Papers of John Adams, volume 2

To a Friend in London

From Samuel Swift

The Letters of Novanglus: 23 January–April 1775 The Letters of Novanglus: 23 January–April 1775
The Letters of Novanglus
23 January–April 1775
Editorial Note Editorial Note
Editorial Note

The Continental Association and the Bill of Rights of the First Continental Congress turned American against American as never before. Extreme whigs professed that their only goal was to win increased auton-217omy for the colonies within the British Empire—a return to the status quo before George Grenville—but they were not always believed by the moderates. Among the latter, some suspected that the extremists were deliberately striving to achieve American independence, while others believed that they were unwittingly leading the colonies into a potentially ruinous war with Great Britain. As a result, in virtually every province men debated the wisdom of extremist leadership, the prudence of the steps taken by the Congress, and the nature of the proper relationship between colonies and mother country. Especially intense in Massachusetts, this debate gave rise to the famous exchange of pseudonymous newspaper letters between John Adams as Novanglus and Daniel Leonard as Massachusettensis.

Leonard, a prosperous Taunton lawyer, was a good friend of Adams. In old age Adams bitterly recalled that Thomas Hutchinson had “Seduced from my Bosom, three of the most intimate Friends I ever had in my Life, Jonathan Sewall, Samuel Quincy, and Daniel Leonard” (JA to William Tudor, 16 Nov. 1816, LbC, Adams Papers). In 1769 Leonard entered the lower house of the General Court for the first time, where he was to distinguish himself until 1774 as a supporter of the popular party led by Samuel Adams and James Otis, voting for the recall of Governor Bernard and for the letter asking for the dismissal of Chief Justice Peter Oliver and Governor Hutchinson. Like some other partisans of the popular party, however, Leonard turned against it after the Boston Tea Party and became increasingly more favorably disposed toward the Hutchinson administration and the policies of the British government it represented.

His changed attitude led him to accept an appointment from General Gage in August 1774 as one of 36 mandamus councilors, an act that so enraged the people of Taunton that he was obliged to remove himself and his family to Boston for their safety (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 14:641–644). In Boston, according to a letter written by Leonard in 1779, “he was solicited by several of the principal gentlemen there, to endeavour to trace the discontents of the people to their source, to point out the criminality and ruinous tendency of the opposition to the authority of parliament, and to convince the people of the justice of the measures of Administration” (Leonard to Sir Grey Cooper, 26 June 1779, P.R.O., A. O. 13/74, f.517, DLC Microfilm Copy). Leonard responded to these solicitations by defending the anti-whig position in seventeen letters originally printed in consecutive issues of the Massachusetts Gazette; and the Boston Post-Boy and Advertiser from 12 December 1774 to 3 April 1775.

Because John Adams quotes only brief excerpts from Leonard's letters, an account of his main arguments at some length seems warranted. Adams, whose letters will be printed in their entirety, can be dealt with more briefly. Leonard sounded several themes: the practical dangers in the course the whigs were pursuing; the reciprocal relations of protection and subordination that ought to prevail between Britain and the colonies; the 218 219 destruction of the Massachusetts constitution coming from the political maneuvers of the whigs; the positive benefits flowing from the mother country; and the inadequacy and inconsistency of whig reasoning on the relationship between Parliament and the colonies. Although there is nothing original in the Massachusettensis letters, they are lucid, sometimes clever in their appeal, and sharp in their thrusts. They are arguments that a skillful lawyer might have addressed to jurymen, playing on their fears and flattering them by exposing the whigs to ridicule. Leonard dismissed out of hand the ponderous legal arguments with which Adams buttressed his conviction that the colonies were not part of the realm. For Leonard, Adams' citations were nothing but “a huge pile of learning” (3 April 1775). In this encounter at least, Leonard understood better the art of public persuasion. Adams sought to bowl over his opponent with an astonishing display of legal scholarship that might have impressed lawyers but would certainly have left ordinary readers bewildered, exhausted, and finally bored.

Both men had one thing in common: neither believed that the confrontation shaping up between Britain and America resulted from misunderstandings. Both saw a calculated effort, a drive for power in the colonies, as the root cause. For Leonard, the “bad policy of a popular party” (19 Dec. 1774) had virtually muzzled the press and had undermined the Massachusetts constitution through purges of the Council, so that it could not play its proper role of moderator “between the two extremes of prerogative and privilege” (26 Dec. 1774). But he ignores the multiplicity of offices that selected councilors accumulated, which justified the purges in whig eyes. According to Leonard, whigs are leading the multitude down the path of high treason to secure the independence of the colonies, which he believes is the unacknowledged goal of the whigs. He begs the people to reflect upon the dangers of treason; upon the might of the British, who will surely resort to war to save their colonies; and upon the divisions among Americans and their lack of resources and discipline that will bring destruction in an unequal contest with the mother country (12 Dec. 1774, 23 Jan., 3 April 1775). Leonard reminds his readers of the protection and benefits that Britain has furnished the colonies from the first—of protection against France and Spain that the colonies actively sought in the past and of the bounties and other supports for American crops, benefits that far outweigh the duties paid (13, 20 March 1775).

Among the terrors of independence, Leonard foresees the vulnerability of the fishing and maritime industries to powerful enemies and the eventual rise of a dictator to quell the divided Americans, exhausted and burdened with war taxes from the struggle with Britain. France and Spain will get back their lost territories, and America will become the Poland of the New World (30 Jan. 1775). Like all conservatives, Leonard feared the risks of drastic change. He chose the settled ways of due subordination to legitimate and recognized authority. He has little to say of liberty. He admits that occasionally in the past real grievances have been redressed 220when the people have insisted upon their rights, but he asserts that that was not the usual pattern (26 Dec. 1774). As for grievances, he feels that practically all of them can be explained away. The Declaratory Act is not to be read absolutely literally; it does not deliver the colonies bound hand and foot to the tender mercies of Parliament; rather, it asserts Parliament's right to tax and legislate within the limits of respect for traditional liberties (20 Feb. 1775). The Massachusetts Government Act is necessary to restore the constitutional balance subverted by the whigs, to furnish protection to those who disagree with the popular party. And Leonard finds inexplicable whig hostility to the toleration granted Roman Catholics under the Quebec Act (13 Feb. 1775).

Parliament's authority to raise a revenue Leonard bases mainly upon the protection that Britain affords the colonies. He denies any distinction between duties and revenue if the intent is to raise a tax, whether the word revenue is used or not. Through various statutes, Parliament raised revenues long before 1764 (27 Feb. 1775). Only three of his letters deal in any significant way with the theory of empire, with the whole question of Parliament's relation to the colonies within the meaning of the British constitution. For Leonard, the constitution is the principle of mixed government, the provision for a monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic principle, which gives the best government known to man. “An Englishman glories in being subject to and protected by such a government.” Settlers who go off to a new country remain nonetheless part of the empire. Local assemblies are meant to handle only internal police. The supreme power in a state can have only one locus; in the British case, that center of power is the Parliament, a position taken by Governor Hutchinson in 1773 in his dispute with the House. Parliament's supremacy was intended and acknowledged from the very beginning of the colonies. To rely solely upon a personal connection with the King, to speak of the “King of Massachusetts” and ignore Parliament, is to set up a King whose prerogatives “have never been defined or limitted” (9, 16 Jan. 1775). Here Leonard is touching upon the very concern of the English whigs, who feared that rejection of Parliamentary authority opened the door to tyranny, for it was Parliament that had defined English liberties.

Leonard goes on to insist that Ireland, Jersey, and Guernsey are all subject to Parliament, whether they have their own legislative bodies or not, whether they are represented in Parliament or not. To claim exemption from Parliamentary authority makes one an alien, an absurdity on the face of it. The very charter by which Massachusetts sets such great store recognizes a right to tax after a limited number of years, and under English law, taxation can only be by the King in Parliament. To assert that the original charter guarantee of English liberties exempts the colony from taxation because Massachusetts freemen are not represented in Parliament is to make the charter inconsistent in language and therefore wholly void (16 Jan. 1775). The charter of 1691 would have been void as well if it had denied the authority of Parliament, for the Crown cannot “alienate a part 221of the British dominions, nor impair the supreme power of the empire” (23 Jan. 1775).

In stating his case, Leonard relies chiefly upon past practice, charter interpretation, citation of statutes, and, perhaps most disconcertingly, the words of James Otis and John Dickinson, whigs who had acknowledged in print the authority of Parliament. None of Leonard's arguments is supported by delving into arcane legal sources or by critical examination of legal authorities. He does not deign to enter the area of combat that Adams blocks out. Leonard does not refer to Novanglus by name until his letter of February 20, the eleventh in his series, by which time four of Adams' letters were already in print. Leonard replies to Adams' claim that the press is really open to all, and he defends governors Shirley and Hutchinson from Adams' charges of conspiracy (6 March 1775). Beyond that, Leonard contents himself with an occasional gibe. In his last letter, he offers, in true tory style, his own recipe for peace: “We have only to cease contending . . . with the King respecting his prerogatives, and with Great-Britain respecting our subordination; to dismiss our illegal committees, disband our forces, despise the thraldom of arrogant congresses, and submit to constitutional government, to be happy” (3 April 1775).

Leonard's letters seem to have given heart to the moderates and pause to some of the extremists in the province. At the beginning of 1775 James Warren complained that “the publications of Massachusettensis are read by the tories with more devotion and Esteem than Holy writt.” Much later John Adams admitted that Massachusettensis “excited great exultation among the tories and many gloomy apprehensions among the whigs” (James Warren to Samuel Adams, 1 Jan. 1775, NN:Samuel Adams Papers; Novanglus and Massachusettensis . . . , Boston, 1819, p. vi). Nor was their impact diminished by the outbreak of armed hostilities between British and American forces at Lexington and Concord in April 1775. For some, this clash seemed to confirm Leonard's worst forebodings; it may have been responsible for the appearance of numerous pamphlet editions of the Massachusettensis letters in Boston, New York, London, and Dublin in 1775 and 1776 (T. R. Adams, American Independence , No. 180 a–g).

Returning home to Braintree after the dissolution of Massachusetts' First Provincial Congress on 10 December 1774, John Adams “found the Massachusetts Gazette teeming with political speculations, and Massachusettensis shining like the moon among the lesser stars” (Novanglus and Massachusettensis, p. vi). Almost immediately he concluded that Massachusettensis was none other than his good friend and long-time polemical sparring partner, Jonathan Sewall—an erroneous belief he continued to hold until just a few years before his death. Leonard's name did not appear publicly as the author until the letters were reprinted in a London edition in 1822.

Adams' mistake is the more curious because Massachusettensis had been identified as Leonard by John Trumbull in 1775. In A New Proclamation! 222 by Thomas Gage . . . (Hartford, 1775, p. 3; Evans, No. 14526), Trumbull included these lines: “Did not my scribbler general strain hard / My Massachusettensis, L——d.” He carried these lines over into his McFingal, written in the fall of 1775, changing “my scribbler” to “our scribbler” and spelling out Leonard's name. He also supplied a footnote explaining his allusion (McFingal, Phila., 1775, p. 15–16). Trumbull sent the MS of McFingal to Silas Deane, asking that he reveal the author's name to no one but John Adams ( Deane Papers , 1:89). After reading the poem, Adams expressed his pleasure to Trumbull, commenting, “It is excellent, and perhaps the more so for being misterious. It wants explanatory Notes as much as Hudibras” (JA to Trumbull, 5 Nov. 1775, NjP:de Coppet Coll.). It is almost inconceivable that Adams did not see the first American edition of McFingal with its footnote on Leonard. Subsequent editions omit Leonard's name, and it may be that Trumbull came to believe he was mistaken; but Adams' surprise that Massachusettensis could be other than Sewall and his never mentioning that Leonard's name had been suggested by his former law clerk remain unexplained.

As the letters of Massachusettensis began to appear, Adams hoped some whig would come forward to refute them. When no such refutation appeared and the need for one became glaringly evident, he took it upon himself to undertake a reply in thirteen letters written under the signature of Novanglus. The pseudonym was thin cover; his friends and others soon knew who he was, for the learning and the style were unmistakable. The first twelve letters were originally published in the Boston Gazette from 23 January to 17 April 1775, and the last was never published at all, owing to the temporary suspension of printing in Massachusetts after Lexington and Concord (Novanglus and Massachusettensis, p. iv–vii; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:313).

In his Novanglus letters Adams examines the letters of Massachusettensis with the closest attention, refuting his facts and seizing upon an unwarranted assumption here or a non sequitur there. But the fascination of a legal argument so lays hold of him that he forgets Massachusettensis for long stretches, pausing occasionally to apologize for the thickets he leads his readers through. His thoroughness prevented him from replying directly to any of the arguments Leonard put forth after his first six letters. Essentially Adams is arguing that the American colonies are not part of the realm and are therefore not subject to the authority of Parliament. To prove his point, he recounts at length the historical and legal position of Wales and Ireland. Conquest of these areas did not subject them to Parliament's authority until special steps were taken to secure the consent of the people concerned; until then, the areas were not part of the realm, but owed fealty to the person of the King (Nos. VIII, X, and XI, below). In his final printed letter Adams describes the feudal condition of Chester and Durham; none of these places can serve as a model for how the American colonies should be treated (No. XII, below). But Americans are willing to allow Parliament to regulate trade, 223freely consenting to such regulation, as stipulated in the fourth article of the Bill of Rights adopted by the First Continental Congress.

Adams rejects the notion that Britain is an empire and that the colonies owe obedience to the “imperial crown,” asserting that the British empire is unknown to law and that the “imperial crown” is a fiction of courtiers (No. III, below). Britain is closer to a republic than any other form of government, for Adams defines a republic as “a government of laws, and not of men.” Allegiance from the colonies is owed directly to the person, not the political capacity of the King (No. VII, below). In answer to Massachusettensis, who pointed out that attachment to only the person of the King threatened liberty because Parliament has circumscribed royal prerogatives, Adams insisted that the ultimate source of liberties was the law of nature, that the rights of Englishmen were secured by contract with the King, and that these rights were “sufficiently known.” Colonies that have no charters or contracts are protected by the instructions to their governors, for no law gave the English King absolute powers anywhere (No. VIII, below).

Parliament's attempt to collect taxes, however, does not arise from imperfect understanding of the legally and historically defined relation between the King and the colonies. Adams traces back to Governor Shirley a conspiracy to raise taxes that would ultimately free officials in Massachusetts from dependence upon the legislature and reduce the people to a kind of slavery (Nos. I and II, below). With slavery in prospect, Adams sees no reason to fear the might of the British or divisions among Americans (No. III, below). Yet he emphatically denies that Americans are seeking independence (Nos. IV and VIII, below).

Adams' view that the colonies were not part of the realm and thus not subject to Parliament's authority was no new idea for him. Beginning with “A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law,” he had noted the modified feudalism under which Puritans held their lands. By 1773, when he helped the House of Representatives to prepare its replies to Governor Hutchinson, he had recognized that direct dependence upon the King arising from acceptance of land grants freed Americans from dependence upon Parliament (see Constitutional Debate between Governor Hutchinson and the House, 26 Jan. – 2 March 1773, Nos. III and V I and III , above). That Americans merely consented to the regulation of trade by Parliament was the language he had drafted for the fourth article of the Bill of Rights of the First Continental Congress (5 Sept. – 26 Oct. 1774, No. IV, note 3, above). What Adams does in the Novanglus letters is to supply more elaborate underpinning from legal authorities and from history for these beliefs.

The Novanglus letters did not soon obtain the wide reprinting enjoyed by the letters of Massachusettensis. A spot check shows only two New England newspapers reprinting a few of Adams' letters, while Leonard's letters were reprinted completely in six editions before the year 1776 was out (Essex Gazette, 14 Feb.–18 April, 2 May 1775; New Hampshire 224Gazette, 17 March–14 April 1775; T. R. Adams, American Independence , No. 180 b–g). John Almon, a radical English bookseller sympathetic to the American cause, in an effort to mobilize English public opinion against the North ministry's repressive colonial policies, reprinted, without Adams' knowledge, portions of the second through the sixth letters under the title “History of the Dispute with America; from Its Origin in 1754,” in his Remembrancer, or Impartial Repository of Public Events, London, 1st edn., 1775, p. 24–32, 45–54. Almon eliminated virtually all the matter in these letters pertaining exclusively to Massachusetts provincial politics, concentrating instead on all that related to the crisis between the Bay Colony and the British government. He changed Adams' references to Massachusettensis to vaguer allusions—to a “ministerial writer” or some comparable variant—and added a few sentences of his own to smooth transitions between sections of the letters. Despite excisions and alterations, Almon is faithful to the substance (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:313; same to Jedidiah Morse, 20 Nov. 1815, LbC, Adams Papers; and to Hezekiah Niles, 25 May 1817, LbC, Adams Papers).

Adams himself was responsible for the next reprinting in the Revolutionary era, a Dutch translation of the Almon edition published in book form and entitled Geschiedenis van het geschil tusschen Groot-Britannie en Amerika, zedert deszelfs oorsprong, in den jaare 1754, tot op den tegenwoordigen tijd. Door . . . John Adams, Amsterdam, 1782. The preface of this volume, which describes the scope of the whole Novanglus series, was probably written by Adams for translation into Dutch or composed by a citizen of the United Provinces on the basis of information supplied by Adams. The book also contains two “Letters from a Gentleman in the Province of Massachusetts, to his Friend in London,” 21 January, 10 February 1775, which complement the arguments of Novanglus, which Almon initially published as anonymous letters, and which are here ascribed to Adams for the first time (Remembrancer, 1:10–11). Although Adams obviously arranged for the printing of this work for the general purpose of inducing the Dutch government to favor the American cause, his surviving papers make no reference to it and thus give no hint of more specific motives.

The last edition of the Novanglus letters to appear while Adams was in public life was a pamphlet printed by John Stockdale under the title History of the Dispute with America; from Its Origin in 1754 . . . By John Adams, Esq., London, 1784. Stockdale had once worked as a porter for John Almon, and, as can be surmised from the title, his pamphlet was merely a reprint of Almon's edition. Adams had nothing to do with the Stockdale effort, nor is there a ready explanation for the decision to issue it. The reprinting, however, provided an anonymous English reviewer, who seemed well disposed to America, with an opportunity of denigrating Adams' efforts as a polemicist:

The conduct of Barnard and Hutchinson is treated with great freedom and asperity; nor is the indignant Author less sparing of the characters 225of some eminent statesmen in England, under whose influence they projected and pursued the inauspicious system of American taxation. Mr. Adams foretold the consequence of obstinately adhering to it; and the event hath too well verified his predictions. They were, however, PREDICTIONS WHICH REQUIRED NO INSPIRATION (The Monthly Review, 70:477–478 [London, 1784]).

Over three decades passed before a new edition of the Novanglus letters was printed. In 1818 Abraham Hews Jr. and Sylvester Goss, inspired by the burst of nationalist fervor which swept across the country in the aftermath of the War of 1812, conceived the idea of reproducing the Novanglus and Massachusettensis letters together in a single book. The two Boston printers obtained from Adams, who at the time was busily exhorting his younger countrymen to apply themselves to the task of writing accurate histories of the American Revolution, consent to publish his side of the correspondence. The end result was Novanglus and Massachusettensis; or Political Essays, Published in the Years 1774 and 1775, on the Principal Points of Controversy, between Great Britain and Her Colonies . . . , Boston, 1819. In addition to the letters, which Hews and Goss reprinted directly from the original newspapers with minor changes in punctuation, this volume also contains a preface and an appendix by Adams. The preface, wrongly identifying Jonathan Sewall as Adams' antagonist, describes the relationship between the two men and their last meeting. The appendix contains letters, published as well as unpublished, from Adams to William Tudor, William Wirt, and Hezekiah Niles, describing the opening stages of the American Revolution.

One unanticipated but not unwelcome consequence of the publication of this book was that it helped to goad Daniel Leonard, then living in London after his retirement as chief justice of Bermuda, to come forward and admit openly to being the real author of the Massachusettensis letters, thereby freeing Adams of a misapprehension he had labored under for many years (Adams to Abraham Holmes, 14 Oct. 1821, LbC, Adams Papers). Since no record of an edition of the Massachusettensis letters for 1821 has been found, it is not clear how Adams knew in 1821 about Judge Chipman's affadavit certifying Leonard's authorship, which appears in the 1822 edition and is dated 20 August 1822 (Massachusettensis; or A Series of Letters Published under that Signature in the Years 1774 & 1775 . . . , London, 1822, p. v–vii).

Since the death of John Adams in 1826, only two other editions of the Novanglus letters have appeared in print. Charles Francis Adams was responsible for the first of these (JA, Works , 4:3–177), Bernard Mason for the second (The American Colonial Crisis: The Daniel Leonard-John Adams Letters to the Press, 1774–1775, N.Y., 1972). The former reprints all the letters which were published in the Boston Gazette, although it is uncertain whether the text is based on the Gazette or the 1819 edition of Novanglus (D/CFA/20, Nov. 1850–Jan. 1851). What is indisputable, however, is that editor Adams modernized the letters to some 226extent by correcting misspelled words, altering the tenses of some verbs, and rearranging whole paragraphs. Moreover, he removed from the text of the letters and placed in footnotes at the bottom of appropriate pages, references to John Adams' citations of legal and historical works. Consequently, the reader is often unsure whether footnotes give John Adams' citations or identifications of sources made by Charles Francis Adams. Finally, the editor, without distorting the original meaning, sometimes silently changed his grandfather's wording to give it more polish. In contrast, Mason's reprinting of selections from the Novanglus letters and those of Massachusettensis are faithful to the originals. Mason is the first to print, if only in part, Adams' thirteenth letter. He also provides a perceptive introduction.

The present edition presents in full all thirteen Novanglus letters. Since none of the twelve published letters survives in manuscript, they are reprinted here from the Boston Gazette. The thirteenth is a composite made from Adams' draft supplemented by two contemporary copies made by Judge William Cushing. Although each of the letters has been treated generally in accordance with the textual principles set forth in the first volume of this series, certain differences in treatment are worth noting. Because the source for the published letters is the same, their notes omit the usual descriptive note. Each letter is numbered consecutively, with a roman numeral, without accompanying table of contents. The date for each is that of publication. Unfamiliar Latin phrases and passages whose meaning is essential for understanding the argument are translated in footnotes at the bottom of appropriate pages rather than in the notes at the end of documents. The location in the Massachusettensis letters of Adams' paraphrases and quotations from them will not be noted; and, if the quotations are not verbatim, they will not be corrected unless the original sense has been altered. In a few instances, punctuation has been changed to prevent misreading.

I. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 23 January 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


I. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 23 January 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
I. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, 23 January 1775

A Writer, under the signature of Massachusettensis, has addressed you, in a series of papers, on the great national subject of the present quarrel between the British administration and the colonies. As I have not in my possession, more than one of his Essays, and that is in the Gazette of December 26, I will take the liberty, in the spirit of candor and decency, to bespeak your attention, upon the same subject.1

There may be occasion, to say very severe things, before I shall have 227finished what I propose, in opposition to this writer, but there ought to be no reviling. Rem ipsam dic, mitte male loqui, which may be justly translated, speak out the whole truth boldly, but use no bad language.

It is not very material to enquire, as others have done, who is the author of the speculations in question. If he is a disinterested writer, and has nothing to gain or lose, to hope or fear, for himself, more than other individuals of your community; but engages in this controversy from the purest principles, the noblest motives of benevolence to men, and of love to his country, he ought to have no influence with you, further than truth and justice will support his argument. On the other hand, if he hopes to acquire or preserve a lucrative employment, to screen himself from the just detestation of his countrymen, or whatever other sinister inducement he may have; as far as the truth of facts and the weight of argument, are in his favour, he ought to be heard and regarded.

He tells you “that the temporal salvation of this province depends upon an entire and speedy change of measures, which must depend upon a change of sentiments respecting our own conduct and the justice of the British nation.”

The task, of effecting these great changes, this courageous writer, has undertaken in a course of publications in a news-paper. Nil desperandum is a good motto, and Nil admirari,2 is another. He is welcome to the first, and I hope will be willing that I should assume the last. The public, if they are not mistaken in their conjecture, have been so long acquainted with this gentleman, and have seen him so often disappointed, that if they were not habituated to strange things, they would wonder at his hopes, at this time to accomplish the most unpromising project of his whole life. In the character of Philanthrop,3 he attempted to reconcile you, to Mr. Bernard. But the only fruit of his labour was, to expose his client to more general examination, and consequently to more general resentment and aversion. In the character of Philalethes,4 he essayed to prove Mr. Hutchinson a Patriot, and his letters not only innocent, but meritorious. But the more you read and considered, the more you were convinced of the ambition and avarice, the simulation and dissimulation, the hypocricy and perfidy of that destroying angel.

This illfated and unsuccessful, tho' persevering writer, still hopes to change your sentiments and conduct—by which it is supposed that he means to convince you that the system of colony administration, 228which has been pursued for these ten or twelve years past, is a wise, righteous and humane plan: that Sir Francis Bernard and Mr. Hutchinson, with their connections, who have been the principal instruments of it, are your best friends;—and that those gentlemen in this province, and in all the other colonies, who have been in opposition to it, are from ignorance, error, or from worse and baser causes, your worst enemies.

This is certainly an inquiry, that is worthy of you: and I promise to accompany this writer, in his ingenious labours to assist you in it. And I earnestly intreat you, as the result of all shall be, to change your sentiments or persevere in them, as the evidence shall appear to you, upon the most dispassionate and impartial consideration, without regard to his opinion or mine.

He promises to avoid personal reflections, but to penetrate the arcana, and expose the wretched policy of the whigs.—The cause of the whigs is not conducted by intrigues at a distant court, but by constant appeals to a sensible and virtuous people; it depends intirely on their good will, and cannot be pursued a single step without their concurrence, to obtain which all designs, measures and means, are constantly published to the collective body. The whigs therefore can have no arcana: But if they had, I dare say they were never so left, as to communicate them to this writer: you will therefore be disappointed if you expect from him any thing which is true, but what has been as publick as records and news-papers could make it.

I, on my part, may perhaps in a course of papers, penetrate arcana too. Shew the wicked policy of the Tories—trace their plan from its first rude sketches to its present compleat draught. Shew that it has been much longer in contemplation, than is generally known—who were the first in it—their views, motives and secret springs of action—and the means they have employed. This will necessarily bring before your eyes many characters, living and dead. From such a research and detail of facts, it will clearly appear, who were the aggressors—and who have acted on the defensive from first to last—who are still struggling, at the expence of their ease, health, peace, wealth and preferment, against the encroachments of the Tories on their country—and who are determined to continue struggling, at much greater hazards still, and like the Prince of Orange resolve never to see its entire subjection to arbitrary power, but rather to die fighting against it, in the last ditch.

It is true as this writer observes, “that the bulk of the people are generally but little versed in matters of state, that they rest the affairs 229of government where accident has placed them.” If this had not been true, the designs of the tories had been many years ago, entirely defeated. It was clearly seen, by a few, more than ten years since, that they were planning and pursuing the very measures, we now see executing. The people were informed of it, and warned of their danger: But they had been accustomed to confide in certain persons, and could never be persuaded to believe, until prophecy, became history. Now they see and feel, that the horrible calamities are come upon them, which were foretold so many years ago, and they now sufficiently execrate the men who have brought these things upon them. Now alas! when perhaps it is too late. If they had withdrawn their confidence from them in season, they would have wholly disarmed them.

The same game, with the same success, has been played in all ages and countries, as Massachusettensis observes. When a favourable conjuncture has presented, some of the most intrigueing and powerful citizens have conceived the design of enslaving their country, and building their own greatness on its ruins. Philip and Alexander, are examples of this in Greece—Caesar in Rome—Charles the fifth in Spain—Lewis the eleventh in France—and ten thousand others.

“There is a latent spark in the breasts of the people capable of being kindled into a flame, and to do this has always been the employment of the disaffected.” What is this “latent spark”? The love of Liberty? a Deo, hominis est indita naturae.5 Human nature itself is evermore an advocate for liberty. There is also in human nature, a resentment of injury, and indignation against wrong. A love of truth and a veneration for virtue.

These amiable passions, are the “latent spark” to which those whom this writer calls the “disaffected” apply. If the people are capable of understanding, seeing and feeling the difference between true and false, right and wrong, virtue and vice, to what better principle can the friends of mankind apply, than to the sense of this difference.

Is it better to apply as, this writer and his friends do, to the basest passions in the human breast, to their fear, their vanity, their avarice, ambition, and every kind of corruption? I appeal to all experience, and to universal history, if it has ever been in the power of popular leaders, uninvested with other authority than what is conferred by the popular suffrage, to persuade a large people, for any length of time together, to think themselves wronged, injured, and oppressed, unless they really were, and saw and felt it to be so.


“They,” the popular leaders, “begin by reminding the people of the elevated rank they hold in the universe as men; that all men by nature are equal; that kings are but the ministers of the people; that their authority is delegated to them by the people for their good, and they have a right to resume it, and place it in other hands, or keep it themselves, whenever it is made use of to oppress them. Doubtless there have been instances, when these principles have been inculcated to obtain a redress of real grievances, but they have been much oftener perverted to the worst of purposes.”

These are what are called revolution-principles. They are the principles of Aristotle and Plato, of Livy and Cicero, of Sydney, Harrington and Lock.—The principles of nature and eternal reason.—The principles on which the whole government over us, now stands. It is therefore astonishing, if any thing can be so, that writers, who call themselves friends of government, should in this age and country, be so inconsistent with themselves, so indiscreet, so immodest, as to insinuate a doubt concerning them.

Yet we find that these principles stand in the way of Massachusettensis, and all the writers of his class. The Veteran,6 in his letter to the officers of the army, allows them to be noble, and true, but says the application of them to particular cases is wild and Utopian. How they can be in general true, and not applicable to particular cases, I cannot comprehend. I thought their being true in general was because, they were applicable to most particular cases.

Gravity is a principle in nature. Why? because all particular bodies are found to gravitate. How would it sound to say, that bodies in general are heavy; yet to apply this to particular bodies and say, that a guinea, or a ball is heavy, is wild, &c? “Adopted in private life,” says the honest amiable Veteran, “they would introduce perpetual discord.” This I deny, and I think it plain, that there never was an happy private family where they were not adopted. “In the State perpetual discord.” This I deny, and affirm that order, concord and stability in the state, never was or can be preserved without them. “The least failure in the reciprocal duties of worship and obedience in the matrimonial contract would justify a divorce.” This is no consequence from those principles. A total departure from the ends and designs of the contract, it is true, as elopement and adultery, would by these principles justify a divorce, but not the least failure, or many smaller failures in the reciprocal duties, &c. “In the political compact, the smallest defect in the prince a revolution.”7 By no means. But a manifest design in the Prince, to annul the contract on his part, will 231annul it on the part of the people. A settled plan to deprive the people of all the benefits, blessings and ends of the contract, to subvert the fundamentals of the constitution—to deprive them of all share in making and executing laws, will justify a revolution.

The author of a “Friendly Address to all reasonable Americans”,8 discovers his rancour against these principles, in a more explicit manner, and makes no scruples to advance the principles of Hobbs and Filmer, boldly, and to pronounce damnation, ore rotunda, on all who do not practice implicit passive obedience, to all established government, of whatever character it may be.

It is not reviling, it is not bad language, it is strictly decent to say, that this angry bigot, this ignorant dogmatist, this foul mouthed scold, deserves no other answer than silent contempt. Massachusettensis and the Veteran, I admire, the first for his art, the last for his honesty.

Massachusettensis, is more discreet than either of the others. Sensible that these principles would be very troublesome to him, yet conscious of their truth, he has neither admitted nor denied them. But we have a right to his opinion of them, before we dispute with him. He finds fault with the application of them. They have been invariably applied in support of the revolution and the present establishment—against the Stuarts, the Charles's and James's,—in support of the reformation and the protestant religion, against the worst tyranny, that the genius of toryism, has ever yet invented, I mean the Romish superstition. Does this writer rank the revolution and present establishment, the reformation and protestant religion among his worst of purposes? What “worse purpose” is there than established tyranny? Were these principles ever inculcated in favour of such tyranny? Have they not always been used against such tyrannies, when the people have had knowledge enough to be apprized of them, and courage to assert them? Do not those who aim at depriving the people of their liberties, always inculcate opposite principles, or discredit these?

“A small mistake in point of policy” says he, “often furnishes a pretence to libel government and perswade the people that their rulers are tyrants, and the whole government, a system of oppression.” This is not only untrue, but inconsistent with what he said before. The people are in their nature so gentle, that there never was a government yet, in which thousands of mistakes were not overlooked. The most sensible and jealous people are so little attentive to government, that there are no instances of resistance, until repeated, multiplied oppressions have placed it beyond a doubt, that their rulers had 232formed settled plans to deprive them of their liberties; not to oppress an individual or a few, but to break down the fences of a free constitution, and deprive the people at large of all share in the government and all the checks by which it is limitted. Even Machiavel himself allows, that not ingratitude to their rulers, but much love is the constant fault of the people.

This writer is equally mistaken, when he says, the people are sure to be loosers in the end. They can hardly be loosers, if unsuccessful: because if they live, they can but be slaves, after an unfortunate effort, and slaves they would have been, if they had not resisted. So that nothing is lost. If they die, they cannot be said to lose, for death is better than slavery. If they succeed, their gains are immense. They preserve their liberties. The instances in antiquity, which this writer alludes to, are not mentioned and therefore cannot be answered, but that in the country from whence we are derived, is the most unfortunate for his purpose, that could have been chosen. The resistance to Charles the first and the case of Cromwell, no doubt he means. But the people of England, and the cause of liberty, truth, virtue and humanity, gained infinite advantages by that resistance. In all human probability, liberty civil and religious, not only in England but in all Europe, would have been lost. Charles would undoubtedly have established the Romish religion and a despotism as wild as any in the world. And as England has been a principal bulwark from that period to this, of civil liberty and the protestant religion in all Europe, if Charles's schemes had succeeded, there is great reason to apprehend that the light of science would have been extinguished, and mankind, drawn back to a state of darkness and misery, like that which prevailed from the fourth to the fourteenth century. It is true and to be lamented that Cromwell did not establish a government as free, as he might and ought; but his government was infinitely more glorious and happy to the people than Charles's. Did not the people gain by the resistance to James the second? Did not the Romans gain by resistance to Tarquin? Without that resistance and the liberty that was restored by it would the great Roman orators, poets and historians, the great teachers of humanity and politeness, the pride of human nature, and the delight and glory of mankind, for seventeen hundred years, ever have existed? Did not the Romans gain by resistance to the Decimvirs? Did not the English gain by resistance to John, when Magna Charta was obtained? Did not the seven united provinces gain by resistance to Phillip, Alva and Gran-233vell? Did not the Swiss Cantens, the Genevans and Grissons, gain by resistance to Albert and Grisler?


The letter published 26 Dec. 1774 was the third in Leonard's series.


Let us despair of nothing; wonder at nothing.


See Replies to Philanthrop, Defender of Governor Bernard ante 9 Dec. 1766 – 16 Feb. 1767, Editorial Note, above. JA obviously has made up his mind that Massachusettensis is Jonathan Sewall.


Under the pseudonym of Philalethes, Sewall wrote a series of articles in the Massachusetts Gazette , 26 June – 22 July 1773, defending Gov. Hutchinson against the attacks of the popular party after publication of Hutchinson's letters to Thomas Whately (Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 3:295; A. M. Schlesinger, Prelude to Independence, N.Y., 1958, p. 150–152).


It is given to the nature of man by God.


[Robert Prescott], A Letter from A Veteran, to the Officers of the Army Encamped at Boston [N.Y.], 1774 (Evans, No. 13554).


This and preceding quotations are all from same, p. 9–10.


See post 17 Nov. 1774, note 1, above.

II. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 30 January 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


II. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 30 January 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
II. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, 30 January 1775

I have heretofore intimated my intention, of pursuing the Tories, through all their dark intrigues, and wicked machinations; and to shew the rise, and progress of their schemes for enslaving this country. The honour of inventing and contriving these measures, is not their due. They have been but servile copyers of the designs of Andross, Randolph, Dudley,1 and other champions of their cause towards the close of the last century. These latter worthies accomplished but little: and their plans had been buried with them, for a long course of years, untill in the administration of the late Governor Shirley2 they were revived, by the persons who are now principally concern'd in carrying them into execution. Shirley, was a crafty, busy, ambitious, intrigueing, enterprizing man; and having mounted, no matter by what means, to the chair of this province, he saw, in a young growing country, vast prospects of ambition opening before his eyes, and he conceived great designs of aggrandizing himself, his family and his friends. Mr. Hutchinson and Mr. Oliver, the two famous Letter writers, were his principal ministers of state—Russell, Paxton, Ruggles,3 and a few others, were subordinate instruments. Among other schemes of this junto, one was to raise a Revenue in America by authority of parliament.

In order to effect their purpose it was necessary to concert measures with the other colonies. Dr. Franklin, who was known to be an active, 234and very able man, and to have great influence, in the province of Pennsylvania, was in Boston in the year 1754, and Mr. Shirley communicated to him the profound secret, the great design of taxing the colonies by act of parliament. This sagacious gentleman, this eminent philosopher, and distinguished patriot, to his lasting honour, sent the governor an answer in writing with the following remarks upon his scheme. Remarks which would have discouraged any honest man from the pursuit. The remarks are these.4

“That the people always bear the burden best, when they have, or think they have, some share in the direction.

“That when public measures are generally distasteful to the people, the wheels of government must move more heavily.

“That excluding the people of America from all share in the choice of a grand council for their own defence, and taxing them in parliament, where they have no representative, would probably give extreme dissatisfaction.

“That there was no reason to doubt the willingness of the colonists to contribute for their own defence.

“That the people themselves, whose all was at stake, could better judge of the force necessary for their defence, and of the means for raising money for the purpose, than a British parliament at so great distance.

“That natives of America, would be as likely to consult wisely and faithfully for the safety of their native country, as the Governors sent from Britain, whose object is generally to make fortunes, and then return home, and who might therefore be expected to carry on the war against France, rather in a way, by which themselves were likely to be gainers, than for the greatest advantage of the cause.

“That compelling the colonies to pay money for their own defence, without their consent, would shew a suspicion of their loyalty, or of their regard for their country, or of their common sense, and would be treating them as conquered enemies, and not as free Britons, who hold it for their undoubted right not to be taxed but by their own consent, given through their representatives.

“That parliamentary taxes, once laid on, are often continued, after the necessity for laying them on, ceases; but that if the colonists were trusted to tax themselves, they would remove the burden from the people, as soon as it should become unnecessary for them to bear it any longer.

“That if parliament is to tax the colonies, their assemblies of representatives may be dismissed as useless.


“That taxing the colonies in parliament for their own defence against the French, is not more just, than it would be, to oblige the cinque ports, and other coasts of Britain, to maintain a force against France, and to tax them for this purpose, without allowing them representatives in parliament.

“That the colonists have always been indirectly taxed by the mother country (besides paying the taxes necessarily laid on by their own assemblies) inasmuch as they are obliged to purchase the manufactures of Britain, charged with innumerable heavy taxes; some of which manufactures they could make, and others could purchase cheaper at other markets.

“That the colonists are besides taxed by the mother country, by being obliged to carry great part of their produce to Britain, and accept a lower price, than they might have at other markets. The difference is a tax paid to Britain.

“That the whole wealth of the colonists centers at last in the mother country, which enables her to pay her taxes.

“That the colonies have, at the hazard of their lives and fortunes, extended the dominions, and increased the commerce and riches of the mother country, that therefore the colonists do not deserve to be deprived of the native right of Britons, the right of being taxed only by representatives chosen by themselves.

“That an adequate representation in parliament would probably be acceptable to the colonists and would best unite the views and interests of the whole empire.”

The last of these propositions seems not to have been well considered, because an adequate representation in parliament, is totally impracticable: but the others have exhausted the subject. If any one should ask what authority or evidence I have of this anecdote, I refer him to the second volume of political disquisitions, page 276, 7, 8, 9. A book which ought to be in the hands of every American who has learned to read.

Whether the ministry at home or the junto here, were discouraged by these masterly remarks, or by any other cause, the project of taxing the colonies was laid aside, Mr. Shirley was removed from this government, and Mr. Pownal was placed in his stead.

Mr. Pownal seems to have been a friend to liberty and to our constitution, and to have had an aversion to all plots against either, and consequently to have given his confidence to other persons than Hutchinson and Oliver, who, stung with envy, against Mr. Pratt and others, who had the lead in affairs, set themselves, by propagating 236slanders against the governor, among the people, and especially among the clergy, to raise discontents, and make him uneasy in his seat. Pownal averse to wrangling, and fond of the delights of England, solicited to be recalled, and after some time Mr. Bernard was removed from New Jersey to the chair of this province.

Bernard was the man for the purpose of the junto—educated in the highest principles of monarchy, naturally daring and courageous, skilled enough in law and policy to do mischief, and avaricious to a most infamous degree: needy at the same time, and having a numerous family to provide for—he was an instrument, suitable in every respect, excepting one, for this junto to employ. The exception I mean, was blunt Frankness, very opposite to that cautious cunning, that deep dissimulation, to which they had by long practice disciplined themselves. However, they did not dispair of teaching him this necessary artful quality by degrees, and the event shew'd they were not wholly unsuccessful, in their endeavours to do it.

While the war lasted, these simple provinces were of too much importance in the conduct of it, to be disgusted, by any open attempt against their liberties. The junto therefore, contented themselves with preparing their ground by extending their connections and correspondencies in England, and by conciliating the friendship of the crown officers occasionally here, and insinuating their designs as necessary to be undertaken in some future favourable opportunity, for the good of the empire, as well as of the colonies.

The designs of providence are inscrutable. It affords to bad men, conjunctures favourable for their designs, as well as to good. The conclusion of the peace, was the most critical opportunity, for our junto, that could have presented. A peace founded on the destruction of that system of policy, the most glorious for the nation, that ever was formed, and which was never equalled in the conduct of the English government, except in the interregnum, and perhaps in the reign of Elizabeth; which system however, by its being abruptly broken off, and its chief conductor5 discarded before it was compleated, proved unfortunate to the nation by leaving it sinking in a bottomless gulph of debt, oppressed and borne down with taxes.

At this lucky time, when the British financier,6 was driven out of his wits for ways and means, to supply the demands upon him, Bernard is employed by the junto, to suggest to him the project of taxing the Colonies by act of parliament.

I don't advance this without evidence. I appeal to a publication made by Sir Francis Bernard himself, the last year, of his own select 237letters on the trade and government of America, and the principles of law and polity applied to the American colonies.7 I shall make much use of this pamphlet before I have done.

In the year 1764, Mr. Bernard transmitted home to different noblemen and gentlemen four copies of his principles of law and polity, with a preface, which proves incontestibly, that the project of new regulating the American colonies were not first suggested to him by the ministry, but by him to them. The words of this preface are these. “The present expectation, that a new regulation of the American governments will soon take place, probably arises more from the opinion the public has of the abilities of the present ministry, than from any thing that has transpired from the cabinet: It cannot be supposed that their penetration can overlook the necessity of such a regulation, nor their public spirit fail to carry it into execution. But it may be a question, whether the present is a proper time for this work; more urgent business may stand before it; some preparatory steps may be required to precede it; but these will only serve to postpone. As we may expect that this reformation, like all others, will be opposed by powerful prejudices, it may not be amiss to reason with them at leisure, and endeavour to take off their force before they become opposed to government.”8

These are the words of that arch enemy of North-America, written in 1764, and then transmitted to four persons, with a desire that they might be communicated to others.

Upon these words, it is impossible not to observe. First, That the ministry had never signified to him, any intention of new regulating the colonies; and therefore, that it was he who most officiously and impertinently put them upon the pursuit of this will with a whisp, which has led him and them into so much mire. 2. The artful flattery with which he insinuates these projects into the minds of the ministry, as matters of absolute necessity, which their great penetration could not fail to discover, nor their great regard to the public, omit. 3. The importunity with which he urges a speedy accomplishment of his pretended reformation of the governments, and 4. His consciousness that these schemes would be opposed, although' he affects to expect from powerful prejudices only, that opposition, which all Americans say, has been dictated by sound reason, true policy, and eternal justice. The last thing I shall take notice of is, the artful, yet most false and wicked insinuation, that such new regulations were then generally expected. This is so absolutely false, that excepting Bernard himself, and his junto, scarcely any body on this side 238the water had any suspicion of it—insomuch that if Bernard had made public, at that time, his preface and principles, as he sent them to the ministry, it is much to be doubted whether he could have lived in this country—certain it is, he would have had no friends in this province out of the junto.

The intention of the junto, was, to procure a revenue to be raised in America by act of parliament. Nothing was further from their designs and wishes, than the drawing or sending this revenue into the exchequer in England to be spent there in discharging the national debt, and lessening the burdens of the poor people there. They were more selfish. They chose to have the fingering of the money themselves. Their design was, that the money should be applied, first in a large salary to the governor. This would gratify Bernard's avarice, and then it would render him and all other governors, not only independent of the people, but still more absolutely a slave to the will of the minister. They intended likewise a salary for the lieutenant governor. This would appease in some degree the knawings of Hutchinson's avidity, in which he was not a whit behind Bernard himself. In the next place, they intended a salary to the judges of common law, as well as admiralty. And thus the whole government, executive and judicial, was to be rendered wholly independent of the people, (and their representatives rendered useless, insignificant and even burthensome) and absolutely dependent upon, and under the direction of the will of the minister of state. They intended further to new model the whole continent of North America, make an entire new division of it, into distinct, though more extensive and less numerous colonies, to sweep away all the charters upon the continent, with the destroying besom of an act of parliament, and reduce all the governments to the plan of the royal governments, with a nobility in each colony, not hereditary indeed, at first, but for life. They did indeed flatter the ministry and people in England, with distant hopes of a revenue from America, at some future period, to be appropriated to national uses there. But this was not to happen in their minds for some time. The governments must be new-moddelled, new regulated, reformed first, and then the governments here would be able and willing to carry into execution any acts of parliament or measures of the ministry, for fleecing the people here, to pay debts, or support pensioners, on the American establishment, or bribe electors, or members of parliament, or any other purpose that a virtuous ministry could desire.

But as ill-luck would have it, the British financier, was as selfish as 239themselves, and instead of raising money for them, chose to raise it for himself. He put the cart before the horse. He chose to get the revenue into the exchequer, because he had hungry cormorants enough about him in England whose cooings were more troublesome to his ears, than the croaking of the ravens in America. And he thought if America could afford any revenue at all, and he could get it by authority of parliament, he might have it himself, to give to his friends, as well as raise it for the junto here, to spend themselves, or give to theirs. This unfortunate preposterous improvement of Mr. Grenville, upon the plan of the junto, had well nigh ruined the whole.

I will proceed no further without producing my evidence. Indeed to a man who was acquainted with this junto, and had any opportunity to watch their motions, observe their language, and remark their countenances, for these last twelve years, no other evidence is necessary; it was plain to such persons, what this junto was about. But we have evidence enough now under their own hands of the whole of what was said of them by their opposers, through this whole period.

Governor Bernard, in his letter July 11, 1764, says, “that a general reformation of the American governments would become not only a desirable but a necessary measure.” What his idea was, of a general reformation of the American governments, is to be learnt from his principles of law and polity, which he sent to the ministry in 1764. I shall select a few of them in his own words; but I wish the whole of them could be printed in the news-papers, that America might know more generally the principles and designs and exertions of our junto.

His 29th proposition9 is, “The rule that a British subject shall not be bound by laws, or liable to taxes, but what he has consented to, by his representatives, must be confined to the Inhabitants of Great-Britain only; and is not strictly true even there. 30. The parliament of Great-Britain, as well from its rights of sovereignty, as from occasional exigences, has a right to make laws for, and impose taxes upon its subjects in its external dominions, although they are not represented in such parliament. But 31. Taxes imposed upon the external dominions, ought to be applied to the use of the people, from whom they are raised. 32. The parliament of Great-Britain has a right and duty to take care to provide for the defence of the American colonies; especially as such colonies are unable to defend themselves. 33. The parliament of Great-Britain has a right and a duty to take care that provision be made for a sufficient support of the American governments. Because 34. The support of the government is one of 240the principal conditions upon which a colony is allowed the power of legislation. Also because 35. Some of the American colonies have shewn themselves deficient in the support of their several governments, both as to sufficiency and independency.”

His 75th proposition is, “Every American government is capable of having its constitution altered for the better. 76. The grants of the powers of governments to American colonies by charters, cannot be understood to be intended for other than their infant or growing states. 77. They cannot be intended for their mature state, that is, for perpetuity; because they are in many things unconstitutional and contrary to the very nature of a British government. Therefore 78. They must be considered as designed only as temporary means, for settling and bringing forward the peopling the colonies: which being effected, the cause of the peculiarity of their constitution ceases. 79. If the charters can be pleaded against the authority of parliament, they amount to an alienation of the dominions of Great Britain, and are, in effect acts of dismembering the British empire, and will operate as such, if care is not taken to prevent it. 83. The notion which has heretofore prevailed, that the dividing America into many governments and different modes of government, will be the means to prevent their uniting to revolt, is ill founded; since, if the governments were ever so much consolidated, it will be necessary to have so many distinct states, as to make a union to revolt, impracticable. Whereas 84. The splitting America into many small governments, weakens the governing power, and strengthens that of the people; and thereby makes revolting more probable and more practicable. 85. To prevent revolts in future times (for there is no room to fear them in the present) the most effectual means would be, to make the governments large and respectable, and ballance the powers of them. 86. There is no government in America at present, whose powers are properly ballanced; there not being in any of them, a real and distinct third legislative power mediating between the king and the people, which is the peculiar excellence of the British constitution. 87. The want of such a third legislative power, adds weight to the popular, and lightens the royal scale; so as to destroy the balance between the royal and popular powers. 88. Altho' America is not now (and probably will not be for many years to come) ripe enough for an hereditary nobility; yet it is now capable of a nobility for life. 89. A nobility appointed by the king for life, and made independent, would probably give strength and stability to the American governments, as effectually as an hereditary nobility does to that of Great-241Britain. 90. The reformation of the American governments should not be controuled by the present boundaries of the colonies; as they were mostly settled upon partial, occasional, and accidental considerations, without any regard to a whole. 91. To settle the American governments to the greatest possible advantage, it will be necessary to reduce the number of them; in some places to unite and consolidate; in others to seperate and transfer; and in general to divide by natural boundaries, instead of imaginary lines. 92. If there should be but one form of government established for all the North-American provinces, it would greatly facilitate the reformation of them; since, if the mode of government was every where the same, people would be more indifferent under what division they were ranged. 93. No objections ought to arise to the alteration of the boundaries of provinces from proprietors, on account of their property only; since there is no occasion that it should in the least affect the boundaries of properties. 94. The present distinction of one government being more free or more popular than another, tend to embarass and to weaken the whole; and should not be allowed to subsist among people, subject to one king and one law, and all equally fit for one form of government. 95. The American colonies, in general, are, at this time, arrived at that state, which qualifies them to receive the most perfect form of government, which their situation and relation to Great-Britain, make them capable of. 96. The people of North-America, at this time, expect a revisal and reformation of the American governments, and are better disposed to submit to it, than ever they were, or perhaps ever will be again. 97. This is therefore the proper, and critical time to reform the American governments upon a general, constitutional, firm, and durable plan; and if it is not done now, it will probably every day grow more difficult, till at last it becomes impracticable.”

My friends, these are the words, the plans, principles, and endeavours of Governor Bernard in the year 1764. That Hutchinson and Oliver, notwithstanding all their disguises which you well remember, were in unison with him in the whole of his measures, can be doubted by no man. It appeared sufficiently in the part they all along acted, notwithstanding their professions. And it appears incontestibly from their detected letters, of which more hereafter.

Now let me ask you—if the parliament of Great-Britain, had all the natural foundations of authority, wisdom, goodness, justice, power, in as great perfection as they ever existed in any body of men since Adam's fall: and if the English nation was the most virtuous, pure 242and free, that ever was; would not such an unlimited subjection of three millions of people to that parliament, at three thousand miles distance be real slavery? There are but two sorts of men in the world, freemen and slaves. The very definition of a freeman, is one who is bound by no law to which he has not consented. Americans would have no way of giving or withholding their consent to the acts of this parliament, therefore they would not be freemen. But, when luxury, effeminacy and venality are arrived at such a shocking pitch in England, when both electors and elected, are become one mass of corruption, when the nation is oppressed to death with debts and taxes, owing to their own extravagance, and want of wisdom, what would be your condition under such an absolute subjection to parliament? You would not only be slaves—But the most abject sort of slaves to the worst sort of masters! at least this is my opinion. Judge you for yourselves between Massachusettensis and


Edmund Andros (1637–1714), Edward Randolph (1632–1703), and Joseph Dudley (1647–1720), despised figures in Massachusetts history because of their connection with the voiding of the original charter in 1684 and the subsequent incorporation of the province into the Dominion of New England ( DAB ).


William Shirley (1694–1771) served as governor of Massachusetts from 1741 to 1757 ( DAB ).


Charles Russell (1739–1780), register of the vice-admiralty court (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 14:202–204; Jones, Loyalists of Mass. , p. 253); Charles Paxton (1708?–1788), a royal customs commissioner in Boston whose zealous enforcement of the Acts of Trade earned him the enmity of local merchants and their political allies (MHS, Procs. , 56 [1922–1923]: 343–352; Jones, Loyalists of Mass. , p. 230); Timothy Ruggles (1711–1795), delegate to the Stamp Act Congress, who refused to sign that body's statement of principles. A more immediate cause of JA's ire against Ruggles was that he was trying to band loyalists together in an association that would refuse to accept the authority of the Continental Congress ( DAB ).


The succeeding “remarks” are quotations from Franklin's letters to Shirley, 3, 4, 22 Dec. 1754, included in James Burgh, Political Disquisitions . . . , 3 vols., London, 1774, 2:276–279. Franklin had these letters printed in the London Chronicle, 8 Feb. 1766, as part of his efforts to persuade Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act; and doubtless Burgh reprinted excerpts from this source (Franklin, Papers , 5:441–447, 449–451).


William Pitt (1708–1778), secretary of state for the southern department, which included the American colonies, and director of British strategy, 1757–1762, in the war with France ( DNB ).


George Grenville (1712–1770), first lord of the treasury, chancellor of the exchequer, 1763–1765, and author of the Sugar and Stamp acts ( DNB ).


Francis Bernard, Select Letters on the Trade and Government of America; and the Principles of Law and Polity, Applied to the American Colonies . . . , London, 1774. The letters were written between 1763 and 1768; the Principles, in 1764.


Same, p. 68–69. The phrase “caution and deliberation may retard it” is omitted after “preparatory steps may be required to precede it.”


The quotations in this paragraph and the one following are from same, p. 75–76, 81–85.

243 III. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 6 February 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


III. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 6 February 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
III. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, 6 February 1775

The history of the Tories, begun in my last, will be interrupted for some time: but it shall be reassumed, and minutely related, in some future papers. Massachusettensis, who shall now be pursued, in his own serpentine path, in his first paper,1 complains, that the press is not free, that a party has gained the ascendency so far as to become the licencers of it; by playing off the resentment of the populace, against printers and authors: That the press is become an engine of oppression and licentiousness, much devoted to the partisans of liberty, who have been indulged in publishing what they pleased, fas vel nefas,2 while little has been published on the part of the government.

The art of this writer which appears in all his productions, is very conspicuous in this. It is intended to excite a resentment against the friends of liberty, for tyrannically depriving their antagonists, of so important a branch of freedom, and a compassion towards the Tories, in the breasts of the people in the other colonies and in Great-Britain, by insinuating that they have not had equal terms. But nothing can be more injurious, nothing farther from the truth. Let us take a retrospective view of the period, since the last peace, and see, whether, they have not uniformly had the press at their service, without the least molestation to authors or printers. Indeed, I believe that the Massachusetts-Spy, if not the Boston Gazette have been open to them as well as to others. The Evening-Post, Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Chronicle, have certainly been always as free for their use as the air. Let us dismiss prejudice and passion, and examine impartially, whether the Tories have not been chargeable with at least as many libels, as much licentiousness of the press, as the Whigs? Dr. Mayhew was a Whig of the first magnitude, a clergyman equalled by a very few of any denomination in piety, virtue, genius or learning, whose works will maintain his character, as long as New-England shall be free, integrity esteemed, or wit, spirit, humour, or reason and knowledge admired. How was he treated from the press? Did not the Reverend Tories who were pleased to write against him, the Missionaries of Defamation as well as Bigotry and passive obedience, in their pamphlets, and news papers, bespatter him all over with their filth? With equal falshood and malice charge him with every thing evil? 244Mr. Otis, was in civil life: and a senator, whose parts, literature, eloquence and integrity, proved him a character in the world, equal to any of the time in which he flourished, of any party in the province. Now be pleased to recollect the Evening-Post. For a long course of years, that gentleman, his friends and connections, of whom the world has and grateful posterity will have a better opinion than Massachusettensis will acknowledge, were pelted with the most infernally malicious, false, and atrocious Libels, that ever issued from any press in Boston. I will mention no other names, lest I give too much offence to the modesty of some, and the envy and rancour of others.

There never was before, in any part of the world, a whole town insulted to their faces, as Boston was, by the Boston Chronicle. Yet the printer was not molested for printing, it was his mad attack upon other printers with his clubs, and upon other gentlemen with his pistols, that was the cause of his flight, or rather the pretence. The truth was, he became too polite to attend his business, his shop was neglected, procreations were coming for more than 2000 sterling, which he had no inclination to pay.3

Printers may have been less eager after the productions of the tories than of the whigs, and the reason has been because the latter have been more consonant to the general taste and sense, and consequently more in demand. Notwithstanding this, the former have ever found one press at least devoted to their service, and have used it as licentiously as they could wish. Whether the revenue chest has kept it alive and made it profitable against the general sense, or not, I wot not. Thus much is certain that 200, 3, 4, 5, 600, 800, 1500, sterling a year, has been the constant reward of every scribbler, who has taken up the pen on the side of the ministry, with any reputation, and commissions have been given here for the most wretched productions of dulness itself. Whereas the writers on the side of liberty, have been rewarded only with the consciousness of endeavoring to do good, with the approbation of the virtuous and the malice of men in power.

But this is not the first time, that writers have taken advantage of the times. Massachusettensis knows the critical situation of this province. The danger it is in, without government or law—The army in Boston—The people irritated and exasperated, in such a manner as was never before borne by any people under heaven. Much depends upon their patience at this critical time, and such an example of patience and order, this people have exhibited in a state of nature, under such cruel insults, distresses and provocations, as the history of man-245kind cannot parallel. In this state of things, protected by an army, the whole junto are now pouring forth the whole torrents of their billingsgate, propagating thousands of the most palpable falshoods, when they knew that the writers on the other side have been restrain'd by their prudence and caution from engaging in a controversy that must excite heats, lest it should have unhappy and tragical consequences.

There is nothing in this world so excellent that it may not be abused. The abuses of the press are notorious. It is much to be desired that writers on all sides would be more careful of truth and decency: but upon the most impartial estimate, the tories will be found to have been the least so, of any party among us.

The honest Veteran, who ought not to be forgotten, in this place, says, “if an inhabitant of Bern or Amsterdam, could read the newspapers, &c. he would be at a loss how to reconcile oppression with such unbounded licence of the press: and would laugh at the charge, as something much more than a paradox, as a palpable contradiction.”4 But with all his taste, and manly spirit, the Veteran is little of a statesman. His ideas of liberty are quite inadequate—his notions of government very superficial. Licence of the press is no proof of liberty. When a people is corrupted, the press may be made an engine to compleat their ruin: and it is now notorious, that the ministry, are daily employing it to encrease and establish corruption, and to pluck up virtue by the roots. Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence, than the body can live and move without a soul. When these are gone, and the popular branch of the constitution is become dependent on the minister, as it is in England, or cut off, as it is in America, all other forms of the constitution may remain; but if you look for liberty, you will grope in vain, and the freedom of the press, instead of promoting the cause of liberty, will but hasten its destruction, as the best cordials, taken by patients, in some distempers, become the most rancid and corrosive poisons.

This language of the Veteran, however, is like the style of the minister and his scribblers in England, boasting of the unbounded freedom of the press, and assuring the people that all is safe, while that continues: and thus the people are to be cheated with libels in exchange for their liberties.

A stronger proof cannot be wish'd, of the scandalous license of the tory presses, than the swarms of pamphlets and speculations, in New-York and Boston, since last October. “Madness, folly, delusion, delirium, infatuation, frenzy, high treason and rebellion,” are charged 246in every page, upon three millions of as good and loyal, as sensible and virtuous people, as any in the empire: nay upon that congress, which was as full and free a representative, as ever was constituted by any people, chosen universally without solicitation, or the least tincture of corruption: that congress which consisted of governors, counsellors, some of them by mandamus too, judges of supreme courts, speakers of assemblies, planters and merchants of the first fortune and character, and lawyers of the highest class, many of them educated at the temple, call'd to the bar in England, and of abilities and integrity equal to any there.

Massachusettensis, conscious that the people of this continent have the utmost abhorrence of treason and rebellion, labours to avail himself of the magic in these words.5 But his artifice is vain. The people are not to be intimidated by hard words, from a necessary defence of their liberties. Their attachment to their constitution so dearly purchased by their own and their ancestors blood and treasure, their aversion to the late innovations, their horror of arbitrary power and the Romish religion, are much deeper rooted than their dread of rude sounds and unmannerly language. They dont want the advice of an honest lawyer, if such an one could be found, nor will they be deceived by a dishonest one. They know what offence it is, to assemble, armed and, forceably obstruct the course of justice. They have been many years considering and enquiring, they have been instructed by Massachusettensis and his friends, in the nature of treason, and the consequences of their own principles and actions. They know upon what hinge the whole dispute turns. That the fundamentals of the government over them, are disputed, that the minister pretends and had the influence to obtain the voice of the last parliament in his favour, that parliament is the only supream, sovereign, absolute and uncontroulable legislative over all the colonies, that therefore the minister and all his advocates will call resistance, to acts of parliament, by the names of treason and rebellion. But at the same time they know, that in their own opinions, and in the opinions of all the colonies, parliament has no authority over them, excepting to regulate their trade, and this not by any principle of common law, but merely by the consent of the colonies, founded on the obvious necessity of a case, which was never in contemplation of that law, nor provided for by it, that therefore they have as good a right to charge that minister, Massachusettensis and the whole army to which he has fled for protection, with treason and rebellion. For if the parliament has not a legal authority to overturn their constitution, and 247subject them to such acts as are lately passed, every man, who accepts of any commission and takes any steps to carry those acts into execution, is guilty of overt acts of treason and rebellion against his majesty, his royal crown and dignity, as much as if he should take arms against his troops, or attempt his sacred life. They know that the resistance against the stamp act, which was made through all America, was in the opinion of Massachusettensis, and George Grenville, high treason, and that Brigadier Ruggles, and good Mr. Ogden,6 pretended at the congress at New-York, to be of the same mind, and have been held in utter contempt and derision by the whole continent, for the same reason, ever since; because in their own opinion, that resistance was a noble stand against tyranny, and the only opposition to it, which could have been effectual. That if the American resistance to the act for destroying your charter, and to the Resolves for arresting persons here and sending them to England for tryal, is treason, the lords and commons, and the whole nation, were traitors at the revolution.

They know that all America is united in sentiment, and in the plan of opposition to the claims of administration and parliament. The junto in Boston, with their little flocks of adherents in the country, are not worth taking into the account; and the army and navy, tho' these are divided among themselves, are no part of America; in order to judge of this union, they begin at the commencement of the dispute, and run thro' the whole course of it. At the time of the Stamp Act, every colony expressed its sentiments by resolves of their assemblies, and every one agreed that parliament had no right to tax the colonies. The house of representatives of the Massachusetts-Bay, then consisted of many persons, who have since figured as friends to government; yet every member of that house concurred most chearfully in the resolves then passed. The congress which met that year at New-York, expressed the same opinion in their resolves.7 After the paint, paper and tea act was passed, the several assemblies expressed the same sentiments, and when your colony wrote the famous circular letter, notwithstanding all the mandates and threats, and cajolings of the minister and the several governors, and all the crown officers through the continent, the assemblies with one voice ecchoed their entire approbation of that letter, and their applause to your colony for sending it. In the year 1768, when a non importation was suggested and planned by a few gentlemen at a private clubb, in one of our large towns, as soon as it was proposed to the public, did it not spread thro' the whole continent? Was it not regarded, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, in almost all the colonies. When the paint and paper 248act was repealed, the southern colonies agreed to depart from the association in all things but the dutied articles, but they have kept strictly to their agreement against importing them, so that no tea worth the mentioning, has been imported into any of them from Great-Britain to this day. In the year 1770, when a number of persons were slaughtered in King-Street, such was the brotherly sympathy of all the colonies, such their resentment against an hostile administration; that the innocent blood then spilt, has never been forgotten, nor the murderous minister and governors, who brought the troops here, forgiven, by any part of the continent, and never will be. When a certain masterly statesman, invented a committee of correspondence in Boston, which has provoked so much of the spleen of Massachusettensis, of which much more hereafter; did not every colony, nay every county, city, hundred and town upon the whole continent, adopt the measure. I had almost said, as if it had been a revelation from above, as the happiest means of cementing the union and acting in concert? What proofs of union have been given since the last March! Look over the resolves of the several colonies, and you will see that one understanding governs, one heart animates the whole body. Assemblies, conventions, congresses, towns, cities, and private clubs and circles, have been actuated by one great, wise, active and noble spirit, one masterly soul, animating one vigorous body.

The congress at Philadelphia, have expressed the same sentiments with the people of New-England, approved of the opposition to the late innovations, unanimously advised us to persevere in it, and assured us that if force is attempted to carry these measures against us, all America ought to support us. Maryland and the Lower Counties on Deleware, have already, to shew to all the world their approbation of the measures of New-England, and their determination to join in them, with a generosity, a wisdom and magnanimity, which ought to make the Tories consider, taken the power of the militia into the hands of the people, without the governor, or minister, and established it, by their own authority, for the defence of the Massachusetts, as well as of themselves.8 Other colonies are only waiting to see if the necessity of it will become more obvious. Virginia, and the Carolinas, are preparing for military defence, and have been for some time. When we consider the variety of climates, soils, religions, civil governments, commercial interests, &c. which were represented at the congress, and the various occupations, educations, and characters of the gentlemen who composed it, the harmony and unanimity which prevailed in it, can scarcely be parallelled in any assembly that ever met. 249When we consider, that at the revolution, such mighty questions, as whether the Throne was vacant or not, and whether the Prince of Orange should be king or not, were determined in the Convention Parliament by small majorities of two or three, and four or five only; the great majorities, the almost unanimity with which all great questions have been decided in your house of representatives, and other assemblies, and especially in the Continental Congress, cannot be considered in any other light than as the happiest omens indeed, as providential dispensations in our favour, as well as the clearest demonstrations of the cordial, firm, radical and indissoluble union of the colonies.

The grand aphorism of the policy of the whigs has been to unite the people of America, and divide those of Great-Britain. The reverse of this has been the maxim of the tories, viz. to unite the people of Great-Britain, and divide those of America. All the movements, marches and countermarches of both parties, on both sides of the Atlantic, may be reduced to one or the other of these rules. I have shewn, in opposition to Massachusettensis, that the people of America are united more perfectly than the most sanguine whig could ever have hoped, or than the most timid tory could have fear'd. Let us now examine whether the people of Great-Britain are equally united against us. For if the contending countries were equally united, the prospect of success in the quarrel would depend upon the comparative wisdom, firmness, strength and other advantages of each. And if such a comparison was made, it would not appear to a demonstration that Great Britain could so easily subdue and conquer. It is not so easy a thing for the most powerful state to conquer a country a thousand leagues off. How many year's time, how many millions of money, did it take, with five and thirty-thousand men, to conquer the poor province of Canada? And after all the battles and victories, it never would have submitted without a capitulation, which secured to them their religion and properties.

But we know that the people of Great-Britain are not united against us. We distinguish between the Ministry, the House of Commons, the Officers of the Army, Navy, Excise, Customs, &c. who are dependent on the Ministry, and tempted, if not obliged, to eccho their voices; and the body of the people. We are assured by thousands of letters from persons of good intelligence, by the general strain of publications in public papers, pamphlets, and magazines, and by some larger works written for posterity, that the body of the people are friends to America, and wish us success in our struggles against the 250claims of parliament and administration. We know that millions in England and Scotland, will think it unrighteous, impolitic and ruinous, to make war upon us, and a minister, tho' he may have a marble heart, will proceed with a diffident, desponding spirit. We know that London and Bristol, the two greatest commercial cities in the empire, have declared themselves in the most decisive manner, in favour of our cause. So explicitly that the former has bound her members under their hands to assist us, and the latter has chosen two known friends of America, one attached to us by principle, birth, and the most ardent affection, the other an able advocate for us on several great occasions.9 We know that many of the most virtuous and independent of the nobility and gentry are for us, and among them the best Bishop that adorns the bench, as great a Judge as the nation can boast, and the greatest statesman it ever saw.10 We know that the nation is loaded with debts and taxes by the folly and iniquity of its ministers, and that without the trade of America, it can neither long support its fleet and army, nor pay the interest of its debt.

But we are told that the nation is now united against us, that they hold, they have a right to tax us and legislate for us as firmly as we deny it. That we are a part of the British Empire, that every state must have an uncontroulable power co-extensive with the empire, that there is little probability of serving ourselves by ingenious distinctions between external and internal taxes. If we are not a part of the state, and subject to the supreme authority of parliament, Great-Britain will make us so; that if this opportunity of reclaiming the colonies is lost, they will be dismembered from the empire; and although they may continue their allegiance to the King, they will own none to the imperial crown.

To all this I answer, That the nation is not so united—that they do not so universally hold they have such a right, and my reasons I have given before. That the terms “British Empire” are not the language of the common law, but the language of news papers and political pamphlets. That the dominions of the king of Great-Britain has no uncontroulable power co-extensive with them. I would ask by what law the parliament has authority over America? By the law of GOD in the Old and New Testament, it has none. By the law of nature and nations, it has none. By the common law of England it has none. For the common law, and the authority of parliament founded on it, never extended beyond the four seas. By statute law it has none, for no statute was made before the settlement of the colonies for this purpose; and the declaratory act made in 1766, was made without 251our consent, by a parliament which had no authority beyond the four seas. What religious, moral or political obligation then are we under, to submit to parliament as a supreme legislative? None at all. When it is said, that if we are not subject to the supreme authority of parliament, Great-Britain will make us so, all other laws and obligations are given up, and recourse is had to the ratio ultima of Lewis the XIVth, and the suprema lex of the king of Sardinia, to the law of brickbats and cannon balls, which can be answer'd only by brickbats and balls.

This language “the imperial crown of Great-Britain”, is not the stile of the common law but of court sycophants. It was introduced in allusion to the Roman empire, and intended to insinuate, that the prerogative of the imperial crown of England, was like that of the Roman emperor, after the maxim was established, quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem, and so far from including the two houses of parliament in the idea of this imperial crown, it was intended to insinuate that the crown was absolute, and had no need of lords or commons to make or dispense with laws. Yet even these court sycophants when driven to an explanation, never dared to put any other sense upon the words imperial crown, than this, that the crown of England was independent of France, Spain, and all other kings and states in the world.

When he says that the king's dominions must have an uncontroulable power, co-extensive with them, I ask whether they have such a power or not? and utterly deny that they have by any law but that of Lewis the fourteenth, and the king of Sardinia. If they have not, and it is necessary that they should have, it then follows that there is a defect in what he calls the British empire—and how shall this defect be supplied? It cannot be supplied consistently with reason, justice, policy, morality, or humanity, without the consent of the colonies, and some new plan of connection. But if Great-Britain will set all these at defiance, and resort to the ratio ultima, all Europe will pronounce her a tyrant, and America never will submit to her, be the danger of disobedience as great as it will.

But there is no need of any other power than that of regulating trade, and this the colonies ever have been and will be ready and willing to concede to her. But she will never obtain from America any further concession while she exists.

We are then asked, “for what she protected and defended the colonies against the martime power of Europe from their first settlement to this day?” I answer for her own interest, because all the profits of our trade centered in her lap. But it ought to be remem-252bered, that her name, not her purse, nor her fleets and armies, ever protected us, untill the last war, and then the minister who conducted that war, informs us, that the annual millions from America enabled her to do it.

We are then asked for what she purchased New-York of the Dutch? I answer she never did. The Dutch never owned it, were never more than trespassers and intruders there, and were finally expelled by conquest. It was ceded it is true by the treaty of Breda, and it is said in some authors, that some other territory in India was ceded to the Dutch in lieu of it. But this was the transaction of the king, not of parliament, and therefore makes nothing to the argument. But admitting for argument sake, (since the cautious Massachusettensis will urge us into the discussion of such questions) what is not a supposeable case, that the nation should be so sunk in sloth, luxury and corruption, as to suffer their minister to persevere in his mad blunders and send fire and sword against us, how shall we defend ourselves? The colonies south of Pennsylvania have no men to spare we are told. But we know better—we know that all those colonies have a back country which is inhabited by an hardy, robust people, many of whom are emigrants from New-England, and habituated like multitudes of New-Englandmen, to carry their fuzees or rifles upon one shoulder to defend themselves against the Indians, while they carry'd their axes, scythes and hoes upon the other to till the ground. Did not those colonies furnish men the last war excepting Maryland. Did not Virginia furnish men, one regiment particularly equal to any regular regiment in the service. Does the soft Massachusettensis imagine that in the unnatural horrid war, he is now supposing their exertions would be less. If he does he is very ill informed of their principles, their present sentiments and temper. But “have you arms and ammunition?” I answer we have; but if we had not, we could make a sufficient quantity of both. What should hinder? We have many manufacturers of fire-arms now, whose arms are as good as any in the world. Powder has been made here, and may be again, and so may salt-petre. What should hinder? We have all the materials in great abundance, and the process is very simple. But if we neither had them nor could make them, we could import them. But “the British navy.” Ay there's the rub. But let us consider, since the prudent Massachusettensis will have these questions debated. How many ships are taken to blockade Boston harbour? How many ships can Britain spare to carry on this humane and political war, the object of which is a pepper corn? Let her send all the ships she has round her island. What if 253her illnatur'd neighbours, France and Spain should strike a blow in their absence? In order to judge what they could all do when they arrived here we should consider what they are all able to do round the island of Great-Britain. We know that the utmost vigilance and exertions of them added to all the terms of sanguinary laws, are not sufficient to prevent continual smuggling, into their own island. Are there not 50 bays, harbours, creeks and inlets upon the whole coast of North-America, where there is one round the island of Great-Britain. Is it to be supposed then, that the whole British navy could prevent the importation of arms and ammunition into America, if she should have occasion for them to defend herself against the hellish warfare, that is here supposed.

But what will you do for discipline and subordination? I answer we will have them in as great perfection as the regular troops. If the provincials were not brought in the last war to a proper discipline, what was the reason? Because regular generals would not let them fight, which they ardently wished, but employed them in cutting roads. If they had been allowed to fight they would have brought the war to a conclusion too soon. The provincials did submit to martial law, and to the mutiny and desertion act, the last war, and such an act may be made here by a legislature which they will obey with much more alacrity than an act of parliament.

The new fangled militia, as the specious Massachusettensis calls it, is such a militia as he never saw. They are commanded through the province, not by men who procured their commissions from a governor as a reward for making themselves pimps to his tools, and by discovering a hatred of the people but by gentlemen whose estates, abilities and benevolence have rendered them the delight of the soldiers, and there is an esteem and respect for them visible through the province, which has not been used in the militia. Nor is there that unsteadiness that is charged upon them. In some places, where companies have been split into two or three, it has only served by exciting an emulation between the companies to encrease the martial spirit and skill.

The plausible Massachusettensis may write as he will, but in a land war, this continent might defend itself against all the world. We have men enough, and those men have as good natural understandings and as much natural courage as any other men. If they were wholly ignorant now, they might learn the art of war. But at sea we are defenceless. A navy might burn our sea port towns. What then? If the insinuating Massachusettensis, has ever read any speculations 254concerning an Agrarian law, and I know he has, he will be satisfied that 350 thousand landholders, will not give up their rights and the constitution by which they hold them, to save fifty thousand inhabitants of maritime towns. Will the minister be nearer his mark after he has burnt a beautiful town and murdered 30,000 innocent people? So far from it, that one such event, would occasion the loss of all the colonies to Great Britain forever. It is not so clear that our trade, fishery and navigation, could be taken from us. Some persons, who understand this subject better than Massachusettensis, with all his sprightly imaginations, are of a different opinion. They think that our trade would be increased. But I will not enlarge upon this subject, because I wish the trade of this continent, may be confined to Great Britain, at least as much of it, as it can do her any good to restrain.

The Canadians and Savages are brought in to thicken the horrors of a picture with which the lively fancy of this writer has terrified him. But although we are sensible that the Quebec act has laid a foundation for a fabrick, which if not seasonably demolished, may be formidable, if not ruinous to the colonies, in future times, yet we know that these times are yet at a distance, at present we hold the power of the Canadians as nothing. But we know their dispositions are not unfriendly to us. The savages will be more likely to be our friends than enemies: but if they should not, we know well enough how to defend ourselves against them.

I ought to apologize for the immoderate length of this paper. But general assertions are only to be confuted by an examination of particulars, which necessarily fills up much space. I will trespass on the readers patience only while I make one observation more upon the art, I had almost said chicanery, of this writer.

He affirms that we are not united in this province, and that associations are forming in several parts of the province. The association he means has been laid before the public, and a very curious piece of ledgerdemain it is.11 Is there any article in it acknowledging the authority of parliament—the unlimitted authority of parliament? Brigadier Ruggles himself, Massachusettensis himself, could not have signed it if there had, consistent with their known declared opinions. They associate to stand by the king's laws, and this every whig will subscribe. But after all, what a wretched fortune has this association made in the world, the numbers who have signed it, would appear so inconsiderable, that I dare say the Brigadier will never publish to the world their numbers or names. But “has not Great-Britain been a 255nursing mother to us?” Yes, and we have behaved as nurse children commonly do, been very fond of her, and rewarded her all along tenfold for all her care and expence in our nurture.

But “is not all our distraction owing to parliament's taking off a shilling duty on tea and imposing three pence, and is not this a more unaccountable frenzy, more disgraceful to the annals of America, than the witchcraft.”!

Is the three pence upon tea our only grievance? Are we not in this province deprived of the priviledge of paying our governors, judges, &c. Are not trials by jury taken from us! Are we not to be sent to England for tryal! Is not a military government put over us? Is not our constitution demolished to the foundation? Have not the ministry shewn by the Quebec bill, that we have no security against them for our religion any more than our property, if we once submit to the unlimited claims of parliament! This is so gross an attempt to impose on the most ignorant of the people, that it is a shame to answer it.

Obsta principiis—Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers and destroyers press upon them so fast that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour. The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge for more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependants and expectants, untill virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, frugality, become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality, swallow up the whole society.


That is, 12 Dec. 1774.


Right or wrong.


John Mein was the printer of the Boston Chronicle; he fled from Boston in November 1769, having been in the town only about five years (John E. Alden, “John Mein: Scourge of Patriots,” Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. , 34 [1937–1942]:571–599).


An accurate paraphrase of [Prescott], A Letter from a Veteran, p. 3.


In his first letter Massachusettensis suggests that perhaps many have not realized because of the gradual development of events how far the colonies have gone toward treason. He adds that any good lawyer will point out that treason encompasses more than just threatening the King's life or fighting his troops. It is treasonable to obstruct the operation of the courts, treasonable to force those to flee who accept the King's commissions, treasonable to seize provincial revenue, to assemble in illegally called conventions, or to raise forces.


Robert Ogden of New Jersey, one 256of the delegates to the Stamp Act Congress, who, like Timothy Ruggles, refused to approve its proceedings because of its failure specifically to recognize Parliamentary authority (Morgan, Stamp Act , p. 109).


Terminal punctuation supplied here and removed after “act was passed.”


See JA to James Warren, 3 Jan. 1775, above.


Henry Cruger (1739–1827), a New York merchant then residing in England, and Edmund Burke, the famed conservative theorist and Rockingham Whig, who opposed Lord North's coercive colonial policy, were returned to Parliament from Bristol in Nov. 1774 in place of two supporters of the North ministry (P. T. Underdown, “Henry Cruger and Edmund Burke: Colleagues and Rivals at the Bristol Election of 1774,” WMQ , 3d ser., 15:14–34 [Jan. 1958]).


Jonathan Shipley, Bishop of St. Asaph, who cast his vote against the Massachusetts Government Act; Charles Pratt, first Earl Camden (1714–1794), who as lord chancellor was admired for protecting John Wilkes' rights during his trial, and who actively opposed the Stamp Act and the Coercive Acts; William Pitt ( DNB ).


Doubtless a reference to the association which Timothy Ruggles was trying to form among loyalists in Boston to counteract the Continental Association. Members of Ruggles' group pledged “that we will not acknowledge or submit to the pretended authority of any Congress, Committees of Correspondence, or any other unconstitutional assemblies of men; but will at the risk of our lives, if need be, oppose the forcible exercise of all such authority” (Sabine, Loyalists , 2:244–245).

IV. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 13 February 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


IV. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 13 February 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
IV. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, 13 February 1775

Massachusettensis, whose pen can wheedle with the tongue of king Richard the third, in his first paper, threatens you with the vengeance of Great-Britain, and assures you that if she had no authority over you, yet she would support her claims by her fleets and armies, Canadians and Indians. In his next he alters his tone, and sooths you with the generosity, justice and humanity, of the nation.1

I shall leave him to shew how a nation can claim an authority which they have not by right, and support it by fire and sword, and yet be generous and just. The nation I believe is not vindictive, but the minister has discovered himself to be so, in a degree that would disgrace a warrior of a savage tribe.

The wily Massachusettensis thinks our present calamity is to be attributed to the bad policy of a popular party, whose measures, whatever their intentions were, have been opposite to their profession, the public good. The present calamity seems to be nothing more nor less, than reviving the plans of Mr. Bernard and the junto, and Mr. Grenville and his friends in 1764. Surely this party, are and have been rather unpopular. The popular party did not write Bernard's letters,2 who so long ago pressed for the demolition of all the charters upon the continent, and a parliamentary taxation to support government and 257the administration of justice in America. The popular party did not write Oliver's letters who inforces Bernard's plans, nor Hutchinson's, who pleads with all his eloquence and pathos for parliamentary penalties, ministerial vengeance, and an abridgement of English liberties.3

There is not in human nature a more wonderful phaenomenon; nor in the whole theory of it, a more intricate speculation; than the shiftings, turnings, windings and evasions of a guilty conscience. Such is our unalterable moral constitution, that an internal inclination to do wrong, is criminal: and a wicked thought, stains the mind with guilt, and makes it tingle with pain. Hence it comes to pass that the guilty mind, can never bear to think that its guilt is known to God or man, no, nor to itself.

—Cur tamen hos tu Evasisse putes, quos diri conscia facti Mens habet attonitos, et surdo verbere caedit Occultum quatiente animo tortore flagellum? Poena autum vehemens, ac multo saevior illis, Quas et Caedicius gravis invenit aut Rhadamanthus, Nocte dieque suum gestare in pectore testem, Juv. Sat. 13. 192.4

Massachusettensis and his friends the tories, are startled at the calamities they have brought upon their country, and their conscious guilt, their smarting, wounded minds, will not suffer them to confess, even to themselves what they have done. Their silly denials of their own share in it before a people who they know have abundant evidence against them, never fail to remind me of an ancient fugitive, whose conscience could not bear the recollection of what he had done. “I know not, am I my brothers keeper”? he replies, with all the apparent simplicity of truth and innocence, to one from whom he was very sensible his guilt could not be hid. The still more absurd and ridiculous attempts of the tories, to throw off the blame of these calamities from themselves to the whigs, remind me of another story which I have read in the old testament. When Joseph's brethren had sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver, in order to 258conceal their own avarice, malice, and envy, they dip the coat of many colours in the blood of a Kid, and say that an evil beast had rent him in pieces and devoured him.

However, what the sons of Israel intended for ruin to Joseph, proved the salvation of the family; and I hope and believe that the whigs, will have the magnanimity, like him, to suppress their resentment, and the felicity of saving their ungrateful brothers.

This writer has a faculty of insinuating errors into the mind, almost imperceptibly, he dresses them so in the guise of truth. He says “that the revenue to the crown from America, amounted to but little more than the charges of collecting it,” at the close of the last war. I believe it did not amount to so much. The truth is, there was never any pretence of raising a revenue in America before that time, and when the claim was first set up, it gave no alarm, like a warlike expedition against us. True it is that some duties had been laid before by parliament, under pretence of regulating our trade, and by a collusion and combination between the West India planters and the North-American governors, some years before duties had been laid upon molasses, &c. under the same pretence, but in reality merely to advance the value of the estates of the planters in the West India islands, and to put some plunder, under the name of thirds of seisures into the pockets of the governors. But these duties tho' more had been collected in this province than in any other in proportion, were never regularly collected in any of the colonies. So that the idea of an American revenue for one purpose or another had never, at this time, been formed in American minds.

Our writer goes on, “She Great-Britain tho't it as reasonable that the colonies should bear a part of the national burthen, as that they should share in the national benefit.”

Upon this subject Americans have a great deal to say. The national debt before the last war was near an hundred millions. Surely America had no share in running into that debt. Where is the reason then that she should pay it? But a small part of the sixty millions spent in the last war, was for her benefit. Did not she bear her full share of the burden of the last war in America? Did not this province pay twelve shillings in the pound in taxes for the support of it: and send a sixth or seventh part of her sons into actual service?5 And at the conclusion of the war, was she not left half a million sterling in debt? Did not all the rest of New-England exert itself in proportion? What is the reason that the Massachusetts has paid its debt, and the British minister in thirteen years of peace has paid none of his? Much of it 259might have been paid in this time, had not such extravagance and peculation prevailed as ought to be an eternal warning to America, never to trust such a minister with her money. What is the reason that the great and necessary virtues of simplicity, frugality and oeconomy, cannot live in England, Scotland and Ireland, as well as America?

We have much more to say still. Great Britain has confined all our trade to herself. We are willing she should, as far as it can be for the good of the empire. But we say that we ought to be allowed as credit, in the account of public burdens and expences, so much paid in taxes, as we are obliged to sell our commodities to her cheaper than we could get for them at foreign markets. This difference is really a tax upon us, for the good of the empire. We are obliged to take from Great-Britain, commodities that we could purchase cheaper elsewhere. This difference is a tax upon us for the good of the empire. We submit to this chearfully, but insist that we ought to have credit for it, in the account of the expences of the empire, because it is really a tax upon us. Another thing. I will venture a bold assertion. Let Massachusettensis or any other friend of the minister, confute me. The three million Americans, by the tax aforesaid upon what they are obliged to export to Great-Britain only, what they are obliged to import from Great-Britain only, and the quantities of British manufactures which in these climates they are obliged to consume, more than the like number of people in any part of the three kingdoms, ultimately pay more of the taxes and duties that are apparently paid in Great-Britain, than any three million subjects in the three kingdoms. All this may be computed and reduced to stubborn figures, by the minister, if he pleases. We cannot do it. We have not the accounts, records, &c. Now let this account be fairly stated, and I will engage for America, upon any penalty, that she will pay the overplus, if any, in her own constitutional way, provided it is to be applied for national purposes, as paying off the national debt, maintaining the fleet, &c. not to the support of a standing army in time of peace, placemen, pensioners, &c.

Besides, every farthing of expence which has been incurred on pretence of protecting, defending and securing America since the last war, has been worse than thrown away, it has been applied to do mischief. Keeping an army in America has been nothing but a public nuisance.

Furthermore, we see that all the public money that is raised here, and have reason to believe all that will or can be raised, will be applied not for public purposes, national or provincial, but merely to 260corrupt the sons of America, and create a faction to destroy its interest and happiness.

There is scarcely three sentences together, in all the voluminous productions of this plausible writer which do not convey some error in fact or principle, tinged with a colouring to make it pass for truth. He says “the idea, that the stamps were a tax, not only exceeding our proportion, but beyond our utmost ability to pay, united the colonies generally in opposing it.” That we thought it beyond our proportion and ability is true, but it was not this thought which united the colonies in opposing it. When he says that at first we did not dream of denying the authority of parliament to tax us, much less to legislate for us, he discovers plainly either a total inattention to the sentiments of America at that time, or a disregard of what he affirms.

The truth is, the authority of parliament was never generally acknowledged in America. More than a century since, the Massachusetts and Virginia, both protested against even the act of navigation and refused obedience, for this very reason, because they were not represented in parliament and were therefore not bound—and afterwards confirmed it by their own provincial authority.6 And from that time to this, the general sense of the colonies has been, that the authority of parliament was confined to the regulation of trade, and did not extend to taxation or internal legislation.

In the year 1764, your house of representatives sent home a petition to the king, against the plan of taxing them. Mr. Hutchinson, Oliver and their relations and connections, were then in the legislature, and had great influence there. It was by their influence that the two houses were induced to waive the word rights, and an express denial of the right of parliament to tax us, to the great grief and distress of the friends of liberty in both houses. Mr. Otis and Mr. Thatcher laboured in the committee to obtain an express denial. Mr. Hutchinson expressly said he agreed with them in opinion, that parliament had no right, but tho't it ill policy to express this opinion in the petition.7 In truth, I will be bold to say, there was not any member of either house, who thought that parliament had such a right at that time. The house of representatives, at that time, gave their approbation to Mr. Otis's Rights of the Colonies, &c.8 in which it was shewn to be inconsistent with the Right of British Subjects to be taxed, but by our own Representatives. In 1765, our house expressly resolved against the right of parliament to tax us. The Congress at New-York, resolved 3. “That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted right of Englishmen, that no tax be imposed on 261them, but with their own consent given personally, or by their representatives, 4. That the people of the colonies are not, and from their local circumstances cannot be represented in the house of Commons of Great-Britain. 5. That the only representatives of the people of the colonies, are the persons chosen therein by themselves; and that no taxes ever have been, or can be constitutionally imposed on them, but by their respective legislatures.” Is it not a striking disregard to truth in the artful Massachusettensis to say, that at first we did not dream of denying the right of parliament to tax us? It was the principle that united the colonies to oppose it, not the quantum of the tax. Did not Dr. Franklin deny the right in 1754, in his remarks upon Governor Shirley's scheme, and suppose that all America would deny it? We had considered ourselves as connected with Great-Britain, but we never thought parliament the supreme legislature over us. We never generally supposed it to have any authority over us, but from necessity, and that necessity we thought confined to the regulation of trade, and to such matters as concern'd all the colonies together. We never allowed them any authority in our internal concerns.

This writer says, acts of parliament for regulating our internal polity were familiar. This I deny. So far otherwise that the hatter's act was never regarded—the act to destroy the Land Bank Scheme raised a greater ferment in this province, than the Stamp-Act did, which was appeased only by passing province laws directly in opposition to it. The act against slitting mills, and tilt-hammers, never was executed here. As to the postage, it was so useful a regulation, so few persons paid it, and they found such a benefit by it, that little opposition was made to it: yet every man who thought about it, call'd it an usurpation. Duties for regulating trade we paid, because we thought it just and necessary that they should regulate the trade which their power protected. As for duties for a revenue, none were ever laid by parliament for that purpose until 1764, when, and ever since, its authority to do it has been constantly denied. Nor is this complaisant writer near the truth, when he says, “We know that in all those acts of government, the good of the whole had been consulted.” On the contrary, we know that the private interest of provincial governors and West India planters, had been consulted in the duties on foreign molasses, &c. and the private interest of a few Portugal merchants, in obliging us to touch at Falmouth with Fruit, &c. in opposition to the good of the whole, and in many other instances.

The resolves of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, upon the stamp-act, did great honor to that province, and to the eminent patriot 262Patrick Henry, Esq. who composed them. But these resolves made no alteration in the opinion of the colonies, concerning the right of parliament to make that act. They expressed the universal opinion of the continent at that time, and the alacrity with which every other colony, and the Congress at New-York, adopted the same sentiment in similar resolves, proves the entire union of the colonies in it, and their universal determination to avow and support it.

What follows here, that it became so popular that his life was in danger, who suggested the contrary? And that the Press was open to one side only, are direct misrepresentations and wicked calumnies.

Then we are told, by this sincere writer, that when we obtained a partial repeal of the statute imposing duties on glass, paper and teas, this was the lucky moment, when to have closed the dispute. What? With a Board of Commissioners remaining, the sole end of whose creation was to form and conduct a revenue—with an act of parliament remaining, the professed design of which expressed in the preamble, was to raise a revenue, and appropriate it to the payment of governors and Judges salaries, the duty remaining too upon an article, which must raise a large sum, the consumption of which would constantly increase? Was this a time to retreat? Let me ask this sincere writer a simple question. Does he seriously believe that the designs of imposing other taxes, and of new-moddling our governments, would have been laid aside, by the ministry or by the servants of the crown here? Does he think that Mr. Bernard, Mr. Hutchinson, the Commissioners and others, would have been content then to have desisted: If he really thinks so, he knows little of the human heart, and still less of those gentlemens hearts. It was at this very time that the salary was given to the governor, and an order soliciting for that to the Judges.

Then we are entertained with a great deal of ingenious talk about Whigs and Tories, and at last are told that some of the Whigs owed all their importance to popularity. And what then? Did not as many of the Tories owe their importance to popularity? And did not many more owe all their importance to unpopularity? If it had not been for their taking an active part on the side of the ministry, would not some of the most conspicuous and eminent of them have been unimportant enough? Indeed through the two last administrations to despise and hate the people, and to be despised and hated by them, were the principal recommendations to the favours of government, and all the qualification that was required.

The Tories, says he, were for closing the controversy. That is, 263they were for contending no more, and it was equally true that they never were for contending at all, but lying at mercy. It was the very end they had aimed at from the beginning. They had now got the Governor's salary out of the revenue—a number of pensions and places, and they knew they could at any time get the judges salaries from the same fountain, and they wanted to get the people reconcil'd and familiarised to this, before they went upon any new projects.

The Whigs were averse to restoring government, they even refused to revive a temporary riot act, which expired about this time. Government had as much vigour then as ever, excepting only in those cases which affected this dispute: The riot act expired in 1770, immediately after the Massacre in King Street. It was not revived and never will be in this colony, nor will any one ever be made in any other, while a standing army is illegally posted here, to butcher the people, whenever a governor, or a magistrate, who may be a tool, shall order it. “Perhaps the Whigs tho't that mobs were a necessary ingredient in their system of opposition.” Whether they did or no, it is certain that mobs have been thought a necessary ingredient by the tories in their system of administration, mobs of the worst sort with red coats, fusees and bayonets, and the lives and limbs of the whigs have been in greater danger from these than ever the tories were from others.

“The scheme of the whigs flattered the people with the idea of independence; the tories plan supposed a degree of subordination.” This is artful enough as usual, not say Jesuitical. The word independence is one of those, which this writer uses as he does treason and rebellion to impose upon the undistinguishing on both sides of the Atlantic. But let us take him to pieces. What does he mean by independence! Does he mean independent of the crown of Great-Britain, and an independent republic in America, or a confederation of independent republics? No doubt he intended the undistinguishing should understand him so. If he did, nothing can be more wicked, or a greater slander on the whigs, because he knows there is not a man in the province among the whigs, nor ever was, who harbours a wish of that sort. Does he mean that the people were flattered with the idea of total independence on parliament? If he does, this is equally malicious and injurious, because he knows that the equity and necessity of parliament's regulating trade has always been acknowledged, our determination to consent and submit to such regulations constantly expressed, and all the acts of trade in fact to this very day, much more submitted to and strictly executed in this province, than any other in America.


There is equal ambiguity, in the words “degree of subordination.” The whigs acknowledge a subordination to the king, in as strict and strong a sense as the tories. The whigs acknowledge a voluntary subordination to parliament, as far as the regulation of trade. What degree of subordination then do the tories acknowledge? An absolute dependence upon parliament as their supreme legislative, in all cases whatsoever, in their internal polity as well as taxation? This would be too gross and would loose him all his readers, for there is no body here who will expose his understanding so much as explicitly to adopt such a sentiment. Yet it is such an absolute dependance and submission, that these writers would perswade us to, or else there is no need of changing our sentiments and conduct. Why will not these gentlemen speak out, shew us plainly their opinion that the new government they have fabricated for this province is better than the old, and that all the other measures we complain of are for our and the public good, and exhort us directly to submit to them? The reason is, because they know they should loose their readers.

“The whigs were sensible that there was no oppression that could be seen or felt.” The tories have so often said and wrote this to one another, that I sometimes suspect they believe it to be true. But it is quite otherwise. The castle of the province was taken out of their hands and garrisoned by regular soldiers; this they could see, and they thought it indicated an hostile intention and disposition towards them. They continually paid their money to collectors of duties, this they could both see and feel. An host of placemen, whose whole business it was to collect a revenue, were continually rolling before them in their chariots. These they saw. Their governor was no longer paid by themselves according to their charter, but out of the new revenue, in order to render their assemblies useless and indeed contemptible. The judges salaries were threatned every day to be paid in the same unconstitutional manner. The dullest eyesight could not but see to what all this tended, viz. to prepare the way for greater innovations and oppressions. They knew a minister would never spend his money in this way, if he had not some end to answer by it. Another thing they both saw and felt. Every man, of every character, who by voting, writing, speaking, or otherwise, had favoured the stamp act, the tea act, and every other measure of a minister or governor, who they knew was aiming at the destruction of their form of government, and introducing parliamentary taxation, was uniformly, in some department or other, promoted to some place of honour and profit for ten years together; and on the other hand, every man who favoured the people 265in their opposition to those innovations, was depressed, degraded and persecuted as far as it was in the power of the government to do it.

This they considered as a systematical means of encouraging every man of abilities to espouse the cause of parliamentary taxation, and the plan of destroying their charter privileges, and to discourage all from exerting themselves, in opposition to them. This they thought a plan to enslave them, for they uniformly think that the destruction of their charter, making the council and judges wholly dependent on the crown, and the people subject to the unlimited power of parliament as their supreme legislative, is slavery. They were certainly rightly told then that the ministry and their governors together had formed a design to enslave them, and that when once this was done, they had the highest reason to expect window taxes, hearth taxes, land taxes and all others. And that these were only paving the way for reducing the country to lordships.—Were the people mistaken in these suspicions? Is it not now certain that Governor Bernard in 1769 had formed a design of this sort? Read his principles of polity. And that Lt. Governor Oliver as late as 1768 or 9 inforced the same plan? Read his letters.

Now if Massachusettensis will be ingenuous, avow this design, shew the people its utility, and that it ought to be done by parliament, he will act the part of an honest man. But to insinuate that there was no such plan, when he knows there was, is acting the part of one of the junto.

It is true that the people of this country in general, and of this province in special, have an hereditary apprehension of and aversion to lordships temporal and spiritual. Their ancestors fled to this wilderness to avoid them—they suffer'd sufficiently under them in England. And there are few of the present generation who have not been warned of the danger of them by their fathers or grandfathers, and injoined to oppose them. And neither Bernard nor Oliver ever dared to avow before them, the designs which they had certainly formed to introduce them. Nor does Massachusettensis dare to avow his opinion in their favour. I don't mean that such avowal would expose their persons to danger, but their characters and writings to universal contempt.

When you were told that the people of England were depraved, the parliament venal, and the ministry corrupt, were you not told most melancholly truths? Will Massachusettensis deny any of them? Does not every man who comes from England, whig or tory, tell you the same thing? Do they make any secret of it, or use any delicacy 266about it? Do they not most of them avow that corruption is so established there, as to be incurable, and a necessary instrument of government? Is not the British constitution arrived nearly to that point, where the Roman republic was when Jugurtha left it, and pronounc'd it a venal city ripe for destruction, if it can only find a purchaser? If Massachusettensis can prove that it is not, he will remove from my mind, one of the heaviest loads which lies upon it.

Who has censured the tories for remissness, I know not. Whoever it was, he did them great injustice. Every one that I know of that character, has been thro' the whole tempestuous period, as indefatigable as human nature will admit, going about seeking whom he might devour, making use of art, flattery, terror, temptation and alurement, in every shape in which human wit could dress it up, in public and private. But all to no purpose. The people have grown more and more weary of them every day, untill now the land mourns under them.

Massachusettensis is then seized with a violent fit of anger at the clergy. It is curious to observe the conduct of the Tories towards this sacred body. If a clergyman preaches against the principles of the revolution, and tells the people that upon pain of damnation they must submit to an established government of whatever character, the Tories cry him up as an excellent man, and a wonderful preacher, invite him to their tables, procure him missions from the society, and chaplainships to the navy, and flatter him with the hopes of lawn sleeves. But if a clergyman preaches Christianity, and tells the magistrates that they were not distinguished from their brethren for their private emolument, but for the good of the people, that the people are bound in conscience to obey a good government, but are not bound to submit to one that aims at destroying all the ends of government— Oh Sedition! Treason!

The clergy in all ages and countries, and in this in particular, are disposed enough to be on the side of government, as long as it is tolerable: If they have not been generally in the late administrations on that side, it is demonstration that the late administration has been universally odious.

The clergy of this province are a virtuous, sensible and learned set of men, and they don't take their sermons from newspapers but the bible, unless it be a few who preach passive obedience. These are not generally curious enough to read Hobbs.

It is the duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourses to the 267times, to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and recommend such virtues as are most wanted. For example, if exorbitant ambition, and venality are predominant, ought they not to warn their hearers against these vices? If public spirit is much wanted, should they not inculcate this great virtue? If the rights and duties of christian magistrates and subjects are disputed, should they not explain them, shew their nature, ends, limitations and restrictions, how much soever it may move the gall of Massachusettensis?

Let me put a supposition. Justice is a great christian as well as moral duty and virtue, which the clergy ought to inculcate and explain. Suppose a great man of a parish should for seven years together receive 600 sterling a year, for discharging the duties of an important office; but during the whole time, should never do one act or take one step about it. Would not this be great injustice to the public? And ought not the parson of that parish to cry aloud and spare not, and shew such a bold transgressor his sin? Shew that justice was due to the public as well as to an individual, and that cheating the public of four thousand two hundred pounds sterling, is at least as great a sin as taking a chicken from a private hen roost, or perhaps a watch from a fob!

Then we are told that news-papers and preachers have excited outrages disgraceful to humanity. Upon this subject I will venture to say, that there have been outrages in this province which I neither justify, excuse or extenuate; but these were not excited, that I know of, by news-papers or sermons. That however, if we run through the last ten years, and consider all the tumults and outrages that have happened, and at the same time recollect the insults, provocations, and oppressions which this people have endured; we shall find the two characteristicks of this people, religion and humanity, strongly marked on all their proceedings, not a life, nor that I have ever heard, a single limb has been lost thro' the whole. I will take upon me to say, there is not another province on this continent, nor in his majesty's dominions, where the people, under the same indignities, would not have gone greater lengths. Consider the tumults in the three kingdoms, consider the tumults in ancient Rome, in the most virtuous of her periods, and compare them with ours. It is a saying of Machiavel, which no wise man ever contradicted, which has been literally verified in this province that “while the mass of the people is not corrupted, tumults do no hurt.” By which he means, that they leave no lasting ill effects behind.


But let us consider the outrages committed by the Tories. Half a dozen men shot dead in an instant, in king street, frequent resistance and affronts to civil officers and magistrates, officers, watchmen, citizens, cut and mangled in a most inhuman manner. Not to mention the shootings for desertion, and the frequent cruel whippings for other faults, cutting and mangling men's bodies before the eyes of citizens, spectacles which ought never to be introduced into populous places. The worst sort of tumults and outrages ever committed in this province, were excited by the tories. But more of this hereafter.

We are then told that the whigs erected a provincial democracy, or republic, in the province. I wish Massachusettensis knew what a democracy, or republic is. But this subject must be considered another time.


Messieurs Printers. Instead of Cawings of Cormorants, in a former paper, you have printed cooings, too dove-like a word for the birds intended.9


Leonard's second letter appeared 19 Dec. 1774. JA probably refers to such statements as the following: “the colonies were as much benefitted by the conquests in the late war, as any part of the empire, and indeed more so. . . . The greatest opening was given to agriculture, the natural livelihood of the country, that was ever known in the history of the world, and their trade was protected by the British navy. . . . We knew that in all those acts of government creation of a post office and passage of regulatory and revenue-raising acts, the good of the whole had been consulted, and whenever through want of information any thing grievious had been ordained, we were sure of obtaining redress by a proper representation of it” (Novanglus and Massachusettensis, p. 147).


See No. II, note 7, above.


Copy of Letters Sent to Great-Britain, by His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, the Hon. Andrew Oliver, and Several Other Persons, BORN AND EDUCATED AMONG US . . . , Boston, 1773 (Evans, No. 12818; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:80, note 1).


Why should you think that those have escaped punishment whom a mind conscious of the dreadful deed holds awestruck and cuts them to pieces with a noiseless whip; their soul as torturer shakes the hidden lash? Moreover, that is a harsh and far more cruel punishment than those which both severe Caedicius and Rhadamanthus invent, to carry about in one's heart both night and day one's own witness (Juvenal, Satura, 13:192–198).


JA ignores the reimbursement that Parliament made to the colonies for war expenditures (Gipson, Empire before the Revolution , 7:317–318).


Very likely JA made use of Hutchinson's history for his assertion. See Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 1:272. What contemporary source he used for Virginia has not been determined, but see Thomas J. Wertenbaker, Virginia under the Stuarts, 1607–1688, Princeton, 1914, p. 125–126.


See Bailyn, Thomas Hutchinson , p. 64–65.


James Otis, The Rights of the Colonies Asserted and Proved . . . , Boston, 1764.


In the second Novanglus letter JA said that Grenville “chose to get the revenue into the exchequer, because he had hungry cormorants enough about him in England whose cooings were more troublesome to his ears, than the croaking of the ravens in America.” After reading this letter, Samuel Swift told JA that the word “cooings” was inappropriate; see Swift to JA, 30 Jan. 1775, below. Apparently Swift's letter provoked JA's note to the printer.

269 V. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 20 February 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


V. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 20 February 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
V. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, 20 February 1775

We are at length arrived at the paper,1 on which I made a few strictures, some weeks ago: these I shall not repeat, but proceed to consider the other part of it.

We are told “It is an universal truth, that he that would excite a rebellion, is at heart, as great a tyrant as ever weilded the iron rod of oppression.” Be it so: We are not exciting a rebellion. Opposition, nay open, avowed resistance by arms, against usurpation and lawless violence, is not rebellion by the law of God, or the land. Resistance to lawful authority makes rebellion. Hampden, Russell, Sydney, Somers, Holt, Tillotson, Burnet, Hoadley,2 &c. were no tyrants nor rebels, altho' some of them were in arms, and the others undoubtedly excited resistance, against the tories. Don't beg the question, Mr. Massachusettensis, and then give yourself airs of triumph. Remember the frank Veteran acknowledges, that “the word rebel is a convertible term.”3

This writer next attempts to trace the spirit of opposition, through the general court, and the courts of common law. “It was the policy of the whigs, to have their questions upon high matters determined by yea and nay votes, which were published in the gazettes.” And ought not great questions to be so determined? In many other assemblies, New-York particularly, they always are. What better way can be devised to discover the true sense of the people? It is extreamly provoking to courtiers, that they can't vote, as the cabinet direct them, against their consciences, the known sense of their constituents, and the obvious good of the community, without being detected. Generally, perhaps universally, no unpopular measure in a free government, particularly the English, ought ever to pass. Why have the people a share in the legislature, but to prevent such measures from passing, I mean such as are disapproved by the people at large? But did not these yea and nay votes, expose the whigs as well as tories to the impartial judgment of the public? If the votes of the former were given for measures injurious to the community, had not the latter an equal opportunity of improving them to the disadvantage of their adversaries in the next election? Besides, were not those few persons in the house, who generally voted for unpopular measures, near the governor, in possession of his confidence? Had they not the absolute disposal in their towns and counties of the favours of government? 270Were not all the judges, justices, sheriffs, coroners and military officers in their towns, made upon their recommendation? Did not this give them a prodigious weight and influence? Had the whigs any such advantage? And does not the influence of these yea and nay votes, consequently prove to a demonstration, the unanimity of the people, against the measures of the court?

As to what is said of “severe strictures, illiberal invectives, abuse and scurrility, upon the dissentients,” there was quite as much of all these published against the leading whigs. In truth, the strictures, &c against the tories were generally nothing more than hints at the particular place or office, which was known to be the temptation to vote against the country. That “the dissentient was in danger of losing his bread and involving his family in ruin” is equally injurious. Not an instance can be produced, of a member, losing his bread, or injuring his business, by voting for unpopular measures. On the contrary, such voters never failed to obtain some lucrative employment, title or honorary office, as a reward from the court.

If “one set of members in committee, had always prepared the resolves,” &c. which they did not, what would this prove, but that this set was thought by the house the fittest for the purpose? Can it ever be otherwise? Will any popular assembly chuse its worst members for the best services? Will an assembly of patriots chuse courtiers to prepare votes against the court? No resolves against the claims of parliament or administration, or the measures of the governor, (excepting those against the stamp act, and perhaps the answers to governor Hutchinson's speeches upon the supremacy of parliament) ever passed through the house, without meeting an obstacle. The governor had to the last hour of the house's existence, always some seekers and expectants in the house, who never failed to oppose, and offer the best arguments they could, and were always patiently heard. That the lips of the dissentients were sealed up: that they sat in silence, and beheld with regret, measures they dar'd not oppose, are groundless suggestions, and gross reflections upon the honour or courage of those members. The debates of this house were public, and every man who has attended the gallery knows there never was more freedom of debate, in any assembly.

Massachusettensis, in the next place, conducts us to the agent,4 and tells us “there cannot be a provincial agent without an appointment by the three branches of the assembly. The whigs soon found that they could not have such services rendered them, from a provincial agent as would answer their purposes.”


The treatment this province has received, respecting the agency, since Mr. Hutchinson's administration commenced, is a flagrant example of injustice. There is no law, which requires the province to maintain any agent in England, much less is there any reason which necessarily requires, that the three branches should join in the appointment. In ordinary times, indeed, when a harmony prevails among the branches, it is well enough to have an agent constituted by all: But in times when the foundations of the constitution are disputed, and certainly attacked, by one branch or the other, to pretend that the house ought to join the governor in the choice, is a palpable absurdity. It is equivalent to saying that the people shall have no agent at all; that all communication between them and their sovereign shall be cut off; and that there shall be no channel through which complaints and petitions may be conveyed to the royal ear; because a governor will not concur in an agent whose sentiments are not like his; nor will an agent of the governor's appointment be likely to urge accusations against him with any diligence or zeal, if the people have occasion to complain against him.

Every private citizen, much more every representative body, have an undoubted right to petition the king; to convey such petition by any agent, and to pay him for his service. Mr. Bernard, to do him justice, had so much regard to these principles, as to consent to the payment of the people's agents while he staid. But Mr. Hutchinson was scarcely seated in the chair as lieut. governor, before we had intelligence from England, that my lord Hillsborough told Dr. Franklin, he had received a letter from governor Hutchinson, soliciting an instruction against consenting to the salary of the agent. Such an instruction was accordingly soon sent, and no agent for the board or house, has received a farthing for services since that time, although Dr. Franklin and Mr. Bollan have taken much pains, and one of them expended considerable sums of money. There is a meanness in this play that would disgrace a gambler. A manifest fear that the truth should be known to the sovereign or the people. Many persons have thought that the province ought to have dismiss'd all agents from that time, as useless and nugatory, this behaviour amounting to a declaration, that we had no chance or hopes of justice from such a minister.

But this province, at least as meritorious as any, has been long accustomed to indignities and injustice, and to bear both with unparallelled patience. Others, have pursued the same method before and since, but we have never heard that their agents are unpaid. They would scarcely have born it with so much resignation.


It is great assurance to blame the house for this, which was both their right and duty: but a stain in the character of his patron, which will not be soon worn out. Indeed this passage seems to have been bro't in, chiefly for the sake of a stroke or two addressed to the lowest and meanest of the people: I mean the insinuation that the two Agents doubled the Expence, which is as groundless as it is contracted; and that the ostensible agent for the province was only agent for a few individuals, that had got the art of wielding the house; and that several hundreds sterling a year, for attending levees and writing letters were worth preserving. We, my friends, know that no members have the art of wielding us or our house, but by concurring in our principles, and assisting us in our designs. Numbers in both houses have turn'd about and expected to wield us round with them; but they have been disappointed, and ever will be. Such apostates have never yet fail'd of our utter contempt, whatever titles, places or pensions they might obtain.

The agent has never ecchoed back, or transmitted to America, any sentiments, which he did not give in substance to governor Shirley twenty years ago; and therefore this insinuation is but another slander. The remainder of what is said of the agency is levell'd at Dr. Franklin, and is but a dull appendix to Wedderburn's ribaldry,5 having all his malice without any of his wit or spirit. Nero murdered Seneca that he might pull up virtue by the roots, and the same maxim governs the scribblers, and speechifyers, on the side of the minister. It is sufficient to discover that any man has abilities and integrity, a love of virtue and liberty; he must be run down at all events. Witness Pitt and Franklin and too many others.

My design in pursuing this malicious slanderer, concealed as he is under so soft and oily an appearance, through all the doublings of his tedious course, is to vindicate this Colony from his base aspersions; that strangers now among us, and the impartial public, may see the wicked arts which are still employed against us. After the vilest abuse upon the agent of the province and the house that appointed him, we are brought to his Majesty's Council, and are told that “the whigs reminded them of their mortality—if any one opposed the violent measures, he lost his Election next May. Half the whole number mostly men of the first families, note, abilities, attached to their native country, wealthy and independent, were tumbled from their seats in disgrace. Thus the Board lost its weight, and the political balance was destroyed.”

It is impossible for any man acquainted with this subject to read 273this zealous rant, without smiling, until he attends to the wickedness of it, which will provoke his utmost indignation. Let us however consider it soberly.

From the date of our charter, to the time of the Stamp Act, and indeed since that time (notwithstanding the misrepresentations of our charter constitution, as too popular and republican) the council of this province have been generally on the side of the governor and the prerogative. For the truth of this, I appeal to our whole history and experience. The art and power of governors, and especially the negative, have been a stronger motive on the one hand, than the annual election of the two houses on the other. In disputes between the governor and the house, the council have generally adhered to the former, and in many cases have complied with his humour when scarcely any council by mandamus, upon this continent, would have done it.

But in the time of the Stamp Act, it was found productive of many mischiefs and dangers, to have officers of the crown, who were dependent on the ministry, and judges of the superior court whose offices were thought incompatible with a voice in the legislature, members of council.

In May 1765, Lt. Gov. Hutchinson, Sec. Oliver, and Mr. Belcher were officers of the crown, the judges of the superior court, and some other gentlemen who held commissions under the governor, were members of council. Mr. Hutchinson was chief justice and a judge of probate for the first county, as well as lieut. governor, and a counsellor, too many offices for the greatest and best man in the world to hold, too much business for any man to do; besides, that these offices were frequently clashing and interfering with each other. Two other justices of the superior court were councilors, and nearly and closely connected with him by family alliances. One other justice was judge of admiralty during pleasure. Such a jumble of offices, never got together before in any English government. It was found in short, that the famous triumvirate, Bernard, Hutchinson and Oliver, the ever memorable, secret, confidential letter writers, whom I call the junto, had by degrees, and before people were aware of it, erected a tyranny in the province. Bernard had all the executive, and a negative on the legislative; Hutchinson and Oliver, by their popular arts and secret intrigues, had elevated to the board, such a collection of crown officers, and their own relations, as to have too much influence there: and they had three of a family on the superior bench, which is the supreme tribunal in all causes civil and criminal, vested with all the powers of the king's bench, common pleas and exchequer, 274which gave them power over every act of this court. This junto therefore had the legislative and executive in their controul, and more natural influence over the judicial, than is ever to be trusted in any set of men in the world. The public accordingly found all these springs and wheels in the constitution set in motion to promote submission to the stamp act, and to discountenance resistance to it; and they thought they had a violent presumption, that they would forever be employed to encourage a compliance with all ministerial measures and parliamentary claims, of whatever character they might be.

The designs of the junto, however, were concealed as carefully as possible. Most persons were jealous; few were certain. When the assembly met in May 1766, after the stamp-act was repealed, the whigs flattered themselves with hopes of peace and liberty for the future. Mr. Otis, whose abilities and integrity; whose great exertions and most exemplary sacrifices of his private interest to the public service, had intitled him to all the promotion which the people could bestow, was chosen speaker of the house. Bernard negatived the choice. It can scarcely be conceived by a stranger, what an alarm this manoeuvre gave to the public. It was thought equivalent to a declaration, that altho' the people had been so successful as to obtain a repeal of the stamp-act, yet they must not hope to be quiet long, for parliament, by the declaratory act, had asserted its supreme authority, and new taxations and regulations should be made, if the junto could obtain them: and every man who should dare to oppose such projects, let his powers, or virtues, his family or fortune be what they would, should be surely cut off from all hopes of advancement. The electors thought it high time to be upon their guard. All the foregoing reasons and motives prevailed with the electors; and the crown officers and justices of the superior court, were left out of council in the new choice. Those who were elected in their places were all negatived by Bernard, which was considered as a fresh proof, that the junto still persevered in their designs of obtaining a revenue, to divide among themselves.

The gentlemen elected anew, were of equal fortune and integrity, at least, and not much inferior in abilities to those left out, and indeed, in point of fortune, family, note or abilities, the councils which have been chosen from that time to this, taken on an avarage, have been very little inferior, if any, to those chosen before. Let Massachusettensis descend if he will to every particular gentleman by name through the whole period, and I will make out my assertion.

Every impartial Person, will not only think these reasons a full 275vindication of the conduct of the two Houses, but that it was their indispensable duty to their country, to act the part they did; and the course of time, which has develloped the dark intrigues of the junto, before and since, has confirmed the rectitude and necessity of the measure. Had Bernard's principles of polity been published and known at that time, no member of the house, who should have voted for any one of the persons then left out, if it was known to his constituents, would ever have obtained another election.

By the next step we rise to the chair. “With the board, the chair fell likewise”, he says. But what a slander is this? Neither fell: both remained in as much vigour as ever. The junto it is true, and some other gentlemen who were not in their secret, but however had been misled to concur in their measures, were left out of council. But the board had as much authority as ever. The board of 1766 could not have influenced the people to acknowledge the supreme uncontroulable authority of parliament, nor could that of 1765, have done it. So that by the chair, and the boards falling, he means no more, if his meaning has any truth in it, than that the junto fell, the designs of taxing the colonies fell, and the schemes for destroying all the charters on the continent and for erecting Lordships fell. These it must be acknowledged fell very low indeed, in the esteem of the people, and the two houses.

“The Governor,” says our wily writer, “could do little or nothing without the Council by the Charter”—“if he call'd upon a military officer to raise the militia, he was answered they were there already,” &c. The Council by the Charter, had nothing to do with the militia. The Governor alone had all authority over them. The council therefore are not to blame for their conduct. If the militia refuse obedience to the Captain General, or his subordinate officers, when commanded to assist in carrying into execution the Stamp Act, or in dispersing those who were opposing it, does not this prove the universal sense and resolution of the people not to submit to it? Did not a regular army do more to James the second? If those, over whom the governor had the most absolute authority and decisive influence, refused obedience, does not this shew how deeply rooted in all mens minds was the abhorrence of that unconstitutional power, which was usurping over them? “If he called upon the Council for their assistance, they must first enquire into the cause.” An unpardonable crime, no doubt! But is it the duty of a middle branch of legislature, to do as the first shall command them, implicitly, or to judge for themselves? Is it the duty of a privy council, to understand the subject before 276they give advice, or only to lend their names to any edict, in order to make it less unpopular? It would be a shame to answer such observations as these, if it was not for their wickedness. Our Council, all along, however, did as much as any Council could have done. Was the Mandamus Council at New-York able to do more, to influence the people to a submission to the Stamp act? Was the Chair, the Board, the Septennial House,6 with the assistance of General Gage and his troops, able to do more, in that city, than our branches did in this province? Not one Iota. Nor could Bernard, his Council, and House, if they had been unanimous, have induced submission. The people would have spurned them all, for they are not to be wheedled out of their liberties by their own Representatives, any more than by strangers. “If he wrote to government at home to strengthen his hands, some officious person procured and sent back his letters.” At last it seems to be acknowledged, that the governor did write for a military force, to strengthen government. For what? To enable it to enforce Stamp acts, Tea acts, and other internal regulations, the authority of which, the people were determined never to acknowledge.

But what a pity it was that these worthy gentlemen could not be allowed, from the dearest affection to their native country, to which they had every possible attachment, to go on in profound confidential secrecy, procuring troops to cut our throats, acts of parliament to drain our purses and destroy our charters and assemblies, getting estates and dignities for themselves and their own families, and all the while most devoutly professing to be friends to our charter, enemies to parliamentary taxation, and to all pensions, without being detected? How happy! if they could have annihilated all our charters, and yet have been beloved, nay deified by the people, as friends and advocates for their charters? What masterly politicians! to have made themselves nobles for life, and yet have been thought very sorry that the two houses were deprived of the privilege of choosing the Council? How sagacious, to get large pensions for themselves, and yet be thought to mourn, that pensions and venality were introduced into the country? How sweet and pleasant! to have been the most popular men in the community, for being stanch and zealous dissenters, true-blue calvinists, and able advocates for public virtue and popular government, after they had introduced an American Episcopate, universal corruption among the leading men, and deprived the people of all share in their supreme legislative council? I mention an Episcopate, for altho' I don't know that Gov's. Hutchinson and Oliver ever directly solicited for Bishops, yet they must have seen, that there 277would have been one effect, very soon, of establishing the unlimitted authority of parliament!

I agree with this writer, that it was not the persons of Bernard, Hutchinson or Oliver, that made them obnoxious; but their principles and practices. And I will agree, that if Chatham, Campden and St. Asaph (I beg pardon for introducing these revered names into such company, and for making a supposition which is absurd) had been here, and prosecuted such schemes, they would have met with contempt and execration from this people. But when he says, “that had the intimations in those letters been attended to, we had now been as happy a people as good government could make us,” it is too gross to make us angry. We can do nothing but smile. Have not these intimations been attended to? Have not fleets and armies been sent here, whenever they requested? Have not Governors, Lt. Governors, Secretaries, Judges, Attorney Generals and Solicitor Generals salaries been paid out of the revenue as they solicited? Have not taxes been laid, and continued? Have not English Liberties been abridged as Hutchinson desired? Have not “penalties of another kind” been inflicted, as he desired? Has not our Charter been destroyed, and the Council put into the King's hands, as Bernard requested? In short, almost all the wild mock pranks of this desperate triumverate have been attended to and adopted, and we are now as miserable as Tyranny can well make us. That Bernard came here with the affections of New Jersey, I never heard nor read, but in this writer. His abilities were considerable, or he could not have done such extensive mischief. His true British honesty and punctuality, will be acknowledged by none but such as owe all their importance to flattering him.

That Hutchinson was amiable and exemplary, in some respects, and very unamiable and unexemplary, in others, is a certain truth: otherwise he never would have retained so much popularity on one hand, nor made so pernicious a use of it on the other. His behavior, in several important departments, was with ability and integrity, in cases which did not affect his political system, but he bent all his offices to that. Had he continued stedfast to those principles in religion and government, which in his former life he professed, and which alone had procured him the confidence of the people and all his importance, he would have lived and died, respected and beloved, and have done honor to his native country. But by renouncing these principles and that conduct, which had made him and all his ancestors respectable, his character is now considered by all America, and the best part of the three kingdoms, notwithstanding the coun-278tenance he receives from the ministry, as a reproach to the province that gave him birth, as a man who by all his actions aimed at making himself great, at the expence of the liberties of his native country. This gentleman was open to flattery, in so remarkable a degree, that any man who would flatter him was sure of his friendship, and every one who would not, was sure of his enmity. He was credulous, in a ridiculous degree, of every thing that favoured his own plans, and equally incredulous of every thing which made against them. His natural abilities which have been greatly exaggerated by persons whom he had advanced to power, were far from being of the first rate. His industry was prodigious. His knowledge lay chiefly in the laws and politicks and history of this province, in which he had a long experience. Yet with all his advantages, he never was master of the true character of his native country, not even of New England and the Massachusetts Bay. Through the whole troublesome period since the last war, he manifestly mistook the temper, principles, and opinions of this people. He had resolved upon a system, and never could or would see the impracticability of it.

It is very true that all his abilities, virtues, interests and connections, were insufficient; but for what? To prevail on the people to acquiese in the mighty claim of parliamentary authority. The constitution was not gone. The suggestion that it was is a vile slander. It had as much vigor as ever, and even the governor had as much power as ever, excepting in cases which affected that claim. “The spirit” says this writer “was truly republican.” It was not so in any one case whatever; any further than the spirit of the British constitution is republican. Even in the grand fundamental dispute, the people arranged themselves under their house of representatives and council, with as much order as ever, and conducted their opposition as much by the constitution as ever. It is true their constitution was employed against the measures of the junto, which created their enmity to it. However I have not such an horror of a republican spirit, which is a spirit of true virtue, and honest independence, I don't mean on the king, but on men in power. This spirit is so far from being incompatible with the British constitution, that it is the greatest glory of it, and the nation has always been most prosperous when it has most prevailed and been most encouraged by the crown. I wish it increased in every part of the world, especially in America; and I think the measures the Tories are now pursuing, will increase it to a degree that will insure us in the end redress of grievances and an happy reconciliation with Great Britain.


“Governor Hutchinson strove to convince us, by the principles of government, our charters and acknowledgments, that our claims were inconsistent with the subordination due to Great Britain,” &c. says the writer.

Suffer me to introduce here, a little history. In 1764, when the system of taxing and new moddling the colonies was first apprehended, Lieut. Governor Hutchinson's friends struggled in several successive sessions of the General Court, to get him chosen agent for the province at the court of Great Britain. At this time he declared freely, that he was of the same sentiment with the people, that Parliament had no Right to tax them; but differed from the country party, only in his opinion of the policy of denying that Right, in their Petitions, &c. I would not injure him, I was told this by three gentlemen who were of the committee of both houses, to prepare that petition that he made this declaration explicitly before that committee. I have been told by other gentlemen that he made the same declaration to them. It is possible that he might make use of expressions studied for the purpose, which would not strictly bear this construction. But it is certain that they understood him so, and that this was the general opinion of his sentiments until he came to the chair.

The country party saw, that this aspiring genius, aimed at keeping fair with the ministry, by supporting their measures, and with the people, by pretending to be of our principles, and between both to trim himself up to the chair. The only reason why he did not obtain an election at one time, and was excused from the service at another after he had been chosen by a small majority, was because the members knew he would not openly deny the right, and assure his majesty, the parliament, and ministry, that the people never would submit to it. For the same reason he was left out of council. But he continued to cultivate his popularity and to maintain a general opinion among the people, that he denied the right in his private judgment, and this idea preserved most of those who continued their esteem for him.

But upon Bernard's removal, and his taking the chair as lieut. governor, he had no further expectations from the people nor complaisance for their opinions. In one of his first speeches he took care to advance the supreme authority of parliament. This astonished many of his friends. They were heard to say, we have been deceived. We thought he had been abused, but we now find what has been said of him is true. He is determined to join in the designs against this country. After his promotion to the government, finding that the 280people had little confidence in him, and shewing that he had no interest at home to support him but what he had acquired by joining with Bernard in kicking up a dust, he determined to stroke a bold stroke, and in a formal speech to both houses, became a champion for the unbounded authority of parliament, over the colonies.7 This he thought would lay the ministry under an obligation to support him in the government, or else to provide for him out of it, not considering that starting that question before that assembly, and calling upon them as he did to dispute with him upon it, was scattering firebrands, arrows and death in sport. The arguments he advanced were inconclusive indeed: but they shall be considered, when I come to the feeble attempt of Massachusettensis to give a colour to the same position.

The house, thus called upon, either to acknowledge the unlimited authority of parliament, or confute his arguments, were bound by their duty to God, their country and posterity, to give him a full and explicit answer. They proved incontestibly that he was out in his facts, inconsistent with himself, and in every principle of his law, he had committed a blunder. Thus the fowler was caught in his own snare: and altho' this country has suffered severe temporary calamities in consequence of this speech, yet I hope they will not be durable: but his ruin was certainly in part owing to it. Nothing ever opened the eyes of the people so much, to his designs, excepting his letters. Thus it is the fate of Massachusettensis, to praise this gentleman, for those things which the wise part of mankind condemn in him as the most insidious and mischievous of actions. If it was out of his power to do us any more injuries, I should wish to forget the part; but as there is reason to fear he is still to continue his malevolent labours against this country, altho' he is out of our sight, he ought not to be out of our minds. This country has every thing to fear, in the present state of the British court, while the lords Bute, Mansfield and North have the principal conduct of affairs, from the deep intrigues of that artful man.

To proceed to his successor,8 whom Massachusettensis has been pleased to compliment with the epithet of “amiable”. I have no inclination to detract from this praise, but have no panegyricks or invectives for any man, much less for any governor, until satisfied of his character and designs. This gentleman's conduct, although he came here to support the systems of his two predecessors, and instructed to throw himself into the arms of their connections, when he has acted himself, and not been teized by others much less 281amiable and judicious than himself, into measures, which his own inclination would have avoided, has been in general as unexceptionable as could be expected, in his very delicate, intricate and difficult situation.

We are then told “that disaffection to Great-Britain was infused into the body of the people.” The leading whigs, have ever, systematically, and upon principle, endeavoured to preserve the people from all disaffection to the king on the one hand, and the body of the people on the other, but to lay the blame where it is justly due on the ministry and their instruments.

We are next conducted into the superiour court, and informed “that the judges were dependant on the annual grants of the general court; that their salaries were small in proportion to the salaries of other officers, of less importance; that they often petitioned the assembly to enlarge them, without success, and were reminded of their dependance; that they remained unshaken amid the raging tempests, which is to be attributed rather to their firmness than situation.”

That the salaries were small, must be allowed, but not smaller in proportion than those of other officers. All salaries in this Province have been and are small. It has been the policy of the country to keep them so, not so much from a spirit of parsimony, as an opinion, that the service of the public ought to be an honorary, rather than a lucrative employment; and that the great men ought to be obliged to set examples of simplicity and frugality before the people.

But if we consider things maturely, and make allowance for all circumstances, I think the country may be vindicated. This province during the last war, had such overbearing burdens upon it, that it was necessiated to oeconomy in every thing. At the peace she was half a million sterling in debt, nearly. She thought it the best policy to get out of debt before she raised the wages of her servants, and if Great-Britain had thought as wisely, she would not now have had 140 millions to pay, and she would never have thought of taxing America.

Low as the wages were, it was found that whenever a vacancy happened, the place was solicited with much more anxiety and zeal than the kingdom of heaven.

Another cause which had its effect was this. The judges of that court had almost always enjoyed some other office. At the time of the stamp act the chief justice was lieut. governor, which yielded him a profit, and a judge of probate for the county of Suffolk, which yielded him another profit, and a counsellor, which if it was not very 282profitable, gave him an opportunity of promoting his family and friends to other profitable offices, an opportunity which the country saw he most religiously improved. Another justice of this court was a judge of admiralty, and another was judge of probate for the county of Plymouth. The people thought therefore, that as their time was not wholly taken up by their offices as judges of the superior court, there was no reason why they should be paid as much as if it had been.

Another reason was this: those justices had not been bred to the bar, but taken from merchandize, husbandry and other occupations; had been at no great expence for education or libraries, and therefore the people thought that equity did not demand large salaries.

It must be confessed that another motive had its weight. The people were growing jealous of the chief justice and two other justices at least, and therefore thought it imprudent to enlarge their salaries, and by that means their influence.

Whether all these arguments were sufficient to vindicate the people for not enlarging their salaries, I shall leave to you, my friends, whose right it is to judge. But that the judges petition'd “often” to the assembly I don't remember. I knew it was suspected by many, and confidently affirmed by some, that judge Russell9 carried home with him in 1766, a petition to his Majesty, subscribed by himself, and chief justice Hutchinson at least, praying his Majesty to take the payment of the judges into his own hands; and that this petition, together with the solicitations of Governor Bernard, and others, had the success to procure the act of parliament, to enable his Majesty to appropriate the revenue to the support of the administration of justice, &c.10 from whence a great part of the present calamities of America have flowed.

That the high whigs took care to get themselves chosen of the grand juries I don't believe. Nine tenths of the people were high whigs; and therefore it was not easy to get a grand jury without nine whigs in ten, in it. And the matter would not be much mended by the new act of parliament.11 The sheriff must return the same set of jurors, court after court, or else his juries would be nine tenths of them high whigs still. Indeed the tories are so envenom'd now with malice, envy, revenge and disappointed ambition, that they would be willing, for what I know, to be jurors for life, in order to give verdicts against the whigs. And many of them would readily do it, I doubt not, without any other law or evidence, than what they found in their own breasts. The suggestion of ledgerdemain, in drawing 283the names of petit jurors out of the box, is scandalous. Human wisdom cannot devise a method of obtaining petit jurors more fairly, and better secured against a possibility of corruption of any kind, than that established by our provincial law. They were drawn by chance out of a box, in open town meeting, to which the tories went, or might have gone, as well as the whigs, and have seen with their own eyes, that nothing unfair ever did or could take place. If the jurors consisted of whigs, it was because the freeholders were whigs, that is honest men. But now, it seems, if Massachusettensis can have his will, the sheriff who will be a person properly qualified for the purpose, is to pick out a tory jury, if he can find one in ten, or one in twenty of that character among the freeholders; and it is no doubt expected, that every news paper that presumes to deny the right of parliament to tax us, or destroy our charter, will be presented as a libel, and every member of a committee of correspondence, or a congress, &c. &c. &c. are to be indicted for rebellion. These would be pleasant times to Massachusettensis and the junto, but they will never live to see them.

“The judges pointed out seditious libels, on governors, magistrates, and the whole government to no effect.” They did so. But the jurors thought some of these no libels, but solemn truths. At one time, I have heard that all the newspapers for several years, the Massachusetts Gazette, Evening Post, the Boston Chronicle, Boston-Gazette, and Massachusetts-Spy, were laid before a grand jury at once. The jurors thought there were multitudes of libels written by the tories, and they did not know who they should attack if they presented them; perhaps governor Bernard, lieut. governor Hutchinson, secretary Oliver—possibly the attorney general. They saw so many difficulties they knew not what to do.

As to the riots and insurrections, it is surprizing that this writer should say “scarce one offender was indicted, and I think not one convicted.” Were not many indicted, convicted, and punished too in the county of Essex? and Middlesex, and indeed in every other county? But perhaps he will say, he means such as were connected with politicks. Yet this is not true, for a large number in Essex were punished for abusing an informer, and others were indicted and convicted in Boston, for a similar offence. None were indicted for pulling down the stamp office, because this was thought an honorable and glorious action, not a riot. And so it must be said of several other tumults. But was not this the case in royal as well as charter governments? Nor will this inconvenience be remedied by a sheriff's jury, 284if such an one should ever sit. For if such a jury should convict, the people will never bear the punishment. It is in vain to expect or hope to carry on government, against the universal bent and genius of the people; we may whimper and whine as much as we will, but nature made it impossible, when she made men.

If causes of meum and tuum, were not always exempt from party influence, the tories will get no credit by an examination into particular cases. Tho' I believe there was no great blame on either party in this respect, where the case was not connected with politicks.

We are then told “the whigs once flattered themselves they should be able to divide the province between them.”12 I suppose he means, that they should be able to get the honorable and lucrative offices of the province into their hands. If this was true they would be chargeable with only designing what the tories have actually done; with this difference, that the whigs would have done it by saving the liberties and the constitution of the province—whereas the tories have done it by the destruction of both. That the whigs have ambition, a desire of profit, and other passions like other men, it would be foolish to deny: But this writer cannot name a set of men in the whole British empire, who have sacrificed their private interest to their nations honour, and the public good, in so remarkable a manner, as the leading whigs have done, in the two last administrations.

As to “cutting asunder the sinews of government and breaking in pieces the ligament of social life,” as far as this has been done, I have proved by incontestible evidence from Bernard's, Hutchinson's and Oliver's letters, that the tories have done it, against all the endeavours of the whigs to preserve them from first to last.

The public is then amused with two instances of the weakness of our government, and these are with equal artifice and injustice, insinuated to be chargeable upon the whigs. But the whigs are as innocent of these as the tories. Malcom13 was injured as much against the inclinations and judgment of the whigs as the tories. But the real injury he received is exaggerated by this writer. The cruelty of his whipping, and the danger of his life, are too highly coloured.

Malcom was such an oddity, as naturally to excite the curiosity and ridicule of the lowest class of people, wherever he went: had been active in battle against the Regulators in North Carolina, who were thought in Boston to be an injured people. A few weeks before, he had made a seizure at Kennebec River, 150 miles from Boston, and by some imprudence had excited the wrath of the people there, in such a degree, that they tar'd and feather'd him over his clothes.


He comes to Boston to complain. The news of it was spread in town. It was a critical time, when the passions of the people were warm. Malcom attacked a lad in the street, and cut his head with a cutlass in return for some words from the boy, which I suppose were irritating. The boy run bleeding thro' the street to his relations, of whom he had many. As he passed the street, the people enquired into the cause of his wounds, and a sudden heat arose against Malcom, which neither Whigs nor Tories, tho' both endeavour'd it, could restrain; and produced the injuries of which he justly complained. But such a coincidence of circumstances, might at any time, and in any place, have produced such an effect; and therefore it is no evidence of the weakness of government. Why he petitioned the General Court, unless he was advised to it by the Tories, to make a noise, I know not. That court had nothing to do with it. He might have bro't his action against the trespassers, but never did. He chose to go to England and get £200 a year, which would make his taring the luckiest incident of his life.

The hospital at Marblehead is another instance, no more owing to the politicks of the times, than the burning of the temple at Ephesus. This hospital was newly erected, much against the will of the multitude. The patients were careless, some of them wantonly so, and others were suspected of designing to spread the Small Pox in the town, which was full of people, who had not passed the distemper. It is needless to be particular, but the apprehension became general, the people arose and burnt the hospital. But the whigs are so little blameable for this, that two of the principle whigs in the province, gentlemen highly esteemed and beloved in the town, even by those who burnt the building, were owners of it. The principles and temper of the times had no share in this, any more than in cutting down the market in Boston, or in demolishing mills and dams in some parts of the country, in order to let the Alewives pass up the streams, forty years ago. Such incidents happen in all governments at times. And it is a fresh proof of the weakness of this writer's cause, that he is driven to such wretched shifts to defend it.14

Towards the close of this lengthy speculation, Massachusettensis grows more and more splenetical, peevish, angry and absurd.

He tells us, that in order to avoid the necessity of altering our provincial constitution, government at home made the judges independent of the grants of the general assembly. That is, in order to avoid the hazard of taking the fort by storm, they determined to take it by sap. In order to avoid altering our constitution, they changed it 286in the most essential manner: for surely by our charter the province was to pay the judges as well as the Governor. Taking away this priviledge, and making them receive their pay from the Crown, was destroying the charter so far forth, and making them dependent on the minister. As to their being dependent on the leading whigs, he means they were dependent on the province. And which is fairest to be dependent on, the province, or on the minister? In all this troublesome period, the leading whigs had never hesitated about granting their salaries, nor ever once moved to have them lessened, nor would the house have listened to them if they had. “This was done,” he says, “to make them steady.” We know that very well. Steady to what? Steady to the plans of Bernard, Hutchinson, Oliver, North, Mansfield and Bute; which the people thought was steadiness to their ruin, and therefore it was found, that a determined spirit of opposition to it, arose in every part of the province like that to the stamp act.

The chief justice it is true was accused by the house of representatives, of receiving a bribe, a ministerial, not a royal bribe.15 For the king can do no wrong, altho' he may be deceived in his grant. The minister is accountable. The crime of receiving an illegal patent, is not the less for purchasing it, even of the king himself. Many impeachments have been for such offences.

He talks about attempts to strengthen government, and save our charter. With what modesty can he say this, when he knows that the overthrow of our charter was the very object which the junto had been invariably pursuing for a long course of years. Does he think his readers are to be deceived by such gross arts? But he says “the whigs subverted the charter constitution, abridged the freedom of the house, annihilated the freedom of the board, and rendered the governor a doge of Venice.” The freedom of the house was never abridged, the freedom of the board was never lessened. The governor had as much power as ever. The house and board it is true, would do nothing in favour of parliamentary taxation. Their judgments and consciences were against it, and if they ever had done any thing in favour of it, it would have been through fear and not freedom. The governor found he could do nothing in favour of it, excepting to promote in every department in the state, men who hated the people and were hated by them. Eno' of this he did in all conscience, and after filling offices with men who were despised, he wondered that the officers were not revered. “They,” the whigs, “engrossed all the power of the province into their own hands.” That is, the house and board were whigs, the 287grand juries and petit juries were whigs, towns were whigs, the clergy were whigs, the agents were whigs, and wherever you found people you found all whigs excepting those who had commissions from the crown or the governor. This is almost true. And it is to the eternal shame of the tories, that they should pursue their ignis fatuus with such ungovernable fury as they have done, after such repeated and multiplied demonstrations, that the whole people were so universally bent against them. But nothing will satisfy them still, but blood and carnage. The destruction of the Whigs, Charters, English Liberties and all, they must and will have, if it costs the blood of tens of thousands of innocent people. This is the benign temper of the Tories.

This influence of the Whigs he calls a democracy or republic, and then a despotism: two ideas incompatible with each other. A democratical despotism is a contradiction in terms.

He then says that “the good policy of the act for regulating the goverment in this province, will be the subject of some future paper.” But that paper is still to come, and I suspect ever will be. I wish to hear him upon it however.

With this he and the junto ought to have begun. Bernard and the rest in 1764 ought to have published his objections to this government, if they had been honest men, and produced their arguments in favour of the alteration: convinced the people of the necessity of it, and proposed some constitutional plan for effecting it. But the same motives which induced them to take another course, will prevail with Massachusettensis to waive the good policy of the act. He will be much more cunningly employed in labouring to terrify women and children with the horors of a civil war, and the dread of a division among the people. There lies your fort, Massachusettensis. Make the most of it.


That is, the third letter of Massachusettensis, published 26 Dec. 1774.


William, Lord Russell and Algernon Sidney, members of the Council of Six, were both executed for the Council's part in the conspiracies of 1683; John, Lord Somers sponsored in Parliament the Bill of Rights and other important measures; and Benjamin Hoadly, prominent whig bishop, was author of The Original and Institution of Civil Government Discuss'd, London, 1710 (Caroline Robbins, The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman, Cambridge, 1959, p. 29, 78–81, 84, 408).


[Prescott], A Letter from a Veteran, p. 16.


Benjamin Franklin.


See post 25 April 1774, note 1, above.


One of the reforms long sought in New York was more frequent elections for the General Assembly. When a triennial law was disallowed by the Crown, New Yorkers got approval for a septennial one in 1743 (Patricia U. Bonomi, A Factious People: Politics and Society in Colonial New York, N.Y., 1971, p. 135).


See Constitutional Debate between 288Gov. Hutchinson and the House, 26 Jan. – 2 March 1773, above.


Gen. Thomas Gage succeeded Hutchinson in May 1774 and continued till Oct. 1775 ( DAB ).


Chambers Russell (1713–1766), long a judge and member of the House of Representatives (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 9:81–87).


One feature of the Townshend Acts passed in 1767. Parliament directed that revenue from the duties be used “for making a more certain and adequate Provision for . . . the Administration of Justice, and the Support of Civil Government, in such Provinces where it shall be found necessary” (quoted by Gipson, Empire before the Revolution , 11:111, note). Not until 1772, however, did the British government decide to pay the salaries of royal officials in Massachusetts out of these funds (Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 3:404–405; Boston Record Commissioners, 18th Report , p. 106).


The Massachusetts Government Act, one of the Coercive Acts, which put into the hands of sheriffs, who were appointees of the royal governor, the selection of jurors.


“The mere circumstance of the whigs gaining the ascendency over the tories, is trifling. Had the whigs divided the province between them, as they once flattered themselves they should be able to do, it would have been of little consequence to the community, had they not cut asunder the very sinews of government, and broke in pieces the ligaments of social life in the attempt” (Novanglus and Massachusettensis, p. 156–157).


John Malcom, customs official, mobbed in Jan. 1774 after considerable provocation. According to the story in the Boston Gazette of 31 Jan. 1774, JA does not have all his facts straight. Malcom threatened but did not strike the boy; rather, he struck with a heavy cane, not a cutlass, a man remonstrating with him in the street for his abuse of the boy. Later Malcom used his sword against one of those crowding around his house. See also Douglass Adair and John A. Schutz, eds., Peter Oliver's Origin & Progress of the American Rebellion, Stanford, 1961, p. 98 and note; Frank W. C. Hersey, “Tar and Feathers: The Adventures of Captain John Malcom,” Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. , 34:429–473 (April 1941).


JA ignores the point that Massachusettensis is making here: that persons threatened with violence appealed to the General Court for protection and that despite a committee report giving “the facts nearly as stated in the petition,” the legislature took no action. “Such demonstrations of the weakness of government induced many persons to join the whigs, to seek from them that protection, which the constitutional authority of the province was unable to afford” (Novanglus and Massachusettensis, p. 157).


See the Articles of Impeachment against Peter Oliver, 24 Feb. 1774, above.

VI. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 27 February 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


VI. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 27 February 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
VI. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, 27 February 1775

Such events as the resistance to the stamp act, and to the tea act, particularly the destruction of that which was sent by the ministry in the name of the East India Company, have ever been cautiously spoken of by the Whigs, because they knew the delicacy of the subject, and they lived in continual hopes of a speedy restoration of liberty and peace: But we are now thrown into a situation, which would render any further delicacy upon this point criminal.

Be it remembered then, that there are tumults, seditions, popular 289commotions, insurrections and civil wars, upon just occasions, as well as unjust.

Grotius B. 1. c. 3 §. 1. observes “that some sort of private war, may be lawfully waged. It is not repugnant to the law of nature, for any one to repel injuries by force.

§. 2. “The liberty allowed before is much restrained, since the erection of tribunals: Yet there are some cases wherein that right still subsists; that is, when the way to legal justice is not open; for the law which forbids a man to pursue his right any other way, ought to be understood with this equitable restriction, that one finds judges to whom he need apply,” &c.1

Sidney's discourses upon government2 c. 2. §. 24. “'Tis in vain to seek a government in all points free from a possibility of civil wars, tumults and seditions: that is a blessing denied to this life, and reserved to compleat the felicity of the next. Seditions, tumults, and wars do arise from mistake or from malice; from just occasions or unjust: Seditions proceeding from malice are seldom or never seen in popular governments; for they are hurtful to the people, and none have ever willingly and knowingly hurt themselves. There may be, and often is, malice in those who excite them; but the people is ever deceived, and whatever is thereupon done, ought to be imputed to error, &c. But in absolute monarchies, almost all the troubles that arise proceed from malice; they cannot be reformed, the extinction of them is exceeding difficult, if they have continued long enough to corrupt the people; and those who appear against them seek only to set up themselves or their friends.” The mischiefs designed are often dissembled, or denied, till they are past all possibility of being cured by any other way than force: and such as are by necessity driven to use that remedy, know they must perfect their work or perish. He that draws his sword against the prince, say the French, ought to throw away the scabbard; for tho' the design be never so just, yet the authors are sure to be ruined if it miscarry. Peace is seldom made, and never kept, unless the subject retain such a power in his hands, as may oblige the prince to stand to what is agreed; and in time some trick is found to deprive them of that benefit.

“It may seem strange to some that I mention seditions, tumults and wars, upon just occasions; but I can find no reason to retract the term. God intending that men should live justly with one another, does certainly intend that he or they who do no wrong, should suffer none; and the law that forbids injuries, were of no use, if no penalty might be inflicted, on those that will not obey it. If injustice there-290fore be evil, and injuries be forbidden, they are also to be punished; and the law instituted for their prevention, must necessarily intend the avenging of such as cannot be prevented. The work of the magistracy is to execute this law; the sword of justice is put into their hands to restrain the fury of those within the society who will not be a law to themselves; and the sword of war to protect the people against the violence of foreigners. This is without exception, and would be in vain if it were not. But the magistrate who is to protect the people from injury, may, and is often known, not to have done it: he sometimes renders his office useless by neglecting to do justice; sometimes mischievous by overthrowing it. This strikes at the root of God's general ordinance, that there should be laws; and the particular ordinances of all societies that appoint such as seem best to them. The magistrate therefore is comprehended under both, and subject to both, as well as private men.

“The ways of preventing or punishing injuries are judicial or extra-judicial. Judicial proceedings are of force against those who submit, or may be brought to tryal, but are of no effect against those who resist, and are of such power that they cannot be constrained. It were absurd to cite a man to appear before a tribunal who can awe the judges, or has armies to defend him; and impious to think that he who has added treachery to his other crimes, and usurped a power above the law, should be protected by the enormity of his wickedness: Legal proceedings, therefore, are to be used when the delinquent submits to the law; and all are just; when he will not be kept in order by the legal.

“The word sedition, is generally applied to all, numerous assemblies, without or against the authority of the magistrate, or of those who assume that power. Athaliah and Jezebel were more ready to cry out treason, than David, &c.

“Tumult is from the disorderly manner of those assemblies, where things can seldom be done regularly; and war is that 'decertatio per vim,' or trial by force, to which men come, when other ways are ineffectual.

“If the laws of God and men, are therefore of no effect, when the magistracy is left at liberty to break them; and if the lusts of those who are too strong for the tribunals of justice, cannot be otherwise restrained than by sedition, tumults and war, those seditions, tumults and wars, are justified by the laws of God and man.

“I will not take upon me to enumerate all the cases in which this may be done, but content myself with three, which have most fre-291quently given occasion for proceedings of this kind. The first is, when one or more men take upon them the power and name of a magistracy, to which they are not justly called. The second, when one or more being justly called, continue in their magistracy longer than the laws by which they are called, do prescribe. And the third, when he or they, who are rightly called, do assume a power, though within the time prescribed, that the law does not give; or turn that which the law does give, to an end different and contrary to that which is intended by it.

“The same course is justly used against a legal magistrate, who takes upon him to exercise a power which the law does not give: for in that respect he is a private man, (Quia,) as Grotius says, (eatenus non habet imperium,) and may be restrained as well as any other, because he is not set up to do what he lists, but what the law appoints for the good of the people; and as he has no other power than what the law allows, so the same law limits and directs the exercise of that which he has.”

Puffendorf's law of nature and nations L. Bk. 7. c. 8 §. 5 and 6. Barbeyrac's note on §. 6.31 When we speak of a tyrant that may lawfully be dethroned, we do not mean by the people, the vile populace or rabble of the country, or the cabal of a small number of factious persons; but the greater and more judicious part of the subjects of all ranks. Besides the tyranny must be so notorious and evidently clear, as to leave no body any room to doubt of it, &c. Now a prince may easily avoid making himself so universally suspected and odious to his subjects: for as Mr. Locke says, in his treatise of civil government c. 18. §. 209. 'It is as impossible for a governor, if he really means the good of the people, and the preservation of them and the laws together, not to make them see and feel it; as it is for the father of a family, not to let his children see he loves and takes care of them.' And therefore the general insurrection of a whole nation does not deserve the name of rebellion. We may see what Mr. Sidney says upon this subject in his discourse concerning government c. 3. §. 36. 'Neither are subjects bound to stay till the prince has entirely finished the chains which he is preparing for them, and has put it out of their power to oppose. 'Tis sufficient that all the advances which he makes are manifestly tending to their oppression, that he is marching boldly on to the ruin of the state.' In such a case, says Mr. Locke admirably well, ubi supra §. 210., 'How can a man any more hinder himself from believing in his own mind, which way things are going, or from casting about to save himself, than he 292could from believing the captain of the ship he was in, was carrying him and the rest of his company to Algiers, when he found him always steering that course, though cross winds, leaks in his ship, and want of men and provisions, did often force him to turn his course another way for sometime, which he steadily return'd to again, as soon as the winds, weather, and other circumstances would let him.' This chiefly takes place with respect to kings, whose power is limitted by fundamental laws.

“'If it is objected, that the people being ignorant, and always discontented, to lay the foundation of government in the unsteady opinion and the uncertain humour of the people, is to expose it to certain ruin; the same author will answer you, that on the contrary, people are not so easily got out of their old forms as some are apt to suggest. England, for instance, notwithstanding the many revolutions that have been seen in that kingdom, has always kept to its old legislative of king, lords and commons: and whatever provocations have made the crown to be taken from some of their princes heads, they never carried the people so far as to place it in another line. But 'twill be said, this hypothesis lays a ferment for frequent rebellion. No more, says Mr. Locke, than any other hypothesis. For when the people are made miserable, and find themselves exposed to the ill usage of arbitrary power; cry up their governors as you will for sons of Jupiter, let them be sacred and divine, descended or authorised from heaven; give them out for whom or what you please, the same will happen. The people generally ill treated, and contrary to right, will be ready upon any occasion to ease themselves of a burden that sits heavy upon them. 2. Such revolutions happen not upon every little mismanagement in public affairs. Great mistakes in the ruling part, many wrong and inconvenient laws, and all the slips of human frailty will be borne by the people, without mutiny and murmur. 3. This power in the people of providing for their safety anew by a legislative, when their legislators have acted contrary to their trust, by invading their property, is the best fence against rebellion, and the probablest means to hinder it; for rebellion being an opposition, not the persons, but authority, which is founded only in the constitutions and laws of the government; those whoever they be, who by force break through, and by force justify the violation of them, are truly and properly rebels. For when men by entering into society, and civil government, have excluded force, and introduced laws for the preservation of property, peace and unity, among themselves; those who set up force again, in opposition to the 293laws, do rebellare, that is, do bring back again the state of war, and are properly rebels, as the author shews. In the last place, he demonstrates, that there are also greater inconveniencies in allowing all to those that govern, than in granting something to the people. But it will be said, that ill affected and factious men may spread among the people, and make them believe that the prince or legislative, act contrary to their trust, when they only make use of their due prerogative. To this Mr. Locke answers, that the people however is to judge of all that; because no body can better judge whether his trustee for deputy acts well, and according to the trust reposed in him, than he who deputed him. He might make the like query, (says Mr. LeClark,4 from whom this extract is taken) and ask, whether the people being oppressed by an authority which they set up, but for their own good, it is just, that those, who are vested with this authority, and of which they are complaining, should themselves be judges of the complaints made against them? The greatest flatterers of kings, dare not say, that the people are obliged to suffer absolutely all their humours, how irregular soever they be; and therefore must confess, that when no regard is had to their complaints, the very foundations of society are destroyed; the prince and people are in a state of war with each other, like two independent states that are doing themselves justice, and acknowledge no person upon earth, who in a sovereign manner, can determine the disputes between them,'” &c.

If there is any thing in these quotations, which is applicable to the destruction of the tea, or any other branch of our subject, it is not my fault: I did not make it.—Surely Grotius, Puffendorf, Barbeyrac, Lock, Sidney, and LeClerk, are writers, of sufficient weight, to put in the scale against the mercenary scriblers in New-York and Boston, who have the unexampled impudence and folly, to call these which are revolution principles in question, and to ground their arguments upon passive obedience as a corner stone. What an opinion must these writers have of the principles of their patrons, the Lords Bute, Mansfield and North, when they hope to recommend themselves by reviving that stupid doctrine, which has been infamous so many years. Dr. Sachevaril5 himself tells us that his sermons were burnt by the hands of the common hangman, by the order of the king, lords and commons, in order to fix an eternal and indelible brand of infamy on that doctrine.

In the Gazette of January the 2d, Massachusettensis entertains you with an account of his own important self. This is a subject 294which he has very much at heart, but it is of no consequence to you or me, and therefore little need be said of it: if he had such a stand in the community, that he could have seen all the political manoeuvres, it is plain he must have shut his eyes, or he never could have mistaken so grossly, causes for effects, and effects for causes.

He undertakes to point out the principles and motives upon which the Blockade Act was made, which were according to him, the destruction of the East-India Company's Tea. He might have said more properly the Ministerial Tea: for such it was, and the company are no losers: they have received from the public treasury compensation for it.

Then we are amused with a long discourse about the nature of the British government, commerce, agriculture, arts, manufactures, regulations of trade, custom house officers, which as it has no relation to the subject, I shall pass over.

The case is shortly this: The East-India company, by their contract with government, in their charter and statute, are bound, in consideration of their important profitable privileges, to pay to the public treasury, a revenue, annually, of four hundred thousand pounds sterling, so long as they can hold up their Dividends at twelve per cent, and no longer.

The mistaken policy of the ministry, in obstinately persisting in their claim of right to tax America, and refusing to repeal the duty on Tea, with those on glass, paper and paint, had induced all America, except a few merchants in Boston, most of whom were closely connected with the junto, to refuse to import Tea from Great Britain: the consequence of which was a kind of stagnation in the affairs of the company, and an immense accumulation of tea in their stores, which they could not sell. This, among other causes, contributed to affect their credit, and their Dividends were on the point of falling below twelve per cent, and consequently the government was upon the point of losing 400,000 1. sterling a year of revenue. The company solicited the ministry to take off the duty in America: but they adhering to their plan of taxing the colonies and establishing a precedent, framed an act to enable the company to send their tea directly to America. This was admired as a master-piece of policy. It was tho't they would accomplish four great purposes at once: establish their precedent of taxing America; raise a large revenue there by the duties; save the credit of the company; and the 400,000 1. to the government. The company however, were so little pleased with this, that there were great debates among the directors, whether 295they should risque it, which were finally determined by a majority of one only, and that one the chairman, being unwilling as it is said to interfere in the dispute between the minister and the colonies, and uncertain what the result would be: and this small majority was not obtained, as it is said, until a sufficient intimation was given that the company should not be losers.

When these designs were made known, it appeared, that American politicians were not to be deceived: that their fight was as quick and clear as the minister's, and that they were as steady to their purpose, as he was to his. This was tho't by all the colonies, to be the precise point of time, when it became absolutely necessary to make a stand. If the tea should be landed, it would be sold; if sold the duties would amount to a large sum, which would be instantly applied to increase the friends and advocates for more duties, and to divide the people; and the company would get such a footing, that no opposition afterwards could ever be effectual. And as soon as the duties on tea should be established, they would be ranked among post-office fees, and other precedents, and used as arguments, both of the right and expediency of laying on others, perhaps on all the necessaries, as well as conveniences and luxuries of life. The whole continent was united in the sentiment, that all opposition to parliamentary taxation must be given up forever, if this critical moment was neglected. Accordingly, New-York and Philadelphia determined that the ships should be sent back; and Charlestown, that the tea should be stored and locked up,—this was attended with no danger in that city, because they are fully united in sentiment and affection, and have no Junto to perplex them. Boston was under greater difficulties. The Consignees at New York and Philadelphia most readily resigned. The Consignees at Boston, the children, cousins, and most intimate connections of governor Hutchinson, refused. I am very sorry that I cannot stir a single step in develloping the causes of my country's miseries, without stumbling upon this gentleman. But so it is. From the near relation and most intimate connection of the consignees with him, there is great cause of jealousy, if not a violent presumption, that he was at the bottom of all this business, that he had plann'd it, in his confidential letters with Bernard, and both of them joined in suggesting and recommending it to the ministry. Without this supposition, it is difficult to account for the obstinacy with which the Consignees refused to resign, and the governor to let the vessel go. However this might be, Boston is the only place upon the continent, perhaps in the world, which ever breeds a species 296of misanthropos, who will persist in their schemes for their private interest, with such obstinacy, in opposition to the public good; disoblige all their fellow-citizens for a little pelf, and make themselves odious and infamous, when they might be respected and esteemed. It must be said, however, in vindication of the town, that this breed is spawned chiefly by the Junto. The Consignees would not resign; the custom house refused clearances; governor Hutchinson refused passes by the castle. The question then was, with many, whether the governor, officers, and consignees should be compelled to send the ships hence? An army and navy was at hand, and bloodshed was apprehended. At last, when the continent, as well as the town and province, were waiting the issue of this deliberation with the utmost anxiety, a number of persons, in the night, put them out of suspense, by an oblation to Neptune. I have heard some gentlemen say, “this was a very unjustifiable proceeding”—“that if they had gone at noonday, and in their ordinary habits, and drowned it in the face of the world, it would have been a meritorious, a most glorious action.” But to go in the night, and much more in disguise, they tho't very inexcuseable.

“The revenue was not the consideration before parliament,” says Massachusettensis. Let who will, believe him. But if it was not, the danger to America was the same. I take no notice of the idea of a monopoly. If it had been only a monopoly, (tho' in this light it would have been a very great grievance) it would not have excited, nor in the opinion of any one justified the step that was taken. It was an attack upon a fundamental principle of the Constitution, and upon that supposition was resisted, after multitudes of petitions to no purpose, and because there was no tribunal in the Constitution, from whence redress could have been obtained.

There is one passage so pretty, that I cannot refuse myself the pleasure of transcribing it. “A smuggler and a whig are cousin germans, the offspring of two sisters, avarice and ambition. They had been playing into each other's hands a long time. The smuggler received protection from the whig, and he in his turn received support from the smuggler. The illicit trader now demanded protection from his kinsman, and it would have been unnatural in him to have refused it; and beside, an opportunity presented of strengthning his own interest.”

The wit, and the beauty of the style in this place, seem to have quite inraptured the lively juvenile imagination of this writer. The truth of the fact he never regards, any more than the justice of the 297sentiment. Some years ago, the smugglers might be pretty equally divided between the whigs and the tories: Since that time, they have almost all married into the tory families, for the sake of dispensations and indulgencies. If I were to let myself into secret history, I could tell very diverting stories of smuggling tories in New-York and Boston,—Massachusettensis is quarrelling with some of his best friends. Let him learn more discretion.

We are then told that “the consignees offered to store the tea, under the care of the selectmen, or a committee of the town.” This expedient might have answered, if none of the junto, nor any of their connections had been in Boston. But is it a wonder, that the selectmen declined accepting such a deposit? They supposed they should be answerable, and no body doubted that tories might be found who would not scruple to set fire to the store, in order to make them liable. Besides if the tea was landed, though only to be stored, the duty must be paid, which it was tho't was giving up the point.

Another consideration which had great weight, was, the other colonies were grown jealous of Boston, and tho't it already deficient in point of punctuality, against the dutied articles: and if the tea was once stored, artifices might be used, if not violence, to disperse it abroad: But if through the continual vigilance and activity of the committee and the people, thro' a whole winter, this should be prevented; yet one thing was certain, that the tories would write to the other colonies and to England, thousands of falshoods concerning it, in order to induce the ministry to persevere, and to sow jealousies and create divisions among the colonies.

Our acute logician then undertakes to prove the destruction of the tea unjustifiable, even upon the principle of the whigs, that the duty was unconstitutional. The only argument he uses is this: that “unless we purchase the tea, we shall never pay the duty.” This argument is so frivolous, and has been so often confuted and exposed, that if the party had any other, I think they would relinquish this. Where will it carry us? If a duty was laid upon our horses, we may walk; if upon our butchers meat, we may live upon the produce of the dairy; and if that should be taxed, we may subsist as well as our fellow slaves in Ireland, upon Spanish potatoes and cold water. If a thousand pounds was laid upon the birth of every child, if children are not begotten, none will be born; if, upon every marriage, no duties will be paid, if all the young gentlemen and ladies agree to live batchellors and maidens.

In order to form a rational judgment of the quality of this trans-298action, and determine whether it was good or evil, we must go to the bottom of this great controversy. If parliament has a right to tax us, and legislate for us, in all cases, the destruction of the tea was unjustifiable; but if the people of America are right in their principle, that parliament has no such right, that the act of parliament is null and void, and it is lawful to oppose and resist it, the question then is, whether the destruction was necessary? For every principle of reason, justice and prudence, in such cases, demands that the least mischief shall be done; the least evil among a number shall always be preferr'd.

All men are convinced that it was impracticable to return it, and rendered so by Mr. Hutchinson and the Boston consignees. Whether to have stored it would have answered the end, or been a less mischief than drowning it, I shall leave to the judgment of the public. The other colonies, it seems, have no scruples about it, for we find that whenever tea arrives in any of them, whether from the East India company, or any other quarter, it never fails to share the fate of that in Boston. All men will agree that such steps ought not to be taken, but in cases of absolute necessity, and that such necessity must be very clear. But most people in America now think the destruction of the Boston tea, was absolutely necessary, and therefore right and just. It is very true, they say, if the whole people had been united in sentiment, and equally stable in their resolution, not to buy or drink it, there might have been a reason for preserving it; but the people here were not so virtuous or so happy. The British ministry had plundered the people by illegal taxes, and applied the money in salaries and pensions, by which devices, they had insidiously attached to their party, no inconsiderable number of persons, some of whom were of family, fortune and influence, tho' many of them were of desperate fortunes, each of whom, however, had his circle of friends, connections and dependants, who were determined to drink tea, both as evidence of their servility to administration, and their contempt and hatred of the people. These it was impossible to restrain without violence, perhaps bloodshed, certainly without hazarding more than the tea was worth. To this tribe of the wicked, they say, must be added another, perhaps more numerous, of the weak; who never could be brought to think of the consequences of their actions, but would gratify their appetites, if they could come at the means. What numbers are there in every community, who have no providence, or prudence in their private affairs, but will go on indulging the present appetite, prejudice, or passion, to the ruin of their estates and families, as well as their own health and characters! How much larger is the 299number of those who have no foresight for the public, or consideration of the freedom of posterity? Such an abstinence from the tea, as would have avoided the establishment of a precedent, depended on the unanimity of the people, a felicity that was unattainable. Must the wise, the virtuous and worthy part of the community, who constituted a very great majority, surrender their liberty, and involve their posterity in misery in complaisance to a detestable, tho' small party of knaves, and a despicable, tho' more numerous company of fools?

If Boston could have been treated like other places, like New-York and Philadelphia, the tea might have gone home from thence as it did from those cities. That inveterate, desperate junto, to whom we owe all our calamities, were determined to hurt us in this, as in all other cases as much as they could. It is to be hoped they will one day repent and be forgiven, but it is very hard to forgive without repentance. When the news of this event arrived in England, it excited such passions in the minister as nothing could restrain; his resentment was inkindled into revenge, rage, and madness; his veracity was piqued, as his master piece of policy, proved but a bubble: The bantling was the fruit of a favourite amour, and no wonder that his natural affection was touched when he saw it dispatched before his eyes. His grief and ingenuity, if he had any, were affected at the thought that he had misled the East India company, so much nearer to destruction, and that he had rendered the breach between the kingdom and the colonies almost irreconcileable: his shame was excited because opposition had gained a triumph over him, and the three kingdoms were laughing at him for his obstinacy and his blunders: instead of relieving the company he had hastened its ruin: instead of establishing the absolute and unlimited sovereignty of parliament over the colonies, he had excited a more decisive denial of it, and resistance to it. An election drew nigh and he dreaded the resentment even of the corrupted electors.

In this state of mind bordering on despair, he determines to strike a bold stroke. Bernard was near and did not fail to embrace the opportunity, to push the old systems of the junto. By attacking all the colonies together, by the stamp-act, and the paint and glass act, they had been defeated. The charter constitution of the Massachusetts-Bay, had contributed greatly to both these defeats. Their representatives were too numerous, and too frequently elected, to be corrupted: their people had been used to consider public affairs in their town-meetings: their councellors were not absolutely at the nod of a 300minister or governor, but were once a year equally dependent on the governor and the two houses. Their grand jurors were elective by the people, their petit jurors were returned merely by lot. Bernard and the junto rightly judged that by this constitution the people had a check, on every branch of power, and therefore as long as it lasted, parliamentary taxations, &c. could never be inforced.

Bernard, publishes his select letters, and his principles of polity: his son writes in defence of the Quebec bill:6 hireling garretteers were employed to scribble millions of lyes against us, in pamphlets and news papers: and setters employed in the coffee houses, to challenge or knock down all the advocates for the poor Massachusetts. It was now determined, instead of attacking the colonies together, tho' they had been all equally opposed to the plans of the ministry, and the claims of parliament, and therefore upon ministerial principles equally guilty, to handle them one by one; and to begin with Boston and the Massachusetts. The destruction of the tea was a fine event for scribblers and speechifyers to declaim upon; and there was an hereditary hatred of New-England, in the minds of many in England, on account of their non conforming principles. It was likewise thought there was a similar jealousy and animosity in the other colonies against New England; that they would therefore certainly desert her; that she would be intimidated and submit; and then the minister among his own friends, would acquire immortal honour, as the most able, skilfull and undaunted statesman of the age.

The port bill, charter bill, murder bill, Quebec bill, making all together such a frightful system, as would have terrified any people, who did not prefer liberty to life, were all concerted at once: but all this art and violence have not succeeded. This people under great trials and dangers, have discovered great abilities and virtues, and that nothing is so terrible to them as the loss of their liberties. If these arts and violences are persisted in, and still greater concerted, and carried on against them, the world will see that their fortitude, patience and magnanimity will rise in proportion.

“Had Cromwell,” says our what I shall call him? “had the guidance of the national ire, your proud capital had been levell'd with the dust.” Is it any breach of charity to suppose that such an event as this, would have been a gratification to this writer? Can we otherwise account for his indulging himself in a thought so diabolical? Will he set up Cromwell as a model for his deified lords, Bute, Mansfield and North? If he should, there is nothing in the whole history of him so cruel as this. All his conduct in Ireland, as exceptionable as any 301part of his whole life, affords nothing that can give the least probability to the idea of this writer. The rebellion in Ireland, was most obstinate, and of many years duration; 100,000 protestants had been murdered in a day, in cold blood, by papists, and therefore Cromwell might plead some excuse, that cruel severities were necessary, in order to restore any peace to that kingdom: But all this will not justify him; for as has been observed by an historian, upon his conduct in this instance, “men are not to divest themselves of humanity, and turn themselves into devils, because policy may suggest that they will succeed better as devils than as men”! But is there any parity or similitude between a rebellion of a dozen years standing, in which many battles had been fought, many thousands fallen in war, and 100,000 massacred in a day; and the drowning three cargoes of tea? To what strains of malevolence, to what flights of diabolical fury, is not tory rage capable of transporting men!

“The whigs saw their ruin connected with a compliance with the terms of opening the Port.”—They saw the ruin of their country connected in it: But they might have easily voted a compliance, for they were undoubtedly a vast majority, and have enjoyed the esteem and affection of their fellow slaves to their last hours: Several of them could have paid for the Tea, and never have felt the loss. They knew they must suffer, vastly more, than the Tea was worth, but they thought they acted for America and posterity; and that they ought not to take such a step without the advice of the colonies. They have declared our cause their own—that they never will submit to a precedent in any part of the united colonies, by which Parliament may take away Wharves and other lawful estates, or demolish Charters; for if they do, they have a moral certainty that in the course of a few years, every right of Americans will be taken away, and governors and councils, holding at the will of a Minister, will be the only legislatives, in the colonies.

A pompous account of the addressors of Mr. Hutchinson, then follows. They consisted of his relations, his fellow labourers in the tory vineyard, and persons whom he had raised in the course of four administrations, Shirley's, Pownal's, Bernard's and his own, to places in the province. Considering the industry that was used, and the vast number of persons in the province, who had received commissions under government upon his recommendation, the small number of subscribers that was obtained, is among a thousand demonstrations of the unanimity of this people. If it had been thought worth while to have procured a remonstrance against him, fifty thousand sub-302scribers might have been easily found. Several gentlemen of property were among these addressers, and some of fair character, but their acquaintance and friendships lay among the junto and, their subalterns entirely: Besides did these addressers approve the policy or justice of any one of the bills, which were passed the last session of the late parliament? Did they acknowledge the unlimitted authority of parliament? The Middlesex magistrates remonstrated against taxation: But they were flattered with hopes, that Mr. Hutchinson would get the port-bill, &c. repealed, that is, that he would have undone all, which every body but themselves knew he has been doing these fifteen years.

“But these patriotic endeavours, were defeated.” By what? “By an invention of the fertile brain of one of our party agents, called a committee of correspondence. This is the foulest, subtlest and most venemous serpent that ever issued from the eggs of sedition.”.

I should rather call it, the Ichneumon, a very industrious, active, and useful animal, which was worshipped in Aegypt as a divinity, because it defended their country from the ravages of the crocodiles. It was the whole occupation of this little creature to destroy those wily and ravenous monsters. It crushed their eggs, wherever they laid them, and with a wonderful address and courage, would leap into their mouths, penetrate their entrails, and never leave until it destroyed them.

If the honor of this invention is due to the gentleman, who is generally understood by the “party agent” of Massachusettensis, it belongs to one, to whom America has erected a statue in her heart, for his integrity, fortitude and perseverance in her cause. That the invention itself is very useful and important, is sufficiently clear, from the unlimitted wrath of the tories against it, and from the gall which this writer discharges upon it. Almost all mankind have lost their liberties, thro' ignorance, inattention and disunion. These committees are admirably calculated to diffuse knowledge, to communicate intelligence, and promote unanimity. If the high whigs are generally of such committees, it is because the freeholders who choose them, are such, and therefore prefer their peers. The tories, high or low, if they can make interest enough among the people may get themselves chosen, and promote the great cause of parliamentary revenues, and the other sublime doctrines and misteries of toryism. That these committees think themselves “amenable to none,” is false: for there is not a man upon any one of them, who does not acknowledge himself to hold his place, at the pleasure of his constituents, and to be ac-303countable to them, whenever they demand it. If the committee of the town of Boston, was appointed for a special purpose at first, their commission has been renewed from time to time; they have been frequently thank'd by the town for their vigilance, activity and disinterested labours in the public service. Their doings have been laid before the town and approved of by it. The malice of the tories has several times swelled open their bosoms, and broke out into the most intemperate and illiberal invectives against it: but all in vain. It has only served to shew the impotence of the tories, and increase the importance of the committee.

These committees cannot be too religiously careful of the exact truth of the intelligence they receive or convey; nor too anxious for the rectitude and purity of the measures they propose or adopt: they should be very sure that they do no injury to any man's person, property or character: and they are generally persons of such worth, that I have no doubt of their attention to these rules; and therefore that the reproaches of this writer are mere slanders.

If we recollect how many states have lost their liberties, merely from want of communication with each other, and union among themselves, we shall think that these committees may be intended by providence to accomplish great events. What the eloquence and talents of negociation of Demosthenes himself could not effect, among the states of Greece, might have been effected by so simple a device. Castile, Arragon, Valencia, Majorca, &c. all complained of oppression under Charles the fifth, flew out into transports of rage, and took arms against him. But they never consulted or communicated with each other. They resisted separately, and were separately subdued. Had Don Juan Padilla, or his wife,7 have been possessed of the genius to invent a committee of correspondence, perhaps the liberties of the Spanish nation might have remained to this hour, without any necessity to have had recourse to arms. Hear the opinion of Dr. Robertson. “While the spirit of disaffection was so general among the Spaniards, and so many causes concurred in precipitating them into such violent measures, in order to obtain the redress of their grievances, it may appear strange that the male-contents in the different kingdoms should have carried on their operations without any mutual concert, or even any intercourse with each other. By uniting their councils and arms, they might have acted both with greater force, and with more effect. The appearance of a national confederacy would have rendered it no less respectable among the people, than formidable to the crown; and the emperor, unable to resist such a combination, 304must have complied with any terms which the members of it thought fit to prescribe.”8

That it is owing to those committees that so many persons have been found to recant and resign, and so many others to fly to the army, is a mistake, for the same things would have taken place, if such a committee had never been in being, and such persons would probably have met with much rougher usage. This writer asks, “have not these persons as good a right to think and act for themselves as the whigs?” I answer yes. But if any man, whig or tory shall take it into his head to think for himself, that he has a right to take my property, without my consent, however tender I may be of the right of private judgment and the freedom of thought, this is a point in which I shall be very likely to differ from him, and to think for myself that I have a right to resist him. If any man should think, ever so conscienciously that the roman catholic religion is better than the protestant, or that the French government is preferable to the British constitution in its purity; Protestants and Britons, will not be so tender of that man's conscience as to suffer him to introduce his favourite religion and government. So the well bred gentlemen who are so polite as to think, that the charter constitution of this province, ought to be abolished, and another introduced wholly at the will of a minister or the crown; or that our ecclesiastical constitution is bad, and high church ought to come in, few people will be so tender of these consciences or complaisant to such polite taste, as to suffer the one or the other to be established. There are certain prejudices among the people, so strong, as to be irresistible. Reasoning is vain, and opposition idle. For example, there are certain popular maxims and precepts, call'd the ten commandments. Suppose a number of fine gentlemen, superior to the prejudices of education, should discover that these were made for the common people, and are too illiberal for gentlemen of refined taste to observe, and accordingly should engage in secret confidential correspondences to procure an act of parliament, to abolish the whole decalogue, or to exempt them from all obligation to observe it; if they should succeed, and their letters be detected, such is the force of prejudice, and deep habits among the lower sort of people, that it is much to be questioned, whether those refined genius's would be allowed to enjoy themselves in the latitude of their sentiments. I once knew a man, who had studied Jacob Beckman and other mystic's, until he conscienciously thought the millennium commenced, and all human authority at an end: that the saints only had a right to property; and to take from sinners any thing they wanted. 305In this persuasion, he very honestly stole a horse. Mankind pitied the poor man's infirmity, but thought it however their duty to confine him that he might steal no more.

The freedom of thinking was never yet extended in any country so far as the utter subversion of all religion and morality; nor as the abolition of the laws and constitution of the country.

But “are not these persons as closely connected with the interest of their country as the whigs?” I answer, they are not: they have found an interest in opposition to that of their country, and are making themselves rich and their families illustrious, by depressing and destroying their country. But “do not their former lives and conversations appear to have been regulated by principles as much as those of the whigs?” A few of them, it must be acknowledged, untill seduced by the bewitching charms of wealth and power, appeared to be men of principle. But taking the Whigs and Tories on an average, the balance of principle, as well as genius, learning, wit and wealth, is infinitely in favour of the former. As to some of these fugitives, they are known to be men of no principles at all in religion, morals or government.

But the “policy” is questioned, and you are asked if you expect to make converts by it? As to the policy or impolicy of it, I have nothing to say: but we don't expect to make converts of most of those persons by any means whatever, as long as they have any hopes that the ministry will place and pension them. The instant these hopes are extinguished, we all know they will be converted of course. Converts from places and pensions are only to be made by places and pensions, all other reasoning is idle; these are the Penultima Ratio of the Tories, as field pieces are the ultima.

That we are not “unanimous is certain.” But there are nineteen on one side to one on the other, through the province. And ninety nine out of an hundred of the remaining twentieth part can be fairly shewn to have some sinister private view, to induce him to profess his opinion.

Then we are threatened high, that “this is a changeable world, and times rolling wheel may e'er long bring them uppermost, and in that case we should not wish to have them fraught with resentment.”

To all this we answer, without ceremony, that they always have been uppermost, in every respect, excepting only the esteem and affection of the people; that they always have been fraught with resentment (even their cunning and policy have not restrained them) and we know they always will be.—That they have indulged their re-306sentment and malice, in every instance in which they had power to do it: and we know that their revenge will never have any other limits than their power.

Then this consistent writer, begins to flatter the people, “he appeals to their good sense, he knows they have it.” The same people, whom he has so many times represented as mad and foolish.

“I know you are loyal and friends to good order.” This is the same people that in the whole course of his writings, he has represented as continuing for ten years together in a continual state of disorder, demolishing the Chair, Board, Supreme Court, and encouraging all sorts of riots, insurrections, treason and rebellion. Such are the shifts to which a man is driven when he aims at carrying a point not at discovering truth.

The people are then told that “they have been insidiously taught to believe that Great Britain is rapacious, cruel and vindictive, and envies us the inheritance purchased by the sweat and blood of our ancestors.” The people do not believe this—they will not believe it: On the contrary, they believe if it was not for scandals constantly transmitted from this province by the Tories, the nation would redress our grievances. Nay as little as they reverence the Ministry, they even believe that the Lords North, Mansfield and Bute, would relieve them, and would have done it long ago, if they had known the truth. The moment this is done “long live our gracious king and happiness to Britain,” will resound from one end of the province to the other: but it requires a very little foresight to determine, that no other plan of governing the province and the colonies, will ever restore a harmony between the two countries, but desisting from the plan of taxing them and interfering with their internal concerns, and returning to that system of colony administration, which nature dictated, and experience for one hundred and fifty years found useful.


Both quotations are from Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, in Three Books . . . , London, 1738, p. 54 ( Catalogue of JA's Library ).


Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government . . . , 2 vols., Edinburgh, 1750, 1:309, 311, 312-314, 316–317 ( Catalogue of JA's Library ). All emphases in the quotations from Sidney are JA's.


Samuel Pufendorf, Of the Law of Nature and Nations . . . To Which Are Added All the Large Notes of Mr. Barbeyrac . . . , London, 1729, p.720–721, note ( Catalogue of JA's Library ). Jean Barbeyrac (1674–1744) was a French authority on jurisprudence (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale ).


Jean Leclerc (1657–1736), Swiss theologian, philosopher, and translator of the works of John Locke (same).


In 1709, Dr. Henry Sacheverell (1674?–1724) preached a sermon on the divine right of kings and on the subject's duty passively to submit, which brought his impeachment by Parliament 307and thus his suspension from preaching for a time (Robbins, Commonwealthman, p. 81–86; DNB ).


Sir Thomas Bernard, An Appeal to the Public, Stating and Considering the Objections to the Quebec Bill, London, 1774.


Juan de Padilla and his wife, Maria Pacheco, described by contemporaries as “the real man of the pair,” were leaders in Castile of the revolt of the Comuneros (1520–1521) against King Charles I of Spain, better known as Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire (Roger B. Merriman, The Rise of the Spanish Empire, 4 vols., N.Y., 1918–1934, 3:70–92).


William Robertson, The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V, 3 vols., London, 1769, 2:185.

VII. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 6 March 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


VII. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 6 March 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
VII. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, 6 March 1775

Our rhetorical magician, in his paper of January the 9th continues to wheedle. “You want nothing but to know the true state of facts, to rectify whatever is amiss.” He becomes an advocate for the poor of Boston! Is for making great allowance for the whigs. “The whigs are too valuable a part of the community to lose. He would not draw down the vengeance of Great Britain. He shall become an advocate for the leading whigs,” &C.1 It is in vain for us to enquire after the sincerity or consistency of all this. It is agreeable to the precept of Horace. Irritat, mulcet falsis terroribus implet ut magus. And that is all he desires.

After a long discourse, which has nothing in it but what has been answered already, he comes to a great subject indeed, the British constitution; and undertakes to prove that “the authority of parliament extends to the colonies.”

Why will not this writer state the question fairly? The whigs allow that from the necessity of a case not provided for by common law, and to supply a defect in the British dominions, which there undoubtedly is, if they are to be governed only by that law, America has all along consented, still consents, and ever will consent, that parliament being the most powerful legislature in the dominions, should regulate the trade of the dominions. This is founding the authority of parliament to regulate our trade, upon compact and consent of the colonies, not upon any principle of common or statute law, not upon any original principle of the English constitution, not upon the principle that parliament is the supream and sovereign legislature over them in all cases whatsoever.

The question is not therefore, whether the authority of parliament extends to the colonies in any case; for it is admitted by the whigs that it does in that of commerce: But whether it extends in all cases.

308 309

We are then detained with a long account of the three simple forms of government; and are told that “the British constitution consisting of king, lords and commons, is formed upon the principles of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, in due proportion; that it includes the principled excellencies, and excludes the principal defects of the other kinds of government—the most perfect system that the wisdom of ages has produced, and Englishmen glory in being subject to and protected by it.”

Then we are told “that the colonies are a part of the British empire”. But what are we to understand by this? Some of the colonies, most of them indeed, were settled before the kingdom of Great-Britain was brought into existence. The union of England and Scotland, was made and established by act of parliament in the reign of queen Ann; and it was this union and statute which erected the kingdom of Great-Britain. The colonies were settled long before, in the reigns of the James's and Charles's. What authority over them had Scotland? Scotland, England and the colonies were all under one king before that—the two crowns of England and Scotland, united on the head of James the first, and continued united on that of Charles the first, when our first charter was granted. Our charter being granted by him who was king of both nations, to our ancestors, most of whom were post nati, born after the union of the two crowns, and consequently, as was adjudged in Calvin's case, free natural subjects of Scotland, as well as England, had not the king as good a right to have governed the colonies by his Scottish, as by his English parliament, and to have granted our charters under the seal of Scotland, as well as that of England?2

But to waive this. If the English parliament were to govern us, where did they get the right, without our consent to take the Scottish parliament, into a participation of the government over us? When this was done, was the American share of the democracy of the constitution consulted? If not, were not the Americans deprived of the benefit of the democratical part of the constitution? And is not the democracy as essential to the English constitution as the monarchy or aristocracy? Should we have been more effectually deprived of the benefit of the British or English constitution, if one or both houses of parliament, or if our house and council had made this union with the two houses of parliament in Scotland, without the king?

If a new constitution was to be formed for the whole British dominions, and a supream legislature coextensive with it, upon the general principles of the English constitution, an equal mixture of mon-310archy, aristocracy and democracy, let us see what would be necessary. England have six millions of people we will say: America has three. England has five hundred members in the house of commons we will say: America must have two hundred and fifty. Is it possible she should maintain them there, or could they at such a distance know the state, the sense or exigences of their constituents? Ireland too must be incorporated, and send another hundred or two of members. The territory in the East-Indies and West India islands must send members. And after all this, every navigation act, every act of trade must be repealed. America and the East and West Indies and Africa too, must have equal liberty to trade with all the world, that the favoured inhabitants of Great-Britain have now. Will the ministry thank Massachusettensis for becoming an advocate for such an union and incorporation of all the dominions of the king of Great-Britain? Yet without such an union, a legislature which shall be sovereign and supream in all cases whatsoever, and coextensive with the empire, can never be established upon the general principles of the English constitution, which Massachusettensis lays down, viz. an equal mixture of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Nay further, in order to comply with this principle, this new government, this mighty Colossus which is to bestride the narrow world, must have an house of lords consisting of Irish, East and West Indian, African, American, as well as English and Scottish noblemen; for the nobility ought to be scattered about all the dominions, as well as the representatives of the commons. If in twenty years more America should have six millions of inhabitants, as there is a boundless territory to fill up, she must have five hundred representatives. Upon these principles, if in forty years, she should have twelve millions, a thousand; and if the inhabitants of the three kingdoms remain as they are, being already full of inhabitants, what will become of your supream legislative? It will be translated, crown and all, to America. This is a sublime system for America. It will flatter those ideas of independency, which the tories impute to them, if they have any such, more than any other plan of independency, that I have ever heard projected.

“The best writers upon the law of nations, tell us, that when a nation takes possession of a distant country and settles there, that country though separated from the principal establishment, or mother country, naturally becomes a part of the state, equal with its ancient possessions”. We are not told who these “best writers” are:—I think we ought to be introduced to them. But their meaning may be no more than that it is best they should be incorporated with the ancient es-311tablishment, by contract, or by some new law and institution, by which the new country shall have equal right, powers and privileges, as well as equal protection; and be under equal obligations of obedience with the old. Has there been any such contract between Britain and the Colonies? Is America incorporated into the realm? Is it a part of the realm? Is it a part of the kingdom? Has it any share in the legislative of the realm? The constitution requires that every foot of land should be represented, in the third estate, the democratical branch of the constitution. How many millions of acres in America, how many thousands of wealthy landholders, have no representative there?

But let these “best writers” say what they will, there is nothing in the law of nations, which is only the law of right reason, applied to the conduct of nations, that requires that emigrants from a state should continue, or be made a part of the state.

The practice of nations has been different. The Greeks planted colonies, and neither demanded nor pretended any authority over them, but they became distinct independent commonwealths.

The Romans continued their colonies under the jurisdiction of the mother commonwealth—but, nevertheless, she allowed them the priviledges of cities. Indeed that sagacious city seems to have been aware of the difficulties similar to those under which Great Britain is now labouring; she seems to have been sensible of the impossibility of keeping colonies planted at great distances, under the absolute controul of her senatus consulta. Harrington tells us, Oceana p. 43.3 that “the commonwealth of Rome, by planting colonies of its citizens within the bounds of Italy, took the best way of propagating itself, and naturalizing the country; whereas if it had planted such colonies without the bounds of Italy, it would have alienated the citizens, and given a root to liberty abroad, that might have sprung up foreign, or savage and hostile to her; wherefore it never made any such dispersion of itself, and its strength, till it was under the yoke of the emperors, who disburdening themselves of the people, as having less apprehension of what they could do abroad than at home, took a contrary course.” But these Italian cities, altho' established by decrees of the senate of Rome, to which the colonists was always party, either as a Roman citizen about to emigrate, or as a conquered enemy treating upon terms; were always allow'd all the rights of Roman citizens, and were govern'd by senates of their own. It was the policy of Rome to conciliate her colonies, by allowing them equal liberty with her citizens. Witness the example of the Privernates. This people had been 312conquered; and complaining of oppressions, revolted. At last they sent ambassadors to Rome to treat of peace. The senate was divided in opinion: Some were for violent, others for lenient measures. In the course of the debate, a senator, whose opinion was for bringing them to his feet, proudly asked one of the ambassadors, what punishment he thought his countrymen deserved? Eam inquit, quam merentur, qui se libertate dignos censent.—That punishment which those deserve, who think themselves worthy of liberty. Another senator seeing that the ministerial members were exasperated with the honest answer, in order to divert their anger, asks another question. What if we remit all punishment? What kind of a peace may we hope for with you? Si bonam dederitis, inquit, et fidam, et perpetuam; si malam, haud diuturnam.—If you give us a just peace, it will be faithfully observed, and perpetually: but if a bad one, it will not last long. The ministerial senators were all on fire at this answer, cried out, sedition and rebellion: but the wiser majority decreed, “viri, et liberi, vocem auditam, an credi posse, ullum populum, aut hominem denique, in ea conditione, cujus cum paeniteat, diutius, quam necesse sit, mansurum? ibi pacem esse fidam, ubi voluntarii pacati sint: neque eo loco, ubi servitutem esse velint, fidem sperandam esse.—“That they had heard the voice of a man and a son of liberty: that it was not natural or credible that any people, or any man, would continue longer than necessity should compel him, in a condition that grieved and displeased him. A faithful peace was to be expected from men whose affections were conciliated—nor was any kind of fidelity to be expected from slaves.” The consul exclaimed, Eos demum, qui nihil praeterquam de libertate, cogitent, dignos esse qui Romani fiant. That they who regarded nothing so much as their Liberty, deserved to be Romans. Itaque et in senatu causam obtinuere, et ex auctoritate patrum, latum ad populum est, ut privernatibus civitas daretur.” Therefore the Privernates obtained their cause in the senate, and it was by the authority of those fathers, recommended to the people, that the privileges of a city should be granted them.

The practice of free nations only can be adduced, as precedents of what the law of nature has been thought to dictate upon this subject of colonies. Their practice is different. The senate and people of Rome did not interfere commonly in making laws for their colonies, but left them to be ruled by their governors and senates. Can Massachusettensis produce from the whole history of Rome, or from the Digest, one example of a Senatus consultum, or a Plebiscitum laying taxes on a colony.


Having mentioned the wisdom of the Romans in not planting colonies out of Italy, and their reasons for it; I cannot help recollecting an observation of Harrington, Oceana, p. 44. “For the colonies in the Indies,” says he, “they are yet babes, that cannot live without sucking the breasts of their mother cities; but such as I mistake, if when they come of age, they do not wean themselves: which causes me to wonder at princes that delight to be exhausted that way.” This was written 120 years ago: the colonies are now nearer manhood than even Harrington foresaw they would arrive in such a period of time. Is it not astonishing then, that any British minister should ever have considered this subject so little as to believe it possible for him to new moddel all our governments, to tax us by an authority that never taxed us before, and subdue us to an implicit obedience to a legislature, that millions of us scarcely ever tho't any thing about.

I have said that the practice of free governments alone can be quoted with propriety, to shew the sense of nations. But the sense and practice of nations is not enough. Their practice must be reasonable, just and right, or it will not govern Americans.

Absolute monarchies, whatever their practice may be, are nothing to us. For as Harrington observes, “Absolute monarchy, as that of the Turks, neither plants its people at home nor abroad, otherwise than as tenants for life or at will; wherefore its national and provincial government is all one.”4

I deny therefore that the practice of free nations, or the opinions of the best writers upon the law of nations, will warrant the position of Massachusettensis, that when a nation takes possession of a distant territory, that becomes a part of the state equally with its ancient possessions. The practice of free nations, and the opinions of the best writers, are in general on the contrary.

I agree, that “two supreme and independent authorities cannot exist in the same state,” any more than two supream beings in one universe. And therefore I contend, that our provincial legislatures are the only supream authorities in our colonies. Parliament, notwithstanding this, may be allowed an authority supreme and sovereign over the ocean, which may be limited by the banks of the ocean, or the bounds of our charters; our charters give us no authority over the high seas. Parliament has our consent to assume a jurisdiction over them. And here is a line fairly drawn between the rights of Britain and the rights of the colonies, viz. the banks of the ocean, or low water mark. The line of division between common law and civil, or maritime law. If this is not sufficient—if parliament are at a loss 314for any principle of natural, civil, maritime, moral or common law, on which to ground any authority over the high seas, the Atlantic especially, let the colonies be treated like reasonable creatures, and they will discover great ingenuity and modesty: The acts of trade and navigation might be confirmed by provincial laws, and carried into execution by our own courts and juries, and in this case illicit trade would be cut up by the roots forever. I knew the smuggling tories in New-York and Boston would cry out against this, because it would not only destroy their profitable game of smuggling, but their whole place and pension system. But the whigs, that is a vast majority of the whole continent, would not regard the smuggling tories. In one word, if public principles and motives and arguments, were alone to determine this dispute between the two countries, it might be settled forever, in a few hours; but the everlasting clamours of prejudice, passion and private interest, drown every consideration of that sort, and are precipitating us into a civil war.

“If then we are a part of the British empire, we must be subject to the supreme power of the state, which is vested in the estates in parliament.”

Here again we are to be conjured out of our senses by the magic in the words “British empire,”—and “supreme power of the state.” But however it may sound, I say we are not a part of the British empire. Because the British government is not an empire. The governments of France, Spain, &c. are not empires, but monarchies, supposed to be governed by fixed fundamental laws, tho' not really. The British government, is still less intitled to the style of an empire: it is a limitted monarchy. If Aristotle, Livy, and Harrington, knew what a republic was, the British constitution is much more like a republic than an empire. They define a republic to be a government of laws, and not of men. If this definition is just, the British constitution is nothing more nor less than a republic, in which the king is first magistrate. This office being hereditary, and being possessed of such ample and splendid prerogatives, is no objection to the government's being a republic, as long as it is bound by fixed laws, which the people have a voice in making, and a right to defend. An empire is a despotism, and an emperor a despot, bound by no law or limitation, but his own will: it is a stretch of tyranny beyond absolute monarchy. For altho' the will of an absolute monarch is law, yet his edicts must be registered by parliaments. Even this formality is not necessary in an empire. There the maxim is quod principi placuit legis, habet vigorem, even without having that will and pleasure 315recorded. There are but three empires now in Europe, the German, or Holy Roman, the Russian and the Ottoman.

There is another sense indeed in which the word empire is used, in which it may be applied to the government of Geneva, or any other republic, as well as to monarchy, or despotism. In this sense it is synonimous with government, rule or dominion. In this sense, we are within the dominion, rule or government of the king of Great-Britain.

The question should be, whether we are a part of the kingdom of Great-Britain: this is the only language, known in English laws. We are not then a part of the British kingdom, realm or state; and therefore the supreme power of the kingdom, realm or state, is not upon these principles, the supreme power over us. That “supreme power over America is vested in the estates in parliament,” is an affront to us; for there is not an acre of American land represented there—there are no American estates in parliament.

To say that we “must be” subject, seems to betray a consciousness that we are not by any law or upon any principles, but those of meer power; and an opinion that we ought to be, or that it is necessary that we should be. But if this should be admitted, for argument sake only, what is the consequence? The consequences that may fairly be drawn are these. That Britain has been imprudent enough to let Colonies be planted, untill they are become numerous and important, without ever having wisdom enough to concert a plan for their government, consistent with her own welfare. That now it is necessary to make them submit to the authority of parliament: and because there is no principle of law or justice, or reason, by which she can effect it: therefore she will resort to war and conquest—to the maxim delenda est Carthago. These are the consequences, according to this writers ideas. We think the consequences are, that she has after 150 years, discovered a defect in her government, which ought to be supply'd by some just and reasonable means: that is, by the consent of the Colonies; for metaphysicians and politicians may dispute forever, but they will never find any other moral principle or foundation of rule or obedience, than the consent of governors and governed. She has found out that the great machine will not go any longer without a new wheel. She will make this herself. We think she is making it of such materials and workmanship as will tear the whole machine to pieces. We are willing, if she can convince us of the necessity of such a wheel, to assist with artists and materials, in making it, so that it may answer the end: But she says, we shall have no share in it; and if we will not let her patch it up as she pleases, her Massachu-316settensis's and other advocates tell us, she will tear it to pieces herself, by cutting our throats. To this kind of reasoning we can only answer, that we will not stand still to be butchered. We will defend our lives as long as providence shall enable us.

“It is beyond doubt, that it was the sense both of the Parent Country, and our Ancestors, that they were to remain subject to parliament.”

This has been often asserted, and as often contradicted, and fully confuted. The confutation, may not, however, have come to every eye which has read this News-Paper.

The public acts of kings and ministers of state, in that age, when our ancestors emigrated, which were not complained of, remonstrated and protested against by the commons, are look'd upon as sufficient proof of the “sense” of the parent country.

The charter to the treasurer and company of Virginia, 23 March 1609, grants ample powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, and then contains an express covenant “to and with the said treasurer and company, their successors, factors and assigns, that they, and every of them, shall be free from all taxes and impositions forever, upon any goods or merchandizes, at any time or times hereafter, either upon importation thither, or exportation from thence, into our realm of England, or into any other of our realms or dominions.”5

I agree with this writer that the authority of a supreme legislature, includes the right of taxation. Is not this quotation then an irresistable proof, that it was not the sense of king James or his ministers, or of the ancestors of the Virginians, that they were “to remain subject to parliament as a supreme legislature.”

After this, James issued a proclamation, recalling this patent, but this was never regarded—then Charles issued another proclamation, which produced a remonstrance from Virginia, which was answered by a letter from the lords of the privy council, 22d July 1634, containing the royal assurance that “all their estates, trade, freedom, and privileges should be enjoyed by them, in as extensive a manner, as they enjoyed them before those proclamations.”

Here is another evidence of the sense of the king and his ministers.

Afterwards parliament sent a squadron of ships to Virginia—the colony rose in open resistance, untill the parliamentary commissioners granted them conditions, that they should enjoy the privileges of Englishmen; that their assembly should transact the affairs of the colony; that they should have a free trade to all places and nations, 317as the people of England; and 4thly, that “Virginia shall be free from all taxes, customs, and impositions whatever, and none shall be imposed on them without consent of their general assembly; and that neither forts nor castles be erected, or garrisons maintained without their consent.”6

One would think this was evidence enough of the sense both of the parent country, and our ancestors.

After the acts of navigation were passed, Virginia sent agents to England, and a remonstrance against those acts. Charles, in answer, sent a declaration under the privy seal, 19 April 1676, affirming, “that taxes ought not to be laid upon the inhabitants and proprietors of the colony, but by the common consent of the general assembly; except such impositions as the parliament should lay on the commodities imported into England from the colony.” And he ordered a charter, under the great seal, to secure this right to the Virginians.7

What becomes of the “sense” of the parent country, and our ancestors? For the ancestors of the Virginians, are our ancestors, when we speak of ourselves as Americans. From Virginia let us pass to Maryland. Charles 1st, in 1633, gave a charter to the Baron of Baltimore, containing ample powers of government, and this express covenant, “to and with the said lord Baltimore, his heirs and assigns, that we, our heirs and successors, shall at no time hereafter, set or make, or cause to be set, any imposition, custom, or other taxation, rate, or contribution whatsoever, in and upon the dwellings and inhabitants of the aforesaid province, for their lands, tenements, goods or chattels, within the said province; or to be laden or unladen, within the ports or harbours of the said province.”8

What then was the “sense” of the parent country, and the ancestors of Maryland? But if by “our ancestors”, he confines his idea to New England or this province, let us consider. The first planters of Plymouth were our ancestors in the strictest sense. They had no charter or patent for the land they took possession of, and derived no authority from the English Parliament or Crown, to set up their government. They purchased land of the Indians, and set up a government of their own, on the simple principle of nature, and afterwards purchased a patent for the land of the council at Plymouth, but never purchased any charter for government of the Crown, or the King: and continued to exercise all the powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, upon the plain ground of an original contract among independent individuals for 68 years, i.e. until their incorporation with Massachusetts by our present charter. 318The same may be said of the colonies which emigrated to Sea-Brook, New-Haven, and other Parts of Connecticut. They seem to have had no idea of dependence on Parliament, any more than on the Conclave. The Secretary of Connecticut has now in his possession, an original Letter from Charles 2d. to that colony, in which he considers them rather as friendly allies, than as subjects to his English Parliament, and even requests them to pass a law in their assembly, relative to piracy.9

The sentiments of your ancestors in the Massachusetts may be learned from almost every ancient paper and record. It would be endless to recite all the passages, in which it appears that they thought themselves exempt from the authority of parliament, not only in the point of taxation, but in all cases whatsoever. Let me mention one. Randolph, one of the predecessors of Massachusettensis, in a representation to Charles 2d, dated 20 September 1676, says, “I went to visit the governor at his house, and among other discourse, I told him, I took notice of several ships that were arrived at Boston, some since my being there, from Spain, France, Streights, Canaries, and other parts of Europe, contrary to your Majesty's laws for encouraging Navigation and regulating the trade of the plantations. He freely declared to me, that the law made by your Majesty and your parliament obligeth them in nothing but what consists with the interest of that colony, that the legislative power is and abides in them solely to act and make laws by virtue of a Charter from your Majesty's royal father.”10 Here is a positive assertion of an exemption from the authority of parliament, even in the case of the Regulation of Trade.

Afterwards in 1677, The General Court passed a law, which shews the sense of our ancestors in a very strong light. It is in these words. “This court being informed, by letters received this day from our messengers, of his Majesty's expectation that the acts of Trade and Navigation be exactly and punctually observed by this his Majesty's colony, his pleasure therein not having before now been signified unto us, either by express from his Majesty, or any of his ministers of state; It is therefore hereby ordered, and by the authority of this court enacted, that henceforth, all masters of ships, ketches, or other vessels, of greater or lesser burthen, arriving in, or sailing from any of the ports in this jurisdiction, do, without coven, or fraud, yield faithful and constant obedience unto, and observation of, all the said acts of navigation and trade, on penalty of suffering such forfeitures, loss and damage as in the said acts are particularly expressed. 319And the governor and council, and all officers, commissionated and authorized by them, are hereby ordered and required to see to the strict observation of the said acts.”11 As soon as they had passed this law, they wrote a letter to their agent, in which they acknowledge they had not conformed to the acts of trade; and they say, they “apprehended 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. However, as his Majesty had signified his pleasure, that these acts should be observed in the Massachusetts, they had made provision by a law of the colony, that they should be strictly attended from time to time, although it greatly discouraged trade, and was a great damage to his Majesty's plantation.”12

Thus it appears, that the ancient Massachusettensians and Virginians, had precisely the same sense of the authority of parliament, viz. that it had none at all: and the same sense of the necessity, that by the voluntary act of the colonies, their free chearful consent, it should be allowed the power of regulating trade: and this is precisely the idea of the late Congress at Philadelphia, expressed in the fourth proposition in their Bill of Rights.

But this was the sense of the parent country too, at that time; for K. Charles II. in a letter to the Massachusetts, after this law had been laid before him, has these words, “We are informed that you have lately made some good provision for observing the acts of trade and navigation, which is well pleasing unto us.”13 Had he, or his ministers an idea that parliament was the sovereign legislative over the Colony? If he had, would he not have censured this law as an insult to that legislature?

I sincerely hope, we shall see no more such round affirmations, that it was the sense of the parent country and our ancestors, that they were to remain subject to parliament.

So far from thinking themselves subject to parliament, that during the Interregnum, it was their desire and design to have been a free commonwealth, an independent Republic; and after the restoration, it was with the utmost reluctance, that in the course of 16 or 17 years, they were bro't to take the oaths of allegiance: and for some time after this, they insisted upon taking an oath of fidelity to the Country, before that of allegiance to the King.


That “it is evident from the Charter itself,” that they were to remain subject to parliament, is very unaccountable, when there is not one word in either Charter concerning parliament.

That the authority of parliament has been exercised almost ever since the settlement of the country, is a mistake; for there is no instance, untill the first Navigation Act, which was in 1660, more than 40 years after the first settlement. This act was never executed or regarded, until 17 years afterwards, and then it was not executed as an act of parliament, but as a law of the colony, to which the king agreed.

“This has been expressly acknowledged by our Provincial Legislatures.” There is too much truth in this. It has been twice acknowledged by our House of Representatives, that parliament was the supreme legislative; but this was directly repugnant to a multitude of other votes by which it was denied.14 This was in conformity to the distinction between taxation and legislation, which has been since found to be a distinction without a difference.

When a great question is first started, there are very few, even of the greatest minds, which suddenly and intuitively comprehend it, in all its consequences.

It is both “our interest and our duty to continue subject to the authority of parliament, as far as the regulation of our trade, if it will be content with that, but no longer.”

“If the colonies are not subject to the authority of parliament, Great-Britain and the colonies must be distinct states, as compleatly so as England and Scotland were before the union, or as Great-Britain and Hanover are now:” There is no need of being startled at this consequence. It is very harmless. There is no absurdity at all in it. Distinct states may be united under one king. And those states may be further cemented and united together, by a treaty of commerce. This is the case. We have by our own express consent contracted to observe the navigation act, and by our implied consent, by long usage and uninterrupted acquiescence, have submitted to the other acts of trade, however grievous some of them may be. This may be compared to a treaty of commerce, by which those distinct states are cemented together, in perpetual league and amity. And if any further ratifications of this pact or treaty are necessary, the colonies would readily enter into them, provided their other liberties were inviolate.

That the colonies owe “no allegiance” to any imperial crown, provided such a crown involves in it an house of lords and a house of 321commons, is certain. Indeed we owe no allegiance to any crown at all. We owe allegiance to the person of his majesty king George the third, whom God preserve. But allegiance is due universally, both from Britons and Americans to the person of the king, not to his crown: to his natural, not his politic capacity: as I will undertake to prove hereafter, from the highest authorities, and most solemn adjudications, which were ever made within any part of the British Dominions.

If his Majesty's title to the crown, is “derived from an act of parliament made since the settlement of these Colonies,” it was not made since the date of our charter. Our charter was granted by king William and queen Mary, three years after the revolution. And the oaths of allegiance are established by a law of the province. So that our allegiance to his majesty is not due by virtue of any act of a British parliament, but by our own charter and province laws. It ought to be remembered, that there was a revolution here as well as in England, and that we made an original, express contract with king William, as well as the people of England.

If it follows from thence, that he appears king of the Massachusetts, king of Rhode-Island, king of Connecticut, &c. This is no absurdity at all. He will appear in this light, and does appear so, whether parliament has authority over us or not. He is king of Ireland, I suppose, although parliament is allowed to have authority there. As to giving his Majesty those titles, I have no objection at all: I wish he would be graciously pleased to assume them.

The only proposition, in all this writer's long string of pretended absurdities, which he says follow from the position, that we are distinct states, is this,—That “as the king must govern each state by its parliament, those several parliaments would pursue the particular interest of its own state and however well disposed the king might be to pursue a line of interest that was common to all, the checks and controul that he would meet with, would render it impossible.” Every argument ought to be allowed its full weight: and therefore candor obliges me to acknowledge, that here lies all the difficulty that there is in this whole controversy. There has been, from first to last, on both sides of the Atlantic, an idea, an apprehension that it was necessary, there should be some superintending power, to draw together all the wills, and unite all the strength of the subjects in all the dominions, in case of war, and in the case of trade. The necessity of this, in case of trade, has been so apparent, that as has often been said, we have consented that parliament should exercise such a 322power. In case of war, it has by some been thought necessary. But in fact and experience, it has not been found so. What tho' the proprietary colonies, on account of disputes with the proprietors, did not come in so early to the assistance of the general cause in the last war, as they ought, and perhaps one of them not at all!15 The inconveniences of this were small, in comparison of the absolute ruin to the liberties of all which must follow the submission to parliament, in all cases, which would be giving up all the popular limitations upon the government. These inconveniences fell chiefly upon New England. She was necessitated to greater exertions. But she had rather suffer these again and again, than others infinitely greater. However this subject has now been so long in contemplation, that it is fully understood now, in all the colonies: so that there is no danger, in case of another war, of any colonies failing of its duty.

But admitting the proposition in its full force, that it is absolutely necessary there should be a supreme power, coextensive with all the dominions, will it follow that parliament as now constituted has a right to assume this supream jurisdiction? By no means.

A union of the colonies might be projected, and an American legislature: or if America has 3,000,000 people, and the whole dominions twelve, she ought to send a quarter part of all the members to the house of commons, and instead of holding parliaments always at Westminster, the haughty members for Great-Britain, must humble themselves, one session in four, to cross the Atlantic, and hold the parliament in America.

There is no avoiding all inconveniences, in human affairs: The greatest possible or conceivable, would arise from ceding to parliament all power over us, without a representation in it: the next greatest, would accrue from any plan that can be devised for a representation there. The least of all would arise from going on as we begun, and fared well for 150 years, by letting parliament regulate trade, and our own assemblies all other matters.

As to “the prerogatives not being defined or limited,” it is as much so in the Colonies as in Great Britain, and as well understood, and as cheerfully submitted to in the former as the latter.

But “where is the British constitution, that we all agree we are intitled to?” I answer, if we enjoy, and are intitled to more liberty than the British constitution allows, where is the harm? Or if we enjoy the British constitution in greater purity and perfection than they do in England, as is really the case, whose fault is this? Not ours.


We may find all the blessings “of this constitution in our Provincial Assemblies.”16 Our Houses of Representatives have, and ought to exercise, every power of the house of Commons. The first Charter to this colony, is nothing to the present argument: but it did grant a power of taxing the people—implicitly, tho' not in express terms. It granted all the rights and liberties of Englishmen, which include the power of taxing the people.

“Our Council Boards,” in the royal governments, “are destitute of the noble independence and splendid appendages of peerages,” most certainly: They are the meerest creatures and tools in the political creation. Dependent every moment for their existence on the tainted breath of a prime minister. But they have the authority of the house of lords, in our little models of the English constitution. And it is this which makes them so great a grievance. The crown has really, two branches of our legislatures in its power. Let an act of parliament pass at home, putting it in the power of the king, to remove any peer from the house of lords at his pleasure, and what will become of the British constitution? It will be overturned from the foundation. Yet we are perpetually insulted, by being told, that making our council by mandamus, brings us nearer to the British constitution. In this province, by charter, the council certainly hold their seats for the year, after being chosen and approved, independant of both the other branches. For their creation, they are equally obliged to both the other branches; so that there is little or no bias in favour of either, if any, it is in favour of the prerogative. In short, it is not easy without an hereditary nobility, to constitute a council more independent, more nearly resembling the House of Lords than the council of this province has ever been by Charter. But perhaps it will be said, that we are to enjoy the British constitution in our supreme legislature, the Parliament, not in our provincial legislatures.

To this I answer, if parliament is to be our supreme legislature, we shall be under a compleat oligarchy or aristocracy, not the British Constitution, which this writer himself defines a mixture of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. For King, lords and commons, will constitute one great oligarchy, as they will stand related to America, as much as the Decimvirs did in Rome. With this difference for the worse, that our rulers are to be three thousand miles off. The definition of an oligarchy, is a government by a number of grandees, over whom the people have no controul. The states of Holland were once chosen by the people frequently. Then chosen for life. Now they are not chosen by the people at all. When a member dies, his place is 324filled up not by the people he is to represent, but by the states. Is not this depriving the Hollanders of a free constitution, and subjecting them to an aristocracy, or oligarchy? Will not the government of America be like it? Will not representatives be chosen for them by others, whom they never saw nor heard of? If our provincial constitutions are in any respect imperfect and want alteration, they have capacity enough to discern it, and power enough to effect it, without the interposition of parliament. There never was an American constitution attempted by parliament, before the Quebec Bill and Massachusetts Bill. These are such samples of what they may and probably will be, that few Americans are in love with them. However, America will never allow that parliament has any authority to alter their constitution at all. She is wholly penetrated with a sense of the necessity of resisting it, at all hazards. And she would resist it, if the constitution of the Massachusetts had been altered as much for the better, as it is for the worse. The question we insist on most, is not whether the alteration is for the better or not, but whether parliament has any right to make any alteration at all. And it is the universal sense of America, that it has none.

We are told that “the provincial constitutions have no principle of stability within themselves”. This is so great a mistake, that there is not more order or stability in any government upon the globe, than there ever has been in that of Connecticut. The same may be said of the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and indeed of the others, very nearly. “That these constitutions in turbulent times would become wholly monarchial or wholly republican.” They must be such times as would have a similar effect upon the constitution at home. But in order to avoid the danger of this, what is to be done. Not give us an English constitution, it seems, but make sure of us at once, by giving us constitutions wholly monarchical, annihilating our houses of representatives first, by taking from them the support of government, &c. and then making the councils and judges wholly dependent on the crown.

That a representation in parliament is impracticable we all agree:17 but the consequence is, that we must have a representation in our supreme legislatures here. This was the consequence that was drawn by kings, ministers, our ancestors, and the whole nation, more than a century ago, when the colonies were first settled, and continued to be the general sense untill the last peace, and it must be the general sense again soon, or Great-Britain will lose her colonies.

“This is apparently the meaning of that celebrated passage in 325governor Hutchinsons letter, that rung through the continent, viz. (There must be an abridgment of what is called English liberties.)” But all the art and subtlety of Massachusettensis will never vindicate or excuse that expression. According to this writer, it should have been “there is an abridgment of English liberties and it can't be otherwise.”18 But every candid reader must see that the letter writer had more than that in his view and in his wishes. In the same letter, a little before, he says, “what marks of resentment the parliament will shew, whether they will be upon the province in general or particular persons, is extremely uncertain; but that they will be placed somewhere is most certain, and I add, because I think it ought to be so.” 19 Is it possible to read this without thinking of the port bill, the charter bill, and the resolves for sending persons to England by the statute of H. 8, to be tried! But this is not all. “This is most certainly a crisis,” says he. &c. “If no measure shall have been taken to secure this dependence (i.e. the dependence which a colony ought to have upon the parent state) it is all over with us.” “The friends of government will be utterly disheartned, and the friends of anarchy will be afraid of nothing, be it ever so extravagant.” But this is not all. “I never think of the measures necessary for the peace and good order of the colonies without pain.” “There must be an abridgment of what are called English liberties.” What could he mean? Any thing less than depriving us of trial by jury? Perhaps he wanted an act of parliament to try persons here for treason by a court of admiralty. Perhaps an act that the province should be governed by a governor and a mandamus council, without an house of representatives. But to put it out of all doubt that his meaning was much worse than Massachusettensis endeavours to make it, he explains himself in a subsequent part of the letter. “I wish,” says he, “the good of the colony, when I wish to see some further restraint of liberty.” Here it is rendered certain, that he is pleading for a further restraint of liberty, not explaining the restraint, he apprehended the constitution had already laid us under.

My indignation at this letter, has sometimes been softened by compassion. It carries on the face of it, evident marks of madness. It was written in such a transport of passions, ambition, and revenge chiefly, that his reason was manifestly overpowered. The vessel was tost in such a hurricane, that she could not feel her helm. Indeed he seems to have had a confused consciousness of this himself. “Pardon me this excursion,” says he, “it really proceeds from the state of mind, into which our perplexed affairs often throws me.”


“It is our highest interest to continue a part of the British empire, and equally our duty to remain subject to the authority of parliament,” says Massachusettensis.

We are a part of the British dominions, that is of the king of Great-Britain, and it is our interest and duty to continue so. It is equally our interest and duty to continue subject to the authority of parliament, in the regulation of our trade, as long as she shall leave us to govern our internal policy, and to give and grant our own money, and no longer.

This letter concludes with an agreeable flight of fancy.20 The time may not be so far off, however, as this writer imagines, when the colonies may have the balance of numbers and wealth in her favour. But when that shall happen, if we should attempt to rule her by an American parliament, without an adequate representation in it, she will infallibly resist us by her arms.


“It is very foreign from my intentions to draw down the vengeance of Great Britain upon the whigs; they are too valuable a part of the community to lose, if they will permit themselves to be saved. I wish nothing worse to the highest of them, than that they may be deprived of their influence, till such time as they shall have changed their sentiments, principles and measures” (Novanglus and Massachusettensis, p. 168).


Calvin's Case, decided in 1608, was used by JA in the debate with Hutchinson, 2 March 1773, above. James Wilson in 1774 was another American polemicist who seized upon this case to demonstrate the colonies' freedom from parliamentary authority (Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Cambridge, 1967, p. 225).


James Harrington, The Oceana and Other Works. Collected . . . by John Toland . . . , 3d edn., London, 1747 ( Catalogue of JA's Library ).


Same, p. 43.


JA ignores the exception which follows: “Except only the five Pounds per Cent due for custom upon all such Goods and Merchandizes as shall be brought or Imported into our Realm of England, or any other of these our Dominions according to the antient Trade of Merchants” (Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions , 7:3799).


12 March 1651 (Hening, Va. Statutes, 1:364).


Charles II changed his mind, however, when he heard about the outbreak of Bacon's Rebellion (Thomas J. Wertenbaker, Virginia under the Stuarts, 1607–1688, Princeton, 1914, p. 126).


Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions , 3:1685.


8 March 1684 (J. Hammond Trumbull and Charles J. Hoadley, eds., The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, 15 vols., Hartford, 1850–1890, 3:336–337)


Thomas Hutchinson, A Collection of Original Papers Relative to the History of the Colony of Massachusets-Bay, Boston, 1769, p. 506.


Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 1:272, note.


Same, 1:272.


Hutchinson, A Collection of Original Papers, p. 521. Hutchinson' note reads, “This is very extraordinary, for this provision was an act of the colony declaring that the acts of trade should be in force there.”


JA is probably referring to the watering down of the House petition of 1764 (No. IV, note 7, above) and the House approval of James Otis, The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted 327and Proved (Bailyn, ed., Pamphlets , 1:414, 417)


Maryland (Gipson, Empire before the Revolution , 6:185–186; 7:296–298; 8:261).


What Massachusettensis actually says, is: “We shall seek for it the British constitution in vain in our provincial assemblies” (Novanglus and Massachusettensis, p. 171)


In the letter of 9 Jan. 1775, which is the subject of JA's scrutiny in this Novanglus letter, Massachusettensis favors representation in Parliament on principle but rejects it as impractical.


Here JA is putting words in the mouth of Massachusettensis.


Thomas Hutchinson to [Thomas Whately], 20 Jan. 1769 (Copy of Letters, p. 15). The quotations that follow in this and the next paragraph are from the same source, but the material in parentheses in the second of these quotations is JA's editorial insertion.


“After many more centuries shall have rolled away, long after we, who are now bustling upon the stage of life, shall have been received to the bosom of mother earth, and our names are forgotten, the colonies may be so far increased as to have the balance of wealth, numbers and power in their favour, the good of the empire make it necessary to fix the seat of government here; and some future George, equally the friend of mankind with him that now sways the British sceptre, may cross the Atlantic, and rule Great Britain, by an American parliament” (Novanglus and Massachusettensis, p. 172–173).

VIII. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 13 March 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


VIII. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 13 March 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
VIII. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, 13 March 1775

It has been often observed by me, and it cannot be too often repeated, that Colonization is Casus omissus 1 at common law. There is no such title known in that law. By common law, I mean that system of customs, written and unwritten, which was known and in force in England, in the time of king Richard the first. This continued to be the case, down to the reign of Elizabeth and king James the first. In all that time, the laws of England were confined to the realm, and within the four seas. There was no provision made in this law for governing colonies, beyond the Atlantic, or beyond the four seas, by authority of parliament, no nor for the king to grant charters to subjects to settle in foreign countries. It was the king's prerogative to prohibit the emigration of any of his subjects, by issuing his writ Ne exeat Regno. And therefore it was in the king's power to permit his subjects to leave the kingdom, 1 Hawk. P. C. c. 22. § 4.2 “It is a high crime to disobey the king's lawful commands, or prohibitions,— as not returning from beyond sea, upon the king's letters to that purpose; for which the offenders lands shall be seized 'till he return; and when he does return, he shall be fined,—&c.—or going beyond 328sea, against the king's will, expressly signified, either by the writ Ne exeat Regnum, or under the great or privy seal, or signet, or by proclamation.” When a subject left the kingdom, by the king's permission, and if the nation did not remonstrate against it, by the nation's permission too, at least connivance, he carried with him, as a man, all the rights of nature. His allegiance bound him to the king, and intitled him to protection. But how? Not in France: the king of England was not bound to protect him in France, nor in America. Not in the dominions of Lewis, nor of Passachus, or Massachusett3 He had a right to protection, and the liberties of England upon his return there, not otherwise. How then do we New Englandmen derive our laws? I say, not from parliament, not from common law, but from the law of nature and the compact made with the king in our charters. Our ancestors were intitled to the common law of England, when they emigrated, that is, to just so much of it as they pleased to adopt, and no more. They were not bound or obliged to submit to it, unless they chose it. By a positive principle of the common law, they were bound, let them be in what part of the world they would, to do nothing against their allegiance to the king. But no kind of provision was ever made by common law, for punishing or trying any man even for treason, committed out of the realm. He must be tried in some county of the realm, by that law, the county whereof the overt-act was done, or he could not be tried at all. Nor was any provision ever made, until the reign of Henry the Eighth, for trying treasons committed abroad, and the acts of that reign were made on purpose to catch Cardinal Pole.4

So that our ancestors, when they emigrated, having obtained permission of the king to come here, and being never commanded to return into the realm, had a clear right to have erected in this wilderness a British constitution, or a perfect democracy, or any other form of government they saw fit. They indeed, while they lived, could not have taken arms against the king of England, without violating their allegiance, but their children would not have been born within the king's allegiance, would not have been natural subjects, and consequently not intitled to protection, or bound to the king.

Massachusettensis, Jan. 16, seems possessed of these ideas, and attempts in the most awkward manner, to get rid of them. He is conscious, that America must be a part of the realm, before it can be bound by the authority of parliament; and therefore is obliged to suggest, that we are annexed to the realm, and to endeavour to 329confuse himself and his readers, by confounding the realm, with the empire and dominions.

But will any man soberly contend, that America was ever annexed to the realm? To what realm? When New-England was settled, there was a realm of England, a realm of Scotland, and a realm of Ireland. To which of these three realms was New England annexed? To the realm of England, it will be said. But by what law? No territory could be annexed to the realm of England, but by an act of parliament. Acts of parliament have been passed to annex Wales, &c. &c. to the realm. But none ever passed to annex America. But if New-England was annexed to the realm of England, how came she annexed to the realm of or kingdom of Great-Britain? The two realms of England and Scotland were by the act of union incorporated into one kingdom by the name of Great-Britain: But there is not one word about America in that act.

Besides, if America was annexed to the realm, or a part of the kingdom, every act of parliament that is made, would extend to it, named or not named. But every body knows that every act of parliament, and every other record, constantly distinguishes between this kingdom, and his Majesty's other dominions. Will it be said that Ireland is annex'd to the realm, or a part of the kingdom of Great-Britain? Ireland is a distinct kingdom or realm by itself, notwithstanding British parliament claims a right of binding it in all cases, and exercises it in some. And even so the Massachusetts is a realm, New-York is a realm, Pennsylvania another realm, to all intents and purposes, as much as Ireland is, or England or Scotland ever were. The king of Great Britain is the sovereign of all these realms.

This writer says, “that in denying that the colonies are annexed to the realm, and subject to the authority of parliament, individuals and bodies of men, subvert the fundamentals of government, deprive us of British liberties, and build up absolute monarchy in the colonies.”

This is the first time that I ever heard or read that the colonies are annexed to the realm. It is utterly denied that they are, and that it is possible they should be, without an act of parliament, and acts of the colonies. Such an act of parliament cannot be produced, nor any such law of any one colony. Therefore as this writer builds the whole authority of parliament upon this fact, viz. That the colonies are annexed to the realm; and as it is certain they never were so annexed: the consequence is, that his whole superstructure falls.

When he says, that they subvert the fundamentals of government, 330he begs the question. We say that the contrary doctrines subvert the fundamentals of government. When he says, that they deprive us of British liberties, he begs the question again: We say that the contrary doctrine deprives us of English Liberties; as to British Liberties, we scarcely know what they are, as the liberties of England and Scotland are not precisely the same to this day. English liberties are but certain rights of nature reserved to the citizen, by the English constitution, which rights cleaved to our ancestors when they crossed the Atlantic, and would have inbred in them, if instead of coming to New-England they had gone to Outaheite, or Patagonia, even altho' they had taken no patent or charter from the king at all. These rights did not adhere to them the less, for their purchasing patents and charters, in which the king expressly stipulates with them, that they and their posterity should forever enjoy all those rights and liberties.

The human mind is not naturally the clearest atmosphere; but the clouds and vapours which have been raised in it, by the artifices of temporal and spiritual tyrants, have made it impossible to see objects in it distinctly. Scarcely any thing is involved in more systematical obscurity, than the rights of our ancestors, when they arrived in America. How, in common sense, came the dominions of king Philip, king Massachusetts, and twenty other sovereign, independent princes here, to be within the allegiance of the king of England, James and Charles? America was no more within the allegiance of those princes, by the common law of England, or by the law of nature, than France and Spain were. Discovery, if that was incontestible could give no title to the English king, by common law, or by the law of nature, to the lands, tenements and hereditaments of the native Indians here. Our ancestors were sensible of this, and therefore honestly purchased their lands of the natives. They might have bought them to hold allodially, if they would.

But there were two ideas, which confused them, and have continued to confuse their posterity, one derived from the feudal, the other from the cannon law. By the former of these systems, the prince, the general, was supposed to be sovereign Lord of all the lands, conquered by the soldiers in his army; and upon this principle, the king of England was considered in law as Sovereign Lord of all the land within the realm. If he had sent an Army here to conquer king Massachusetts, and it had succeeded he would have been sovereign lord of the land here upon these principles; but there was no rule of the common law, that made the discovery of a country by a subject, a title to that country in the prince. But conquest would 331not have annexed the country to the realm, nor have given any authority to the parliament. But there was another mist cast before the eyes of the English nation from another source. The pope claimed a sovereign propriety in, as well as authority over the whole earth. As head of the Christian church, and vicar of God, he claimed this authority over all Christendom; and in the same character he claimed a right to all the countries and possessions of heathens and infidels: a right divine to exterminate and destroy them at his discretion, in order to propagate the catholic faith. When king Henry the eighth, and his parliament, threw off the authority of the pope, stripped his holiness of his supremacy, and invested it in himself by an act of parliament, he and his courtiers seemed to think that all the right of the holy see, were transferred to him: and it was a union of these two the most impertinent and fantastical ideas that ever got into an human pericranium, viz. that as feudal sovereign and supream head of the church together, a king of England had a right to all the land their subjects could find, not possessed by any Christian state or prince, tho' possessed by heathen or infidel nations, which seems to have deluded the nation about the time of the settlement of the colonies. But none of these ideas gave or inferred any right in parliament, over the new countries conquered or discovered; and therefore denying that the colonies are a part of the realm, and that as such they are subject to parliament, by no means deprives us of English liberties. Nor does it “build up absolute monarchy in the colonies.” For admitting these notions of the common canon and feudal law to have been in full force, and that the king was absolute in America, when it was settled; yet he had a right to enter into a contract with his subjects, and stipulate that they should enjoy all the rights and liberties of Englishmen forever, in consideration of their undertaking to clear the wilderness, propagate Christianity, pay a fifth part of oar, &c. Such a contract as this has been made with all the colonies, royal governments as well as charter ones. For the commissions to the governors contain the plan of the government, and the contract between the king and subject, in the former, as much as the charters in the latter.

Indeed this was the reasoning, and upon these feudal and catholic principles in the time of some of the predecessors of Massachusettensis.—This was the meaning of Dudley, when he asked, “Do you think that English liberties will follow you to the ends of the earth?” His meaning was, that English liberties were confined to the realm, and out of that the king was absolute. But this was not true, for an 332English King had no right to be absolute over Englishmen, out of the realm, any more than in it, and they were released from their allegiance, as soon as he deprived them of their liberties.

But “our charters suppose regal authority in the grantor”. True they suppose it, whether there was any or not. “If that authority be derived from the British, (he should have said English) crown, it presupposes this territory to have been a part of the British (he should have said English) dominion, and as such subject to the imperial Sovereign.” How can this writer shew this authority to be derived from the English crown, including in the idea of it Lords and Commons? Is there the least colour for such an authority but in the popish and feudal ideas before mentioned? And do these popish and feudal ideas, include parliament? Was parliament, were Lords and Commons parts of the head of the church or was parliament, that is, Lords and Commons, part of the sovereign feudatory? Never. But why was this authority derived from the English, any more than the Scottish or Irish Crown? It is true the land was to be held in socage like the manor of East Greenwich, but this was compact, and it might have been as well to hold, as they held in Glasgow or Dublin.

But says this writer, “if that authority was vested in the person of the king in a different capacity, the British constitution and laws are out of the question, and the king must be absolute as to us, as his prerogatives have never been limitted.”—Not the prerogative limited in our charters, when in every one of them all the rights of Englishmen are secured to us! Are not the rights of Englishmen sufficiently known, and are not the prerogatives of the king's among those rights?

As to those colonies which are destitute of charters, the commissions to their governors have ever been considered as equivalent securities both for property, jurisdiction and privileges, with charters; and as to the power of the crown being absolute in those colonies, it is absolute no where. There is no fundamental or other law, that makes a king of England absolute any where, except in conquered countries, and an attempt to assume such a power, by the fundamental laws, forfeits the princes right even to the limited crown.

As to “the charter governments reverting to absolute monarchy, as their charters may happen to be forfeited, by the grantees not fulfilling the conditions of them,”—I answer, if they could be forfeited, and were actually forfeited, the only consequence would be, that the king would have no power over them at all: He would not be bound to protect the people, nor, that I can see, would the people here, who were born here, be by any principle of common law, bound even to 333allegiance to the king. The connection would be broken between the crown and the natives of the country.

It has been a great dispute whether charters granted within the realm, can be forfeited at all. It was a question debated with infinite learning, in the case of the charter of London: it was adjudged forfeited, in an arbitrary reign: but afterwards, after the revolution, it was declared in parliament, not forfeited, and by an act of parliament made incapable of forfeiture. The charter of Massachusetts was declared forfeited too. So were other American charters. The Massachusetts alone, were tame enough to give it up. But no American charter will ever be decreed forfeited again, or if any should, the decree will be regarded no more, than a vote of the lower house of the robbinhood society. The court of chancery has no authority without the realm; by common law, surely it has none in America. What! The privileges of millions of Americans depend on the discretion of a lord chancellor? God forbid! The passivity of this colony in receiving the present charter in lieu of the first, is in the opinion of some the deepest stain upon its character. There is less to be said in excuse for it, than the witchcraft, or hanging the quakers. A vast party in the province were against it at the time, and thought themselves betrayed by their agent. It has been a warning to their posterity, and one principal motive with the people, never to trust any agent with power to conceed away their privileges again. It may as well be pretended that the people of Great-Britain can forfeit their privileges, as the people of this province: if the contract of state is broken, the people and king of England, must recur to nature. It is the same in this province. We shall never more submit to decrees in chancery, or acts of parliament, annihilating charters, or abridging English liberties.

Whether Massachusettensis was born as a politician, in the year 1764, I know not: but he often writes as if he knew nothing of that period. In his attempt to trace the denial of the supreme authority of the parliament, he commits such mistakes, as a man of age at that time ought to blush at. He says, that “when the stamp-act was made the authority of parliament to impose external taxes, or in other words to lay duties upon goods and merchandize was admitted,” and that when the tea act was made, “a new distinction was set up, that parliament had a right to lay duties upon merchandize, for the purpose of regulating trade, but not for the purpose of raising a revenue.” This is a total misapprehension of the declared opinions of people at those times. The authority of parliament to lay taxes for a revenue, has been always generally denied: and their right to lay duties to regu-334late trade, has been denied by many, who have ever contended, that trade should be regulated only by prohibitions.

The act of parliament of the 4 G, the third, passed in the year 1764, was the first act of the British parliament that ever was passed, in which the design of raising a revenue, was expressed. Let Massachusettensis name any statute before that in which the word revenue is used, or the thought of raising a revenue, is expressed. This act is intitled, “An act for granting certain duties in the British colonies and plantations in America,” &c. The word revenue, in the preamble of this act, instantly ran through the colonies, and rang an alarm, almost as much as if the design of forging chains for the Colonists had been expressed in words. I have now before me, a pamphlet, written and printed in the year 1764 intitled, “The sentiments of a British American,” upon this act.5 How the idea of a revenue, tho' from an acknowledged external tax, was relished in that time, may be read in the frontispiece of that pamphlet—

—Ergo quid refert mea Cui serviam? clitellas dum portem meas.6 Phaedrus.

The first objection to this act, which was made in that pamphlet, by its worthy author, OXENBRIDGE THACHER, Esq; who died a Martyr to that amity for his country, which the conduct of the Junto gave him, is this, “The first objection is, that a tax is thereby laid on several commodities, to be raised and levied in the plantations, and to be remitted home to England. This is esteemed a grievance inasmuch as the same are laid, without the consent of the representatives of the colonists. It is esteemed an essential British right, that no person shall be subject to any tax; but what in person, or by his representative, he hath a voice in laying.” Here is a tax unquestionably external, in the sense in which that word is used in the distinction that is made by some between external and internal taxes, and unquestionably laid in part for the regulation of trade; yet called a grievance, and a violation of an essential British right in the year 1764, by one who was then at the head of the popular branch of our constitution, and as well acquainted with the sense of his constituents, as any man living. And it is indisputable that in those words he wrote, the almost universal sense of this colony.

There are so many egregious errors in point of fact, and respecting the opinions of the people in this writer, that it is difficult to impute 335to wilful misrepresentation, that I sometimes think he is some smart young gentleman, come up, into life, since this great controversy was opened; if not, he must have conversed wholly with the junto, and they must have deceived him, respecting their own sentiments.

This writer sneers at the distinction between a right to lay the former duty of a shilling on the pound of tea, and the right to lay the three pence. But is there not a real difference between laying a duty to be paid in England upon exportation, and to be paid in America upon importation? Is there not a difference between parliament's laying on duties within their own realm, where they have undoubtedly jurisdiction, and laying them out of their realm, nay laying them on in our realm, where we say they have no jurisdiction? Let them lay on what duties they please in England, we have nothing to say against that.

“Our patriots most heroically resolved to become independent states, and flatly denied that parliament had a right to make any laws what ever that should be binding upon the colonies.”

Our scribler more heroically still, is determined to shew the world, that he has courage superior to all regard to modesty, justice or truth. Our patriots have never determined or desired to be independent states, if a voluntary cession of a right to regulate their trade, can make them dependent even on parliament, tho' they are clear in theory, that by the common law, and the English constitution, parliament has no authority over them. None of the patriots of this province, of the present age, have ever denied that parliament has a right from our voluntary cession, to make laws which shall bind the colonies, as far as their commerce extends.

“There is no possible medium between absolute independence and subjection to the authority of parliament.” If this is true, it may be depended upon that all North America are as fully convinced of their independence, their absolute independence, as they are of their own existence, and as fully determined to defend it at all hazards, as Great Britain is to defend her independence, against foreign nations. But it is not true. An absolute independence on parliament, in all internal concerns and cases of taxation, is very compatible with an absolute dependence on it in all cases of external commerce.

“He must be blind indeed that cannot see our dearest interest, in the latter (that is, in an “absolute subjection to the authority of parliament”) notwithstanding many pant after the former” (that is, absolute independence). The man who is capable of writing, in cool blood, that our interest lies in an absolute subjection to parliament, is ca-336pable of writing or saying any thing for the sake of his pension. A legislature that has so often discovered a want of information concerning us, and our country; a legislature interested to lay burdens upon us; a legislature, two branches of which, I mean the Lords and Commons, neither love nor fear us! Every American of fortune and common sense, must look upon his property to be sunk downright one half of its value, the moment such an absolute subjection to parliament is established.

That there are any who pant after “independence,” (meaning by this word a new plan of government over all America, unconnected with the crown of England, or meaning by it an exemption from the power of parliament to regulate trade) is as great a slander upon the province as ever was committed to writing. The patriots of this province desire nothing new—they wish only to keep their old privileges. They were for 150 years allowed to tax themselves, and govern their internal concerns, as they tho't best. Parliament governed their trade as they tho't fit. This plan, they wish may continue forever. But it is honestly confessed, rather than become subject to the absolute authority of parliament, in all cases of taxation and internal polity, they will be driven to throw off that of regulating trade.

“To deny the supreme authority of the state, is a high misdemeanor; to oppose it by force, an overt act of treason.” True: and therefore Massachusettensis, who denies the king represented by his governor, his majesty's council, by charter, and house of representatives, to be the supreme authority of this province, has been guilty of a high misdemeanour: and those ministers, governors, and their instruments, who have brought a military force here, and employed it against that supreme authority, are guilty of and ought to be punished with . I will be more mannerly than Massachusettensis.

“The realm of England is an appropriate term for the ancient realm of England, in contradistinction to Wales and other territories, that have been annexed to it.”

There are so many particulars in the case of Wales, analogous to the case of America, that I must beg leave to enlarge upon it.

(For want of Room we are obliged to deferr the Remainder of this NOVANGLUS till our next.)

A case omitted; a situation not provided for.


William Hawkins, A Treatise of Pleas of the Crown . . . , 4th edn., London, 1762, 1:60–61 ( Catalogue of JA's Library ).


Indian chiefs, possibly Sassacus, Pequot sachem, and Massasoit, Wampanoag chief ( DAB ).


Reginald Pole (1500–1558), cardinal and Archbishop of Canterbury, an opponent of Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine and of the King's desire to head the church ( DNB ). The statute in question had become a grievance, mentioned in the Bill of Rights adopted 337by the First Continental Congress. See Adams' Service in the Congress, 5 Sept. – 26 Oct. 1774, No. I, note 4, above.


Oxenbridge Thacher, The Sentiments of a British American . . . , Boston, 1764 (Evans, No. 9851). The quotation from Thacher is on p. 4–5.


What difference does it make to me / Whom I might serve? Provided that I carry my packsaddles (Fabula, 1. 15. 9–10).

VIII. (cont.). To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 20 March 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


VIII. (cont.). To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 20 March 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
VIII. (cont.). To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
20 March 1775 Remainder of the NOVANGLUS begun in our last.

Wales was a little portion of the island of Great-Britain, which the Saxons were never able to conquer. The Britons had reserved this tract of land to themselves and subsisted wholly by pasturage, among their mountains. Their princes however, during the Norman period, and untill the reign of king Edward the first, did homage to the crown of England, as their feudal sovereign, in the same manner as the prince of one independant state in Europe frequently did to the sovereign of another. This little principality of shepherds and cowherds, had however maintained their independence, through long and bloody wars against the omnipotence of England, for 800 years. It is needless to enumerate the causes of the war between Lewellyn and Edward the first. It is sufficient to say that the Welch prince refused to go to England to do homage, and Edward obtained a new aid of a fifteenth from his parliament, to march with a strong force into Wales. Edward was joined by David and Roderic, two brothers of Lewellyn, who made a strong party among the Welch themselves, to assist and second the attempts to enslave their native country. The English monarch however, with all these advantages, was afraid to put the valour of his enemies to a tryal, and trusted to the slow effects of famine to subdue them. Their pasturage, with such an enemy in their country, could not subsist them, and Lewellyn 19 Nov. 1277 at last submitted; and bound himself to pay a reparation of damages: to do homage to the crown of England, and almost to surrender his independence as a Prince by permitting all the other Barons of Wales, excepting four, to swear fealty to the same crown. But fresh complaints soon arose: The English grew insolent on their bloodless victory, and oppressed the inhabitants—many insults were offered, which at last raised the indignation of the Welch, so that they determined again to take arms, rather than bear any longer the oppression of the haughty victors. The war raged, some time, until Edward summoned all his military tenants, and advanced with an army too powerful for the Welch to resist. Lewellyn was at last surprized, by Edward's 338General Mortimer, and fighting at a great disadvantage was slain with two thousand of his men. David, who succeeded in the principality, maintained the war for some time, but at last was betrayed to the enemy, sent in Chains to Shrewsbury, brought to a formal trial before the peers of England, and altho' a sovereign prince, ordered by Edward to be hanged, drawn and quartered, as a traitor, for defending by arms the liberties of his native country! All the Welch nobility submitted to the conqueror: The laws of England, sheriffs, and other ministers of justice, were established in that principality, which had maintained its liberties and independency, 800 years.

Now Wales was always part of the dominions of England: “Wales was always feudatory to the kingdom of England.”1 It was always held of the crown of England, or the kingdom of England: that is, whoever was king of England, had a right to homage, &c. from the prince of Wales. But yet Wales was not parcel of the realm or kingdom, nor bound by the laws of England. I mention and insist upon this, because it shews, that altho' the colonies are bound to the crown of England, or in other words, owe allegiance to whomsoever is king of England; yet it does not follow that the colonies are parcel of the realm or kingdom, and bound by its laws. As this is a point of great importance, I must beg pardon, however unentertaining it may be, to produce my authorities.

Comyns digest. v. 5. page 626. “Wales was always feudatory to the kingdom of England.

“Held of the crown but not parcel. Per Cook Coke. 1 Roll. 247–2 Roll. 29.2 And therefore the kings of Wales did homage, and swore fealty to H. 2. and John and H. 3.

“And ii Ed. 1. Upon the conquest of Lewellyn prince or king of Wales that principality became a part of the dominion of the realm of England. And by the statute Walliae 12 Ed. 1. it was annexed and united to the crown of England, tanquam partem corporis ejusdem,3 &c.—Yet, if the statute Walliae, made at Rutland 12 Ed. 1. was not an act of parliament (as it seems that it was not) the incorporation made thereby was only an union jure feudali, et non jure proprietatis.” 4

“Wales before the union with England was governed by its own proper laws.” &c.

By these authorities it appears, that Wales was subject by the feudal law, to the crown of England, before the conquest of Lewellyn; but not subject to the laws of England: and indeed after this 339conquest, Edward, and his nobles, did not seem to think it subject to the English parliament, but to the will of the king as a conqueror of it in war. Accordingly that instrument which is called Statutum Walliae, and to be found in the appendix to the statutes page 3, altho' it was made by the advice of the peers, or officers of the army more properly, yet it never was passed as an act of parliament, but as an edict of the king. It begins not in the style of an act of parliament. Edwardus dei gratia Rex Angliae, Dominus Hyberniae, et Dux Aquitaniae, omnibus fidelibus suis, &c. in Wallia. Divina providentia, quae in sui dispositione, says he, nonfallitur, inter alia dispensations suae munera, quibus nos et Regnum nostram Angliae decorare dignata est, terram Walliae, cum incolis suis, prius nobis jure feudali subjectam, jam sui gratia, in proprietatis nostrae dominium, obstaculis quibuscumque cessantibus, totalliter, et cum integritate convertit, et coronae regni praedicti, tanquam partem corporis ejusdem annexuit et univit.5

Here is the most certain evidence that Wales was subject to the kings of England by the feudal law before the conquest, tho' not bound by any laws but their own. 2. That the conquest was considered, in that day, as conferring the property as well as jurisdiction of Wales to the English crown. 3. The conquest was considered as annexing and uniting Wales to the English crown, both in point of property and jurisdiction, as a part of one body. Yet notwithstanding all this, parliament was not considered as acquiring any share in the government of Wales by this conquest. If then, it should be admitted that the colonies are all annexed and united to the crown of England, it will not follow that Lords and Commons have any authority over them.

This statutum Walliae, as well as the whole case and history of that principality, is well worthy of the attention and study of Americans, because it abounds, with evidence, that a country may be subject to the crown of England, without being subject to the Lords and Commons of that realm, which entirely overthrows the whole argument of Governor Hutchinson and of Massachusettensis in support of the supreme authority of parliament, over all the dominions of the imperial crown. “Nos itaque,” &c. says King Ed. 1. “volentes predictam terram, &c. sicut et caeteras ditioni nostrae subjectas, &c. sub-340debito regimine gubernari, et incolas seu habitatores terarum illarum, qui alto et basso, Se submiserunt voluntati nostrae, et quos sic ad nostram recepimus voluntatem, certis legibus et consuetudinibus, &c. tractari Leges, et consuetudines, partum illarum hactenus usitatas coram nobis et proceribus regni nostri secimus necitari, quibus diligenter auditas, et plenus intellectis, quasdam ipsarum de concilio procerum predictorum delevimus, quasdampertmisimus, et quasdam correximus, et etiam quasdam alias adjungendas et statuendas decrevimus, et eas, &c. observari volumus in forma subscripta.” 6

And then goes on to prescribe and establish a whole code of laws for the principality, in the style of a sole legislator, and concludes,

Et ideo vobis mandamus, quod premissa de cetero in omnibus firmiter observetis. Ita tamen quod quotiescunque, et quandocunque, et ubicunque, nobis placuerit, possimus predicta statuta et coram partes singulas declarare, interpretari, addere sive diminuere, pro nostro libito voluntatis, et prout securitati nostrae et tense, nostrae predictae viderimus expedire.7

Here is then a conquered people submitting, to a system of laws framed by the mere will of the conqueror, and agreeing to be forever governed by his mere will. This absolute monarch then might afterwards govern this country, with or without the advice of his English lords and commons.

To shew that Wales was held before the conquest of Lewellyn, of the king of England, altho' governed by its own laws, hear lord Coke, 2 Inst. 194, in his commentary on the statute of Westminster. “At this time viz. in 3. Ed. 1. Lewellyn was a prince or king of Wales, who held the same of the king of England, as his superior lord, and owed him liege homage and fealty; and this is proved by our act, viz. that the king of England was superior dominus, i.e. sovereign lord of the kingdom or principality of Wales.”


Lord Coke in 4 Inst. 239. says “Wales was sometime a realm, or kingdom (realm from the French word royaume, and both a regno) and governed per suas regulas,” and afterwards, “but jure feudali, the kingdom of Wales was holden of the crown of England, and thereby as Bracton saith, was sub potestate regis. And so it continued until the 11 year of king E. 1. when he subdued the prince of Wales, rising against him, and executed him for treason.” “The next year, viz. in the 12 year of king E. 1. by authority of parliament, it is declared thus, speaking in the person of the king (as ancient statutes were wont to do) divina providentia,” &c. as in the statute Walliae before recited. But here is an inaccuracy for the statutum Walliae, was not an act of parliament, but made by the king with the advice of his officers of the army, by his sole authority, as the statute itself sufficiently shews. Note, says Lord Coke, “diverse monarchs hold their kingdoms of others jure feudali, as the duke of Lombardy, Cicill, Naples, and Bohemia of the empire, Granado, Leons, of Aragon, Navarre, Portugal of Castile. And so others.”

After this the Welsh seem to have been fond of the English laws, and desirous of being incorporated into the realm, to be represented in parliament, and enjoy all the rights of Englishmen, as well as to be bound by the English laws. But Kings were so fond of governing this principality by their discretion alone, that they never could obtain these blessings until the reign of Henry the Eighth, and then they only could obtain a statute, which enabled the king to alter their laws at his pleasure. They did indeed obtain in the 15 Ed. 2. a writ, to call 24 members to the parliament at York from south Wales, and twenty four from North Wales, and again in the 20 Ed. 2, the like number of 48 members for Wales, at the parliament of Westminster. But lord Coke tells us “that this wise and warlike nation was long after, the statutum Walliae not satisfied nor contented, and especially, for that they truly and constantly took part with their rightful sovereign and liege lord, king Richard the second; in revenge whereof they had many severe and invective laws made against them in the reigns of H. 4, H. 5, &c. all which as unjust are repealed and abrogated. And to say the truth, this nation was never in quiet, until king H. 7, their own countryman obtained the crown. And yet not so really reduced in his time, as in the reign of his son H. 8, in whose time certain just laws, made at the humble suit of the subjects of Wales, the principality and dominion of Wales was incorporated and united to the realm of England; and enacted that every one born in Wales, should enjoy the liberties, rights and laws of this realm, as any subjects naturally 342born within this realm should have and inherit, and that they should have knights of shires, and burgesses of parliament.” Yet we see they could not obtain any security for their liberties, for lord Coke tells us, “in the act of 34. H. 8. it was enacted, that the king's most royal majesty should from time to time change, &c. all manner of things in that act rehearsed, as to his most excellent wisdom and discretion should be thought convenient, and also to make laws and ordinances for the commonwealth of his said dominion, of Wales at his majesty's pleasure.” But for that, the subjects of the dominion of Wales, &c. had lived in all dutiful subjection to the crown of England, &c. the said branch of the said statute of 34. H. 8. is repealed, and made void by 21 Jac. 1 c. 10.

But if we look into the statute itself of 27. H. 8 c. 26, we shall find the clearest proof that being subject to the imperial crown of England, did not intitle Welchmen to the liberties of England, nor make them subject to the laws of England. “Albeit the dominion, principality and country of Wales justly and righteously is, and ever hath been incorporated, annexed, united, and subject to and under the imperial crown of this realm, as a very member and joint of the same; wherefore, the king's most royal majesty of mere droit, and very right, is very head, king, lord and ruler; yet, notwithstanding, because that in the same country, principality and dominion, diverse rights, usages, laws and customs be far discrepant from the laws and customs of this realm, &c. Wherefore it is enacted, by king, lords and commons,” that “his” (i.e. the king's) said country or dominion of Wales shall be, stand and continue for ever from henceforth, incorporated, united, and annexed to and with this, his realm of England; and that all and singular person and persons, born or to be born, in the said principality, country, or dominion of Wales, shall have, enjoy, and inherit, all and singular freedoms, liberties, rights, privileges, and laws, within this his realm, and other the king's dominions, as other the king's subjects naturally born within the same have, enjoy, and inherit.” § 2. enacts that the laws of England shall be introduced and established in Wales: and that the laws, ordinances and statutes of this realm of England, forever and none other shall be used and practiced, forever thereafter in the said dominion of Wales. The 27th § of this long statute enacts, that commissioners shall enquire into the laws and customs of Wales, and report to the king, who with his privy council, are impowered to establish such of them as they should think proper. § 28 enacts that in all future parliaments for this realm, two knights for the shire of 343Monmouth and one burgess for the town, shall be chosen, and allowed such fees as other knights and burgesses of parliament were allowed. § 29 enacts, that one knight shall be elected for every shire within the country or dominion of Wales, and one burgess for every shire town, to serve in that and every future parliament to be holden for this realm. But by § 36 the king is impowered to revoke, repeal and abrogate that whole act, or any part of it, at any time within three years.

Upon this statute let it be observed 1. That the language of Massachusettensis “imperial crown” is used in it: and Wales is affirmed to have ever been annexed, and united to that imperial crown, as a very member and joint: which shews that being annexed to the imperial crown, does not annex a country to the realm, or make it subject to the authority of parliament: because Wales, certainly before the conquest of Lewellyn never was pretended to be so subject, nor afterwards ever pretended to be annexed to the realm, at all, nor subject to the authority of parliament, any otherwise than as the king claimed to be absolute in Wales, and therefore to make laws for it, by his mere will, either with the advice of his proceres, or without. 2. That Wales never was incorporated with the realm of England, until this statute was made, nor subject to any authority of English lords and commons. 3. That the king was so tenacious of his exclusive power over Wales that he would not consent to this statute, without a clause in it, to retain the power in his own hands of giving it what system of law he pleased. 4. That knights and burgesses, i.e. representatives, were considered as essential and fundamental in the constitution of the new legislature, which was to govern Wales. 5. That since this statute, the distinction between the realm of England and the realm of Wales, has been abolished, and the realm of England, now, and ever since, comprehends both; so that Massachusettensis is mistaken, when he says, that the realm of England is an appropriate term for the ancient realm of England, in contradistinction from Wales, &c. 6. That this union and incorporation was made by the consent, and upon the supplication of the people of Wales, as Lord Coke, and many other authors inform us, so that here was an express contract between the two bodies of people. To these observations, let me add a few questions.

Was there ever any act of parliament, annexing, uniting, and consolidating any one of all the colonies to and with the realm of England or the kingdom of Great-Britain? 2. If such an act of parliament should be made, would it upon any principles of English laws and 344government, have any validity, without the consent, petition or supplication of the colonies? 3. Can such an union and incorporation, ever be made, upon any principles of English laws and government, without admitting representatives for the colonies in the house of commons, and American lords into the house of peers? 4. Would not representatives in the house of commons, unless they were numerous in proportion to the numbers of people in America, be a snare rather than a blessing? 5. Would Britain ever agree to a proportionable number of American members, and if she would, could America support the expence of them? 6. Could American representatives, possibly know the sense, the exigencies, &c. of their constituents, at such a distance, so perfectly as it is absolutely necessary legislators should know? 7. Could Americans ever come to the knowledge of the behaviour of their members, so as to dismiss the unworthy? 8. Would Americans in general, ever submit to septennial elections? 9. Have we not sufficient evidence, in the general frailty and depravity of human nature, and especially the experience we have had of Massachusettensis and the junto, that a deep, treacherous, plausible, corrupt minister, would be able to seduce our Members to betray us, as fast as we could send them?

To return to Wales: In the statute of 34 and 35 of Henry 8. c. 26. We find a more compleat system of laws and regulations for Wales. But the king is still tenacious of his absolute authority over it. It begins “our sovereign lord the king, of his tender zeal and affection, &c. to his obedient subjects, &c. of Wales, &c. hath devised and made divers sundry good and necessary ordinances, which his majesty of his most abundant goodness, at the humble suit and petition of his said subjects of Wales, is pleased and contented to be enacted by the assent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commons, &c.”

Nevertheless, the king would not yet give up his unlimited power over Wales, for by the 119 § of this statute—the king, &c. may at all times hereafter, from time to time, change, add, alter, order, minish and reform all manner of things afore rehearsed, as to his most excellent wisdom and discretion, shall be thought convenient; and also to make laws and ordinances for the common wealth and good quiet of his said dominion of Wales, and his subjects of the same, from time to time, at his majesty's pleasure.

And this last section was never repealed, until the 21. Jac. 1. c. 10. §. 4.

From the conquest of Lewellyn to this statute of James is near 350 years during all which time, the Welch were very fond of being 345incorporated and enjoying the English laws, the English were desirous that they should be; yet the crown would never suffer it to be compleatly done, because it claimed an authority to rule it by discretion: It is conceived, therefore that there cannot be a more compleat and decisive proof of any thing, than this instance is, that a country may be subject to the crown of England, the imperial crown; and yet not annexed to the realm, or subject to the authority of parliament.

The word crown, like the word throne, is used in various figurative senses, sometimes it means the kingly office, the head of the common wealth, but it does not always mean the political capacity of the king—much less does it include in the idea of it lords and commons. It may as well be pretended that the house of commons includes or implies a king. Nay it may as well be pretended, that the mace includes the three branches of the legislature.

By the feudal law, a person or a country might be subject to a king, a feudal sovereign, three several ways.

1. It might be subject to his person, and in this case, it would continue so subject, let him be where he would, in his dominions or without. 2. To his crown, and in this case subjection was due, to whatsoever person or family, wore that crown, and would follow it, whatever revolutions it underwent. 3. To his crown and realm or state, and in this case it was incorporated, as one body with the principal kingdom, and if that was bound by a parliament, diet, or cortes, so was the other.

It is humbly conceived, that the subjection of the colonies by compact, and law is of the second sort.

Suffer me, my friends, to conclude by making my most respectful compliments to the gentlemen of the regiment of royal Welch fusileers.8 In the celebration of their late festival, they discover'd that they are not insensible of the feelings of a man for his native country. The most generous minds are the most exquisitely capable of this sentiment. Let me intreat them to recollect the history of their brave and intrepid countrymen, who struggled at least 1100 years for liberty. Let them compare the case of Wales with the case of America, and then lay their hands upon their hearts and say, whether we can in justice be bound by all acts of parliament, without being incorporated with the kingdom.


Sir John Comyns, A Digest of the Laws of England, 5:626. This quotation when repeated below is followed by three paragraphs from Comyns.


Henry Rolle, Abridgement of the Common Law.


As part of the body of the same.


By feudal right, not by right of property.


Edward by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine to all his subjects &c. in Wales [Greeting]. The divine providence, which is unerring in its government, among other gifts of its dispensation, wherewith it has vouchsafed to distinguish us and our realm of England, has now, all obstacles having been overcome, of its favor wholly and entirely transferred under our dominion the land of Wales, with its inhabitants, heretofore subject to us in feudal right, and has annexed and united the same unto the crown of the aforesaid realm, as a part of the same body.


We therefore &c. being desirous that the aforesaid land &c. like others subject to our power, should be governed with due order, as that the people or inhabitants of those lands who have submitted themselves absolutely to our will, and whom we have so accepted, should be treated under fixed laws and customs, we have caused to be rehearsed before us and the magnates of our realm the laws and customs hitherto in use in those parts, which being carefully heard as fully understood we have, with the advice of the aforesaid magnates, abolished some of them, allowed some and corrected some. We have also commanded certain others to be added and ordained and these &c. we wish to be observed in the form underwritten.


We therefore order you that from henceforth you steadfastly observe them completely. In such a way that whensoever and as often as it shall be our pleasure, we may declare, interpret, enlarge, or diminish the aforesaid statutes and the several parts of them, according to our free will and as to us shall seem expedient for the security of us and our lands aforesaid.


The 23d Regiment of Foot, or Royal Welsh Fusiliers, came to New York in 3461773 and in the following year were transferred to Boston to help Gen. Gage enforce the Coercive Acts in Massachusetts (Gage, Corr. , 2:639; John Shy, Toward Lexington, Princeton, 1965, p. 398, 413).

IX. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 27 March 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


IX. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 27 March 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
IX. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, 27 March 1775

Massachusettensis, in some of his writings has advanced, that our allegiance is due to the political capacity of the King, and therefore involves in it obedience to the British parliament. Governor Hutchinson in his memorable speech laid down the same position. I have already shewn from the case of Wales, that this position is groundless—and that allegiance was due from the Welch to the King, jure feodali, before the conquest of Lewellyn, and after that to the Crown, until it was annexed to the realm, without being subject to acts of parliament any more than to acts of the King, without parliament. I shall hereafter shew from the case of Ireland, that subjection to the Crown implies no obedience to parliament. But before I come to this, I must take notice of a pamphlet, intitled, “A candid Examination of the mutual claims of Great-Britain and the colonies, with a plan of accommodation on constitutional principles.”1 This author, p. 8, says “to him (i.e. the King) in this representative capacity, and as supreme executor of the laws, made by a joint power of him and others, the oaths of allegiance are taken”, and afterwards, “Hence these professions (i.e. of allegiance) are not made to him either in his legislative, or executive capacities; but yet it seems they are made to the King. And into this distinction, which is no where to be found either in the constitution of the government, in reason or common sense, the ignorant and thoughtless have been deluded ever since the passing of the stamp act, and they have rested satisfied with it without the least examination.” And in p. 9, he says, “I do not mean to offend the inventers of this refined distinction, when I ask them 'is this acknowledgment made to the king, in his politick capacity as king of “Great Britain, &c.” if so, it includes a promise of obedience to the British laws.'” There is no danger of this gentleman's giving offence to the inventers of this distinction, for they have been many centuries in their graves. This distinction is to be found every where: in the case of Wales, Ireland and elsewhere, as I shall shew most abundantly before I have done. It is to be found in two of the greatest cases and most deliberate and solemn judgments that were 347ever passed. One of them is Calvin's case, 7 Rep.2—which as lord Coke tells us, was as elaborately, substantially and judiciously argued, as he ever heard, or read of any. After it had been argued in the court of king's bench, by learned council, it was adjourned to the exchequer chamber, and there argued again, first by council on both sides and then by the lord chancellor and all the twelve judges of England, and among these were the greatest men, that Westminster hall ever could boast. Ellismore Ellesmere, Bacon, Hide Hyde, Hobart, Crook Croke, and Coke,3 were all among them. And the chancellor and judges were unanimous in resolving. What says the book? 7 rep. 10. “Now seeing the king hath but one person, and several capacities, and one politick capacity for the realm of England, and another for the realm of Scotland, it is necessary to be considered, to which capacity ligeance is due. And it was resolved that it was due to the natural person of the king (which is ever accompanied with the politick capacity, and the politick capacity as it were appropriated to the natural capacity) and it is not due to the politick capacity only, that is, to the crown or kingdom, distinct from his natural capacity.” And further on 7 rep. 11. “But it was clearly resolved by all the judges, that presently by the descent his majesty was compleatly and absolutely king,” &c. and that coronation was but a royal ornament! 6. b. 4 “In the reign of Ed. 2d, the Spencers, to cover the treason hatched in their hearts, invented this damnable and damned opinion, that homage and oath of allegiance was more by reason of the king's crown (that is of his politick capacity) than by reason of the person of the king, upon which opinion they inferred execrable and detestible consequences.” And afterwards, 12. “Where books and acts of parliament speak of the ligeance of England, &c. speaking briefly in a vulgar manner, are to be understood of the ligeance due by the people of England to the King; for no man will affirm that England itself, taking it for the continent thereof, doth owe any ligeance or faith, or that any faith or ligeance should be due to it: but it manifestly appeareth, that the ligeance or faith of the subject is proprium quarto modo to the King, omni, soli, et semper. 5 And oftentimes in the reports of our book cases and in acts of parliament also, the crown or kingdom is taken for the king himself.” &c. “Tenure in capite is a tenure of the Crown, and is a seigniorie in grosse,6 that is of the person of the King.” And afterwards 6. b. 7 “for special purposes the law makes him a body politick, immortal and invisible, whereunto our allegiance cannot appertain.” I beg 348leave to observe here, that these words in the foregoing adjudication, that “the natural person of the King is ever accompanied with the politick capacity, and the politick capacity as it were appropriated to the natural capacity”; neither imply nor infer allegiance, or subjection to the politick capacity, because in the case of King James the first, his natural person was “accompanied” with three politick capacities at least, as King of England, Scotland and Ireland: yet the allegiance of an Englishman to him did not imply or infer subjection, to his politick capacity as King of Scotland.

Another place in which this distinction is to be found is in Moore's reports,8 p. 790. “The case of the union of the realm of Scotland with England.” And this deliberation, I hope was solemn enough. This distinction was agreed on by commissioners of the English lords and commons in a conferrence with commissioners of the Scottish parliament, and after many arguments and consultations by the lord chancellor and all the judges, and afterwards adopted by the lords and commons of both nations. “The judges answered with one assent,” says the book, “that allegiance and laws were not of equiparation for six causes,” the sixth and last of which is, “allegiance followeth the natural person not the politick.” “If the king go out of England with a company of his servants, allegiance remaineth among his subjects and servants, altho' he be out of his own realm, whereto his laws are confined, &c. and to prove the allegiance to be tied to the body natural of the king, not to the body politick, the lord Coke cited the phrases of diverse statutes, &c. And to prove that allegiance extended further than the laws national, they (the judges) shewed that every king of diverse kingdoms, or dukedoms, is to command every people to defend any of his kingdoms, without respect of that nation where he is born; as if the king of Spain be invaded in Portugal, he may levy for defence of Portugal armies out of Spain, Naples, Castile, Millen, Flanders and the like; as a thing incident to the allegiance of all his subjects, to join together in defence of any of his territories, without respect of the extent of the laws of that nation where he was born; whereby it manifestly appeareth, that allegiance followeth the natural person of the king, and is not tied to the body politick respectively in every kingdom.”9 There is one observation, not immediately to the present point, but so connected with our controversy, that it ought not to be overlooked. “For the matter of the great seal the judges shewed that the seal was alterable by the king at his pleasure, and he might make one seal for both kingdoms, for seals, coin, and leagues, are of absolute prerogative of the king without parliament, nor re-349strained to any assent of the people.” “But for further resolution of this point, how far the great seal doth command out of England, they made this distinction, that the great seal was current for remedials which groweth on complaint of the subjects, and thereupon writs are addressed under the great seal of England, which writs are limitted, their precinct to be within the places of the jurisdiction of the court that was to give the redress of the wrong. And therefore writs are not to go into Ireland nor the Isles, nor Wales, nor the counties palatine, because the king's courts here have not power to hold plea of lands, nor things there. But the great seal, hath a power preceptory, to the person, which power extendeth to any place, where the person may be found.” Ludlow's case, &c. who “being at Rome, a commandment under the great seal was sent for him to return,” &c. “So Bertie's case in Q. Mary's time, and Inglefield's case in Q. Elizabeth's, the privy seal went to command them to return into the realm, and for not coming their lands were seized”. &c. But to return to the point, “And as to the objection,” says the book, “that none can be born a natural subject of two kingdoms, they denied that absolutely, for altho' locally, he can be born, but in one, yet effectually, the allegiance of the King extending to both, his birthright shall extend to both.” And afterwards, “but that his kingly power extendeth to diverse nations and kingdoms, all owe him equal subjection, and are equally born to the benefit of his protection; and altho' he is to govern them by their distinct laws, yet any one of the people coming into the other, is to have the benefit of the laws, wheresoever he cometh; but living in one, or for his livelihood in one, he is not to be taxed in the other, because laws ordain taxes, impositions, and charges, as a discipline of subjection particularized to every particular nation.”10

Another place where this distinction is to be found is in Foster's crown law,11 p. 184. “There have been writers, who have carried the notion of natural, perpetual, unalienable allegiance, much farther than the subject of this discourse will lead me. They say, very truly, that it is due to the person of the king, &c.” “It is undoubtedly due to the person of the king; but in that respect natural allegiance differeth nothing from that we call local. For allegiance considered in every light is alike due to the person of the king; and is paid, and in the nature of things must be constantly paid, to that prince, who for the time being, is in the actual and full possession of the regal dignity.”

Indeed allegiance to a sovereign lord, is nothing more than fealty to a subordinate lord, and in neither case, has any relation to, or 350connection with laws or parliaments, lords or commons. There was a reciprocal confidence between the lord and vassal. The lord was to protect the vassal in the enjoyment of his land. The vassal was to be faithful to his lord, and defend him against his enemies. This obligation on the part of the vassal, was his fealty, fidelitas. The oath of fealty, by the feodal law to be taken by the vassal or tenant, is nearly in the very words as the ancient oath of allegiance. But neither fealty, allegiance, or the oath of either implied any thing about laws, parliaments, lords or commons.

The fealty and allegiance of Americans then is undoubtedly due to the person of king George the third, whom God long preserve and prosper. It is due to him, in his natural person, as that natural person is intituled to the crown, the kingly office, the royal dignity of the realm of England. And it becomes due to his natural person, because he is intituled to that office. And because by the charters, and other express and implied contracts made between the Americans and the kings of England, they have bound themselves to fealty and allegiance to the natural person of that prince, who shall rightfully hold the kingly office in England, and no otherwise.

“With us in England,” says Blackstone, v. 1. 367. “it becoming a settled principle of tenure, that all lands in the kingdom are holden of the king as their sovereign and lord paramount, &c. the oath of allegiance was necessarily confined to the Person of the king alone. By an easy analogy, the term of allegiance was soon brought to signify all other engagements, which are due from subjects to their prince, as well as those duties which were simply and merely territorial. And the oath of allegiance, as administered for upwards of six hundred years, contained a promise 'to be true and faithful to the king and his heirs, and truth and faith to bear of life and limb and terrene honour, and not to know, or hear of any ill or damage intended him, without defending him therefrom.'” “But at the revolution, the terms of this oath, being thought perhaps to favour too much the notion of non resistance, the present form was introduced by the convention parliament, which is more general and indeterminate than the former, the subject only promising 'that he will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the king,' without mentioning his heirs, or specifying in the least wherein that allegiance consists.”

Thus, I think, that all the authorities in law, coincide, exactly with the observation which I have heretofore made upon the case of Wales, and shew that subjection to a king of England, does not necessarily imply subjection to the crown of England; and that 351subjection to the crown of England, does not imply subjection to the parliament of England, for allegiance is due to the person of the king, and to that alone, in all three cases, that is, whether we are subject to his parliament and crown, as well as his person, as the people in England are, whether we are subject to his crown and person, without parliament, as the Welch were after the conquest of Lewellyn, and before the union, or as the Irish were after the conquest and before Poyning's law, or whether we are subject to his person alone, as the Scots were to the king of England, after the accession of James ist, being not at all subject to the parliament or crown of England.

We do not admit any binding authority in the decisions and adjudications of the court of king's bench or common pleas, or the court of chancery over America: but we quote them as the opinions of learned men. In these we find a distinction between a country conquered, and a country discovered. Conquest, they say gives the crown an absolute power: discovery, only gives the subject a right to all the laws of England. They add, that all the laws of England are in force there. I confess I don't see the reason of this. There are several cases in books of law, which may be properly thrown before the public. I am no more of a lawyer than Massachusettensis, but have taken his advice, and conversed with many lawyers upon our subject, some honest, some dishonest, some living, some dead, and am willing to lay before you what I have learned from all of them. In Salk.12 411. the case of Blankard vs Galdy–“In debt upon a bond, the defendant prayed oyer of the condition, and pleaded the stat. E. 6 against buying offices concerning the administration of justice; and averred that this bond was given for the purchase of the office of provost marshall in Jamaica, and that it concerned the administration of justice, and that Jamaica is part of the revenue and possessions of the crown of England: The plantiff replied, that Jamaica is an island beyond the seas, which was conquered from the Indians and Spaniards in Q. Elizabeth's time, and the inhabitants are governed by their own laws, and not by the laws of England: The defendant rejoined, that before such conquest, they were governed by their own laws; but since that, by the laws of England: Shower argued for the plantiff, that on a judgment in Jamaica, no writ of error lies here, but only an appeal to the council; and as they are not represented in our parliament, so they are not bound by our statutes, unless specially named. Vid. And.13 115. Pemberton contra argued, that by the conquest of a nation, its liberties, rights and properties, are quite lost; 352that by consequence their laws are lost too, for the law is but the rule and guard of the other; those that conquer cannot by their victory lose their laws, and become subject to others. Vid. Vaugh.14 405. That error lies here upon a judgment in Jamaica, which could not be if they were not under the same law. Et. per Holt, C. J. and Curia. 1st. In case of an uninhabited country, newly found out by English subjects, all laws in force in England are in force there; so it seemed to be agreed. 2. Jamaica being conquered, and not pleaded to be parcel of the kingdom of England, but part of the possessions and revenue of the crown of England; the laws of England did not take place there, until declared so by the conquerer, or his successors. The isle of Man and Ireland are part of the possessions of the crown of England; yet retain their ancient laws; that in Davis15 36. it is not pretended, that the custom of tanistry was determined by the conquest of Ireland, but by the new settlement made there after the conquest: that it was impossible the laws of this nation, by mere conquest without more should take place in a conquered country; because for a time, there must want officers without which our laws can have no force; that if our law did take place, yet they in Jamaica having power to make new laws, our general laws may be altered by theirs in particulars; also they held that in case of an infidel country, their laws by conquest do not entirely cease, but only such as are against the law of God; and that in such cases where the laws are rejected or silent, the conquered country shall be governed according to the rule of natural equity. Judgment, pro Quer.'”

Upon this case I beg leave to make a few observations. 1. That Shower's reasoning, that we are not bound by statutes because not represented in parliament, is universal, and therefore his exception “unless specially named,” altho' it is taken from analogy to the case of Ireland, by lord Coke and others, yet it is not taken from the common law, but is merely arbitrary and groundless, as applied to us. Because if the want of representation could be supplied, by “expressly naming” a country, the right of representation might be rendered null and nugatory. But of this more another time.

2d. That by the opinion of Holt, and the whole court, the laws of England, common and statute, are in force in a vacant country, discovered by Englishmen. But America, was not a vacant country, it was full of inhabitants; our ancestors purchased the land; but if it had been vacant, his lordship has not shewn us any authority at common law, that the laws of England would have been in force there. On the contrary, by that law it is clear they did not extend 353beyond seas, and therefore could not be binding there, any further than the free will of the discoverers should make them. The discoverers had a right by nature, to set up those laws, if they liked them, or any others, that pleased them better, provided they were not inconsistent with their allegiance to their king. 3d. The court held that a country must be parcel of the kingdom of England, before the laws of England could take place there; which seems to be inconsistent with what is said before, because discovery of a vacant country does not make it parcel of the kingdom of England, which shews, that the court, when they said that all laws in force in England, are in force in the discovered country, meant no more than that the discoverers had a right to all such laws, if they chose to adopt them. 4. The idea of the court, in this case, is exactly conformable to, if not taken from the case of Wales. They consider a conquered country as Ed. 1, and his successors did Wales, as by the conquest annexed to the crown, as an absolute property, possession, or revenue, and therefore to be disposed of at its will. Not intitled to the laws of England, although bound to be govern'd by the king's will, in parliament or out of it, as he pleased. 5. The isle of Man, and Ireland, are considered like Wales, as conquered countries, and part of the possessions (by which they mean property or revenue) of the crown of England, yet have been allowed by the king's will to retain their ancient laws. 6. That the case of America differs totally, from the case of Wales, Ireland, Man, or any other case, which is known at common law or in English history. There is no one precedent in point, in any English records, and therefore it can be determined only by eternal reason, and the law of nature. But yet that the analogy of all these cases of Ireland, Wales, Man, Chester, Durham, Lancaster, &c. clearly concur with the dictates of reason and nature, that Americans are intituled to all the liberties of Englishmen, and that they are not bound by any acts of parliament whatever, by any law known in English records or history, excepting those for the regulation of trade, which they have consented to and acquiesced in. 7. To these let me add, that as the laws of England, and the authority of parliament, were by common law confined to the realm and within the four seas, so was the force of the great seal of England. Salk. 510. “The great seal of England is appropriated to England, and what is done under it has relation to England, and to no other place.” So that the king by common law, had no authority to create peers or governments, or any thing out of the realm by his great seal, and therefore our charters and commissions to governors, being under 354the great seal, gives us no more authority, nor binds us to any other duties, than if they had been given under the privy seal, or without any seal at all. Their binding force, both upon the crown and us, is wholly from compact and the law of nature.

There is another case in which the same sentiments are preserved; it is in 2d. P. Williams,16 75. memorandum 9th August, 1722. “It was said by the master of the rolls to have been determined by the lords of the privy council, upon an appeal to the king in council from the foreign plantations, ist. That if there be a new and uninhabited country, found out by English subjects, as the law is the birthright of every subject, so, wherever they go, they carry their laws with them, and therefore such new found country is to be governed by the laws of England; tho' after such country is inhabited by the English, acts of parliament made in England, without naming the foreign plantations, will not bind them; for which reason, it has been determined that the statute of frauds and perjuries, which requires three witnesses, and that these should subscribe in the testators presence in the case of a devise of land, does not bind Barbadoes, but that, 2dly. Where the king of England conquers a country, it is a different consideration; for there the conqueror, by saving the lives of the people conquered, gains a right and property in such people! In consequence of which he may impose upon them what laws he pleases. But,

3dly. Until such laws, given by the conquering prince, the laws and customs of the conquered country shall hold place; unless where these are contrary to our religion, or enact any thing that is malum in se, or are silent; for in all such cases the laws of the conquering country shall prevail.”


Joseph Galloway, New York, 1775 (Evans, No. 14059).


Sir Edward Coke, The Reports of Sir Edward Coke, Knt. In English, Compleat in Thirteen Parts . . . , 7 vols. [London], 1727.


Sir Thomas Egerton, Baron Ellesmere (1540?–1617), lord chancellor, 1603–1617; Sir Nicholas Hyde or Hide (d. 1631), barrister; Sir Henry Hobart (d. 1625), attorney for the plaintiffs in Calvin's Case; Sir John Croke (1553–1620), judge of King's Bench, 1607–1620 ( DNB ).


A printer's error; the reference is to 7 Rep. 11b.


Property in the fourth part . . . to each, to him alone and forever.


A lord without a manor and thus unable to keep a court.


An error for 7 Rep. 12b.


Cases Collect & Report . . . per Sir Fra. Moore . . .


Same, p. 798–799.


All of the preceding quotations are from same, p. 804–805.


Sir Michael Foster, A Report of Some Proceedings on the Commission of Oyer and Terminer . . . and of Other Crown Cases . . .


William Salkeld, Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Court of King's Bench . . . from the Revolution to the Tenth Year of Q. Anne, 3d edn., 2 vols. in 1, London, 1731, 1732 ( Catalogue of JA's Library ). The long quotation, including the next three citations, is from p. 411–412, note.

355 13.

Probably Sir Edmund Anderson, Les Reports du treserudite Edmund Anderson . . . Chief Justice del Common-bank . . . , 2 vols. in 1, London, 1664–1665.


Probably Sir John Vaughan, The Reports and Arguments of . . . Sir John Vaughan, London, 1677.


Probably Sir John Davies, Le primer report des cases et matters en ley resolues et adiuges en les Courts del Roy en Ireland . . . , Dublin, 1615; English transl., A Report of Cases and Matters in Law, Resolved and Adjudged in the King's Courts in Ireland, Dublin, 1762.


William Peere Williams, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the High Court of Chancery [1695–1734] and of Some Special Cases Adjudged in the Court of King's Bench . . . , 2 vols., London, 1740.

X. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 3 April 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


X. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 3 April 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
X. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, 3 April 1775

Give me leave now to descend from these general matters, to Massachusettensis. He says “Ireland who has perhaps the greatest possible subordinate legislature, and send no members to the British parliament, is bound by its acts, when expressly named.” But if we are to consider what ought to be, as well as what is, why should Ireland have the greatest possible subordinate legislature? Is Ireland more numerous and more important to what is called the British empire, than America? Subordinate as the Irish legislature is said to be, and a conquered country as undoubtedly it is, the parliament of Great-Britain, altho' they claim a power to bind Ireland by statutes, have never laid one farthing of a tax upon it. They knew it would occasion resistance if they should. But the authority of parliament to bind Ireland at all, if it has any, is founded upon a different principle entirely from any that takes place in the case of America. It is founded on the consent and compact of the Irish by Poyning's law to be so governed, if it has any foundation at all: and this consent was given and compact made in consequence of a conquest.

In the reign of Henry 2d of England, there were five distinct sovereignties in Ireland, Munster, Leinster, Meath, Ulster and Connaught, besides several small tribes. As the prince of any one of these petty states took the lead in war, he seemed to act, for the time being, as monarch of the island. About the year 1172 Rodoric O'Connor, king of Connaught, was advanced to this preeminence. Henry, had long cast a wishful eye upon Ireland, and now partly to divert his subjects from the thoughts of Becket's murder, partly to appease the wrath of the Pope for the same event, and partly to gratify his own ambition, he lays hold of a pretence, that the Irish 356had taken some natives of England and sold them for slaves, applies to the Pope for license to invade that island. Adrian the 3d, an Englishman by birth, who was then pontiff, and very clearly convinced in his own mind of his right to dispose of kingdoms and empires, was easily perswaded, by the prospect of Peter's pence, to act as emperor of the world, and make an addition to his ghostly jurisdiction of an island which tho' converted to christianity had never acknowledged any subjection to the see of Rome. He issued a bull, premising that Henry had ever shewn an anxious care to enlarge the church, and increase the saints on earth and in Heaven, that his design upon Ireland proceeded from the same pious motives: that his application to the holy see, was a sure earnest of success: that it was a point incontestible, that all christian kingdoms belonged to the patrimony of St. Peter; that it was his duty to sow among them the seeds of the gospel, which might fructify to their eternal salvation; he exhorts Henry to invade Ireland, exterminate the vices of the natives, and oblige them to pay yearly from every house, a penny to the see of Rome: gives him full right and entire authority over the whole island, and commands all to obey him as their sovereign.

Macmorrogh, a licentious scoundrel, who was king of Leinster, had been driven from his kingdom, for his tyranny, by his own subjects, in conjunction with Ororic, king of Meath, who made war upon him for committing a rape upon his queen; applied to Henry for assistance, to restore him, and promised to hold his kingdom in vassallage of the crown of England.

Henry accepted the offer, and engaged in the enterprise. It is unnecessary to recapitulate all the intrigues of Henry, to divide the Irish kingdoms among themselves and set one against another, which are as curious as those of Edward the first, to divide the kingdom of Wales and play Lewellyn's brothers against him, or as those of the ministry, and our junto, to divide the American colonies, who have more sense than to be divided. It is sufficient to say that Henry's expeditions, terminated, altogether by means of those divisions among the Irish, in the total conquest of Ireland, and its annexation forever to the English crown. By the annexation of all Ireland to the English crown, I mean, that all the princes and petty sovereigns in Ireland agreed to become vassals of the English crown. But what was the consequence of this? The same consequence was drawn, by the kings of England in this case, as had been drawn in the case of Wales after the conquest of Lewellyn, viz. that Ireland was become a part 357of the property, possession or revenue of the English crown, and that its authority over it was absolute, and without controul.

This matter must be traced from step to step. The first monument we find in English records, concerning Ireland, is a mere rescriptum principis, intituled statutum hiberniae de coheredibus 1 14, Hen. 3d, A. D. 1229. In the old abridgment Tit. Homage, this is said not to be a statute. Vid. Ruffheads statutes at large,2 V. 1. 15. Mr. Cay3 very properly observes, that it is not an act of parliament, vid. Barrington's observations on the statutes,4 p. 34. In this rescript, the king informs certain milites (adventurers probably, in the conquest of Ireland, or their descendents) who had doubts how lands holden by knights service, descending to copartners, within age, should be divided, what is the law and custom in England with regard to this.

But the record itself shews it to be a royal rescript only. Rex dilecto et fideli suo gerardo sit' mauricii justii' suo Hiberniae salutem. Quia tales Milites de partibus Hiberniae nuper, ad nos accedentes nobis ostenderunt, quod, &c. Et a nobis petierunt inde certiorari, qualiter in regno nostro Angliae, in casu consimili hactenus usitatem sit,5 &c. He then goes on and certifies what the law in England was, and then concludes, Et Ideo vobis mandamus, quod predictas consuetudines in hoc casu, quas in regno nostro Angliae habemus ut predictum est, in terra nostra Hiberniae proclamari et firmiter teneri, fac,6 &c.

Here again we find the king conducting, exactly as Ed. I, did in Wales, after the conquest of Wales. Ireland had now been annexed to the English crown many years, yet parliament was not allowed to have obtained any jurisdiction over it, and Henry ordained laws for it by his sole and absolute authority, as Ed. I did by the statute of Wales. Another incontestible proof, that annexing a country to the crown of England, does not annex it to the realm, or subject it to parliament. But we shall find innumerable proofs of this.

Another incontestable proof of this, is the ordinatio pro statu Hiberniae made 17 Ed. I, 1288.

This is an ordinance made by the king, by advice of his council, for the government of Ireland. “Edward, by the grace of God, king 358of England, lord of Ireland, &c. to all those who shall see or hear these letters, doth send salutation.” He then goes on and ordains many regulations, among which the seventh chapter is “that none of our officers shall receive an original writ pleadable at the common law, but such as be sealed by the great seal of Ireland;” &c. this ordinance concludes “In witness whereof we have caused these our letters patent to be made.” Dated at Nottingham 24 Nov. 17 year of our reign.

This law if it was passed in parliament was never considered to have any more binding force, than if it had been made only by the king. By Poyning's law7 indeed in the reign of H. 7 all precedent English statutes are made to bind in Ireland, and this among the rest, but untill Poyning's law, it had no validity as an act of parliament, and was never executed, but in the English pale, for, notwithstanding all that is said of the total compact conquest, by H. 2, yet it did not extend much beyond the neighbourhood of Dublin, and the conqueror could not inforce his laws and regulations much further.

There is a note on the roll of 21 Ed. I, in these words, “Et memorandum quod istud statutum de verbo ad verbum, missum suit in Hyberniam, teste rege apud Kenyngton 14, dic. Augueti anno regni sui vicessimo septimo: et mandatum suit Johanni Wogan, justiciario Hiberniae, quod praedictim statutum, per Hiberniam, in locis quibus expedire viderit legi, et publice proclamari ac firmiter teneri faciat.” 8

“This note most fully proves, that the king by his sole authority, could introduce any English law; and will that authority be lessened by the concurrence of the two houses of parliament? There is also an order of Charles the first, in the third year of his reign, to the treasurers and chancellors of the exchequer both of England and Ireland, by which they are directed to increase the duties upon Irish exports; which shews that it was then imagined, that the king would tax Ireland by his prerogative, without the intervention of parliament.” vid. obs. on the statutes, p. 127.

Another instance to shew, that the king by his sole authority, whenever he pleased, made regulations for the government of Ireland, notwithstanding it was annexed and subject to the crown of England, is the ordinatio facta pro statu terrae Hiberniae, in the 31. Ed. I. in the appendix to Ruffhead's statutes, p. 37. This is an extensive code 359of laws, made for the government of the Irish church and state, by the king alone, without lords or commons. The kings “volumus et firmiter precipimus,” 9 governs and establishes all, and among other things, he introduces by the 18th chapter the English laws, for the regimen of persons of English extract, settled in Ireland.

The next appearance of Ireland, in the statutes of England, is in the 34. Ed. 3. c. 17. This is no more than a concession of the king to his lords and commons of England, in these words “item it is accorded that all the merchants as well aliens as denizens, may come into Ireland, with their merchandizes, and from thence freely to return, with their merchandizes and victuals, without fine or ransom to be taken of them, saving always to the king, his ancient customs and other duties.” And by chapter 18. “Item, that the people of England, as well religious as other, which have their heritage and possessions in Ireland, may bring their corn, beasts and victuals to the said land of Ireland, and from thence to re-carry their goods and merchandizes into England freely, without impeachment, paying their customs and their devoirs to the king.”

All this is no more than an argument between the king and his English subjects, lords and commons, that there should be a free trade between the two islands, and that one of them should be free for strangers. But is no colour of proof that the king could not govern Ireland without his English lords and commons.

The 1. H. 5. c. 8. All Irishmen and Irish clerks, beggars, shall depart this realm before the first day of November, except graduates, serjeants &c. is explained by 1. H. 6. c. 3. which shews what sort of Irishmen only may come to dwell in England. It enacts that all persons born in Ireland shall depart out of the realm of England, except a few, and that Irishmen shall not be principals of any hall, and that Irishmen shall bring testimonials from the lieutenant, or justice of Ireland, that they are of the kings obeysance. By the 8. H. 6. c. 8. “Irishmen resorting into the realm of England, shall put in surety for their good abearing.”

Thus I have cursorily mentioned every law made by the king of England, whether in parliament or out of it, for the government of Ireland, from the conquest of it by Henry the 2d, in 1172, down to the reign of Henry the 7th, when an express contract was made between the two kingdoms, that Ireland should for the future be bound by English acts of parliament, in which it should be specially named. This contract was made in 1495, so that upon the whole it appears, 360beyond dispute, that for more than 300 years, tho' a conquered country, and annexed to the crown of England; yet was so far from being annexed to or parcel of the realm, that the king's power was absolute there, and he might govern it without his English parliament, whose advice concerning it, he was under no obligation to ask or pursue.

The contract I here allude to, is what is called Poyning's law, the history of which is briefly this. Ireland revolted from England, or rather adhered to the partizans of the house of York, and Sir Edward Poyning was sent over about the year 1495, by king Henry the 7th, with very extensive powers, over the civil as well as military administration. On his arrival he made severe inquisition about the disaffected, and in particular attacked the earls of Dismond and Kildare. The first stood upon the defensive and eluded the power of the deputy: but Kildare was sent prisoner to England: not to be executed it seems, nor to be tried upon the statute of H. 8.10—but to be dismissed as he actually was, to his own country, with marks of the king's esteem and favour; Henry judging that, at such a juncture, he should gain more by clemency and indulgence, than by rigour and severity. In this opinion he sent a commissioner to Ireland, with a formal amnesty, in favour of Desmond and all his adherents, whom the tools of his ministers did not fail to call traitors and rebels with as good a grace and as much benevolence, as Massachusettensis discovers.

Let me stop here and enquire, whether lord North has more wisdom than Henry the 7th, or whether he took the hint from the history of Poyning's, of sending General Gage, with his civil and military powers? If he did, he certainly did not imitate Henry, in his blustering menaces, against certain “ringleaders and forerunners.”

While Poyning resided in Ireland, he called a parliament, which is famous in history for the acts which it passed in favour of England, and Englishmen settled in Ireland. By these, which are still called Poyning's laws, all the former laws of England, were made to be of force in Ireland, and no bill can be introduced into the Irish parliament, unless it previously receive the sanction of the English privy council; and by a construction if not by the express words of these laws, Ireland is still said to be bound by English statutes in which it is specially named. Here then let Massachusettensis pause and observe the original of the notion that countries might be bound by acts of parliament, if “specially named,” tho' without the realm. Let him observe too, that this notion is grounded entirely on the voluntary 361act, the free consent of the Irish nation, and an act of an Irish parliament, called Poyning's law. Let me ask him, has any colony in America ever made a Poyning's act? Have they ever consented to be bound by acts of parliament, if specially named? Have they ever acquiesced in, or implicitly consented to any acts of parliament, but such as are bona fide made for the regulation of trade? This idea of binding countries without the realm, by “specially naming” them, is not an idea taken from the common law. There was no such principle, rule, or maxim, in that law—it must be by statute law then, or none. In the case of Wales and Ireland, it was introduced by solemn compact, and established by statutes, to which the Welch and Irish were parties, and expressly consented. But in the case of America there is no such statute, and therefore Americans are bound by statutes in which they are “named,” no more than by those in which they are not.

The principle upon which Ireland is bound by English statutes in which it is named, is this, that being a conquered country, and subject to the mere will of the king, it voluntarily consented to be so bound. This appears in part already, and more fully in 1. Blackstone, 99, 100, &c.—who tells us, “that Ireland is a distinct, tho' a dependent, subordinate kingdom.” But how came it dependant and subordinate? He tells us “that king John, in the twelfth year of his reign, after the conquest, went into Ireland, carried over with him many able sages of the law; and there by his letters patent, in right of the dominion of conquest, is said to have ordained and established, that Ireland should be governed by the laws of England: which letters patent Sir Edward Coke apprehends to have been there confirmed in parliament.” “By the same rule that no laws made in England, between king John's time and Poyning's law, were then binding in Ireland, it follows that no acts of the English parliament, made since the tenth of Henry 7th, do now bind the people of Ireland, unless specially named or included under general words. And on the other hand it is equally clear, that where Ireland is particularly named, or is included under general words, they are bound by such acts of parliament; for it follows from the very nature and constitution of a dependent state: dependence being very little else, but an obligation to conform to the will or law of that superior person or state, upon which the inferior depends. The original and true ground of this superiority in the present case, is what we usually call, tho' somewhat improperly, the right of conquest: a right allowed by the law of nations, if not by that of nature; 362but which in reason and civil policy can mean nothing more, than that, in order to put an end to hostilities, a compact is either expressly or tacitly made between the conqueror and conquered, that if they will acknowledge the victor for their master, he will treat them for the future as subjects, and not as enemies.”11

These are the principles upon which the dependence and subordination of Ireland are founded. Whether they are just or not, is not necessary for us to enquire. The Irish nation, have never been entirely convinced of their justice; have been ever discontented with them, and ripe and ready to dispute them. Their reasonings have ever been answered, by the ratio ultima et penultima of the tories, and it requires to this hour, no less than a standing army of 12000 men to confute them. As little as the British parliament exercises the right, which it claims of binding them by statutes, and altho' it never once attempted or presumed to tax them, and altho' they are so greatly inferior to Britain in power, and so near in situation.

But thus much is certain, that none of these principles take place, in the case of America. She never was conquered by Britain. She never consented to be a state dependent upon, or subordinate to the British parliament, excepting only in the regulation of her commerce: and therefore the reasonings of British writers, upon the case of Ireland, are not applicable to the case of the colonies, any more than those upon the case of Wales.

Thus have I rambled after Massachusettensis through Wales and Ireland: but have not reached my journey's end. I have yet to travel through Jersey, Guernsey, and I know not where. At present I shall conclude with one observation. In the history of Ireland and Wales, though undoubtedly conquered countries, and under the very eye and arm of England, the extreme difficulty, the utter impractability, of governing a people who have any sense, spirit, or love of liberty, without incorporating them into the state, or allowing them some other way, equal priviledges may be clearly seen. Wales was forever revolting for a thousand years, untill it obtained that mighty blessing. Ireland, has been frequently revolting, altho' the most essential power of a supreme legislature, that of imposing taxes has never been exercised over them, and it cannot now be kept under, but by force, and it would revolt forever, if parliament should tax them. What kind of an opinion then must the ministry entertain of America? When her distance is so great, her territory so extensive, her commerce so important, not a conquered country, but dearly purchased and defended? When her trade is so essential to the navy, the commerce, the revenue, 363the very existence of Great-Britain, as an independent state? They must think America inhabited by three million fools and cowards.


Rescript of the ruler . . . a statute of Ireland concerning co-heirs.


Owen Ruffhead, The Statutes at Large from Magna Charta, to the Union of Great Britain and Ireland, 18 vols., London, 1769–1800.


John Cay and Owen Ruffhead, The Statutes at Large from Magna Charta to the 13th Year of King George 3d, 9 vols., London, 1758–1773.


Daines Barrington, Observations upon the Statutes, chiefly the more ancient, from Magna Charta to the Twenty-First of James I, cap. XXVII, London, 1766 ( Catalogue of JA's Library ). The paragraph is a close paraphrase of Barrington; however, the printer set “copartners” for “coparceners,” or joint heirs.


The King to his trusty and well beloved Gerard son of Maurice, justicior of Ireland, greeting. Whereas certain knights of the parts of Ireland, lately coming to us, have shown us that &c. And the said knights have asked to be certified to be made more certain how in a like case it has been used heretofore in our realm of England &c.


And therefore we order you to cause to be proclaimed and firmly kept in our land of Ireland the aforesaid customs in the case put that be used within our realm of England as aforesaid.


Poynings' Law, named after Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Sir Edward Poynings, was passed in 1494 and required all Irish legislation to have the prior approval of the King in Council (Cambridge Modern History, New York, 1902, 1:472).


It is to be remembered that this statute, exactly as it stands, was sent to Ireland, attested by the King at Kennington on the 14th August in the 22d year of his reign, and John Wogan, the justice of Ireland was ordered to cause the statute to be read throughout Ireland, in places which he thought proper, and to cause it to be publicly announced and strictly held.


We wish and strictly order.


That is, the statute passed in 1543 which permitted offenses of treason committed outside the realm to be tried in England. JA is referring satirically to England's later attempt to try Americans by this old statute. See Adams' Service in the Congress, 5 Sept. – 26 Oct. 1774, No. I, note 4, above.


Blackstone, Commentaries, 1:103.

XI. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 10 April 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


XI. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 10 April 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
XI. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, 10 April 1775

The cases of Wales and Ireland are not yet exhausted. They afford such irrefragable proofs, that there is a distinction between the crown and realm, and that a country may be annexed and subject to the former, and not the latter, that they ought to be thoroughly studied and understood.

The more these cases, as well as those of Chester, Durham, Jersey, Guernsey, Calais, Gascoine, Guienne, &c. are examined, the more clearly it will appear, that there is no precedent in English records, no rule of common law, no provision in the English constitution, no policy in the English or British government, for the case of the colonies; and therefore that we derive our laws and government solely from our own compacts with Britain and her kings, and from the great legislature of the universe.

We ought to be cautious of the inaccuracies of the greatest men, for these are apt to lead us astray. Lord Coke, in 7 rep. 21. 6. says “Wales was sometimes a kingdom, as it appeareth by 19 H. 6. fol. 6, and by the act of parliament of 2 H. 5. cap. 6, but while it was a kingdom, the same was holden, and within the see of the king of England: and this appeareth by our books, Fleta, lib. 1. E. 3, 14, 8. E. 3, 59, 13. E. 3. Tit. Jurisdict. 10. H. 4, 6. Plow. com, 368.1 And in this 364respect, in diverse ancient charters, kings of old time stiled themselves in several manners, as king Edgar, Britanniae, Basileus, Etheldrus, Totius Albionis Dei providentia Imperator, Edredus magnae Britanniae Monarcha,2 which among many others of like nature I have seen. But by the statute of 12 of Ed. I. Wales was united and incorporated into England and made parcel of England in possession; and therefore it is ruled in 7. H. 4. fol. 14. that no protection doth lie, quia moratur in Wallia,3 because Wales is within the realm of England. And where it is recited in the act of 27 H. 8. that Wales was ever parcel of the realm of England, it is true in this sense, viz. that before 12 E. I. it was parcel in tenure, and since it is parcel of the body of the realm. And whosoever is born within the see of the king of England, though it be in another kingdom, is a natural-born subject, and capable and inheritable of lands in England, as it appeareth in Plow. com. 126. And therefore those that were born in Wales before 12 E. I. while it was only holden of England, were capable and inheritable of lands in England.”

Where my lord Coke, or any other sage, shews us the ground on which his opinion stands, we can judge for ourselves, whether the ground is good, and his opinion just. And if we examine by this rule, we shall find in the foregoing words, several palpable inaccuracies of expression, 1. by the 12 E. I. (which is the Statutum Walliae quoted by me before)4 it is certain, that Wales was not united and incorporated into England, and made parcel of England. It was annexed and united to the crown of England only. It was done by the king's sole and absolute authority—not by an act of parliament, but by a mere constitutio imperatoria, and neither E. I, nor any of his successors, ever would relinquish the right of ruling it, by mere will and discretion, until the reign of James I. 2d. It is not recited in the 27 H. 8, that Wales was ever parcel of the realm of England. The words of that statute are, “incorporated, annexed, united and subject to and under the imperial crown of this realm,” which is a decisive proof that a country may be annexed to the one, without being united with the other. And this appears fully in lord Coke himself, 7 rep. 22, b. “Ireland originally came to the kings of England by conquest, but who was the first conqueror thereof hath been a question. I have seen a charter made by king Edgar, in these words, Ego Edgarus Anglorum Basileus, omnium quae insularum oceani, quae Britanniam circum-365jacent, imperatur et dominus, gratias ago ipsi Deo omnipotenti regi meo, qui meum imperium sic ampliavit et exaltavit super regnum patrum meorum, &c. Mihi concessit propitia divinitas, cum Anglorum imperis omnia regna insularum oceani, &c. Cum suis ferocissibus regibus usque Norvegiam, maximamque partem Hiberniae, cum sua nobilissima civitate de Dublina, Anglorum regno subjugare, quapropter et ego Christi gloriam et laudem in regno meo exaltare, et ejus servitium amplificare devotus disposui, &c. 5 Yet for that it was wholly conquered in the reign of H. 2. The honour of the conquest of Ireland is attributed to him. That Ireland is a dominion separate and divided from England it is evident by our books, 20 H. 6, 8.; Sir John Pilkington's case, 32. H. 6, 26.; 20 Eliz. Dyer 360; Plow. com. 360; and 2 r. 3, 12. Hibernia habet parliamentum, et saciunt leges, et statuta nostra, non ligant eos, quia non mittunt milites ad parliamentum (which is to be understood unless they be specially named) sed personae eorum sunt subjecti regis, sicut inhabitantes in Calesia, Gasconia et Guigan. 6 Wherein it is to be observed, that the Irishman (as to his subjection) is compared to men born in Calice, Gascoin and Guian. Concerning their laws, Ex rotulis patentium de anno 11. Regis H. 3, there is a charter which that king made beginning in these words: Rex Baronibus, Militibus et omnibus libere tenentibus L. salutem, satis, ut credimus vestra audivit discretio, quod quando bonae memoriae Johannes quondam rex Angliae, pater noster venit in Hiberniam, ipse duxit secum vires discretos et legis peritos, quorum communi consilio et ad juctantiam adjunctorum Hiberniansium statuit et praecepit leges Anglicanas in Hibernia, ita quod leges easdem in scripturas redactas reliquit sub sigillo suo ad scaccarium Dublin.7 366So as now the laws of England became the proper laws of Ireland; and therefore because they have parliaments holden there, whereat they have made diverse particular laws, concerning that dominion, as it appeareth in 20 H. 6, 8, and 20 Eliz. Dyer 360, and for that they retain unto this day diverse of their ancient customs, the book in 20 H. 6, 8, holdeth, that Ireland is governed by laws and customs, separate and diverse from the laws of England. A voyage royal may be made into Ireland. Vid. 11. H. 4. 7. and 7. E. 4. 27. which proveth it a distinct dominion. And in anno 33. Eliz. it was resolved by all the judges of England in the case of ORURKE an Irishman, who had committed high treason in Ireland, that he by the statute of 33 H. 8. c. 23, might be indicted, arraigned, and tried for the same in England, according to the purview of that statute: the words of which statute be, that all treasons, &c. committed by any person out of the realm of England, shall be from henceforth inquired of, &c. And they all resolved (as afterwards they did also in sir John Perrot's case) that Ireland was out of the realm of England, and that treasons committed there were to be tried within England, by that statute. In the statute of 4 H. 7, c. 24 of fines, provision is made for them that be out of this land, and it is holden in Plow. com. in Stowell's case 375, that he that is in Ireland is out of this land, and consequently within that proviso. Might not then the like plea be devised as well against any person born in Ireland, as (this is against Calvin a Postnatus) in Scotland? For the Irishman is born extra ligeantia regis, regni sui Angliae,8 &c. which be verba operativa in the plea: But all men know, that they are natural born subjects, and capable of, and inheritable to lands in England.”

I have been at the pains of transcribing this long passage for the sake of a variety of important observations that may be made upon it. 1. That exuberance of proof that is in it, both that Ireland is annexed to the crown, and that it is not annexed to the realm of England. 2. That the reasoning in the year book, that Ireland has a parliament, and makes laws, and our statutes don't bind them, because they don't send knights to parliament, is universal, and concludes against these statutes binding in which Ireland is specially named, as much as against these in which it is not, and therefore lord Coke's parenthesis, (which is to be understood unless they be specially named) is wholly arbitrary and groundless, unless it goes upon the supposition, that the king is absolute in Ireland, it being a conquered country, and so has power to bind it at his pleasure, by an act of parliament, or 367by an edict: or unless it goes upon the supposition of Blackstone, that there had been an express agreement and consent of the Irish nation to be bound by acts of the English parliament; and in either case it is not applicable even by analogy to America, because that is not a conquered country, and most certainly never consented to be bound by all acts of parliament, in which it should be named. 3. That the instance, request and consent of the Irish is stated, as a ground upon which king John and his discreet law-sages, first established the laws of England in Ireland. 4. The resolution of the judges in the cases of Orurke and Perrot, is express that Ireland was without the realm of England, and the late resolutions of both houses of parliament and the late opinion of the judges, that Americans may be sent to England upon the same statute to be tried for treason, is also express that America is out of the realm of England. So that we see what is to become of us, my friends. When they want to get our money by taxing us, our privileges by annihilating our charters, and to screen those from punishment who shall murder us at their command, then we are told that we are within the realm; but when they want to draw, hang and quarter us, for honestly defending those liberties which God and compact have given and secured to us, oh, then we are clearly out of the realm! 5. In Stowell's case it is resolved that Ireland is out of this land, that is, the land of England. The consequence is, that it was out of the reach and extent of the law of the land, that is the common law. America surely is still further removed from that land, and therefore is without the jurisdiction of that law which is called the law of the land in England. I think it must appear by this time, that America is not parcel of the realm, state, kingdom, government, empire or land of England or Great-Britain, in any sense which can make it subject universally to the supreme legislature of that island.

But for the sake of curiosity, and for the purpose of shewing that the consent even of a conquered people has always been carefully conciliated. I beg leave to look over lord Coke's 4. Inst. p. 12. “After king Henry 2d,” says he “had conquered Ireland, he fitted and transcribed this modus (meaning the ancient treatise called modus tenendi parliamentum, which was rehearsed and declared before the conquerer at the time of the conquest, and by him approved for England)9 into Ireland, in a parchment roll, for the holding of parliaments there, which no doubt H. 2. did by advice of his judges, &c. This modus, &c. was anno 6. H. 4. in the custody of Sir Christopher Preston, which roll H. 4. in the same year, De assensu Johannis Talbot 368Chevalier, his lieutenant there, and of his council of Ireland, exemplified,” &c.

Here we see the original of a parliament in Ireland, which is assigned as the cause or reason why Ireland is a distant kingdom from England: and in the same, 4. inst. 349. we find more evidence that all this was done at the instance and request of the people in Ireland. Lord Coke says, “H. 2. the father of K. John, did ordain and command, at the instance of the Irish, that such laws as he had in England, should be of force and observed in Ireland.” “Hereby Ireland being of itself a distant dominion, and no part of the kingdom of England, (as it directly appeareth by many authorities in Calvin's case) was to have parliaments holden there, as England, &c.” See the record as quoted by lord Coke in the same page, which shews that even this establishment of English laws, was made De communi omnium de Hiberniae consensu.10

This whole chapter is well worth attending to, because the records quoted in it shew how careful the ancients were to obtain the consent of the governed to all laws, tho' a conquered people and the king absolute. Very unlike the minister of our aera, who is for pulling down and building up the most sacred establishments of laws and government, without the least regard to the consent or good will of Americans. There is one observation more of lord Coke that deserves particular notice. “Sometimes the king of England called his nobles of Ireland to come to his parliament of England, &c. and by special words the parliament of England may bind the subjects of Ireland,” and cites the record 8. E. 2. and subjoins “an excellent precedent to be followed, whensoever any act of parliament shall be made in England, concerning the state of Ireland, &c.” By this lord Coke seems to intimate an opinion, that representatives had been and ought to be called from Ireland to the parliament of England, whenever it undertook to govern it by statutes, in which it should be specially named.

After all I believe there is no evidence of any express contract of the Irish nation to be governed by the English parliament, and very little of an implied one; that the notion of binding it by acts in which it is expressly named is meerly arbitrary. And that this nation which has ever had many and great virtues, has been most grievously oppressed:—and it is to this day so greatly injured and oppressed, that I wonder American committees of correspondence and congresses, have not attended more to it than they have. Perhaps in some future time they may. But I am running beyond my line.


We must now turn to Burrows's reports, vol. 2. 834. Rex vs. Cowle.11 Lord Mansfield has many observations upon the case of Wales, which ought not to be overlooked. Page 850. He says, “Edward 1st. conceived the great design of annexing all other parts of the island of Great Britain to the realm of England. The better to effectuate his idea, as time should offer occasion; he mentioned 'that all parts thereof, not in his own hands or possession, were holden of his crown.' The consequence of this doctrine was, that, by the feudal law, supreme jurisdiction resulted to him, in right of his crown, as sovereign lord, in many cases, which he might lay hold of; and when the said territories should come into his hands and possession, they would come back as parcel of the realm of England, from which (by fiction of law at least) they had been originally severed. This doctrine was literally true as to the counties palatine of Chester and Durham. But (no matter upon what foundation) he maintained that the principality of Wales was holden of the imperial crown of England: he treated the prince of Wales as a rebellious vassal; subdued him; and took possession of the principality. Whereupon, on the 4th of December, in the 9th year of his reign, he issued a commission to enquire 'per quas leges et per quas consuetudines, antecessores nostri reges regni consueverant principem Walliae et barones wallenses Wallieae et pares suos et alios in priores et eorum pares, &c.' 12 If the principality was feudatory, the conclusion necessarily followed, 'that it was under the government of the king's laws, and the king's courts, in cases proper for them to interpose; though (like counties palatine) they had peculiar laws and customs, jura regalia, and complete jurisdiction at home.' There was a writ at the same time issued to all his officers in Wales, 'to give information to the commissioners:' and there were 14 interrogatories specifying the points to be enquired into. The statute of Rutland 12. E. I. refers to this inquiry. By that statute he does not annex Wales to England, but recites it as a consequence of its coming into his hands. 'Divina providentia terram Walliae, prius, nobis jure feodali sulojectam, jam in proprietatis nostrae dominium convertit, et coronae regni angliae, tanquam partem corporis ejusdem annexuit, et univit.' 13 The 27. H, 8. c. 26. adheres to the same plan, and recites that 'Wales ever hath been incorporated, annexed, united 370and subject to, and under the imperial crown of this realm, as a very member, and joint of the same.' Edward I. having succeeded as to Wales, maintained likewise that Scotland was holden of the crown of England.” This opinion of the court was delivered by lord Mansfield in the year 1759. In conformity to the system contained in these words, my lord Mansfield, and my lord North, together with their little friends Bernard and Hutchinson, have “conceived the great design of annexing” all North-America “to the realm of England,” and “the better to effectuate this idea, they all maintain, that North-America is holden of the crown.”

And (no matter upon what foundation) they all maintained that America is dependent on the imperial crown and parliament of Great Britain: and they are all very eagerly desirous of treating the Americans as rebellious vassals, to subdue them and take possession of their country. And when they do, no doubt America will come back as parcel of the realm of England, from which (by fiction of law at least) or by virtual representation, or by some other dream of a shadow of a shade, they had been originally severed.

But these noblemen and ignoblemen ought to have considered, that Americans understand the laws and the politicks as well as themselves, and that there are 600,000 men in it, between 16 and 60 years of age, and therefore it will be very difficult to chicane them out of their liberties by “fictions of law,” and “no matter upon what foundation.”

Methinks I hear his lordship upon this occasion, in a soliloquy somewhat like this. “We are now in the midst of a war, which has been conducted with unexampled success and glory. We have conquered a great part, and shall soon compleat the conquest of the French power in America. His majesty is near 70 years of age, and must soon yield to nature. The amiable, virtuous and promising successor, educated under the care of my nearest friends, will be influenced by our advice. We must bring the war to a conclusion, for we have not the martial spirit and abilities of the great commoner: but we shall be obliged to leave upon the nation an immense debt. How shall we manage that? Why, I have seen letters from America, proposing that parliament should bring America to a closer dependence upon it, and representing that if it does not, she will fall a prey to some foreign power, or set up for herself. These hints may be improved, and a vast revenue drawn from that country and the East-Indies, or at least the people here may be flattered and quieted with 371the hopes of it. It is the duty of a judge to declare law, but under this pretence, many we know have given law or made law, and none in all the records of Westminster hall more than of late. Enough has been already made, if it is wisely improved by others, to overturn this constitution. Upon this occasion I will accommodate my expressions, to such a design upon America and Asia, and will so accommodate both law and fact, that they may hereafter be improved to admirable effect in promoting our design.” This is all romance, no doubt, but it has as good a moral as most romances. For 1st. It is an utter mistake that Ed. 1st. conceived the great design of annexing all to England, as one state, under one legislature. He conceived the design of annexing Wales, &c. to his crown. He did not pretend that it was before subject to the crown but to him. “Note jure feodali” are his words. And when he annexes it to his crown, he does it by an edict of his own, not an act of parliament: and he never did in his whole life allow, that his parliament, that is his lords and commons, had any authority over it, or that he was obliged to take or ask their advice in any one instance concerning the management of it, nor did any of his successors for centuries. It was not Ed. I. but Henry 7. who first conceived the great design of annexing it to the realm, and by him and H. 8. it was done, in part, but never compleated until Jac. I. There is a sense indeed in which annexing a territory to the crown, is annexing it to the realm, as putting a crown upon a man's head, is putting it on the man, but it does not make it part of the man. 2d. His lordship mentions the statute of Rutland, but this was not an act of parliament, and therefore could not annex Wales to the realm if the king had intended it, for it never was in the power of the king alone to annex a country to the realm. This cannot be done, but by act of parliament. As to Edward's treating the prince of Wales as a “rebellious vassal,” this was arbitrary, and is spoken of by all historians as an infamous piece of tyranny.

Ed. 1. and H. 8. both considered Wales, as the property and revenue of the crown, not as a part of the realm, and the expressions, “coronae, regni angliae, tanquam partem carports ejesdem,” 14 signified “as part of the same body,” that is of the same “crown,” not “realm” or “kingdom”; and the expressions in 27. H. 8. “under the imperial crown of this realm, as a very member and joint of the same,” mean, as a member and joint of the “imperial crown,” not of the realm. For the whole history of the principality, the acts of kings, parliaments, 372and people shew, that Wales never was intituled by this annexation to the laws of England, nor bound to obey them. The case of Ireland is enough to prove that the crown and realm are not the same. For Ireland is certainly annexed to the crown of England, and it certainly is not annexed to the realm.

There is one paragraph in the foregoing words of lord Mansfield, which was quoted by his admirer Governor Hutchinson in his dispute with the house, with a profound compliment. “He did not know a greater authority,” &c. But let the authority be as great as it will, the doctrine will not bear the test.

“If the principality was feudatory, the conclusion necessarily follows, that it was under the government of the king's laws.”15 Ireland is feudatory to the crown of England, but would not be subject to the king's English laws, without its consent and compact. An estate may be feudatory to a lord, a country may be feudatory to a sovereign lord, upon all possible variety of conditions—it may be only to render homage—it may be to render a rent, it may be to pay a tribute—if his lordship by feudatory means, the original notion of feuds, it is true by that the king the general imperator, was absolute, and the tenant held his estate only at will, and the subject not only his estate but his person and life at his will. But this notion of feuds had been relaxed in an infinite variety of degrees, in some the estate is held at will, in others for life, in others for years, in others forever, to heirs, &c. in some to be govern'd by prince alone, in some by prince and nobles, and in some by prince, nobles and commons, &c. So that being feudatory, by no means proves that English lords and commons have any share in the government over us. As to counties palatine; these were not only holden of the king and crown, but were exerted by express acts of parliament, and therefore were never exempted from the authority of parliament. The same parliament, which erected the county Palatine, and gave it its jura regalia, and compleat jurisdiction, might unmake it, and take away those regalia and jurisdiction. But American governments and constitutions were never erected by parliament, their regalia and jurisdiction were not given by parliament, and therefore parliament have no authority to take them away.

But if the colonies are feudatory to the kings of England, and subject to the government of the king's laws, it is only to such laws as are made in their general assemblies, their provincial legislatures.


Citations are from the Latin textbook of English law called Fleta and from Edmund Plowden, The Commentaries, or Reports of Edmund Plowden . . . , 1741 (in French).


Edgar, King of Britain; Ethelred, Emperor of all Albion by the providence of God; Edred, Monarch of Great Britain.


Because he is delayed in Wales.


In No. VIII (cont.), above.


I Edgar, King of the English, emperor and lord of all the islands of the ocean which adjoin Britain, give thanks to the omnipotent God, my King, who so expanded and exalted my kingdom over that of my fathers, &c. His gracious divinity granted me, with the power of the English, the entire rule of the islands of the ocean, &c. Norway with its most savage kings he has enabled me to bring under English rule, and the greatest part of Ireland with its most noble city of Dublin, wherefore I have tended to exalt the glory and praise of Christ in my kingdom and devoutly to grow in his service.


Ireland has a parliament and they make laws; our statutes do not bind them (which is to be understood unless they be specially named) because they do not send knights to parliament, but their persons are the subjects of the king, like the inhabitants of Calais, Gascony, and Aquitaine.


The King to the barons, knights, and all the free tenants of L., greeting. You have heard sufficiently, we believe, that when John, of good memory, once King of England, our father, came into Ireland he brought with him legally learned men, by whose common counsel, joined to that of the Irish, he established and promoted English laws in Ireland, so that he left under his seal in the Exchequer in Dublin those laws in writing.


Outside the allegiance of the king, of his realm of England.

373 9.

JA's parentheses.


By the common consent of all those of Ireland.


Sir James Burrow, comp., Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Court of King's Bench since the Death of Lord Raymond . . . , Part 4, 3 vols., London, 1756–1766 ( Catalogue of JA's Library ).


Through what laws and through what usages, the preceding kings of our kingdom had been accustomed to treat the kings of Wales and the Welsh barons of Wales and their equals and others among the first men and their equals, &c.


Divine Providence has converted the land of Wales, once subject to us in feudal right, to our ownership of property and annexed and united it to the crown of the realm of England as part of the body of the same.


To the crown of the realm of England as part of the body of the same.


Same, p. 850.

XII. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 17 April 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


XII. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, 17 April 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
XII. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, 17 April 1775

We now come to Jersey and Guernsey, which Massachusettensis says “are no part of the realm of England, nor are they represented in parliament, but are subject to its authority.” A little knowledge of this subject will do us no harm, and as soon as we shall acquire it, we shall be satisfied, how these islands came to be subject to the authority of parliament. It is either upon the principle that the king is absolute there, and has a right to make laws for them by his mere will, and therefore may express his will by an act of parliament or an edict at his pleasure, or it is an usurpation. If it is an usurpation, it ought not to be a precedent for the colonies, but it ought to be reformed, and they ought to be incorporated into the realm, by act of parliament, and their own act. Their situation is no objection to this. Ours is an insurmountable obstacle.

Thus we see that in every instance which can be found, the observation proves to be true, that by the common law, the laws of England, and the authority of parliament and the limits of the realm, were confined within seas. That the kings of England had frequently foreign dominions, some by conquest, some by marriage, and some by descent. But in all those cases the kings were either absolute in those dominions, or bound to govern them according to their own respective laws, and by their own legislative and executive councils. That the laws of England did not extend there, and the English parliament pretended no jurisdiction there, nor claimed any right to controul the king in his government of those dominions. And from this extensive survey of all the foregoing cases, there results a confirmation of what has been so often said, that there is no provision in the common law, in English precedents, in the English government or constitution, made for the case of the colonies. It is not a conquered, but a discovered country. It came not to the king by descent, but was explored by the settlers. It came not by marriage to the king, but was purchased by the settlers, of the savages. It was not granted by the king of his grace, but was dearly, very dearly earned by the planters, in the labour, blood, and treasure which they expended to sub-374due it to cultivation. It stands upon no grounds then of law or policy, but what are found in the law of nature, and their express contracts in their charters, and their implied contracts in the commissions to governors and terms of settlement.

The cases of Chester, and Durham, counties palatine within the realm, shall conclude this fatigueing ramble. Chester was an earldom and a county, and in 21 year of king R. 2. A. D. 1397, it was by an act of parliament, erected into a principality, and several castles and towns, were annexed to it, saving to the king the rights of his crown. This was a county palatine, and had jura regalia, before this erection of it, into a principality. But the statute which made it a principality, was again repealed, by 1. H. 4. c. 3. and in 1399, by the 1. H. 4. c. 18. Grievous complaints were made to the king in parliament, of murders, manslaughters, robberies, batteries, riots, &c. done by people of the county of Chester, in divers counties of England. For remedy of which it is enacted, that if any person of the county of Chester, commit any murder or felony in any place out of that county, process shall be made against him by the common law, 'till the exigent,1 in the county where such murder or felony was done: and if he flee into the county of Chester, and be outlawed, and put in exigent for such murder or felony, the same outlawry or exigent, shall be certified to the officers and ministers of the same county of Chester, and the felon shall be taken, his lands and goods within that county shall be seized as forfeit into the hands of the prince, or of him that shall be lord of the same county of Chester, and the king shall have the year and day and waste; and the other lands and goods of such felons, out of said county, shall remain wholly to the king, &c. as forfeit. And a similar provision in case of battery or trespass, &c.

Considering the great seal of England, and the process of the kings contracts did not run into Chester, it was natural that malefactors should take refuge there and escape punishment, and therefore a statute like this, was of indispensible necessity, and afterwards in 1535, another statute was made, 27. H. c. 5. for the making of justices of peace within Chester, &c. Recites the king, considering the manifold robberies, murthers, thefts, trespasses, riots, routs, embraceries, maintenances, oppressions, ruptures of his peace &c. which have been daily done within his county palatine of Chester &c. by reason that common justice hath not been indifferently ministred there, like and in form as it is in other places of this his realm, by reason whereof the said criminals have remained unpunished; for redress whereof, and to the intent that one order of law should be had, the king is 375impowered to constitute justices of peace, quorum, and goal delivery, in Chester, &c.

By the 32. H. 8. c. 43. another act was made concerning the county palatine of Chester, for shire days.

These three acts soon excited discontent in Chester. They had enjoyed an exemption from the king's English courts, legislative and executive, and they had no representatives in the English parliament, and therefore they thought it a violation of their rights, to be subjected even to those three statutes, as reasonable and absolutely necessary as they appear to have been: and accordingly we find in 1542.–34. and 35. H. 8. c. 13. a zealous petition to be represented in parliament, and an act was made for making of knights and burgesses within the county and city of Chester. It recites a part of the petition to the king, from the inhabitants of Chester, shewing, “that the county palatine, had been excluded from parliament, to have any knights and burgesses there; by reason whereof, the said inhabitants have hitherto sustained manifold disherisons, losses and damages, in lands, goods and bodies, as well as in the good civil and politick governance and maintenance of the common wealth, of their said country: and forasmuch as the said inhabitants have always hitherto been bound by the acts and statutes, made by your highness and progenitors in said court, (meaning when expressly named, not otherwise,) as far forth as other counties, cities and boroughs, which have had knights and burgesses, and yet have had neither knight nor burgess there, for the said county palatine; the said inhabitants for lack thereof, have been oftentimes touched and grieved with acts and statutes, made within the said court, as well derogatory unto the most ancient jurisdictions, liberties, and privileges of your said county palatine, as prejudicial unto the common weal, quietness, rest and peace of your subjects, &c.” For remedy whereof, two knights of the shire and two burgesses for the city are established.

I have before recited all the acts of parliament, which were ever made to meddle with Chester, except the 51. H. 3. st. 5. in 1266, which only provides that the justices of Chester, and other bailiffs, shall be answerable in the exchequer, for wards, estcheats, and other bailiwicks; yet Chester was never severed from the crown or realm of England, nor ever expressly exempted from the authority of parliament: yet as they had generally enjoyed an exemption from the exercise of the authority of parliament, we see how soon they complain of it as grievous, and claim a representation, as a right; and we see how readily it was granted.—America, on the contrary, is not in the realm, 376never was subject to the authority of parliament, by any principle of law, is so far from Great-Britain, that she never can be represented; yet she is to be bound in all cases whatsoever.

The first statute, which appears in which Durham is named, is 27. H. 8. c. 24. §21. Cuthbert bishop of Durham, and his successors, and their temporal chancellor of the county palatine of Durham, are made justices of the peace. The next is 31 Eliz. c. 9. recites, that Durham is, and of long time hath been an ancient county palatine, in which the Queen's writ, hath not, and yet doth not run; enacts that a writ of proclamation upon an exigent, against any person dwelling in the bishoprick, shall run there for the future. And §5. confirms all the other liberties of the bishop and his officers.

And after this, we find no other mention of that bishoprick in any statute until 25 Char. 2. c. 9. This statute recites, “whereas the inhabitants of the county palatine of Durham, have not hitherto had the liberty and priviledge of electing and sending any knights and burgesses to the high court of parliament, altho' the inhabitants of the said county palatine are liable to all payments, rates, and subsidies, granted by parliament, equally with the inhabitants of other counties, cities, and burroughs, in this kingdom, who have their knights and burgesses in the parliament, and are therefore concerned equally with others, the inhabitants of this kingdom, to have knights and burgesses in the said high court of parliament of their own election, to represent the condition of their county, as the inhabitants of other counties, cities, and burroughs of this kingdom have.” Enacts two knights for the county, and two burgesses for the city. Here it should be observed, that altho' they acknowledge that they had been liable to all rates, &c. granted by parliament, yet none had actually been laid upon them before this statute.

Massachusettensis then comes to the first charter of this province, and he tells us, that in it “we shall find irresistable evidence, that our being a part of the empire subject to the supreme authority of the state, bound by its laws, and subject to its protection, was the very terms and conditions by which our ancestors held their lands and settled the province.” This is roundly and warmly said: but there is more zeal in it than knowledge. As to our being part of the empire, it could not be the British empire, as it is called, because that was not then in being, but was created seventy or eighty years afterwards. It must be the English empire then, but the nation was not then polite enough to have introduced into the language of the law, or common parlance any such phrase or idea. Rome never introduced the terms 377Roman empire until the tragedy of her freedom was compleated. Before that, it was only the republic, or the city. In the same manner the realm or the kingdom, or the dominions of the king, were the fashionable style in the age of the first charter. As to being subject to the supreme authority of the state, the prince who granted that charter thought it resided in himself, without any such troublesome tumults as lords and commons; and before the granting that charter, had dissolved his parliament, and determined never to call another, but to govern without. It is not very likely then, that he intended our ancestors should be governed by parliament, or bound by its laws. As to being subject to its protection, we may guess what ideas king and parliament had of that, by the protection they actually afforded to our ancestors. Not one farthing was ever voted or given by the king or his parliament, or any one resolution taken about them. As to holding their lands, surely they did not hold their lands of lords and commons. If they agreed to hold their lands of the king, this did not subject them to English lords and commons, any more than the inhabitants of Scotland holding their lands of the same king, subjected them. But there is not a word about the empire, the supreme authority of the state, being bound by its laws, or obliged for its protection in that whole charter. But “our charter is in the royal style.” What then? Is that the parliamentary style? The style is, this “Charles, by the grace of God, king of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, defender of the faith, &c.” Now in which capacity did he grant that charter? As king of France, or Ireland, or Scotland, or England? He govern'd England by one parliament, Scotland by another. Which parliament, were we to be governed by? And Ireland by a third, and it might as well be reasoned that America was to be governed by the Irish parliament as by the English. But it was granted “under the great seal of England”—true. But this seal runneth not out of the realm, except to mandatory writs, and when our charter was given, it was never intended to go out of the realm. The charter and the corporation were intended to abide and remain within the realm, and be like other corporations there. But this affair of the seal is a mere piece of imposition.

In Moore's reports in the case of the union of the realm of Scotland with England, it is resolved by the judges that “the seal is alterable by the king at his pleasure, and he might make one seal for both kingdoms (of England and Scotland,) for seals, coin, and leagues are of absolute prerogative to the king, without parliament, nor restrained to any assent of the people”, and in determining how far the great 378seal doth command out of England, they made this distinction. “That the great seal was currant for remedials, which groweth on complaint of the subject, and thereupon writs are addressed under the great seal of England, which writs are limited, their precinct to be within the places of the jurisdiction of the court, that was to give the redress of the wrong. And therefore writs are not to go into Ireland, or the isles, nor Wales, nor the counties palatine, because the king's courts here have not power to hold pleas of lands or things there. But the great seal hath a power preceptory to the person, which power extendeth to any place where the person may be found, &c.”2 This authority plainly shews that the great seal of England, has no more authority out of the realm, except to mandatory or preceptory writs,3 (and surely the first charter was no preceptory writ) than the privy seal, or the great seal of Scotland, or no seal at all. In truth, the seal and charter were intended to remain within the realm, and be of force to a corporation there; but the moment it was transferred to New England, it lost all its legal force, by the common law of England; and as this translation of it was acquiesced in by all parties, it might well be considered as good evidence of a contract between the parties, and in no other light, but not a whit the better or stronger for being under the great seal of England. But “the grants are made by the king for his heirs and successors.” What then? So the Scots held their lands of him who was then king of England, his heirs and successors, and were bound to allegiance to him, his heirs and successors, but it did not follow from thence that the Scots were subject to the English parliament. So the inhabitants of Aquitain, for ten descents, held their lands, and were tied by allegiance to him who was king of England, his heirs and successors, but were under no subjection to English lords and commons.

Heirs and successors of the king, are supposed to be the same persons, and are used as synonimous words in the English law. There is no positive, artifical provision made by our laws or the British constitution for revolutions. All our positive laws suppose that the royal office will descend to the eldest branch of the male line, or in default of that to the eldest female, &c. forever, and that the succession will not be broken. It is true that nature, necessity and the great principles of self-preservation, have often over-ruled the succession. But this was done without any positive instruction of law. Therefore the grants being by the king for his heirs and successors, and the tenures being of the king his heirs and successors, and the preservation being to the king his heirs and successors, are so far from proving 379that we were to be part of an empire as one state subject to the supreme authority of the English or British state, and subject to its protection, that they don't so much as prove that we are annexed to the English crown. And all the subtilty of the writers on the side of the ministry, has never yet proved that America is so much as annexed to the crown, much less to the realm. “It is apparent the king acted in his royal capacity as king of England.” This I deny. The laws of England gave him no authority to grant any territory out of the realm. Besides, there is no colour for his thinking that he acted in that capacity, but his using the great seal of England: but if the king is absolute in the affair of the seal, and may make or use any seal that he pleases, his using that seal which had been commonly used in England, is no certain proof that he acted as king of England; for it is plain, he might have used the English seal in the government of Scotland, and in that case it will not be pretended that he would have acted in his royal capacity as king of England. But his acting as king of England “necessarily supposes the territory granted to be a part of the English dominions, and holden of the crown of England.” Here is the word “dominions,” systematically introduced instead of the word “realm.” There was no English dominions but the realm. And I say that America was not any part of the English realm or dominions. And therefore, when the king granted it, he could not act as king of England by the laws of England. As to the “territory being holden of the crown,” there is no such thing in nature or art. Lands are holden according to the original notion of feuds of the natural person of the lord. Holding lands, in feudal language, means no more than the relation between lord and tenant. The reciprocal duties of these are all personal. Homage, fealty, &c. and all other services, are personal to the lord; protection, &c. is personal to the tenant. And therefore no homage, fealty, or other services, can ever be rendered to the body politick, the political capacity, which is not corporated, but only a frame in the mind, an idea. No lands here or in England are held of the crown, meaning by it, the political capacity—they are all held of the royal person, the natural person of the king. Holding lands, &c. of the crown, is an impropriety of expression, but it is often used, and when it is, it can have no other sensible meaning than this—that we hold lands of that person, whoever he is, who wears the crown—the law supposes he will be a right, natural heir of the present king forever.

Massachusettensis then produces a quotation from the first charter, to prove several points. It is needless to repeat the whole, but the 380parts chiefly relied on, are italicised. It makes the company “a body politick in fact and name, &c. and enables it to sue and be sued.” Then the writer asks, “whether this looks like a distinct state or independent empire?” I answer no. And that it is plain and uncontroverted, that the first charter was intended only to erect a corporation within the realm, and the governor and company were to reside within the realm, and their general courts were to be held there. Their agents, deputies and servants only were to come to America. And if this had taken place, nobody ever doubted but they would have been subject to parliament. But this intention was not regarded on either side, and the company came over to America, and brought their charter with them. And as soon as they arrived here, they got out of the English realm, dominions, state, empire, call it by what name you will, and out of the legal jurisdiction of parliament. The king might by his writ or proclamation have commanded them to return, but he did not.


A writ commanding the recipient to appear in court on pain of being outlawed for nonappearance ( OED ).


Moore, Cases Collect & Report, p. 804.


Writs commanding an action within the powers of the person served.

XIII. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, April 1775 JA Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis


XIII. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, April 1775 Adams, John Novanglus Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusettensis
XIII. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay
My Friends, April 1775

Another Clause in the Charter, quoted by this Writer, contains the Power “to make Laws and ordinancies, for the good and Welfare of the said Company, and for the Government and ordering of the Said Lands and Plantations and the People inhabiting the Same; So as such Laws and Ordinances be not contrary or repugnant to the Laws and Statutes of this our Realm of England.”

This is the usual Clause inserted in the Charters of all Corporations in England, and it is intended to restrain those Bodies politick within the limits of the Constitution and the Laws. It expressed no more however, than the Law would imply. For the King could not erect a Corporation within the Realm and give it Power to Superceed or overrule the general Laws of the Kingdom. A Similar Clause is inserted in the Laws of this Province which impower Towns to make By Laws “so as they be not repugnant to the Laws of the 381Province.” I suppose this Clause was inserted in that Charter to restrain the Corporation from Setting up any Form of Government different from the English Constitution in general, and perhaps was intended to subject them to the Common Law [and to Such Statutes as were then in force. But if We allow it the utmost Latitude of Construction, and Suppose that it meant to confine them to Obedience to Common Law,]1 and all statutes which were then in Force, and to all others which Should thereafter be made, this is no more than they would have been bound to, if no such Clause had been in the Charter, so long as they and their Charter remained in England, which both Grantor and Grantees then intended. But the Moment the Charter and the Company were removed to New England beyond the four Seas, out of the Realm, out of the Extent and local Limit of the Laws of England, that moment they were discharged from all obligation of obedience to the Laws of England. The Charter lost all Force, which it ever had by the Laws of England, as a legal Instrument, and became only Evidence of a Contract. The whole Plan and Design of all Parties was essentially changed. If a Charter granted in England, to be exercised there, can be forfeited by the Laws of England, the Translation of that Charter and Company to America, and setting up a Government here under it, was a forfeiture of it. What the Consequences of this forfeiture were, is another Question. The King might have commanded the Adventurers to return, and upon their Refusal might have Seized their Estates in England, if they had any: that is all. But he did not. But it did not bring our Ancestores, who were allowed to remain here, under the Authority of Parliament nor under the absolute Power of the King. Nay, what is more, this Charter was deemed forfeited and void for these very Reasons in the King's bench, Trinity. 11. Car. 1. Yet our Ancestors continued to enjoy their Priviledges and carry on Government, according to that Charter, from that Time, untill the Reign of James the second, nay untill the Revolution. In a Collection of original Papers relative to the History of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, page 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, you will find the Evidence of all this. “A Quo Warranto brought against the Company of the Massachusetts Bay by Sir John Banks, Attorney General.” This Quo Warranto goes upon the Principle upon which I have all along proceeded, vizt, that the common Law had made no Provision for erecting Governments or Colonies out of the Realm and therefore, any Royal Charter, out of the Realm was void. The Quo Warranto begins “That Sir Henry Roswell and all the Massachusetts 382Company &c used &c in several Parts beyond the Seas out of this Kingdom of England, without any Warrant or royal Grant (meaning that quoad hoc the Royal Grant was void) the Liberties, Priviledges, and Franchises following &c. 1. To be a Body Politick &c. 8. To appoint councell Houses in England, and beyond seas and there, when they please, to hold a Court of such of the said Company as they please; and in such Courts to make such Laws and Statutes concerning the Lands, Goods, and Chattells of that Company and other Persons beyond seas against the Laws and Customs of England &c.”

9. To transport out of England beyond the seas his Majestys subjects and others and them, at their Wills, to governe on the seas and on Parts beyond the seas.

14. To examine on Oath any Person in any Cause [touching Life and Member and to proceed to tryal, Sentence, Judgment and Execution]2 touching Life and Member, Lands, Tenements, Goods and Chattels, against the Laws and Customs of England,” “All which Franchises Liberties &c the said Sir Henry Roswell and others of the said Company have for all that Time, and still do usurp &c.”

This Quo Warranto, manifestly, is grounded on the Principle, that the Laws of England did not extend beyond Seas, and therefore that the Charter, when translated beyond Seas, was void.

In Michaelmas. Term. 11. Car. 1. Eaton, and in Hillary. 11. Car. 1. Roswell, and in Pass Paschal 13. Car. 1. Young, and in Hill. 12. Car. 1. Saltonstall, and Mich. Car. 1. Venn, came in and pleaded, that they never usurped any the Said Liberties &c nor doth use or claim any of the Same, but wholly disclaim them. Where-upon the Court gave Judgment, That they shall not for the future intermeddle with any Liberties &c aforesaid but shall forever be excluded from all use and claim of the same &c. Cradock made default, and was convicted of the usurpation,3 but had Judgment against him. Harwood, Perry, Wright, Vassall, Goffe, Adams, Browne and Foxcroft, pleaded and had Judgment as Eaton. The rest of the Patentees being in New England stood outlawed and no Judgment was entered up against them. In Consequence of these Proceedings, an order of the Privy Council was Sent 4. April 1638 to Mr. Winthrop in his Majestys Name, “requiring and injoining the Said Winthrop or any other in whose Power the said Letters Patent were, that they fail not to transmit The Said Patent hither, by the Return of the Ship, it being resolved in Case of any further Neglect, &c their Lordships will move his Majesty to reassume into his Hands the 383whole Plantation.”4 The Intent of this order, was that the Patent should be sent over, that the Government of the Colony might be under a Corporation in England according to the original and true Intent of the Patent.

But did Mr. Winthrop, or any other of the Adventurers return the Patent! No. Young as the Plantation was they had the Courage and the Wisdom to keep their Patent, in their own Power. But as this Translation of the Patent to New England, instead of using it within the Realm as was at first intended is of great Importance, in this controversy, We must be a little more particular.

The Charter as I have said Shews upon the Face of it, that it was intended to erect a Corporation within the Realm. The first Governor, Deputy Governor and Assistants were chosen in England, 13. May 1628. Cradock was chosen Governor and Goffe Deputy Governor in England, and as soon as the Election was over they with the Assistants appointed Mr. Endicot their Governor in the Plantation. This shews that they had one Governor in England, who was the Head of the Corporation, and another in America, who was only principal Agent or Manager for the Company. And in this manner the Affairs of the Company were conducted untill July 1629, when the Company in England projected a much larger Embarkation of Adventurers and a Translation of the Patent itself to New England. A Committee was appointed to consider of it, and advise with Council. The Company had been at great Expence, without any Returns or rational Prospect of Profit. Johnson, Winthrop, Dudley, and others, not the rascally Rabble of Romulus but Gentlemen of Family, Fortune, Education, and Figure, offered to go over with their Families, upon Condition that the Patent and Charter Should go with them. The Objection against it, was a doubt whether the Transfer was legal. The Report of the Committee is not on Record, but a Mr. White a Counsellor at Law was of the Company and his opinion was taken, and the Company concurred with it “that the Government and Patent Should be Settled in New England.” It is much to be wished that this important opinion of Mr. White was preserved. It might discover “Arcana.” It was certainly a wise and judicious opinion, in Point of Prudence and Policy, and has been vastly Successfull, for the Plantation probably had dwindled away, but for that Advice. However Governor Winthrop himself, who knew very well the Laws of England were confined within Seas, must have [been Sensible that there could be no Provision in that Law, for the Translation of the Company beyond Seas—and indeed they 384Seem to have]5 been all Sensible of this and to have considered the Charter only as a Licence to their People to go abroad. On the 20. of October, at a General Court in England, Mr. Winthrop was chosen Governor, and the Deputy Governor and Assistants chosen were all such as proposed to go over with the Charter. They went over accordingly, and the Existence of the English Power in America is entirely owing to this manifest departure from the first Intent of the Charter, for at this critical Time Richlieu and De Monts were upon the Point of making Settlements here which would have excluded the English forever.

Massachusettensis says that this clause in the Charter—“So as such laws be not contrary or repugnant to the laws and statutes of this our realm of England” is as evident a recognition of the authority of Parliament over this Province as if the words “Acts of Parliament” had been inserted 6

But there is no 7 such Clause in the first Charter or the second, and if there had been in the first Charter,8 it would have now been void. For by an express Clause in the first Charter, every Part of it was to be expounded most favourably for the Grantees, and therefore if there had been two contradictory Clauses in it, that must have done which was most in favour of the Grantees. Now they think that any Clause, obliging them to Obedience to Parliament, would have been directly repugnant to the Clause now under Consideration which gives them the Liberties and Immunities of natural born subjects.

Soon after, We are Struck with a Smart Remark indeed “if We are not annexed to the Realm we are Aliens.” It is not a little Surprizing, that this Writer should let Such Blunders escape him. If he had ever read one Page in a Book concerning the Connection of Scotland, Ireland, Jersey, Guernesy, Gascoin &c with England, he must have seen the Contrary. He might have forgot it, or this observation might escape him inadvertently. It is too uncandid to suppose, that he thought he should never be answered, and that it would pass well enough with the Ignorant, and serve to deceive them.

But unfortunately, all History and Law are against it. Lord Coke observed what a Concurrence of Judgments, Resolutions, and Rules there be in our Books in all Ages concerning this Case, as if they had been prepared for the deciding this Point; and that which never fell out in any doubtfull Case, no one opinion in all our Books is against this Judgement, in Calvins Case, who was not of the Realm, but yet was no Alien because born within the Allegiance of the King.9


The opposition he says has been executed chiefly by persons of desperate fortunes. 10

But this round Affirmation is a downright Contempt of Truth. The Denial and opposition has been planned and conducted by Men of the first Fortune in North America. Nay by the first Fortunes in this Province. I will undertake to Name three Gentlemen on the Whigg Side, in Boston any one of whom is able to purchase Bernard, Hutchinson, the four Judges of Admiralty, and the five Commissioners of the Customs, and still have an handsome Fortune left.

Novanglus to be continued.

Let me now dismiss this Paper of January the Sixteenth. It contains the Ground, the Principle and Foundation of the whole Building. It is an Attempt to prove the Supream Authority of Parliament by the Constitution. But it is the feeblest, the most frivolous, the weakest, the most absurd, Effort that ever was made. One would have thought that a Master Builder would have laid his Corner Stone to the best of his skill. Without the constitutional Authority contended for in this Paper, all the other Writings of Massachusettensis are mere Harrangue. Whoever reads it, and considers it, will be convinced how easy it is for any Scribbler on the side of Power, by Means of the Court Trumpetters to get a Reputation; and that this Man, however he has been cryed up for a Wit and Humourist and altho' he is a pretty 11 popular Declaimer, is not the most knowing Man in the World, in the grounds 12 of this great Controversy.


A reconstructed text from a draft in the (Adams Papers) supplemented with two MS copies in (MHi:Robert Treat Paine Papers). The sheet and separate half-sheet of the draft, both completely filled on both sides, are worn and illegible in spots, the half-sheet lacking a number of words because a small piece is missing from the top. Close examination suggests that it tore along a fold. The earlier copy of this thirteenth Novanglus letter, in the hand of Judge William Cushing, in the Paine Papers is endorsed: “Hon. John Adams—relative the Charters.” The second copy in the Paine Papers, in a different hand, probably a clerk's (despite the docketed statement), is endorsed by the copyist: “President John Adams on the charters. Copied fully and wholly,” and docketed by Charles Cushing Paine: “This paper is a copy in Judge Cushing's handwriting of a number of Novanglus, which was sent to Edes & Gill on the morning of the Battle of Lexington, to be published in their paper. But it was never published, the paper being then discontinued, and was by them handed to Judge C.” Differences between the two copies are noted below.

The thirteenth Novanglus letter was never published owing to the Lexington battle, which occurred two days after the appearance of the twelfth letter (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:313). It is reasonable to suppose that 386the draft, which is the heart of the document here printed, is not the complete MS which JA submitted to the printers, that the missing piece was then still part of it, but that it got separated at some point.

This supposition is based upon JA's own testimony and the nature of the two Cushing copies. According to JA, printer John Gill gave the MS of the thirteenth letter to Cushing shortly after the Lexington battle (same). Cushing probably made his first copy sometime during the Revolution and his second, during or after JA's presidency. There are several differences between the copies, but two stand out. The first omits entirely a paragraph that JA had struck out of his draft; the second includes this paragraph, but it is lined out. Although its inclusion might seem to indicate at first glance that the earlier copy is more faithful to JA's intention, this conclusion leaves unexplained the inclusion in the second copy of two brief but essential paragraphs missing from both JA's draft and the first Cushing copy. Why did Cushing scrupulously drop a paragraph that JA had struck out, but in the second copy include two paragraphs not in JA's draft?

The obvious answer is that these two paragraphs were on the missing piece of text, and, logically, they come respectively at the top of the front and backsides of the half sheet of the draft. The piece is large enough to have accommodated the paragraphs. When Cushing made the first copy of the draft, he must have known that the MS lacked a small piece, for he left two spaces in his copy for the missing short paragraphs. It is not too farfetched to assume that he had temporarily mislaid the piece, intending to fill in the words when he found it. The second copy includes the paragraphs in their proper places, but they are written in a different hand from that of the body of the text, and they are inserted in more-than-ample spaces obviously left for the purpose. Moreover, the first of these paragraphs is introduced by the words, in the copyist's hand, “on a separate piece of paper—viz.” Apparently considerable time elapsed between the misplacing of the piece cut from the draft and the finding of it later.

Although JA said in a portion of his Autobiography, written in 1804, that Judge Cushing still had the MS of the thirteenth letter that he had sent to the Boston Gazette 28 years earlier (same), the evidence is strong that the draft now in the Adams Papers is the MS that Cushing kept for so long. The handling of the missing paragraphs supports this conclusion, but there is further evidence. The first Cushing copy duplicates the JA draft in a way that would be unlikely if Cushing had been following a second draft. The signature “Novanglus” is crossed out, and the letter continues for another paragraph. A second draft, had there been one, would not have shown this change in intention. Thus, it seems safe to say that by supplementing the draft with the Cushing copies we have the thirteenth letter as JA intended it to appear in print, and that the original is safely in the Adams Papers—minus the top piece of the half-sheet.


Brackets in JA's draft; he probably meant this passage to be deleted, but it is enclosed in brackets in both Cushing copies.


Brackets in JA's draft; both Cushing copies carry this passage within brackets.


Illegible in JA's draft; word supplied from second Cushing copy; a space is left for the word in the first Cushing copy.


Hutchinson, A Collection of Original Papers, p. 105–106; opening quotation marks supplied by the editors.


Brackets in JA's draft; bracketed statement kept in both Cushing copies.


This paragraph appears only in the 387second Cushing copy; it logically belongs at the top of the front side of the half-sheet of JA's draft on a piece now missing.


JA's draft torn; these words are from the second Cushing copy and are missing from the first one. The hand-writing is different from both that of the main body of text and that of the two inserted paragraphs. The hand seems to be that of an elderly man, possibly Cushing.


The exact language is that the General Court may “from tyme to tyme . . . make, ordeine, and establishe all Manner of wholesome and reasonable Orders, Lawes, Statutes, and Ordinances, Direccions, and Instruccions, not contrairie to the Lawes of this our Realme of England” (Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions , 3:1857).


JA's draft torn; words supplied from the Cushing copies.


This paragraph appears only in the second Cushing copy; it logically belongs at the top of the back side of the half-sheet of JA's draft on a piece now missing.


JA's draft torn; words supplied from the first Cushing copy. The second copy has “as” for “altho'.”


JA's draft torn; words supplied from the first Cushing copy. The second copy has “ground” for “grounds.”