Page images

are ruined, chained, fettered, undone !” Fettered! How? Where are the fetters, but in your own imagination? There are none, either on your hands or mine : neither you nor I can show to any man in his senses, that we have one chain upon us, even so big as a knitting needle.

23. I do not say, that the ministry are without fault; or that they have done all things well. But still I ask, What is the liberty which we want? It is not civil or religious liberty. These we have in such a degree as was never known before, not from the times of William the Conqueror.* But all this is nothing; this will never satisfy the bellua multorum capitum. " That many-headed beast," the people, roars for liberty of another kind. Many want Indian liberty, the liberty of cutting throats, or of driving a brace of balls through the head of those uglylooking fellows, whom they cannot abide the sight of. Many more want the old Highland liberty, the convenient liberty of plundering. Many others there are who want the liberty of war, of borrowing their neighbours' wives or daughters; and not a few, though they do not always avow it, the liberty of murdering their prince.

24. If you are a reasonable man, a man of real honour, and consequently want none of these, I beg to know what would you have ? Considering the thing calmly, what liberty can you reasonably desire which you do not already enjoy? What is the matter with you, and with multitudes of the good people, both in England and Ireland, that they are crying and groaning as if they were chained to an oar, or barred up in the dungeons of the Inquisition? The plain melancholy truth is this : there is a general infatuation, which spreads, like an overflowing stream, from one end of the land to the other; and a man must have great wisdom and great strength, or he will be carried away by the torrent. But how can we account for this epidemic madness? for it deserves no better name. We must not dare to give the least intimation, that the devil has any thing to do with it. No! this enlightened age is too wise to believe that there is any devil in being! Satan, avaunt! we have driven thee back into the land of shadows; keep thou among thy own kindred :

With hydras, gorgons, and chimeras dire. Suppose it then to be a purely natural phenomenon ; I ask again, How can we account for it? I apprehend if we could divest ourselves of prejudice, it might be done very easily; and that without concerning ourselves with the hidden springs of action, the motives or intentions of

Letting these alone, is there not a visible, undeniable cause, which is quite adequate to the effect? The good people of England have, for some years past, been continually fed with poison. Dose after dose has been administered to them, for fear the first, or second, or tenth, should not suffice, of a poison whose natural effect is to drive men out of their senses. “ Is the centaur not fabulous ?" Neither is Circe's cup. See how, in every county, city, and village, it is now turning quiet, reasonable men, into wild bulls, bears, and tigers! But, to lay metaphor aside, how long have the public papers represented one of the best of princes as if he had been one of the worst, as little better than Caligula, Nero, or Domitian! These were followed by pamphlets of the same kind, and aiming at the same point,—to make the king appear odious as well as contemptible in the eyes of his subjects. Letters succeed, wrote in fine language, and with exquisite art, but filled with the gall of bitterness. Yes, but not against the king ; Junius does not strike at him, but at the evil administration." Thin pretence! Does not every one see the blow is aimed at the king through the sides of his ministers? All these are conveyed, week after week, through all London and all the nation. Can any man wonder at the effect of this? What can be more natural ? What can be expected, but that they who drink in these papers and letters with all greediness, will be thoroughly embittered and inflamed thereby ? will first despise and then abhor the king? What can we expect, but that by the repeated doses of this poison they will be perfectly intoxicated, and only wait for a convenient season to tear in pieces the royal monster, as they think him, and all his adherents ?

* If the famous Middlesex election was an exception to this, yet observe, one swal. low makes no summer.


25. At present there are hinderances in the way, so that they cannot use their teeth as they would. One is, an untoward parliament, who will not look upon the king with the same eyes that they do; but still think he has no more design or desire to enslave the nation, than to burn the city of London. A still greater hinderance is the army; even lions and bears do not choose to encounter them, so that these men of war do really at this time preserve the peace of the nation. What then can be done before the people cools, that this precious opportunity be not lost? What indeed, but to prevail upon the king to dissolve his parliament and disband his army? Nay, let the parliament stay as it is, it will suffice to disband the army. If these red-coats were but out of the way, the mob would soon deal with the parliament. Probatum est : [It has been proved :] Nothing is more easy than to keep malig. nant members from the house. Remember Lord North not long ago ;* this was a taste, a specimen, of their activity. What then would they not do if they were masters of the field, if none were left to oppose them? Would not the avenues of both houses he so well guarded, that none but patriots would dare to approach?

26. But (as often as you have heard the contrary affirmed) King George has too much understanding, to throw himself into the hands of those men who have given full proof that they bear him no great goodwill. Nor has he reason to believe that they are much more fond of his office than of his person. They are not vehemently fond of monarchy itself, whoever the monarch be. Therefore neither their good nor ill words will induce him, in haste, to leap into the fire with his eyes open.

27. But can any thing be done to open the eyes, to restore the senses, of an infatuated nation? Not unless the still renewed, still operating cause of that infatuation can be removed. But how is it possible to be removed, unless by restraining the licentiousness of the press ? And is not this remedy worse than the disease? Let us weigh this matter a little. There was an ancient law in Scotland, which made leasingmaking a capital crime. By leasing-making was meant, telling such wilful lies as tended to breed dissension between the king and his subjects. What pity but there should be such a law enacted in the present

* Rudely insulted by a turbulent mob, as he was going into the house.

session of parliament! By our present laws a man is punishable for publishing even truth to the detriment of his neighbour. This I would not wish. But should he not be punished, who publishes palpable lies? and such lies as manifestly tend to breed dissension between the king and his subjects? Such, with a thousand more, was that bare-faced lie of the king's bursting out into laughter before the city magistrates! Now, does not the publisher of this lie deserve to lose his ears more than a common knight of the post? And if he is liable to no punishment for a crime of so mischievous a nature, what a grievous defect is in our law! And how loud does it call for a remedy!

28. To return to the point whence we set out. You see whence arose this outcry for liberty, and these dismal complaints that we are robbed of our liberty echoing through the land. It is plain to every unprejudiced man, they have not the least foundation. We enjoy at this day throughout these kingdoms such liberty, civil and religious, as no other kingdom or commonwealth in Europe, or in the world, enjoys; and such as our ancestors never enjoyed from the Conquest to the Revolution. Let us be thankful for it to God and the king! Let us not, by our vile unthankfulness, yea, our denial that we enjoy it at all, provoke the King of kings to take it away. By one stroke, by taking to himself that prince whom we know not how to value, he might change the scene, and put an end to our civil as well as religious liberty. Then would be seen who were patriots and who were not; who were real lovers of liberty and their country. The God of love remove that day far from us! Deal not with us according to our deserving ; but let us know, at least in this our day, the things which make for our peace!

FEBRUARY 24, 1772.


1. By power, I here mean supreme power, the power over life and death, and consequently over our liberty and property, and all things of an inferior nature.

2. In many nations this power has in all ages been lodged in a single person. This has been the case in almost the whole eastern world, from the earliest antiquity; as in the celebrated empires of Assyria, of Babylon, of Media, Persia, and many others. And so it remains to this day, from Constantinople to the farthest India. The same form of government obtained very early in very many parts of Afric, and remains in most of them still, as well as in the empires of Morocco and Abyssinia. The first adventurers to America found absolute monarchy established there also; the whole power being lodged in the emperor of Mexico, and the yncas of Peru. Nay, and many of the ancient nations of Europe were governed by single persons; as Spain, France, the Russias, and several other nations are at this day.

3. But in others, the power has been lodged in a few, chiefly the rich and noble. This kind of government, usually styled aristocracy, obtained in Greece and in Rome, after many struggles with the people, during the later ages of the republic. And this is the government which at present subsists in various parts of Europe. In Venice indeed, as well as in Genoa, the supreme power is nominally lodged in one, namely, the doge; but in fact, he is only a royal shade; it is really lodged in a few of the nobles.

4. Where the people have the supreme power, it is termed a democracy. This seems to have been the ancient form of government in several of the Grecian states. And so it was at Rome for some ages after the expulsion of the kings. From the earliest authentic records, there is reason to believe it was for espousing the cause of the people, and defending their rights against the illegal encroachments of the nobles, that Marcus Coriolanus was driven into banishment, and Manlius Capitolinus, as well as Tiberius and Caius Gracchus, murdered. Perhaps formerly the popular government subsisted in several states. But it is scarce now to be found, being every where swallowed up either in monarchy or aristocracy.

5. But the grand question is, not in whom this power is lodged, but from whom it is ultimately derived. What is the origin of power? What is its primary source? This has been long a subject of debate. And it has been debated with the utmost warmth, by a variety of disputants. But as earnest as they have been on each side of the question, they have seldom come to any good conclusion; but have left the point undecided still, to be a ball of contention to the next generation.

6. But is it impossible, in the nature of things, to throw any light on this obscure subject? Let us make the experiment; let us (without pretending to dictate, but desiring every one to use his own judgment) try to find out some ground whereon to stand, and go as far as we can toward answering the question. And let not any man be angry on the account, suppose we should not exactly agree. Let every one enjoy his own opinion, and give others the same liberty.

7. Now, I cannot but acknowledge, I believe an old book, commonly called the Bible, to be true. Therefore I believe, “there is no power but from God: the powers that be are ordained of God,” Rom. xiii, 1. There is no subordinate power in any nation, but what is derived from the supreme power therein. So in England the king, in the United Provinces the states are the fountain of all power.

And there is no supreme power, no power of the sword, of life and death, but what is derived from God, the Sovereign of all.

8. But have not the people, in every age and nation, the right of disposing of this power; of investing there with whom they please, either one or more persons; and that, in what proportion they see good, and upon what conditions ? Consequently, if those conditions are not observed, have they not a right to take away the power they gave? And does not this imply, that they are the judges whether those conditions are observed or not? Otherwise, if the receivers were judges of their own cause, this right would fall into nothing.

9. To prove this, that the people in every country are the source of power, it is argued thus : “ All men living upon earth are naturally equal; none is above another; and all are naturally free, masters of their own actions. It manifestly follows, no man can have any power over another, unless by his own consent. The power therefore which the governors in any nation enjoy, must be originally derived from the people, and presupposes an original compact between them and their first governors."

10. This seems to be the opinion which is now generally espoused by men of understanding and education; and that if I do not mistake) not in England alone, but almost in every civilized nation. And it is usually espoused with the fullest and strongest persuasion, as a truth little less than self evident, as what is clear beyond all possibility of doubt, what commands the assent of all reasonable men. Hence if any man affected to deny it, he would in most companies be rather hooted at than argued with ; it being so absurd to oppose what is confirmed by the general suffrage of mankind.

11. But still (suppose it to need no proof) it may need a little explaining; for every one does not understand the term. Some will ask, "Who are the people ? Are they every man, woman, and child ?” Why not? Is it not allowed, is it not affirmed, is it not our fundamental principle, our incontestable, self-evident axiom, that “all persons living upon earth are naturally equal ; that all human creatures are naturally free; masters of their own actions; that none can have any power over others, but by their own consent?” Why then should not every man, woman, and child, have a voice in placing their governors ; in fixing the measure of power to be entrusted with them, and the conditions on which it is entrusted? And why should not every one have a voice in displacing them too; seeing it is undeniable, they that gave the power have a right to take it away? Do not quibble or shuffle. Do not evade the question; but come close to the point. I ask, By what argument do you prove that women are not naturally as free as men? And, if they are, why have they not as good a right as we have to choose their own governors ? Who can have any power over free, rational creatures, but by their own consent? And are they not free by nature, as well as we?

Are they not rational creatures ? 12. But suppose we exclude women from using their natural right, by might overcoming right, by main strength, (for it is sure that we are stronger than they ; I mean that we have stronger limbs, if we have not stronger reason,) what pretence have we for excluding men like ourselves, yea, thousands, and tens of thousands, barely because they have not lived one-and-twenty years ? “Why, they have not wisdom or experience to judge concerning the qualifications necessary for governors." I answer, (1.) Who has ? How many of the voters in Great Britain ? one in twenty? one in a hundred ? If you exclude all who have not this wisdom, you will leave few behind. But (2.) Wisdom and experience are nothing to the purpose. You have put the matter upon another issue. Are they men? That is enough. Are they human creatures ? Then they have a right to choose their own governors; an indefeasible right; a right inherent, inseparable from human nature.

“ But in England, at least, they are excluded by law.” But did they consent to the making of that law? If not, by your original supposition, it can have no power over them. I therefore utterly deny that we can consistently with that supposition, debar either women or minors from choosing their own governors.

13. But suppose we exclude these by main force, (which it is certaiu

« PreviousContinue »