Page images
[ocr errors]

be entitled, to all the natural, effential, inherent and inseparable rights, liberties and privileges of subjects born in Grea Britain, or within the realm.

Among those rights are the following ; which no man, or body of men, consistently with their own rights as men and citizens, or members of society, can for themselves give-up, or take-away from others.

First, “ The first fundamental positive law of all Com. monwealths or States, is the establishing the legislative power: As the first fundamental natural law also, which is to govern even the legislative power itself, is the preservation of the society.'

Secondly, The legislative has no right to absolute, arbitrary, power over the lives and fortunes of the people: Nor can mortals assume a prerogative, not only too high for men, but for angels; and therefore reserved for the exercise of the Deity alone.

“ The legislative cannot justly adjume to itself a power to rule by extenipore, arbitrary, decrees; but it is bound to fee that justice is dispensed, and that the rights of the subjects be decided, by promulgated, standing, and known, laws, and authorized independent Judges ;" that is, independent, as far as possible, of prince and people. There should be one rule of Justice for rich and poor; for the favourile at court, and the countryman at the plough.”+

Thirdly, The supreme power cannot justly take from any man, any part of his property without his consent, in perfon or by his representative.

These are some of the first principles of natural law and justice, and the great barriers of all free states, and of the British constitution in particular. It is utterly irreconcileable

• Locke on Government Salus Popali suprema Lex esto. * Locke.



to these principles, and to inany other fundamental maxims of the common law, common sense, and reason, that British House of Commons should have a right, at pleasure, to give and grant the property of the colonists. That these colonists are well entitled to all the essential rights, liberties, and privileges of men and freemen, born in Britain, is manifest, not only from the colony-charters in general, but from acts of the British parliament. The statute of the 13th of Geo. II. c. 7. naturalizes even foreigners after seven years refidence. The words of the Massachusetts-Charter are these ; “ And further our will and picasure is, and we do hereby for us, our heirs, and successors, grant, establish, and ordain, that all and every of the subjects of us, our heirs, and successors, which shall go to, and inhabit within, our said province or territory, and every of their children which shall happen to be born there, or on the seas in going thither, or returning from thence, shall have and enjoy all liberties and immunities of free and natural subjects

of the dominions of us, our heirs, and succel. sors, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever, as if they, and every of them, were born within this onr realm of England.” Now what liberty can there be, where property is taken-away without confent? Can it b: faid with any colour of iruth and juflice, that this continent of three thousand miles in length, and of a breadth as yet inexplored, in which however, it is supposed, there are five millions of people, has the least voice, vote, or influence in the decisions of the British parliament? Have they, all toge. ther, any more right or power to return a single niember to that House of Commons, who have (not inadvertently, but deliberately) assumed a power to dispose of their lives*, liberties and properties, than to choose an Emperor of China?

within any

See the Act of the last Session relating to the King's dock-yards.


Had the colonists a right to return members to the British Parliament, it would only be hurtful; as from their local situation and circumstances, it is impoffible they should be ever truly and properly represented there. The inhabitants of this country, in all probability, in a few years, will be more numerous than those of Great Britain and Ireland together: Yet it is abfurdly expected, by the promoters of the present measures, that these, with their posterily to all generations, should be easy, while their property shall be disposed-of by a House of Commons at three thousand miles distance from them; and who cannot be supposed to have the least care or concern for their real interest: who have not only no natural care for their interest, but must be in effect bribed against it; as every burden they lay on the Colonists is so much favcd or gained to themselves. Hitherto many of the colonists have been free from quit-rents; but, if the breath of a British House of Commons can originate an act for taking-away all our money, our lands will go next, or be subject to rack-rents from haughty and relentless landlords, who will ridle at ease, while we are trodden in the dirt. The Colonists hive been branded with the odi. ous names of traitors and rebels only for complaining of their grievances : How long sucli treatment will, or ought to be born, is submitted.

A Lif of Infringements and l'iolations of Rights.

We cannot help thinking, that an enumeration of some of the most open infringements of our rights, will by every candid person be judged sufficient to justify whatever meafures have been already taken, or may be thought proper to be taken, in order to obtain a redress of the grievances under which we labour. Among many others, we humbly

[ocr errors]

conceive, that the following will not fail to excite the attention of all who consider themselves interested in the happiness and freedom of mankind in general, and of this continent and province in particular.

ift. The British Parliament have assumed the powers of legislation for the colonists in all cases whatsoever, without obtaining the consent of the inhabitants, which is ever efsentially necessary to the rightful establishment of such a legislative.

2dly. They have exerted that assumed power, in raising a revenue in the colonies without their consent; thereby depriving them of that right which every man has to keep his own earnings in his own hands until he shall, in person, or by his representative, think fit to part with the whole or any portion of it. This infringement is the more extraordinary, when we consider the laudable care which the British House of Commons have taken, to reserve entirely and absolutely to themselves the powers of giving and granting money. They not only insist on originating every money-bill in their house, but will not even allow the House of Lords to. make an amendment in these bills; fo tenacious are they of this privilege, so jealous of any infringement of the sole and absolute right the people have to dispose of their own money; and what renders this infringement the more grieva ous is, that what of our earnings still remains in our hands, is in a great measure deprived of its value, so long as the British Parliament continue to claim and exercise this power of taxing us ; for we cannot justly call that our property, which others may, when they please, take-away from us against our will.

In this respect we are treated with less decency and regard than the Romans showed even to the provinces which they had conquered. They only determined upon the sum which each should furnill, and left every province to raise it in the manner most casy and convenient to themselves.

each into

3dly. A number of new officers, unknown in the charter of this province, have been appointed to superintend this revenue ; whereas by our charter, the Great and General Court, or Affeinbly, of this province, has the sole right of appointing all civil officers, excepting only fuch oficers, the election and conftitution of whom is, in faid charters, expressly excepted; among whom these officers are not included.

4thly. These officers are by their commissions invested with powers altogether unconstitutional, and entirely destructive to that fecurity which we have a right to enjoy; and to the last degree dangerous, not only to our property, but to our lives : for the commislioners of his Majesty's customs in America, or any three of them, are by their commission empowered, “ by writing under their hands and seals, to constitute and appoint inferiour officers in all and singular the ports within the limits of their commilfions.” Each of these petty officers fo made is intrusted with power more absolute and arbitrary than ought to be lodged in the hands of any man, or body of men, whatsoever; for in the commission aforementioned, his Majesty gives and grants unto his faid commissioners, or any three of them, and to all and every the collectors, deputy-colicctors, ministers, servants, and all other officers serving and attending in all and every the ports and other places within the Jimits of their commission, fuli power and authority, froni time to time, at thcir, or any of their, wills and pleasures, as well by night as by day, to enter and go on board any ship, boat, or other vessel, riding, lying, or being within, or coming into, any port, harbour, creek, or haven, within the imits of their commillion; and also in the day-tinie to go

« PreviousContinue »