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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 2


Docno: ADMS-06-02-02-0072-0002

Author: Adams, John
Author: Novanglus
Recipient: Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony
Recipient: Massachusettensis
Date: 1775-01-23

I. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay

[salute] My Friends,

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 { 227 } finished 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, { 228 } which 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 { 229 } of 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.
{ 230 }
“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 { 231 } annul 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 { 232 } formed 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• { 233 } vell? Did not the Swiss Cantens, the Genevans and Grissons, gain by resistance to Albert and Grisler?
[signed] NOVANGLUS
1. The letter published 26 Dec. 1774 was the third in Leonard's series.
2. Let us despair of nothing; wonder at nothing.
3. 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.
4. 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).
5. It is given to the nature of man by God.
6. [Robert Prescott], A Letter from A Veteran, to the Officers of the Army Encamped at Boston [N.Y.], 1774 (Evans, No. 13554).
7. This and preceding quotations are all from same, p. 9–10.
8. See [post 17 Nov. 1774], note 1, above.

Docno: ADMS-06-02-02-0072-0003

Author: Adams, John
Author: Novanglus
Recipient: Inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony
Recipient: Massachusettensis
Date: 1775-01-30

II. To the Inhabitants of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay

[salute] My Friends,

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, { 234 } and 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.
{ 235 }
“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 { 236 } slanders 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 { 237 } letters 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 { 238 } the 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 { 239 } themselves, 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 { 240 } the 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• { 241 } Britain. 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 { 242 } and 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
[signed] NOVANGLUS
1. 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).
2. William Shirley (1694–1771) served as governor of Massachusetts from 1741 to 1757 (DAB).
3. 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).
4. 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).
5. 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).
6. George Grenville (1712–1770), first lord of the treasury, chancellor of the exchequer, 1763–1765, and author of the Sugar and Stamp acts (DNB).
7. 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.
8. Same, p. 68–69. The phrase “caution and deliberation may retard it” is omitted after “preparatory steps may be required to precede it.”
9. The quotations in this paragraph and the one following are from same, p. 75–76, 81–85.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2016.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/