To the Inhabitants of the Massachusetts-Bay No. V

v2:94

TO THE INHABITANTS OF THE MASSACHUSETTS-BAY NO˙V.

Boston, March 9, 1775.

MY FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS: In our last we showed that the torrent of evidence, the run of history, a series of facts, the scheme: of British policy, the principles of the English Constitution, and the prevailing sentiments of our predecessors, and the English Nation, all united in support of our claim. Perhaps there is no one fact in all historick existence of a similar nature, and the same antiquity, supported by such a variety of arguments and uniformity of evidence. Was it a truth, that by our Charter, we were to be considered as a distinct State uniting

v2:95

under one common Sovereign with our Mother Country, we could not have reasonably expected fuller proof, at this day, near a hundred and forty years since. Many truths more recent have nothing but habit and usage to stand upon. Evidence, like all other things, wastes by the current of time. It is diminished in passing from one generation to another, in the same proportion as it is removed from those transactions to which it is applicable. That which is certainty in one age (such is the constitution of human affairs in the present imperfect state) may become probability the next and by a third, dwindle into a bare possibility. It is a maxim, that where a proposition is attended with as much evidence as the nature, of the thing will admit, and could be expected, upon supposition of its truth, there the mind ought to yield its assent, and embrace the position.

As on the one hand it must be confessed there are instances where the Nation hath chosen to consider us as subject to her supreme authority, and our predecessors, from an unsuspecting confidence and veneration for their Mother Country, (that authority not being the object immediately in view, or the question under consideration) have inadvertently done, or omitted to do, that which may be construed into a seeming concession. And what rights or privileges are enjoyed by any people under Heaven, which have not been at one time or another invaded? So, on the other hand, there are instances where the Nation has disclaimed this authority; and our ancestors, whenever it has been made a question directly, have declared themselves with spirit, in the strongest terms against it Supposing, then, for the present, that nothing absolutely conclusive could be inferred from the sense of the Nation, or the sentiments of our predecessors, after the reception of the Charter, it would not materially affect the argument. For had there been a perfect harmony of sentiment, and uniformity of practice, all conspiring to proclaim our union and consequent subjection, it would, indeed, have been circumstantial evidence of a previous connexion; but would not, of itself, have united us or confirmed our dependance, if we were not united before. Such evidence, however cogent, can never invalidate that of a higher nature; nor is it admissible. Where we have direct positive proof. In the present case we have the deed of compact, the Charter-rights in our own hands, under the solemnities of seals, and the established formalities of law; we can, therefore, judge for our-selves, and ought to do it from the perceptions of our own minds, and not upon the authority of others.

Admitting, for argument' s sake, that it was the opinion of both parties that this Colony was united British Empire in such a sense as to be subject to her supreme Legislative authority, and that the subsequent line of conduct observed by both corresponded with such an apprehension, it only proves them guilty of an egregious mistake, from inattention to consequences, or a confusion of ideas.

It is admitted by all; it is an indisputable truth, that our predecessors came to America with the express and notorious design of enjoying, and in the first instance actually declared for a free Government. It is equally true that British Nation never pretended, nor does she even now pretend, to any authority over us, which she apprehends inconsistent with such a Government. This was what was declared for at the first, and agreed to by all parties as a leading and controlling principle throughout the whole transaction. This was the cardinal hinge on which all their movements were to turn — the broad and permanent basis on which their civil superstructure was to rise. Every transaction, therefore, mutual or partial, abhorrent to this principle, however clear and formal must be void ab initio, as founded in errour — upon a mistaken supposition of its compatibility with our general position. Supposing, Then, that our Charter proved, and it was clearly the sense of the parties to it, that we were to be bound by British laws in all cases whatever; if it can be shown that such an agreement was repugnant to their first and common principle, its obligation ceases, as founded on mistake, and void from the beginning. This general agreement that our Government should be free, dispenses with, and voids the obligation of the particular one, that it, should be subject to the authority of Parliament, if they are incompatible with each other.

v2:96

To a fair and impartial consideration of the consistency and possible co-operation of these two principles, let us now afford our close attention. At first blush I confess they strike me as heterogeneous. Let us examine them, The very terms, Free Governments, plainly suppose that there are such sort of creatures in being as Governments that are not free, to which they are opposed. These are ordinarily called, in common parlance, as well as in technical language of the law, absolute, arbitrary, tyrannick, despotick, &c˙, and the subjects of them are, with equal propriety, said to be in a state of bondage, servitude, vassalage, and slavery.

Tyranny, despotism, and the like, are general abstract terms, expressive of a certain relation subsisting between different communities, or different parts of the same community, similar to that subsisting between a master and his servant, from which the term slavery, as applicable to States, probably took its rise. An individual, who has the absolute right to direct the conduct, dispose of the property, and command the services of another, is, with propriety, called a master. The person who is under an obligation to obey his commands and submit to his authority, is, in appellation and reality, his servant. It is this right of commanding, and obligation to obey, that constitutes the servitude, and not the actual exercise of it. He is a good master that does not use his right, but still he is a master, and may become a hard — a cruel one, at pleasure.

A community so organized as to have one supreme power, may be resembled to a single person, which speaks and commands by the voice of law. If this community has an absolute right to direct the conduct, dispose of the property and command the, service of another State; or, in other words, to make laws binding upon it in all cases whatsoever, it stands precisely in the same relation to this State that a master stands in to his servant; and, of consequence, it is in a condition of complete servility, and the individuals composing it in abject slavery. The same holds with respect to different parts of the same State. It is of no importance as it regards the relation, that the right or authority is not exercised, or is used with lenity. This, indeed, may determine the character of the master State, in point of goodness, but the servile, relation still remains. Soon may it exert itself to its utmost latitude, with unbounded rigour accumulated vengeance. Recent facts evince the truth of this observation. Look to your Capital the head and heart of this Province. Give way to reflection for a moment. There you may learn possible projections from real executions, and argue coming calamities from the power of afflicting. The question for us to determine, my countrymen, then is, whether we will be slaves or freemen; for I defy the veriest Tory of them all, the accutest jacobite that ever lived, to difference our case from the above stated one.

If our positions are then true, and our reasonings upon them unsophisticated, the conclusion is irresistible not only that we are exempted from the supreme, authority of the British Parliament, but also that she is inconsistent with herself in claiming our subjection; as she does not pretend, in profession at least, even now, when nothing but her own power and will abounds her pretensions, to any authority inconsistent with civil liberty, or the rights of Englishmen; and yet assumes a power subversive of their real essence, and very shadows. Such is the conduct of those who sit at the helm, and by the reins of modern policy have practised the Nation into present measures. We hope if common sense, political discernment, and public virtue, have forsaken the mansions of high life, they are still resident in the Island, and will soon unite superiour to opposition.

Perhaps it will be said, as has been often said with little truth and less knowledge, if we were perfectly independent in the first formation of our Government, we have rendered ourselves since dependant by our General Assemblies recognising the authority of Parliament, and submitting to her Acts, in various instances; and by our receiving protection from our Parent States. To which we answer, that it was not in the power of all the Assemblies, from their first commencement to the present day, to have effected this union and consequent dependance.

The authority of General Courts do not extend to the alteration of the fundamentals of Governments, much less to their, subversion. This can be done only by the express

v2:97

voice of the whole people at large. The Governour, Council, and House of Representatives, which compose the Assembly, are creatures of, and derive all their power from a Constitution agreed upon and previously established, which has for its primum mobile, groundwork and leading principle, Liberty, civil and religious. All transactions, therefore, growing out of such a Constitution, and founded upon it, as are the acts and doings of an Assembly, must breathe the spirit of freedom, and be governed by it, as by a pole-star in the political hemisphere. The election of Deputies, from time to time, is only a designation of persons, who are immediately vested with their authority by the foundation-principles of Government. Their power is only in a line of conduct chalked out by the Constitution. In their deviations they act in their private capacity, and not as the substitutes of the people. Acting within their delegated sphere, their constituents are, in speculation, virtually present, acting themselves by the votes and suffrages of their Representatives. This is what gives universal obligation to their proceedings. But it would be absurd to suppose a privity between principals and substitutes, respecting a matter for which the former were not represented. Hence the irresistible conclusion, that our Constitution has not been destroyed or altered by Provincial Assemblies.

This is not only a truth in politicks, but also a certainty in metaphysicks. It is the first principles of Government that give political existence to substitutes, and support them in every instance of their publick conduct; of consequence these principles must be pre-existent in point of time to every constitutional transaction of theirs. Representatives, then, to effect the ruin or subversion of the Constitution, must remain such by virtue of it, during the process, and until they complete its destruction; and so it must survive its own dissolution, acting after it ceases to be. And further, if they can act as Representatives the very instant it is destroyed, which they must, in order to complete its ruin, they can for the succeeding, and so on. The consequence of which would be obviously this, that there could be substitutes of the people to act according to a Constitution, when there was no such thing existing in nature. An absurdity of the first magnitude. The same argument holds with respect to an alteration. This reasoning may be unentertaining, and at first view will perhaps seem a little obscure to a mind not cast in a metaphysical mould. I aim at perspicuity, at the expense of elegance, in every instance of ratiocination; if in this I have failed of success, it is imputable to a misfortune in the choice of words, not to a confusion of perceptions. Sure I am, that I clearly perceive the connection, or disagreement of ideas, and that you must subscribe to my conclusions, being masters of the train of reasoning as it passed in my own mind. Our opposers must either deny our premises, or admit our inference; that is, they must deny that Representatives are constitutional officers, and, as such, bound by it; or admit that we are still independent of the Parent State, notwithstanding their supposed recognition of the authority of Parliament. I have laboured this the more, as it is a general truth so very material in politicks. It was directly in the face of this principle that the British Senate became septennial, which probably is the cause, sine qua non, of our present difficulties. However, the application of this principle, as now established, is obvious, and its use important in the present case, as it evinces, to a demonstration, that had our Assemblies (which is directly the reverse of the truth, as we have already proved) not only acquiesced in, and submitted to Statutes enacted by the British Legislature, but had also, in express terms and in a manner the most cogent, passed Acts declaring this Province annexed to the Empire of Great Britain, and, as such, subject to her laws, this would by no means have united us without the consent of the people, nor have given our Parent State any new rights over us. Such Acts must have been void in their own nature.

A fortiori the adopting of the Statute and Common Law of England in our Courts of Justice, argues no such connection, or subjection, though it has been urged with a zeal not according to knowledge by some, and an address nearly allied to chicanery by others. It is the misfortune, generally, of arguments adduced in support of errour, like Prior' s darts, to return with effect upon those who advance

v2:98

them. If the practising upon the Common and Statute Law of England in our judicial proceedings, implied our subjection to her authority, (and if it does not prove this it proves nothing to the purpose,) for the same reason Great Britain' s practising upon the laws of the Normans, Saxons, &c˙, would prove her subject to those Northern Powers; and the adopting the Civil Law of Rome, without an Act of their own Legislature, would infer the Briton' s subjection to her infallible authority; which would carry the Nation right back again into the bosom of that mother of harlots, from whose arms Henry the Eighth wrested our parent, that he might enjoy the foster indulgence of a kinder companion. From this instance, learn what motives may reach a Royal breast. As a single amour induced one King to change the National Religion from the Roman Catholick to the Protestant, so a passion not more justifiable, though perhaps less personal, may influence some future Monarch to barter away the Protestant for the religion of the Canadians. Ages may first roll away. Empires roll and roll, and will forever roll. It is said they steer a Western course. Unborn Americans may bid them welcome. Present actors speed their progress; and future patriots enjoy their blessings. But to return to the subject.

The genuine history of the matter is simply this: The Common Law of a Country is of reciprocal and personal obligation upon each of its inhabitants, independent of the law-giver. In England it is considered as the birthright of Englishmen. When individuals remove to Countries uninhabited, or to Territories already peopled, if they do not incorporate with the original inhabitants, so as to be subject to their laws, they are considered as carrying with them, and being bound by those laws which were obligatory upon them in the abandoned State, so far as is applicable, upon change of circumstances, with other necessary restrictions. And this, not because they are the Statutes of the deserted State, but as they are convenient rules of conduct, which had induced a mutual, personal obligation, whose force was to be commensurate with the possibility and fitness of their operation. In this view our ancestors considered themselves bringing from the land of their nativity the Common Law, together with such Statutes as were in being at the time of their emigration, disclaiming the validity of all subsequent Acts. Our Courts of Justice have always been thoroughly penetrated with a sense of the propriety of this distinction. If, in some instances, unmindful of their judicial department, in favorem, to say the least of it, they have trespassed in untrodden paths, and, by a dangerous metamorphose, become Legislators, it would be as irrational to argue our subjection from this extra-judicial courtly conduct, as from the aberration of the fixed stars. But I quit the delicate subject. A sentiment of the ingenious Blackstone is much to our purpose. "For," says that learned Judge, "the Common Law of England, as such, has no allowance or authority in our American Plantations, they being not part of the Mother Country."

The affair of receiving protection from Great Britain, is an argument urged, I presume, for the want of a better. On this score, it has with truth been said, we owe her nothing. Our Trade, which she monopolizes, as to its profit, is more than an equivalent. From this she realizes annual millions; by this we cheerfully pay her, like children possessing property, a large annuity, as has been clearly shown in the ingenious observations of the inimitable Novanglus, to which I beg leave to refer you. But if our arrears were great, would it give her a right to make us her slaves? In our infant state, and during the long and bloody conflicts with the savage natives, she neither gave, or offered us aid. Of later years, we have neither wanted, or received protection, except from the bare existence of her Navy, in common with Portugal, and other places, in the articles of Trade and Commerce, and this for her own emolument. The American Trade carries its own reward with it, especially to the Parent State, which names, with the strictest attention to her own interest, the ports and channels of its circulation. We are, and from the beginning have been, of sufficient ability to defend ourselves against all our own proper enemies. And what is more, we actually have done it. Mr˙ Hutchinson, in his History, speaking of the famous Phillipick war, says: "This is certain, as this Colony

v2:99

was at first settled, so it was now preserved from ruin, without any charge to the Mother Country." We have ever contributed our full proportion for the annoyance of the common adversary. In the last war, America was one of the principal seats of action. It was a National, a British, a general war, originating from National motives, and directed against Britain' s inveterate enemy. We were not involved in it as Americans, as Colonists, but as subjects of the King of England. When war is made upon a common Sovereign, it must have a local existence. It is accidental that one particular place, rather than another, is made the scene of it. Therefore it most certainly ought to be supported by the joint assistance of the whole. As subjects of an English King, we have always been lavish of men and money for military operations. In the last war we much exceeded our proportion; at the close of which a reimbursement was made us by Parliament. For the truth of this, we may appeal to the recorded acknowledgment of the House of Commons. This undisputed fact proves, also, to the satisfaction of every reasonable man, that we had not been deficient on former occasions; otherwise she would not have reimbursed to us what had been long due to herself. Since this period, it must be confessed, her exertions have been very extraordinary for the administration of justice and the support of Civil Government in America, and in this Province in particular. Within a year, Ships have been manned, and Armies transported at a great expense, destined to our Ports and Towns, to distress, impoverish, abuse, and enslave the best of subjects. Whether we are bound to bear a part of this expense; to pay the whole; or ten thousand times as much, if the Parliament should call for it, is the question we are considering.

But we stand upon a foundation still more stable, deeper rooted, and more highly exalted, whose chief corner-stone was laid in Heaven. Nature has disjoined us by one of her insuperable barriers — an Ocean, a thousand leagues wide. And her Omnipotent Sovereign has rendered the union, and consequent subjection contended for morally impossible, by making us moral agents, subject to the immutable and eternal laws of our being. We can challenge a freedom; challenge rights inconsistent with the claims of Parliament under the broad seal of Heaven — from the King of Kings, and Lord of all the earth; rights that were born with us; created in us by the decrees of Providence; that cannot be surrendered even by ourselves; that cannot be taken from us but by the same Almighty arm that bestowed them. So that had it been the sense of our ancestors, the sense of the King, and the sense of the Nation previous to our emigration, that we were to continue subject to the Parent State; had we declared for this subjection in the first instance; had we received a Charter in confirmation of this declaration; had our Assemblies and Courts of Justice strengthened and corroborated this relation by unnumbered acts and proceedings; had the body of the people, with full satisfaction and indescriptive avidity, sanctified the same by their express fiat; and lastly, had we been defended by the parental arm from our first settlement to the present day, and still needed the same protection; I say, had this been the state of facts, the reverse of all which we have proved to be true, it would not, it could not oblige us to submit to the supreme authority of Parliament to the degree she contends for. For this would be to relinquish our duty which we owe to that Being whose will alone gives universal obligation.

Such is the nature of man, such the constitution of things, that his duty is discoverable by reason, aided by revelation; and is discharged by conforming to the laws of eternal justice, and the practice of every social virtue. On this depends man' s truest happiness and best good. This happiness is said to be the foundation of natural law, or ethicks, it being inseparably interwoven with our frame, and forming all the principles and springs of action. This natural law is coeval with mankind, implanted by the Deity, and of the highest obligation. It is binding all over the globe, in all countries, at all times; the same at Rome, at Athens, in Britain, and America. No Senate, no Parliament, no Assembly, can dispense with it, retrench or alter it. Whoever violates it, says Cicero, renounces his own nature, divests himself of humanity, and will be rigorously chastised for his disobedience in the coming

v2:100

world. No law, no transaction repugnant to this law, is of any validity. It is the origin of all power, and the support of all authority.

We being then, in common with all mankind, under an indispensable obligation to pursue our own happiness in a course of religious and social duties; it will hence follow, that we cannot surrender those rights which are necessary for our happiness, or give up that liberty which is necessary for the performance of our duty: also, that we cannot divest ourselves of our natural freedom, so far as to submit to the absolute will either of an individual or a State, who might treat us according to their arbitrary whim and fancy. This is what Great Britain requires of us. This is the situation into which she has for years been plotting to force us. A voluntary submission to her claim in its full latitude will be submitting to a necessity of doing whatever she commands, of course to the necessity of doing wrong at her sovereign nod; for I presume she does not as yet pretend to, infallibility. In short, it would be in effect abandoning our lives, which we are not masters of; renouncing our duty, which we are not permitted to do; selling our Country, our wives, and our children, which are not ours so to dispose of; betraying our religion, which would be treason against Christ; and exchanging happiness for misery, which would be, as much as in us lay, reversing God' s benevolent plan of moral Government in the world.

To illustrate this by a similar instance. Suppose in some future day Great Britain, intoxicated, by a lust for innovations, dazzled with the overflowings of power, unchecked by her own sentiments, or our cries and groans, which would never reach her, should pass a law tolerating the Papistical religion in all the English Colonies; suppose she should advance one step further, and establish it with disqualifications and penalties, (the transition being easy from one to the other.) To submit to such a law would be betraying our religion, to oppose treason and rebellion, the consequence of which would be loss of life, confiscation of goods, corruption of blood, and a reducing to beggary wives and children. I do not mention this as what would probably take place: it is enough that it is possible. The established religion of the Nation has been repeatedly changed. What has been may again be. The claim of Parliament is to legislate for us in all cases whatever. If she establishes this claim, we are slaves; I speak it with anguish — we are miserable!

To put ourselves then into the absolute power of another, be it State or individual, is violating a first law of nature, whose seat has been said "to be the bosom of God; her voice the harmony of the world. All things in Heaven and earth do her homage; the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power."

The next inquiry is, whether successful opposition be possible; if possible, whether prudent and safe. If measuring upon the scale of probability, we are led to conclude in favour of both, our duty is plain.

FROM THE COUNTY OF HAMPSHIRE.

Notes

nts

* By Great Britain, I would be understood to mean those Ministers who have been vibrating the political pendulum.