From the Other Christian Standpoint
from Vindication of the Rev. Mr. Wesley’s “Calm Address to our American Colonies.” (1776)
It will probably seem strange, that Clergymen should meddle with a controversy, which has hitherto been considered as altogether political. But the reader’s surprise, in this respect, will probably cease, if he gives himself the trouble to read these Letters. He will then see, that the American controversy is closely connected with Christianity in general, and with Protestantism in particular; and that, of consequence, it is of a religious, as well as of a civil nature.
Is it not granted on all sides, that the gospel leads to the practice of strict morality? Is it not an important branch of such morality “to honour and obey the king;” – to extend that honour and obedience (in a scriptural and constitutional manner) to “all that are put in authority under him; - to submit ourselves to all our governors; - to order ourselves lowly and reverently to all our betters; to hurt no body by word or deed; - and to be true and just in all our dealings;” giving every one his due, “tribute to whom tribute is due, and custom to whom custom?” Do we not teach this doctrine to our Children, when we instruct them in the first principles of Christianity? If divinity, therefore, can cast light upon the question, which divides Great-Britain and her Colonies; is it impertinent in divines to hold out the light of their science, and peaceably to use what the Apostle calls “the sword of the Spirit;” that the material sword, unjustly drawn, by those who are in the wrong, may be sheathed; and that a speedy end may be put to the effusion of Christian blood?
Another reason influences the Author to write upon the question which is now so warmly agitated in England, -so dreadfully debated in America. Many of the colonists are as pious as they are brave; and whilst their undaunted fortitude makes them scorn to bow under an hostile arm, which shoots the deadly lightning of war; their humble piety may dispose them (or some of them) to regard a friendly hand, which holds out an olive branch, a bible, and the articles of religion drawn by their favourite Reformer. Had more care been taken to inform their judgment, and to work upon their consciences, by addressing them, not only as subjects, but as free men, brethren, and protestants, it is probable that numbers of them would never have so strongly embraced the unscriptural principles, which now influence their conduct.
Should it be said, that it is too late now, to use spiritual weapons with the colonists: I reply, that htis objection bears too hard upon their candour: it can never be too late to hold out plain scripture, and solid arguments, to judicious Protestants. It is only to Papists strongly prejudiced, or to those who relapse into Popish obstinacy, that the light of God’s word, and of sound reason can come too late. Besides, the mistakes which have armed the provincials against Great Britain, begin to work in the breasts of many good men among us; witness the principles of Americans: now, therefore, is the time to keep these well-meaning men from going to the same extremes, to which the colonists are gone: now is the time to prevent others, whose judgment is yet cool and sober, from drinking in errors, by which such numbers are intoxicated.
A VINDICATION, &c.
THANKFUL for the religious and civil liberty which I enjoy as a subject of Great Britain; -persuaded, that many warm, well meaning men mistake an unreasonable opposition to the King, and the Minister, for true patriotism; - sensible of the sad consequences of national misunderstandings; -ardently wishing, that all things may be so ordered and settled upon the best and surest foundations (which if I mistake not, are reason, scripture, and our excellent constitution) that peace and harmony may for all generations be established between Great Britain and her flourishing Colonies; -and desirous to inspire you, Sir, and my dissatisfied, dissenting brethren, with the same loyal sentiments, I take the pen to expostulate with you about the system of politics, which you recommend tot he public in your “Letter to the Rev. Mr. Wesley, occasioned by his Calm Address to the American Colonies.”
It is at this time peculiarly needful to throw light upon the question debated between Mr. Wesley and you; for it you are in the right, the sovereign is a tyrant, taxing the Colonists is robbery, and enforcing such taxation by the sword is murder. We cannot hold up the hands of our soldiers by prayer, without committing sin: nor can they fight with christian courage, which is inseparable from a good conscience, if they suspect that they are sent to rob good men of their properties, liberties, and lives.
Mr. Wesley asserts, “That the Supreme power in England has a legal right of laying any tax upon the American Colonies, for any end beneficial to the whole empire, - with or WITHOUT their consent."”—And you reply, “If the Americans are indeed subject to such a power as this, their condition differs not from that of the most object slaves in the universe.”
Sir, I venture to assert, that you are mistaken, and that Mr. Wesley’s proposition is rational, scriptural and constitutional. And, promising you to shew in another letter the absurdity of your proposition, I enter upon the proof of my assertion, by an appeal to reason, scripture, and your own letter. In following this method, I shall address you as a man, a divine, and a controvertist. First, as a man:
Does not your mistake spring from your inattention to the nature of civil government? You represent the power, which the king and parliament claim of disposing of some of the money of the Colonists without their consent, as an encroachment upon British liberty; - as an unjust tyrannical pretension; - nay, as a species of “robber.” But, did you never consider, Sir, that in the nature of things, our sovereign [I mean by this word, the king and his parliament, first jointly making laws not contrary to the laws of God, whose supreme dominion must always be submitted to by all created law-givers; and secondly executing the laws which they have made, by imparting to magistrates and other officers of justice, a sufficient power to put them in force;] – did you never consider, I say, that our sovereign, whether we have a vote for parliament men or not, has both a right, and a power to dispose, not only of our money, but also of our liberty and life; so far as that disposal answers ends agreeable to the law of God, beneficial to the peace of society, and conducive to the general good? if this political doctrine is explained, you will, I am persuaded, assent to it, as an indubitable truth.
Could the sovereign rule and protect us, if he had not this right and this power? I injure your property, or, what is worse, your reputation. You sue me for damages: but, how can the sovereign act the part of protector of your property and good name, if he cannot command my property, and take from me by force what I unjustly detain from you, and what may make you satisfaction for the injury done to your character? and suppose you had wronged me, how could the sovereign protect me, if he could not dispose of your property without your consent?
This is exactly the case with respect to Liberty. If you stop me on the road, and unjustly deprive me of the liberty of going about my business; can the sovereign protect me, unless he has a right of depriving you of your lawless liberty, that I may quietly enjoy my lawful liberty? and does not equity demand, that if I am the petty tyrant, who pretend to the liberty of tar-feathering you, the sovereign should have the same power of protecting you, by binding me to my good behaviour, or by ordering me to the stocks or to jail?
This power extends to life, as well as liberty. I demand your money or your life. How can the sovereign secure you more effectually than by taking away my life, for having attempted to take yours? By the rule of reciprocation, if you endeavour to take away my life, I cannot be protected; and if you murder me, my blood cannot be properly avenged; unless the sovereign has power to put you to death. Hence it is, that prosecutions for capital offences are carried on in the name of the king, who is the head of the legislative power, and who, as he insists [in his capacity of law-giver and protector of his subjects] upon the infliction of capital punishments, has also the royal prerogative of pardoning criminals who are condemned to die.
Come we now to taxes. If the sovereign rules and protects his subjects; and if it is his office to avert the dangers which threaten them, and to see that justice be done to the oppressed; he has his noble, I had almost said, his divine, business: and he has a right to live by his business: - yea, to live in a manner which may answer to the importance and dignity of his business. Hence it follows, that he is not only as much entitled to a royal sustenance from his subjects, as a schoolmaster is entitled to a schoolmaster’s maintenance from his scholars; or a minister to a pastoral supply from his flock; but that his right is so much the more conspicuous, as his rank is higher than theirs. Now, this royal sustenance chiefly arises from custom, and taxes. Hence it is evident, that to deny proper taxes to the soverign who protects and defends us, is, at least, as gross an act of injustice, as to reap the benefit of a lawyer’s study, a physician’s attendance, a nurse’s care, and a master’s instructions; and then to cheat them of the emolument which such study, attendance, care and instructions reasonable entitle them to . This is not all:
In a great empire, where the sovereign uses a great many officers to keep the peace and administer justice, there is absolute need of a great revenue for the maintenance of those officers: and the collecting of this revenue is the employment of many more. If the state is in danger from external or internal foes; a sufficient force in constant readiness, is absolutely necessary to suppress seditions , quell, rebellions, obtain restitutions, prevent invasions, and hinder encroachments. Hence, the need of a navy, an army, a militia. Hence, the need of seaports, docks, fortifications, garrisons, convoys, fleets of observation, ministers at foreign courts, arms, artillery, ammunition, magazines, and warlike stores without end: --hence, in short, prodigious expences. Now, as all these expences are incurred for the protection and dignity of the whole empire, do not reason and conscience dictate, -(1.) That all those who share in the protection and dignity of the empire, should contribute in due proportion towards defraying the national expence:-(2.) That, of consequence, the supreme power has an indubitable right of laying moderate taxes upon the subjects, for any end beneficial to the whole empire: -(3.) That subjects have absolutely no right to complain of taxation, unless they are taxed exorbitantly, and without due proportion:-(4.) That if Colonies of subjects, settled, by a grant from the sovereign, within the limits of the empire, have been spared in their state of infancy, either to encourage their growth, or because the revenue which might have arisen from taxing them at first, would hardly have defrayed the expence of raising taxes; it by no means follows, that, when such Colonies have gathered strength, and are as well able to bear a share in the national burden as the mother country, they should still be excused: -And lastly, that to say, “you shall not tax me without my consent,” is as improper a speech from a subject to his sovereign, as to say, “you shall not protect the empire without my consent: if I steal, you shall not send me to jail without my consent: if I raise a rebellion, you shall not hang me unless I give you leave: you shall not dispose of my property without my permission, although (by the bye) I will dispose of the property of my fellow-subjects, not only without their permission, but also in full opposition to your authority:” –an absurd, unjust disposition this, which too many of the Bostonian patriots evidenced, when they imperiously disposed of the cargo of our ships, forcibly threw the goods of our merchants into the sea, to the amount of many thousand pounds, and set all America in a flame, as soon as the sovereign insisted that the port of Boston should be shut up, till the perpetrators of this daring act were delivered to justice, or, at least, till satisfaction was made to his oppressed subjects, whose ships have been boarded in a piratical manner, and whose property has been feloniously destroyed, when they quietly traded under the sanction of English laws, and the protection of the British flag; trusting to the faith of Christians; depending on protestant usage in the harbour of a protestant city; expecting brotherly love, or at least common honesty, from the sons of pious Englishmen; little thinking – but enough of this black scene: may it be palliated by a speedy restitution, and a lasting repentance!
I hope, Sir, that the preceding remarks, which naturally flow from the principles of reason and humanity, recommend themselves to your conscience; and having thus addressed you as a rational creature, I take the liberty to address you next as a Christian; -yea, a preacher of the gospel of Christ. As such, you will not wonder at my producing a passage or two from the venerable book, which ought to be the rule of our conduct, sermons, and publications. Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be, are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore [in lawful things] resisteth the power [which providence calls him to obey] resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist, shall receive to themselves condemnation, &c. Wherefore ye needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For, for this cause, PAY you TRIBUTE [i.e. taxes] also, &c. RENDER therefore to all their DUES: tribute to whom tribute is DUE, custom to whom custom. Rom. xiii. I, &c.
I need not remind you, Rev. Sir, that our Lord himself scrupulously followed this doctrine; setting us an example that we should follow his steps. For, although no Jew had a representative in the Roman senate; although the emperor of Rome had not half the right of taxing the Jews, which our protestant king has of taxing the Colonists, who are his natural subjects; although none of that emperor’s predecessors had mane the Jews a grant of their country; - although Christ could have insisted on being exempted, as the son of God, and the King of kings; - yea, although he could have pleaded absolute indigence as the son of man; yet rather than set a patters, which christians might have abused in after-ages, he unveiled his godhead: his omniscience searched the depth of the sea: his omnipotence inverted the course of nature: he called the animal creation to his assistance, he wrought a miracle to pay his tax: and to whom? to a foreign power-to an heathen prince, to a bloody tyrant: -to Tiberius, who was the third of the Cesars.
Nor was our Lord’s doctrine less loyal than his practice. His words are as strong as those of St. Paul. The Herodians said to him, Master, we know that thou teachest the way of God in truth, &c. Tell us therefore, what thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute to Cesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? shew me the tribute-money. And they brought to him a penny. And he said to them, Whose is this image and superscription? they say to him, Cesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cesar, the things which are Cesar’s. Mat. xxii. 16, &c.
Permit me, Sir, to clothe this Christian doctrine in language adapted to our controversy. The Colonists ask you, shall we pay, to the King and parliament of Great Britain, taxes which they have laid upon us without our consent? You answer, Shew me some of your lawful money newly coined, that I may see who rules and protects you now. They bring to you a guinea, with a royal head on one side, and the British arms on the other. You say to them, whose is this image and superscription? They reply, King George’s; and they read this motto, George III. by the grace of God, King of Great Britain, &c. Now, Rev. Sir, unless you will coin new money, together with a new gospel, as you regard the word and authority of Jesus Christ, you are bound to answer the Colonists as he answered the Herodians: and, in this case, instead of imposing upon them the Antinomian paradoxes of your letter, and throwing oil upon the flame of revolt, you will say, Render therefore to George III. as head of the legislative, protective power of Great Britain, the things which are HIS: that is, Pay to him, by his officers, the reasonable taxes which are laid upon you; for in so doing, you only give him HIS DUE. You owe him obedience and taxes, as your supreme Governor and Protector. Hence it appears, that Mr. Wesley only unfolds our Lord’s doctrine, when he says, “The reception of any law draws after it, by a chain which cannot be broken, the necessity of admitting taxation.” The primary right of taxation is inseparable from the supreme power, and if our respective parishes at home, and our Colonies abroad, have a right to cess themselves, with respect to their private expences; it is only a delegated subordinate right, which by no means exempts them from the taxes laid upon them to defray the general expence of the government. And therefore, to pretend that parish-rates, and Colony-rates, ought to Supersede taxation, by the sovereign in a body political, is as absurd as to affirm, that the pulses in the human body ought to supersede the vital motion, or capital beating of the heart.
Having expostulated with you, as with a conscientious man, and a minister of the gospel, permit me, Sir, to address you thirdly, as a consistent writer. You give us to understand, that the act of parliament, by which the Colonists are taxed, is an unconstitutional act; because the Colonists, as inheriting the privileges of Britons, cannot be constitutionally taxed by a parliament, where they are not allowed to send representatives. But do you not in your very letter to Mr. W. overthrow this grand plea? Do you not grant the very truth, on which he rests his doctrine of the constitutional reasonableness of the taxation you represent as tyrannical? Undoubtedly, you do: for, considering that many large towns, as Birmingham, &c. send no representative to parliament, when the hill called Old Sarum, sends two; and that myriads of men, who have their fortune in ready money, in goods, in trade, or in the stocks, have no right to vote for parliament men, because they have no freehold; when a poor man, who has a mortgaged freehold on which he starves, has a right to chuse his representative: - considering this I say, you tell Mr. W. “In England – the people are by no means equally represented.”
We thank you, Sir, for this concession, which (by the bye) you could not help making. You grant then, that the constitution allows of unequal representation; since it allows, that some towns, and some men, shall send representatives to parliament, when other towns and other men are not permitted to send any. And in granting this, you indirectly grant, that Boston may be constitutionally taxed without a peculiar representative, as well as Birmingham; and that the rich merchants of Boston may be as legally taxed as the rich merchants of Birmingham, who are not entitled to a vote. Now, Sir, if the Constitution allows of unequal representation; and if the taxation of myriads of men, who send no representatives to the house of commons, is constitutional; I ask in the name of consistency, why do you represent such taxation as unconstitutional with respect to the Colonists?
You reply: “This is an acknowledged defect of the constitution.” – So, Sir, your zeal for the constitution throws off its mask at last! and you avowedly impeach the constitution! Might you not have said at once, The parliament may indeed constitutionally tax the Colonists; for it taxes million of Britons who have no vote for parliament-men: but the constitution is defective; and we patriots, we friends of the constitution, will avowedly find fault with the constitution, till we can find an opportunity of casting it into a new mould? And what this mould is, which, I fear, antinomian patriots are getting ready as fast as they can, and into which they hope to cast the inflamed minds of the populace, you Sir, help us to guess, where you say, “It is glaringly evident,” (to such good friends of the constitution as the antinomian patriots are) – “It is glaringly evident, that there is not a man in England, who is able to boil a pot, in ever so despicable an hovel, but may, if he pleases, have a voice in the disposal of his property:” that is, in laying on or taking off taxes, or (which comes to the same) in making and repealing laws. Sir, I would no more encourage a tyrannical monarch, and an oppressive parliament than you: but supposing our mild King were a tyrant, and his parliament consisted of three hundred and ninety-nine little tyrants, would it not be better, upon the whole, to be ruled by four hundred tyrants than to be at the mercy of four hundred thousand? If you calmly weigh this question, I am persuaded, Sir, that your prejudices will subside. In the mean time, remember that if you are right as a patriot, you are wrong, not only as a man and a Christian, but also as a controvertist; and that, whether the constitution is defective or not, and whether you can mend it or not, you have granted that unequal representation is constitutional, and of consequence that the taxation of myriads of Britons in England, and sons of Britons in America, who send no representatives to parliament, is perfectly agreeable to the constitution.
You strengthen your cause by quoting a French and an English judge. As Mr. Wesley has taken particular notice of these quotation in the last edition of his Address, I shall only transcribe his answers. You write, “All the inhabitants, &c.” says Montesquieu, speaking of the English constitution, “ought to have a right of voting at the election of a representative, except such as are so mean as to be deemed to have no will of their own.” –Nay, [answers Mr. W.] ‘if all have a right to vote that have a will of their own, certainly this right belongs to every man, woman, and child an England.’
One quotation more. Judge Blackstone says, “In a free state, every man who is supposed to be a free agent, ought, in some measure, to be his own governor: therefore, one branch at least of the legislative power should reside in the whole body of the people.” –Mr. Wesley answers: ‘but who are the whole body of the people? According to him, every free agent. Then the argument proves too much; for, are not women free-agents: Yea, and poor as well as rich men. According to this argument, there is no free state under the sun.’ –From these just answers it is evident, that your scheme drives at putting the legislative power in every body’s hands, that is, at crowning king Mob.
To conclude: Upon the force of the preceding arguments I ask, First, Is not the demand of proportionable, moderate taxes, which the Sovereign of Great Britain has upon our wealthy fellow-subjects settled in the British dominions on the continent, both rational, scriptural, and constitutional? –Rational, as being founded upon a reasonable, self-evident right, flowing from the nature and fitness of things, and acknowledged by every civilized nation under heaven? –Scriptural, as being supported by the explicit commands of St. Paul, and Christ himself? –And, Constitutional, since the constitution enjoins, that millions of Britons at home, who have no voice at elections, or are represented by men whom they voted against; and that myriads of Britons abroad, whether they are freeholders or not, [and some of them are not only freeholders, but members of parliament also] shall be all taxed without their consent?
I flatter myself, Sir, that this appeal to your conscience, your bible, and your legal patriotism, will soften your prejudices, and prepare your mind for my next letter. In the mean time I earnestly recommend to your thankful admiration, the excellence of the British government, which equally guards our properties, liberties, and lives, against the tyranny of unjust, arbitrary, or cruel monarchs: and against the ferocity of that Cerberus, - that Hydra, -that Briareus, -that many-headed monster, a Mob of ungrateful, uneasy, restless men, who despise dominion; -speak evil of dignities; -give to illiberal behaviour, scurrilous insolence, and disloyalty unmasked, the perverted name of patriotism;
commit enormities under pretence of redressing grievances; and give the signal of devastation, where ever they erect their standard of lawless liberty, Hoping, Sir, that a panic fear of a virtuous king, a lawful parliament, and a conscientious minister, whose crime is only that of making a constitutional stand against the boisterous overflowings of civil antinomianism; --hoping, I say, that such an absurd fear will never hurry you into groundless discontent and unguarded publications; - intreating you to take no step which may countenance king Mob, his merciless minister, Rapine, and his riotous parliament summoned from the “most despicable hovels;” – requesting you to exalt our divine Lawgiver, who sums up his law of liberty in these precious statutes, Render to Cesar the things which are Cesar’s, and to God, the things which are God’s: -- A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you; wishing you, Sir, all scriptural success in the gospel, which says, Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the PUNISHMENT of evil-doers, and for the PRAISE of them that do well; --ardently praying, that when the governors, generals and forces going to America, shall land there, our disobedient fellow-subjects may be found doing well, i.e. penitently submitting themselves to their sovereign, that the threatened punishment may be turned into deserved praise; -and begging you would take in good part the freedom of this well-meant expostulation, I declare that I am as much in love with liberty as with loyalty; and that I write an heart-felt truth, when I subscribe myself,
Your affectionate fellow-labourer in the gospel, a republican by birth and education, and a subject of Great Britain by love of liberty and free choice.
Nov. 15, 1775.
I Hope I have proved in my first letter, that Mr. Wesley’s doctrine of government is rational, scriptural, and constitutional; and that a right of taxing subjects with, or without their consent, is an inseparable appendage of supreme government. I shall now attempt to prove, that your doctrine of liberty, and taxation only with our own consent, is absurd and unconstitutional; and that, whilst you try to break the lawful yoke of civil government laid on the Colonists, you doctrinally bind the greatest part of the English with chains of the most abject slavery, and fix a ridiculous charge of robbery on the King and parliament, for taxing some millions of Britons, who are no more represented in parliament, that the foreigners who sojourn in England, or the English who live abroad.
Permit me to state the question more particularly than I have done in my former letter. Mr. Wesley thinks, that the Colonists are mistaken, when they consider themselves as put on a level with slaves, because they are taxed by a parliament in which they have no representatives of their own chusing: I say, of their own chusing, because I apprehend that, as all the freeholders and voting burgesses in Great Britain virtually represent the commonalty of all the British empire (except Ireland, which being a kingdom by itself, and no English colony, coins its own money, and has its peculiar parliament;) and as such freeholders, &c. virtually represent all that commonalty, whether it be made up of voters or non-voters, of poor men or men of property, of men at home, at sea, or on the continent: so the House of Commons virtually represents all the freeholders and voting burgesses in Great Britain; whether they voted or not at the last election, or whether they voted for or against the sitting members.
With an eye to this virtual representation, which draws after it a passive submission to taxation, Mr. W. asks: Am I and two millions of Englishmen, who have no right to vote of representatives in parliament, ‘made slaves, because we are taxed without our own consent?’ You reply: “Yes, Sir, if you are taxed without your own consent, you are slaves.” You consider such taxation as “The very quintessence of slavery;” you declare, that, if the Americans submit to it, “their condition differs not from that of the most abject slaves in the universe; and you insinuate, that whoever attempts to tax them otherwise than by their direct representatives, “attempts an injury; whoever does it, commits a robbery; he throws down the distinction between liberty and slavery. Taxation and representation (you mean direct representation) are coeval with, and essential to this constitution.” But when you publish such assertions, which justify the armed Colonists, and represent the majority in parliament as a gang of robbers, does not an enthusiastic warmth for lawless liberty carry you beyond the bounds of calm reflection? And are you aware of the stab which you give the constitution; and of the insult which you offer, not only to your superiors, but also to millions of your worthy countrymen, whom you absurdly stigmatize as some of the “most abject slaves in the universe?”
Probably not one in five of our husbandmen, sailors, soldiers, mechanics, day-labourers, and hired servants, are freeholders, or voting burgesses. And must four out of five, in these numerous classes of free-born Englishmen, wear the badge of the most abject slavery, in compliance with your chimerical notions of liberty? We are not allowed to vote so long as we are minors; and must also all our blooming young men, from seventeen years of age to twenty one, be considered as “ most abject slaves?” You may say, indeed, that they are represented by their parents or guardians: but what, if these guardians or parents have no vote themselves? Besides, if minors can be thus represented, why should not our Colonies be represented in the same manner by the Mother-Country, which has so tenderly nursed, and so carefully protected them from their infancy? –To return: If the wives of freeholders are supposed to vote by their husbands? Have all widows buried their liberty with the partner of their bed? –A freeholder has seven children: he leaves his freehold to his eldest son; and because he cannot leave a freehold to all, will you reproach him as the father of six abject slaves? –Another freeholder, to pay his debts, is obliged to sell his freehold, and of consequence his right of taxing himself. Does he sell his liberty with his freehold, and “involve himself in absolute slavery?´--The general election comes on: a young gentleman wants a few months of the age the law requires in a voter; and of consequence he cannot yet chuse his own representative; must he continue a slave till the next election? –A knight, disapproved by most voters in the county, offers to represent them; they try in vain to get some other gentleman to oppose him; and the candidate whom they tacitly object to, sits in the house chiefly for want of a competitor. Is their liberty at all affected by this kind of involuntary representation, which draws after it a kind of involuntary taxation? – At the next election, perhaps, the opposition runs high between several candidates: one has [I suppose] 2000 votes; another, 1900; and a third 1700. The first is elected: two thousand freeholders are taxed by a representative of their own chusing, and 3600 voters go home disappointed of their choice; and having the mortification of being taxed by a man whom they did not vote into parliament; nay, by a man whom they opposed with all their might. Their choice is, perhaps, equally frustrated with regard to the other knight of the shire. Now, are these 3600 voters in any degree reduced to a state of slavery, till they can have an opportunity of being represented according to their mind? –Again, a free-born Englishman is possessed of a house, which he lets for thirty-eight shillings a year; for want of two shillings more in his yearly income he is no freeholder; and like the Colonists, he is taxed without his consent; is he “an abject slave” on this account? Wild patriotism answers in the affirmative, but impartial men smile and say, What! is British liberty so mean a blessing, as to depend upon a couple of shillings? Could a Jew make it turn on an hinge more contemptible than this? O Sir, what a low price does your system indirectly fix upon a jewel, on which you seem to set so immense a value! Once more: during the last election, myriads of Englishmen were abroad, some upon their travels or for their health, and others upon civil, military, or mercantile business; nor had they any more share in the choice of the parliament-men who now tax them, than the American Colonists; and will you aver, Sir, that if all these Englishmen were collected, they might constitutionally reform the constitution, and tax themselves by a congress composed of men who stimulate them to discontent? Will you assert, that such a congress would do well to make laws in opposition to the statues of the King and parliament? and would you call the members of such a congress loyal subjects, if they raised an army to drive the king’s forces out of his own dominions; yea, out of those very provinces, where they hold their land by gracious grants of the crown; -- where they have acquired their wealth under the protection of the Mother-Country; --and where the Sovereign’s forces, which they now endeavour to cut off, have kindly fought their battles?
To come nearer to the point: some years ago, Lord Clive, member for Shrewsbury, went to the East Indies; and lord Pigot, member for Bridgnorth, is now gone there. Their estates are immensely large; yet in consequence of their leaving England, the former lord was, and the latter is, taxed without his consent. And will you stand to your absurd doctrine, Sir, and infer, that the burgesses of Shrewsbury were, and that those of Bridgnorth are, reduced to a partial, temporary state of slavery, by the emigration of one of their representatives; and that Lord Clive was, and Lord Pigot now is, an absolute slave; because, in consequence of their emigration, the former was, and the latter is, taxed without his consent? If you say that lord Clive came back to England, and that lord Pigot may return, and tax himself, if he pleases; I reply, This is exactly the case with the Colonists: by emigration they are prevented from sharing in the legislative power of the parliament. But let them come back, if they have set their hearts upon legislative honours. The Mother-Country, and the parliament-house, are as open to them, as to any free-born Englishman. They may purchase freeholds, they may be made burgesses of corporate towns, they may be chosen members of the house of commons; and some of them, if I mistake not, sit already there. The Colonists are then on a level, not only with Britons in general, but with all our members of parliament who are abroad. And therefore to demand superior privileges, is to demand rights which no Britons have, and of which the members of parliament who go out of Great Britain never thought of: our British Nabobs not excepted.
As mountain rises upon mountain among the Alps, so absurdities rise upon absurdities in your system: take some more instances of it. If we believe you, Sir, he is an abject slave, who is taxed without his consent. Hence follows another absurdity. The day that an additional land tax is laid to subdue the Colonies, the knights of a large shire are absent: the one, I suppose, is kept from the house by illness, and the other is called into the country by business, or pleasure; neither votes for the bill. Now, Sir, are they, and the county they represent, made slaves by being taxed without their consent? –If you reply, that their not opposing the bill implies that they consent to it: I answer, The inference is not just. I did not oppose the last murder which was committed in the county, but you will wrong me, if you infer that I consented to it. Many clergymen will not oppose your letter, who nevertheless reprobate the doctrine it contains.
But, granting that your inference is just, I press you closer, and point out two knights [suppose the members for Middlesex] who oppose the bill with all their might. And yet the bill passes. Now, Sir, if your scheme of liberty is right, it follows, that our great patriots, and the little patriots whom they represent, are abject slaves; for they are evidently taxed, not only without their consent, but against their warmest opposition; seeing they are additionally taxed to bring their mistaken friends to reason. How excessively absurd then is your scheme, Sir; since it not only puts the badge of the most abject slavery upon all the Britons who are not electors, but also upon all the electors and members of parliament, who call themselves patriots, with as much confidence as some mistaken divines call themselves orthodox!
You reply, “In all collective bodies, the determinations of the majority of that body, are always considered as the determinations of the whole body: and every man who enters into society implicitly consents it should be so.” Mr. W. and I, Sir, thank you for this concession. If you and the colonists stand to it, you will throw down your pen, and they their arms. For every body knows, that Great Britain and her Colonies make a collective, political body, called the British empire: and you declare, that “in all” such bodies, “the determinations of the majority are always considered as the determinations of the whole body.” Now, Sir, if you do but allow that Great Britain is the majority of the British empire [and you cannot reasonably deny it; considering the glory, wealth, same and invincible navy of the mother-country; together with the grant she made to the Colonies of the large provinces, which they hold under her, as cottagers hold their gardens and habitations under the lord of the manor, who gave them leave to enclose and build upon a part of the waste within the limits of his jurisdiction] –if you do but allow, I say, that Great Britain are to be always considered as the determinations of the whole British empire; and every colony “implicitly consents it should be so.” But the American Colonies have not only implicitly consented it should be so; they have also done it explicitly, by humbly thanking the king for their charters, one of the first of which says, in express terms, you are exempt from paying taxes to the king for seven years; plainly implying, says Mr. W. with great truth, that, after those seven years, they were to pay taxes like other subjects, if the sovereign taxed them: and if the king and parliament have allowed them a longer time, it is absurd and wicked to draw from this indulgence a plea to palliate a notorious breach of trust. As for one their charters that of Pennsylvania*, it says in express terms, that they are liable to taxation by the parliament; and therefore their rising against such taxation is ingratitude, perverseness, and breach of charter almost from first to last.
*The Charter of Pennsylvania is called THE LAST: but the charters of Georgia and Florida are of a later date. The Author takes this opportunity to rectify that mistake, though it does not affect the merits of the cause. Should Mr. Evans say, that the charter of Pennsylvania, which so explicitly secures the parliamentary right of Taxation, was granted by a King of the Stuart Family; I reply, that since the accession of the House of Hanover, and before the present reign, the legislature of Great-Britain has again and again laid a duty or tax upon goods imported into America plantations into other parts of the world. And what was this, but taxing the American planters?
One more remark upon your important concession. If you grant that the minority in parliament has implicitly and passively consented to the measures of the majority, though very much against their will: witness their warm petitions, protestation, remonstrances, &c. do you not abundantly grant this leading proposition of Mr. W.’s Address, in a thousand cases, ‘any other than this kind of consent the condition of civil life does not allow?’ Thus [so great is the force of truth!] after all your outcry against your opponent, you yourself lay down his grand principle: you come back to the very point whence he started, and are reduced to the mortifying necessity of maintaining, that our English patriots, so called, are some of the most abject slaves in the universe; or that our American Colonies are some of the most unreasonable Colonies in the world, since they take up arms to oppose a legislative power to which they have consented, not only implicitly and passively, as the minority does to the majority in parliament; but explicitly and actively: witness the charter of the Colony in which the congress is assembled, and the constant submission, which for many years they have paid to the British laws; supreme laws these, according to which they have suffered their lives, and the liberty of their persons, to be disposed of; though they had no more hand in actually making these laws, than the Great Mogul; since most of them were made before any living Englishman drew his first breath.
To shew that taxation and representation are inseparable according to the constitution, you produce the bare assertions of lord Camden and lord Chatham, as well Montesquieu, a French author. But permit me to observe, Sir, that all the Frenchmen and English lords in the world, can never overthrow a doctrine which [as I have shewn in my first letter] Stands or falls with reason, scripture, and matter of fact.
If your noble auxiliaries, to whom you join Mr. Locke, mean an indirect representation, we readily assent to their assertion; and we reply, that in this sense, the taxation of the Colonists is not separated from representation: For the Colonies of Great Britain are indirectly represented by Great Britain, as the children of electors are indirectly represented by their fathers; as the non-voters; and as the electors who are at sea, or on the continent, are indirectly represented by those who are in the island. But if those lords mean a direct representation, they are desired to shew how all the myriads of men, nonvoters in Great Britain, to say nothing of minors, widows, maidens, bed-ridden or imprisoned burgesses, and absent freeholders, are directly represented in the parliament which now taxes them, if [through a variety of insurmountable obstacles] they neither did, nor could, vote for a representative at the last election.
Till you, Sir, or the lords who patronize your system, have removed this difficulty out of the way of your patriotism; you will allow us to think, that you deal in irrational, unscriptural, and unconstitutional paradoxes, when, speaking of taxation and direct representation, you say, “God has joined them. No British parliament can separate them: To endeavour to do it, is to stab our vitals.”
When you have rashly charged nonsense upon God, you may well indirectly charge robbery upon the king: Accordingly, your patriotism mounts the rostrum, and makes this convincing speech, “My position is this –I repeat it –I will maintain it to my last hour: taxation and representation are inseparable: this position is founded on the law of nature; it is more: it is an eternal law of nature:” –I grant it, Sir, if by nature you mean the fallen nature of the men who say, With our tongue will we prevail, our lips are our own; who is Lord over us? Ps. xii. 4. But you go on: “Whatever is a man’s own, is absolutely his own: no man has a right to take it from him without his consent, either expressed by himself or representative.” Nay, you grow so warm as to say, “Whoever attempts to do it,” [i. e. agreeably to the context, whoever attempts to tax a man, who has not consented to the tax, either personally or by his direct representative] “attempts an injury: whoever does it,” [and the king has done it] “commits a robbery,”-What a speech! God save the king from such severe judges as you are!
Nothing can be more false, Sir, than the principle on which you found your bold, though indirect indictment: “Whatever is a man’s own, is absolutely his own.” I do not scruple to assert, that this principle is detectable, as being unscriptural –irrational- and highly unconstitutional. –(1.) Unscriptural: For the scriptures teach us, that God is the first and grand proprietor of all things; that the powers that are, be ordained of him; and that [for the ends mentioned in my first letter] he delegates his dominion and authority to kings and magistrates. Hence it is, that both in the Old and New Testament, those who make and enforce laws, are called gods; and that St. Paul declares, He that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of god; and they that resist shall receive to themselves condemnation. To say therefore, that what we have, is absolutely our own, is to shake off the yoke of God’s supreme dominion, and of the delegated dominion of kings, lawgivers, and magistrates, who are his lieutenants and representatives.
(2.) Your principle is irrational: For, if whatever a man has, “is absolutely his own;” it follows that non-voters and foreigners, who never consented to our laws, either personally or by appointing their representatives, can never be taxed, imprisoned, or hanged, unless they first sign the warrants, by which their property, liberty, or life, is legally disposed of. And if to dispose of their property by taxation is robbery; by the same rule we may say, that to dispose of their liberty and life by legal warrants, which they have not endorsed, is inhospitable tyranny, and downright murder.
(3.)Your principle is highly unconstitutional. Not one half of the inhabitants of Great Britain have a share in the legislative power; nevertheless, the properties, liberties, and lives of all, are disposed of according to law. The constitution allows it: -the constitution enjoins it. And yet you tell us, that disposing of the property of non-voters is unconstitutional; and that to lay taxes upon them, is to commit robbery. Now, Sir, if you are right, the government robs 212 families in my parish only. With two of my neighbours I have just calculated the number of housekeepers in our little district: Upon a moderate computation we find 78 freeholders in 290 families. Hence it follows, that 212 families out of 290, have no share in legislation, either personally, or by sending any representative to parliament. And yet all these families are taxed: the masters of some of them, who live upon large farms, for which they pay the land-tax, pay more to the government than most freeholders. To say nothing of the land-tax and highway money, they are all taxed in most of the articles which they use in housekeeping. The tea and sugar they drink in the morning, the salt they eat at noon, the candle they burn at night, the shoes they wear all the day, are taxed: Their tobacco, snuff, gin, ale, and rum, [great articles with too many of them] are all taxed: Thus, according to your unconstitutional doctrine, they are robbed from morning till night. The freeholders, officers of excise, and collectors of taxes, are little robbers; and the king and his parliament, the great robbers. Did ever any patriot pour more contempt upon the constitution, than you inadvertently do? If you could proselyte me to your patriotism, Sir, I would no more celebrate the 5th of Nov. as a day of thanksgiving: I would with success to any man that would venture his neck, in order to blow up the den of thieves, with all the robbers who assemble therein.
You insinuate that these 212 non-voters are “able to purchase a freehold if they chuse it,” and to become voters for themselves and their families. But you are mistaken, Sir; I know my parish better than you do. Some of the housekeepers I mention, could not vote on account of their sex, though they should have twenty estates; and most of the rest would find it, through their poverty, much more difficult to purchase a freehold, than most of our American patriots.
You answer. If this is the case, their “property must be so small, that it can be of no consequence to them who has the granting of it.” But I argue in a quite contrary manner: For, if my poor parishioners have little of the necessaries of life, by every dictate of common sense, it is of the greatest consequence to them, not to be robbed of that little. Those who have blood to spare, may trust their arm in the hands of almost any surgeon: But those whose veins are already drained, are deeply interested in the choice of him, who is to let out the precious drops, which they can so ill part with. The parting with a couple of shillings, or the losing of two days work in mending the highways, is more to a poor man who has a large family, than the losing of 20001. is to a man of fortune. Taxes are never felt by the rich; because they pay them out of their superfluous abundance: whereas the Poor part with some of the necessaries of life, whenever they part with a penny. Besides, the poor, not being able to buy meat, live chiefly upon bread, which is the cheapest food. They eat a pound of it, where the rich eat an ounce. Therefore, when our wealthy legislators raise the price of bread, by allowing a bounty for the exportation of corn, or by forbidding the importation or permitting the distilling of it, they reap the principal benefit, and the poor bear the principal burden. You advance then, a monstrous paradox, when you insinuate, that legislation, “can be of no consequence” to the poor: For the capital branch of legislation, which raises or sinks the price of corn, chiefly concerns the lowest class of mankind, by whom corn is chiefly consumed.
This is not all. The legislative power disposes of our life and locomotive liberty, as well as of our property. I have seen some free-born Englishmen, who never had any share in legislation, put in the stocks or sent to jail: I have seen others loaded with irons, ready for transportation: and others with a rope about their neck, ready for the gallows. Now, as the poor are as much concerned in the disposal of their locomotive liberty and life, as the rich, do you not betray gross partiality, Sir, when you represent the poor, as persons who may be doomed to abject slavery, which your system supposes to be inseparably connected with our having no share in the legislator. Indigence and slavery are not naturally connected. The poor Indians are as jealous of their liberty as you. And when the Lacedemonians and the Romans were in the lowest circumstances, they valued their liberty most.
‘Tis ‘true, you insinuate that all who cannot purchase a freehold, are not absolutely obliged to remain slaves; because a place in the legislature is a “privilege extended in a few boroughs to every one that boils a pot.” But does not this very argument pour fresh contempt upon your notions of slavery and liberty? Does it not make English liberty, or abject slavery, to turn upon the boiling, or not boiling, of a pot? However, supposing that all who are not able to purchase freeholds, could avoid slavery by crowding with their families into the few boroughs you mention; which many Colonists could do with greater ease than thousands of Britons; Or, supposing this peculiar privilege were extended to all the pot boilers in Great Britain; would you mend the constitution by these means? No: you would only avoid one inconveniency by running upon another: For the rich would justly complain of a levelling scheme, which would allow every starving cottager to have as good a right of granting their property, as they have themselves.
Again: if Britons, and sons of Britons, must be “equally represented,” with respect to the disposal of their property, in order to be free-men; have not the rich a right to make a congress, and to enact, that, as the man who has forty shillings a year in land, has one vote; so he, who has twice forty shillings, should have two votes; and he who has ten thousand pounds a year, should have five thousand votes; by which means, he might return himself member for any poor borough in the kingdom? –On the other hand, will not the poor have as good a right to rise in their turn, and to form another congress, under pretence, that rich men have but one body, and one life, any more than the poor; and therefore it is unreasonable, that the rich should have so much greater a part in legislation than they? –Nor will the mischief stop here: the wife and experienced will rise also, and urge, it is absurd that a young man, or a fool, should have as great a share in the legislature as a wife, aged man; and they will insist on having votes according to their wisdom and years; nor will their claim be, in my judgment, the most unreasonable.
This is not all: every little market town, and every ancient village, will insist on sending two representatives to parliament, as well as Wenlock and Old Sarum. by the rule of proportion, large towns, cities, and populous counties will claim a right of sending a number of members so much greater, as they are larger than Cornish boroughs, and more populous than Huntingdonshire. Thus we shall have an army of parliament-men, who, like the Polish nobility at their diets, will not be able to hear one another speak, and will be more ready to draw the sword than to make laws. And if such a parliament is to be chosen every year, as you intimate it should, the nation will spend half her time in raising armies of pot-boilers, to raise another army of lawgivers.
From these, and many such inconveniences, it appears, Sir, that your scheme of equal representation is absurd and impossible; and that, before you can bring it to bear, you must first get all Britons to be equally wise, rich, noble, learned, experienced, and diligent: Secondly, you must make them all of one sex and age: and thirdly, you must contrive to make them all live in the same place, and at the same time. If you consider the difficulty of such a talk, I flatter myself, Sir, that you will be less ready to find fault with the constitution, and to make the injudicious wish for a revolution productive of equal representation, that is, of an absolute impossibility. Much less will you persuade injudicious patriots, that the king and the majority in parliament, “commit robbery,” and “stab our vitals,” when they tax the Colonists, as they do two out of three, of their subjects in England that is, without a direct representative.
You try indeed to obviate this difficulty by intimating, that the vast body of free-born Englishmen, who have no right to chuse their representatives, or who, through absence, cannot exercise their right, may “consent to the disposal of their property, because they have always this security, that those who take an active part in the disposal of their property, must, at the same, time dispose of an equal proportion of their own.” -Whereas “the American can have no voice in the disposal of his property; and what is worse, those who are to have the power of disposing of it, are under every possible temptation to abuse that power, because every shilling they take out of the pocket of an American, is so much saved in their own.”
As this is your capital argument, I shall give it a full answer –(1.) It is improbable, that our lawgivers would save a dirty shilling in their pocket, by oppressively taking one out of an American’s pocket. If I am rightly informed, they are so far from abusing their power in this respect, that when they take sixpence for the use of Government out of an American’s pocket, they take sixteen shillings out of their own. –(2.) Our excellent constitution obviates your ungenerous suspicion, by ordering, that the legislators, who compose the lower house of parliament, shall all be men of fortune, raised by their circumstances above the felonious trick you speak of. –(3.) You mistake, when you say that “the American can have no voice in the disposal of his property, for as many of the Colonists as chuse to purchase a freehold in England, may become electors; and as many as have a sufficient fortune, may become candidates at the next election. You speak, yourself, of you “late American candidate, who was a friend to America.” If I mistake not, we have American members in the house; and the papers inform us, that –Sayer Esq; who is a native of Boston, claims a seat in the parliament; and, if he obtains it, he will not only represent his borough, but also, in connection with his fellow-members, he will represent the commonalty of all the British empire, except Ireland. Hence it is, that the minority in parliament, though they are not the special representatives of the Colonists, plead their cause so warmly, even against the privileges of the electors, whom they particularly represent. –(4.) Supposing these American members have no estates beyond the Atlantic; are there not several members in both houses of parliament, who have a large, a very large property in America; and who, when they tax the Colonists, take far more money out of their won pocket, than they probably do out of the pocket of Mess. Adams and Hancock? –(5.) If the Colonists were afraid of being taxed more heavily than the rule of proportion allows; should they not have humbly requested the parliament, that, before they were taxed at all, their jealousies might be removed by an act drawn up in such a manner as to set bounds to their taxes, in proportion to the bounds which are set to their commercial privileges? And would not out lawgivers have granted them so reasonable a request? But, to rise absolutely against all taxation by act of parliament, merely because it is taxation, by the legislative power of Great Britain; to destroy the property of our fellow subjects, by raising riotous mobs against them; and to take up arms against the Sovereign to defend such proceedings, argues, in my judgment, a temper which you may call patriotism, but looks too much like the sin forbidden in Rom. xiii. 2. –Lastly, if pleading that our superiors may abuse their power over us, were a sufficient reason to shake of the yoke of lawful authority; all apprentices (though ever so well used) might directly emancipate themselves; for they might adopt your argument, and say, My master indeed uses me well; but “he is under every possible temptation” to starve me; since every meal which he will, save, in denying me proper food, will be a meal saved for himself or his own children; and therefore I will cut and carve for myself, or I will acknowledge him as a master no more.
I shall be less prolix in my answer to the rest of your arguments. You appeal to the Irish, who are taxed by their own parliament: but their case is very different from that of the Colonists; for Ireland was annexed to the dominions of the king of England, not as a colony or a kingdom NATURALLY and ORIGINALLY subjected to England, but as a sister-kingdom; and, as such, she has enjoyed the supreme power of making her own laws, and (in part) of coining her own money. This was the case with Scotland also; and therefore the Scots were allowed to send a number of representatives to both houses of parliament, when the two kingdoms were united into one. Not so the Colonies. They never were on a level with England; they never had supreme dominion; they were always the subjects of the King and parliament of England, who granted them the territories they enjoy; and therefore, for them to demand, in opposition to their charters, rights superior to those of the Britons, who settle abroad under the protection of Great Britain; and for them to claim the prerogatives of sister kingdoms, is as great a stretch of lawless liberty, for chartered corporations in England, or for the English settled in Minorca, Jamaica, Gibralter, Bengal, &c. to claim the prerogatives of supreme governments, and the privileges of the kingdoms which were joined by mutual agreement to the crown of England.
You likewise appeal to the Palatinate of Chester, whose inhabitants pleaded, “that the English parliament had no right to tax them; that they had a parliament of their own, &c. But, granting that the parliament of that Palatinate was once as independent on the English parliament as the Palatinate in Germany, can you, without absurdity, infer from thence, that the Colonists are so? Permit me to make you sensible of the inconclusiveness of your argument, by bringing it to light, this: ‘The Palatinate of Chester was formerly independent on the parliament of England: they could produce grants or charters to demonstrate, that they had a parliament of their own, and the prerogative of making their won laws; and therefore the Colonies, which have no such grants and charters; the Colonies, which have always been subject to the English parliament; -the Colonies, whose grants directly or indirectly mention subjection to the English parliament, shall not be subject to the English parliament.’ If Mr. W. had advanced such an argument as this, you might have as reasonable complained, that he deals in “childish quirks,” as you now do without reason; for common sense dictates, that it is as absurd to conclude, that the peculiar privileges enjoyed by the Palatinate of Chester, ought to be granted to all the Colonies; as it is to infer, that the peculiar privileges of the house of commons belong to every corporation in the kingdom.
To this refutation of your arguments, permit me to add a remark upon your answer to Mr. W.’s most striking plea. You are sensible of the advantage which he has over you, where he appeals to the express terms of the charters granted to the Colonists. You know, that honest men dare not go from their bargain; and that a charter is nothing but a solemn bargain committed to writing, whereby the sovereign makes such and such grants to his subjects, upon such and such terms; and you know, that if the subjects accept the grants, they agree to the terms on which these grants are made. Mr. W. says, “Remember your last charter, that of Pennsylvania, says, in express terms, you are liable to taxation.’ –Here, Sir, you seem embarrassed; and, to get off as well as you can, you tell us, that the clause of the charter, which Mr. W. appeals to, “was never never understood to mean a power of internal taxation for the purpose of raising a revenue; but merely the laying on of such duties, as might be necessary solely for the regulation of trade.” But your mistake was lately demonstrated before the house of lords, by the testimony of Governor Penn. Lord Denbigh asked him at the bar of the house, If he was well acquainted with the charter of Pennsylvania? He replied, that “he had read the charter, and was well acquainted with the contents.” Lord Denbigh asked, “If he did not know, there was a clause which specifically subjected the colony to taxation by the British legislature?” and he answered, “H was well apprized there was such a clause.” Now, Sir, as you are so evidently mistaken in your account of the charter of Pennsylvania; you will permit me to think, that you give us as fabulous an account of the charter of Massachussett’s Bay, when you say, you are credibly informed, that the exemption from taxes for seven years, which was granted to the colonists of that province, “had no reference to what we commonly mean by taxes, but to” something, which you call “quit rents.” –An odd criticism this, which I should imitate, if I insinuated, that when the Apostle charges us to pay custom, he does not mean, that we should pay what we commonly understand by custom; but only that tenants should pay their rent. From this specimen, it is easy to determine, who have most reason to complain of “mutilated charters,” the patriots or the parliament.
Having so long pleaded the cause of my Sovereign and my country, I may be allowed to bestow a few paragraphs upon my friend. You say to him, “It is fallacious to the last degree, and unworthy of a man of integrity and candour to insinuate, as you are pleased to do, that the people have ceded to the king and parliament the power of disposing, without their consent, of both their lives, liberties, and properties.” I shall make no remark, Rev. Sir, on the christian courtesy of this address. We, who pass for abject slaves, expect such liberal hints from you patriots, and to tell you the truth, we think it an honour to share them with our king, and our legislature. But, may not I ask a few questions, which will throw some light upon Mr. W’s remark? When did all the freeholders, who have estates from fifty to ninety-nine pounds a year, consent to be deprived of the liberty to carry a gun, and to shoot a hare on their own land? When did all the Quakers consent to pay tithes, for the non-payment of which their property is forcibly taken from them according to act of parliament, to the amount of several thousand pounds a year? When did all the clergy, who lately petitioned the parliament for the repeal of the thirty-nine articles, consent that the act, which orders subscription to these articles, should continue in force? When did all the freeholders in Middlesex consent to be additionally taxed, in order to enforce the taxation of the Colonists? When did all our blustering gentlemen consent to be sent to the house of correction, or to pay five shillings, every time they demean themselves, by prophane cursing or swearing? When did all the dissenters consent to the law, which obliges them to conform to the church of England, if they will have places under the government? And, to sum up all in one question, When did one half of the lords, who distinguish themselves by their violent opposition to the measures of the government, consent that their liberty, estate, title, and life, should be forfeited, if they should assist their fellow-patriots, who take up arms against the King and parliament? If you give me a satisfactory answer to these queries, I will give you leave to reflect on my friend’s integrity for his assertion. But remember, Sir, that if you fly to the back-door of an implicit consent to make your escape, Mr. Wesley, like an honest man, will meet you face to face; and stopping you in the name of consistency, he will demonstrate that, according to your evasive doctrine, you, yourself, have taxed the Colonists, “committed robbery,” and “stabbed our vitals.”
You try another method to overthrow Mr. Wesley’s arguments. You object, that, five years ago, he did not defend the measures taken with regard to America; because he :”doubted” whether they were at all defensible: and you have been informed, that he has since represented the Americans as “an oppressed, injured people:” and has warmly expressed his fears, with respect to the danger of our liberties. But who could blame Mr. Wesley then; and who can blame him now? Is not a good man bound by his conscience to judge without partiality, according to the best information he has? When Mr. W. heard the clamours of the patriots, so called, who inveighed against the sovereign, for breach of charter; he really thought that they had truth, and the charters of the Colonists, on their side; and therefore he considered the claims of the government upon the Colonists as subversive of charter, and consequently as faithless, injurious, and oppressive. Nor is it surprising that, upon such a wrong information, he should have thought our liberties in danger; for if the sovereign had really violated the charters of the Colonies, he might next have attempted to violate the Great Charter of England. But when Mr. W. was better informed; when he found that the charters of the Colonies were as much for the sovereign as the patriots had insinuated they were against him, Mr. W. would not have acted as a conscientious man, if he had not altered his mind, according to this important and decisive information.
But, supposing I mistake the reason, which has determined Mr. W. to defend the claims of Great Britain; and supposing you have been rightly informed concerning the change of his political sentiments; what can you infer from thence, but that he once leaned too much towards your over-doing patriotism. He once “doubted” the equity of the sovereign’s claims. His strong patriotism gave an hasty preponderance to his doubts; but, his candor having proceeded to a close examination of the question, light has sprung up; conviction has followed; and he has laid before the public the result of his second thoughts, and the arguments which have scattered his doubts. For my part, far from thinking the worse of a rational conviction, because it follows a doubt, and has met with some opposition in a good man’s mind, I am inclined to pay it a greater regard. And, if my friend’s warm patriotism has been forced to yield to the strength of the arguments contained in his Calm Address, I am thereby encouraged to hope, that your warm patriotism, Sir, will not be less candid than his; and that you will yield to the arguments contained in this calm Vindication. Should this be the case, the public will see in you both, that reason and conscience can, at last, perfectly balance patriotism and loyalty in the breast of a good man.
With respect to me, Sir, I had not deeply entered into the merits of the cause either way, before I saw Mr. W’s address and your answer to it. I contented myself to wish and pray for peace in general, without inquiring who was right and who wrong. But after an attentive perusal of your publications, I was fully convinced, that Mr. W.’s doctrine of government and taxation is rational, scriptural, and constitutional; and that your’s, Sir, draws after it a chain of the most absurd consequences, has a tendency to promote licentiousness, and is subversive of all the scripture-precepts which I have quoted in my first letter: And therefore, my reverence for God’s word, my duty to the king, my regard for my friend, my love to injured truth, and the consciousness of the sweet liberty, which I enjoy under the government, call for this little tribute of my pen. And I pay it so much the more chearfully, as few men in the kingdom have had a better opportunity of trying which is most eligible, -a republican government-or the mild, tempered monarchy of England. I have lived more than twenty years the subject of two of the mildest republics in Europe: I have been, for above that number of years, the subject of your sovereign; and, from sweet experience, I can set my seal to this clause of the king’s speech, at the opening of this session of parliament, “To be a subject of Great Britain, with all its consequences, is to be the happiest subject of any civil government in the world.” That you, Sir, and all my dissatisfied fellow-subjects, may be as sensible of this truth as myself; and that I may be daily more thankful to God, to the king, and to the parliament, for the religious and civil liberty which we enjoy, is the cordial wish of, Rev. Sir, Your affectionate fellow-labourer in the Gospel, J. F.