Documents for 1775 Part II: Letters and Sermons


Joseph Hewes and Richard Smith to a London Mercantile Firm July 31, 1775

. . . . We are in a terrible situation indeed; all trade here is now at an end, and when it will again be revived, God only knows. Every American to a man is determined to die, or be free. We are convinced, nothing can restore peace to this unhappy country, and render the liberty of your's secure, but a total change of the present Ministry, who are considered in this country as enemies to the freedom of the human race, like so many Devils in the infernal regions, sending out their servants, furies, to torment where-ever they choose their infernal vengeance should fall.

Permit us, dear Sirs, as you have once exerted yourselves, to try another effort to save from destruction the once, and but lately, the most flourishing empire in the world.

We do not want to be independent, we want no revolution, unless a change of Ministry, and measures would be deemed such; we are loyal subjects to our present most gracious Sovereign, in support of whose crown and dignity we would sacrifice our lives, and willingly launch out every shilling of our property, he only defending our liberties. This country, without some step is taken, and that soon will be inevitably lost to the mother country. We say again, for the love of Heaven, the love of liberty, the interest of posterity, we conjure you to exert yourselves. Petition again; the eyes of our most gracious Sovereign may yet be opened, and he may see what things are for his real interest, before they are eternally hid from his eyes. We can vouch for the loyalty of every one in this part of the province. We beg your pardon for troubling you on the subject of politics so much as we have done; but we hope you will excuse us, when we tell you our all depends on the determination of Parliament.

We have the honour to be, Gentlemen, your most obliged humble servants.

Joseph Hewes To Samuel Johnston.

8th July 1775.

Dear Sir,

. . . . I wrote a long letter to R Smith on the 20th of June and forwarded it by a vessel to Currituck. the injunctions of Secrecy being then in part taken off I gave him some account of our proceedings in Congress. we have agreed to emit paper Bills of Credit to the amount of two Millions of Dollars, for the redemption of which every Colony is bound Jointly and severally, the Quota of each Province to be settled in proportion to the number of souls it contains, and to be sunk in seven years in the manner most agreeable to their respective assemblies or Conventions, to raise an Army of Fifteen thousand men (those already raised in the Eastern Colonies to make part of it) Ten thousand to be employed near Boston, and five thousand in New York, on Hudson River, the Lakes, etc. so stood the first Resolution. we have since resolved to employ an additional number so that I expect the whole will exceed Twenty thousand men. we have appointed as you will see by the Newspapers a General and Commander in Chief, a number of Majors General and Brigadiers General. All the other officers are to be appointed by the Provincial Convention. we have Resolved to petition the King, to address the People of England, also the people of Ireland, to write a Letter to the City of London, and to the Inhabitants of Jamaica. we have published a manifesto or declaration of War. Caswell set off about ten days ago to meet the Assembly which you say is expected on the 12th of this month. he carried most of the Resolves with him and will give you a particular account of our proceedings. before he left us we wrote a Circular Letter to the Committees of our Province. since his departure the Congress received a Copy of a letter from General Gage to Governor Martin forwarded by the Provincial Convention of New York, also a copy of Governor Martin's Letter to Henry White Esqr of New York delivered to us by the Committee of this City. these Letters have alarmed Hooper and my self. we have sent Copies of them to the Committees of Edenton and Wilmington. we have prevailed on the Presbyterian Ministers here to write to the Ministers and congregations of their Sect in North Carolina,and have also made application to the Dutch Lutherans and Calvinists to do the same. . . . .

Hooper thinks Congress will break up the latter end of next week I think otherwise, perhaps not before the last of August but this is only guess works . . . .

Joseph Hewes to Samuel Johnston

Philadelphia 1st Decembr 1775

Dear Sir

I have wrote to you several times lately and have nothing new communicate, but what you have in our Joint Letter and the papers therewith sent. We have mentioned the calling a Convention in January, but unless you think it absolutely necessary I could wish it might be put of[f] till May when in all probability we shall have it in our power to lay before you a compleat Journal of our proceedings of the last Congress, as also of the present, this I think necessary, as it will be much better to take u p our proceedings in one View than by detached pieces, and it will never do to harrass our people by calling them too often to meet in Convention.

However these matters must rest on your own Judgement and discretion. I wish I could inform you when we shall adjourn, some say about Christmas, others, not till Spring. I am inclined to think with the former; for we grow tired, indolent, Captious, Jealous and want a recess. These only discover themselves now and then, in general we are pretty unanimous and friendly. No plan of Seperation has been offered, the Colonies will never agree to any till drove to it by dire necessity. I wish the time may not come too soon. I fear it will be the case if the British Ministry pursue their present diabolical Schemes. I am weary of politicks and wish I could retire to my former private Station (to speak in the language of J[osiah] Child) a pence and farthings Man. . . .

JOHN WESLEY. A Calm Address to Our American Colonies(1775)

Brethren and Countrymen,
i. The grand question which is now debated (and with warmth enough on both sides) is this. Has the English Parliament power to tax the American colonies?

In order to determine this, let us consider the nature of our colonies? An English colony is, a number of persons to whom the king grants a charter, permitting them to settle in some far country as corporation, enjoying such powers as the charter grants, to be administered in such a manner as the charter prescribes. As a corporation they make laws for themselves: but as a corporation subsisting by a grant from higher authority, to the control of that authority, they still continue subject.

Considering this, nothing can be more plain, than that the supremepower in England has a legal right of laying any tax upon them for any end beneficial to the whole empire.

2. But you object, "It is the privilege of a freeman and an Englishman to be taxed only by his own consent. And this consent is given for every man by his representative in Parliament. But we have nor presentation in Parliament. Therefore we ought not to be taxed hereby."

I answer, This argument proves too much. If the Parliament cannot tax you, because you have no representation therein, for the same reason it can make no laws to bind you. If a freeman cannot be taxed without his own consent, neither can he be punished without it: for whatever holds with regard to taxation, holds with regard to all otherlaws. Therefore he who denies the English Parliament the power of taxation, denies it the right of making any laws at all. But this powerover the colonies you have never disputed: you have always admitted statutes, for the punishment of offences, and for the preventing or redressing of inconveniences. And the reception of any law draws after it by a chain which cannot be broken, the necessity of admitting taxation.

3. But I object to the very foundation of your plea. That "every freeman is governed by laws to which he has consented," as confidently as it has been asserted, it is absolutely false. In wide-extended dominions, a very small part of the people are concerned in making laws. This, as all public business, must be done by delegation, the delegates are chosen by a select number. And those that are not electors, who are far the greater part, stand by, idle and helpless spectators. The case of electors is little better.When they are near equally divided, almost half of them must be governed, not only without, but even against their own consent.

And how has any man consented to those laws, which were made before he was born? Our consent to these, nay and to the laws now made even in England, is purely passive. And in every place, as all men are born the subjects of some state or other, so they are born, passively, as it were consenting to the laws of that state. Any other than this kind of consent, the condition of civil life does not allow.

4. But you say, You are intitled to life, liberty and property by nature: and that you have never ceded to any sovereign power, the right to dispose of those without your consent.

While you speak as the naked sons of nature, this is certainly true. But you presently declare, Our ancestors at the time they settled these colonies, were intitled to all the rights of natural-horn subjects, within the realm of England. This likewise is true: but when this is granted, the boast of original rights is at an end. You are no longer in a state of nature, but sink down to colonists, governed by a charter. If your ancestors were subjects, they acknowledged a sovereign: if they had a right to English privileges, they were accountable to English laws, and had ceded to the king and Parliament, the power of disposing without their consent, of both their lives, liberties and properties. And did the Parliament cede to them, a dispensation from the obedience, which they owe as natural subjects? Or any degree of independence, not enjoyed by other Englishmen?

5. They did not indeed, as you observe, by emigration forfeit any of those privileges: but they were, and their descendents now are intitled to all such as their circumstances enable them to enjoy.

That they who form a colony by a lawful charter, forfeit no privilege thereby, is certain. But what they do not forfeit by any judicial sentence, they may lose by natural effects. When a man voluntarily comes into America, he may lose what he had when in Europe. Per haps he had a right to vote for a knight or burgess: by crossing the sea he did not forfeit this right. But it is plain, he has made the exercise of it no longer possible. He has reduced himself from a voter to one of the innumerable multitude that have no votes.

6. But you say, As the colonies are not represented in the British Parliament, they are entitled to a free power of legislation. For they inherit all the right which their ancestors had of enjoying all the privileges of Englishmen.

They do inherit all the privileges which their ancestors had: but they can inherit no more. Their ancestors left a country where the representatives of the people were elected by men particularly qualified, and where those who wanted that qualification were bound by the decisions of men whom they had not deputed. You are the descendants of men who either had no votes, or resigned them by emigration. You have therefore exactly what your ancestors left you: not a vote in making laws, nor in chusing legislators, but the happiness of being protected by laws, and the duty of obeying them.

What your ancestors did not bring with them, neither they nor their descendants have acquired. They have not, by abandoning their right in one legislature, acquired a right to constitute another: any more than the multitudes in England who have no vote, have a right to erect a Parliament for themselves.

7. However the colonies have a right to all the privileges granted them by royal charters, or secured to them by provincial laws.

The first clause is allowed: they have certainly a right to all the privileges granted them by the royal charters. But as to the second there is a doubt: provincial laws may grant privileges to individuals of the province. But surely no province can confer provincial privileges on itself! They have a right to all which the king has given them; but not to all which they have given themselves. A corporation can no more assume to itself, privileges which it had not before, than a man can, by his own act and deed, assume titles or dignities. The legislature of a colony may be compared to the vestry of a large parish: which may lay a cess on its inhabitants, but still regulated by the law: and which (whatever be its internal expences) is still liable to taxes laid by superior authority.

The charter of Pennsylvania has a clause admitting, in express terms, taxation by Parliament. If such a clause be not inferred in other charters, it must be omitted as not necessary; because it is manifestly implied in the very nature of subordinate government: all countries which are subject to laws, being liable to taxes.

It is true, The first settlers in Massachusetts-Bay were promised an exemption from taxes for seven yean. But does not this very exemption imply, that they were to pay them afterwards? If there is in the charter of any colony a clause exempting them from taxes for ever, then undoubtedly they have a right to be so exempted. But if there is no such clause, then the English Parliament has the same right to tax them as to tax any other English subjects. 8. All that impartially consider what has been observed, must readily allow, that the English Parliament has undoubted right to tax all the English colonies.

But whence then is all this hurry and tumult? Why is America all in an uproar? If you can yet give yourselves time to think, you will see, the plain case is this. A few years ago, you were assaulted by enemies, whom you were not well able to resist. You represented this to your mother-country, and desired her assistance. You was largely assisted, and by that means wholly delivered from all your enemies.

After a time, your mother-country desiring to be reimbursed for some part of the large expence she had been at, laid a small tax (which she had always a right to do) on one of her colonies.

But how is it possible, that the taking [of] this reasonable and legal step, should have set all America in a flame?

I will tell you my opinion freely; and perhaps you will not think it improbable. I speak the more freely, because I am unbiassed: I have nothing to hope or fear from either side. I gain nothing either by the government or by the Americans, and probably never shall. And I have no prejudice to any man in America: I love you as my brethren and countrymen.

9. My opinion is this. We have a few men in England, who are determined enemies to monarchy. Whether they hate his present majesty on any other ground, than because he is a king, I know not. But they cordially hate his office, and have for some years been undermining it with all diligence, in hopes of erecting their grand idol, their dear commonwealth upon its ruins. I believe they have let very few into their design (although many forward it, without knowing any thing of the matter): but they are steadily pursuing it, as by various other means, so in particular by inflammatory papers, which are industriously and continually dispersed, throughout the town and country: by this method they have already wrought thousands of the people, even to the pitch of madness. By the same, only varied according to your circumstances, they have likewise inflamed America. I make no doubt, but these very men are the original cause of the present breach between England and her colonies. And they are still pouring oil into the flame, studiously incensing each against the other, and opposing under a variety of pretences, all measures of accommodation. So that although the Americans, in general, love the English, and the English in general, love the Americans (all, I mean that are not yet cheated and exasperated by these artful men), yet the rupture is growing wider every day, and none can tell where it will end. These good men hope it will end, in the total defection of North America from England. If this were effected, they trust the English in general would be so irreconcileably disgusted, that they should be able, with or without foreign assistance, intirely to overturn the government: especially while the main of both the English and Irish forces, are at so convenient a distance.

10. But, my brethren, would this be any advantage to you? Can you hope for a more desirable form of government, either in England or America, than that which you now enjoy? After all the vehement cry for liberty, what more liberty can you have? What more religious liberty can you desire, than that which you enjoy already? May not every one among you worship God according to his own conscience? What civil liberty can you desire, which you are not already possessed of? Do not you sit without restraint, every man under his own vine? Do you not, every one, high or low, enjoy the fruit of your labour? This is real, rational liberty, such as is enjoyed by Englishmen alone; and not by any other people in the habitable world. Would the being independent of England make you more free? Far, very far from it. It would hardly be possible for you to steer clear, between anarchy and tyranny. But suppose, after numberless dangers and mischiefs, you should settle into one or more republics: would a republican government give you more liberty, either religious or civil? By no means. No governments under heaven are so despotic as the republican: no subjects are governed in so arbitrary a manner, as those of a commonwealth. If any one doubt of this, let him look at the subjects of Venice, of Genoa, or even of Holland. Should any man talk or write of the Dutch government as every cobler does of the English, he would be laid in irons, before he knew where he was. And then wo be to him! Republics shew no mercy. I1. "But if we submit to one tax, more will follow." Perhaps so, and perhaps not. But if they did; if you were taxed (which is quite improbable) equal with Ireland or Scotland, still were you to prevent this by renouncing connection with England, the remedy would be worse than the disease. For 0! what convulsions must poor America feel, before any other government was settled? Innumerable mischiefs must ensue, before any general form could be established. And the grand mischief would ensue, when it was established; when you had received a yoke, which you could not shake off.

12. Brethren, open your eyes! Come to yourselves! Be no longer the dupes of designing men. I do not mean any of your countrymen in America: I doubt whether any of these are in the secret. The designing men, the Ahithophels, are in England; those who have laid their scheme so deep and covered it so well, that thousands who are ripening it, suspect nothing at all of the matter. These well-meaning men, sincerely believing, that they are serving their country, exclaim against grievances, which either never existed, or are aggravated above measure, and thereby inflame the people more and more, to the wish of those who are behind the scene. But be not you duped any longer: do not ruin yourselves for them that owe you no good will, that now employ you only for their own purposes, and in the end will give you no thanks. They love neither England nor America, but play one against the other, in subserviency to their grand design, of overturning the English government. Be warned in time. Stand and consider before it is too late; before you have entailed confusion and misery on your latest posterity. Have pity upon your mother country! Have pity upon your own! Have pity upon yourselves, upon your children, and upon all that are near and dear to you! Let us not bite and devour one another, lest we be consumed one of another! O let us follow after peace! Let us put away our sins; the real ground of all our calamities! Which never will or can be thoroughly removed, till we fear God and honour the king.

A sermon preached by Dr. Smith, in Philadelphia, has been lately reprinted in England. It has been much admired, but proceeds all along upon wrong suppositions. These are confuted in the preceding tract: yet I would just touch upon them again.

Dr. Smith supposes, I. They "have a right of granting their own money": that is, of being exempt from taxation by the supreme pow er. If they "contend for" this, they contend for neither more nor less than independency. Why then do they talk of their "rightful sovereign"? They acknowledge no sovereign at all.

That they contend for "the cause of liberty" is another mistaken supposition. What liberty do you want, either civil or religious? You had the very same liberty we have in England. I say, you had: but you have now thrown away the substance, and retain only the shadow. You have no liberty, civil or religious now, but what the Congress pleases to allow.

But you justly suppose, "We are by a plain original contract intitled to a community of privileges, with our brethren that reside in England, in every civil and religious respect,' p. 19. Most true. And till you appointed your new sovereigns, you enjoyed all those privileges. Indeed you had no vote for members of Parliament, neither have I, because I have no freehold in England. Yet the being taxed by the Parliament is no infringement either of my civil or religious liberty.

But you say again, "No power on earth has a right to grant our property without our consent," p. 22.

Then you have no sovereign: for every sovereign under heaven has a right to tax his subjects: that is, "to grant their property, with or without their consent." Our(1) sovereign has a right to tax me, and all other Englishmen, whether we have votes for Parliament-men or no. Vainly therefore do you complain of "unconstitutional exactions, violated rights, and mutilated charters," p. 24. Nothing is exacted, but according to the original constitution both of England, and her colonies. Your rights are no more violated than mine, when we are both taxt by the supreme power: and your charters are no more mutilated by this, than is the charter of the city of London.

Vainly do you complain of being "made slaves." Am 1, or two millions of Englishmen made slaves because we are taxed without our own consent?

You may still "rejoice in the common rights of freemen." I rejoice in all the rights of my ancestors. And every right which I enjoy, is common to Englishmen and Americans. But shall we "surrender any part of the privileges which we enjoy, by the express terms of our colonization?" that is, of our charter? By no means: and none requires it of you. None desires to withhold any thing that is granted by the express terms of your charters. But re- member! One of your first charters, that of Massachusetts-Bay, says in express terms, you are exempt from paying taxes to the king, for seven years: plainly implying, that after those seven years you are to pay them like other subjects. And remember your last charter, that of Pennsylvania, says, in express terms, you are liable to taxation.

But "a people will resume, you say, the power, which they never surrendered, except["]no need of any exception. They never surrendered it at all; they could not surrender it; for they never had it. I pray{,] did the people, unless you mean the Norman army, give William the Conqueror his power? And to which of his successors did the people of England (six or seven millions) give the sovereign power? This is mere political cant: words without meaning. I know but one instance in all history, wherein the people gave the sovereign power to any one; that was, to Massaniello of Naples. And I desire any man living to produce another instance in the history of all nations.

Ten times over, in different words, you "profess yourselves to be contending for liberty." But it is a vain, empty profession: unless you mean by that threadbare word, a liberty from obeying your rightful sovereign, and from keeping the fundamental laws of your country. And this undoubtedly it is, which the confederated colonies are now contending for. THE END

1. In connexion with the Lords and Commons



A pamphlet, to which you have affixed your name, has been lately distributed with uncommon diligence. You call it A Calm Address to our American Colonies. This title is a deception; you know that the colonies are determined: your design is, to deceive undeternined Englishmen, into pprobation of the measures of adminstration. You present your book to the world, as your own; but the greatest part of it is taken, verbatim, from Taxation No Tyranny, written by the pensioned Dr. Johnson, a declared enemy of civil and religious liberty! This is another deception, equally mean and obvious. Your first section contains Johnson's definition of an English colony. It gives the idea of

a number of persons, who, by the king's permission, emigrated in search of supposed advantages, which, if obtained, were to be secured to them by charters.

But the colonists were a number of persons, who fled from tyranny at home, to conquer and cultivate new countries at their own expence. From the parent state, for above a century, they received little or no assistance: their monopolized commerce was, at last, thought worth rotection; their increased property is, now, thought worth taxation.

You say,

Considering English colonies are a kind of corporations subsisting by charters, nothing can be more plain than that the supreme power in England has a right to tax them.

Do you mean, by the supreme power, the collective body of king, lords, and commons? If you do, you must be ignorant, that the Commons only have the power of taxing the people; that money is not taken, but given; that the concurrence of the lords, in money bills, is only to tax themselves; and that the concurrence of the king, in such bills, is only to give them the force of law.

You say,

That the English government has made laws for the colonies, which laws they have received and obeyed; therefore, the English government has a right to tax them: the reception of any law draws after it, by a chain which cannot be broken, the necessity of admitting taxation

This is false: the acts of legislation, and taxation, are distinct operations; the first is exercised by the three estates of king, lords, and commons, the last by the commons only. If the reception of a law is an acknowledgment of sovereignty, it is not an acknowledgment that such sovereignty may be maintained in an unconstitutional manner. Penal and oeconomical laws are received and obeyed in England; the reception of them may be deemed an acknowledgment of the sover- eignty of government; but does not prove, that government has a right to abrogate Magna Charta, abolish trial by jury, or vest in the king an arbitrary power of levying money on the subject: such acts, though sanctified by consent of the three estates, would be violations of the constitution, and, consequently, void in themselves, and "to be bolden for nought." 42 Ed. III. Lord Coke, Lord Somers, &c.

You next attempt to prove, that the colonies are as much represented in the English Parliament, as the majority of the people of England: "All public business," you say,

must be done by delegation; the delegates are chosen by a select number; and those who are not electors, who are by far the greater part, stand by idle and helpless spectators.

That most publick business must be done by delegation, is true; but the choice of delegates, or representatives in England, was originally in the people at large; the vesting it, afterwards, in a select number, was a variation made by consent of the people for the sake of convenience. The non-electors, and electors of England, are so blended together, that the former must often influence the conduct of the latter; and having, thereby, a share in the power of election, cannot be said, "to stand by idle and helpless spectators."

"The case of electors," you say, "is little better; when they are near equally divided, almost half of them must be governed, not only with, but against their consent."

This is a fallacy. The minority of electors cannot be said to be governed without their consent: they, in common with others, have previously consented, that it should be law to issue the dispute by the voice of the majority; they have, therefore, consented to be governed by him, on whom the choice of that majority shall fall.

You endeavour, by general positions boldly asserted, to represent government and slavery as inseparable. "How has any man," you say,

consented to those laws, which were made before he was born? Our consent to these, nay and to the laws now made in England, is purely passive.In every place, as all men are born the subjects of some state or other, so they are born, passively as it were, consenting to the laws of that state.

Any other than this kind of consent, the condition of civil life does not allow.

This is false: The English constitution has better provided for the preservation of liberty. Our consent to the laws by which we are ruled, is so far active, that we may in a manner be said to make them: "The commons may be said to make law," says Johnson himself, in his False Alarm; it then suited his purpose to say so. The people at large may, indeed, be said to make law. They desire to have some penal or oeconomical law for general benefit; they instruct their delegates; a bill is brought into the House of Commons; the king may refuse the royal assent, but then the House may refuse supplies. Suppose the opinions of the constituents, and the delegates, are opposite; the latter reject the bill: their office is not perpetual, nor irresponsible; at seven years end they may be discarded, and their places filled with more compliant or more faithfull successors. Vice versa: suppose a law, proposed by any of the three estates of government, is thought oppressive, or otherwise offensive, by the people: the measure is talked of; they petition, they remonstrate; perhaps they succeed; perhaps they do not: in the latter case, the grievance is not eternal; a new parliament may repeal what the old one enacted. If the measure be not a favourite court measure, and the royal assent, as before, be denied; then supplies, as before, may be withholden, till that assent is granted. If the people have less influence over the second estate, the House of Lords; still that house may be supposed to consist of men, guided by reason, and wishing to act in consonance with the rest of their countrymen.

Such are the advantages of our excellent constitution! Blush, if ye can, ye Johnsons and ye Wesleys, who are endeavouring to destroy the idea of them, in the minds of unwary readers; endeavouring to perswade men, that they are inevitably born slaves! If Englishmen are slaves, whose consent to the laws they are ruled by, is merely passive; it is not the fault of their political system, but of their own corruption of morals, and supineness of spirit.

It is the usual art of the court writers of the day, to aim at sinking all ideas of natural equity, and of general popular franchises founded thereon, in the idea of absolute unconditional government, pretend- ing such government indispensible to the subsistence of civil society.

You say,

If the ancestors of the colonists were subjects, they acknowledged a sovereign; if they had a right to English privileges, they were accountable to English laws; and had ceded, to the king and Parliament, the power of disposing, without their consent, of their lives, liberties, and properties.

This is both false and absurd. No Englishman ever ceded, to any king, absolute power over his life or liberty. That precious remain of ancient freedom, trial by jury, ever stood and now stands an insuperable bar against the power of sovereign over subject.

No freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, nor disseized, nor out-lawed, nor exiled, nor destroyed in any manner; nor will we pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by the lawfull judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. Magna Charta, §. 43.

No Englishman ever ceded, to any king, any power over his property: the right of taxation, as has been shewn, is exclusively vested in the people. No Englishman ever ceded, to the parliament, a power over his life, liberty, and property: he could not cede it to the lords, for the lords, without the commons, cannot make law; he could not cede it to the commons, for ceding it to the commons, would, properly speaking, be ceding it to himself. The force of truth is often too strong, for every effort that can be made to conceal it. You talk of "the people ceding power to the king and Parliament": if they ceded power, they must have possessed it. Nemo dat quod non hahet: what a man has not, he cannot give to another; what is given, if abused, may surely be resumed. If the doctrine of resumable power is not admit- ted, the doctrine of divine hereditary right must be maintained. The first king of every country, must have reigned by divine appointment; and all his successors, be their conduct what it will, must reign by the same title; their subjects must be hereditary slaves, whose lives and properties may be sported with, as men shoot birds, and catch fish, for diversion. Englishmen! beware of these insidious reasoners; these Johnsons and Wesleys, who would persuade you that ye are born slaves!

You admit (as above), that there are original rights of humanity. You tell us, that when the colonists say they are intitled, by nature, to life, liberty and property, they speak true; that when they claim a title to the rights of natural born subjects within the realm of England, they speak true alsobut you assert, that "they must resign either one or the other." This is no consequence.

The rights of nature, and of civil society, are not incompatible; the former are mostly guarantied by the latter. A man has a natural right to the possessions of his parents, or to those which he has obtained by his own labour; and the laws of society, which prohibit fraud and rapine, instead of destroying that right, contribute to secure it. A man has a natural right to life and liberty: on entering civil society, he does not cede this right, only in certain stipulated circumstances, for the good of that whole whereof he becomes a part; while he is innocent, he is safe and free.

A man has a natural right to his own property: this, on entering civil society, he does not cede at all: he, indeed, by a kind of tacit compact, agrees to subscribe his share to the expence of public securi- ty and public oeconomy, as the necessity of times may require; but, as no rational being would lavish his wealth without equivalent, he has reserved to himself the sole determination of the existence or degree of that necessity.

If he does not properly regard the publick welfare, it is at his own risque; he is more or less a gainer, as it is more or less consulted. Of this general principle, an English House of Commons, in its primari ly intended incorrupt state, is a visible modification; money, there, is granted, not taken; granting, not taking, is the language of the constitution in all ages. Such are the simple principles of free government, in contradistinction to tyranny! Principles, alas, too little known, too much obscured by the glare of adventitious pomp and purchased power!

You say, that "the colonists, by emigration, did not forfeit the right of voting for representatives in the English Parliament; but lost it by natural effects." But the privilege of voting for, or chusing a deputy or proxy, to execute the office of a taxer; can be considered as a personal advantage, only in counterpoise to the personal burden of taxation: now, if the good be lost by natural effects, the evil should not be retained by unnatural political ones. There are things called right reason, equity, and justice, though they may not happen to exist in the ideas of Dr. Johnson and Mr. Wesley.

When a man removes to a distance, from the part of civil society with which he was connected, he can no longer enjoy the benefits of its political system; and, therefore, cannot justly be assessed to its maintenance.

If the colonists have hitherto supported the administration of justice, and other branches of internal polity, among themselves; what rational plea can be made, for requiring them to support them among us? Can a person be expected to pay for the same thing, in two places? You say,

He who had a vote for a knight or burgess, did not forfeit that right by crossing the sea, but made the exercise of it no longer possible; he reduced himself from a voter to one of the innumerable multitude that have no votes.

But if such a man was still liable to be taxed by the English Parliament, he reduced himself to a much worse condition.

Non-electors (as has been hinted) have, in England, much influence in elections: persuasion and information, have their weight; the man of superior opulence or knowledge, without a vote himself, can direct the voices of a number.

But an American can have no possible influence in the choice of an English senator; and an English senator, when he taxes an American, cannot tax himself also, because he has no property in America to be taxed: yet self-taxation is the sole pledge of the taxer, for security of the taxed. He, who does not tax himself, taxes others without feeling: he may, therefore, tax without propriety, and without measure; may take, not only a fifth, or a fourth, but the half, or even the whole of property; and make the wealthy subject an impoverished slave. The wisest forms of government, adverting to the imperfection of human nature, have, as much as possible, avoided leaving one man at the mercy of another; they have ever contrived some rational restraint on action, some bond of reciprocal safety.

You allow, that "the colonists inherit all the privileges of English men, all the privileges that their ancestors had." They then inherit the grand privilege of Englishmen, free government; but this privilege they do not enjoy, if they are taxed without being represented. It is an axiom which cannot be too forcibly impressed on the mind "Government cannot be free, where property is taken not given."

You say,

what the ancestors of the colonists did not bring with them, neither they nor their descendants have acquired. They have not, by abandoning their right in one legislation, acquired a right to constitute another; any more than the multitudes in England, who have no vote, have a right to erect a parliament for themselves.

You before said, "they had lost their right in the English legislature, by natural effects." There is difference between abandoning, and losing by natural effects; one is a voluntary, one an involuntary matter: you have not proved that they either abandoned this right, or lost it; if they have either abandoned, or lost it, and have no right to constitute another system, they must be slaves, or revert to a state of anarchy. Were the body of electors, in England, to become so corrupt or servile, as constantly to recluse men, who had betrayed the cause of liberty; and were such men to subvert the constitution; would not the non-electors have a right to chuse a number of honester delegates, to restore their abolished freedom, to save their country?

You say,

the colonies have a right to all the privileges granted them by regal charters, to all which the king has given them; but not to all which they have given themselves.

The first part of your assertion is undoubtedly true; but it is couched in terms, that might better become the despot of some barbarous region, whose ignorant natives had imbibed. "The enormous faith of many made for one," than the advocate of a government that calls itself free. What right has any king to any thing (saving his own private property) which is not given him by the people? If the king is the fountain of honours and riches, whence is that fountain supplied? Whence does he derive the prerogative of conferring honours, the ability of bestowing richesbut from the people?

If the colonists are the naked sons of nature, they have a right to independence, and the enaction of their own laws; if they are subjects of the free English state, they have a right to the grand privilege of other Englishmen, a privilege which no king could conferlegislation, and taxation by representation only. The assertion, that "they are virtually represented," has been proved an absurdity; a sophism, which even you could scarcely repeat, with a serious countenance.

Your comparison of "a colonial legislature to the vestry of an English parish," proves nothing to the great point in question, the legality of taxation without representation. The parish assesses itself, in its parochial capacity, for local private uses; in its national capacity, by its representatives, for general publick ones.

The colonies have no representatives; therefore, cannot be liable to parliamentary taxation.

You say, "the charter of Pensylvania has a clause admitting, in ex press terms, taxation by Parliament." Why did you not then produce this clause, that your readers might have judged of its meaning and import for themselves? You do not even tell us the nature of the taxation; whether it was internal or external; whether levied by them selves, or by others. You add, "the first settlers in Massachusett's were promised an exemption from taxes for seven years." But promised by whom? If the charter contains such a promise, it must be made by the king who granted the charter; but the king could not legally promise an exemption from that which he had not legally a right to impose. I have not time nor opportunity to examine fully the truth of your assertions: but though I give you credit for them so far, as to admit that there are some such clauses as you mention; yet your disengenuous conduct, in retailing Johnson's book without acknowledgment, makes me justly doubt the truth of your representations. Those clauses could relate, not to taxation, but to requisition only: the right of taxation did not subsist with the king; it did not subsist with the Parliament; it subsisted solely and exclusively with the representatives of the Massachusett's people; and all the exemption promised that people could amount to no more than this, that the king would not require any subsidies from them for seven years. To serve your own purpose, you say, indeed, afterwards, that "the seven years exemption granted to the Massachusett settlers, was from paying taxes to the king." Then it may be justly inferred, that they were subsidies demanded by the king in way of requisition, not taxes im posed by Parliament: had the case been otherwise, it would have been produced, before now, as a precedent for external taxation. What opinion the provincials had of external taxation above a hundred years ago, appears from an article in the agreement made by the Virginians with the commonwealth of England, before they would permit a governor sent by that commonwealth to land in their province: "Virginia shall be free from all taxes, customs, and impositions whatsoever; and none shall be imposed upon them, without consent of the general assembly."(1)

"All countries," you say, "which are subject to laws, are liable to taxes." Perhaps so; but, perhaps, they are only liable to taxes, raised in a constitutional manner; perhaps it has not been usual, for the government of one country to tax the inhabitants of another, many thou sand miles distant. If such taxation were founded on reason, might not the German princes think of taxing the Germans settled in Pensylvania and New-York? If the tie of birth, between sovereign and subject, is indissoluble by distance and time, they have a pretence for doing it.

You say,

if there is no clause in the charters of the colonies exempting them from taxes, the English Parliament has the same right to tax them as to tax any other English subject.

Your argument here has been answered; I only quote it to demur once more to your mode of expression: the Parliament, collectively considered, has no right to tax any Englishman; it is the Commons, and the Commons only, who possess the peculiar incommunicable power of granting taxes for the people. This is not quibbling about mere insignificant expressions: Taking and giving (I repeat it) are terms affixed to ideas, which constitute the important difference between tyranny and freedom.

I have now gone through the sum total of your arguments, which are every one, without exception, borrowed from Johnson: the remainder of your book is assertion, and declamation; it merits little notice.

An argument, which operates more in favour of the colonists, than any that Johnson has advanced operates against them, is this: That the English government, under the wisest administrations, and in the most necessitous circumstances, never, till lately, attempted to tax them. If government had that right of taxation, why did they not exert it? Perhaps, we are wiser than our fathers; wiser than those great statesmen, who planned and perfected the glorious revolution, and gave the crown to the Brunswick family. Our fathers made England the dread of Europe; Heaven grant their sons may not make it the contempt of its meanest enemy! If we are wiser than our fathers, I wish we were honester: our fathers did not plunder the East; we have plundered the East; let us not attempt to plunder the West also! Let not Englishman be a word of disgrace among all nations, a word synonymous with robber! It has been said, "The longer the colonists have been spared paying taxes, the better able they are, and the greater reason they have to pay." Till the justice of taxing them at all, is clearly demonstrated, this argument is futile; it is the morality of those, who deem it less criminal to plunder him who has not been plundered before, than to plunder again him who has suffered previous depredation. It were to be wished, that we were less interested; at least, that we did not suffer our interest to outrun our virtue. "If America is taxed," it is said, "England will be eased of taxes." Ease from taxes, is an alluring object to an Englishmanbut, during a thirteen years profound peace, what ease from taxes have Englishmen experienced? What we have not had in the past, can we have reason to expect in the future? We have not been eased in peace, but we are to be eased in war; eased by the taxes of a conquered country, which, in the act of conquering, we have laid desolate! Can we be the dupes of such self-contradictory pretences? Supposing it possible we could obtain, by conquest, a small accession to our property; could we enjoy it with the reflection, that it was obtained by the miseries of our own species? Could we revel in luxuries, bought with the price of blood, the blood of our countrymen? It is said, "We have protected the colonists, and that they ought to pay for our protection." Have they not paid for it by the benefits of their commerce? Have not two of our own Parliaments acknowledged, that they paid more than their quota of the expence of last war? A war, not commenced, as has been pretended, out of dis interested regard for them; but to secure the profits of their trade; a trade, which, had they become subjects to France, must have been lost to Englandto secure the balance of European powerto prevent the aggrandizement of our natural enemies.

In page [416], you have stated the case, perhaps you think, fairly. Give me leave to draw a parallelparallels have, probably, been often of use to you, at the foundry. We feel best for another, when we put ourselves in his place; the transposition is, argumentum ad hominem.

Suppose popery established in England. Popery, you know, is in tolerantburn, or conform, are its alternatives. You, and your disciples, profess to approve of neither. A certain number of you embark for the coast of New Zealandyou find part of the country uninhabited; your fire arms give you advantage over the savages of the rest. You form a settlement; you cultivate the ground; establish manufactures, and grow rich: you might export some of your commodities to Batavia, on very advantageous terms. Capt. Cook, in the course of his voyage, happens to touch on this same coast of New Zealand: the English government, and, indeed, every Englishman (who had heard that there was such a place) take it, therefore, into their heads to think it their own: they send a ship, to inform you that they think so; and to tell you, that you must not traffick with Batavia, but only with them; and that they will accept the profits of the trade, as a ground rent, an acknow[ledge]ment of their sovereignty. The Dutch grow jealous of your rising state; they send a fleet, and army, to at tack and dispossess you. War is maintained with various success: you apply to England for assistance; England assists you: you not only continue your exclusive commerce with her, but contribute to the expence she has sustained by assisting you. After all, when you expect no such matter, comes a peremptory mandate from England, We have protected you; we will be paid for our protectionwe will have half the fruits of your labour, half the income of your lands, and manufactures, for ever.

Lay your hand upon your heart, Mr. Wesley, and say, would you then defend the measures of government1 as lenient and equitable? Or would you hesitate (if able) to act the modem American?

You assert, that

There are men in England, determined enemies to monarchy, who wish to change the government into a republick.

I cannot think that you believe your own assertion. It is well known, that the republican form does not suit the genius of the nation; still less would it suit the character of the age. Commonwealths are not prolifick in honours and emoluments, nor propitious to grandeur and profusion~commonwealths must be founded by men of severe virtue, and strict self-denial. A much more probable supposition is, that some of the opponents of administration wish only to fill the seats of those whom they oppose; but the number, even of these, it is to be hoped is but small.

I know of no Englishman, who hates either the kingly office, or the prince by whom it is now exercised. I believe there are some millions of honest Englishmen, who perceive, with inexpressible grief and terror, our excellent constitution, planned by the best and wisest of our ancestors, and maintained with their blood, gradually deviating from its primitive purity: they see the regal estate, like Aaron's serpent, swallowing up the democratical; they see the influence of the crown over the Commons becoming so unlimited, that the dictates of the human will are not more implicitly obeyed by the members of the human body, than the former is by the latter; they see part of the elective body become so corrupt, that the intent of one principal security of English liberty, the circumstance of a senator vacating his seat on acceptance of a place, is now entirely frustrated; they see this corruption is an evil, which nothing can prevent the effects of, but such an absolute incapacitation of placemen, that they cannot be re chosenbut those who perceive these, and many other flagrant per versions of our glorious constitution, far from wishing to subvert that constitution, wish only to restore it to its pristine integrity.

There are also, I believe, many thousand of honest Englishmen, who wish well to their country and its liberties, but are ignorant what its constitution is, and, consequently, cannot know when it is violated: these arc the men, who cannot fear danger, till they feel evil; these are the men, whom the Johnsons and the Wesleys seek to deceive out of their birthright, and persuade them they are slaves.

You boast of our present liberty, civil and religious: "Every man, you say, "sits under his own vine, and under his own fig-tree." It is not my business, nor desire, to point out every minute step, by which I think liberty is losing ground. Nobody denies, that we do enjoy a reasonable share of liberty, at presentbut is no regard due to the future? There is, surely, some difference in the tenure, by which we hold a possession: the lessee in perpetuum, is, surely, in a better situation, than the tenant at will.

Some have said, arbitrary government, well administered, is the best mode of government; but how many chances are there against its good administration?

We have now a good prince upon the throne; but who can ensure the character of his successors? Should the crown obtain plenary pos session of the Parliament, leaving it only a form without a spirit; where will be the difference between the inhabitants of France and Spain, and our posterity? where will be the difference between those who are ruled by the command of one man, issued immediately from his own mouth; and those, who are ruled by the command of one man, issued mediately through tbe moutbs of many?

I shall now, sir, take my leave of you and your performance. I have no attachment to, or connection of any kind with the colonists; I have no concern in the matter. I may say, as you say, and perhaps with more sincerity, "I shall get nothing by either party."But, I am a friend, on principle, to the original universal rights of man.

As I have formerly seen you, with pleasure, in the character of a Christian minister, doing some good in the moral world; so it is, with regret, I now see you in the character of a court sycophant, doing much more mischief in the political world, injuring, perhaps irreparably injuring your country. POSTSCRIPT You ask, "Did the people give William the Conqueror the power?"

An able writer and eminent statesman (Lord Somers) positively asserts, that the people did give William the power:

William the first (who is unjustly stiled the Conqueror, having subdued none but Harold and those who abetted him) did obtain the crown, by a free choice and submission of the peers, and body of the people: and, before his coronation, he was made to swear, that he would govern the people Justly, and keep and observe to them their old laws.

This is a striking instance of the high sense the people of England once had of their own importance.

You assert, "that the people never gave the supreme power to any, but Massaniello of Naples." If you mean the supreme executive pow er, the English history repeatedly contradicts your assertion. Give me leave to ask you Who gave that power to Charles II. at the Restoration? to William III. at the Revolution? and, afterwards, to the house of Hanover?


1. * See An Appeal to the Justice and the Interests of the People of Great Britain.p.29.

This Document was prepared by Peter King
Last modification date:21-10-2000