Address to the Inhabitants of Massachusetts-Bay, No. V



Boston, March 2, 1775.

My Friends and Countrymen:

The question which we have been considering is, whether we are not so far independent of the British Empire, as to have the exclusive right of legislation inherently and irrefragably in ourselves, except in the instance of regulating Trade. It would give me pain to dwell so long upon a subject so generally understood in its nature, importance, and consequences, were it not to show to what cob-web reasonings the present scheme of Colony administration has driven its votaries; what latitudinarians they have become, in order to execute that which, in better times, the proudest Minister that Britain ever saw would have been too undaring to have projected.

The right is so clear as to almost elude the force of argumentation — so obvious, as in spite of opposing efforts, to command conviction, and to rank high towards the scale of intuitions — so stale, as to be determined from the first commencement of that relation of things out of which it grew — so indisputable, as to be presumed, and practised


upon for about a century and a half, excepting in a very few instances of singular obliquity, by Kings, Lords, and Commons, by Governours, Counsellors, and Representatives — Parliaments, and Assemblies — Britons and Americans. — So confirmed as to have in its favour a whole torrent of histories, records, motives, principles, and proceedings, and, what is more, common sense and fixed habits, so importantly sacred, that no bold venal Parliament — no daring mercenary intriguing Minister, excepting as above, have ever ventured directly to encounter it. Ambition, avarice, venality, corruption, faction, and tyranny have all covered it. — Policy, law, ingenuity, and equity have found it unwieldy, and joined in ample subscriptions to its truth and justice. — How clear, how plain, must a right be, attended with such circumstances? — How cogent, how convincing the reasons which produced them? — It has passed through, almost unsuspected and unobscured, the storms of tyranny and the fogs of faction, from James the First to a recent date — to the fertile exertions of some modern geniuses, who, by an archangel acuteness, have attempted to reverse the tables of eternal truth, to confound the established course of nature, and, by the awful splendour of an omnipotent Court, to extinguish the candle of human intelligence. Oh unheard of lust of power! Quid non mortalia pectora cogis auri sacra fames?

We have considered the principles, and weighed the motives that possessed the breasts of our British ancestors, and induced to their emigration hence. We have followed them down through their material walks, until their reception of Letters Patent, forming them into a particular corporate body. We have examined the evidence on the face of those Letters, in favour of a Parliamentary independence. It remains that we inquire whether the same sentiment prevailed under the enjoyment of those Letters Patent, or Charters, that preceded, and was concomitant with their reception.

King Charles the First was the ever memorable Prince from whom we received our first Charter. Soon after the restoration of his very pitiful son, Charles the Second, the history of the Massachusetts-Bay informs us — That the conduct of our Government respecting its rights, in an instance then under consideration, as well as in the then some former instances, might be well accounted for, upon the sentiments of some persons of influence then amongst them. The sentiments which this historian says our Assemblies then adopted, and were governed by in a number of instances, were the following, viz: That birth is no necessary cause of subjection; — that the subjects of any Prince or State had a natural right to remove to any other quarter of the world, and that upon their removal, their subjection determined and ceased; — that the Country to which they themselves had removed, was claimed and possessed by independent Princes, whose right to the sovereignty and lordship thereof had been acknowledged by the Kings of England; that they therefore had actually purchased, for valuable consideration, not only the soil, but the dominion, the lordship and sovereignty, of those Princes; and that they had also received a Charter of incorporation from the King, containing a mutual compact, from whence arose a new kind of subjection, to which they were held, and from which they would never depart; that this was what was called a voluntary civil subjection, arising merely from compact; and from thence it followed that whatsoever could be brought into question relative to their subjection, must be determined by their Charter. And that they were to be governed by Laws made by themselves, and by Officers elected by themselves, &c. These were the practical political principles of our Government in an instance of publick conduct, about five and thirty years after the granting of our first Charter, when the Patentees themselves were mostly upon the stage, and must be supposed to understand its tenour and meaning. There were instances of an earlier date, says the same historian, where these principles were practised upon by Government. A very ample testimony of the sense of our ancestors: and which shows that the present system of popular politicks is not the creature of a modern patriot brain, that it was embraced from the beginning, and is as old as the Constitution — that it grew up with it, and has been its constant companion.

In the same arbitrary reign, several Acts of Trade and


Navigation respecting the Colonies passed the British Parliament, and the above historian informs us, that our Assembly had a difficulty in conforming to them, the reason for which, assigned in a Letter to their Agents then in England, was, that "they apprehend them to be an invasion of the rights, liberties, and properties of the subjects of his Majesty in the Colony, they not being represented in Parliament, and according to the usual sayings of the learned in the Law, the Laws of England were bounded within the four Seas, and did not reach America." And in fact, as they were not then in a capacity to dispute the point, and vindicate their injured rights by opposing their operation, they made provision by a Law of their own, that they should be observed, and operate by force derived from their own acts, which would have been absurd had they admitted the supreme authority of Parliament.

Edward Randolph, who was a busy instrument in the hands of Government, and deeply interested in Colony affairs, in 1676, represents to the Lords of His Majesty' s Most Honourable Privy Council, appointed a Committee for Trade and Plantations — "That no Law is in force or esteem here, but such as are made by the General Court, and therefore it is accounted a breach of their privileges, and a betraying of the liberties of their Commonwealth, to urge the observations of the Laws of England."

And further, that "there was no notice taken of the Act of Navigation, Plantation, or any other Laws made in England for the regulation of Trade;" that — "the Government would make the world believe they are a free State, and do act in all matters accordingly; that the Magistrates ever reserve to themselves a power to alter any Law not agreeing with the absolute authority of their Government, acknowledging no superiour;" and that "the Governour had declared to him, that the Laws of Parliament obligeth them in nothing but what consists with the interests of the Colony, and that the Legislative power and authority is and abides with the Colony solely." This same Randolph, in a Letter to the Bishop of London, wherein he urges for a quo warranto against their Charter, says, that "independence in Government is claimed and daily practised." Vide The publication of Papers by the late Governour Hutchinson. We have adduced a continued series of facts from an indisputable authority in this case, which proves beyond a doubt the sense that one of the parties had of our first Charter, almost from its first commencement to its final dissolution. Instances might be multiplied, but they are unnecessary to those who have not their minds steeled against the impressions of truth. — There are some, like the adder, whose deaf ear the thunder from Sinai would not penetrate — these must abide the consequences of their obstinacy, and grope in the dark at noon-day, until their feet stumble on the black mountains, clanking with chains and with fetters.

The Agents who were unsuccessfully employed by this Province to solicit at the Court of King William the restoration of our first Charter, and who, it must be presumed, well understood the second, being present and consulted upon framing of it upon its tenor and operation, gave as a reason for their acceptance: — "Our General Courts having, with the King' s approbation, as much power in New-England as the King and Parliament have in England; they have all English privileges, and can be touched by no law, and by no tax, but of their own making." — Vide History of New-England.

Upon the arrival of our present Charter, in 1692, as appears by the History of this Government, "The first Act of our Assembly was a sort of Magna Charta, asserting and setting forth as a general privilege, ‘That no aid, tax, tallage, assessment, custom, loan, benevolence, or imposition whatever, shall be laid, imposed, or levied on any of their Majesties' subjects, or their estates, on any pretence whatever, but by the Act and consent of the Governor, Council, and Representatives of the people assembled in General Court.’" The above are a few, out of the many instances that might be adduced, where the sense of our ancestors, in a continued and uniform succession of events, is clear, full, and to the point. Could these, and similar instances, have escaped the extensive reading of the fair, of the impartial, and modest Massachusettensis? Especially as they are related by his favourite author, "his setting Sun?" Could he have read them, and yet, consistent


with that tremendous regard to truth and rigid impartiality which he every where superabundantly professes, with serious solemnity declare, that "the denial of our being subject to the authority of the British Parliament is new. And that it is beyond a doubt, that it was the sense, both of the Parent State and our ancestors, that they were to remain subject to Parliament?" — And, "that if a person had, some fifteen years ago, undertaken to prove that the Colonies were annexed to the Realm, were a part of the British Empire or Dominion, and, as such, subject to the authority of the British Parliament, he would have acted as ridiculous a part as to have undertaken to prove a self-evident proposition. — And had any person denied it, he would have been called a fool, or madman." Pause, my friends.

You may learn from this instance, the great facility of bare assertions without proof, as well as the persuasive air and graceful talent at making them — if misrepresentations can be graceful.

If the apprehension of the King, who was the other party to our Charter, and the sense of the Nation, at the time it was granted, coincided with the sentiments of our predecessors, it must exclude all doubt respecting our subjection; every quibbling mouth must be stopped from the irresistible conviction of the heart — and every honest man become an advocate for our exemption from the supreme authority of the British Parliament. To this, my countrymen, permit me to ask your close and candid attention.

The Colonies in general are in the same predicament. The independence of one will prove the independence of all. It may not be altogether impertinent to take a general survey of the doctrines and principles that formed the temper of the times in the reign of Charles the First. The ideas of British Government were founded upon the feudal system of policy, introduced by our Saxon auxiliaries, who, after subduing the Kingdom, divided the land among individuals in proportion to their rank and degree; and every man who by this division became a Freeholder, was then a Member of their Witten Gemote, or Parliament. This feudal polity was universally received, improved, and established in England, by the arbitrary will of the Norman Conqueror and his powerful Barons. In consequence of which it became a fundamental maxim and necessary principle in the English Constitution, "that the King was the universal Lord and original proprietor of all the lands in his Kingdom; and that no man doth, or can possess any part of it, but what was mediately or immediately derived as a gift from him, to be held upon feudal services." This scheme of policy, as it respected the King' s prerogatives, continued down until the Statutes of the 12th Charles II˙, Cap˙ 24, by which all its branches were lopped off at one blow and in the reign of William, the Third, of glorious memory, by the Revolution principles, was torn up root and trunk, and the whole tables of power and property reversed. The policy and principles of their Witten Gemote, or Parliament, which contained the life and soul of the English Constitution, survived unimpaired this general wreck of preposterous prerogatives. The Nation viewed the power of Parliament as only extending to those assembled therein personally or by Representatives, and assenting to Laws so made. They must have considered, to be consistent with themselves, an extension of the authority of this Assembly to those who have no voice, connection, or influence therein, as unnatural, unjust, and repugnant to the first principles and policy of their Constitution. Charles the First, taught by the examples of his predecessors, and confirmed in his errour by his Court sycophants, attempted to govern the Nation by the terrors of Royalty, and the absurd doctrine of a Divine, indefeasible right. In the reign of his father, James the First, the Judges of England determined that the King had a right to levy taxes, called tonnage and poundage, without the consent of Parliament. Charles, like an absolute monarch, governed the Nation eleven years without his Commons. For a long time he had exacted tonnage, poundage, ship-money impositions, with other arbitrary taxes, and exercised the right of selling monopolies, requiring benevolences, loans, &c˙, against the


repeated remonstrances of the Nation. The claiming of these rights, and contending for these prerogatives, was what finally cost him his Crown, and that head which was unworthy to wear it. Ship-money was the tax unauthorized by Parliament, in which the famous Hampden stood forth as a champion for the people. The cause was argued in the Court of Exchequer before all the Judges of England. Hampden was cast — the Nation roused — and the struggle for Liberty soon began.

Can any one suppose, without doing violence to common sense, that a King, contending for such a plenitude of power, in which he was supported by the examples of his predecessors, and the solemn adjudication of his Judges; possessing such principles, of which he was so tenacious as to seal them with his own blood and the blood of his favourites, meant to imply, In a Charter given to our ancestors, where he grants and yields to them and their successors, that they and every one of them shall be free and quit from all takes, subsidies, and customs in New-England, for the space of seven years, and from all taxes and Impositions for the space of twenty-one years, upon all Goods and Merchandise, at any time or times hereafter, either upon importation thither, or exportation from thence, &c˙ — I say meant to imply that after the expiration of those terms, they should be liable to impositions and taxes from Parliament, and not from himself, (as he considered in some cases his subjects in England,) independent of Parliament, or rather, that during these terms he would not himself require us to grant him any subsidies, aids, &c. Can any person imagine this? Was Massachusettensis serious when he said it? Thus: we have an argument, a priori, the granting of our first Charter, of the sense of the grantor, as we had with respect to our ancestors.

I am not yet done with this clause, which, we are told with an air of merriment, is rather an unfavourable circumstance for those who call the three-penny duty on Tea unconstitutional. If the King has considered this Colony as a part of the British Empire, and subject to the authority of Parliament, would he, could he by his own authority, have exempted it from taxes for seven or twenty years? If he could grant to one part of the British Empire to be free and quit from taxes, for the same reason he might to any and every part, and so lay the whole expense of Government upon a few individuals. If he could do this for seven or twenty years, for the same reason he might for seventy or seventy times seventy. This proves to demonstration, either that Charles the First apprehended, however the fact might be, that this Colony was not a part of the British Empire, or if it was, that it was not within the jurisdiction of Parliament. He undoubtedly viewed us as holding our lands of him as Lord paramount, according to the fictitious doctrine of the feudal system, and the Parliament strangers to the transaction.

If it should be said, although this clause does not imply the right in Parliament, yet it proves a right in the King to tax us, and we had as good be under the arbitrary power of the former as subject to the will or caprice of the latter; we answer, that the present question is not what is best, but what is in reality the fact — not concerning the power of the King, but the right of Parliament. However, it is infinitely better to have but one tyrant than a million. We should have no objection to the King' s taxing us by our own Assemblies. But these matters we will consider when we come to them; at present they are nothing to the purpose.

"In 1621, when the Commons proposed a bill to James the First, for the free liberty of fishing and fishing voyages, to be made and performed on the sea-coasts and places of Newfoundland, Virginia, and New-England, and other Countries, and parts of America," the Secretary of State was sent by His Majesty with the following declaration to the House of Commons, viz: "America is not annexed to the Realm, nor within the jurisdiction of Parliament; you have, therefore, no right to interfere:" and for this reason the bill was crushed. In like manner, when a bill respecting America was offered by the two Houses of Parliament to King Charles the First, (the very Prince who granted our Charter,) for his Royal assent, he refused it, giving as a reason, "that the Colonies were without the Realm and jurisdiction of Parliament." This needs no comment.


This same King, in a Commission to the Right Reverend Father in God, the Archbishop of Canterbury, with a number of others, forming them into a Committee for Regulating of Plantations, after premising that divers of his subjects, with their exceeding industry and charge, had deduced great numbers of English subjects into several Colonies, in several places of the world, either altogether desert and unpeopled, or enjoyed by savage and barbarous Nations, gives of his mere grace to the said Commissioned, the following powers of protection and Government, over all English Colonies already planted, or that may in future be planted, viz: Power to make Laws, Ordinances, and Constitutions, concerning the publick state of the said Colonies or individuals. — Power for ordering and directing them in their demeanour towards foreign Princes and their subjects, towards ourselves and our subjects, within any foreign parts, beyond seas, during their voyages upon the seas, or to and from the same. — Power to inflict punishment on all offenders, violators of Constitutions and Ordinances, by imprisonment, restraint, or by loss of life or member. — To remove all Governours and Presidents from their places, and to appoint others in their stead; to punish them by a deprivation of their Provinces, or pecuniary mulcts. — Power to ordain and constitute Judges, Magistrates, Tribunals, Courts of justice, forms of judicature, and manner of process, in all cases, civil or criminal. — Power to alter, revoke, and repeal, all the laws and ordinances, although they may have had our Royal assent; to make new ones, and to new and growing evils and perils, to apply new remedies, in such manner and so often as unto you shall appear necessary and expedient. — And power to hear and determine all complaints against the whole bodies of the Colonies themselves, or any Governour, and to demand delinquent Governours to England, or into any other part, according to your discretion, and also to revoke Charters, if not duly obtained, or if hurtful to our Crown and Royal prerogatives; and to do all other things which shall be necessary for the wholesome government and protection of the said Colonies, and our people therein abiding," &c˙ &c˙ &c.

This was the very Prince who granted our Charter. If the British Parliament had been Court, in the apprehension of this King, which had cognizance of those matters, would he have erected another, with all the powers that Parliament possess over any part of the British Empire for these regulations? Or, if in apprehension of the British Parliament themselves, would they have acquiesced in, and submitted to the exercise of such powers? Could the most absolute King that ever swayed the British Sceptre, have exercised such powers over any part of the Empire that was within the jurisdiction of Parliament? Has the Grand Monarch more authority? Does not this prove beyond a contradiction, that Charley the First viewed the Colonies as independent of the Empire, and exempt from the authority of Parliament, even the matter of regulating Trade? Lay your hand upon your breast, and let conscience answer.

In the reign of Charles the Second, several Acts passed abridging Trade with foreign Countries, and imposing duties upon several branches of Commerce between the Colonies, for the express purpose of regulating Trade, as the preamble of the Acts themselves demonstrate, and not to raise a Revenue to the Crown by the authority of Parliament. Virginia considered even these as grievances, and sent Agents to England to remonstrate against taxes and impositions being laid upon the Colony by the authority of Parliament.

This produced a declaration from the King, under the Privy Seal, asserting that "Taxes ought not to be laid upon the inhabitants and proprietors of the Colony but by the common consent of the General Assembly of the Colony." Accordingly, this Monarch, when a permanent Revenue for the support of Civil Government in Virginia was deemed necessary, did not attempt it by Parliamentary authority, but applied to their General Assembly; and an Act passed under the Great Seal, in which it was enacted, "by the King' s most Excellent Majesty," by and with the consent of the Colony of Virginia, &c. This Act granted a duty on Tobacco, for the support of Civil Government, which is still paid by virtue of it. Had this Colony been a part of the British Empire, in the apprehension of the King, he could not have become a part of their Legislative authority, in making a law to tax the people there. This


would involve the political solecism, with a witness, of imperium in imperio; the King, Lords, and Commons forming the only Legislative power over the British Empire. The Parliament passing this affair over sub silentio, shows sufficiently their apprehension of the matter. In these instances, the sense of Charles the First, of his immediate predecessor, and successor; three successive Kings, privy in the order of events to our emigration, incorporation, and legislation under that incorporation, is as clear, and as full as words or actions could make them.

It is obvious to observe here, that a compact, or an agreement between parties, is only the mutual assent or consent of their minds, touching something which is the subject matter of their contract. The writing upon parchment or paper, is only the evidence of this assent. The agreement is, in the language of the learned, aggregatio mentium in realiqua facta vel facienda.

Make, my friends, a recollective pause. Permit me to ask you the following simple questions: Does not the King of England hold his Crown by compact? Is not the relation that is subsisting between him and his subjects in Great Britain, founded upon compact? Is not the relation that is subsisting between us and Great Britain, founded upon compact? Was not our Charter the evidence of this compact? Was it not the sense of King Charles the First, and of our ancestors, the parties to this Charter, that this Colony was not a part of the Empire, and should not be subject to the authority of Parliament? Is not this sense of the parties, the very essence and vitals of the compact? Were we not, then, upon the reception of our Charter, independent of the Supreme power of the Parent State? And are we not so now, of course, unless some subsequent transaction has united us? If you cannot answer all these questions clearly in the affirmative, I have only this favour to ask, which you cannot reasonably deny me, that you carefully review our past reasonings upon those subjects, with minds open to conviction; reconsider adduced facts fairly in their nature, tendency, and circumstances; and deliberately revolving the whole process in your own breast, judging for yourselves, yield your assent wherever the evidence preponderates.

You will excuse me, my fellow-countrymen, for having carried you into this dry detail of historical matters — matters that are well known — that have been often repeated. My design was to stir up your pure minds, by way of remembrance, when you are told, with an air of seriousness bordering upon devotion, that the Colonies have always been considered by the British Nation, and by the Colonists themselves, until within these few years, as within the jurisdiction of Parliament; a representation as remote from truth, as was ever propagated by the tongue of man, or the pen of prostitution; at a time when Royal Charters, National Faith, and the eternal principle of justice, on which they are founded, are puffed away by a British Senate, as motes and straws floating in the air; and the civil and natural rights of as loyal a people as ever breathed God' s air, or trod his earth, all prostrate at the feet of a Minister of State, are by his ***********, wantonly trampled under foot.

It is unnecessary to say any thing to rouse the Americans. That man must be dead — past reanimating, who is not wide awake. He would discharge a kinder office, was there not danger of our dozing too long, who would administer political opiates, to render us, if possible, insensible of the cruel, barbarous, distressing, horrid oppressions we suffer, and unfeeling to the studied indignities that are offered us; that would enable us to suppress the emotions and ebullitions of an English heart; and by our spirit and firmness, moderation and forbearance, form a paradox which none but Americans can solve; keeping our swords in their scabbards, unless urgent necessity, or self-preservation should call them forth, and sheath them elsewhere.




* By independence is not meant any thing inconsistent with the strictest allegiance or subjection to our gracious Sovereign, who glories in being born a Briton — the brightest gem in whose crown is to rule in the hearts, and reign over Freemen; or inconsistent with that authority of Parliament necessary for the regulation of Trade, the rectitude and fitness of which we cheerfully acknowledge.