« PreviousContinue »
mediate pain, and eagerness for the nearest good. The blind are faid to feel with peculiar nicety. They who look but little into futurity, have perhaps the quickest fenfation of the prefent. merchant's defire is not of glory, but of gain; not of publick wealth, but of private emolument; he is therefore rarely to be confulted about war and peace, or any defigns of wide extent and diftant confequence.
Yet this, like other general characters, will fometimes fail. The traders of Birmingham have rescued themselves from all imputation of narrow felfishness by a manly recommendation to parliament of the rights and dignity of their native country.
To thefe men I do not intend to afcribe an abfurd and enthufiaftick contempt of intereft, but to give them the rational and just praife of diftinguishing real from feeming good, of being able to fee through the cloud of interpofing difficulties, to the lafting and folid happiness of victory and fettle
Left all these topicks of perfuafion fhould fail, the great actor of patriotifm has tried another, in which terrour and pity are happily combined, not without a proper fuperaddition of that admiration which latter ages have brought into the drama. The heroes of Boston he tells us, if the ftamp act had not been repealed, would have left their town, their port, and their trade, have refigned the fplendour of opulence, and quitted the delights of neighbourhood, to difperfe themselves over the country, where they would till the ground, and
fish in the rivers, and range the mountains, AND BE
These furely are brave words. If the mere found of freedom can operate thus powerfully, let no man hereafter doubt the ftory of the Pied Piper. The removal of the people of Boston into the country, feems even to the Congrefs not only difficult in its execution, but important in its confequences. The difficulty of execution is best known to the Bostonians themfelves; the confequence, alas! will only be, that they will leave good houfes to wifer men.
Yet before they quit the comforts of a warm home for the founding fomething which they think better, he cannot be thought their enemy who advises them to confider well whether they fhall find it. By turning fishermen or hunters, woodmen or fhepherds, they may become wild, but it is not fo easy to conceive them free; for who can be more a flave than he that is driven by force from the comforts of life, is compelled to leave his houfe to a cafual comer, and whatever he does, or wherever he wanders, finds every moment fome new teftimony of his own fubjection? If choice of evil be freedom, the felon in the gallies has his option of labour or of stripes. The Boftonian may quit his house to starve in the fields; his dog may refuse to fet, and smart under the lash, and they may then congratulate each other upon the fmiles of liberty, profufe of bliss, and pregnant with delight.
To treat fuch defigns as ferious, would be to think too contemptuously of Bostonian understandings. The artifice indeed is not new: the blufterer who threatened in vain to deftroy his opponent, H 2 has
has fometimes obtained his end, by making it be→ lieved that he would hang himself.
But terrours and pity are not the only means by which the taxation of the Americans is opposed. There are those who profefs to ufe them only as auxiliaries to reafon and juftice, who tell us, that to tax the Colonies is ufurpation and oppreffion, an invafion of natural and legal rights, and a violation of those principles which fupport the conftitution of English government.
This question is of great importance. That the Americans are able to bear taxation is indubitable; that their refufal may be over-ruled is highly probable but power is no fufficient evidence of truth. Let us examine our own claim, and the objections of the recufants, with caution proportioned to the event of the decifion, which must convict one part of robbery, or the other of rebellion.
A tax is a payment exacted by authority from part of the community for the benefit of the whole. From whom, and in what proportion fuch payment fhall be required, and to what ufes it shall be applied, thofe only are to judge to whom government is intrufted. In the British dominion taxes are apportioned, levied, and appropriated by the ftates affembled in parliament.
Of every empire all the subordinate communities are liable to taxation, because they all fhare the benefits of government, and therefore ought all to furnish their proportion of the expence.
This the Americans have never openly denied. That it is their duty to pay the cost of their own fafety they seem to admit; nor do they refufe their
contribution to the exigencies, whatever they may be, of the British empire; but they make this participation of the publick burden a duty of very uncertain extent, and imperfect obligation, a duty temporary, occasional, and elective, of which they reserve to themselves the right of fettling the degree, the time, and the duration, of judging when it may be required, and when it has been performed.
They allow to the fupreme power nothing more than the liberty of notifying to them its demands or its neceffities. Of this notification they profefs to think for themfelves, how far it fhall influence their counfels, and of the neceffities alleged, how far they fhall endeavour to relieve them. They affume the exclusive power of fettling not only the mode, but the quantity of this payment. They are ready to co-operate with all the other dominions of the king; but they will co-operate by no means which they do not like, and at no greater charge than they are willing to bear.
This claim, wild as it may feem, this claim, which fuppofes dominion without authority, and fubjects without fubordination, has found among the libertines of policy many clamorous and hardy vindicators. The laws of nature, the rights of humanity, the faith of charters, the danger of liberty, the encroachments of ufurpation, have been thundered in our ears, fometimes by interested faction, and fometimes by honeft ftupidity.
It is faid by Fontenelle, that if twenty philofophers shall refolutely deny that the prefence of the fun makes the day, he will not defpair but whole nations may adopt the opinion. So many political dogmatists
dogmatists have denied to the mother-country the power of taxing the Colonies, and have enforced their denial with fo much violence of outcry, that their fect is already very numerous, and the publick voice fufpends its decifion.
In moral and political questions the conteft between intereft and juftice has been often tedious and often fierce, but perhaps it never happened before, that justice found much oppofition with interest on her fide.
For the fatisfaction of this inquiry, it is neceffary to confider how a Colony is conftituted, what are the terms of migration as dictated by nature, or fettled by compact, and what focial or political rights the man lofes, or acquires, that leaves his country to establish himself in a diftant plantation.
Of two modes of migration the hiftory of mankind informs us, and fo far as I can yet difcover, of two only.
In countries where life was yet unadjufted, and policy unformed, it fometimes happened that by the diffentions of heads of families, by the ambition of daring adventurers, by fome accidental preffure of distress, or by the mere difcontent of idleness, one part of the community broke off from the reft, and numbers, greater or fmaller, forfook their habitations, put themfelves under the command of fome favourite of fortune, and with or without the confent of their countrymen or governors, went out to fee what better regions they could occupy, and in what place, by conqueft or by treaty, they could gain a habitation.