid by the user or consumer, or by rating the person at a certain sum. The other is, by imposing a certain sum on particular kinds of property, to be paid by the seller.

When a man pays the first sort of tax, he knows with certainty, that he pays so much money for a tax. The consideration for which he pays it, is remote, and, it may be, does not occur to him. He is sensible too, that he is commanded and obliged to pay it as a tax; and therefore people are apt to be displeased with this sort of tax.

The other sort of tax is submitted to in a very different manner. The purchaser of any article, very seldom reflects that the seller raises his price, so as to indemnify himself for the tax he has paid. He knows that the prices of things are continually fluctuating, and if he thinks about the tax, he thinks at the same time, in all probability, that he might have paid as much, if the article he buys had not been taxed. He gets something visible and agreeable for his money; and tax and price are so confounded together, that he cannot separate, or does not choose to take the trouble of separating them.

This mode of taxation therefore is the mode suited to arbitrary and oppressive governments. The love of liberty is so natural to the human heart, that unfeeling tyrants think themselves obliged to accommodate their schemes as much as they can to the appearance of justice and reason, and to deceive those whom they resolve to destroy, or oppress, by presenting to them a miserable picture of freedom, when the inestimable original is lost.

This policy did not escape the cruel and rapacious NERO. That monster, apprehensive that his crimes might endanger his authority and life, thought proper to do some popular acts, to secure the obedience of his subjects. Among other things, says Tacitus, “he remitted the twenty-fifth part of the price on the sale of slaves, but rather in show than reality; for the seller being ordered to pay it, it became part of the price to the buyer.”*

This is the reflection of the judicious Historian; but the deluded people gave their infamous Emperor full credit for his false generosity. Other nations have been treated in the same manner the Romans were. The honest, industrious Germans, who are settled in different parts of this continent, can inform us, that it was this sort of tax that drove them from their native land to our woods, at that time the seats of perfect and undisturbed freedom.

Their Princes, inflamed by the lust of power, and the lust of avarice, two furies that the more they are gorged, the more hungry they grow, transgressed the bounds they ought, in regard to themselves, to have observed. To keep up the deception in the minds of subjects, “there must be,” says a very learned author,* “some proportion between the impost and the value of the commodity; wherefore there ought not to be an excessive duty upon merchandise of little value. There are countries in which the duty exceeds seventeen or eighteen times the value of the commodity. In this case the Prince removes the illusion. His subjects plainly see they are dealt with in an unreasonable manner, which renders them most exquisitely sensible of their slavish situation.” From hence it appears, that subjects may be ground down into misery by this sort of taxation, as well as by the former. They will be as much impoverished, if their money is taken from them in this way as in the other; and that it will be taken, may be more evident, by attending to a few more considerations.

The merchant or importer, who pays the duty at first, will not consent to be so much money out of pocket. He therefore proportionally raises the price of his goods. It may then be said to be a contest between him and the person offering to buy, who shall lose the duty. This must be decided by the nature of the commodities, and the purchaser’s demand for them. If they are mere luxuries, he is at liberty to do as he pleases, and if he buys, he does it voluntarily: But if they are absolute necessaries, or conveniences, which use and custom have made requisite for the comfort of life, and which he is not permitted, by the power imposing the duty, to get elsewhere, there the seller has a plain advantage, and the buyer must pay the duty. In fact, the seller is nothing less than a collector of the tax for the power that imposed it. If these duties then are extended to the necessaries and conveniences of life in general, and enormously increased, the people must at length become indeed “most exquisitely sensible of their slavish situation.” Their happiness therefore entirely depends on the moderation of those who have authority to impose the duties.

I shall now apply these observations to the late act of parliament. Certain duties are thereby imposed on paper and glass, imported into these colonies. By the laws of Great Britain we are prohibited to get these articles from any other part of the world. We cannot at present, nor for many years to come, tho’ we should apply ourselves to these manufacturers with the utmost industry, make enough ourselves for our own use. That paper and glass are not only convenient, but absolutely necessary for us, I imagine very few will contend. Some perhaps, who think mankind grew wicked and luxurious, as soon as they found out another way of communicating their sentiments than by speech, and another way of dwelling than in caves, may advance so whimsical an opinion. But I presume no body will take the unnecessary trouble of refuting them.

From these remarks I think it evident, that we must use paper and glass; that what we use, must be British; and that we must pay the duties imposed, unless those who sell these articles, are so generous as to make us presents of the duties they pay.

Some persons may think this act of no consequence, because the duties are so small. A fatal error. That is the very circumstance most alarming to me. For I am convinced, that the authors of this law would never have obtained an act to raise so trifling a sum as it must do, had they not intended by it to establish a precedent for future use. To console ourselves with the smallness of the duties, is to walk deliberately into the snare that is set for us, praising the neatness of the workmanship. Suppose the duties imposed by the late act could be paid by these distressed colonies with the utmost ease, and that the purposes to which they are to be applied, were the most reasonable and equitable that can be conceived, the contrary of which I hope to demonstrate before these letters are concluded; yet even in such a supposed case, these colonies ought to regard the act with abhorrence. For WHO ARE A FREE PEOPLE? Not those, over whom government is reasonable and equitably exercised, but those, who live under a government so constitutionally checked and controlled, that proper provision is made against its being otherwise exercised.

The late act is founded on the destruction of this constitutional security. If the parliament have a right to lay a duty of Four Shillings and Eight-pence on a hundred weight of glass, or a ream of paper, they have a right to lay a duty of any other sum on either. They may raise the duty, as the author before quoted says has been done in some countries, till it “exceeds seventeen or eighteen times the value of the commodity.” In short, if they have a right to levy a tax of one penny upon us, they have a right to levy a million upon us: For where does their right stop? At any given number of Pence, Shillings or Pounds? To attempt to limit their right, after granting it to exist at all, is as contrary to reason—as granting it to exist at all, is contrary to justice. If they have any right to tax us—then, whether our own money shall continue in our own pockets or not, depends no longer on us, but on them. “There is nothing which” we “can call our own; or, to use the words of Mr. Locke—WHAT PROPERTY HAVE” WE “IN THAT, WHICH ANOTHER MAY, BY RIGHT, TAKE, WHEN HE PLEASES, TO HIMSELF?”*

These duties, which will inevitably be levied upon us—which are now levying upon us—are expressly laid FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF TAKING MONEY. This is the true definition of “taxes.” They are therefore taxes. This money is to be taken from us.We are therefore taxed. Those who are taxed without their own consent, expressed by themselves or their representatives, are slaves.We are taxed without our own consent, expressed by ourselves or our representatives. We are therefore—SLAVES.

  • Miserabile vulgus.
  • A miserable tribe.

A Farmer

letter vi

My dear Countrymen,

It may perhaps be objected against the arguments that have been offered to the public, concerning the legal power of the parliament, “that it has always exercised the power of improving duties, for the purposes of raising a revenue on the productions of these colonies carried to Great Britain, which may be called a tax on them.” To this objection I answer, that this is no violation of the rights of the colonies, it being implied in the relation between them and Great Britain, that they should not carry such commodities to other nations, as should enable them to interfere with the mother country. The imposition of duties on these commodities, when brought to her, is only a consequence of her parental right; and if the point is thoroughly examined, the duties will be found to be laid on the people of the mother country. Whatever they are, they must proportionably raise the price of the goods, and consequently must be paid by the consumers. In this light they were considered by the parliament in the 25th Charles II. Chap. 7, Sect. 2, which says, that the productions of the plantations were carried from one to another free from all customs, “while the subjects of this your kingdom of England have paid great customs and impositions for what of them have been SPENT HERE,” etc.

Besides, if Great Britain exports these commodities again, the duties will injure her own trade, so that she cannot hurt us, without plainly and immediately hurting herself; and this is our check against her acting arbitrarily in this respect.

It may be perhaps further objected,* “that it being granted that statutes made for regulating trade, are binding upon us, it will be difficult for any persons, but the makers of the laws, to determine, which of them are made for the regulating of trade, and which for raising a revenue; and that from hence may arise confusion.”

To this I answer, that the objection is of no force in the present case, or such as resemble it; because the act now in question, is formed expressly FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF RAISING A REVENUE.

However, supposing the design of parliament had not been expressed, the objection seems to me of no weight, with regard to the influence which those who may make it, might expect it ought to have on the conduct of these colonies.

It is true that impositions for raising a revenue, may be hereafter called regulations of trade: But names will not change the nature of things. Indeed we ought firmly to believe, what is an undoubted truth, confirmed by the unhappy experience of many states heretofore free, that UNLESS THE MOST WATCHFUL ATTENTION BE EXERTED, A NEW SERVITUDE MAY BE SLIPPED UPON US, UNDER THE SANCTION OF USUAL AND RESPECTABLE TERMS.

Thus the Caesars ruined the Roman liberty, under the titles of tribunicial and dictatorial authorities—old and venerable dignities, known in the most flourishing times of freedom. In imitation of the same policy, James II when he meant to establish popery, talked of liberty of conscience, the most sacred of all liberties; and had thereby almost deceived the Dissenters into destruction.

All artful rulers, who strive to extend their power beyond its just limits, endeavor to give to their attempts as much semblance of legality as possible. Those who succeed them may venture to go a little further; for each new encroachment will be strengthened by a former. “That which is now supported by examples, growing old, will become an example itself,”* and thus support fresh usurpations.

A FREE people therefore can never be too quick in observing, nor too firm in opposing the beginnings of alteration either in form or reality, respecting institutions formed for their security. The first kind of alteration leads to the last: Yet, on the other hand, nothing is more certain, than that the forms of liberty may be retained, when the substance is gone. In government, as well as in religion, “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

I will beg leave to enforce this remark by a few instances. The crown, by the constitution, has the prerogative of creating peers. The existence of that order, in due number and dignity, is essential to the constitution; and if the crown did not exercise that prerogative, the peerage must have long since decreased so much as to have lost its proper influence. Suppose a prince, for some unjust purposes, should, from time to time, advance so many needy, profligate wretches to that rank, that all the independence of the house of lords should be destroyed; there would then be a manifest violation of the constitution, under the appearance of using legal prerogative.

The house of commons claims the privilege of forming all money bills, and will not suffer either of the other branches of the legislature to add to, or alter them; contending that their power simply extends to an acceptance or rejection of them. This privilege appears to be just: But under pretense of this just privilege, the house of commons has claimed a licence of tacking to money bills, clauses relating to things of a totally different kind, and thus forcing them in a manner on the king and lords. This seems to be an abuse of that privilege, and it may be vastly more abused. Suppose a future house influenced by some displaced, discontented demagogues—in a time of danger, should tack to a money bill, something so injurious to the king and peers, that they would not assent to it, and yet the commons should obstinately insist on it; the whole kingdom would be exposed to ruin by them, under the appearance of maintaining a valuable privilege.

In these cases it might be difficult for a while to determine, whether the king intended to exercise his prerogative in a constitutional manner or not; or whether the commons insisted on their demand factiously, or for the public good: But surely the conduct of the crown, or of the house, would in time sufficiently explain itself.

Ought not the people therefore to watch? to observe facts? to search into causes? to investigate designs? And have they not a right of JUDGING from the evidence before them, on no slighter points than their liberty and happiness? It would be less than trifling, whenever a British government is established, to make use of any arguments to prove such a right. It is sufficient to remind the reader of the day, on the anniversary of which the first of these letters is dated.

I will now apply what has been said to the present question.

The nature of any impositions laid by parliament on these colonies, must determine the design in laying them. It may not be easy in every instance to discover that design. Whenever it is doubtful, I think submission cannot be dangerous; nay, it must be right, for, in my opinion, there is no privilege these colonies claim, which they ought in duty and prudence more earnestly to maintain and defend, than the authority of the British parliament to regulate the trade of all her dominions. Without this authority, the benefits she enjoys from our commerce, must be lost to her: The blessings we enjoy from our dependence upon her, must be lost to us. Her strength must decay; her glory vanish; and she cannot suffer without our partaking in her misfortune. Let us therefore cherish her interests as our own, and give her everything, that it becomes FREEMEN to give or to receive.

The nature of any impositions she may lay upon us may, in general, be known, by considering how far they relate to the preserving, in due order, at the connection between the several parts of the British empire. One thing we may be assured of, which is this—Whenever she imposes duties on commodities, to be paid only upon their exportation from Great Britain to these colonies, it is not a regulation of trade, but a design to raise a revenue upon us. Other instances may happen, which it may not be necessary at present to dwell on. I hope these colonies will never, to their latest existence, want understanding sufficient to discover the intentions of those who rule over them, nor the resolution necessary for asserting their interests. They will always have the same rights, that all free states have, of judging when their privileges are invaded, and of using all prudent measures for preserving them.

  • Quocirca vivite fortes
  • Fortiaque adversis opponite pectora rebus.
  • Wherefore keep up your spirits, and gallantly
  • oppose this adverse course of affairs.

A Farmer