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GREAT SPEECHES ON GREAT ISSUES.
in fresb violences of a criminal nature.
Speech of James Wilson,
ful prognostic, that they will continue sufJowary, 1775, on the Conrention for the Province of
ficient for those purposes hereafter. It is Pennsylvania,
not yet exhausted: it will still operate ir
resistibly whenever a necessaiv occasion IN VINDICATION OF THE COLONIES.
shall call forth its strength.
Permit me, sir, by appealing, in a few "A most daring spirit of resistance and disobedience instances, to the spirit and conduct of the still prevails in Massachusetts, and has broken forth
colonists, to evince that what I have said proper and effectual methods have been taken to pre: of them is just. Did they disclose any tent these mischiefs; and the parliament may depend uneasiness at the proceedings and claims Weaken or impair the supreme authority of parlia of the British parliament, before those mest over all the dominions of the crown." --speech claims and proceedings afforded a reasonof the king of Great Britain to Parliment, Nov., 1774.
able cause for it? Did they even dis
close any uneasiness, when a reasonable MR. CHAIRMAN:- Whence, sir, pro- cause for it was first given? Our rights ceeds all the invidious and ill-grounded were invaded by their regulations of our clamor against the colonists of America ? internal policy. We submitted to them: Why are they stigmatized in Britain as we were unwilling to oppose them. The licentious and ungovernable? Why is spirit of liberty was slow to act. When their virtuous opposition to the illegal at- those invasions were renewed; when the tempts of their governors, represented un- efficacy and malignancy of them were atder the falsest colors, and placed in the tempted to be redoubled by the stamp act; most ungracious point of view? This when chains were formed for us; and opposition, when exhibited in its true preparations were made for riveting them light, and when viewed, with unjaundiced on our limbs, what measures did we pureyes, from a proper situation, and at a sue? The spirit of liberty found it nécesproper distance, stands confessed the lovely sary now to act; but she acted with the offspring of freedom. It breathes the spirit calmness and decent dignity suited to her of its parent. Of this ethereal spirit, the character. Were we rash or seditious ? whole conduct
, and particularly the late Did we discover want of loyalty to our conduct, of the colonists has shown them sovereign ? Did we betray want of affeceminently possessed. It has animated and tion to our brethren in Britain ? Let our regulated
every part of their proceedings. dutiful and reverential petitions to the It has been recognized to be genuine, by throne; let our respectful, though firm, all those symptoms and effects by which it remonstrances to the parliament; let our has been distinguished in other ages and warm and affectionate addresses to our other countries. It has been calm and brethren and (we will still call them) our regular: it has not acted without occasion: friends in Great Britain,--let all those, transit has not acted disproportionably to the mitted from every part of the continent, occasion. As the attempts, open or secret, testify the truth. By their testimony let to undermine or to destroy it, have been our conduct be tried. repeated or enforced, in a just degree, its As our proceedings, during the existvigilance and its vigor have been exerted ence and operation of the stamp act, prove to defeat or to disappoint them. As its fully and incontestably the painful sensaexertions have been sufficient for those tions that tortured our breasts from the purposes hitherto, let us hence draw a joy- I prospect of disunion with Britana, the
peals of joy, which burst forth universally, rendered impossible to store it up, or to upon the repeal of that odious statute, send it back, as was done at other places. loudly proclaim the heartfelt delight pro- A number of persons, unknown, deduced in us by a reconciliation with her. stroyed it. Unsuspicious, because undesigning, we Let us here make a concession to our buried our complaints, and the causes of enemies: iet us suppose, that the transacthem, in oblivion, and returned, with ea- tion deserves all the dark and hideous gerness, to our former unreserved confi- colors in which they have painted it: let dence. Our connection with our parent us even suppose (for our cause admits of country, and the reciprocal blessings re- an excess of candor) that all their exage sulting from it to her and to us, were the gerated accounts of it were confined strict. favorite and pleasing topics of our public ly to the truth: what will follow? Will discourses and our private conversations. it follow, that every British colony in AmerLulled into delightful security, we dreamed ica, or even the colony of Massachusetts of nothing but increasing fondness and Bay, or even the town of Boston, in that friendship, cemented and strengthened by colony, merits the imputation of being faca kind and perpetual communication of tious and seditious ? Let the frequent good cffices. Soon, however, too soon, mobs and riots, that have happened in
we awakened from the soothing Great Britain upon much more trivial ocdreams! Qur enemies renewed their de- casions, shame our calumniators into si. signs against us, not with less malice, but lence. Will it follow, because the rules of with more art. Under the plausible pre-order and regular government were, in that tence of regulating our trade, and, at the instance, violated by the offenders, that, same time, of making provision for the ad- for this reason, the principles of the conministration of justice, and the support of stitution, and the maxims of justice, must governmer-, in some of the colonies, they be violated by their punishment? Will it pursued their scheme of depriving us of follow, because those who were guilty could our property without our consent. As the not be known, that, therefore, those who attempts to distress us, and to degrade us were known not to be guilty must suffer? to a rank inferior to that of freemen, ap- Will it follow, that even the guilty should peared now to be reduced into a regular be condemned without being heard—that system, it became proper, on our part, to they should be condemned upon partial form á regular system for counteracting testimony, upon the representations of them. We ceased to import goods from their avowed and imbittered enemies? Great Britain. Was this measure dictated Why were they not tried in courts of justice by selfishness or by licentiousness? Did known to their constitution, and by juries it not injure ourselves, while it injured the of their neighborhood? Their courts and British merchants and manufacturers? | their juries were not, in the case of captain Was it inconsistent with the peaceful de- Preston, transported beyond the bounds meanor of subjects to abstain from making of justice by their resentment: why, then, purchases, when our freedom and our should it be presumed, that, in the case of safety rendered it necessary for us to ab- those offenders, they would be prevented stain from them? A regard for our free from doing justice by their affection ? But dom and our safety was our only motive; the colonists, it seems, must be stripped of for no sooner had the parliament, by re- their judicial, as well as of their legislative pealing part of the revenue laws, inspired powers. They must be bound by a legislaus with the flattering hopes, that they had ture, they must be tried by a jurisdiction, departed from their intentions of oppress- not their own. Their constitutions must ing and of taxing us, than we forsook our be changed: their liberties must be plan for defeating those intentions, and abridged: and those who shall be most inbegan to import as formerly. Far from famously active in changing their constitubeing peevish or captious, we took no pub- tions and abridging their liberties, must, lic notice even of their declaratory law of by an express provision, be exempted dominion over us : our candor led us to from punishment. consider it as a decent expedient of re I do not exaggerate the matter, sir, treating from the actual exercise of that when I extend these observations to dominion,
all the colonists. The parliament meant But, alas ! the root of bitterness still re- to extend the effects of their promained. The duty on tea was reserved to ceedings to all the colonists. The plan, furnish occasion to the ministry for a new on which their proceedings are formed, effort to enslave and to ruin us; and the extends to them all. From an incident of East India Company were chosen, and con- no very uncommon or atrocious nature, sented to be the detested instruments of which happened in one colony, in one ministerial despotism and cruelty. A cargo town in that colony, and in which only of their tea arrived at Boston. By a low a few of the inhabitants of that town took artifice of the governor, and by the wicked a part, an occasion has been taken by activity of the tools of government, it was those, who probably intended it, and who
certainly prepared the way for it, to im- calumny. Do not those men know-would pose upon that colony, and to lay a foun- they have others not to know--that it was dation and a precedent for imposing upon impossible for the inhabitants of the same all the rest, a system of statutes, arbitrary, province, and for the legislatures of the unconstitutional
, oppressive, in every view, different provinces, to communicate their and in every degree subversive of the rights, sentiments to one another in the modes and inconsistent with even the name, of appointed for such purposes, by their diffreemen.
ferent constitutions ? Do not thiey knowWere the colonists so blind as not to would they have others not to knowdiscern the consequences of these mea- that all this was rendered impossible by sures ? Were they so supinely inactive, as those very persons, who now, or whose to take no steps for guarding against them? minions now, urge this objection against They were not. They ought not to have us? Do not they know – would they been 80. We saw a breach made in those have others not to know — that the barriers, which our ancestors, British and different assemblies, who could be disAmerican, with so much care, with so solved by the governors, were in consemuch danger, with so much treasure, and quence of ministerial mandates, dissolved with so much blood, had erected, cemented by em, whenever they attempted turn and established for the security of their their attention to the greatest objects, liberties, and—with filial piety let us men- which, as guardians of the liberty of their tion it—of ours. We saw the attack actu- constituents, could be presented to their ally begun upon one part: ought we to view? The arch enemy of the human have folded our hands in indolence, to have race torments them only for those actions lulled our eyes in slumbers, till the attack to which he has tempted, but to which he was carried on, so as to become irresistible, has not necessarily obliged them. Those in
every part ? Sir, I presume to think not. men refine even upon infernal malice: We were roused; we were alarmed, as we they accuse, they threaten us, (superlative had reason to be But still our measures impudence !) for taking those very steps, have been such as the spirit of liberty and which we were laid under the disagreeable of loyalty directed; not such as the spirit necessity of taking by themselves, or by of sedition or of disaffection would pursue. those in whose hateful service they are enOur counsels have been conducted without listed. But let them know, that our rashness and faction: our resolutions have counsels, our deliberations, our resolutions, been taken without phrensy o: fury:
if not authorized by the forms, because That the sentiments of every individual that was rendered impossible by our concerning that important object, his lib- enemies, are nevertheless authorized by erty, might be known and regarded, meet- that which weighs much more in the scale ings have been held, and deliberations car- of reason—by the spirit of our constituried on, in every particular district. That tions. Was the convention of the barons at the sentiments of all those individuals Runnymede, where the tyranny of John might gradually and regularly be collected was checked, and magna charta was signed, into a single point, and the conduct of authorized by the forms of the constitueach inspired and directed by the result of tion? Was the convention parliament, the whole united, county committees, pro- that recalled Charles the Second, and revincial conventions, a continental congress, stored the monarchy, authorized by the have been appointed, have met and resolved forms of the constitution? Was the conBy this means, a chain – more inesti- vention of lords and commons, that placed mable
, and, while the necessity for it con- king William on the throne, and secured tinues
, we hope, more indissoluble than the monarchy and liberty likewise, authorone of gold-a chain of freedom has been ized by the forms of the constitution? I formed, of which every individual in these cannot conceal my emotions of pleasure, colonies
, who is willing to preserve the when I observe, that the objections of our greatest of human blessings, his liberty, adversaries cannot be urged against us, has the pleasure of beholding himself a but in common with those venerable
assemblies, whose proceedings formed such Are these measures, sir, the brats of dis- an accession to British liberty and British loyalty, of disaffection ?' There are mis- renown. creants among us, wasps that suck poison from the most salubrious flowers, who tell We can be at no loss in resolving, us they are. They tell us that all those that the king cannot, by his prerogative, assemblies are unlawful, and unauthorized alter the charter or constitution of the by our constitutions; and that all their colony of Massachusetts Bay. Upon what deliberations and resolutions are so many principle could such an exertion of pretransgressions of the duty of subjects. The rogative be justified? On the acts of parutmost malice brooding over the utmost liament? They are already proved to be baseness
, and nothing but such a hated void. On the discretionary power which commixture, must have hatched this the king has of acting where the laws are
silent? That power must be subservient to And now, sir, let me appeal to the im. the interest and happiness of those con- partial tribunal of reason and truth; let cerning whom it operates. But I go fur- me appeal to every unprejudiced and ther. Instead of being supported by law, judicious observer of the laws of Britain, or the principles of prerogative, such an and of the constitution of the British goyalteration is totally and absolutely repug- ernment; let me appeal, I say, whether nant to both. It is contrary to express law. the principles on which I argue, or the The charter and constitution, we speak of, principles on which alone my arguments are confirmed by the only legislative power can be opposed, are those which ought to capable of confirming them; and no other be adhered to and acted upon; which of power, but that which can ratify, can them are most consonant to our laws and destroy. If it is contrary to express law, liberties; which of them have the strongthe consequence is necessary, that it is con-, est, and are likely to have the most effecttrary to the principles of prerogative; for ual tendency to establish and secure the prerogative can operate only when the law royal power and dignity. is silent.
Are we deficient in loyalty to his maIn no view can this alteration be justi- jesty ? Let our conduct convict, for it will fied, or so much as excused. It cannot be fully convict, the insinuation that we are, justified or excused by the acts of parlia- of falsehood. Our loyalty has always apment; because the authority of parliament peared in the true form of loyalty; in obey. does not extend to it; it cannot be justified ing our sovereign according to law; let or excused by the operation of prerogative; those, who would require it in any other because this is none of the cases in which form, know, that we call the persons who prerogative can operate: it cannot be justi- execute his commands, when contrary to fied or excused by the legislative authority law, disloyal and traitors. Are we enemies of the colony; because that authority to the power of the crown? No, sir, we never has been, and, I presume, never will are its best friends: this friendship prompts be given for any
us to wish, that the power of the crown If I have proceeded hitherto, as I am may be firmly established on the most solid persuaded I have, upon safe and sure basis: but we know, that the constitution ground, I can, with great confidence, ad- alone will perpetuate the former, and sevance a step further, and say that all at- curely uphold the latter. Are our princitempts to alter the charter or constitution ples irreverent to majesty? They are quite of that colony, unless by the authority of the reverse: we ascribe to it perfection alits own legislature, are violations of its most divine. We say, that the king can rights, and illegal.
do no wrong: we say, that to do wrong is If those attempts are illegal, must not the property, not of power, but of weak. all force, employed to carry them into ex- ness. We feel oppression, and will oppost ecution, be force employed against law, and it; but we know, for our constitution tells without authority? The conclusion is un- us, that oppression can never spring from avoidable.
the throne. We must, therefore, search Have not British subjects, then, a right elsewhere for its source: our infallible to resist such force-force acting without guide will direct us to it. Our constitution authority-force employed contrary to law tells us, that all oppression springs from -force employed to destroy the very exist- the ministers of the throne. The attrience of law and of liberty? They have, sir, butes of perfection, ascribed to the king, and this right is secured to them both by are, neither by the constitution, nor in fact, the letter and the spirit of the British con- communicable to his ministers. They may stitution, by which the measures and the do wrong; they have often done wrong; conditions of their obedience are appointed. they have been often punished for doing The British liberties, sir, and the means wrong. and the right of defending them, are not Here we may discern the true cause of the grants of princes; and of what our all the impudent clamor and unsupported prinoes never granted they surely can never accusations of the ministers and of their deprive us.
minions, that have been raised and made
against the conduct of the Americans. Id rex potest," says the law,“ quod de Those ministers and minions are sensible,
potest.' The king's power is a power that the opposition is directed, not against according to law. His commands, if the his majesty, but against them; because authority of lord chief justice Hale may they have abused his majesty's confidence, be depended upon, are under the directive brought discredit upon his government, power of the law; and consequently in- and derogated from his justice. They see valid, if unlawful. “Commissions," says the public vengeance collected in dark my lord Coke, are legal; and are like the clouds around them: their consciences tell king's writs; and none are lawful, but such them, that it should be hurled, like a as are allowed by the common law, or war- thunderbolt, at their guilty heads. Apranted by some act of parliament.” palled with guilt and fear, they skulk be