Week 7: The Late 1760s

William Knox, The Controversy Between Great Britain and her Colonies, Reviewed

THE CONTROVERSY BETWEEN Great Britain and her Colonies REVIEWED;
In Support of their Right to all the Liberties and Privileges
of British Subjects, and to Exemption from the Legislative
Authority of Parliament, STATED AND CONSIDERED:
The Nature of their Connection with, and
Dependence on, Great Britain,

William Knox



[i] He that goeth about to persuade a multitude, that they
are not so well governed as they ought to be (says the learned
and judicious Hooker) shall never want attentive and favorable
hearers ; because such as openly reprove supposed disorders of
state, are taken for principal friends to the common benefit
of all and for men that carry singular freedom of mind. Under
this fair and plausible colour, whatsoever they utter passeth
for good and current.

[5] Far be it from me to wish to be thought insensible to
the good or ill opinion of my countrymen; but as I consider
it to be my duty to promote their welfare to the utmost of
my poor ability, I will shew them my opinion, whether they
may reward or censure me for my endeavours. On this principle,
and actuated by these motives, it is, that, unawed by the terrors
which rise before me, I adventure upon my present under-
taking; and I set down to review the American controversy,
with the single, and I hope honest, purpose of bringing back
my fellow subjects in the Colonies to a just sense of their
duty to the supreme legislative power, by exposing to them
the fallacies by which they have been deluded, and exploring
the dangers which the paths wherein they are now bewildered
must unavoidably lead them into.

The several pleas which have been urged by those who
have distinguished themselves in this controversy, on behalf
of the Colonies, may be comprehended under these two general

[6] The title of the inhabitants in the Colonies to all the
rights, liberties, and privileges of Englishmen; and their claim
to exemption from the jurisdiction of parliament.

It should seem to be of the utmost importance to the Colonies,
that the former plea was established before they adduced
any proofs in support of the latter; for, should they fail in
the one, nothing could be more fatal to their freedom, and
consequently to their prosperity, than their succeeding in the

If they should unhappily be able to demonstrate that the
Colonies are no part of the British state; that they are the
king’s domain, and not annexed to the realm ; that the inhabi-
tants are not British subjects, nor within the jurisdiction of
parhament; they can have no title to such privileges and

immunities as the people of England derive under acts of par-
liament, nor to any other of those rights which are pecuHar to
British subjects within the realm. . . .

[7] Whatever grievances they may have to complain of, they
must seek redress from the grace of the crown alone; for,
should they petition parliament to do them right, they them-
selves have authorized the crown to tell parliament, as the
secretary of state to James the First did the house of commons,
[8] “America is not annexed to the realm, nor within the juris-
diction of parhament, you have therefore no right to interfere.”

Such being the case, w^e are therefore to expect to find the
strongest efforts of the colony advocates directed to this point.
We may indeed look for the clearest evidence, the most con-
vincing arguments, and even demonstrative proofs of their
right to these privileges, independent of acts of parhament,
since we see them so eager to preclude parliament from the
power of conveying to them any privilege whatever. Let us
then see on what they found their title.

In May 1765, the house of burgesses in Virginia resolved,
“That the first adventurers and settlers of this his majesty’s
colony and dominion of Virginia, [9] brought with them and
transmitted to their posterity, and all other his majesty’s sub-
jects since inhabiting in this his majesty’s said colony, all the
liberties, privileges, franchises, and immunities, that have at
any time been held and enjoyed, and possessed by the people
of Great-Britain.”

This resolution is adopted by the assembly of Maryland, and
repeated in the very same words: and as the assembly of Vir-
ginia has been said to have hung out the standard for American
liberty, and the other Colonies have little more merit than that
of following their leader, I must confess I expected to have
found a much clearer proof of the truth of the proposition con-
tained in their resolution than I am able to collect from the
terms in which it is expressed. They tell us indeed ”That the
first adventurers in the reign of James the First, brought with
them, and transmitted to their posterity, &c. all the liberties,
privileges, franchises, and immunities, that the people of Great-
Britain have at any time (since as well as before) enjoyed and
possessed.” [lo] But in what sort of menstruum, nucleous, or
embryo, it was that they carried with them to Virginia, in the
reign of James the First, the habeas corpus act, which the
people of England did not enjoy or possess till the reign of

Charles the Second; or the bill of rights which they did not
enjoy till the reign of William and Mary; the acts for altering
the succession and the limitation of the crown, and many others
passed in that and the subsequent reigns; as they have not
condescended to inform their friends in England, so they can
only expect us to admire their profound logical skill, and must
content themselves with the more rational applause of their
countrymen, who they may have more fully instructed.

The assembly of Pennsylvania, by their resolutions in the
same year, declare, ”That the inhabitants of this province are
intitled to all the liberties, rights, and privileges of his majesty’s
subjects in Great-Britain, or elsewhere; and that the consti-
tution of government in this province is founded on the natural
rights of mankind, and the noble principles of English liberty,
and therefore is or ought to be perfectly free.”

[ii] This resolution asserts in like manner, as do the resolu-
tions of Virginia and Maryland, that the people of that colony
are intitled to all the rights of British subjects; but it does not
pretend that the first settlers carried them there: neither does
it found their claim to them upon the royal charter to the pro-
prietor, or upon the laws of Great Britain, but upon the “nat-
ural rights of mankind, and the noble principles of English

That the natural rights of mankind should give any people a
right to all the liberties and privileges of Englishmen, is, I
believe, a doctrine unknown to all civiUans, except the assem-
bly of Pennsylvania. It is indeed a most benevolent doctrine;
for if it be established, it will render the blessings which British
subjects enjoy under their excellent constitution universal to
all people, at least to all those who live under any constitution
of government which is founded upon the natural rights of
mankind, [12] in whatever part of the world they may inhabit,
or whoever may be their sovereign. The native Indians in
North America, the Hottentots at the Cape of Good Hope,
the Tartars, Arabs, Cafres, and Groenlanders, will all have an
equal title to the liberties and rights of Englishmen, with the
people of Pennsylvania; for all their constitutions of govern-
ment are founded on the natural rights of mankind.

[21] — But it seems parhament has a right to benefit the
colonies, but not to bind them: it may give them bounties,

but it must not impose burdens. Its power over the colonies is
somewhat Hke that allowed by the deists to the Almighty over
his creatures, he may reward them with eternal happiness if
he pleases, but he must not punish them on any account. . . .

[25] I come now to what Mr. Dickenson calls the American
declaration of rights, which are the resolutions of the commit-
tees from the several Colony assemblies, which met at New
York, 19 October, 1765.* and here we may expect to find the
separate and irregular claims of each Colony consolidated and
reduced into system and consistency. Their resolutions are as

[26] “That his majesty’s subjects in these Colonies owe the
same allegiance to the crown of Great Britain that is owing
from his subjects born wdthin the realm, and all due subordina-
tion to that august body, the parliament of Great Britain.

”That his majesty’s liege subjects in these Colonies are in-
titled to all the inherent rights and liberties of his natural-
born subjects within the kingdom of Great Britain.”

[27] What Enghshman could desire more of the Colonies
than due obedience to that august body, the parhament of Great
Britain? But what is due obedience is a matter in which they
and the people of England differ exceedingly; [28] and the com-
mittees chose to reserve to the colonies their own construction
of the terms, while they hoped the people of England would
be led to believe they agreed with them in theirs.

An Englishman conceives due obedience to parliament to
mean lawful obedience, or obedience to an act of parhament.
The Colonies conceive the parliament to have no right to
make laws for them; and due obedience to parliament is there-
fore, in their apprehension, no obedience at all. . . .

[31] Having thus seen upon what sort of foundations the
different colony assemblies build their several titles to the
rights and privileges of Englishmen, and that each super-
structure, at the approach of reason, vanishes like — the base-
less fabric of a vision. — I will not fatigue the reader with a
discussion of the arguments introduced by the colony advo-
cates in support of the assemblies resolutions. Whatever
they can urge in behalf of the Colonies claim to the rights and
privileges of Englishmen, whilst they deny that they are
subjects of the realm, or natural-born British subjects, and that
the Colonies are within the realm, must be obnoxious to the
same charges of inconsistency and absurdity to which the
assemblies resolutions are so palpably Hable; and the simplest
of my countrymen can easily detect the most artful American
sophister, [32] by insisting upon his answering this plain ques-
tion: Are the people in the Colonies British subjects, or are
they aliens or foreigners?

[33] . . . That they cannot however maintain their title to
those rights upon any other ground, than that of their being
British subjects, born and inhabiting within the realm, is, I
think, sufficiently evident; and therefore, that they may fail in
proving that they are not British subjects, and that the Colonies
lie without the realm, is the most friendly wish I can give them.
How far they have succeeded in the fatal attempt, must be
the subject of our next enquiry.

[34] Wlien the repeal of the stamp-act was their object,
a distinction was set up between internal and external taxes;
they pretended not to dispute the right of parliament to impose
external taxes, or port duties, upon the Colonies, whatever
were the purposes of parliament in laying them on, or however
productive of revenue they might be. Nay, Doctor Frankhn
tells the house of commons, that “they have a natural and
equitable right to some toll or duty upon merchandizes carried
through that part of their dominions, viz, the American seas,
towards defraying the expense that they are at in ships to
maintain the safety of that carriage.” This, however, was
only the language for 1765 and 1766, but when parliament
seemed to adopt the distinction, and waiving for the present
the exercise of its right to impose internal taxes, [35] imposed
certain duties on merchandizes imported into the Colonies,*
and carried through those seas which the parliament was told

were theirs: the distinction between internal and external
taxes is rejected by the colony advocates, and a new one de-
vised between taxes for the regulatiojt of trade, and taxes for the
purpose of revenue.

This new distinction, however, between taxes for the regula-
tion of trade, and taxes for the purpose of revenue, as far as it
respects the right of parliament to impose the one, but not the
other, is, of all absurdities, the most ridiculous that ever was
contended for. It is saying, in other words, that parliament
has a right to impose a heavy tax, but not a small one. It
may lay one so grievous, that no body can afford to pay it;
but it has no authority to impose one which may be easily
borne: nay, in the instances referred to by Mr. Dickenson in
his Farmer’s Letters, it should seem to mean that parliament
has no right to reduce a tax which it has had a legal right to
impose in a manner extremely burdensome. [36] The right of
Parliament to charge foreign molasses with a duty of six-
pence a gallon was unquestionable; but, for parliament to
reduce the six-pence to three-pence, is a violent usurpation of
unconstitutional authority, and an infringement of the rights
and privileges of the people in the Colonies. . . .

[37] It is the purpose of parliament in laying the tax, which,
it seems, gives it the right of laying it. Curious reasoning this!
— Now, should it happen, that parliament was at any time
mistaken in its purpose, [38] and that a tax which it imposed
with an intention that no body should pay it, that is, that it
should operate as a prohibition, should really turn out to be
such a tax as the commodity on which it was charged could
bear, and the people in the Colonies were willing to purchase
it at the price the tax had raised it to, what should we do then?
If the tax be paid it then becomes a revenue tax, and no longer
a prohibitory one; and is thenceforward a grievance, and an
infringement of the rights of the colonies. On the other hand,
suppose parliament should be mistaken in a tax it laid for the
purpose of revenue, and it turned out a prohibition, would
the tax then become a constitutional one?

[41] A land-tax is a judicious regulation, inasmuch as it
excites the land owner to cultivate and improve his lands; and

with this very view, taxes are laid upon unimproved lands
in America, by the colony assemblies. Thus our East-India
duties are many of them calculated to promote our own manu-
factures, as well as to raise a revenue. Thus the duties upon
French goods Vv^ere imposed with a view to check the trade of
France, [42] to encourage our own manufactures, and, at the
same time, to raise a fund for defraying the public expences.
So likewise are a multitude of our taxes upon articles of luxury
and of extravagance in our home consumption; so likewise are
the taxes upon many of our exports, to prevent the manufacture
of our raw materials abroad, and to encourage it at home. . . .

[43] This boasted distinction between taxes for the regula-
tion of trade, and taxes for the purpose of revenue, we therefore
see is without a difference, and will in no sort serve to protect
the Colonies from parliamentary internal and external taxation,
however it may serve for a pretence, under which to strip par-
liament of all jurisdiction over the Colonies.

[44] I have indeed thought of a distinction which would
suit the Colonies purposes much better, and w^hich, I beheve,
is what they mean, by the difference between taxes for the
purpose of revenue, and taxes as regulations of trade, if they
chose to speak it out, which is that between the imposing taxes
and collecting them. They would acknowledge, with all their
hearts, a right in parliament to do the one, provided it never
attempted to do the other. It is this new invention of collecting
taxes that makes them burdensome to the Colonies, and an
infringement of their rights and privileges; — and herein it is
that Mr. Grenville’s administration has proved the aera of the
Colonies’ loss of liberty.

The duty of six pence a gallon upon foreign molasses, which
had been laid thirty years before Mr. Grenville was first com-
missioner of the treasury, was no grievance, because it had
never been collected; but when that gentleman reduced the duty
to three pence, all liberty was at an end — for he took measures
for the Colonies to pay the three pence.

[50] For if the authority of the legislative be not in one
instance equally supreme over the Colonies as it is over the
people of England, then are not the Colonies of the same com-

munity with the people of England. All distinctions destroy
this union; and if it can be shewn in any particular to be dis-
solved, it must be so in all instances whatever. There is no
alternative: either the Colonies are a part of the community
of Great Britain, [51] or they are in a state of nature with
respect to her, and in no case can be subject to the jurisdiction
of that legislative power w-hich represents her community,
w^hich is the British parliament.

[55] It would be endless to trace this doctrine of taxes through
all its consequences. I have already gone far enough to shew,
that upon Mr. Dickenson’s principles, where they cannot be
imposed, there can be neither restraints upon trade, nor exer-
cise of sovereign authority; [56] and that if Great Britain
does not possess the right of taxing the Colonies, she has no
right to exercise any jurisdiction over them; but that the
Colonies are, as Mr. Dickenson says they are, of themselves,
“a distinct community, or one political body of which each
colony is a member, separated from the rest of the w^orld,”
and especially from Great Britain. Yet notwithstanding,
these are clearly the consequences w^hich must follow from his
premise; and that such are the consequences the Colonies mean
should follow from them; yet Mr. Dickenson, not caring to
discover the whole of their purpose so fully at present, in the
beginning of his second letter, thus expresses himself: ^’The
parliament unquestionably possesses a legal authority to regu-
late the trade of Great Britain and all her Colonies: such an
authority is essential to the relation between a mother country
and her Colonies, and necessary for the common good of all.
He who considers these provinces, as states distinct from the
British empire^ has very slender notions of justice, or of their
interests: we are but parts of a whole, [57] and therefore there
must exist a power somewhere to preside and preserve the connec-
tion in due order; this power is lodged in parliament.’^ . . .

[59] Perhaps all these seeming al^surdities, and contradic-
tions would be reconciled or obviated, if we rightly understood
the account he gives us in the first page of his first letter, of
the connection between Great Britain and her Colonies; and
it is a pity his learned editor has not given the pubUc a disser-

tation upon that most ingenious and instructive passage. ”We
are,” that is, the Colonies are, says he “as much dependent on
Great Britain, as a perfectly free people can be on another.”

But the main objection, and on which all the other objec-
tions made by the Colonies against the right of parhament to
impose taxes upon them, is founded, remains to be examined.
[60] “They tell us, that it is the true principle of government,
that no man should pay a tax to which he does not consent,
either in his own person, or by his representative chosen by
him; that the Colonies are not represented in the British
parliament, and therefore cannot be taxed by it.”

This doctrine, that taxation and representation upon the
true principles of government must go together, is so well cal-
culated to captivate the multitude in this country, and so flat-
tering to the Americans, as it intirely abrogates the authority
of parliament to tax the Colonies; that it is not surprizing it
has found partizans in Great Britain, and has been universally
adopted in America, without much enquiry or examination into
its foundation, in reason or fact. And yet, if it be applied, as
in the instance before us, to an actual or a distinct representa-
tion of all those who are taxed, and no other will serve the pur-
pose of the Colonies, it is not true of any government now
existing, nor, I believe, of any which ever did exist. In this
sense it neither is nor ever was true in Great Britain! [61] It
is not true in any of the charter or royal governments in Amer-
ica: it is not true in the province of Massachusetts Bay, in
which by the last history of it, there appears not only to be
a multitude of individuals, but even forty townships of free-
holders now taxed, who have no distinct representatives: so
far therefore is this doctrine of distinct representation and taxa-
tion from going together, ‘ ‘ being joined by God himself; founded
in the eternal law of nature; having grown up wdth the con-
stitution of England;” that it never existed, either in England,
or any other country in the world.

[64] … All the corporations and boroughs who elect mem-
bers for parliament, do it by virtue of a charter for that pur-
pose from the crown, or by prescription, which, in law, pre-
supposes a grant or charter beyond time of memory. The
kings of England for many centuries constantly exercised the
right of creating corporations, with the power of chusing members

to parliament, and vested that power in many or
in a few at their discretion; some of these, particularly the
two universities, were incorporated for that purpose so late as
the reign of James the First; and, unless it is restrained by
the act of the union of the two kingdoms, I do not know that
this power has ever been taken away.

[65] This right in corporations of electing representatives
to parliament, is therefore clearly derived from the grant of
the crown; and the members of the corporation exercise that
right, because the corporation holds of the crown. …

[66] It is, moreover, worthy of remark, that these members
sent to parliament by the freeholders and corporations,
are not called the representatives of the people, but the commons
in parliament. They are so styled in all the old writs and
records; they are so styled to this day in every act of parlia-
ment; and they act not only for their own particular communi-
ties, by whom they are severally elected, but each of them
for the com^munity of the whole.

[67] The subjects of Great Britain are not, however, without
their representatives, though the members who compose the
House of Commons cannot be said to be distinctly so. Neither
are they bound by laws, nor is their money taken from them
without their own consent given by their representatives.
The King, Lords, and Commons are their representatives; for to
them it is that they have delegated their individual rights over
their lives, liberties, and property; and so long as they approve
of that form of government, and continue under it, so long do
they consent to whatever is done by those they have instructed
with their rights.

”Laws they are not (says Hooker) which public approba-
tion hath not made so. But approbation not only they give,
who personally declare their assent by voice, sign, or act,
but also when others do it in their names, by right originally
at the least derived from them. And to be commanded we
do consent, when that society whereof we are part hath at any
time before consented, without revoking the same after by
the like universal agreement.” [68] And Mr. Locke, who fol-
lowed this learned investigator of the rights of mankind, in
his answer to Sir Robert Filmer,* after having shewn that the

origin of all power is from the people only; that every
form of government, whether a democracy, an oligarchy, an
elective or heriditary monarchy, is nothing more than a trust
delegated by the society to the person or persons so appointed,
lays it down as a fundamental maxim in all governments : ‘ ‘ That
the legislative is the joint power of every member of the society,
given up to that person or assembly which is legislator; and
that even the executive, when vested in a single person, is to
be considered as the representative of the common-wealth.”
And he then adds; ”Nobody doubts but an express consent of
any man entering into society, makes him a perfect member
of that society, a subject of that government. The difficulty
is what ought to be looked upon as a tacit consent; and to this
I say, [69] that every man that hath any possessions or enjoyment
of any part of the dominions of any government, doth thereby
give his tacit consent, and is as far forth obliged to obedience to
the laws of that government during such enjoyment, as any one
under it.”

Upon this principle, the king and the two houses of parlia-
ment, are by our constitution representatives of the legislative,
as the king alone is of the executive power of the common-
wealth; and, upon this principle, every subject of Great
Britain, when he is taxed by parliament, is taxed by his own
consent, for he is then taxed by consent of those whom the
society has impowered to act for the whole; and every member
of the community must therefore subscribe his tacit consent
to all such taxes as may be imposed, or other legislative acts
that may be done by those whom the society has appointed,
as long as the form of government subsists. This is the British
constitution; and if the British subjects in America still con-
tinue to be part of our community it follows that they also are
represented by the British legislative, and equally bound by
its laws.

[70] That the first inhabitants of the Colonies were part
of the British community, and bound to obey its legislative
power in all respects, as any other subjects at the time of
the establishment of those Colonies, will not be denied. How
then has that obedience been altered or released? Those
Colonies were all created by charters or temporary authorities,
from the executive power of this community, except in the
cases of Jamaica, New York, and the late acquisitions of
Quebec, the Ceded Islands, and the Two Floridas, which were

conquests made by this community upon foreign powers,
and such of their subjects as remained were incorporated with
us under our laws and obedience. . . .

[71] But suppose it had been otherwise; can it be con-
tended, that the executive power of the crown, can, by any
grant or authority, alter or annul the legislative power in the
article of taxation, or any other? Will those who contend
that this right of taxation belongs only to, and can only be
exercised by the deputies of the people, contend at the same
time for a right in the crown or executive to annul or restrain
the legislative power, partly composed as it is of these deputies,
in that very article of taxation? If they do, let them hear
Mr. Locke in reply. He will tell them, that ”even the legis-
lative power itself cannot transfer the power of making laws
to any other hands; for it being but a delegated power from the
people, they who have it cannot pass it over to others.” [72] He
says, moreover, that “all obedience, which, by the most solemn
ties any one can be obliged to pay, ultimately terminates in
this supreme power, the legislative, and is directed by those
laws which it enacts; nor can any oaths to any foreign power
whatsoever or any domestic subordinate power ^ discharge any
member of the society from his obedience to the legislative,
acting pursuant to their trust; nor oblige him to any obedience
contrary to the laws so enacted, or farther tlian they do allow;
it being ridiculous to imagine, one can be tied ultimately to
obey any power in the society which is not supreme.” He
says in another place; ”there can be but one supreme power,
which is the legislative, to which all the rest are and must be

[73] . . . The kings of England never had personally, nor ever
claimed to have any property in the lands in the Colonies.
[74] Those of them who carried their claims of prerogative the
highest, never pretended to have any other title to those
lands than what they derived from their possession of the
crown of England, and they granted them under that title to
their present possessors, or their ancestors; for all grants
of lands in the Colonies have been marie under the great seal
of England, or by authority derived under the great seal ofEngland,

which is the same thing, from the first discovery
of America to this day.

[76] The lands in all the Colonies having therefore been
clearly shewn to be part of the dominions of Great Britain, and
the possessors of them to hold them under authorities and
titles derived from the British state, Mr. Locke would require
no other proof of the right of the legislative power of Great
Britain to the obedience of the possessors of those lands; for,
speaking of the manner by which a man tacitly makes himself
a subject of any country or government, he says:

“It is commonly supposed, that a father could oblige his
posterity to that government of which he himself was a subject,
and that his compact held them; whereas it being only a neces-
sary condition annexed to the land, [77] and the inheritance of
an estate which is under that government, reaches only those
who will take it on that condition, and so is no natural tie or
engagement, but a voluntary submission; for every man’s
children, being by nature as free as himself, or any of his
ancestors ever were, may, whilst they are in that freedom,
choose what society they will join themselves to, what common-
wealth they will put themselves under; but if they will enjoy
the inheritance of their ancestors, they must take it on the same
terms their ancestors had it, and submit to all the conditions
annexed to such a possession.’* *’ Whoever (says he in another
place) by inheritance, purchase, permission, or otherways,
enjoys any part of the land so annexed to, and under the govern-
ment of, that commonwealth, must take it with the condition
it is under ; that is, of submitting to the government of the com-
monwealth under whose jurisdiction it is, as far forth as any
subject of it.”

[78] I have quoted these passages from Mr. Locke’s Treatise
upon Civil Government, because his opinions in this treatise
have been principally rehed on as the foundation of many
extravagant and absurd propositions which he never meant to
encourage; and because I have the highest regard in general
for the good sense and free spirit of that excellent work, written
to defend the natural rights of men, and particularly the
principles of our constitution, when they were attacked both
by force and fraud: [84] But what puts Mr. Locke’s meaning in these pages
out of all question, is what he says in his eighth chapter of
the beginning of civil societies: ”That every man, when he
at first incorporates himself into any commonwealth, he, by
his uniting himself thereunto, annexes also and submits to
the community, those possessions which he has or shall acquire,
[85] that do not already belong to any other government:
for it would be a direct contradiction for any one to enter into
society with others, for the securing and regulating of property,
and yet to suppose his land, whose property is to be regulated
by the laws of the society, should be exempt from the juris-
diction of that government to which he himself, the proprieter
of the land is a subject. By the same act therefore, whereby
any one unites his person, which was before free to any com-
monwealth, by the same he unites his possessions, which were
before free to it also; and they become, both of them, person
and possession, subject to the government and dominion of
that commonwealth as long as it hath a being.”

Can any words more strongly express the right of the supreme
legislature to tax or dispose of the property of the subject
for public purposes, than do these last quoted? And those who
would draw from any other more loose or general expressions
of Mr. Locke, any argument to exempt the property of any
subject from taxes imposed by the supreme legislative for the
public service, [86] must impute to him such inconsistencies
as Mr. Locke was incapable of, and charge him with con-
tradictions w^hich ought to destroy his credit, both as an honest
man and a clear reasoner.

I might indeed have brought it to a much speedier conclusion,
and have exposed the absurdity and impracticability of the
doctrine, from the very principles upon which its promulgers
would establish it. They say; ”That no man ought to be
taxed, but by his own consent;^’ or, in other words, “that the
consent of those who pay the taxes is necessary to their being
constitutionally imposed. [87] That this consent must be
given by the people themselves who pay the taxes, or by
their distinct representatives chosen by them.” And these,
they say, are the rights of Englishmen. Now if these be the
rights of Englishmen, I will undertake to say, there is scarce
a session of parliament passes in which they are not most notoriously

violated, and if parliament did not do so, it could
lay no taxes whatever.

When the tax was laid upon hops, did the people who were
to pay the tax, viz. the hop-growers, consent to it, either by
themselves or their distinct representatives? Did the people
in the cyder counties, or their distinct representatives, consent
to the tax upon cyder? Is the land-tax kept up at three shillings
with the consent of all the land-owners in the kingdom, or that
of all the knights of shires, their distinct representatives?
What tax is it indeed to which those who pay it, or their dis-
tinct representatives, have all consented? — [S8] But if this
actual and distinct consent of the taxed, or of their distinct
representatives, be constitutionally necessary to their being
taxed; by consequence, whenever such consent is not given,
no tax can be constitutionally imposed. . . .

[91] Thus, whilst they exclaim against parliament for taxing
them when they are not represented, they candidly declare
they will not have representatives, lest they should be taxed —
like froward children, they cry for that which they are de-
termined to refuse, if it should be offered them.* The truth
however is, that they are determined to get rid of the juris-
diction of parliament in all cases whatsoever, if they can; and
they therefore refuse to send members to that assembly, lest
they should preclude themselves of this plea against all its
legislative acts — that they are done without their consent;
which, it must be confessed, holds equally good against all
laws, as against taxes. [92] For it is undoubtedly a principle
of the British constitution, “that no man shall be bound by
any law to which he does not give his consent,” of equal efficacy
with that of his not being taxed, but by his own consent. In
what manner however that consent is given, we have already
seen; and the futility and falacy of the pretence, that it cannot
be given but by distinct representatives, elected by those who
pay taxes, or are bound by laws, have been sufficiently exposed.

The colony advocates however, not caring to develope their
whole purpose at present, tell us, that by refusing to accept our
offer of representatives, they only mean to avoid giving parlia-

ment a pretence for taxing them, which they say it is not neces-
sary for parhament to do, as they have assemblies of their own
in each Colony, who are the representatives of the people;
and w^ho, being acquainted with their circumstances, can best
judge what taxes they can bear, and what sums they ought
to contribute to the public occasions, whenever his majesty
shall call upon them for their aid.

[93] The colony assemblies are indeed but seven-and-twenty,
and perhaps it might happen, that they should all agree in
opinion upon some one point; but I much fear that point
would not be — to lay taxes upon themselves. There is much
more reason to apprehend it might be as we have seen — not to
do so. Mankind are in general apt enough to agree to keep
their money, but not so frequently of one mind when the
proposition is to part with it. But to take the matter on its
fairest side, let us suppose these twenty-seven states all equally
disposed to shew regard to his majesty’s requisition — provided
they think the occasion fitting. Upon what occasion then
shall his majesty call upon them? Not to settle a permanent
revenue for support of their own civil establishments; for he
has already made requisitions to many of them, without end,
for that purpose, and always without effect; and those few
who have complied most heartily regret it. Shall it be for
support of the military establishment kept up in time of peace?
The continental Colonies tell us ”they don’t want our troops;
and if we keep any among them we must pay them.” [94]
Shall it be for a fund to give presents to the Indians? The
islands say, ‘ ‘ they have nothing to do with the Indians. Those
who have the benefit of their trade, and live upon their lands,
ought to give them presents.” Shall it be for discharge of the
public debt? One and all will tell us, ”that is the affair of
Great Britain alone.” Suppose then a w^ar breaks out; the
Indians attack the back settlers in Virginia — what will Caro-
lina contribute for defence of that province? ^’Just as much
as she has ever done.” What will the Islands give? Exactly
the same. Suppose the Barbary states quarrel with us; the
fishing colonies, and the rice and sugar colonies, suffer by their
depredations on the ships bound to Portugal and the Streights
— what would Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, do in
the matter? A war in Germany becomes the occasion of
the requisition; rice, sugar, and tobacco all go thither, but no
fish — why then should New England, Nova Scotia, or Quebec,.

give any thing? [95] If it was for support of the Itahan states,
these colonies might indeed contribute something, as they buy
their fish; but if that were the occasion would Pennsylvania,
Virginia, or Carolina do so?

[106] The late war, though commenced in America, and
occasioned by a dispute about American territories, was not,
say the colony advocates, a colony quarrel; nor are the acqui-
sitions made by the crown in the course of it, and retained by
the treaty of Paris, of any advantage to the inhabitants of the
old provinces; on the contrary, the value of their possessions
has been much lessened by the addition of such extensive ter-
ritories. But not to injure their cause by abridging their argu-
ments, I will set them down in their own words, and at full
length as I find them in Dr. Franklin’s Examination, and in
the Farmer’s Letters.

[107] Dr. Franklin thus delivers himself before the House
of Commons in 1765: “I know the last war is commonly spoke
of here, as entered into for the defence, or for the sake of the
people of America. I think it quite misunderstood. It began
about the limits between Canada and Nova Scotia, about ter-
ritories to which the crown indeed laid claim, but were not
claimed by any British colony: none of the lands had been
granted to any colonist; we had therefore no particular con-
cern or interest in that dispute. As to the Ohio, the contest
there begun about your right of trading in the Indian country,
a right you had by the treaty of Utricht, which the French
infringed; they seized the traders, and their goods, which
were your manufactures; they took a fort which a company
of your merchants and their factors and correspondents had
erected there, to secure that trade. Braddock was sent with
an army to retake that fort (which was looked on here as another
encroachment on the king’s territory) and to protect your
trade. [108] It was not till after his defeat (in 1755), that
the Colonies were attacked. They were before in perfect peace
with both French and Indians. The troops were not there-
fore sent /or their defence. The trade with the Indians, though
carried on in America, is not an American interest. The people
of America are chiefly farmers and planters; scarce any thing
they raise or produce is an article of commerce with the Indians.
The Indian trade is a British interest; it is carried on with British

manufactures for the profit of British merchants and
manufacturers ; therefore the war, as it commenced for defence
of territories of the crown, the property of no American, and
for the defence of a trade purely British, was really a British

Having been asked, “Is it not necessary to send troops to
America to defend the Americans against the Indians?” The
Doctor rephes, “No; by no means: it never was necessary.
They defended themselves when they were but an handful, and
the Indians much more numerous. [109] They continually
gained ground, and have driven the Indians over the moun-
tains without any troops sent to their assistance from this

[in] The high rank Dr. Franklin so fitly holds among the
philosophers of the age, the honourable testimony borne to
his literary merit by the university of Oxford, and his great
knowledge of the colony affairs, must give his evidence a de-
gree of credit little short of proofs of holy writ; more especially
when it is considered, that although an oath had not been
administered, yet his testimony was called for by the great
council of the nation, upon a matter of the highest importance
to the state, and given with suitable solemnity. Mr. Dicken-
son’s private character is not indeed so well known, but it is
very respectable; and as the spirit he was endeavouring to
infuse into his countrymen must soon have carried them to
make their appeal to heaven, he cannot surely be suspected of
attempting to rouse them by falsehoods to an undertaking,
for the success of which they were to depend on the favour of
the Almighty. How shall I then venture to controvert the
assertions of either of these gentlemen? [112] The evidence
of other individuals, however respectable will be thought insuf-
ficient, as none other can be supposed to have had equal means
of information. — The opinion of governors or military com-
manders, would be deemed partial, either to themselves or this
country, and the informations transmitted to ministers are
always suspected to be adapted to the taste of the minister, or
suited to serve some particular purpose. The evidence which
I shall therefore have recourse to, is no other than that of the
assemblies of the Colonies of Virginia and Massachuset’s Bay;
the one colony situate in the neighborhood of the Ohio, and the

Other bordering upon Nova Scotia. The members of those
assembUes must therefore be supposed to have had as com-
petent knowledge of the state of affairs in their respective coun-
tries, and of the causes of the late war, as either Doctor Frank-
lin or Mr. Dickenson.

[129] Extract from the Address of the Assembly of
Virginia to the King, 1754.

“As the endeavours of the French to estabhsh a settlement
upon our frontiers, is a high insult offered to your majesty, and
if not timely opposed wz7/z vigour and resolution, must be attended
with the most fatal consequences; we have (notwithstanding
the great poverty of the colony, and the low condition of the
public revenue, occasioned by the bad state of our tobacco trade,
and a large debt due from the country, for raising and main-
taining of soldiers upon the expedition against Canada in the
year 1746) granted a supply of ten thousand pounds towards
defraying and protecting your majesty’s subjects against the
encroachments of the French, which, though not sufficient to
answer all the ends for which it is designed, is the utmost that
your people under their present circumstances are able to bear.
We therefore most humbly beseech your majesty, to extend
your royal beneficence to us your loyal subjects, [130] that we
may be enabled to effectually defeat the unjust and pernicious
designs of your enemies.”

[131] Extract from the Draught of a Representation of the
Commissioners met at Albany, July 9th 1754.

[132] ”That the said Colonies being in a divided, disunited
state, there has never been any joint exertion of their force, or
councils, [133] to repel or defeat the measures of the French;
and particular Colonies are unable and unwilling to maintain
the cause of the whole. That it seems absolutely necessaiy, that

speedy and effectual
measures be taken to secure the Colonies from the slavery
tiiey are threatened with.”

[179] Whilst parliament was thus in every reign, and almost
in every session, exercising its supreme legislative authority
over the Colonies, the ministers and servants of the crown
were not wanting on their part, in carrying the laws into due
execution, or in exerting the Prince’s just authority, for pre-
serving the Colonies in their dependance on the king and par-
liament of Great Britain.

[198] In the year 1764, the Colonies were made acquainted
through their agents, that a revenue would be required from
them, towards defraying the charge of the troops kept up
among them, and to give this intimation the more efhcacy, a
resolution was propounded to, and adopted by the house of
commons, that for the purpose of raising such a general reve-
nue, a stamp duty might be necessary.

[199] The Colonies by this, saw that government was in
earnest, and they could not doubt of the intimation given
them from the king’s ministers; that if they did not make
grants in their own assemblies, parliament would do it for
them. Mr. Grenville, indeed, went so far as to desire the agents
to acquaint the Colonies, that if they could not agree among
themselves, upon raising a revenue by their own assemblies,
yet if they all or any of them disliked stamp duties, and would
propose any other sort of tax which would carry the appearance
of equal efficacy, he would adopt it. But he warmly recom-
mended to them the making grants by their own assemblies,
as the most expedient method for themselves on several ac-
counts. The issue of this business is well known. The Colo-
nies universally refused to raise a fund among themselves, for
those who seemed inclined to do so, made no offer of any specific
sum, nor made any grant in their assemblies, nor laid any tax
for the purpose. [200] They did not imitate the more prudent
conduct of the New York assembly, in the year 17 15, and par-
liament therefore did in 1765, what parliament would have
done in that year, if the like refusal had been made.

I shall here stop my researches into the political history of the

Colonies, and of the conduct which has been held by par-
Uament and ministry towards them. And let me now ask
the advocates for their independency, upon which period of
this history it is, that they would fix, as the epocha of the
Colonies emancipation from the sovereign authority of the
supreme legislature of the realm, or where will they carry us
for those pretended rights and privileges which exempt them
from its Jurisdiction? We have sought for them in the statute
books, but we found them not; we have looked for them in the
conduct of a long series of ministers; and in the opinions of
the truly learned and great lawyers, that were of council to our
kings, in the past ages, and lo, they are not there. Where then
shall we hope to meet with them? [201] In extravagant decla-
mations and unfounded arguments. In the weak artifices of
party and in the studied misrepresentations of designing and
interested men.


Political Science 601: Political Theory of the American Revolution Copyright © 2017 by John Zumbrunnen. All Rights Reserved.

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