Page images

communicate and publish the same to the several towns in this province and to the world, as the sense of this town, with the infringements and violations thereof, that have been, or from time to time may be made: also requesting of each town a free communication of their sentiments on this subjed,” beg leave to report : First, A State of the Rights of the Colonists, and of this

Province in particular. Secondly, A List of the Infringements and Violations of

those Rights. Thirdly, A Letter of Correspondence with the other


1. Natural Rights of the Colonists as Men. Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; secondly, to liberty; thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of naturc.

All men have a right to remain in a state of nature as long as they please: and in case of intolerable oppression, civil or religious, to leave the society they belong to, and enter into another.

When men enter into fociety, it is by voluntary consent; and they have a right to demand and insist upon the performance of such conditions and previous limitations as form an equitable original compaét.

Every natural right, not expressly given-up,or, from the nature of a social compact, necessarily ceded, remains.

All positive and civil laws.should conform, as far porfible, to the law of natural reason and equity,

As neither reason requires, nor religion permits, the contrary, every man living in, or out of, a state of civil society, has a right peaceably and quietly to worship God, according to the dictates of his conscience.

Just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberly" in inatters fpiritual and temporal, is a thing that all men are clearly entitled-10, by the eternal and immutable laws of God and nature, as well as by the law of nations, and all well-grounded municipal laws, which must have their foundation in the former.

In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof, is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practised; and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind: and it is now generally agreed among Christians, that this spirit of toleration, in the fullest extent, consistent with the being of civil society, “is the chief characteristical mark of the true church*." Infomuch that Mr. Locke has afferted, and proved beyond the poffibility of contradi&tion on any folid ground, that such toleration ought to be extended to all whose do&trines are not subversive of society. The only feets which he thinks ought to be, and which by all wise laws are, excluded from fuch toleration, are thofe who teach doctrines subversive of the civil government under which they live. The Roman Catholicks, or Papists, are excluded, by reason of such doetrines as there,

as these, " that princes excommunicated may be deposed, and those they call hereticks may be destroyed without mercy;” befides their recognizing the Pope in so abfqlute a manner, in subversion of government, by introducing, as far possible, into the states, under whose protection they enjoy life, liberty, and property, that solecism in politicks

* See Locke's Letters on Toleration,


imperium in imperio*, leading directly to the worst anarchy
and confufion, civil discord, war, and bloodshed.

The natural liberty of man, by entering into society, is
abridged or restrained so far only as is necessary for the great
end of society, the best good of the whole.

In the state of nature, every man is, under God, judge,
and fole judge, of his own rights, and of the injuries done .
him: by entering into society, he agrees to an arbiter, or in-
different judge, between him and his neighbours; but he no
m're renounces his origina! right, than by taking a cause
out of the ordinary course of law, and leaving the decision
to referees, or indifferent arbitrators. In the last case he
must pay the referees for time and trouble; he should also
be willing to pay his just quota for the support of govern-
ment, the law, and the constitution; the end of which is to
furnish indifferent and impartial judges in all cases which
may happen, whether civil, ecclesiastical, marine, or mili-

“ The natural liberty of man is to be free from any fupe-
riour power on earth, and not to be under the will, or legilla,
tive authority, of man; but only to have the law of nature
for his rulet."

In tre state of nature, men may, as the Patriarcbs did, employ hired furvants for the defence of their lives, liberlies, and property; and they should pay them reasonable wages. Government was inftituted for the purposes of common defence; and those who hold the reins of government have an equitable natural right to an honourable support from the fame principle “ that the labourer is worthy of his hire:” but then the same community which they serve, eught to be the affeffors of their pay: governours bave no

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

right to seek and take what they please; by this, instead of being content with the station assigned them, that of honoura, ble servants of the society, they would soon become absolute masters, despots, and tyrants. Hence as a private man has a right to say, what wages he will give in his private affairs, so has a community to determine what they will give and grant of their substance, for the administration of publick affairs. And in both cases, more are ready generally to offer their service at the proposed and stipulated price, than are able and willing to perform their duty.

In short, it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into fociety, to renounce their effential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights, the principal of which, as is before observed, are life, liberty, and properly. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce, or give-up, any effential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a llave.

II. The Rights of the Colonists as Christians. These may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the great lawgiver and head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New-Testament.

By the act of the British Parliament commonly called The toleration-azt, every subject in England, except Papists, &c. was restored to, and re-established in, his natural right


to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. And by the charter of this province, it is granted, ordained and establithed (that is, declared as an original right) that there shall be liberty of conscience allowed in the worTip of Gov, to all Christians except Papists, inhabiting, or which shall inhabit or be resident within the said province or territory*. Magna Charta itself is in substance but a constrained declaration, or proclamation and promulgation, in the name of King, Lords and Commons, of the sense the latter had, of their original, inherent, indefeasible natural rights ;t as also those of free citizens, equally perdurable with the other. That great author, that great jurist, and even that court writer, Mr. Justice Blackstone, holds, that this recognition was justly obtained of King John sword-inhand; and peradventure it mult be one day sword-inhand again rescued and preserved from total destruction and oblivion.

III. The Rights of the Colonists as Subje&ts. A Commonwealth, or State, is a body politick, or civil society of men, united together to promote their mutual safely and prosperity, by means of their Uạignt.

The absolute rights of Englishmen, and all freemen in, or put of, civil society, are principally, personal security, personal liberty and private property.

All persons born in the British American colonies, are, by the laws of God and nature, and by the common law of England, exclusive of all charters from the Crown, well enti. tled, and by acts of the British Parliament are declared to

* See 1 Wm. and Mary, St. 2. C. 18. and Massachusetts Charter, in the third year of William and Mary. See above, page 115.

+ Lord Coke's Inst. Blackstone's Commentaries, V. 1. pa. 122. the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement. See Locke and Vattel.

« PreviousContinue »