Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

against your Majesty's forces, as of those, who have run the same risk to oppose them. The difference among them is, not on the grievance, but on the mode of redress; and we are sorry to say, that they, who have conceived hopes from the placability of the Ministers, who influence the publick Councils of this Kingdom, disappear in the multitude of those, who conceive that passive compliance only confirms and emboldens oppression.

The sense of a whole people, most gracious Sovereign, never ought to be contemned by wise and beneficent rulers; whatever may be the abstract claims, or even rights of the supreme power. We have been too carly instructed, and too long habituated to believe, that the only firm seat of all authority is in the minds, affections, and interests of the people, to change our opinions on the theoretick reasonings of speculative men, or for the convenience of a mere temporary arrangement of State. It is not consistent with equity or wisdom to set at defiance the general feelings of great communities, and of all the orders, which compose them. Much power is tolerated, and passes unquestioned, where much is yielded to opinion. All is disputed, where every thing is enforced.

Such are our sentiments on the duty and policy of conforming to the prejudices of a whole people, even where the foundation of such prejudices may be false or disputable. But permit us to lay at your

Majesty's

V

Majesty's feet our deliberate judgment on the real merits of that principle, the violation of which is the known ground and origin of these troubles. We assure your Majesty, that, on our parts, we should think ourselves unjustifiable, as good citizens, and not influenced by the true spirit of Englishmen, if, with any effectual means of prevention in our hands, we were to submit to Taxes, to which we did not consent, either directly, or by a representation of the people, securing to us the substantial benefit of an absolutely free disposition of our own property in that important case. And we add, Sir, that if fortune, instead of blessing us with a situation, where we may have daily access to the propitious presence of a gracious Prince, had fixed us in settlements on the remotest part of the globe, we must carry these sentiments with us, as part of our being; persuaded, that the distance of situation would render this privilege in the disposal of property but the more necessary. If no provision had been made for it, such provision ought to be made, or permitted. Abuses of subordinate authority inand all means of redress lessen, as the distance of the Subject removes him from the seat of the supreme Power. What, in those circumstances, can save him from the last extremes of indignity and oppression, but something left in his own hands, which may enable him to conciliate the favour and control the excesses of Government? When no means of power to awe or to oblige are possessed,

N 2

the

the strongest ties, which connect mankind in every relation, social and civil, and which teach them mutually to respect each other, are broken.-Independency, from that moment, virtually exists. Its formal declaration will quickly follow. Such must be our feelings for ourselves: we are not in posses sion of another rule for our brethren.

When the late attempt practically to annihilate that inestimable privilege was made, great disorders and tumults, very unhappily and very naturally, arose from it. In this state of things, we were of opinion, that satisfaction ought instantly to be given; or that, at least, the punishment of the disorder ought to be attended with the redress of the grievance. We were of opinion, that, if our dependencies had so outgrown the positive institutions made for the preservation of Liberty in this Kingdom, that the operation of their powers was become rather a pressure than a relief to the Subjects in the Colonies, wisdom dictated, that the spirit of the Constitution should rather be applied to their circumstances, than its authority enforced with violence in those very parts, where its reason became wholly inapplicable.

Other methods were then recommended, and followed as infallible means of restoring peace and order. We looked upon them to be, what they have since proved to be, the cause of inflaming discontent into disobedience, and resistance into revolt. The subversion of solemn, fundamental Charters

on

on a suggestion of abuse, without citation, evidence, or hearing the total suspension of the commerce. of a great maritime city, the capital of a great maritime province, during the pleasure of the Crown: the establishment of a military force, not accountable to the ordinary Tribunals of the Country, in which it was kept up:~these and other proceedings at that time, if no previous cause of dissenşion had subsisted, were sufficient to produce great troubles: unjust at all times, they were then irrational.

[ocr errors]

We could not conceive, when disorders had arisen from the complaint of one violated right, that to violate every other was the proper means of quieting an exasperated people. It seemed to us absurd and preposterous, to hold out, as the means of calming a people in a state of extreme inflam-. mation, and ready to take up arms, the austere law, which a rigid conqueror would impose, as the sequel of the most decisive victories.

Recourse, indeed, was at the same time had to force; and we saw a force sent out, enough to menace liberty, but not to awe opposition; tending to bring odium on the civil power, and contempt on the military; at once to provoke and encourage re sistance. Force was sent out not sufficient to hold one town: Laws were passed to inflame thirteen provinces.

This mode of proceeding, by harsh laws and feeble armies, could not be defended on the princi, N 3 ple

[ocr errors]

ple of mercy and forbearance. For mercy, as wel conceive, consists not in the weakness of the means, but in the benignity of the ends. We apprehend, that mild measures may be powerfully enforced : and that acts of extreme rigour and injustice may be attended with as much feebleness in the execution, as severity in the formation.

In consequence of these terrours, which, falling upon some, threatened all, the Colonies made a common cause with the sufferers; and proceeded, on their part, to acts of resistance. In that alarming situation, we besought your Majesty's Ministers to entertain some distrust of the operation of coercive measures, and to profit of their experience. Experience had no effect. The modes of legişlative rigour were construed, not to have been erroneous in their policy, but too limited in their extent. New severities were adopted. The fisheries of your people in America followed their charters; and their mutual combination to defend, what they thought, their common rights brought on a total prohibition of their mutual commercial intercourse. No distinction of persons or merits was observedthe peaceable and the mutinous, friends and foes, were alike involved, as if the rigour of the laws had a certain tendency to recommend the authority of the legislator.

Whilst the penal laws increased in rigour, and extended in application over all the Colonies, the direct force was applied but to one part, Had the great

« ForrigeFortsæt »