to shut them up : but, if it should be found necessary, we may
enter into solemn agreement, to cease from all litigations at law,
except in particular cases. We may regulate law-suits in such a
manner as to prevent any mischief that might arise from them.
Kestrictions may be laid on, to hinder merciless creditors from
taking advantage of the times to oppress and ruin their debtors :
but, at the same time, not to put it in the power of the debtors,
wantonly to withhold their just dues from their creditors, when
they are able to pay them. The law ruins many a good honest
family. Disputes may be settled in a more friendly way. One
or two virtuous neighbors may be chosen by each party to de
cide them. If the next Congress should think any regulations,
concerning the courts of justice, requisite, they will make them ;
and proper persons will be appointed to carry them into execu
34 HAMILTON'S WORKS.
tion, and to see that no individuals deviate from them. It will
be your duty to elect persons whose fidelity and zeal for your
interest you can depend upon, to represent you in that Congress,
which is to meet in Philadelphia in May ensuing.
The Farmer cries, "Tell me not of delegates, congresses,
committees, mobs, riots, insurrections, associations: a plague on
them all 1 Give me the steady, uniform, unbiassed, influence of
the courts of justice. I have been happy under their protection;
and, I trust in God, I shall be so again."
I say, tell me not of the British Commons, lords, ministry,
ministerial tools, placemen, pensioners, parasites. I scorn to let
my life and property depend upon the pleasure of any of them.
Give me the steady, uniform, unshaken, security of constitu
tional freedom. Give me the right to be tried by a jury of my
own neighbors; and to be taxed by my own representatives
only. What will become of the law and courts of justice with
out this ? The shadow may remain, but the substance will be
gone. I would die to preserve the law upon a solid foundation :
but take away liberty, and the foundation is destroyed.
The last thing I shall take notice of, is the complaint of the
Farmer, that the Congress will not allow you "a dish of tea to
please your wives with, nor a glass of Madeira to cheer your
spirits, nor a spoonful of molasses to sweeten your buttermilk
with." You would have a right to complain, if the use of these
things had been forbidden to you alone : but it has been equally
forbidden to all sorts of people. The members of the Congress,
themselves, are no more permitted to please their wives with a
dish of tea, nor to cheer their spirits with a glass of wine, nor to
sweeten their buttermilk with a spoonful of molasses, than you
are. They are upon a footing with you in this respect.
By him but, with your leave, my friends, we'll try, if we
can, to do without swearing. I say, it is enough to make a man
mad, to hear such ridiculous quibbles offered, instead of sound
argument : but so it is : the piece I am writing against contains
When a man grows warm, he has a confounded itch for
swearing. I have been going, above twenty times, to rap out an
^ET. 17.] A FULL VINDICATION. 35
oath, ~By him that made me : but I have checked myself with the
reflection, that it is rather unmannerly to treat him that made us
with so much freedom.
Thus have I examined and confuted all the cavils and objec
tions, of any consequence, stated by this Farmer. I have only
passed over such things as are of little weight, the fallacy
of which will easily appear. I have shown, that the Congress
have neither " ignorantly misunderstood, carelessly neglected,
nor basely betrayed you ;" but that they have devised and re
commended the only effectual means to preserve your invalua
ble privileges. I have proved that their measures cannot fail of
success ; but will procure the most speedy relief for us. I have
also proved, that the farmers are the people who would suffer
least, should we be obliged to carry all our measures into exe
Will you, then, my friends, allow yourselves to be duped by
this artful enemy ? Will you follow his advices, disregard the
authority of your Congress, and bring ruin on yourselves and
posterity ? Will you act in such a manner as to deserve the
hatred and resentment of all the rest of America ? I am sure
you will not. I should be sorry to think any of my country
men would be so mean, so blind to their own interest, so lost to
every generous and manly feeling.
The sort of men I am opposing, give you fair words to per
suade you to serve their own turns ; but they think and speak
of you, in common, in a very disrespectful manner. I have
heard some of their party talk of you, as the most ignorant and
mean-spirited set of people in the world. They say that you
have no sense of honor or generosity; that you don't care a
farthing about your country, children, nor any body else but
yourselves: and that you are so ignorant, as not to be able
to look beyond the present: so that if you can once be per
suaded to believe the measures of your Congress will involve
you in some little present perplexities, you will be glad to do
any thing to avoid them ; without considering the much greater
miseries that await you at a little distance off. This is the char
acter they give of you. Bad men are apt to paint others like
36 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [-fix. 17.
themselves. For my part, I will never entertain such an opinion
of you, unless you should verify their words, by wilfully falling
into the pit they have prepared for you. I flatter myself you
will convince them of their error by showing the world you are
capable of judging what is right and left, and have resolution to
All I ask, is, that you will judge for yourselves. I don't de
sire you to take my opinion, nor any man's opinion, as the guide
of your actions. I have stated a number of plain arguments.
I have supported them with several well-known facts. It is your
business to draw a conclusion, and act accordingly. I caution
you, again and again, to beware of the men who advise you to
forsake the plain path marked out for you by the Congress.
They only mean to deceive and betray you. Our representa
tives in General Assembly cannot take any wiser or better course
to settle our differences, than our representatives in the Conti
nental Congress have taken. If you join with the rest of Ame
rica in the same common measure, you will be sure to preserve
your liberties inviolate : but if you separate from them, and
seek for redress alone, and unseconded, you will certainly fall a
prey to your enemies, and repent your folly as long as you live.
May Grod give you wisdom to see what is your true interest,
and inspire you with becoming zeal for the cause of virtue and
THE FARMER REFUTED.
FEBRUARY 5, 1775.
The Farmer Refuted ; or, a more comprehensive and im
partial View of the Disputes between Great Britain
and the Colonies. Intended as a further Vindication
of the Congress, in answer to a Letter from a West-
chester Farmer, entitled a View of the Controversy
between Great Britain and her Colonies, including a
mode of determining the present disputes, finally and
effectually, &c. By a sincere friend to America.
Tituli remedia pollicentur, sed pixedes ipsse venena
continent The title promises remedies, but the box
itself poisons. Printed by James Rivington, IT 7 5.
The writer of the ensuing sheets can, with truth, say more than the generality
of those who either espouse or oppose the claim of the BRITISH PARLIAMENT;
which is, that his political opinions have been the result of mature deliberation and
rational inquiry. They have not been influenced by prejudice, nor by any inter
ested or ambitious motives. They are not the spawn of licentious clamors, or po
pular declamation ; but the genuine offspring of sober reason. To those who are
inclined to doubt his sincerity, he begs leave to recommend a little more charity. To
those who are possessed of greater candor, and who yet may be disposed to ask,
38 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [JET. 18.
How he can be sure that his opinions have not been influenced by prejudice ? He
answers, Because he remembers the time, when he had strong prejudices on the
side he now opposes. His change of sentiment (he firmly believes), proceeded from
the superior force of the arguments in favor of the American claims.
Though he is convinced there are too many, whose judgments are led captive by
the most venal and despicable motives, yet he does not presume to think every
man, who differs from him, either fool or knave. He is sensible there are men of
parts and virtue, whose notions are entirely contrary to his. To imagine there are
not wise and good men on both sides, must be the effect of a weak head, or a cor
rupt heart. He earnestly entreats the candid attention of the judicious and well-
meaning ; and hopes that what he has written may be read with as much impar
tiality, and as sincere a regard to truth, as the importance of the controversy de
SIR, I resume my pen, in reply to the curious epistle you
have been pleased to favor me with ; and can assure you, that
notwithstanding I am naturally of a grave and phlegmatic dispo
sition, it has been the source of abundant merriment to me. The
spirit that breathes throughout, is so rancorous, illiberal, and im
perious ; the argumentative part of it is so puerile and fallacious ;
the misrepresentations of facts, so palpable and flagrant ; the cri
ticisms so illiterate, trifling, and absurd; the conceits so low,
sterile, and splenetic ; that I will venture to pronounce it one of
the most ludicrous performances which has been exhibited to
public view during all the present controversy.
You have not even imposed on me the laborious task of pur
suing you through a labyrinth of subtilty. You have not had
ability sufficient, however violent your efforts, to try the depths
of sophistry ; but have barely skimmed along its surface. I
should almost deem the animadversions I am going to make un
necessary, were it not that without them you might exult in a
fancied victory, and arrogate to yourself imaginary trophies.
But, while I pass this judgment, it is not my intention to de
tract from your real merit. Candor obliges me to acknowledge
that you possess every accomplishment of a polemical writer
which may serve to dazzle and mislead superficial and vulgar
minds : a peremptory, dictatorial air,; a pert vivacity of expres
sion ; an inordinate passion for conceit ; and a noble disdain of
being fettered by the laws of truth. These, sir, are important
qualifications ; and these all unite in you in a very eminent
JET. IS.] THE FARMER REFUTED. 39
degree. So that, though you may never expect the plaudits of
the judicious and discerning, you may console yourself with this
" Fools and witlings ' will' ev'ry sentence raise,
And wonder, with a foolish face of praise."
You will, do doubt, be pleased with this further concession ;
to wit : that there is a striking resemblance between yourself and
the renowned hero of the Dunciad. " Pert dulness" seems to be
the chief characteristic of your genius as well as his. I might
point out a variety of circumstances in which you both agree ;
but I shall content myself with having given the hint, and leave
it to yourself and to your other*' admirers, to prosecute a compa
rison, which will reflect so high lustre on the object of admi
Having thus briefly delivered my sentiments of your per
formance in general, I shall proceed to a particular examination
of it, so far as may be requisite, towards placing it in that just
point of light in which it ought to stand. I flatter myself, I
shall find no difficulty in obviating the objections you have pro.
duced against the "Full Vindication;" and in showing that your
" View of the Controversy between Great Britain and the Colo
nies," is not only partial and unjust, but diametrically opposite to
the first principles of civil society. In doing this, I may occa
sionally interweave some strictures on the " Congress Canvassed."
First, then, I observe you endeavor to bring the imputation
of inconsistency upon me, for writing " a long and elaborate
pamphlet, to justify decisions, against whose influence none but
impotent attempts had been made." A little attention would have
unfolded the whole mystery. The reason assigned for what I
did was, " lest those attempts," impotent as they were, in a gene
ral sense, "might yet have a tendency to mislead and prejudice
the minds of a few." To prevent this, I wrote ; and if I have
been instrumental in preserving a single person from the baneful
* If we may judge from the style and turn of thought, you were pleased to be
your own admirer in the card in reply.
40 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [Mi. IS.
effects of your insidious efforts, I shall not regret the time I have
devoted to that laudable purpose. To confirm, or to add, one
friend to his country, would afford a more refined and perma-
ment satisfaction to me, than could possibly animate the breast
of the proudest ministerial minion, though elevated to the pinna
cle of his wished-for preferment, and basking in the sunshine of
court favor, as the despicable wages of his prostitution and servi
You tell me, "I knew, that at the bar of impartial reason and
common sense, the conduct of the Congress must be condemned ;
but was too much interested, too deeply engaged in party views
and party heats to bear this with patience, /had no remedy
(you say) but artifice, sophistry, misrepresentation and abuse"
These you call " my weapons, and these I wield like an old ex
You ask, " Is this too heavy a charge ? Can you lay your
hand upon your heart, and upon your honor plead not guilty ?"
Yes, sir, I can do more. I can make a solemn appeal to the tri
bunal of Heaven, for the rectitude of my intentions. I can affirm,
with the most scrupulous regard to truth, that I am of opin
ion the conduct of the Congress will bear the most impartial
scrutiny ; that I am not interested more than as the felicity and
prosperity of this vast continent are concerned ; and that I am
perfectly disengaged from party of every kind.
Here, I expect you will exclaim, with your usual vehemence
and indecency, " You are now espousing the cause of a party !
It is the most daring impudence and falsehood to assert the con
trary !" I can by no means conceive, that an opposition to a
small herd of malcontents, among whom you have thought pro
per to rank, and a zealous attachment to the general measures of
America, can be denominated the effect of a party spirit. You,
sir, and your adherents, may be justly deemed a faction, because
you compose a small number inimical to the common voice of
your country. To determine the truth of this affirmation, it is
necessary to take a comprehensive view of all the colonies.
Throughout your letter, you seem to consider me as a person
who has acted, and is still acting, some part in the formation and
^ET. 18.] THE FARMER REFUTED. 41
execution of public measures. You tacitly represent me as a
Delegate, or member of the Committee. Whether this be done
with a design to create a suspicion of my sincerity, or whether it
be really your opinion, I know not. Perhaps it is from a com
plex motive. But I can assure you, if you are in earnest, that
you are entirely mistaken. I have taken no other part in the
affair, than that of defending the proceedings of the Congress, in
conversation, and by the pamphlet I lately published. I ap
proved of them, and thought an undeviating compliance with
them essential to the preservation of American freedom. I shall,
therefore, strenuously exert myself for the promotion of that va
In the field of literary contention, it is common to see the
epithets artifice, sophistry, misrepresentation, and abuse, mutually
bandied about. Whether they are more justly applicable to you,
or to me, the public must decide. With respect to abuse, I make
not the least doubt but every reader will allow you to surpass
me in that.
Your envenomed pen has endeavored to sully the characters
of our continental representatives with the presumptuous charges
of ignorance, knavery, sedition, rebellion, treason, and tyranny
a tremendous catalogue, indeed 1 Nor have you treated their
friends and adherents with any greater degree of complaisance.
You have also delineated the mercantile body as entirely devoid of
principle ; and the several committees, as bands of robbers and
petty tyrants. In short, except the few who are of your own
complexion and stamp, "the virtuous friends of order and good
government," you have not hesitated to exercise your obloquy
and malevolence against the whole continent.
These things being considered, it is manifest, that in my
answer to your " Free Thoughts," I treated you with more lenity
than you had a right to expect ; and did by no means observe
the strict law of retaliation. None but yourself, will think you
can, with the least propriety, complain of abuse.
I congratulate myself upon the sentiments you entertain of
my last performance. Such is my opinion of your abilities as a
critic, that I very much prefer your disapprobation to your ap-
42 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [^Ei. 18.
plause. But with respect to the brilliancy of thought you speak
of, give me leave to inform you, that I aimed at nothing more
than justness of thought. I addressed myself to the judgment,
not to the imagination. In works where fancy is predominant,
as is the case with yours, there is a better opportunity for dis
playing brilliancy of thought, than where reason presides and
directs. No wonder, then, if you have excelled me in this par
ticular ; since your plan is so much more favorable to it than
I shall, for the present, pass over that part of your pamphlet,
in which you endeavor to establish the supremacy of the British
Parliament over America. After a proper eclaircissement of
this point, I shall draw such inferences as will sap the foundation
of every thing you have offered.
The first thing that presents itself, is a wish, that " I had, ex
plicitly, declared to the public, my ideas of the natural rights of
mankind. Man, in a state of nature (you say), may be consi
dered as perfectly free from all restraint of law and government;
and then, the weak must submit to the strong."
I shall, henceforth, begin to make some allowance for that
enmity you have discovered to the natural rights of mankind.
For, though ignorance of them, in this enlightened age, cannot
be admitted as a sufficient excuse for you ; yet it ought, in some
measure, to extenuate your guilt. If you will follow my advice,
there still may be hopes of your reformation. Apply yourself,
without delay, to the study of the law of nature. I would re
commend to your perusal, Grotius, Puffendorf, Locke, Montes
quieu, and Burlemaqui. I might mention other excellent
writers on this subject ; but if you attend diligently to these,
you will not require any others.
There is so strong a similitude between your political prin
ciples and those maintained by Mr. Hobbes, that, in judging from
them, a person might very easily mistake you for a disciple of
his. His opinion was exactly coincident with yours, relative to
man in a state of nature. He held, as you do, that he was,'
then, perfectly free from all restraint of law and government.
Moral obligation, according to him, is derived from the intro-
JEi. 18.] THE FARMER REFUTED. 43
duction of civil society; and there is no virtue but what is
purely artificial, the mere contrivance of politicians, for the main
tenance of social intercourse. But the reason he run into this
absurd and impious doctrine, was, that he disbelieved the exist
ence of an intelligent, superintending principle, who is the Gov
ernor, and will be the final judge of the universe.
As you sometimes swear by Mm that made you, I conclude
your sentiments do not correspond with his, in that which is the
basis of the doctrine you both agree in : and this makes it impos
sible to imagine whence this congruity between you arises. To
grant, that there is a supreme intelligence, who rules the world,
and has established laws to regulate the actions of his creatures ;
and, still, to assert that man, in a state of nature, may be con
sidered as perfectly free from all restraints of law and government,
appears, to a common understanding, altogether irreconcilable.
Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dis
similar theory. They have supposed, that the Deity, from the
relations we stand in to Himself, and to each other, has con
stituted an eternal and immutable law, which is indispensably
obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution
This is what is called the law of nature, " which, being
coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is, of course,
superior in obligations to any other. It is binding over all the
globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are
of any validity, if contrary to this ; and such of them as are
valid, derive all their authority, mediately, or immediately, from
this original." BLACKSTONE.
Upon this law depend the natural rights of mankind : the
Supreme Being gave existence to man, together with the means
of preserving and beautifying that existence. He endowed him
with rational faculties, by the help of which, to discern and
pursue such things as were consistent with his duty and interest ;
and invested him with an inviolable right to personal liberty
and personal safety.
Hence, in a state of nature, no man had any moral power to
deprive another of his life, limbs, property, or liberty ; nor the
44 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [JET. 18.
least authority to command, or exact, obedience from him, ex
cept that which arose from the ties of consanguinity.
Hence, also, the origin of all civil government, justly estab
lished, must be a voluntary compact between the rulers and
the ruled ; and must be liable to such limitations, as are neces
sary for the security of the absolute rights of the latter : for what
original title can any man, or set of men, have to govern others,
except their own consent? To usurp dominion over a people,
in their own despite ; or to grasp at a more extensive power
than they are willing to intrust ; is to violate that law of nature,
which gives every man a right to his personal liberty ; and can y
therefore, confer no obligation to obedience.
" The principal aim of society, is to protect individuals in
the enjoyment of those absolute rights which were vested in
them by the immutable laws of nature ; but which could not be
preserved, in peace, without that mutual assistance and inter
course, which is gained by the institution of friendly and social
communities. Hence it follows, that the first and primary end
of human laws, is to maintain and regulate these absolute rights
of individuals." BLACKSTONE.
If we examine the pretensions of Parliament by this criterion,
which is evidently a good one, we shall presently detect their
injustice. First, they are subversive of our natural liberty, be
cause an authority is assumed over us, which we by no means
assent to. And, secondly, they divest us of that moral security,
for our lives and properties, which we are entitled to, and which
it is the primary end of society to bestow. For such security can
never exist, while we have no part in making the laws that are
to bind us ; and while it may be the interest of our uncontrolled
legislators to oppress us as much as possible.
To deny these principles, will be not less absurd, than to
deny the plainest axioms. I shall not, therefore, attempt any
further illustration of them.
You say, " When I assert, that since Americans have not, by
any act of theirs, empowered the British Parliament to make
laws for them, it follows they can have no just authority to do
it ; I advance a position subversive of that dependence, which
MT. 18.] THE FARMER REFUTED. 45
all colonies must, from their very nature, have on the mother
country." The premises from which I drew this conclusion, are
indisputable. You have not detected any fallacy in them ; but
endeavor to overthrow them by deducing a false and imaginary
consequence. My principles admit the only dependence which
can subsist, consistent with any idea of civil liberty, or with the
future welfare of the British empire, as will appear hereafter.
" The dependence of the colonies on, the mother country,"
you assert, " has ever been acknowledged. It is an impropriety