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Construction construed, and constitutions vindicated online

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fore be the same. Freedom of religion being the discovery by
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which religious liberty eould only be established ; freedom of
property must be the only means also, for the establishment of
civil libeiiy. Pecuniary fanaticism, undisciplined by constitu-
tional principles, is such an instrument for oppression, as an un-
disciplined religious fanaticism. A power in governments to
regulate individud wealth, will be directly guided by those
very motives, which indirectly influenced /^l governments, pos-
sessed of a power to regulate religious opinions and rites. Jf
we have only restrained one of these powers, we have most im-
providently retained the other, under which mankind have
groaned in all ages ; and which at this time is sufficient to op-
press or enslave the European nations, although they have
drawn some, of the teeth of religious fanaticism. An adora-
tion of military fame, specious projects and eminent individu-
als^ has in all ages brought on mankind a multitude of evils ;
and a sound freedom of property is the only mode that I
know of, able to destroy the worship of these idols, by remov-
ing beyond their reach the sacrifices upon which themselves,
and their proselytes, subsist

. Many princes have patronized literature, but none have pa-
tronized knowledge. Augustus was celebrated for the former
species of munificence ; yet the temporary splendors of impe-
rial patronage were soon obscured by the bad principle of &
tyranny over property ; a principle, unpropitious to knowledge,
because it was hostile to individual liberty. We must reason
from a compariscm between general or universal facts, and not
from a contemplation of temporary exceptions, to come at truth;
and when we discovei: that an absolute power over property,
thoi^gh occasionally exercised for the attainment of praise-wor-
thy ends, is yet constantly attended by general evils, infinitely
outweighing such particular benefits ; we forbear to draw our
concli|sipn from the partial cases, or decide erroneously. A
truth, established by its universality, ought to be an overma^h
for the sophistries of cupidity. The best general principle, un-
der the destiny of mankind, is capable of producing partial
evils. The freedom of the press, of religion, and of property,
may occasionally produce inconvenienpes ; but ought mankind
therefore to transfer their approbation from these three founda*
tions of citil liberty, to the instiiiments by which it is des-
troyed ?



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No form of government can foster a fanaticism for wealths
without being corrupted. The courtiers oi republicks, able to v
exercise an absolute power over the national property, are more
numerous and more vicious than the courtiers of kings, because
access to patrons is easier ; they have more occasion for parti-
sans, and a multiplication of despots over property multiplies
the channels of fraud. New ones also are frequently opened by
a revolution of parties, and of patrons, who with their favorites
and dependants^ are in haste to bolster power or amass wealth,
during the continuance of a fleeting authority. Against a propen-
sity so mischievous, and so fatal to repubiicks, there seems to
be no resource, but a constitutional prohibition of the power by
which it is nurtured; and a rejection of precedents, by which
infringements of so wholesome a prohibition are usually justi-
fies]. Both reason and morality unite to impress upon nations,
a necessity for imposing restraints upon a propensity, which
may so easily be concealed under the most glittering robes of
patriotism. What real patriot would feel himself molested,
by restraints upon avarice and ambition ? Are not both unfriend-
ly to human happiness ? Some patriots have sacrificed their
lives for the happiness of their country. Is the sacrifice of an
error, by which fraud and avarice are nurtured, too much to ex-
pc^ of ours ? ' I

A love of wealth, fostered by honest industry, is an ally both (
of moral rectitude, and national happiness, because it can only
be gratified by increasing the fund for national subsistence, ^
comfort, strength and prosperity^ but a love of wealthy fostered
by partial laws for enriching corporations and individuals, is
allied to immorality and oppression, because it is gratified at
the expense of industry, and diminishes its ability to work out
national blessings.

Look for a moment at Congress, as a power for creating pe-
cuniary inequalities, or for striking balances between ffivours to
states, combinations and individuals. If it could even distri-
bute wealth and poverty, by some just scale, which has never
yet been discovered, justice itself would beget discontent, and
sow among its medley of courtiers, a mass of discord, &ot more
propitious to the safety of tiie union, than to the happiness of
the people* All would weigh their own merits, and none would
be convinced that they were light Even the distribution of



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those preCBrenceSy necesaarj to ciyil goVerDment, is IkUe to
defects and productive of inconveniences. Where then is tlie
wisdom of extending the power beyond the Hmits of social ne-
eessitj, to the despotick principle of a gratuitous distribution
of wealth and poverty by law; and of converting a small evil»
abundantly counterbalanced by the Uessings oi government,
into a calamity by which these blessings are diminished or des-
troyed ?

To answer this question, turn your eyes towards a govern-
ment accoutred in the complete panoply of fleets, armies, banks»
funding systems, pensions, bounties, corporations, exchisive pri-

/ vileges ; and in short, possessing an absolute power to distribute
property, according to the pleasure, the pride, the interest, the
ambition^ and the avarice of its administrators ; and consider
whether such a government is the servant or the master of the
nation. However oppressive, is it not able to defy, to deride
and to punish the cmnpl^dnts of the people? Partisans, pur>
chased and made powerful by^ their wealth, zealously sustain the
abuses by which their own passions are gratified. I discern
no reason in the principles of our revolution, for investing our
governments with such of these instruments for oppression, as
were bo& unnecessary for the end in view, and even inimical
to its attainment ; and no such reason existing, it is more difit*
cult to discern the propriety of investing our governments with
these superfluous and pernicious powers, by teference and con-
struction. Would liberty be well established in England, if
her hierarchy was destroyed, whilst the government retained
the absolute power of distributing wealth and poverty? Is not
that establishment merely one of the modes for exercising this
species of despotism ; and what substantial or lasting remedy
could arise from abolishing one mode, whilst others remained
amply sufficient to establish the same pernicious principle ? Is
not a power of transferring property by pensions, bounties, cor-
porations and exclusive privileges ; and even of bestowing pub*
lick money by the unlimited will of legislative bodies, as dan*
gerous to liberty, as a power of doing the same thing by the in-

, struraentality of a privileged church? Is the casuistry consistent,
which denies to a government the power of infringing the free-
dom of religion^ and yet invests it with a despotism over the
freedom of property ? A corporation* combination, (n: chartered



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church for one purpose, in its pecuniary effects, is anaUgons to {
corporations for effecting the other. It has been said, that govern-
ment in its best form is an evil. This absurd idea seems to have
been suggested, by its being usually invested with an army of
supernumerary powers wholly unnecessary for effecting the end
of preserving social tranquillity and safety. Against these su-
pernumerary powers, the United States waged a long war, upon ^
the ground, that goveniments are instituted to secure, and not
to bestow the freedom of property ; and it would be highly ab-
surd to suppose, that having established their great principle,
they directly became contented with an unfruitful theory, and
surrendered the idea of its application. It was tyrannical in
the English government, said the colonies* to insist upon taking
away.tlieir property, and giving it to placemen and pensioners ;
and they very justly considered life and liberty as so intimate-
ly connected with property, that the rights of the latter could
not be mvaded, without invading the other rights also. They
fought for a revolution, and established governments to secure
all three^f these natural rights, because a loss of one was equi-
valent to a loss of all, in a national view.
. I see no infallible criterion for defining the nature of a go-
vernment, except its acts. If the acts of a monarchy, aristocra-
cy, and democracy are the same, these forms of government
are to a nation essentially the same also. To contend for forms
only, is to fight for shadows. The United States did not go to
war for nothing but forms. A government is substantially good
or bad, in the d^ree that it produces the happiness or misery
of a nation ; and I see but Uttle difficulty in finding a mode of
detecting the fallacy of form, and the frauds of profession. If
we can ascertain the quality in human nature, from which poli-
tical evil has chiefly proceeded under every form of govern-
ment, this quality is the cause which can corrupt any form ;
and instead of amusing ourselves with tliese new forms, not to
be confided in, it behooves us to search for a remedy, able to
remove or control the cause itself.

Cupidity, avarice or monopoly, both in the savage and civil*
ized state, is the quality of human nature, always requiring
control, and always striving to break down the restraints im-
posed upon it. To resist this quality, the United States en-
dured the evils of a long war with a powerful nation. They had



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seen a limited monarchy tried in the parent country, as a re**
medy for this bad quality of human nature ; but ineffectually;
because a considerable power remained with the king, and an
absolute power was conceded to or usurped by the goYemment,
of'distributing property. The hostile principles, of leaving
men to be enriched by their own industry, or of enriching them
by the BiYours of the government, were to be weighed against
each other ; that which made many poor to enrich a few was
rejected, and that which encouraged industry was preferred, in
the most distinct manner, as I shall hereafter endeavour to proves
Almost all governments have espoused and nourished the
spirit of avarice, which they were instituted to discipline by
justice; and have betrayed the weak, whom it was their duty
to protect. In assuming a power of distributing property by
law, they have reduced it in a great degree to a destiny, ap-
proximating to its savage destiny, when subjected to force. From
this cause have arisen the most pernicious imperfections of soci-
ety. Aristocracies and democracies, by usurping this despotick
power, in imitation of monarefas, have driven nations into a cir**
cle of forms, throu^ which they have perpetually returned to
the oppression they intended to escape. Had the essentialsy-
rather than the structure of governments, attracted the atten-
tion of mankind, they would not have trusted to any theory,
however excellent, assertii^ it to be the duty of a government
to protect rights ; under a system of leg^lation, by which go-
vernments of the worst forms destroy them. They would have
discovered, that a power of distributing property, according to"
its pleasure, has made governments of the best forms, bad ; and
that a remedy for an evil, poisonous to the best theories, ought to
awaken their solicitude and ingenuity. For want of this reme-
dy, repuWicks, of the finest theoretical structure, have univer-
sally died more prematurely, even than absolute monarchies ;
because, tlie more numerous the depositaries of an absolute
power over property have become, the more widely has the spi-
rit of avarice or monopoly been excited. If this universal cause
of oppression must exist, that government which afforded the
most channels for its operation, is the worst ; and hence has ari-
sen the general preference of mankind for monarchy. Govern-
ments of all forms having exercised an absolute power over pro-
perty, they have experimentally ascertained, that the oppression



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derived from this source was the most tolerable, when the ty-
rants were tiie least numerous.

If the age has at length arrived, in which knowledge is able
to break tlie fetters forged by fraud and credulity, political en-
quiry, as in other sciences, may take its stand on the eminence
of truth, hail with exultation the happy advent, and direct its
arrows straight forward against an error fraught with plagues
to mankind.

To define the nature of a government truly, I would day,
that a power of distributing property, able to gratify avarice
and m<Hiopoly, designated a bad one ; and that the absence of
every such power, designated t good one.

Of what value is an exchange of one system of monopoly for
another ? How shall we estimate the dift'erence between noble
and clerical orders, and between combinations of exclusive
pecuniary privileges? Is pure avarice better than some honour
and some sanctity? The encroachments upon property by
noble and clerical combinations, once fixed by law, remained
srtationarj; and each indindual could calculate his fate with
some certai&ty : but pecuniary combinations, once sanctioned
Ml constitutional, will perpetually open new channels, and breed
new. invaders, whose whole business it will be, to make inroads
upaa the territories of industry. Legislatures will become col-
leges ftjar teaching the science of getting money by monopolies
or favours ; and the deluge of laws will become as great in the
United States, as was once the deluge of papal indulgences in
Europe for effecting the same object What an unaccountable
feature of the human character it is, that it should exert so
n^uch ingenuity to get the property of others, and be so dull in
finding out means for the preservation of its own ?

The morality of the gospel and that of monopoly, seem to
me, not to bear the least resemblance to each other. A christian
" loves man. His light must shine before men. He keeps judg-
« ment and does justice. He trusts in the Lord and does go6d.
" He lives in goodness and honesty. He is a doer and not a
« hearer only of the divine law.. Whoever doeth not right, is
« not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. Repen-
« tance and an avoidance of sin, constitute the claim to the
« atonenient of a saviour. By their works ye shall know them."
The pope of Rome for many cebturies persuaded the people






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of Europe, that he falftlled all these texts of scriptore, bj utter*
ing annually a great number of indulgences, to cheat the pe^le
of money.

Is there a man who could be so infatuated, as to foster zea-
lously both Uble and missionary societies, and also a spirit id
ararice and monopoly ? Geographical malice, comlnned frauds,
indiridual deceit, and civil commotion, some of the dBTects o^
this latter policy, suggest the idea, that the same person is
equally zealous to convert the heathens to Christianity, and the
christians to heathenism. This ideal character may be also a
philosopher, who ridicules the notion of being saved by faith
witliout works; and yet contends that the people ought to con-
fide in furns without act^b and take it for granted that their
property will be safe under a theory, which exercises an abso-
lute power over it If he should make an eloquent speech, one
half in favour of the theory of equal laws, and the other half
in favour of actual exclusive privileges, what should we think ?
that it was like placing Christ on the car of Juggernaut, and
dressing the United States in British r^mentals.

There are sundry points of resemblance between the Englisk
revolution in the time of Charles the first, and ours, replete
with edification. Let us go into a comparison. The English re-
formation of religion, by compromising with the rapaciousnessd"
individuals, and by ret»ning sundty of the principles and ha-
bits of popery, inoculated the government with a poison, which
diffused its virulence throughout tlie body politick, and conta-
minated the blessings promised by the experiment. Those who
resisted the frauds of selfishness, and the artifices of ambition,
were called puritans ; and the derision of a nickname, united
with the excesses produced by oppression, to render the doctrine
of a freedom of religion, botli ridiculous and detestable. Those
who contended for it, were successfully represented as wiM
visionaries, whose views were unnatural and impracticable.
Yet to these puritans the United States are indebted for the
religious freedom they enjoy ; and the whole world, for a refu-
tation of the ailments advanced by ambition and avarice, to
obstruct the progress of political improvement, and the advance-
ment of human happiness.

The same contrivances practised in England to destroy re-
ligious freedom, are using m the United States to defeat civil



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17^

liberty. The puritioiism of rq>ublicatt jniticipl^ is ridiculed ;
it is called democracy; and ▼ijolaitions of the freedom of pro-
perty (an important principle of our civil puritanism) are pro-
viding combiistibleB fer some calamitous explosion. Oufr poiitiv
cal reforinatiOB is daily corrupted by the principles and haUtt
of the English system^as waff the English religious reformation^
by the principles uid habits of popery; and we are exchanging
the pure principles of the revolution, for HtLe garbage of ari^»
cracy, and compromises with venality. By disregarding^bese
principles, our fluctuations of parties invested with powers have
been made to resemble the bauble called a Kaleidescope, whic^
at each revolution exhibits new scenes of glittering delusions^
whilst the pebbles from which they are reflected, remain sub-
stantially the same. The remedy for an evil so nuschievous,
is that by which religious freedom has been established. Free-
dom of property wiH beget civil liberty, as freedom of conscience
has begotten religious. The success of one experiment ptoved>
the other to be practicable. Everj man, except he belong to
a privileged combination, is as^much interested to effect a free-
-dom of property, as he is to maintain a freedom of religion, ex-
cept he could become a priest of an established an4 endowed
hierarchy.

The English protestants had adopted a variety of imaginary
habits and opinions. The several American States also enter-
t^ned a variety of opinions and habits, fixed by real interest,
more reasonable and more stubborn, as being derived from na-
tural and unconquerable circumstances. Each of the secis in
England, after the religious revolution was estaUished, as power
fluctuated among them, endeavoured when uppermost, to im-
pose its own opinions and habits upon the others. The appa-
rel of the\clergj, surplices, tippets, caps, hoods and crosiers >
and ceremonies ; such as the sign of the ci*oss in t>aptism, the
ring in marriage, the mode of administering the sacrament, and
the consecration and powers of bishops ; all inconsiderable
compared with the cardinal end of religious freedom ; became
subjects of controversy in England. The endowment of cer-
tificate holders, banking corporations, exclusive privileges, com-
pulsory IjCws over free will in the employment of the earnings
of industry^ and violations of the local interests and habits of
States, more materially affecting the cardinal end of civil liber-
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ty, have become subjects of controversy in the United States.
In England, the force of opinions, less substantia], produced
^ a frightful civil war. In the United States, opinions, better
Y^ founded, have already produced awful ideas of dissolving the
union* In England, the religious controversies terminated in
an act of uniformity, by which a majority of the people are
cruelly oppressed ; there are more meeting-houses than churches,
and more dissenters than conformists ; yet by bribery with pub-
lick money, so as exorbitantly to increase taxation, the majo-
rity are both excluded from civil offices, and subjected to the
payment of tithes for the suppression of their own opinions
and interests. In the United States, the majority of the peo-
ple of each state, are subjected to the payment of more than
tithes, to deprive themselves of free will as to their own inte-
rest, and to foster exclusive privileges. Our division into state
governments of great extent, and embracing a great variety of
local circumstances, will render a compulsory uniformity
of temporal interests, habits and opinions infinitely more diffi-
cult, than a religious uniformity in England ; and require
means, more coercive and severe to effect it. A very power-
ful standing army, so necessary in England for one purpose,
would be more indispensable here for the other. Whole states
will more sensibly feel, and be more able to resist burdens, in-
flicted to enrich privileged civil sects, bearing heavily on their
local interests and habits, than individuals only combined by
the slight threads of ceremonials and speculative prejudices.
Had the freedom of religion been established in England at
the Reformation, a mass of civil war, national inquietude and
oppression would have been avoided. A greater mass of these
evils was foreseen by the framers of the Union, and attempted
to be avoided^ by restricting the powers given to Congress, and
by retaining to the states those powers united with the local
interests, habits and opinions of each state ; in fact, by secu-
ring the freedom of property.

This wise precaution was sdggested by the character of hu-
man nature, sound reason, substantial justice, and unequivocal
experience drawn from the consequences of the different policy
pursued by England in her religious revolution. Why ought
npt industry to enjoy a freedom of will, similar to that demon-
strated in the United States, to be so wholesome and happy in



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the case of religion? How can an expensive, compulsory unifor-
mitj in one case, generate blessings, when it has generated
curses in the other ? It was not intended by our revolution to
destroy the freedom of will, in relation either to speculation,
actual habits or personal interests. It designed to draw a plain
line between the foreign relations of the United States, and
the internal concerns of each state ; and the vitality of the
union, as well as the vitality of religion, lies in a strict adhe-
rence to the same principle. Each state, however different in
its habits and interests, like each sect however different in its
tenets and ceremonials, has its liberty and happiness embarked
and hazarded upon its preservation ; and if any are tempted by
the bribe of delusive advantages to abandon it, they will, like
the religious sects which yielded to the temptations of pride,
enthusiasm and avarice, when possessed of the majority, pro-
duce civil war, forge chains for themselves, and obtain a tolera-
tion of property instead of its freedom. A combination of
corporations, exclusive privileges and pecuniary speculations,
assails republican puritanism, as protestant puritanism was as-
sailed by a combination of Roman Catholick princes, and for
the same reason. It obstructs frauds.

The maxim of James the first, ** no bishop no king,'' was a
political truth ; not limited to the idea of hierarchical orders,
but an exemplification of the necessity of intermediate orders
between an individual and a nation, for the support of a des-
potick government. It applies to all intermediate orders or
exclusive privileges between a nation and a government, whe-
ther pecuniary, civil, religious, or military; whether they be
called lords, mandarins, bashaws, generals, bishops, bankers,
exclusive privileges, corporations, or companies^ Adhering to
the maxim in its amplified sense, the English government, for
its own security, has extended it gradually from bishops and a
nobility, to an army and to a vast pecuniary order; which,
though compounded of various corporations, companies and
exclusive privileges, as the noble order is compounded of a



Online LibraryJohn TaylorConstruction construed, and constitutions vindicated → online text (page 2 of 34)