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Joined: 2012/5/13
Posts: 2936

 an unbiased study on trying to understand the mind sets behind the American revolution

John Wesley, A Calm Address to the American Colonies
London, 1775 :


1. The grand ques­tion which is now de­bated (and with warmth enough on both sides) is this, Has the Eng­lish par­lia­ment a right to tax the Amer­i­can colonies?

In order to de­ter­mine this, let us con­sider the na­ture of our colonies. An Eng­lish colony is, a num­ber of per­sons to whom the king grants a char­ter, per­mit­ting them to set­tle in some far coun­try as a cor­po­ra­tion, en­joy­ing such pow­ers as the char­ter grants, to be ad­min­is­tered in such a man­ner as the char­ter pre­scribes. As a cor­po­ra­tion they make laws for them­selves; but as a cor­po­ra­tion sub­sist­ing by a grant from higher au­thor­ity, to the con­trol of that au­thor­ity they still con­tinue sub­ject.

Con­sid­er­ing this, noth­ing can be more plain, than that the supreme power in Eng­land has a legal right of lay­ing any tax upon them for any end ben­e­fi­cial to the whole em­pire.

2. But you ob­ject, “It is the priv­i­lege of a free­man and an Eng­lish­man to be taxed only by his own con­sent. And this con­sent is given for every man by his rep­re­sen­ta­tives in par­lia­ment. But we have no rep­re­sen­ta­tives in par­lia­ment. There­fore we ought not to be taxed thereby.”

I an­swer, This ar­gu­ment proves too much. If the par­lia­ment can­not tax you be­cause you have no rep­re­sen­ta­tion therein, for the same rea­son it can make no laws to bind you. If a free­man can­not be taxed with­out his own con­sent, nei­ther can he be pun­ished with­out it; for what­ever holds with re­gard to tax­a­tion, holds with re­gard to all other laws. There­fore he who de­nies the Eng­lish par­lia­ment the power of tax­a­tion, de­nies it the right of mak­ing any laws at all. But this power over the colonies you have never dis­puted; you have al­ways ad­mit­ted statutes for the pun­ish­ment of of­fences, and for the pre­vent­ing or re­dress­ing of in­con­ve­niences; and the re­cep­tion of any law draws after it, by a chain which can­not be bro­ken, the ne­ces­sity of ad­mit­ting tax­a­tion.

3. But I ob­ject to the very foun­da­tion of your plea: That “every free­man is gov­erned by Laws to which he has con­sented”: as con­fi­dently as it has been as­serted, it is ab­solutely false. In wide-ex­tended do­min­ions, a very small part of the peo­ple are con­cerned in mak­ing laws. This, as all pub­lic busi­ness, must be done by del­e­ga­tion; the del­e­gates are cho­sen by a se­lect num­ber. And those that are not elec­tors, who are far the greater part, stand by, idle and help­less spec­ta­tors.
The case of elec­tors is lit­tle bet­ter. When they are near equally di­vided, in the choice of their del­e­gates to rep­re­sent them in the par­lia­ment or na­tional as­sem­bly, al­most half of them must be gov­erned, not only with­out, but even against, their own con­sent. And how has any man con­sented to those laws which were made be­fore he was born? Our con­sent to these, nay, and to the laws now made even in Eng­land, is purely pas­sive. And in every place, as all men are born the sub­jects of some state or other, so they are born, pas­sively, as it were, con­sent­ing to the laws of that state. Any other than this kind of con­sent, the con­di­tion of civil life does not allow.

But whence then is all this hurry and tu­mult? Why is Amer­ica all in an up­roar? If you can yet give your­selves time to think, you will see the plain case is this: –

A few years ago you were as­saulted by en­e­mies, whom you were not well able to re­sist. You rep­re­sented this to your mother coun­try, and de­sired her as­sis­tance. You was largely as­sisted, and by that means wholly de­liv­ered from all your en­e­mies.

After a time, your mother coun­try, de­sir­ing to be re­im­bursed for some part of the large ex­pense she had been at, laid a small tax (which she had al­ways a right to do) on one of her colonies.
But how is it pos­si­ble that the tak­ing this rea­son­able and legal step should have set all Amer­ica in a flame?

I will tell you my opin­ion freely; and per­haps you will not think it im­prob­a­ble. I speak the more freely, be­cause I am un­bi­assed ; I have noth­ing to hope or fear from ei­ther side. I gain noth­ing ei­ther by the gov­ern­ment or by the Amer­i­cans, and prob­a­bly never shall. And I have no prej­u­dice to any man in Amer­ica: I love you as my brethren and coun­try­men.

11. My opin­ion is this: We have a few men in Eng­land who are de­ter­mined en­e­mies to monar­chy. Whether they hate his pre­sent majesty on any other ground than be­cause he is a king I know not. But they cor­dially hate his of­fice, and have for some years been un­der­min­ing it with all dili­gence, in hopes of erect­ing their grand idol, their dear com­mon­wealth, upon its ruins.

I be­lieve they have let very few into their de­sign; (al­though many for­ward it, with­out know­ing any thing of the mat­ter); but they are steadily pur­su­ing it, as by var­i­ous other means, so in par­tic­u­lar by in­flam­ma­tory pa­pers, which are in­dus­tri­ously and con­tin­u­ally dis­persed through­out the town and coun­try; by this method they have al­ready wrought thou­sands of the peo­ple even to the pitch of mad­ness.

By the same, only var­ied ac­cord­ing to your cir­cum­stances, they have like­wise in­flamed Amer­ica. I make no doubt but these very men are the orig­i­nal cause of the pre­sent breach be­tween Eng­land and her colonies. And they are still pour­ing oil into the flame, stu­diously in­cens­ing each against the other, and op­pos­ing, under a va­ri­ety of pre­tences, all mea­sures or ac­com­mo­da­tion. So that, al­though the Amer­i­cans in gen­eral love the Eng­lish, and the Eng­lish in gen­eral love the Amer­i­cans, (all, I mean, that are not yet cheated and ex­as­per­ated by these art­ful men), yet the rup­ture is grow­ing wider every day, and none can tell where it will end.

These good men hope it will end in the total de­fec­tion of North Amer­ica from Eng­land. If this were ef­fected, they trust the Eng­lish in gen­eral would be so ir­rec­on­cil­ably dis­gusted, that they should be able, with or with­out for­eign as­sis­tance, en­tirely to over­turn the gov­ern­ment; es­pe­cially while the main of both the Eng­lish and Irish forces are at so con­ve­nient a dis­tance.

12. But, my brethren, would this be any ad­van­tage to you? Can you hope for a more de­sir­able form of gov­ern­ment, ei­ther in Eng­land or Amer­ica, than that which you now enjoy? After all the ve­he­ment cry for lib­erty, what more lib­erty can you have?

What more re­li­gious lib­erty can you de­sire, than that which you enjoy al­ready? May not every one among you wor­ship God ac­cord­ing to his own con­science? What civil lib­erty can you de­sire, which you are not al­ready pos­sessed of? Do not you sit, with­out re­straint, “every man under his own vine”? Do you not, every one, high or low, enjoy the fruit of your labour? This is real, ra­tio­nal lib­erty, such as is en­joyed by Eng­lish­men alone; and not by any other peo­ple in the hab­it­able world.

Would the being in­de­pen­dent of Eng­land make you more free? Far, very far from it. It would hardly be pos­si­ble for you to steer clear, be­tween an­ar­chy and tyranny. But sup­pose, after num­ber­less dan­gers and mis­chiefs, you should set­tle into one or more re­publics, would a re­pub­li­can gov­ern­ment give you more lib­erty, ei­ther re­li­gious or civil? By no means.

No gov­ern­ments under heaven are so despotic as the re­pub­li­can; no sub­jects are gov­erned in so ar­bi­trary a man­ner as those of a com­mon­wealth. If any one doubt of this, let him look at the sub­jects of Venice, of Genoa, or even of Hol­land. Should any man talk or write of the Dutch gov­ern­ment, as every cob­bler does of the Eng­lish, he would be laid in irons be­fore he knew where he was. And then, wo be to him! Re­publics show no mercy.

13. “But if we sub­mit to one tax, more will fol­low.” Per­haps so, and per­haps not. But if they did; if you were taxed (which is quite im­prob­a­ble) equal with Ire­land or Scot­land, still, were you to pre­vent this, by re­nounc­ing con­nec­tion with Eng­land, the rem­edy would be worse than the dis­ease. For O! what con­vul­sions must poor Amer­ica feel, be­fore any other gov­ern­ment was set­tled? In­nu­mer­able mis­chiefs must ensue, be­fore any gen­eral form could be es­tab­lished. And the grand mis­chief would ensue when it was es­tab­lished; when you had re­ceived a yoke which you could not shake off.

14. Brethren, open your eyes! Come to your­selves! Be no longer the dupes of de­sign­ing men! I do not mean any of your coun­try­men in Amer­ica; I doubt whether any of these are in the se­cret. The de­sign­ing men, the Ahithophels, are in Eng­land; those who have laid their scheme so deep, and cov­ered it so well, that thou­sands, who are ripen­ing it, sus­pect noth­ing at all of the mat­ter.

These well-mean­ing men, sin­cerely be­liev­ing that they are serv­ing their coun­try, ex­claim against griev­ances, which ei­ther never ex­isted, or are ag­gra­vated above mea­sure; and thereby in­flame the peo­ple more and more, to the wish of those who are be­hind the scene. But be not you duped any longer; do not ruin your­selves for them that owe you no good-will, that now em­ploy you only for their own pur­poses, and in the end will give you no thanks. They love nei­ther Eng­land nor Amer­ica, but play one against the other, in sub­serviency to their grand de­sign of over­turn­ing the Eng­lish gov­ern­ment.

Be warned in time; stand and con­sider, be­fore it is too late; be­fore you have en­tailed con­fu­sion and mis­ery on your lat­est pos­ter­ity. Have pity upon your mother coun­try! Have pity upon your own! Have pity upon your­selves, upon your chil­dren, and upon all that are near and dear to you! Let us not bite and de­vour one an­other, lest we be con­sumed one of an­other! O let us fol­low after peace! Let us put away our sins; the real ground of all our calami­ties; which never will or can be thor­oughly re­moved, till we fear God and ho­n­our the king!

 2013/10/22 22:16Profile

Joined: 2012/5/13
Posts: 2936

 A Constitutional Answer to Wesley’s Calm Address, Anonymous


A pam­phlet, to which you have af­fixed your name, has been lately dis­trib­uted with un­com­mon dili­gence. You call it A Calm Ad­dress to our Amer­i­can Colonies. This title is a de­cep­tion; you know that the colonies are de­ter­mined: your de­sign is, to de­ceive un­de­ter­mined Eng­lish­men, into ap­pro­ba­tion of the mea­sures of ad­min­is­tra­tion.

You pre­sent your book to the world, as your own; but the great­est part of it is taken, ver­ba­tim, from Tax­a­tion No Tyranny, writ­ten by the pen­sioned Dr. John­son, a de­clared enemy of civil and re­li­gious lib­erty! This is an­other de­cep­tion, equally mean and ob­vi­ous.

Your first sec­tion con­tains John­son’s de­f­i­n­i­tion of an Eng­lish colony. It gives the idea of a num­ber of per­sons, who, by the king’s per­mis­sion, em­i­grated in search of sup­posed ad­van­tages, which, if ob­tained, were to be se­cured to them by char­ters.

But the colonists were a num­ber of per­sons, who fled from tyranny at home, to con­quer and cul­ti­vate new coun­tries at their own ex­pence. From the par­ent state, for above a cen­tury, they re­ceived lit­tle or no as­sis­tance: their mo­nop­o­lized com­merce was, at last, thought worth pro­tec­tion; their in­creased prop­erty is, now, thought worth tax­a­tion.

You say,

Con­sid­er­ing Eng­lish colonies are a kind of cor­po­ra­tions sub­sist­ing by char­ters, noth­ing can be more plain than that the supreme power in Eng­land has a right to tax them.

Do you mean, by the supreme power, the col­lec­tive body of king, lords, and com­mons? If you do, you must be ig­no­rant, that the Com­mons only have the power of tax­ing the peo­ple; that money is not taken, but given; that the con­cur­rence of the lords, in money bills, is only to tax them­selves; and that the con­cur­rence of the king, in such bills, is only to give them the force of law.

You say,

That the Eng­lish gov­ern­ment has made laws for the colonies, which laws they have re­ceived and obeyed; there­fore, the Eng­lish gov­ern­ment has a right to tax them: the re­cep­tion of any law draws after it, by a chain which can­not be bro­ken, the ne­ces­sity of ad­mit­ting tax­a­tion.

This is false: the acts of leg­is­la­tion, and tax­a­tion, are dis­tinct op­er­a­tions; the first is ex­er­cised by the three es­tates of king, lords, and com­mons, the last by the com­mons only. If the re­cep­tion of a law is an ac­knowl­edg­ment of sov­er­eignty, it is not an ac­knowl­edg­ment that such sov­er­eignty may be main­tained in an un­con­sti­tu­tional man­ner. Penal and eco­nom­i­cal laws are re­ceived and obeyed in Eng­land; the re­cep­tion of them may be deemed an ac­knowl­edg­ment of the sov­er­eignty of gov­ern­ment; but does not prove, that gov­ern­ment has a right to ab­ro­gate Magna Charta, abol­ish trial by jury, or vest in the king an ar­bi­trary power of levy­ing money on the sub­ject: such acts, though sanc­ti­fied by con­sent of the three es­tates, would be vi­o­la­tions of the con­sti­tu­tion, and, con­se­quently, void in them­selves, and “to be holden for nought.” 42 Ed. III. Lord Coke, Lord Somers, &c.

You next at­tempt to prove, that the colonies are as much rep­re­sented in the Eng­lish Par­lia­ment, as the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple of Eng­land: “All pub­lic busi­ness,” you say, must be done by del­e­ga­tion; the del­e­gates are cho­sen by a se­lect num­ber; and those who are not elec­tors, who are by far the greater part, stand by idle and help­less spec­ta­tors.

That most pub­lick busi­ness must be done by del­e­ga­tion, is true; but the choice of del­e­gates, or rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Eng­land, was orig­i­nally in the peo­ple at large; the vest­ing it, af­ter­wards, in a se­lect num­ber, was a vari­a­tion made by con­sent of the peo­ple for the sake of con­ve­nience. The non-elec­tors, and elec­tors of Eng­land, are so blended to­gether, that the for­mer must often in­flu­ence the con­duct of the lat­ter; and hav­ing, thereby, a share in the power of elec­tion, can­not be said, “to stand by idle and help­less spec­ta­tors.”

“The case of elec­tors,” you say, “is lit­tle bet­ter; when they are near equally di­vided, al­most half of them must be gov­erned, not only with, but against their con­sent.”

This is a fal­lacy. The mi­nor­ity of elec­tors can­not be said to be gov­erned with­out their con­sent: they, in com­mon with oth­ers, have pre­vi­ously con­sented, that it should be law to issue the dis­pute by the voice of the ma­jor­ity; they have, there­fore, con­sented to be gov­erned by him, on whom the choice of that ma­jor­ity shall fall.

You en­deav­our, by gen­eral po­si­tions boldly as­serted, to rep­re­sent gov­ern­ment and slav­ery as in­sep­a­ra­ble. “How has any man,” you say,con­sented to those laws, which were made be­fore he was born? Our con­sent to these, nay and to the laws now made in Eng­land, is purely pas­sive. In every place, as all men are born the sub­jects of some state or other, so they are born, pas­sively as it were, con­sent­ing to the laws of that state. Any other than this kind of con­sent, the con­di­tion of civil life does not allow.

This is false: The Eng­lish con­sti­tu­tion has bet­ter pro­vided for the preser­va­tion of lib­erty. Our con­sent to the laws by which we are ruled, is so far ac­tive, that we may in a man­ner be said to make them: “The com­mons may be said to make law,” says John­son him­self, in his False Alarm; it then suited his pur­pose to say so. The peo­ple at large may, in­deed, be said to make law. They de­sire to have some penal or eco­nom­i­cal law for gen­eral ben­e­fit; they in­struct their del­e­gates; a bill is brought into the House of Com­mons; the king may refuse the royal as­sent, but then the House may refuse sup­plies. Sup­pose the opin­ions of the con­stituents, and the del­e­gates, are op­po­site; the lat­ter re­ject the bill: their of­fice is not per­pet­ual, nor ir­re­spon­si­ble; at seven years end they may be dis­carded, and their places filled with more com­pli­ant or more faith­full suc­ces­sors. Vice versa: sup­pose a law, pro­posed by any of the three es­tates of gov­ern­ment, is thought op­pres­sive, or oth­er­wise of­fen­sive, by the peo­ple: the mea­sure is talked of; they pe­ti­tion, they re­mon­strate; per­haps they suc­ceed; per­haps they do not: in the lat­ter case, the griev­ance is not eter­nal; a new par­lia­ment may re­peal what the old one en­acted. If the mea­sure be not a favourite court mea­sure, and the royal as­sent, as be­fore, be de­nied; then sup­plies, as be­fore, may be with­holden, till that as­sent is granted. If the peo­ple have less in­flu­ence over the sec­ond es­tate, the House of Lords; still that house may be sup­posed to con­sist of men, guided by rea­son, and wish­ing to act in con­so­nance with the rest of their coun­try­men.

Such are the ad­van­tages of our ex­cel­lent con­sti­tu­tion! Blush, if ye can, ye John­sons and ye Wes­leys, who are en­deav­our­ing to de­stroy the idea of them, in the minds of un­wary read­ers; en­deav­our­ing to per­swade men, that they are in­evitably born slaves! If Eng­lish­men are slaves, whose con­sent to the laws they are ruled by, is merely pas­sive; it is not the fault of their po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, but of their own cor­rup­tion of morals, and supine­ness of spirit.

It is the usual art of the court writ­ers of the day, to aim at sink­ing all ideas of nat­ural eq­uity, and of gen­eral pop­u­lar fran­chises founded thereon, in the idea of ab­solute un­con­di­tional gov­ern­ment, pre­tend­ing such gov­ern­ment in­dis­pen­si­ble to the sub­sis­tence of civil so­ci­ety.

You say,

If the an­ces­tors of the colonists were sub­jects, they ac­knowl­edged a sov­er­eign; if they had a right to Eng­lish priv­i­leges, they were ac­count­able to Eng­lish laws; and had ceded, to the king and Par­lia­ment, the power of dis­pos­ing, with­out their con­sent, of their lives, lib­er­ties, and prop­er­ties.

This is both false and ab­surd. No Eng­lish­man ever ceded, to any king, ab­solute power over his life or lib­erty. That pre­cious re­main of an­cient free­dom, trial by jury, ever stood and now stands an in­su­per­a­ble bar against the power of sov­er­eign over sub­ject.

No free­man shall be taken, or im­pris­oned, nor dis­seized, nor out-lawed, nor ex­iled, nor de­stroyed in any man­ner; nor will we pass upon him, nor con­demn him, but by the law­full judg­ment of his peers, or by the law of the land. Magna Charta, §. 43.

No Eng­lish­man ever ceded, to any king, any power over his prop­erty: the right of tax­a­tion, as has been shewn, is ex­clu­sively vested in the peo­ple. No Eng­lish­man ever ceded, to the par­lia­ment, a power over his life, lib­erty, and prop­erty: he could not cede it to the lords, for the lords, with­out the com­mons, can­not make law; he could not cede it to the com­mons, for ced­ing it to the com­mons, would, prop­erly speak­ing, be ced­ing it to him­self. The force of truth is often too strong, for every ef­fort that can be made to con­ceal it. You talk of “the peo­ple ced­ing power to the king and Par­lia­ment”: if they ceded power, they must have pos­sessed it. Nemo dat quod non habet: what a man has not, he can­not give to an­other; what is given, if abused, may surely be re­sumed. If the doc­trine of re­sum­able power is not ad­mit­ted, the doc­trine of di­vine hered­i­tary right must be main­tained. The first king of every coun­try, must have reigned by di­vine ap­point­ment; and all his suc­ces­sors, be their con­duct what it will, must reign by the same title; their sub­jects must be hered­i­tary slaves, whose lives and prop­er­ties may be sported with, as men shoot birds, and catch fish, for di­ver­sion. Eng­lish­men! be­ware of these in­sid­i­ous rea­son­ers; these John­sons and Wes­leys, who would per­suade you that ye are born slaves!

You admit (as above), that there are orig­i­nal rights of hu­man­ity. You tell us, that when the colonists say they are in­ti­tled, by na­ture, to life, lib­erty and prop­erty, they speak true; that when they claim a title to the rights of nat­ural born sub­jects within the realm of Eng­land, they speak true also—but you as­sert, that “they must re­sign ei­ther one or the other.” This is no con­se­quence.

The rights of na­ture, and of civil so­ci­ety, are not in­com­pat­i­ble; the for­mer are mostly guar­antied by the lat­ter. A man has a nat­ural right to the pos­ses­sions of his par­ents, or to those which he has ob­tained by his own labour; and the laws of so­ci­ety, which pro­hibit fraud and rap­ine, in­stead of de­stroy­ing that right, con­tribute to se­cure it. A man has a nat­ural right to life and lib­erty: on en­ter­ing civil so­ci­ety, he does not cede this right, only in cer­tain stip­u­lated cir­cum­stances, for the good of that whole whereof he be­comes a part; while he is in­no­cent, he is safe and free.

A man has a nat­ural right to his own prop­erty: this, on en­ter­ing civil so­ci­ety, he does not cede at all: he, in­deed, by a kind of tacit com­pact, agrees to sub­scribe his share to the ex­pence of pub­lic se­cu­rity and pub­lic œcon­omy, as the ne­ces­sity of times may re­quire; but, as no ra­tio­nal being would lav­ish his wealth with­out equiv­a­lent, he has re­served to him­self the sole de­ter­mi­na­tion of the ex­is­tence or de­gree of that ne­ces­sity.*

If he does not prop­erly re­gard the pub­lick wel­fare, it is at his own risque; he is more or less a gainer, as it is more or less con­sulted. Of this gen­eral prin­ci­ple, an Eng­lish House of Com­mons, in its pri­mar­ily in­tended in­cor­rupt state, is a vis­i­ble mod­i­fi­ca­tion; money, there, is granted, not taken; grant­ing, not tak­ing, is the lan­guage of the con­sti­tu­tion in all ages.

Such are the sim­ple prin­ci­ples of free gov­ern­ment, in con­tradis­tinc­tion to tyranny! Prin­ci­ples, alas, too lit­tle known, too much ob­scured by the glare of ad­ven­ti­tious pomp and pur­chased power!

You say, that “the colonists, by em­i­gra­tion, did not for­feit the right of vot­ing for rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the Eng­lish Par­lia­ment; but lost it by nat­ural ef­fects.” But the priv­i­lege of vot­ing for, or chus­ing a deputy or proxy, to ex­e­cute the of­fice of a taxer; can be con­sid­ered as a per­sonal ad­van­tage, only in coun­ter­poise to the per­sonal bur­den of tax­a­tion: now, if the good be lost by nat­ural ef­fects, the evil should not be re­tained by un­nat­ural po­lit­i­cal ones. There are things called right rea­son, eq­uity, and jus­tice, though they may not hap­pen to exist in the ideas of Dr. John­son and Mr. Wes­ley.

When a man re­moves to a dis­tance, from the part of civil so­ci­ety with which he was con­nected, he can no longer enjoy the ben­e­fits of its po­lit­i­cal sys­tem; and, there­fore, can­not justly be as­sessed to its main­te­nance.

If the colonists have hith­erto sup­ported the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice, and other branches of in­ter­nal polity, among them­selves; what ra­tio­nal plea can be made, for re­quir­ing them to sup­port them among us? Can a per­son be ex­pected to pay for the same thing, in two places?

You say,

He who had a vote for a knight or burgess, did not for­feit that right by cross­ing the sea, but made the ex­er­cise of it no longer pos­si­ble; he re­duced him­self from a voter to one of the in­nu­mer­able mul­ti­tude that have no votes.

But if such a man was still li­able to be taxed by the Eng­lish Par­lia­ment, he re­duced him­self to a much worse con­di­tion.

Non-elec­tors (as has been hinted) have, in Eng­land, much in­flu­ence in elec­tions: per­sua­sion and in­for­ma­tion, have their weight; the man of su­pe­rior op­u­lence or knowl­edge, with­out a vote him­self, can di­rect the voices of a num­ber.

But an Amer­i­can can have no pos­si­ble in­flu­ence in the choice of an Eng­lish sen­a­tor; and an Eng­lish sen­a­tor, when he taxes an Amer­i­can, can­not tax him­self also, be­cause he has no prop­erty in Amer­ica to be taxed: yet self-tax­a­tion is the sole pledge of the taxer, for se­cu­rity of the taxed. He, who does not tax him­self, taxes oth­ers with­out feel­ing: he may, there­fore, tax with­out pro­pri­ety, and with­out mea­sure; may take, not only a fifth, or a fourth, but the half, or even the whole of prop­erty; and make the wealthy sub­ject an im­pov­er­ished slave. The wis­est forms of gov­ern­ment, ad­vert­ing to the im­per­fec­tion of human na­ture, have, as much as pos­si­ble, avoided leav­ing one man at the mercy of an­other; they have ever con­trived some ra­tio­nal re­straint on ac­tion, some bond of rec­i­p­ro­cal safety.

You allow, that “the colonists in­herit all the priv­i­leges of Eng­lish­men, all the priv­i­leges that their an­ces­tors had.” They then in­herit the grand priv­i­lege of Eng­lish­men, free gov­ern­ment; but this priv­i­lege they do not enjoy, if they are taxed with­out being rep­re­sented. It is an axiom which can­not be too forcibly im­pressed on the mind “Gov­ern­ment can­not be free, where prop­erty is taken not given.”

You say,

what the an­ces­tors of the colonists did not bring with them, nei­ther they nor their de­scen­dants have ac­quired. They have not, by aban­don­ing their right in one leg­is­la­tion, ac­quired a right to con­sti­tute an­other; any more than the mul­ti­tudes in Eng­land, who have no vote, have a right to erect a par­lia­ment for them­selves.

You be­fore said, “they had lost their right in the Eng­lish leg­is­la­ture, by nat­ural ef­fects.” There is dif­fer­ence be­tween aban­don­ing, and los­ing by nat­ural ef­fects; one is a vol­un­tary, one an in­vol­un­tary mat­ter: you have not proved that they ei­ther aban­doned this right, or lost it; if they have ei­ther aban­doned, or lost it, and have no right to con­sti­tute an­other sys­tem, they must be slaves, or re­vert to a state of an­ar­chy. Were the body of elec­tors, in Eng­land, to be­come so cor­rupt or servile, as con­stantly to rechuse men, who had be­trayed the cause of lib­erty; and were such men to sub­vert the con­sti­tu­tion; would not the non-elec­tors have a right to chuse a num­ber of hon­ester del­e­gates, to re­store their abol­ished free­dom, to save their coun­try?

You say,

the colonies have a right to all the priv­i­leges granted them by regal char­ters, to all which the king has given them; but not to all which they have given them­selves.

The first part of your as­ser­tion is un­doubt­edly true; but it is couched in terms, that might bet­ter be­come the despot of some bar­barous re­gion, whose ig­no­rant na­tives had im­bibed.

“The enor­mous faith of many made for one,” than the ad­vo­cate of a gov­ern­ment that calls it­self free. What right has any king to any thing (sav­ing his own pri­vate prop­erty) which is not given him by the peo­ple? If the king is the foun­tain of ho­n­ours and riches, whence is that foun­tain sup­plied? Whence does he de­rive the pre­rog­a­tive of con­fer­ring ho­n­ours, the abil­ity of be­stow­ing rich­es­but from the peo­ple?

If the colonists are the naked sons of na­ture, they have a right to in­de­pen­dence, and the en­ac­tion of their own laws; if they are sub­jects of the free Eng­lish state, they have a right to the grand priv­i­lege of other Eng­lish­men, a priv­i­lege which no king could con­fer—leg­is­la­tion, and tax­a­tion by rep­re­sen­ta­tion only. The as­ser­tion, that “they are vir­tu­ally rep­re­sented,” has been proved an ab­sur­dity; a sophism, which even you could scarcely re­peat, with a se­ri­ous coun­te­nance.

Your com­par­i­son of “a colo­nial leg­is­la­ture to the vestry of an Eng­lish parish,” proves noth­ing to the great point in ques­tion, the le­gal­ity of tax­a­tion with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The parish as­sesses it­self, in its parochial ca­pac­ity, for local pri­vate uses; in its na­tional ca­pac­ity, by its rep­re­sen­ta­tives, for gen­eral pub­lick ones.

The colonies have no rep­re­sen­ta­tives; there­fore, can­not be li­able to par­lia­men­tary tax­a­tion.

You say, “the char­ter of Pen­syl­va­nia has a clause ad­mit­ting, in ex­press terms, tax­a­tion by Par­lia­ment.” Why did you not then pro­duce this clause, that your read­ers might have judged of its mean­ing and im­port for them­selves? You do not even tell us the na­ture of the tax­a­tion; whether it was in­ter­nal or ex­ter­nal; whether levied by them­selves, or by oth­ers. You add, “the first set­tlers in Mass­a­chu­sett’s were promised an ex­emp­tion from taxes for seven years.” But promised by whom? If the char­ter con­tains such a promise, it must be made by the king who granted the char­ter; but the king could not legally promise an ex­emp­tion from that which he had not legally a right to im­pose. I have not time nor op­por­tu­nity to ex­am­ine fully the truth of your as­ser­tions: but though I give you credit for them so far, as to admit that there are some such clauses as you men­tion; yet your dis­en­gen­u­ous con­duct, in re­tail­ing John­son’s book with­out ac­knowl­edg­ment, makes me justly doubt the truth of your rep­re­sen­ta­tions. Those clauses could re­late, not to tax­a­tion, but to req­ui­si­tion only: the right of tax­a­tion did not sub­sist with the king; it did not sub­sist with the Par­lia­ment; it sub­sisted solely and ex­clu­sively with the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Mass­a­chu­sett’s peo­ple; and all the ex­emp­tion promised that peo­ple could amount to no more than this, that the king would not re­quire any sub­si­dies from them for seven years. To serve your own pur­pose, you say, in­deed, af­ter­wards, that “the seven years ex­emp­tion granted to the Mass­a­chu­sett set­tlers, was from pay­ing taxes to the king.” Then it may be justly in­ferred, that they were sub­si­dies de­manded by the king in way of req­ui­si­tion, not taxes im­posed by Par­lia­ment: had the case been oth­er­wise, it would have been pro­duced, be­fore now, as a prece­dent for ex­ter­nal tax­a­tion. What opin­ion the provin­cials had of ex­ter­nal tax­a­tion above a hun­dred years ago, ap­pears from an ar­ti­cle in the agree­ment made by the Vir­gini­ans with the com­mon­wealth of Eng­land, be­fore they would per­mit a gov­er­nor sent by that com­mon­wealth to land in their province: “Vir­ginia shall be free from all taxes, cus­toms, and im­po­si­tions what­so­ever; and none shall be im­posed upon them, with­out con­sent of the gen­eral as­sem­bly.”*

“All coun­tries,” you say, “which are sub­ject to laws, are li­able to taxes.” Per­haps so; but, per­haps, they are only li­able to taxes, raised in a con­sti­tu­tional man­ner; per­haps it has not been usual, for the gov­ern­ment of one coun­try to tax the in­hab­i­tants of an­other, many thou­sand miles dis­tant. If such tax­a­tion were founded on rea­son, might not the Ger­man princes think of tax­ing the Ger­mans set­tled in Pen­syl­va­nia and New-York? If the tie of birth, be­tween sov­er­eign and sub­ject, is in­dis­sol­u­ble by dis­tance and time, they have a pre­tence for doing it.

You say,

if there is no clause in the char­ters of the colonies ex­empt­ing them from taxes, the Eng­lish Par­lia­ment has the same right to tax them as to tax any other Eng­lish sub­ject.

Your ar­gu­ment here has been an­swered; I only quote it to demur once more to your mode of ex­pres­sion: the Par­lia­ment, col­lec­tively con­sid­ered, has no right to tax any Eng­lish­man; it is the Com­mons, and the Com­mons only, who pos­sess the pe­cu­liar in­com­mu­ni­ca­ble power of grant­ing taxes for the peo­ple. This is not quib­bling about mere in­signif­i­cant ex­pres­sions: Tak­ing and giv­ing (I re­peat it) are terms af­fixed to ideas, which con­sti­tute the im­por­tant dif­fer­ence be­tween tyranny and free­dom.

I have now gone through the sum total of your ar­gu­ments, which are every one, with­out ex­cep­tion, bor­rowed from John­son: the re­main­der of your book is as­ser­tion, and decla­ma­tion; it mer­its lit­tle no­tice.

An ar­gu­ment, which op­er­ates more in favour of the colonists, than any that John­son has ad­vanced op­er­ates against them, is this: That the Eng­lish gov­ern­ment, under the wis­est ad­min­is­tra­tions, and in the most ne­ces­si­tous cir­cum­stances, never, till lately, at­tempted to tax them. If gov­ern­ment had that right of tax­a­tion, why did they not exert it? Per­haps, we are wiser than our fa­thers; wiser than those great states­men, who planned and per­fected the glo­ri­ous rev­o­lu­tion, and gave the crown to the Brunswick fam­ily. Our fa­thers made Eng­land the dread of Eu­rope; Heaven grant their sons may not make it the con­tempt of its mean­est enemy! If we are wiser than our fa­thers, I wish we were hon­ester: our fa­thers did not plun­der the East; we have plun­dered the East; let us not at­tempt to plun­der the West also! Let not Eng­lish­man be a word of dis­grace among all na­tions, a word syn­ony­mous with rob­ber!

It has been said, “The longer the colonists have been spared pay­ing taxes, the bet­ter able they are, and the greater rea­son they have to pay.” Till the jus­tice of tax­ing them at all, is clearly demon­strated, this ar­gu­ment is fu­tile; it is the moral­ity of those, who deem it less crim­i­nal to plun­der him who has not been plun­dered be­fore, than to plun­der again him who has suf­fered pre­vi­ous depre­da­tion. It were to be wished, that we were less in­ter­ested; at least, that we did not suf­fer our in­ter­est to out­run our virtue. “If Amer­ica is taxed,” it is said, “Eng­land will be eased of taxes.” Ease from taxes, is an al­lur­ing ob­ject to an Eng­lish­man—but, dur­ing a thir­teen years pro­found peace, what ease from taxes have Eng­lish­men ex­pe­ri­enced? What we have not had in the past, can we have rea­son to ex­pect in the fu­ture? We have not been eased in peace, but we are to be eased in war; eased by the taxes of a con­quered coun­try, which, in the act of con­quer­ing, we have laid des­o­late! Can we be the dupes of such self-con­tra­dic­tory pre­tences? Sup­pos­ing it pos­si­ble we could ob­tain, by con­quest, a small ac­ces­sion to our prop­erty; could we enjoy it with the re­flec­tion, that it was ob­tained by the mis­eries of our own species? Could we revel in lux­u­ries, bought with the price of blood, the blood of our coun­try­men? It is said, “We have pro­tected the colonists, and that they ought to pay for our pro­tec­tion.” Have they not paid for it by the ben­e­fits of their com­merce? Have not two of our own Par­lia­ments ac­knowl­edged, that they paid more than their quota of the ex­pence of last war? A war, not com­menced, as has been pre­tended, out of dis­in­ter­ested re­gard for them; but to se­cure the prof­its of their trade; a trade, which, had they be­come sub­jects to France, must have been lost to Eng­land—to se­cure the bal­ance of Eu­ro­pean power—to pre­vent the ag­gran­dize­ment of our nat­ural en­e­mies.

In page [416], you have stated the case, per­haps you think, fairly. Give me leave to draw a par­al­lel—par­al­lels have, prob­a­bly, been often of use to you, at the foundry. We feel best for an­other, when we put our­selves in his place; the trans­po­si­tion is, ar­gu­men­tum ad hominem.

Sup­pose pop­ery es­tab­lished in Eng­land. Pop­ery, you know, is in­tol­er­ant—burn, or con­form, are its al­ter­na­tives. You, and your dis­ci­ples, pro­fess to ap­prove of nei­ther. A cer­tain num­ber of you em­bark for the coast of New Zealand—you find part of the coun­try un­in­hab­ited; your fire arms give you ad­van­tage over the sav­ages of the rest. You form a set­tle­ment; you cul­ti­vate the ground; es­tab­lish man­u­fac­tures, and grow rich: you might ex­port some of your com­modi­ties to Batavia, on very ad­van­ta­geous terms. Capt. Cook, in the course of his voy­age, hap­pens to touch on this same coast of New Zealand: the Eng­lish gov­ern­ment, and, in­deed, every Eng­lish­man (who had heard that there was such a place) take it, there­fore, into their heads to think it their own: they send a ship, to in­form you that they think so; and to tell you, that you must not traf­fick with Batavia, but only with them; and that they will ac­cept the prof­its of the trade, as a ground rent, an ac­know[ledge]ment of their sov­er­eignty. The Dutch grow jeal­ous of your ris­ing state; they send a fleet, and army, to at­tack and dis­pos­sess you. War is main­tained with var­i­ous suc­cess: you apply to Eng­land for as­sis­tance; Eng­land as­sists you: you not only con­tinue your ex­clu­sive com­merce with her, but con­tribute to the ex­pence she has sus­tained by as­sist­ing you. After all, when you ex­pect no such mat­ter, comes a peremp­tory man­date from Eng­land,

We have pro­tected you; we will be paid for our pro­tec­tion—we will have half the fruits of your labour, half the in­come of your lands, and man­u­fac­tures, for ever.

Lay your hand upon your heart, Mr. Wes­ley, and say, would you then de­fend the mea­sures of gov­ern­ment, as le­nient and eq­ui­table? Or would you hes­i­tate (if able) to act the mod­ern Amer­i­can?

You as­sert, that

There are men in Eng­land, de­ter­mined en­e­mies to monar­chy, who wish to change the gov­ern­ment into a re­pub­lick.

I can­not think that you be­lieve your own as­ser­tion. It is well known, that the re­pub­li­can form does not suit the ge­nius of the na­tion; still less would it suit the char­ac­ter of the age. Com­mon­wealths are not pro­lifick in ho­n­ours and emol­u­ments, nor pro­pi­tious to grandeur and pro­fu­sion—com­mon­wealths must be founded by men of se­vere virtue, and strict self-de­nial. A much more prob­a­ble sup­po­si­tion is, that some of the op­po­nents of ad­min­is­tra­tion wish only to fill the seats of those whom they op­pose; but the num­ber, even of these, it is to be hoped is but small.

I know of no Eng­lish­man, who hates ei­ther the kingly of­fice, or the prince by whom it is now ex­er­cised. I be­lieve there are some mil­lions of hon­est Eng­lish­men, who per­ceive, with in­ex­press­ible grief and ter­ror, our ex­cel­lent con­sti­tu­tion, planned by the best and wis­est of our an­ces­tors, and main­tained with their blood, grad­u­ally de­vi­at­ing from its prim­i­tive pu­rity: they see the regal es­tate, like Aaron’s ser­pent, swal­low­ing up the de­mo­c­ra­t­i­cal; they see the in­flu­ence of the crown over the Com­mons be­com­ing so un­lim­ited, that the dic­tates of the human will are not more im­plic­itly obeyed by the mem­bers of the human body, than the for­mer is by the lat­ter; they see part of the elec­tive body be­come so cor­rupt, that the in­tent of one prin­ci­pal se­cu­rity of Eng­lish lib­erty, the cir­cum­stance of a sen­a­tor va­cat­ing his seat on ac­cep­tance of a place, is now en­tirely frus­trated; they see this cor­rup­tion is an evil, which noth­ing can pre­vent the ef­fects of, but such an ab­solute in­ca­pac­i­ta­tion of place­men, that they can­not be re-cho­sen—but those who per­ceive these, and many other fla­grant per­ver­sions of our glo­ri­ous con­sti­tu­tion, far from wish­ing to sub­vert that con­sti­tu­tion, wish only to re­store it to its pris­tine in­tegrity.

There are also, I be­lieve, many thou­sand of hon­est Eng­lish­men, who wish well to their coun­try and its lib­er­ties, but are ig­no­rant what its con­sti­tu­tion is, and, con­se­quently, can­not know when it is vi­o­lated: these are the men, who can­not fear dan­ger, till they feel evil; these are the men, whom the John­sons and the Wes­leys seek to de­ceive out of their birthright, and per­suade them they are slaves.

You boast of our pre­sent lib­erty, civil and re­li­gious: “Every man,” you say, “sits under his own vine, and under his own fig-tree.” It is not my busi­ness, nor de­sire, to point out every minute step, by which I think lib­erty is los­ing ground. No­body de­nies, that we do enjoy a rea­son­able share of lib­erty, at pre­sent—but is no re­gard due to the fu­ture? There is, surely, some dif­fer­ence in the tenure, by which we hold a pos­ses­sion: the lessee in per­petuum, is, surely, in a bet­ter sit­u­a­tion, than the ten­ant at will.

Some have said, ar­bi­trary gov­ern­ment, well ad­min­is­tered, is the best mode of gov­ern­ment; but how many chances are there against its good ad­min­is­tra­tion?

We have now a good prince upon the throne; but who can en­sure the char­ac­ter of his suc­ces­sors? Should the crown ob­tain ple­nary pos­ses­sion of the Par­lia­ment, leav­ing it only a form with­out a spirit; where will be the dif­fer­ence be­tween the in­hab­i­tants of France and Spain, and our pos­ter­ity? where will be the dif­fer­ence be­tween those who are ruled by the com­mand of one man, is­sued im­me­di­ately from his own mouth; and those, who are ruled by the com­mand of one man, is­sued me­di­ately through the mouths of many?

I shall now, sir, take my leave of you and your per­for­mance. I have no at­tach­ment to, or con­nec­tion of any kind with the colonists; I have no con­cern in the mat­ter. I may say, as you say, and per­haps with more sin­cer­ity, “I shall get noth­ing by ei­ther party.”—But, I am a friend, on prin­ci­ple, to the orig­i­nal uni­ver­sal rights of man.

As I have for­merly seen you, with plea­sure, in the char­ac­ter of a Chris­t­ian min­is­ter, doing some good in the moral world; so it is, with re­gret, I now see you in the char­ac­ter of a court syco­phant, doing much more mis­chief in the po­lit­i­cal world, in­jur­ing, per­haps ir­repara­bly in­jur­ing your coun­try.


You ask, “Did the peo­ple give William the Con­queror the power?”

An able writer and em­i­nent states­man (Lord Somers) pos­i­tively as­serts, that the peo­ple did give William the power:

William the first (who is un­justly stiled the Con­queror, hav­ing sub­dued none but Harold and those who abet­ted him) did ob­tain the crown, by a free choice and sub­mis­sion of the peers, and body of the peo­ple: and, be­fore his coro­na­tion, he was made to swear, that he would gov­ern the peo­ple justly, and keep and ob­serve to them their old laws.

This is a strik­ing in­stance of the high sense the peo­ple of Eng­land once had of their own im­por­tance.

You as­sert, “that the peo­ple never gave the supreme power to any, but Mas­saniello of Naples.” If you mean the supreme ex­ec­u­tive power, the Eng­lish his­tory re­peat­edly con­tra­dicts your as­ser­tion. Give me leave to ask you—Who gave that power to Charles II. at the Restora­tion? to William III. at the Rev­o­lu­tion? and, af­ter­wards, to the house of Hanover?

 2013/10/22 22:29Profile

 Re: an unbiased study on trying to understand the mind sets behind the American revol

Very good PP,

Very good read and for those who have not studied history, perhaps a wee bit shocking to realize that the revolutionary war had nothing at all to do with religious freedoms.

"Brethren, open your eyes! Come to your­selves! Be no longer the dupes of de­sign­ing men!"

To this day there are designing men who manipulate the foolish masses and enrich themselves while doing it. I believe in the last few weeks we have seen such designing men and with the same arguments as were made 260 years ago, taxes and government.

"The de­sign­ing men, the Ahithophels, are in Eng­land; those who have laid their scheme so deep, and cov­ered it so well, that thou­sands, who are ripen­ing it, sus­pect noth­ing at all of the mat­ter."

Many will know that Ahithophel , originally an advisor to David, picked the wrong side in the rebellion and took his place with Absalom. He destroyed himself in the end. In a previous time David would not destroy Saul, even although Saul was his terrible enemy, Saul would fall on his own sword after being abandoned by God..............bro Frank

 2013/10/22 22:49

Joined: 2012/5/13
Posts: 2936


RE: ///Very good read and for those who have not studied history, perhaps a wee bit shocking to realize that the revolutionary war had nothing at all to do with religious freedoms.///

I found it interesting that even the Anonymous pamphlet trying to refute Wesley even admitts that : "No­body de­nies, that we do enjoy a rea­son­able share of lib­erty, at pre­sent—but is no re­gard due to the fu­ture?"

RE: ///Many will know that Ahithophel ///
a little off the subject, we had an interesting chat about Ahithophel a while back on SI : "Thoughts on Ahithophel the Gilonite of 2Sam 15:12 ??"

 2013/10/22 23:08Profile


I think we can also see in anonymous's reply that it was purely political and affirmed the rights of man, as opposed to what we are told to do in Romans 13...........bro Frank

 2013/10/22 23:12

Joined: 2012/5/13
Posts: 2936


RE: /// think we can also see in anonymous's reply that it was purely political and affirmed the rights of man, as opposed to what we are told to do in Romans 13...........bro Frank///

I am finding it interesting in my research that many Calvinist seem to be somewhat proud that the king supposedly referred to it as a 'presbyterian rebellion'

 2013/10/22 23:17Profile

Joined: 2012/5/13
Posts: 2936



When we come to study the influence of Calvinism as a political force in the history of the United States we come to one of the brightest pages of all Calvinistic history. Calvinism came to America in the Mayflower, and Bancroft, the greatest of American historians, pronounces the Pilgrim Fathers "Calvinists in their faith according to the straightest system."1 John Endicott, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; John Winthrop, the second governor of that Colony; Thomas Hooker, the founder of Connecticut; John Davenport, the founder of the New Haven Colony; and Roger Williams, the founder of the Rhode Island Colony, were all Calvinists. William Penn was a disciple of the Huguenots. It is estimated that of the 3,000,000 Americans at the time of the American Revolution, 900,000 were of Scotch or Scotch-Irish origin, 600,000 were Puritan English, and 400,000 were German or Dutch Reformed. In addition to this the Episcopalians had a Calvinistic confession in their Thirty-nine Articles; and many French Huguenots also had come to this western world. Thus we see that about two-thirds of the colonial population had been trained in the school of Calvin. Never in the world's history had a nation been founded by such people as these. Furthermore these people came to America not primarily for commercial gain or advantage, but because of deep religious convictions. It seems that the religious persecutions in various European countries had been providentially used to select out the most progressive and enlightened people for the colonization of America. At any rate it is quite generally admitted that the English, Scotch, Germans, and Dutch have been the most masterful people of Europe. Let it be especially remembered that the Puritans, who formed the great bulk of the settlers in New England, brought with them a Calvinistic Protestantism, that they were truly devoted to the doctrines of the great Reformers, that they had an aversion for formalism and oppression whether in the Church or in the State, and that in New England Calvinism remained the ruling theology throughout the entire Colonial period.

With this background we shall not be surprised to find that the Presbyterians took a very prominent part in the American Revolution. Our own historian Bancroft says: "The Revolution of 1776, so far as it was affected by religion, was a Presbyterian measure. It was the natural outgrowth of the principles which the Presbyterianism of the Old World planted in her sons, the English Puritans, the Scotch Covenanters, the French Huguenots, the Dutch Calvinists, and the Presbyterians of Ulster." So intense, universal, and aggressive were the Presbyterians in their zeal for liberty that the war was spoken of in England as "The Presbyterian Rebellion." An ardent colonial supporter of King George III wrote home: "I fix all the blame for these extraordinary proceedings upon the Presbyterians. They have been the chief and principal instruments in all these flaming measures. They always do and ever will act against government from that restless and turbulent anti-monarchial spirit which has always distinguished them everywhere."2 When the news of "these extraordinary proceedings" reached England, Prime Minister Horace Walpole said in Parliament, "Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson" (John Witherspoon, president of Princeton, signer of Declaration of Independence).

History is eloquent in declaring that American democracy was born of Christianity and that that Christianity was Calvinism. The great Revolutionary conflict which resulted in the formation of the American nation, was carried out mainly by Calvinists, many of whom had been trained in the rigidly Presbyterian College at Princeton, and this nation is their gift to all liberty loving people.

J. R. Sizoo tells us: "When Cornwallis was driven back to ultimate retreat and surrender at Yorktown, all of the colonels of the Colonial Army but one were Presbyterian elders. More than one-half of all the soldiers and officers of the American Army during the Revolution were Presbyterians."3

The testimony of Emilio Castelar, the famous Spanish statesman, orator and scholar, is interesting and valuable. Castelar had been professor of Philosophy in the University of Madrid before he entered politics, and he was made president of the republic which was set up by the Liberals in 1873. As a Roman Catholic he hated Calvin and Calvinism. Says he: "It was necessary for the republican movement that there should come a morality more austere than Luther's, the morality of Calvin, and a Church more democratic than the German, the Church of Geneva. The Anglo-Saxon democracy has for its lineage a book of a primitive society — the Bible. It is the product of a severe theology learned by the few Christian fugitives in the gloomy cities of Holland and Switzerland, where the morose shade of Calvin still wanders . . . And it remains serenely in its grandeur, forming the most dignified, most moral and most enlightened portion of the human race."4

Says Motley: "In England the seeds of liberty, wrapped up in Calvinism and hoarded through many trying years, were at last destined to float over land and sea, and to bear the largest harvests of temperate freedom for great commonwealths that were still unborn.5 "The Calvinists founded the commonwealths of England, of Holland, and America." And again, "To Calvinists more than to any other class of men, the political liberties of England, Holland and America are due."6

The testimony of another famous historian, the Frenchman Taine, who himself held no religious faith, is worthy of consideration. Concerning the Calvinists he said: "These men are the true heroes of England. They founded England, in spite of the corruption of the Stuarts, by the exercise of duty, by the practice of justice, by obstinate toil, by vindication of right, by resistance to oppression, by the conquest of liberty, by the repression of vice. They founded Scotland; they founded the United States; at this day they are, by their descendants, founding Australia and colonizing the world."7

In his book, "The Creed of Presbyterians," E. W. Smith asks concerning the American colonists, "Where learned they those immortal principles of the rights of man, of human liberty, equality and self-government, on which they based their Republic, and which form today the distinctive glory of our American civilization ? In the school of Calvin they learned them. There the modern world learned them. So history teaches," (p. 121).

We shall now pass on to consider the influence which the Presbyterian Church as a Church exerted in the formation of the Republic. "The Presbyterian Church," said Dr. W. H. Roberts in an address before the General Assembly, "was for three-quarters of a century the sole representative upon this continent of republican government as now organized in the nation." And then he continues: "From 1706 to the opening of the revolutionary struggle the only body in existence which stood for our present national political organization was the General Synod of the American Presbyterian Church. It alone among ecclesiastical and political colonial organizations exercised authority, derived from the colonists themselves, over bodies of Americans scattered through all the colonies from New England to Georgia. The colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it is to be remembered, while all dependent upon Great Britain, were independent of each other. Such a body as the Continental Congress did not exist until 1774. The religious condition of the country was similar to the political. The Congregational Churches of New England had no connection with each other, and had no power apart from the civil government. The Episcopal Church was without organization in the colonies, was dependent for support and a ministry on the Established Church of England, and was filled with an intense loyalty to the British monarchy. The Reformed Dutch Church did not become an efficient and independent organization until 1771, and the German Reformed Church did not attain to that condition until 1793. The Baptist Churches were separate organizations, the Methodists were practically unknown, and the Quakers were non-combatants."

Delegates met every year in the General Synod, and as Dr. Roberts tells us, the Church became "a bond of union and correspondence between large elements in the population of the divided colonies." "Is it any wonder," he continues, "that under its fostering influence the sentiments of true liberty, as well as the tenets of a sound gospel, were preached throughout the territory from Long Island to South Carolina, and that above all a feeling of unity between the Colonies began slowly but surely to assert itself? Too much emphasis cannot be laid, in connection with the origin of the nation, upon the influence of that ecclesiastical republic, which from 1706 to 1774 was the only representative on this continent of fully developed federal republican institutions. The United States of America owes much to that oldest of American Republics, the Presbyterian Church."8

It is, of course, not claimed that the Presbyterian Church was the only source from which sprang the principles upon which this republic is founded, but it is claimed that the principles found in the Westminster Standards were the chief basis for the republic, and that "The Presbyterian Church taught, practiced, and maintained in fulness, first in this land that form of government in accordance with which the Republic has been organized." (Roberts).

The opening of the Revolutionary struggle found the Presbyterian ministers and churches lined up solidly on the side of the colonists, and Bancroft accredits them with having made the first bold move toward independence.9 The synod which assembled in Philadelphia in 1775 was the first religious body to declare openly and publicly for a separation from England. It urged the people under its jurisdiction to leave nothing undone that would promote the end in view, and called upon them to pray for the Congress which was then in session.

The Episcopalian Church was then still united with the Church of England, and it opposed the Revolution. A considerable number of individuals within that Church, however, labored earnestly for independence and gave of their wealth and influence to secure it. It is to be remembered also that the Commander-in-Chief of the American armies, "the father of our country," was a member of her household. Washington himself attended, and ordered all of his men to attend the services of his chaplains, who were clergymen from the various churches. He gave forty thousand dollars to establish a Presbyterian College in his native state, which took his name in honor of the gift and became Washington College.

N. S. McFetridge has thrown light upon another major development of the Revolutionary period. For the sake of accuracy and completeness we shall take the privilege of quoting him rather extensively. "Another important factor in the independent movement," says he, "was what is known as the 'Mecklenburg Declaration,' proclaimed by the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians of North Carolina, May 20, 1775, more than a year before the Declaration (of Independence) of Congress. It was the fresh, hearty greeting of the Scotch-Irish to their struggling brethren in the North, and their bold challenge to the power of England. They had been keenly watching the progress of the contest between the colonies and the Crown, and when they heard of the address presented by the Congress to the King, declaring the colonies in actual rebellion, they deemed it time for patriots to speak. Accordingly, they called a representative body together in Charlotte, N. C., which by unanimous resolution declared the people free and independent, and that all laws and commissions from the king were henceforth null and void. In their Declaration were such resolutions as these: 'We do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected us with the mother-country, and hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British crown' .... 'We hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people; are, and of right ought to be, a sovereign and self-governing association, under control of no power other than that of our God and the general government of Congress; to the maintenance of which we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual cooperation and our lives, our fortunes and our most sacred honor.' ... That assembly was composed of twenty-seven staunch Calvinists, just one-third of whom were ruling elders in the Presbyterian Church, including the president and secretary; and one was a Presbyterian clergyman. The man who drew up that famous and important document was the secretary, Ephraim Brevard, a ruling elder of the Presbyterian Church and a graduate of Princeton College. Bancroft says of it that it was, 'in effect, a declaration as well as a complete system of government.' (U.S. Hist. VIII, 40). It was sent by special messenger to the Congress in Philadelphia, and was published in the Cape Fear Mercury, and was widely distributed throughout the land. Of course it was speedily transmitted to England, where it became the cause of intense excitement.

"The identity of sentiment and similarity of expression in this Declaration and the great Declaration written by Jefferson could not escape the eye of the historian; hence Tucker, in his Life of Jefferson, says: 'Everyone must be persuaded that one of these papers must have been borrowed from the other.' But it is certain that Brevard could not have 'borrowed' from Jefferson, for he wrote more than a year before Jefferson; hence Jefferson, according to his biographer, must have 'borrowed' from Brevard. But it was a happy plagiarism, for which the world will freely forgive him. In correcting his first draft of the Declaration it can be seen, in at least a few places, that Jefferson has erased the original words and inserted those which are first found in the Mecklenberg Declaration. No one can doubt that Jefferson had Brevard's resolutions before him when he was writing his immortal Declaration."10

This striking similarity between the principles set forth in the Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church and those set forth in the Constitution of the United States has caused much comment. "When the fathers of our Republic sat down to frame a system of representative and popular government," says Dr. E. W. Smith, "their task was not so difficult as some have imagined. They had a model to work by."11

"If the average American citizen were asked, who was the founder of America, the true author of our great Republic, he might be puzzled to answer. We can imagine his amazement at hearing the answer given to this question by the famous German historian, Ranke, one of the profoundest scholars of modern times. Says Ranke, 'John Calvin was the virtual founder of America.'"12

D'Aubigne, whose history of the Reformation is a classic, writes: "Calvin was the founder of the greatest of republics. The Pilgrims who left their country in the reign of James I, and landing on the barren soil of New England, founded populous and mighty colonies, were his sons, his direct and legitimate sons; and that American nation which we have seen growing so rapidly boasts as its father the humble Reformer on the shore of Lake Leman."13

Dr. E. W. Smith says, "These revolutionary principles of republican liberty and self-government, taught and embodied in the system of Calvin, were brought to America, and in this new land where they have borne so mighty a harvest were planted, by whose hands? — the hands of the Calvinists. The vital relation of Calvin and Calvinism to the founding of the free institutions of America, however strange in some ears the statement of Ranke may have sounded, is recognized and affirmed by historians of all lands and creeds."14

All this has been thoroughly understood and candidly acknowledged by such penetrating and philosophic historians as Bancroft, who far though he was from being Calvinistic in his own personal convictions, simply calls Calvin "the father of America," and adds: "He who will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty."

When we remember that two-thirds of the population at the time of the Revolution had been trained in the school of Calvin, and when we remember how unitedly and enthusiastically the Calvinists labored for the cause of independence, we readily see how true are the above testimonies.

There were practically no Methodists in America at the time of the Revolution; and, in fact, the Methodist Church was not officially organized as such in England until the year 1784, which was three years after the American Revolution closed. John Wesley, great and good man though he was, was a Tory and a believer in political non-resistance. He wrote against the American "rebellion," but accepted the providential result. McFetridge tells us: "The Methodists had hardly a foothold in the colonies when the war began. In 1773 they claimed about one hundred and sixty members. Their ministers were almost all, if not all, from England, and were staunch supporters of the Crown against American Independence. Hence, when the war broke out they were compelled to fly from the country. Their political views were naturally in accord with those of their great leader, John Wesley, who wielded all the power of his eloquence and influence against the independence of the colonies. (Bancroft, Hist. U.S., Vol. VII, p. 261.) He did not foresee that independent America was to be the field on which his noble Church was to reap her largest harvests, and that in that Declaration which he so earnestly opposed lay the security of the liberties of his followers."15

In England and America the great struggles for civil and religious liberty were nursed in Calvinism, inspired by Calvinism, and carried out largely by men who were Calvinists. And because the majority of historians have never made a serious study of Calvinism they have never been able to give us a truthful and complete account of what it has done in these countries. Only the light of historical investigation is needed to show us how our forefathers believed in it and were controlled by it. We live in a day when the services of the Calvinists in the founding of this country have been largely forgotten, and one can hardly treat of this subject without appearing to be a mere eulogizer of Calvinism. We may well do honor to that Creed which has borne such sweet fruits and to which America owes so much.

 2013/10/22 23:21Profile

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