Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

tween the two nations, it is proper also to change the terms of their ancient connexion, and adopt others, more conformable to their present respective power and circumstances.

• The present statutes, promulgated by parliament, do not bind the colonies, unless they are expressly named therein ; which evidently demonstrates, that the English general laws do not embrace in their action the American colonies, but need to be sanctioned by special laws.

· The colonies, therefore, stand in much the same relation towards England, as the barons with respect to the sovereigns, in the feudal system of Europe ; the obedience of the one, and the submission of the other, are restricted within certain limits.

• The history of colonies, both ancient and modern, comes to the support of these views. Thus the Cartbagenians, the Greeks, and other celebrated nations of antiquity, allowed their colonies a very great liberty of internal government, contenting themselves with the advantages they derived from their commerce. Thus the barbarians of the north, who desolated the Roman empire, carried with them their laws, and introduced them among the vanquished, retaining but an extremely slender obedience and submission towards the sovereigns of their country.

Thus also, in inore recent times, the House of Austria had acted, in regard to its colonies of the Low Countries, before the latter totally withdrew themselves from its domination.

Such examples ought to apprise the English of the conduct they should pursue, in respect to their colonies; and warn them of what they should avoid.'

The colonies are already sufficiently taxed, if the restrictions upon their commerce are taken into view. No other burden should, therefore, be laid upon the Americans, or they should be restored to an entire liberty of commerce ; for otherwise they would be charged doubly, than which nothing can be deemned more tyrannical.

It is not argued, however, that the American colonies ought not to be subject to certain external duties, which the parliament has authority to establish in their ports, or to some other restrictions, which have been laid upon their commerce by the act of navigation, or other regulations.

They are in the same case as all other colonies, belonging to the rest of the maritime powers in Europe ; from their first establishment, all commerce with foreign nations has been prohibited them.

What is spoken of are internal taxes, to be levied on the body of the people ; and it is contended, that before they can be liable to such taxes, they must first be represented.

Even admitting, what is denied, that the British parliament has the right to make laws for the colonies, still more to tax them without their concurrence, there lie many objections against all the duties

lately imposed on the colonies, and more still, and weightier, against that of the stamps lately projected by the ministers, and now proposed for the sanction of parliament. For, whereas these stamp duties were laid gradually on the people of Great Britain, they are now to be saddled, all at once, with all their increased weight, on those of the colonies; and if these same duties were thought so grievous in England, on account of the great variety of occasions in which they were payable, and the great number of heavy penalties, which the best meaning persons might incur, they must be to the last degree oppressive in the colonies, where the people, in general, cannot be supposed so conversant in matters of this kind, and numbers do not even understand the language of these intricate laws, so foreign to their ordinary pursuits of agriculture and commerce.*

* It should be added, that these laws, which savor 100 much of their native soil, and bear too distinctly the character of that subtilty for which the English financial system is distinguished, must be viewed by foreigners as insidious snares, and tend to discourage them from emigrating, with their families, to the American shores. Need any one be told how prejudicial this would prove to their growing population, and, by rebound, to the interests of England herself?

Finally, as the money produced by these duties, according to the terms of the bill proposed, is required to be paid into the English treasury, the colonies, already impoverished by commercial prohibitions, must, in a short time, be drained of all their specie, to the ruin of their commerce, both internal and external.'

On the part of the ministers, these objections were answered, as follows:

· First of all, it is necessary to banish from the present question all this parade of science and erudition, so pompously displayed by our opponents, and which they have collected from the books of speculative men, who have written upon the subject of government. All these refinements and arguments of natural lawyers, such as Locke, Selden, Puffendorff, and others, are little to the purpose, in a question of constitutional law.

And nothing can be more absurd, than to hunt after antiquated charters, to argue from thence the present English constitution ; because the constitution is no longer the same ; and nobody knows what it was, at some of the times ihat are quoted ; and there are things even in Magna Charta, which are not constitutional now. All these appeals, therefore, to the records of antiquity, prove nothing as to the constitution such as it now is.

* This constitution has always been subject to continual changes and modifications, perpetually gaining or losing something; nor was the representation of the commons of Great Britain formed into any certain system, till the reign of Henry VII.

* See Note II.

• With regard to the modes of taxation, when we get beyond the reign of Edward I. or king John, we are all in doubt and obscurity ; the history of those times is full of uncertainty and consusion. As to the writs upon record, they were issued, some of them according to law, and some not according to law; and such were those concerning ship money ; to call assemblies to tax cheinselves, or to compel benevolences; other taxes were raised by escuage, or shield service, fees for knight's service, and other means arising from the feudal system. Benevolences are contrary to law ; and it is well known how people resisted the demands of the crown, in the case of ship money; and were prosecuted by the court.

With respect to the marches of Wales, this privilege of taxing themselves was but of short duration ; and was only granted these borderers, for assisting the king, in bis wars against the Welsh in the mountains. It commenced and ended with the reign of Edward I.; and when the prince of Wales came to be king, they were annexed to the crown, and became subject to taxes, like the rest of the do. minions of England.

· Henry VIII. was the first king of England who issued writs for it to return two members to parliament; the crown exercised the right of issuing writs, or not, at pleasure ; from whence arises the inequality of representation, in our constitution of this day. Henry VII. issued a writ to Calais, to send one burgess to parliament; and one of the counties palatine was taxed fifty years to subsidies, before it sent members to parliament.

• The clergy at no time were unrepresented in parliament. When they taxed themselves in their assemblies, it was done with the concurrence and consent of parliament.

“The reasoning about the colonies of Great Britain, drawn from the colonies of antiquity, is a mere useless display of learning ; for it is well known the colonies of the Tyrians in Africa, and of the Greeks in Asia, were totally different from our system. No nation, before England, formed any regular system of colonisation, but the Romans; and their colonial system was altogether military, by garrisons placed in the principal towns of the conquered provinces ; and the jurisdiction of the principal country was absolute and unlimited.

• The provinces of Holland were not colonies; but they were states subordinate to the House of Austria, in a feudal dependence. And, finally, nothing could be more different from the laws and customs of the English colonies, and that inundation of northern barbarians, who, at the fall of the Roman empire, invaded and occupied all Europe. Those emigrants renounced all laws, all protection, all connexion with their mother countries : they chose their leaders, and marched under their banners, to seek their fortunes, and establish new kingdoms upon the ruins of the Roman empire.

On the contrary, the founders of the English colonies emigrated under the sanction of the king and parliament; their constitutions were modelled gradually into their present forms, respectively by charters, grants and statutes; but they were never separated from the mother country, or so emancipated as to become independent, and sui juris.

• The commonwealth parliament were very early jealous of the colonies separating themselves from them; and passed a resolution or act, and it is a question whether it is not now in force, to declare and establish the authority of England over her colonies. But if there was no express law, or reason founded upon any necessary inference from an express law, yet the usage alone would be sufficient to support that authority ; for, have not the colonies submitted, ever since their first establishment, to the jurisdiction of the mother country? Have they not even invoked it in many instances ? In all questions of property, have not the appeals of the colonies been made to the privy council here? And have not these causes been determined, not by the law of the colonies, but by the law of England? And have they not peaceably submitted to these decisions ?

· These cases of recourse, however, have been very frequent. New Hampshire and Connecticut have been in blood about their differences; Virginia and Maryland were in arms against each other. Does not this show the necessity of one superior decisive jurisdiction, to which all subordinate jurisdictions may recur? Nothing, at any time, could be more fatal to the peace and prosperity of the colonies, than the parliament giving up its superintending authority over them. From this moment, every bond between colony and colony would be dissolved, and a deplorable anarchy would ensue. The elements of discord and faction, already diffused amongst them, are too well known, not to apprehend an explosion of this sort.

From this to the total annihilation of the present colonial system, to the creation of new forms of government, and falling a prey to some foreign potentate, how inevitable is their career !

* At present the several forms of their constitution are very various, having been established one after another, and dictated by the circumstances and events of the times; the forms of government in every colony, were adapted from time to time, according to the size of the colony, and so have been extended again from time to time, as the numbers of the inhabitants, and their commercial connexions, outgrew the first model. In some colonies, at first there was only a governor, assisted by two or three counsellors; then more were added; then courts of justice were erected, then assemblies were created.

• As the constitutions of the colonies are made up of different principles, so they must, from the necessity of things, remain dependent upon the jurisdiction of the mother country; no one ever

thought the contrary, till this new doctrine was broached. Acts of parliament have been made, not only without a doubt of their legality, but accepted with universal applause, and willingly obeyed. Their ports have been made subject to customs and regulations, which cramped and diminished their trade; and duties have been laid, affecting the very inmost parts of their commerce, and among others, that of the post; and no one ever thought, except these new doctors, that the colonies are not to be taxed, regulated, and bound by parliament.

There can be no doubt, but that the inhabitants of the colonies are as much represented in parliament, as the greatest part of the people of England are, among nine millions of whom, there are eight who have no votes in electing members of parliament; and, therefore, all these arguments, brought to prove the colonies not dependent on parliament, upon the ground of representation, are vain ; nay, they prove too much, since they directly attack the whole present constitution of Great Britain. But the thing is, that a member of parliament, chosen for any borough, represents not only the constituents and inhabitants of that particular place, but he represents the inhabitants of every other borough in Great Britain. He represents the city of London, and all other the commons of the land, and the inhabitants of all the colonies and dominions of Great Britain, and is in duty and conscience bound to take care of their interests.

The distinction of internal and external taxes, is false and groundless. It is granted, that restrictions upon trade, and duties upon the ports, are legal, at the same time that the right of the parliament of Great Britain, to lay internal taxes upon the colonies, is denied. What real difference can there be in this distinction ? Is not a tax, laid in any place, like a pebble salling into and making a circle in a lake, till one circle produces and gives motion to another, and the whole circumference is agitated from the centre ?

• Nothing can be more clear, than that a tax of ten or twenty per cent. laid upon tobacco either in the ports of Virginia or London, is a real duty laid upon the inland plantations of Virginia itself, an hundred miles from the sea, wherever the tobacco grows.

* Protection is the ground that gives the right of taxation. The obligation between the colonies and the mother country is natural and reciprocal, consisting of defence on the one side, and obedience on the other; and common sense tells, that the colonies must be dependent in all points upon the mother country, or else not belong to · it at all. The question is not what was law, or what was the constitution ? but the question is, what is law now, and what is the constitution now?

• And is not this law, is not this the constitution, is not this right, which without contradiction, and for so long a time, and in numberless instances, as such has been exercised on the one part, and approved by obedience on the other ?

« AnteriorContinuar »