« AnteriorContinuar »
by parliament before. To this we think it may be easily answered, that the longer they have been spared, the better they can pay. It is certainly not much their interest to represent innovation as criminal or invidious; for they have introduced into the history of mankind a new mode of disaffection, and have given, I believe, the first example of a proscription published by a colony against the mother-country.
To what is urged of new powers granted to the courts of admiralty, or the extension of authority conferred on the judges, it may be answered in a few words, that they have themselves made such regulations necessary; that they are established for the prevention of greater evils; at the same time, it must be observed, that these powers have not been extended since the rebellion in America. One mode of persuasion their ingenuity has suggested, which it may perhaps be less easy to resist. That we may not look with indifference on the American contest, or imagine that the struggle is for a claim, which, however decided, is of small importance and remote consequence, the Philadclfihian congress has taken care to inform us, that they are resisting the demands of parliament, as well for our sakes as their own. Their keenness of perspicacity has enabled them to pursue consequences to a greater distance; to see through clouds impervious to the dimness of European sight; and to find, I know not how, that when they are taxed, we shall be enslaved. That slavery is a miserable state we have been often told, and doubtless many a. Briton will tremble to find it so near as in America; but how it will be brought hither, the congress must inform us. The questiort
might distress a common understanding; but the statesman of the other hemisphere can easily resolve it. Our ministers, they say, are our enemies, andifthey should carry the point of taxation, may with the same army enslave us. It may be said we mil not pay them; but remember, say the western sages, the taxes from America, and we may add the men, and particularly the 'Roman Catholics of this vast continent, will then J>e m the power of your enemies. Nor have you any reason to expect, that after making slaves of us, many of us ivill ^refuse to assist in reducing you to the same abject state. These are dreadful menaces; but suspecting that they have not much the sound of probability, the congress proceeds: Do not treat this as chimerical. Knovi that in less than half a century the quit-rents reserved to the crown from the numberless grants of this vast continent, ivill fiour large streams of wealth into the royal coffers. If to this be added the power of taxing America at pleasure, the crown will possess more treasure than may be necessary to purchase the remains of liberty in your island. All this is very dreadful; but amidst the terror that shakes my frame, I cannot forbear to wish that some sluice were opened for these streams of treasure. I should gladly see America return half of what England has expended in her defence; and of the stream that will^Zow so largely in less than half a century, I hope a small rill at least may be found to quench the thirst of the present generation, which seems to think itself in more danger of wanting money than of losing liberty. It is difficult to judge with what intention such airy bursts of malevolence are vented; if such writers hope to deceive, let us rather repel themwith scorn, than refute them by disputation. In this last terrific paragraph are two positions, that, if our fears do not overpower our reflection, may enable us to support life a little longer. We are told by these croakers of calamity, not only that our present ministers design to enslave us, but that the same malignity of purpose is to descend through all their successors, and that the wealth to be poured into England by the Pactolus of America will, whenever it comes, be employed to purchase the remains of liberty. Of those who now conduct the national affairs, we may, without much arrogance, presume to know more than themselves, and of those who shall succeed them, whether minister or king, not to know less. The other position is, that the crown, if this laudable opposition should not be successful, mill have thefioiver of taxing America at pleasure. Surely they think rather too meanly of our apprehensions, when they suppose us not to know what they well know themselves, that they are taxed, like all other British subjects, by parliament; and that the crown has not by the new imposts, whether right or wrong, obtained any additional power over their possessions. It were a curious, but an idle speculation to inquire, what effect these dictators of sedition expect from the dispersion of their letter among us. If they believe their own complaints of hardship, and really dread the danger which they describe, they will naturally hope to communicate the same perceptions to their fellow-subjects. But probably in America, as in other places, the chiefs are incendiaries, that hope to rob in the tumults of a conflagration, and toss brands among a rabble passively combustible. Those who wrote the address, though they have shewn no great extent or profundity of mind, are yet probably wiser than to believe it: but they have been taught by some master of mischief,'how to put in motion the engine of political electricity; to attract by the sounds of liberty and property, to repel by those of popery and slavery; and to give the great stroke by the name of Boston. When subordinate communities oppose the decrees of the general legislature with defiance thus audacious, and malignity thus acrimonious, nothing remains but to conquer or to yield; to allow their claim of independence, or to reduce them by force to submission and allegiance. It might be hoped that no Englishman could be found, whom the menaces of our own colonists, just rescued from the French, would not move to indignation, like that of the Scythians, who, returning from war, found themselves excluded from their own houses by their slaves. That corporations constituted by favour, and existing by sufferance, should dare to prohibit commerce with their native country, and threaten individuals by infamy, and societies with at least suspension of amity, for daring to be more obedient to government than themselves, is a degree of insolence, which not only deserves to be punished, but of which the punishment is loudly demanded by the order of life, and the peace of nations. Yet there have risen up, in the face of the public, men who, by whatever corruptions or whatever infatuation, have undertaken to defend the Americans, endeavour to shelter them from resentment, and propose reconciliation without submission. As political diseases are naturally contagious, let it be supposed for a moment that Cornwall, seized with the Pidladelfihian frenzy, may resolve to separate itself from the general system of the English constitution, and judge of its own rights in its own parliament. A congress might then meet at Truro, and address the other counties in a style not unlike the language of the American patriots:
"Friends and fellow-subjects,
"We the delegates of the several towns and parishes of Cornwall, assembled to deliberate upon our own state and that of our constituents, having, after serious debate and calm consideration, settled the scheme of our future conduct, hold it necessary to declare the resolutions which we think ourselves entitled to form by the unalienable rights of reasonable beings, and into which we have been compelled by grievances and oppressions, long endured by us in patient silence, not because we did not feel, or could not remove them, but because we were unwilling to give disturbance to a settled government, and hoped that others would in time find, like ourselves, their true interest and their original powers, and all co-operate to universal happiness."But since having long indulged the pleasing expectation, we find general discontent not likely to increase, or not likely to end in general defection, we resolve to erect alone the standard of liberty."Know then, that you are no longer to consider Cornwall as an English county, visited by English judges, receiving law from an English parliament, or included in any general taxation of the kingdom; but as a state distinct and independent, governed by its own institutions, administered by its own magistrates, and exempt from any tax or tribute but such as we shall impose upon ourselves.
"We are the acknowledged descendants of the earliest inhabitants of Britain, of men, who before the time of history, took possession of the island desolate and