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the people, and without their consent. Such a power,


under a corrupt administration, it is to be feared,
would introduce an absolute government in America ;
at best, it would leave the people in a state of utter
uncertainty of their security, which is far from being
a state of civil liberty. The Judges in the several
colonies do not hold their commissions during good
behavior. If then they are to have salaries independ
ent of the people, how easy will it be for a corrupt
Governor to have a set of Judges to his mind, to de
prive a bench of justice of its glory, and the people
of their security. If the Judges of England have in
dependent livings, it must be remembered, that the
tenure of their commission is during good behavior,
which is a safeguard for the people. And besides, they
are near the throne, the fountain of right and justice ;
whereas American Judges, as well as Governors, are^
at a distance from it. Moreover, it is worth particular
notice, that in all disputes between power and liberty
in America, there is danger that the greatest credit will
always be given to the officers of the Crown, who are
the men in power. This we have sometimes found by
experience ; and it is much to be feared, that the na
tion will fall into some dangerous mistake, if she has
not already, by too great attention to the represen
tations of particular persons, and a disregard to others. ~A

But the residue of these monies is to be applied by
Parliament, from time to time, for defending, protect
ing and securing the colonies. If the government
/at home is apprehensive that the colonists will be
backward in defending themselves and securing his
Majesty s territories in America, it must have been j
egregiously misinformed. We need look back no

1768] SAMUEL ADAMS. 145

farther than the last war, for evidence of a contrary
disposition. They always discovered the most cheer
ful compliance with his Majesty s requisitions of men
and money for this purpose. They were then treated
as free British subjects, and never failed to grant aid
to his Majesty of their own free accord, to the extent
of their ability, and even beyond it ; of which the
Parliament were then so sensible, that they made
them grants, from year to year, by way of compensa
tion for extra services. It is not at all to be doubted,
but if they are still considered upon the footing of
subjects, they will always discover the same disposi
tion to exert themselves for his Majesty s service and
their own defense ; which renders a standing army in
the colonies a needless expense. Or, if it be ad
mitted that there may be some necessity for them in
the conquered province of Canada, where the exer
cise of the Romish religion, so destructive to civil
society, is allowed, surely there can be no need of
them in the bowels of the old colonies, and even in
cities, where there is not the least danger of a foreign
enemy, and where the inhabitants are as strongly
attached to his Majesty s person,, family and govern
ment, as in Great Britain itself. \ There is an English
affection in the colonists towards the mother country,
which will forever keep them connected with her, to
every valuable purpose, unless it shall be erased by
repeated unkind usage on her part. ^ As Englishmen,
as well as British subjects, they have an aversion to
an unnecessary standing army, which they look upon
as dangerous to their civil liberties 1 ; and consider
ing the examples of ancient times, it seems a little

VOL. I. 10.


surprising, that a mother state should trust large
bodies of mercenary troops in her colonies, at so great
a distance from her, lest, in process of time, when the
spirits of the people shall be depressed by the military
power, another Caesar should arise and usurp the i
authority of his master.

The act enabling his Majesty to appoint Commis
sioners of the Customs to reside in America, has also
been read in the House. 1 It declares an intention to
facilitate the trade of America, of which we cannot
have any great hopes, from the tenor of the commis
sion. In general, innovations are dangerous ; the
unnecessary increase of Crown Officers is most cer
tainly so. These gentlemen are authorized to ap
point as many as they shall think proper, without
limitation. This will probably be attended with un
desirable effects. An host of pensioners, by the arts
they may use, may in time become as dangerous to
the liberties of the people as an army of soldiers ; for
there is a way of subduing a people by art, as well as
by arms. We are happy and safe under his present
Majesty s mild and gracious administration ; but the
time may come, when the united body of pensioners
and soldiers may ruin the liberties of America. The
trade of the colonies, we apprehend, may be as easily
carried on, and the acts of trade as duly enforced,
without this commission ; and, if so, it must be a very
needless expense, at the time when the nation and
her colonies are groaning under debts contracted in
the late war, and how far distant another may be, \
God only knows.

1 7 Geo. III., chap. 41.

1768] SAMUEL ADAMS. 147

\There is another act, which, this House appre- /
hends, must be alarming to all the colonies ; which is
the act for suspending the legislative power of the As
sembly of New York on a certain condition. 1 A legis
lative body, without the free exercise of the powers
of legislation, is to us incomprehensible. There can
be no material difference between such a legislative
and none at all. It cannot be said, that the Assem
bly of New York hath the free exercise of legislative
power, while their very existence is suspended upon
their acting in conformity to the will of another body.
Such a restriction throughout the colonies, would be
a short and easy method of annihilating the legisla
tive powers in America, and by consequence of de
priving the people of a fundamental right of the con
stitution, namely, that every man shall be present in
the body which legislates for him.

It may not be amiss to consider the tendency of a
suspension of colony legislation for a non compliance
with acts of Parliament, requiring a Provincial As
sembly to give and grant away their own and their
constituents money for the support of a standing
army. We cannot but think it hard enough to have
our property granted away without our consent, with
out being ordered to deal it out ourselves, as in the
case of the mutiny act. It must be sufficiently hu
miliating to part with our property in either of those
ways, much more in both ; whereby, as loyal subjects
as any under his Majesty s government, and as true
lovers of their country as any people whatever, are
deprived of the honor and merit of voluntarily

1 7 Geo. III., chap. 59.


contributing to the service of both. What is the plain
language of such a suspension ? We can discover no
/ more nor less in it than this : If the American assem
blies refuse to grant as much of their own and their con
stituents money, as shall from time to time be enjoined
and prescribed by the Parliament, besides what the
Parliament directly taxes them, they shall no longer
have any legislative authority ; but if they comply
with what is prescribed, they may still be allowed to
legislate under their charter restrictions. Does not
political death and annihilation stare us in the face as
strongly on one supposition as the other ? Equally,
in case of compliance as of non compliance.

But let us suppose, for a moment, a series of events
taking place, the most favorable in the opinion of
those who are so fond of these new regulations ; that
all difficulties and scruples of conscience were re
moved, and that every Representative in America
should acknowledge a just and equitable right in the
Commons of Great Britain, to make an unlimited grant
of his and his constituents property ; that they have a
clear right to invest the Crown with all the lands in
the colonies, as effectually as if they had been for
feited. Would it be possible for them to conciliate
their constituents to such measures ? Would not the
attempt suddenly cut asunder all confidence and com
munication between the representative body and the
people ? What, then, would be the consequence ?
Could anything be reasonably expected but dis
content, despair and rage, against their represen
tatives, on the side of the people, and on the part
of the government, the rigorous exertion of civil and



military power ? The confusion and misery, after such
a fatal crisis, cannot be conceived, much less described.
The present regulations and proceedings, with re
spect to the colonies, we apprehend to be opposite to
every principle of good, and sound policy. A stand
ing army, in time of profound peace, is naturally pro
ductive of uneasiness and discontent among the
people ; and yet the colonies, by the mutiny act,
are ordered and directed to provide certain enumer
ated articles ; and the pains and penalties, in case of
non compliance, are evident, in the precedent of New
York. It also appears, that revenue officers are mul
tiplying in the colonies, with vast powers. The Board
of Commissioners, lately appointed to reside here,
have ample discretionary powers given them, to make
what appointments they please, and to pay the ap
pointees what sums they please. < The establishment
of a Protestant Episcopate, in America, is also very
zealously contended for ; * and it is very alarming to a
people, whose fathers, from the hardships they suf
fered, under such an establishment, were obliged to
fly their native country into a wilderness, in order
peaceably to enjoy their privileges, civil and religious.
Their being threatened with the loss of both at
once, must throw them into a disagreeable situation.
We hope in God such an establishment will never "
take place in America, and we desire you would
strenuously oppose it. The revenue raised in America,
for ought we can tell, may be constitutionally applied
towards the support of prelacy, as of soldiers and pen-

1 Cf. The Anglican Episcopal and the American Colonies, by A. L. Cross,


sioners. If the property of the subject is taken from
him, without his consent, it is immaterial whether it
be done by one man, or five hundred ; or whether it
be applied for the support of ecclesiastic or military
power, or both. J It may be well worth the considera
tion of the best politician in Great Britain or America,
what the natural tendency is of a vigorous pursuit of
these measures. We are not insensible that some
eminent men, on both sides the water, are less
friendly to American charters and assemblies, than
could be wished. It seems to be growing fashionable
to treat them, in common conversation, as well as in
popular publications, with contempt. But if we look
back a few reigns, we shall find that even the august
assembly, the Parliament, was, in every respect, the
object of a courtier s reproach. It was even an aph
orism with King James the First, that the Lords and
Commons were two very bad copartners with a Mon
arch ; and he and his successors broke the copartner
ship as fast as possible. It is certainly unnatural for
a British politician to expect, that ever the supreme
executive of the nation can long exist, after the su
preme legislative shall be depressed and destroyed,
which may God forbid. ( If the supreme executive
cannot exist long in Britain, without the support of
the supreme legislative, it should seem very reason
able, in order to support the same supreme executive,
at the distance of a thousand transmarine leagues
from the metropolis, there should be, in so remote
dominions, a free legislative, within their charter lim
itations, as well as an entirely free representative of
the supreme executive of his Majesty, in the persons

1 7 68] SAMUEL ADAMS. 151

of Governors, Judges, Justices, and other executive
officers ; otherwise strange effects are to be appre
hended ; for the laws of God and nature are invaria
ble. A politician may apply or misapply these to a
multiplicity of purposes, good or bad ; but these laws
were never made for politicians to alter. Should the
time ever come, when the legislative assemblies of
North America shall be dissolved and annihilated, no
more to exist again, a strange political phenomenon
will probably appear. All laws, both of police and
revenue, must then be made by a legislative, at such a
distance, that without immediate inspiration, the local
and other circumstances of the governed, cannot pos
sibly be known to those who give and grant to the
Crown, what part of the property of their fellow sub
jects they please. There will then be no Assemblies
to support the execution of such laws ; and, indeed,
while existing, by what rule of law or reason, are the
members of the Colony Assemblies executive offi
cers ? They have, as Representatives, no commission
but from their constituents ; and it must be difficult to
show, why they are more obliged to execute acts of
Parliament, than such of their constituents as hold no
commissions from the Crown. The most that can
be expected from either, is submission to acts of Par
liament ; or to aid the officers, as individual, or part
of the posse comitatus, if required. It would seem
strange to call on the Representatives, in any other
way, to execute laws against their constituents and
themselves, which both have been so far from consent
ing to, that neither were consulted in framing them./
Yet it was objected by some, to the American


Assemblies, that they neglected to execute the stamp
act ; and that their resolves tended to raise commo
tions ; which certainly was not the case here. For all
the disorders in Boston, in which any damage was
done to property, happened long before the resolves
of the House of Representatives here were passed.

We have reason to believe, that the nation has
been grossly misinformed with respect to the temper
and behavior of the colonists ; and jit is to be feared
that some men will not cease to sow the seeds of jeal
ousy and discord, till they shall have done irreparable
mischief. You will do a singular service to both
countries, if possible, in detecting them. In the
mean time, we desire you would make known to his
Majesty s ministers the sentiments of this House,
contained in this letter, and implore a favorable con
sideration of America.


[Massachusetts State Papers, pp. 137-141.]


The House of Representatives of this his Majesty s
province, having had experience of your Lordship s

1 William Petty, first Marquis of Lansdowne (1737-1805); he became Secre
tary of State for the Southern Department in July, 1766; in January, 1768,
was relieved of jurisdiction over the American colonies by the creation of a
third department under Hillsborough; in April, 1768, opposed Hillsborough s
instructions to Bernard with reference to the circular letter ; resigned, October
19, 1768.

2 This letter and six others (to Rockingham, January 22 ; Shelburne, Janu
ary 22 ; Camden, January 29 ; Chatham, February 2 ; Conway, February 13,
and to the Commissioners of the Treasury, February 17,) are printed, although
the authorship of them is not conclusively determined. They form a part of a

1768] SAMUEL ADAMS. 153

generous sentiments of his Majesty s most loyal,
though remote subjects in America, and of your noble
exertions in their behalf, in the late time of their dis
tress, beg leave to lay before your Lordship s view the
new scenes of difficulty which are again opened upon
us, and to implore your repeated inter-position.

Your Lordship is not insensible that our fore
fathers were, in an unhappy reign, driven into this
wilderness by the hand of power. At their own ex
pense they crossed an ocean of three thousand miles,
and purchased an inheritance for themselves and their
posterity, with the view of propagating the Christian
religion, and enlarging the English dominion in this
distant part of the earth. Through the indulgent
smiles of Heaven upon them, though not without
hardship and fatigue ; unexperienced, and perhaps
hardly to be conceived by their brethren and fellow
subjects in their native land ; and with the constant
peril of their lives from a numerous race of men, as
barbarous and cruel, and yet as warlike as any people
upon the face of the earth, they increased their num
bers, and enlarged their settlement. They obtained

series of documents of which four of the most important (the letter to De
Berdt, January 12, the petition to the King, January 20, the circular letter to
the other legislatures, February n, and the letter to Hillsborough, June 30,)
were written by Adams, and of which entire series the production has been
attributed to him. See J. Winsor, Memorial History of Boston, vol. in., p. 22 ;
J. Winsor, Narrative and Critical History of America, vol. vi., pp. 42, 83.
S. A. Wells, in his unpublished work (1840), claimed that Adams was the
author of the entire series. All of the letters, except that of June 30, were
printed in The True Sentiments of America, London, 1768, which was com
monly credited to Adams. Most of these letters were presented to the House
by a committee, consisting of Adams, Otis, Gushing, Hawley, Hancock. Sheaffe,
Bowers, and Dexter, appointed December 30, 1767, " to take under considera
tion the State of the Province."


a charter from King Charles the First, wherein his
Majesty was pleased to recognize to them a liberty
to worship God according to the dictates of their
conscience ; a blessing which in those unhappy times
was denied to them in their own country ; and
the rights, liberties, privileges and immunities of his
natural born subjects within the realm. This charter
they enjoyed, having punctually fulfilled the condi
tions of it, till it was vacated, as we conceive arbi
trarily, in the reign of King Charles the Second.
After the revolution, that grand era of British liberty,
when King William and Queen Mary, of glorious
and blessed memory, were established on the throne,
the inhabitants of this province obtained another
charter, in which the most essential rights and privi
leges, contained in the former, were restored to them.
Thus blessed with the liberties of Englishmen, they
continued to increase and multiply, till, as your Lord
ship knows, a dreary wilderness is become a fruit
ful field, and a grand source of national wealth and

By the common law, my Lord, as well as sundry
acts of Parliament, from the reign of Edward the
Third, the children of his Majesty s natural born sub
jects, born passing and repassing the seas, are en
titled to all the rights and privileges of his natural
subjects born within the realm. From hence the
conclusion appears to be indisputable, that the de
scendants of his Majesty s subjects in the realm,
who migrated with the consent of the nation, and pur
chased a settlement with their own treasure and blood,
without any aid from the nation ; who early acknowl-

1768] SAMUEL ADAMS. 155

edged their allegiance to the Crown of England, and
have always approved themselves faithful subjects,
and in many instances given signal proofs of their
loyalty to their King, and their firm attachment and
affection to their mother country ; the conclusion is
strong, that exclusive of any consideration of their
charter, they are entitled to the rights and privileges
of the British Constitution, in common with their
fellow subjects in Britain. And it is very remark
ably the sense of the British nation, that they are so,
as appears by an act of Parliament, made in the I3th
of his late Majesty, King George the Second. The
preamble of that act 1 plainly presupposes it ; and the
purview of the same act enables and directs the Su
perior Court of Judicature of this province, a court
erected by the authority of the General Court, to
naturalize foreigners, under certain conditions ; which
it is presumed, the wisdom of the Parliament would
not have empowered any people to do, who were not
themselves deemed natural born subjects.

The spirit of the law of nature and nations, sup
poses, that all the free subjects of any kingdom, are
entitled equally to all the rights of the constitution ;
for it appears unnatural and unreasonable to affirm,
that local, or any other circumstances, can justly de
prive any part of the subjects of the same prince, of
the full enjoyment of the rights of that constitution,
upon which the government itself is formed, and by
which sovereignty and allegiance are ascertained and
limited. But your Lordship is so thoroughly ac
quainted with the extent of the rights of men and of

1 See above, page 141.


subjects, as to render it altogether improper to take
up any more of your time on this head.

There are, my Lord, fundamental rules of the con
stitution, which it is humbly presumed, neither the
supreme legislative nor the supreme executive can
alter. In all free states, the constitution is fixed ; it
is from thence, that the legislative derives its author
ity ; therefore it cannot change the constitution with
out destroying its own foundation. If, then, the
constitution of Great Britain is the common right of
all British subjects, it is humbly referred to your
Lordship s judgment, whether the supreme legislative
of the empire may rightly leap the bounds of it, in
the exercise of power over the subjects in America,
any more than over those in Britain.

When mention is made of the rights of American
subjects, and the interest they have in the British
constitution, in common with all other British sub
jects, your Lordship is too candid and just in your
sentiments, to suppose that the House have the most
distant thought of an independency of Great Britain.
They are not insensible of their security and happi
ness in their connexion with, and dependence on the
mother state. These, my Lord, are the sentiments
of the House, and of their constituents ; and they
have reason to believe, they are the sentiments of all
the colonies. Those who are industriously propagat
ing in the nation a different opinion of the colonists,
are not only doing the greatest injustice to them, but
an irreparable injury to the nation itself.

It is the glory of the British constitution, that it
has its foundation in the law of God and nature. It

17681 SAMUEL ADAMS. 157

is essentially a natural right, that a man shall quietly
enjoy, and have the sole disposal of his own property.
This right is ingrafted into the British constitution,
and is familiar to the American subjects. And your
Lordship will judge, whether any necessity can render
it just and equitable in the nature of things, that the
supreme legislative of the empire, should impose
duties, subsidies, talliages and taxes, internal or ex
ternal, for the sole purpose of raising a revenue, upon
subjects that are not, and cannot, considering their
local circumstances, by any possibility, be equally
represented, and consequently, whose consent cannot
be had in Parliament.

The security of right and property, is the great
end of government. Surely, then, such measures as
tend to render right and property precarious, tend to
destroy both property and government, for these
must stand or fall together. Property is admitted to
have an existence in the savage state of nature ; and
if it is necessary for the support of savage life, it by
no means becomes less so in civil society. The
House intreat your Lordship to consider, whether a
colonist can be conceived to have any property which
he may call his own, if it may be granted away by
any other body, without his consent. And they sub
mit to your Lordship s judgment, whether this was
not actually done, when the act for granting to his
Majesty certain duties on paper, glass and other ar
ticles, for the sole and express purpose of raising a
revenue in America, was made. It is the judgment
of Lord Coke, that the Parliament of Great Britain
cannot tax Ireland " quia milites ad Parliamentum


non mittant" And Sir William Jones an eminent
jurist, declared it as his opinion, to King Charles the
Second, that he could no more grant a commission
to levy money on his subjects in Jamaica, without
their consent , by an assembly, than they could dis
charge themselves from their allegiance to the Crown.

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