« PreviousContinue »
improvident it would be to part with so powerful a mediator.
We are of opinion that the proposition contained in this resolution is unreasonable and insidious; unreasonable, because, if we declare we accede to it, we declare without reservation, we will purchase the favour of parliament, not knowing at the same time at what price they will please to estimate their favour; it is insidious, because, individual colonies, having bid and bidden again, until they find the avidity of the seller too great for all their powers to satisfy ; are then to return into opposition, divided from their sister colonies, whom the minister will have previously detached by a grant of easier terms, or by an artful procrastination of a definitive answer.
That the suspension of the exercise of their pretended power of taxation being expressly made commensurate with the continuance of our gifts, these must be perpetual to make that so. Whereas no experience has shewn that a gift of perpetual revenue secures a perpetual return of duty or of kind disposition. On the contrary, the parliament itself, wisely attentive to this observation, are in the established practice of granting their supplies from year to year only.
Desirous and determined as we are to consider, in the most dispassionate view, every seeming advance towards a reconciliation made by the British parliament, let our brethren of Britain reflect what would have been the sacrifice to men of free spirits, had even fair terms been proffered, as these insidious proposals were, with circumstances of insult and defiance. A proposition to give our money, accompanied with large fleets and armies, seems addressed to our fears rather than to our freedom. With what patience would Britons have received articles of treaty from any power on earth when borne on the point of a bayonet by military plenipotentiaries?
We think the attempt unnecessary to raise upon us by force or by threats our proportional contributions to the common defence, when all know, and themselves acknow. ledge, we have fully contributed, whenever called upon to do so in the character of freemen.
We are of opinion it is not just that the colonies should be required to oblige themselves to other contributions: while Great Britain possesses a monopoly of their trade. This of itself lays them under heavy contribution. To demand, therefore, additional aids in the form of a tax, is to demand the double of their equal proportion. If we are to contribute equally with the other parts of the empire, let us equally with them, enjoy free commerce with the whole world. But while the restrictions on our trade shut to us the resources of wealth, is it just we should bear all other burdens equally with those to whom every resource is open?
We conceive that the British parliament has no right to intermeddle with our provisions for the support of civil government, or administration of justice. The provisions we have made are such as please ourselves, and are agreeable to our circumstances: they answer the substantial purposes of government and of justice, and other purposes than these should not be answered. We do not mean that our people shall be burdened with oppressive taxes, to provide sinecures for the idle or the wicked, under colour of providing for a civil list. While parliament pursue their plan of civil government within their own jurisdiction, we also hope to pursue ours without molestation.
We are of opinion the proposition is altogether unsatisfactory; because it imports only a suspension of the mode, not a renunciation of the pretended right to tax us: because too, it does not propose to repeal the seves ral acts of parliament, passed for the purposes of restraining the trade, and altering the form of government of one of our colonies; extending the boundaries and changing the government of Quebec; enlarging the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty and vice admiralty ; taking from us the rights of a trial by a jury of the vicinage, in cases affecting both life and property ; transporting us into
other countries to be tried for criminal offences; exempt. ing, by mock trial, the murderers of colonists from punishment ; and quartering soldiers upon us in times of profound peace. Nor do they renounce the power of suspending our own legislatures, and of legislating for us themselves, in all cases whatsoever. On the contrary, to show they mean no discontinuance of injury, they pass acts, at the very time of holding out this proposition, for restraining the commerce and fisheries of the provinces of New England, and for interdicting the trade of other colonies with all foreign nations, and with each other. This proves, unequivocally, they mean not to relinquish the exercise of indiscriminate legislation over us.
Upon the whole, this proposition seems to have been held up to the world, to deceive it into a belief that there was nothing in dispute between us, but the mode of levying taxes ; and that the parliament having now been so good as to give up this, the colonies are unreasonable, if not perfectly satisfied ; whereas, in truth, our adversaries still claim a right of demanding ad libitum, and of taxing us themselves to the full amount of their demand, if we do not comply with it. This leaves us without any thing we can call property. But, what is of more importance, and what in this proposal they keep out of sight, as if no such point was now in contest between us, they claim a right to alter our charters, and establish laws, and leave us without any security for our lives or liberties. The proposition seems also to have been calculated more particularly to lull into fatal security our well affected fellow subjects on the other side of the water, until time should be given for the operation of those arms, which, a British minister pronounced, would instantaneously reduce the “ cowardly” sons of America to unreserved submission. But when the world reflects, how inadequate to justice are these vaunted terms; when it attends to the rapid and bold succession of injuries, which, during a course of eleven years, have been aimed at these colonies; when it reviews the pacific and respectful exposVOL. II.
tulations, which, during that whole time, were the sole arms we opposed to them ; when it observes that our complaints were either not heard at all, or were answered with new and accumulated injuries; when it recollects that the minister himself on an early occasion declared, " that he would never treat with America, until he had brought her to his feet,” and that an avowed partisan of ministry has more lately denounced against us the dreadful sentence “delenda est Carthago," that this was done in presence of a British senate, and being unreproved by them, must be taken to be their own sentiment, (especially as the purpose has already in part been carried into execution, by their treatment of Boston, and burning of Charlestown ;) when it considers the great armaments with which they have invaded us, and the circumstances of cruelty with which they have commenced and prosecuted hostilities : when these things, we say, are laid together and attentively considered, can the world be deceived into an opinion that we are unreasonable, or can it hesitate to believe with us, that nothing but our own exertions may defeat the ministerial sentence of death or abject submis. sion.”
[Referred to in page 207.]
“ To the oppressed inhabitants of Canada. 6 Friends and country men,
“ Alarmed by the design of an arbitrary ministry to extirpate the rights and liberties of all America, a sense of common danger conspired with the dictates of humanity, in urging us to call your attention, by our late address, to this very important object.
“ Since the conclusion of the late war, we have been happy in considering you as fellow subjects, and from the commencement of the present plan for subjugating the
continent, we have viewed you as fellow sufferers with us. As we were both entitled by the bounty of an indulgent creator to freedom, and being both devoted by the cruel edicts of a despotic administration, to common ruin, we perceived the fate of the protestant and catholic colonies to be strongly linked together, and therefore invited you to join with us in resolving to be free, and in rejecting, with disdain, the fetters of slavery, however artfully polished.
“ We most sincerely condole with you on the arrival of that day, in the course of which the sun could not shine on a single freeman in all your extensive dominion. Be assured, that your unmerited degradation has engaged the most unfeigned pity of your sister colonies; and we flatter ourselves you will not, by tamely bearing the yoke, suffer that pity to be supplanted by contempt.
“ When hardy attempts are made to deprive men of rights bestowed by the Almighty; when avenues are cut through the most solemn compacts for the admission of despotism; when the plighted faith of government ceases to give security to dutiful subjects, and when the insidious stratagems and maneuvres of peace, become more terrible than the sanguinary operations of war; it is high time for them to assert those rights, and, with honest indignation, oppose the torrent of oppression rushing in upon them.
By the introduction of your present form of government, or rather, present form of tyranny, you and
your wives and your children are made slaves. You have nothing that you can call your own, and all the fruits of your labour and industry may be taken from you, whenever an avaricious governor and a rapacious council may incline to demand them. You are liable by their edicts to be transported into foreign countries to fight battles in which you have no interest, and to spill your blood in conflicts from which neither honour, nor emolument can be derived: nay, the enjoyment of your very religion, on the present system, depends on a legislature in which you have no share, and over which you have no control; and